The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face is the latest chapter from New York power electronics/synth-death demon Leech. This is the first full-length, widely available release from Leech's new incarnation as Theologian, which picks up where he left off with his long-running project Navicon Torture Technologies. Over the past decade, Navicon Torture Technologies blurred the edges of power electronics and dark industrial on albums like The Church Of Dead Girls (2002, Malignant), VTERVS (2008, NCC) and The Gospels Of The Gash (2009, Malignant) before ceasing operations in 2009. Now reconstituted as Theologian, Leech again explores the further realms of experience with a new form of blackened synth dread that combines many of the sounds that made up NTT's crushing electronic attack (Swedish death industrial, classic power electronics, harsh noise, powernoise) with a new level of heaviness and droneological power.
Following a series of small-run collaborations (with Wilt, Steve Moore, and The Vomit Arsonist) that were released on Leech's own label Annihilvs, Theologian delivers it's first full-length album, a seven-track descent into roaring, cosmic drone and howling black hole electronics, colossal industrial soundscapes and grim low-end heaviness. The opening track "Zero" sounds like early space music (Schulze, Tangerine Dream, etc) being blasted through massive bass-heavy sound system directly into the Void; its followed by the sprawling twenty-four minute "In Times of Need, We All Go Against Our Natures", which starts with distant twilight factory rumblings and murky motorized reverberations, then slowly reveals a bleak, shadowy realm of grimy minor-key synths slowly drifting underneath the industrial buzz and hum, both mysterious, and immensely grim. After a few minutes, eerie choral voicings begin to appear, and the sound continues to slowly develop into a vast expanse of lush isolationist ambience, a simple three-note melody repeating over and over deep beneath the peals of muted electronic tones, distant grinding, hushed whispering, and oncoming waves of black feedback, becoming darker and more menacing as it goes on. Then a male voice appears off in the background, awash in delay, forming these haunting multi-part harmonies that drift beneath the smoldering electronic noise; after a while, it almost sounds like something from Sigur Ros slowly falling into Stygian blackness, the singing becoming warped and fractured as the swirling black synths corrode and decay into a buzzing, churning field of irradiated drone, getting heavier, more distorted, until the final eight minutes finally form into a wash of blackened doom-drone heaviness surrounded with icy synth pulses, eerie choral voices, grinding industrial dread, and fearsome distorted screams, a sort of pitch-black power electronics dirge...
That epic track may be the album's heaviest moment, but the rest of Your Star is just as bleak and lightless. Another massive slab of murky, molten ambience unfolds with "Unfamiliar Skies", where sheets of glacial string-like drones swirl beneath blown-out synthesizer rumble, and a simple rhythmic throb pulses at the black rotting center, surrounded by clouds of crackling static, and gradually becoming streaked with oscillating sine waves and heavy gusts of black distortion. The title track is blighted isolationist drone shattered by the burning descent of black stars falling from the skies, underscored by a gorgeous, wavering blissed-out drone; halfway through, it shifts gears into hallucinatory, dark wave-infected power electronics with ultra-distorted demonic/robotic vocals and super dense walls of deteriorating drone and sepulchral synthesizer. The remaining tracks move through roaring melodic drift, wailing distorted vocals, and seriously acerbic distortion that combine into mantras of narcotized power electronics, throbbing black machine pulsations, chthonic ambience laced with metallic ringing, eerie sublimated melodies and deep low-end bone-rattling churn, at times sounding really soundtrack-esque, even resembling a more apocalyptic, deformed take on John Carpenter's film score work at times. The hidden final track "The Fragility Of The Male Ego..." finishes the album with a crushing industrial dirge sculpted out of droning feedback and overdriven distortion, as caustic as anything that's come before, with a very subtle dark wave quality lurking beneath the scorched electronics that makes this sound somewhat like hearing a Projekt Records track being remixed by a Japanese noise extremist.
Like Navicon, Theologian combines several different disciplines of industrial into a signature sound, a doom-laden hybrid of death industrial and power electronics and black ambience that's spliced with a constant melodic presence; the music is harsh, often hellish, but accentuated by an icy, desolate beauty that gives The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face it’s unique, abyssal vibe.
