Longform industrial dread on Vatican Shadow – Opium Crop Airstrikes

Musicians often talk about random flashes of inspiration, or ‘a sign’ – but Dominick Fernow was compelled into his latest Vatican Shadow project by a moment of almost supernatural gravity.

After hearing of the serious earthquake that hit Mexico City in 2017, killing 370, he wrote to ask a friend in the city if he was OK. He got a reply of a photo of a pile of rubble at his mate’s apartment, with a copy of Vatican Shadow’s Media In the Service of Terror on top of the bricks.

“It looked like it had been staged, that it had just been placed there for comedic effect. But it was real. I took it as a sign and asked what I could do,” Fernow said. What he could do was try to raise funds and spread awareness of an organisation called Ayok, that helps people in rural areas outside Mexico City to rebuild their homes in a sustainable way.

He originally released Opium Crop Airstrikes as part of a Kickstarter benefit – a limited edition cassette with a fold-out poster, in exchange for a $20 donation. Fernow has now added the three-track EP to Bandcamp, in a week in which he’s also started streaming new works by Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement and Prurient.

Opium Crop Airstrikes is another politically-charged release that he describes as a collection of “long-form industrial tracks in the style of Jordanian Descent”, a Vatican Shadow cassette from 2012.

I guess the comparison is based on the EP’s militaristic, tribal repetition, sub bass pulse, paranoid synth drones and creeping lava-flow pace. The title track shares some vaporous dark ambience with Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, with more brutalist percussion echoes. ‘Hellfire Hidden Tribes’ is a lurking sci-fi dystopia that recalls Black Rain’s Now I’m Just a Number, while ‘Loyal To the Deceased’ is a beatless devotional track with surreal vocal edits and serene synth chords.