An extraordinary thing, this album from ‘Theatre Macabre’ artists Fear Incorporated. Imagine Bauhaus putting on a lusty modern production of Macbeth and you’ll be close to the feel and shape. As odd in their own way as The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, but with a dedicated direction to follow, with a sharper focus on one story, they deliver an album or swerving peaks and troughs, the latter full of body parts.

Sawney Bean never existed, but it’s a good story and I’m sure there are walking tours near the cave he is supposed to have inhabited during the 15th or 16th century, depending on what fanciful evidence you require. Here he ate the bodies of the people his clan robbed, and as the family (fuelled by incest) grew, so did the concerns, and death toll. When they were finally caught the men had their naughty bits cuts off, along with their hands and feet, and were left to bleed to death while the children and women were burnt alive. Or so the story goes. In the early 1400’s there was another Scottish cannibal, which is just greedy, called Christie Cleek, and he did the same thing. Was Sawney the world’s first copycat cannibal mass murderer? Either way, it kept them off the streets.

Now, the band. A prodigiously talented line-up, we have William Westwater (Sensory Savage) – vocals, Cam Campbell (Sex Gang Children) – bass, Lex Luther (Demented Are Go) – guitar and Alan McCulloch – drums with guitar on certain tracks provided for another old Sex Gang maestro, Terry MaCleay. This all makes for a heady racket.

‘Land Of The Dead’ makes no excuses for its gauche charm, fizzing on the guitar front, portly on the rhythm shuffle, with vibrant warbling and it makes for a tense but haughtily dramatic entrance. That said, it has a crazed sense of humour in the vocal delivery, like a beguiling insanity. ‘Sawney’s Cave’ is quiter. “The dead have stories to tell their tell their kith and kin, as their gizzards hang from Sawney’s chin.” Yes, thank you for that. Cymbals flash and the softly glinting guitar sweetly caresses the air. The imperious vocals exude a ludicrous class, confidently sweeping through the filth then soaring above. With a fervent vocal presence ‘Two Black Hearts’ has added tension from the ruthless, relentless drum stamp, and the grim Goth synth frying in the background.

‘Hell’s Waistcoat’ is fascinating, with beautiful guitar strolling in empty spaces, where the charming narrative holds you spellbound as the hideous tale unfolds. They genuinely know how to do the drama. “Along a lonely twilight wandering, through a forest dark as hell’s waistcoat itself, over rocks and jaggy craggs, to a sudden drop before the sea nerar Dumfries, in Scotland, a mouth from the cliff edge holds your darkest fears. A twisted family of inbred cannibal swine, lurking in the depths, a chamber of death.’ Location, location, location. “A cave of malignant terror, where limbs hang from the eaves, Wax severed heads served as candles…”

‘Cannibal King’ leaps upon you, lewd and gaudy, with the crazed despotic singing making the whole thing seem suitably wild, with weird synth streaming through the fascinating grot. The vocals are almost uncomfortably loud and close, as the background is quite amenable melodically, and this off-putting in-your-face approach is quite intentional. It’s also a bit dancey, in a weird way.

‘Hunting Party’ has a more lugubrious flow, as nervous soldiers track the obscene family down, so we get a change of pace there, and a starker sound, then we wade slowly into ‘Sawney’s Song’ with phased guitar gradually spreading outwards, and this sleekly contoured instrumental again provides a breather. ‘The Tolbooth Song’ is an uncouth blast, with the scary vocals veering back into your mind no matter how hard you try and shut them out. ‘Sawney’s End’ rolls in a queasy fashion, simultaneously rasping and rollicking, a triumphal celebration of executions. We then close with ‘The Innkeeper’s Dread’, a more restrained and casually moody affair, which makes for a restful close at which point you’ll be relieved, for this is a band with murderous flair, as impressive as it is daunting.

They have another album out later this year, and I should point out that a dvd predates this CD with seven of the tracks accompanied by creepy imagery to fit the mood, but first please consider this, one of the finest things you will encounter all year. A real work of art, capable of giving anyone a turbulent turn.

Mick Mercer
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