The album is being released on Cd in deluxe dvd-style digipack packaging with striking artwork and visual design by Leech, and as a digital download.
REVIEW FROM MUSIQUE MACHINE:
You can’t help but feel sorry for New York’s Lee Bartow - on the evidence of this ‘offical’ debut under his new moniker of Theologian that he’s dedicated to “the heartbreakers and the broken-hearted”, he’s plainly got it bad. Although similarly themed to much of his extensive catalogue of sample-based power electronics released under the cheery name of Navicon Torture Technologies, this time the sound sources are all his own and, as such, have the power to invert Tennyson’s much quoted pearl of wisdom: “'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Despite his aim of making the album “as magnificently depressing and enraged as possible”, Theologian’s unrequited love has led him down a marginally subtler, more minimal path for the most part of the release’s hour and a quarter. His pained palette remains relatively constant throughout where rivers of distorted bass drones evaporate and condense into brooding, electronic storms whose presence steadily gains across each track before disappearing malevolently. Often this can have a soundtrack feel, like on the opener, ‘Zero’, whose simple, cycling synth tones that attempt to emerge from the turbulence recall the opening scene in ‘Blade Runner’ that flies the audience across the tops of the over-populated architecture of a decaying city at night.
It is followed by the epic ‘In Times of Need, We All Go against Our Natures’, which maintains the billowing atmospherics but stretches them across 24 minutes, again seeing the same few, successive synth notes repeat relentlessly throughout yet failing to surface. With the odd addition of echoing wails and cries drowning in a sea of reverb, the piece progresses monotonously towards a ranting climax, as distorted shouting finally brings us near to the source of despair.
And so it goes on, with only ‘Bearing Bitter Fruit’ and the closing “hidden track” ‘The Fragility of the Male Ego’ diving down from the moody ether into more familiar PE territory, the former sounding like a helicopter attempting a cliff-face rescue over a harsh sea and the latter describing a volcanic eruption before delivering a de-motivational speech with fierce, screeching vocals.
Other than a petulant message to an ex-partner inspired by the bitterness of separation along the lines of “this is how you’ve made me feel!”, most of this album’s slow movements of minimal sonic materials define more a place than a narrative following in the tradition of the original intent behind ambient music. And it’s a place, while certainly depressing and occasionally enraged, that provides somewhere to wallow but offers no relief from a broken heart.
REVIEW FROM TERRORIZER:
Theologian is the new project of NYC-based musician Leech, formerly of Navicon Torture Technologies, and debut album ‘The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face’  (Crucial Blast) comes in deluxe digibook packaging featuring arty bare-naked-lady photos, something of an innovation in the normally resolutely sexless realms of dark ambient. The Vangelis-style cosmic expanses of ‘Zero’ fulfil the interstellar theme of the album title, but harsher textures elsewhere draw on Leech’s industrial background, especially on the hidden closing track ‘The Fragility Of The Male Ego…’, wave after wave of blackened vocal distortion and concussive beats, with brooding bass rumbles adding an ominous undercurrent. - Simon Collins
REVIEW FROM METAL ARMY AMERICA: Bleak despair, utter psychological self-torture and relentless loneliness are not things most people envy. Typically, falling into these wastelands means existence has been pockmarked by a face-first collision with rock bottom, and there might not be a way out because who’s to say you have the energy or the will for such a thing? What do you do? Long for better times? Were there better times? Maybe the light will just go out.
If that seems depressing – and it is – imagine how you’ll feel immersed in THEOLOGIAN’s debut album The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel on My Face, a dark, suffocating dive into a pit of emotional torment that’ll scar you. The black death ambiance, morose atmosphere of drone, and relentless sense of dread and defeat created by Lee M. Bartow (aka Leech of Navicon Torture Technologies) on this 80-minute, seven-track document will fool you into feeling calm and cosmically engaged, especially on opener “Zero.” But it’s more like the mind drifting after a bruising, the time where you wonder if it’s worth rehashing all of the little cuts that burn you to the core or if it’s better to escape into an intellectually vegetative state to avoid confronting this. By the time you reach “In Times of Need, We All Go Against Our Natures,” all 24 minutes of its electronic tease of extinction, you know you’ve taken the thorny path and you must see it through.
To get a better idea of where Bartow’s headspace is on The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel on My Face, spending time with the lyrics will help (or hurt). There aren’t many words to absorb, and there don’t need to be as he conveys his pain and isolation with his warbled singing and furious, helpless screams, so less is more. There’s also a desperate, confessional passage in the oversized, gorgeous digipak that seems to indicate what the artwork is saying and how this downward spiral began. It’s not easy reading, and it should not be.
Witnessing the embers of an obliterated bond, a relationship that’s irreparably decimated, is something just about everyone goes through at some point but perhaps doesn’t feel at quite this level of panic, so when, on the title cut, Bartow references, “A tattered sail of my own skin flutters in the biting winds/Adrift in a sea of blood,” you can imagine him lost on opaque waves, enveloped in darkness, not even a hint of a beacon to be found. “Bearing Bitter Fruit” and “The Fragility of the Male Ego” ensure all hope is lost, and no lighthouse will appear on the horizon. Something once so tangible, so desirable has fallen far from the fingertips, creating the ultimate failure, humiliation, disgust, and loathing. The flutter of cries are almost like him ripping at his chest, pounding on whatever’s near, trying to find some grain of meaning or at least the mercy of having his anguish relinquished.
No one can possibly listen to The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel on My Face just for its sound. Even if you try, you’ll be curious to find out why this exists, and any other conclusion would mean your soul is void. This is a bloodied being set sail with no hope of a happy ending. Can you handle that? If you can, and if you’re OK with reliving some of your own failures, you might even find catharsis. Hopefully Bartow can, too. -Brian Krasman
REVIEW FROM METAL ARMY AMERICA:
Black metal at its best evokes the icy, windswept tundra of a desolate, snow-strewn landscape. Here, Theologian attempt a similar feat with swirling electronics, lost voices and a heavy drone that thunders from the speakers with a power that is liable to take you by surprise if you are under-cautious with the volume control. According to the lengthy press missive that accompanied this release ‘the further I get from your star, the less light I feel on my face’ “is the latest chapter from the New York power electronics/synth-death demon Leech”. Stunningly hyperbolic and obscure, a better description would be a dark trip into the Inferno via a soundscape that crosses Axis of perdition, Skullflower and bass communion to often terrifying effect… well, that would be my description anyway.
Like most music of this type, Theologian is treated with utmost respect; from the packaging to the artwork that adorns it, everything is the result of a massive artistic effort. The CD comes encased in a DVD sized box which folds out to reveal shadowy forms overlaid with text and which lays maximum emphasis on the beautifully designed cover recalling the excellent work that went into the Bass Communion albums. Once placed inside your CD player, it is best to retreat and listen at high volume with nothing else going on to distract you from immersing yourself deep inside the music and, as ‘Zero’ resonates through your body thanks to the hulking bass frequencies which threaten to permanently sever cordial relations with your neighbours, lose yourself inside the dark journey Leech so obviously desires to take you upon. A short, sharp shock of overloaded electronics and howling noise ‘Zero’ sounds like nothing so much as the ambient soundtrack to a nightmare and as hissing, distorted, phased noise swirls through the speakers the effect is not dissimilar to the traumatising, misanthropic noise of Skullflower’s speaker-destroying efforts. Less harrowing but equally hypnotic, ‘In times of need, we all go against our natures’ is a languid, icy track that builds upon a huge rumbling bass over twenty-four nerve-fraying minutes while it recalls endless nightmares of long, empty corridors and rusted nails scraped upon the surface of a broken chalk-board smeared with blood. Hypnotic, soul-crushing, bleak and empty, this is music for the imagination – with the overwhelming noise providing the perfect backdrop for your own thoughts to run free – and it is best played, like Sunn 0))), at earth-shattering volume so that you can feel it as much as hear it.
