Words About Music
Pharmakon “Bestial Burden”
Fair warning: this music is not for the easily disturbed. Pharmakon, the musical project of Margaret Chardiet, makes music that is twisted, horrific, and difficult to listen to. It’s also cathartic, layered, and demented in the best possible ways. Pharmakon’s music harkens back to the early industrial and power electronics artists of the ’70s and ’80s. The album carries bits of Nurse With Wound, Throbbing Gristle, and Whitehouse in its songs. “Bestial Burden” is Pharmakon’s second release (I enjoyed her 2013 debut “Abandon” quite a bit) and features a more consistent theme. Written after a near death experience while on tour, “Bestial Burden” deals with the idea that everyone’s worst enemy is their own body. The body is constantly trying to kill the self. It’s a fragile shell that can easily betray you, as Chardiet experienced. Chardiet expresses this by recording herself hyperventilating, dry-heaving, and screaming bloody torture.
Though it’s only about a half hour, “Bestial Burden” will be one of the most daunting albums you listen to this year, if you decide to do so. It’s suspenseful, loud, and consistently frightening. The album is filled with feedback and slow-building atmospheric drones. It’s the year’s best horror movie soundtrack to a film that will never exist, and I love most of it.
Like I said, there are parts of this album that are really hard to listen to. Personally, I love the regular tracks like “Intent or Instinct,” “Body Betrays Itself,” and “Autoimmune.” It’s just the songs like “Vacuum” and “Primitive Struggle,” the latter of which features the aforementioned dry-heaving, that I don’t really enjoy. The sound of it makes me feel ill, and I know that that’s the point of the album (maybe), but even that’s a bit beyond my tastes. “Bestial Burden” is extreme to the max, and Chardiet does an incredible job at making this album work. I could do without the interludes. If there was a 45-minute Pharmakon album of 5-8 minute songs and no interludes, I feel like I’d enjoy that quite a bit.
Another great thing about “Bestial Burden” is that it really demonstrates Chardiet’s versatility as an artist. The final song on here, “Bang Bang” (which is a bonus track), is a cover on which Chardiet exercises her haunting vocal talents. It almost reminds me of Chelsea Wolfe in a way. I feel like if she wanted to, she could also go that route. The extreme stuff is great, but it’s only a matter of time before it just becomes the gimmick of Pharmakon. Creepy instrumentals, demonic screams, yeah yeah we get the picture. Overall, “Bestial Burden” is a great album. It could be trimmed down a bit into an EP, probably, if the interludes were done away with, but I can skip those bits and still enjoy a good 90% of this album.
SCORE – 8.4
FAVORITE TRACKS – Intent or Instinct, Body Betrays Itself, Autoimmune, Bestial Burden, Bang Bang