Chronique | The Below - Immutable Decay

Pierre Sopor 11 juin 2024

Sweden's Bo Magnusson loves what's crawling in the depths: formerly bassist with experimental band Dr. Evil & The Boys From Below, which disbanded in 1992, he has been at the helm of The Below for nearly ten years now. His production doesn't really follow the usual tracks, as the artist has only released a few singles over the years, inviting different voices to contribute to his compositions. So we're delighted to be able to delve into his first sensembleet, the Immutable Decay EP, recorded with his faithful collaborator Aaron Sutcliffe (the fictitious alias used by Johan Malmgren of synthpop band S.P.O.C.K.).

What's so fascinating about The Below is this reappropriation of the term ‘industrial’: we're going back to the roots, turning metal sounds to musical ends. Is this the moment to point out that no, you're not going to dance? The Below likes slow, heavy, oppressive rhythms, textures that smell like rust and evoke abandoned and probably haunted landscapes... Moreover, the contrast with the highly expressive vocals works very well, underlining the strangeness of The Below, giving it a theatrical deviance sometimes bordering on the theatrical, even the grotesque and the horrific (the scansion of 90 Seconds to Midnight, somewhere between a Raymond Watts-style crooner preaching and a grimacing Mr Loyal).

The Below points an accusing finger: "Mankind is both killing itself and passively observing, blind to what’s right before our eyes", denouncing ecological disasters as well as authoritarian populist policies and armed conflicts in which civilians are the victims... Everything is in place to plunge us into a sinister atmosphere, where the use of industrial sounds resonates particularly well with the apocalyptic message. The hypnotic cadences only panic for the duration of No Place is Safe and its explicit lyrics: ‘everyone's a target’.

The Below strikes a fine balance between experimentation and musical catchiness. A little like Skinny Puppy, whom he doesn't really resemble, Bo Magnusson manages to combine avant-garde and seduction: his music is neither hermetic nor smooth or easy. Thanks to mysterious layers and a real sense of suspense, expressed as much in the reverberations of theatrical percussion as in the ironic vocals, oozing with emotion and at times demented, The Below keeps us on the edge of our seats.

Immutable Decay is dark, frightening and pessimistic. But it's also a particularly uplifting EP: despite the horrors that inspired it, despite its chilling climate of defeat and desolation, it's a real pleasure to get lost in its dilapidated terrain and haunted industrial ruins. There's something very concrete, very textured and down-to-earth about it, but also a hint of mystery and fantasy, combining matter and soul, the thunderous and the ethereal in a delectable haze of gloom. Brilliant.