Pennhurst / Xesse is a new collection of rare material from the shadowy black industrial outfit T.O.M.B., featuring their ultra-limited Pennhurst album and the tracks from the one-sided Xesse 12" previously released on Prison Tatt. Featuring all new artwork and presented in a six-panel digipack, this full-length disc delivers over an hour's worth of the band's bizarre brand of vile electro-acoustic noisescapes, oppressive industrial drift and ghoulish vocalizations seemingly dredged up from the dank black bowels of some long-abandoned mausoleum.
Originally released in 2009 as an extremely limited CDR on Esto Perpetua Records, Pennhurst features five tracks of abysmal necro-industrial filth, formed from source material that the band recorded at the notorious Pennhurst State and Norristown State Hospitals, two Philadelphia-area mental asylums that have boasted disturbing legacies of abuse and experimentation in the past. As with their other releases, this centers around nightmarish industrial soundscapes built from the band's blighted blackened electronics and creepy field recordings, the tracks often erupting into blasts of suffocating hellish noise. The throbbing black distorted synthesizers that pulse across opener "Primevil Sorcery" rumble forth like waves of black lava, the band's signature suffocating bass frequencies rolling across fields of agonized, wraithlike screaming and crackling volcanic noise, while percussive metallic sounds echo and clatter in the depths, a miasma of abyssal sound that swirls and shudders in the darkness, revealing horrific aural details, eruptions of deformed blown-out melody and bursts of nightmarish agony within the massive, churning chaos that stretches out for nearly twelve minutes. As that stygian roar rumbles right into "Maz Ov Tha Damd", the band surges into a primal tattoo of ritualistic rhythm, pounding primordial drums thundering beneath their layered noise and field recordings and amplified metallic reverberations, blending a brutal improvisational percussive assault with more of that suffocating black noise, demonic shrieks and foul reptilian screams rupturing in the blackness, the sound growing more monstrous and violent as the drums give way to abrasive sheet-metal abuse. The nearly twenty five minute "Goetic Xaos" is the centerpiece of Pennhurst, another sprawling sonic nightmare of processed acoustic percussion and infernal drone, the sound dense and swirling and psychedelic, infested with stretches of slithering black ambience and deep tectonic reverberations that rumble deep below the surface, the air alive with ghostly found sounds and harsh metallic abrasions, warped transmissions of ancient voudou drumming and demonic EVP. The wailing voices that drift out of that thunderous din seep into the short interlude "Audi Alteram Partem", which almost resembles some demented Diamanda Galas piece lost in a fog of metallic skree and cathedral reverb, and then the album descends into the utterly monstrous title track, a blackened expanse of rotting electronics and crumbling concrete, the sound of entropy and psychological decay sped up into a blur of Merzbowian sonic horror that wraps up the disc. The whole thing adds up to one of T.O.M.B.'s most intense blasts of sonic terror.
The other half features T.O.M.B.'s Xesse, one of the band's more "ambient", droneological works. That's not to say that this is any less fearsome than the preceding tracks, though. This EP opens with a chorus of wailing voices, the sounds of abject suffering echoing and reverberating within some lightless underground crypt. A deep distant rumbling presence can be heard, just barely perceptible; it's quickly overcome by heavy waves of harsh crackling noise and fuzz that slowly sweep in and recede, washing away those screams of agony and leaving behind a residue of minimal, empty blackness in their place. From there, Xesse moves into crushing Lustmordian walls of drone, thick buzzing synthesizers rumbling under snarling, electronically-warped vocals and other demonic utterances, the synth dropping in and out as bits of minor key drift float in. Out of this growing graveyard chaos comes the sound of distorted chanting, sonic remnants of some unseen ritual taking place in the depths of T.O.M.B.'s soundscape. Heavier drones recede, leaving a cacophony of scraping metal noise and processed bass tones and what almost sounds like crushing, doom-laden guitars grinding deep in the murk. The recording constantly shifts between those placid lifeless drones and strange echoing graveyard rituals and the swells of hallucinatory heaviness, eventually giving way to some seriously mind-melting cosmic drift towards the end, the voices shifting from blasphemous ranting to garbled unknown tongues as it drifts out into an abyss of swirling dub effects, delicate chiming tones, and rhythmic metal pounding that finally erupts into frantic percussive chaos, the thunder of hammers on metal shaking the chthonic depths, then fading into silence.