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Spectrum Compendium

Spectrum Magazine Archive 1998-2002, by Richard Stevenson

Spectrum magazine ran for five issues and focussed on the post-industrial underground. Initially focussing on dark ambient, death industrial and heavier forms of industrial music as it evolved it extended its scope to focus on other musical areas such as neo-folk, martial industrial and much besides. Published by Headpress, Spectrum Compendium compiles the entire run of Spectrum magazine together with the unreleased 6th issue, along with reflections from artists and individuals associated with the then scene. Looking back through this heavy A4 sized volume just short of 400 pages, Spectrum Compendium provides just as its sub-title suggests archival documentation of the post-industrial underground between the years 1998 and 2002.

When we first published Compulsion back in the early nineties it was still cut and paste, desk top publishing was still in its infancy and legitimate packages were too still too expensive to acquire. Spectrum was different it came fully formed and published on computer. The mode of production may have differed but the intent was the same, a shared desire to share information and promote music that largely went unnoticed by the mainstream music press. Remember this was at a time when the internet was still in its infancy and new music was still discovered from short-run magazines, mail order lists and catalogs, usually received in packages stuffed with flyers. Spectrum continued in that tradition. Its contents were artfully presented, with knowledgeable and incisive interviews, clear, concise and informative reviews covering the wide range of genres post-industrial spawned. By the time Spectrum was published other essential publications such as Music From The Empty Quarter, E.S.T., and Impulse had all but ceased publication.

Spectrum was the creation of Richard Stevenson, a musical obsessive, enthusiast and critic based in Melbourne, Australia. Spectrum announced itself with a first issue featuring interviews with Cold Meat Industry artists such as Megaptera, Mz.412, The Protagonist, Sanctum, Hazard and the Malignant Records label. Those labels and related artists would continue to feature heavily within the pages of subsequent issues of Spectrum. In time all the big names - Raison D'etre, Deutsch Nepal, Brighter Death Now, Ordo Equilibrio, Stratvm Terror, Yen Pox, Navicon Torture Technologies - from those labels would appear within the pages of Spectrum. As it increased its scope other labels such as Slaughter Productions, Stateart would be profiled and interviewed. In their wake came interviews with dark ambient acts such as Inade, Schloss Tegal, By issue 4 and 5, its scope had extended to cover the nascent martial industrial and neo-folk scenes focussing heavily on Der Blutharsch and Albin Julius' Hau Ruck label bringing with it interviews with acts such as Tribe of Circle and Novy Svet. By this point Spectrum crossed over with acts covered on compulsiononline including interviews with acts and labels who we only ever reviewed such as Dream Into Dust, an early project of Derek Rush who now records as Compactor, and the labels Middle Pillar Presents (home to Loretta's Doll, A Murder Of Angels), and that stalwart of the scene the UK based label and mail order distributor Cold Spring. Of course, now resident in Australia, Spectrum featured an extensive and informative interview with Death In June. That interview with Douglas P. is probably the most extensive interview I've seen with Death In June and it is especially good and enlightening in many respects. Spectrum didn't act as a conduit for all things Australian though but it did find space for Darrin Verhagen's Shinjuku Thief project and his label Dorobo as well as the cryptic industrial electronics of Black Lung.

Spectrum Compendium is completed with material intended for the aborted 6th issue, featuring interviews with Navicon Torture Technologies, TOROIDH, Militia, Isomer and the late John Murphy (covering his involvement in industrial music, his solo project Shining Vril and his work in the group KnifeLadder) along with a feature on Genocide Organ. An archival material section reprints an illuminating interview with the editor Richard Stevenson by Aversion online, together with personal correspondence and an archive collection of photographs many taken from industrial and noise events presented by Gaya Donadio's Hinoeuma the Malediction. Some of those interviews including TOROIDH and John Murphy were kindly donated and surfaced on compulsiononline but what surprises me is the fact that Richard and I never met since those photographs are of shows I attended when we were both based in London.

Some of the interviews question artists on releases, distribution and scenes and as the magazines are printed in their entirety complete with the obligatory reviews and adverts it provides a worthwhile snapshot and insight to the scene of the time. It's telling the number of labels and distros like Stateart, World Serpent, Red Stream etc that have since ceased, either having gone bust or just gave up and fell away. However, the overall effect and impact of Spectrum can be gleaned from the contributors including representatives from Cold Spring, Tesco, Malignant Records and Loki Foundation who, at the start of the volume, reminisce about Spectrum and of the post-industrial milieu of the time, a period in which Spectrum provided a vital role.

Spectrum Compendium is a weighty and handsome volume and is recommended to anyone interested in the post-industrial underground from that time period. Spectrum Compendium is available as an e-book, paperback edition and a special hardback edition including a bonus five track digital compilation of archival tracks (featuring Toroidh, Navicon Torture Technologies, Militia, Isomer and Chaos As Shelter).

Spectrum wasn't the end of the story for Richard Stevenson as he continues to operates the Noise Receptor blog and publish the magazine, Noise Receptor which too will have their early sold out issues republished by Headpress in book format. For more information go to Headpress