After so lengthy a track, you’d imagine it’d be difficult to maintain interest, but the sub-sonic rumble of ‘unfamiliar skies’ which sounds like a Black Sabbath concert played at about 2 BPM does a fair job of dragging you yet further into the stygian blackness that Theologian inhabit. It’s hard to tell exactly what instruments were used to create the evil miasma that constitutes the track but the overwhelming sound is one of a distorted, dangerously overloaded guitar left to drone in a barely-candle-lit studio somewhere near the mouth of hell. It’s a dark, wonderful sound that conjures up an image of Sunn 0))) produced by Trent Reznor and as the track ebbs and flows and the waves of darkness surround and enclose, high frequency string-scrapes tear holes in the ambience snapping you out of your reverie in an instant while screaming, indistinct voices offer no respite from the discordant menace of the instrumentation. The title track is up next, and in contrast to the other tracks it opens in silence, with a trembling wave of noise slowly filling the void until your speakers are juddering with the bass frequencies. Like the silken art-noise of Bass communion it is seductive and dark, but unlike that band, the overwhelming barrage demands utter submission to appreciate the patterns that develop deep within its blackened heart. After six minutes of slowly developing, psychedelic noise, a metallic vocal rips open the fabric of the track and utters dense proclamations impossible to understand without the lyrics reprinted in the packaging. With the previous track having dissolved into a hailstorm of static, ‘bearing better fruit’ opens out of that same mire with sparse electronics and screaming breaking through the barrier of white noise separating us from Leech. It’s a chaotic, fragmented, squally track that pounds into your brain like a jackhammer before giving way to the final (credited) track on the album ‘it’s all gone’ which offers up a creepy bass drone supplemented by an echoing sound that recalls nothing so more as the tense pressure scenes of Das boot. An extra, ‘hidden’ track proves to be singularly unpleasant and therefore the perfect ending to this colossal album.
This is an excellent album. However, such a comment should probably be quantified by adding this is an excellent album of its genre. While many different types of music can attain crossover appeal, blackened drone such as this is never going to appeal beyond its borders because it is, by its very nature, inaccessible. Fans of Sunn 0))) or bass communion will certainly have an idea what to expect here and, if you like either of those bands then you’d be well advise to give this a listen. Equally fans of black metal’s darkest progenitors will find much to admire in the dense misanthropy of this album, but it is not an album to approach lightly or ill-advisedly. For those who do care for music such as this, you will find Theologian to be an expansive, intelligent work of art that challenges and terrifies in equal measure. The effort that was expended upon this work has clearly paid off because this truly is an astonishing piece that encourages and stimulates the imagination as much as it provides entertainment. A brave, dense step into the blackened abyss of the unknown this is a remarkable record. - written by Phil / Sonic Abuse
REVIEW FROM CHAIN DLK:
When I opened up the package and saw this in here, I remarked to my wife that this would be a rather unhappy album. I have several of Leech's albums as Navicon Torture Technologies, but I must admit that his later albums, such as Church of the Dead Girls was a bit too dark and dismal for my tastes. I was correct in my original assessment ' this is not exactly feel good music. However, this is absolutely amazing. The epic 24 minute track 'In Times of Need, We All Go Against Our Natures' is worth the price of admission alone. The usual distorted vocals are present of course, but used sparingly and mainly for effect and atmosphere. I can understand now why Leech felt a need to move on from NTT and christen the project with a new name. This is much more subdued than most of the NTT work I have, but the claustrophobic atmospheres certainly hearken back to that project. In general, this is much less noisy as well (Although 'Bearing Bitter Fruit' brings in some heavy, pulsing machine noise and the untitled seventh track is also a bit noisy, although certainly not Masonna). According to the label, 'Theologian combines several different disciplines of industrial into a signature sound, a doom-laden hybrid of death industrial and power electronics and black ambience that's spliced with a constant melodic presence; the music is harsh, often hellish, but accentuated by an icy, desolate beauty that gives The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face it's unique, abyssal vibe.' If this sounds good to you, this is definitely one worth picking up. Overall, I would call this an evolution from NTT and look forward to hearing more.
