From deep in the heart of Texas comes SPANKTHENUN, with an inkling for old-school EBM worship. Their previous full-length effort, volume one of The Bunker Tapes, saw production overseen by the legendary Claus Larsen. With a punishing lead single in “Dominate,” the group have put the dark electronic world on notice, and with The Bunker Tapes Vol II, they wage war with vintage weaponry. Invoking memories of Skinny Puppy and the darker, snarlier days of EBM, this collection of nine original tracks, joined by a handful of remixes by acts such as Mirland and Planet Damage, is just about as no-frills as classic industrial gets, even with the modern lens and production standards.
Starting off is the lead single “Off Beatings,” with vocals by the aforementioned Larsen. It’s a mid-tempo, focused dark electro number with a marching beat that burrows and settles in the chest, if only to allow the follow-up, “I Self Me” to let the synths breathe just a bit more. Whereas “Off Beatings” is an icepick to the brain, “I Self Me” is more of a cattle prod jabbed into the side, urging you to move along while inflicting uncontrollable movement with its tubular synth work and low, snarling verse vocals. To that end, “The Smoking Gun” is a blend of the danceable synth work and the stomping grooves seen thus far, with a creeping but simple bass line pushing things forward.
“Right Father” is easily one of my favorite songs from the disc, with its post-punk melody, dancing synth lines, and the reverb-laden snare that evokes memories of the old guard. It lends itself nicely to its successor “Sick Pathos,” with its two-note bassline and samples abound, making for an instrumental dance floor filler that is all killer. The theme of a two-note bass line continues with the schizophrenic “Man on the Moon,” another banger with a certain cyberpunk flare not felt thus far in the album.
Perhaps the most mainstream-ready track is “Industrial Beats,” with a four on the floor groove and a message we all can understand: “Music gives me what I need / I need my industrial beats.” And was that a Bill Moseley sample I heard? At any rate, the bouncy, descending melody of “Lockdown” feels like it would really ramp a crowd up at a live performance, the slow build to the hook growing the anticipation. It’s a droning, burrowing piece with the reminder that we all, in fact, live in the broken machine-ah. We move forward into the mid-90s or so with the last original track “I Am The Fire,” with its slower pace making for more deliberate grooves. The vocals stand out here, a low talk-sung growl that lets things burn all the more brightly.
We then pivot to the remixes with Mirland’s remix of “Off Beatings.” It’s far more percussive than its album version counterpart, with more 808s and less of an overall melody. Next comes Nature of Wires remixing “Right Father,” adding realistic drums (insofar as they sound like they could be live) and taking some of the mud and distortion off of the vocals. Planet Damage’s take on “The Smoking Gun” feels like textbook 90s industrial, with plenty of flare and panache to take it to places the original mix didn’t need to go. We end on the Psychosomatik remix of “I Self Me,” which brings the war with machine-gun percussion, though it does so in a more club-ready fashion.
My first taste of SPANKTHENUN was Glitch Burn Sin, and I’ve yet to be disappointed by them. Single after single, record after record, this is an act that turns out bangers that hold down the underground. This is a must-listen album for fans of industrial, new, old, and otherwise.
Check out The Bunker Tapes Vol II: