The Martial Industrial scene in general might be seen as one of the more niche genres in modern music – in its own way, it is every bit as constricted and codified as say, delta blues, or heavy metal. It takes a lot to stand out within this genre, where one band can often be indistinguishable from another. But stand out Westwind do. This French act have been making records for over a decade, and new album Ravage might be seen as their crowning achievement. It consists of two full-length CDs – comprising 23 tracks plus two ‘hidden’ tracks (more on those later).
The album is split into two parts: disc one is subtitled ‘Doomsday Songs’; and disc two contains ‘Requiems for Collapsing Cities’. Disc one opens with ‘Rise’ – an uncompromising statement of intent which drones relentlessly around a D minor chord, with whispered voices murmuring just out of reach. But then Westwind throw the first of numerous curveballs with ‘The Machupo Ballad’ – a lurching, Morricone-esque piece which sounds almost jaunty – until you find out that Machupo is an infectious disease with no known cure, which was once researched as a possible biological weapon by the USA, before they suspended such programmes – nice. ‘Al-Dajjal’ (the name of the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ) is a thick soup of apocalyptic organ lines, implacable bass drones, miltaristic drums, and muezzin wails low in the mix.
Over on disc two ‘Of Last Things to Come’ samples a nutty American preacher, in the manner of primetime Cabaret Voltaire, whilst the descending organ chords recall Van der Graff Generator. ‘Pandemia’ is a slice of disquieting, sepulchral ambience.
And now the ‘secret’s tracks. On the end of disc one, there is a superb rendering of New Order’s ‘In a Lonely Place’. This really captures the spirit of the original, and is easily the best JD/NO cover version ever. And just to prove that Westwind do have a sense of humour after all, hidden away at the end of disc two is a jaw-dropping (and yet entirely respectful) cover of Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’, coming on like some kind of Throbbing Gristle/Minny Pops mash-up. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.