Review: Auditor – Form Destroyer
Auditor is an act whom I’ve had every intention of talking about for a very, very long time but never had the perfect moment to do so. The Chicago-based one-man band fuses industrial, drone, dark ambient, and noise with a healthy dose of doom for good measure. Auditor’s discography has always been defined by the blind ambition of a man with a clear objective who will go to any lengths to achieve his vision, cutting no corners and making no compromises.
Previously the mind behind the more beat-oriented Iron Forest, Brandon Elkins has reinvented himself as Auditor, an altogether darker, more abrasive beast. Having previously worked under the alias A Crown of Amaranth, Elkins has also played in bands like Plenum|Void and Bisson Rheum and collaborated with ToH faves Venowl. Obviously his track record is impeccable, but on Form Destroyer Elkins truly outdoes himself.
Auditor moves with one speed in mind: bone-crushingly slow. This album isn’t graceful or elegant. This album is the soundtrack to a guy in an alley beating you over the head with a propane tank. Elkins has said that Auditor arose as a way to deal with his depression, but there’s nothing depressed about the sound of this album. There are no niceties about it: this music wants to destroy you.
The album proper is just under 40 minutes long, but the amount of sonic information packed into the five tracks is overwhelming. The digital edition of the album includes remixes of four of the tracks by Theologian, The Vomit Arsonist, Gnaw Their Tongues and Compactor, and the first 100 copies of the forthcoming CDs on Annihilvs Power Electronics will include a bonus disc of the whole album remixed by Theologian. Even without the remixes, though, the album is so dense it belies its short runtime. From the churning opener “Protocol 1” to the drum machine-driven “Flea on a Dead Dog” to the fuzzed-out doom of the standout track “Betrayer of Sleep”, the album doesn’t let up, drawing on the dubby beats of Iron Forest and the brutal crushing of Venowl to craft a potent blend of live and electronic instrumentation that never lets up. I suppose the closest sonic touchstone would be Author & Punisher, but where Tristan Shone focuses on an almost-pensive industrial angst, make no bones about it: Auditor is here to beat you to a pulp. Even when the rhythm drops out, eerie synth washes and distorted samples maintain a constant, creeping atmosphere. Rare is the band that can convey a feeling of truly raging violence or life-threatening atmosphere, yet Auditor can do both simultaneously. Though I find the adjective overused, “Lovecraftian” is the only accurate way to describe the abject, creeping horror in a world where things are so indescribably “off.”
So much is happening at any one moment, be it the nigh-symphonic walls of noise or the fuzzy, distorted synths or the stuttering chopped drumbeats that present themselves seemingly at random. The closer “I Can Never Be Far Enough from You” is a track so complete and genuinely epic in its scope it nearly implodes on itself before breaking down into the first taste of relief the listener is afforded after over half an hour of constant churning sound.
Form Destroyer is far from an easy listen. I’m tempted to recommend listeners even take a break halfway through, but the flow of the album is so perfect it feels disingenuous to disrupt it, in spite of how far down the hole it goes. The last two tracks are my favorites on the album, and their heinous majesty is made even more powerful with the buildup of the rest of the songs, though that’s not to diminish the power of those three tracks in their own right.
With Iron Forest, Elkins created some incredible music, but none of it carries with it the readily apparent emotional weight present on Form Destroyer. The muted start of the album carried by “And Vomit as You Devour Them” delivers us deep into the pit of despair that is “Flea on a Dead Dog” before the blighted anguish of “Betrayer of Sleep” and the first half of “I Can Never Be Far Enough from You” showcase the other side of the album in their brutal, drawn-out violence, before the album draws to a close with a simple, clean bassline and ringing walls of synths.
Even taking the remixes into account, at less than an hour Form Destroyer is far from excessive, but it is oppressive. The album is a bang-for-your-buck masterpiece: so much is packed into the fairly short runtime it’s hard to imagine what more could even be thrown in. Auditor’s “all-in” approach to composition and production is a lot to take in at once. I for one am eager to see how Elkins will manage to expand on his sound in the future, because as it stands, Form Destroyer seems to be the most complete and final representation of his discography.