Anyone into the UK post-industrial scene should know Anthony Di Franco. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Di Franco produced some of the heaviest sounds to creep out of the British post-industrial underground during his time in such legendary bands as Skullflower, Ramleh, Novatron and Ethnic Acid; in addition, for a couple of years in the mid-90s Di Franco released some monstrously heavy deathdrone recordings under the Ax name on the Freek Records label, all of which were super limited and disappeared fairly quickly. I myself have been trying to get my hands on this stuff for years without forking out for some major collector's prices, but now we've got this killer collection on Cold Spring that delivers a big chunk of Ax's recorded output.
Almost all of this material has been re-mastered and reissued on Metal Forest, a collection of the Nova Feedback Lp, the Ax II 12", and one song from the 1997 Astronomy Cd. It's crushing stuff, each lengthy track centering around thick layers of ominous, heavily distorted Korg synths and clouds of abrasive feedback and electronic noise. These crushing distorted drones come pouring out of the speakers like black lava, slow oozing streams of super-heavy amp-hum and grinding monochord heaviness, often sounding like a more industrialized Sunn O))) jam, but with some noisier traits that clearly come from Di Franco's background in harsh noise and power electronics.
The first couple of tracks focus in on simple but MASSIVE dronescapes, beginning with the sauropod throb of "Kortex" as it detonates in slow motion within a cloud of black static, sounding like some super-heavy dronemetal outfit covering an old Maurizio Bianchi piece, growing ever more crushing as Di Franco pours in more and more distorted synth over his bleak industrial pummel. On "Nova Feedback 1", loops of grinding synth and buzzing electronics are woven into a mesmerizing oceanic mass of pulverizing drone, followed by the titanic thrum of "Heavy Fluid" as it shimmers in a relentless coruscating glow of white-hot light, a single-chord drone wavering in space, dipping and rising like a chunk of infernal aerial technology riding on the plumes of some sulfurous ether. Then you get "Theme One", where the creeping synthgrind is joined with bursts of random percussion, some very Skullflower-esque bass sounds and string-scraping guitar abuse, and shocks of wild electricity, overall tapping into a sound that is very reminiscent of what Matt Bower was doing around the same time with the 'Flower.
But then Di Franco could also whip up some seriously ear-destroying noise with Ax as well. Take the title track, a massive wall of distortion, a vast churning mass of black static and impenetrable hiss that is pure HNW, and it's as heavy and brain-blotting as anything you'd hear nowadays from Vomir or The Rita; the second half of the track shifts abruptly into a kind of desolate industrial ambience made up of distant rumblings and eerie metallic drones, occasionally obscured by blasts of reverb-drenched sound, glimpses of massive half-formed riffs moving in the gloom.
The two-part "AX II" is also much noisier in comparison, a nearly twenty minute epic that assaults it's layered amplifier drones with a nearly constant barrage of spacey synth noises and trippy electronic fx, at times resembling a heavier version of CCCC's cosmic noise destruction, while transforming into an undulating mass of blackened, buzzing synth-drones and Lustmord-esque doomdrift for the second half of the track. More massive feedback symphonies and rumbling mechanical drift forms across "Nova Feedback 2", at times sounding like predatory alien aircraft lifting into the stratosphere, the sound of Metal Machine Music reconfigured as horror movie score, and closer "Cluster" transports Di Franco's waves of majestic tremolo buzz into the outer nebula, a Skullflower-esque distorted riff taking on a kind of kosmische density as it loops around and around, a wall of ominous psychedelic crunch.
This really isn't that far from the magma-metal dronecrush of Black Boned Angel and 00 Void-era Sunn O))), and the blackened metallic drift of Circle Of Eyes, but the synth-heavy industrial aspect of Ax's music is obviously coming from a different place. Its incredibly heavy stuff though, a piece of 90's underground heaviness that fans of Di Franco's other bands will definitely want to hear...