“If I could, I’d take a tree branch and ram it inside you / but it’s already been done,” Dominick Fernow coldly intones on “Palm Tree Corpse,” one of the least friendly songs on Bermuda Drain, the latest from Fernow’s long-running project Prurient. In a sense, those lines sum up Bermuda Drain itself. After a decade of forging the most jagged, invasive noise imaginable, Fernow has moved ahead, tempering his menace with a broader range of texture and tone. And yes, even melody. The result is Prurient’s strongest statement to date, and its best album.
The disc is out for blood: After opening with “Many Jewels Surround The Crown”—a crushingly distorted, Goblin-esque dirge that could soundtrack a snuff film—Bermuda Drain offers a false sense of tolerability with the industrialized thrash of “A Meal Can Be Made.” The digitized riffs and bleak hooks evoke everything from Young Gods to Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode, a departure from Prurient’s usual Whitehouse worship. It’s also possible that Fernow’s recent tenure in the dark-wave outfit Cold Cave exerts a small influence, although “There Are Still Secrets,” the album’s most accessible song, still manages to sear skin with liquid-nitrogen synths and curdled screams.
The power-electronics attack of Prurient’s past remains at the core of the album, particularly in the serrated, disembodied title track. Even at its most blunt and abusive, though, there’s a dynamic subtlety and blown-out ambience that lulls sanity to the brink, then dangles it there. “Give birth to something dead / Give birth to something old,” Fernow whispers like a Cronenbergian gynecologist in the chilling “Let’s Make A Slave.” But with Bermuda Drain, he’s done the opposite, giving birth to something alive and new.