For me, at least, religious horror has always been a special kind of terrifying. Films like The Omen and The Exorcist were always far more frightening than simpler tales of hook-handed serial killers or more aggressive than average sharks. The kind of existential fear that comes from the unknown and unknowable realm of gods and the afterlife, utilized so effectively by Lovecraft and his contemporaries, taps into a far deeper level of the human psyche than more the more immediate and comprehensible threats of bodily harm.
It is appropriate, then, to round out our month of spooky records with one of Current 93's earliest efforts, a bleak and relentless patchwork of New Testament nightmares that could be described as an aural equivalent of the Book of Revelations. David Tibet, the creative force behind Current 93, has always had a fascination early Christianity and describes himself as a Gnostic, referring to the early sects of that religion that were shunned and quickly drummed out of existence by the Catholic Church in the first few centuries AD. Gnostic literature can get pretty wild, with a far greater penchant for the fantastic and otherworldly than the rest of the accepted Christian canon. Their somewhat darker outlook is perhaps understandable when one realizes that one of the central themes of Gnosticism is the idea of a wicked creator deity, the Demiurge (the Old Testament, vengeful God), who is separate from the pure and loving God of the New Testament.
With this little bit of backstory, we are at least a little more prepared for this noisy and disturbing record. A bed of sampled Gregorian chants floats eerily in the background, while discordant industrial noises clank and moan over them, punctuated by hellish growling and Tibet's strident vocals proclaiming that "Maldoror is dead" (a reference to Lautreamont's classic proto-surrealist, stream of consciousness novel that is itself quite unsettling.)
The album is broken up into two, side-long tracks, but it really sounds like a single piece of music. Tape manipulation stretches vocals out into deep bass groans. Christian themes are repeated throughout, with the title of side one referencing Golgotha, the place in which Christ was crucified. Although Nature Unveiled bears little resemblance musically to Current 93's later, folk-influenced work, thematically there is much in common, and the listener is always left feeling that the Apocalypse is just around the corner.
Towards the end of the album, the vocals fade away and are replaced by distant wailing and increasingly urgent sirens, a harbinger of imminent and inescapable doom. Then, suddenly, it's all over, the vision of the end of days complete.
Nature unveiled is a raw, powerful and extremely noisy record, and although Tibet and most of his collaborators drifted away from and ultimately rejected the "industrial" label, there is no doubt that this album remains one of the best and most effective examples of what industrial music was all about in the early eighties. Still, it will probably leave most people desperate to turn on all the lights and put on something a little more cheerful.