REVIEW FROM ALARM PRESS:
Though the title paints a grim-enough picture, the actual contents of The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face, the debut from Lee Bartow’s Theologian project, use conventional metal misery as merely a springboard. The ends form the expected stew of claustrophobic suffering, but the means show Bartow to be a most cunning doom practitioner.
Almost entirely void of conventional (or even unconventional) instruments, The Further I Get… uses noise patterns to form a collage that moves beyond doom metal and space metal, almost aiming to score doom and space themselves. But it’s not just the instrumentation where the disc strays, but also in form: verses, choruses, riffs, and even notes are tossed aside in favor of audio collages almost too subtle to even be called soundscapes. This absence of structure gives the album’s scant moments of vocalization and melody that much more impact, with the listener having spent so long (the songs average just over 10 minutes) alone in Bartow’s near-silence.
As a case in point, “In Times Of Need, We All Go Against Our Nature,” the disc’s nominal centerpiece, kicks off with a simple rumbling pad. The track gradually introduces dissonant static and waveforms, until an extremely simple minor-key chord progression and broken screams carry the assembly into full-on agony. In most doom or ambient contexts, this wouldn’t be anything special, but Theologian stretches the experiment out over the course of 24 minutes, turning conventional methods into a sort of audio staring contest.
And throughout, the disc follows this pattern, becoming less a statement of any specific idea that Theologian may posses and more a test of the listener’s endurance. The outright ear-shredding of “Bearing Bitter Fruit” attacks the senses, and the title track weaves a constant, menacing roar across its 12 minutes. By speaking to primacy as it unfolds, rather than to learned sensibility, the mood and atmosphere of The Further I Get… ultimately become musical, even while not being easily classified as music. The noise and abrasiveness try their best, but no amount of dissonance or distortion can hide Bartow's plaintive screams as they echo into the great beyond.
REVIEW FROM NOISE.FI:
Aikaisemmin Leechinä tunnettu newyorkilainen voimaelektroniikka-artisti on nyt syntynyt uudelleen Theologianina ja päässee Crucial Blast -debyytillään pykälän verran alan puritanistista UG:ta yleisempään tietoisuuteen. Ainakaan tällaisen musiikin pariin ensi kertaa eksyvien ei luulisi säikähtävän kovin pahasti mitään tällä levyllä esiintyvää.
The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face velloo pääasiassa elektronisen hälymusiikkispektrin ambientimmalla laidalla. Levyä on itse asiassa yllättävänkin miellyttävä kuunnella. Ärhäkkäämmät äänitekstuurit puhkovat vain harvoin sen dronemaisesti pohjustettuja, surisevan atmosfäärisiä aallokkoja. Genrelle ominaisia huutovokaaleja kuullaan niin ikään säästeliäästi ja yleenä kaiuin pehmitettyinä. Bearing Bitter Fruit pärisee yhtämittaisesti alusta loppuun, mutta sitäkin pehmentävät syntikkamatot ja lähes lempeät kaikuvokaalit.
Levyn kiinnostavimmat hetket ajoittuvat 24-minuuttisen In Times of Need, We All Go Against Our Naturesin loppuun, jossa kappale kääntyy synkeän hypnoottiseksi, puhutuilla vokaaleilla ryyditetyksi industrialiksi ja nimiraitaan, jonka kosminen alavire muodostaa puhuttelevan kontrastin muun äänikuteen kanssa. Lähimpänä perinteistä power electronicsia oleva viimeinen melutrombin lailla hyörivä nimetön raita aikaansaa myös kuulokkeilla kuunneltuna jännän ”pää lingossa” -efektin. Yleisesti ottaen ei mistään todella sykähdyttävästä kokemuksesta voi puhua, vaikka Theologianin ammattitaito äänenkerrostajana vakuuttaa. Hienot DVD-muotoiset, musiikin tunnelmaa ja luonnetta täydellisesti kuvastavat digipak-kannet ansaitsevat erikoismaininnan.