ENVELOPED by an infamous back story, Projekt Misanthropia has taken on a cult status among black and noise metal fans. Some see it as the holy grail of noise music, some see it as a pretentious waste of time. Others perceive it as not worthy of the tag ‘music’, due to the shady rumours surrounding its inception. Deciding what is the case is very much a personal choice and raises all sorts of questions about morality and what constitutes art.
Intended as a recreation of the Stalag prisoner of war camps, the album was made by an anonymous collective in 2007. The true story of the camp is terrible, as the Nazis became desperate towards the end of the war the conditions within POW camps deteriorated; medicine, food and shelter became very scarce. For certain races, in particular Italians, Serbians and Polish, the camps became like hell on Earth and many tens of thousands met awful deaths.
Knowledge of this lends significant gravity to Projekt Misanthropia and gives it a sense of purpose. The album is 35 minutes long, unstructured and chaotic. Fractured blasts of distortion, guitar and drums stagger in and out as the one constant feature mercilessly continues: screaming. The source of the screams is also the source of the controversy and perhaps also the successes of the album.
Allegedly they are made by kidnapped mental patients undergoing torture while the backing music is played. Given the opprobrious criminal tendencies of many associated bands within the dark metal scene in Europe, this wouldn’t come as a surprise.
This raises the question of morality. Should this truly be the sounds of vulnerable people being tormented, is it right to even listen? The screams are so real, so emotional and pain filled that it is easy to imagine horror and death. In this respect Projekt Misanthropia achieves its aim. Listening through the whole album is a decidedly uncomfortable experience.
But is this the reason people listen to it, or is it because of the evil acts that they believe were committed in making it? When I first listened to it, I whole-heartedly believed the rumours. The authenticity of the screams just convinces you. This is what really drives the message of the album home and makes it special/depraved.
Further research reveals that in actual fact a member of Stalaggh worked as a therapist in a mental asylum and that the patients supposedly signed consent forms. The making of the album could perhaps be explained as scream therapy; no torture was involved. Knowing this, a second listen fails to have the same unsettling effect. Imagination is a powerful tool and it runs wild when you allow yourself to believe the rumours.
Again, this raises questions of morality: does the album only ‘work’ if your mind is picturing the worst? The screams are still painful. This is surely to be expected, as the crimes committed by the detained mental patients include many cases of brutal murder; these are complex and often dangerous people. Undeniably the effect of the album is dulled somewhat, something intangible is lost when you know that it was fully legal noise therapy. I must say at this point that I do not condone kidnapping and torture, I am simply commenting on the effect the album had on me as a listener.
Can you call this music? That question has to be decided by the listener individually. As a piece of noise metal it is unique, wild and raw, unlike anything I have ever heard. It makes My Bloody Valentine look like Coldplay. A dedicated noise metal fan may be interested in Projekt Misanthropia, I personally would not listen in full again and see it as a more of a novelty.
The band themselves have stated that they will never perform live and have remained anonymous while making two other albums of a similar vein. They shun the idea of art as art in principle is creation, while they deal in destruction. They make music to send a message however controversial or disturbing and force the listener to confront difficult questions and powerful feelings.
They may be noise music geniuses, twisted weirdoes or pretentious uber-hipsters, for me it is a mix of all three. The greatest trick the devil pulled off is convincing the world he doesn’t exist. The greatest trick Stalaggh pull off is making the music that Satan himself would enjoy listening to.
The entire album is available to listen to below: