“The first side of Auto-Da-Fé consists of singles dating back to before the release of Information Overload Unit, while the second side is post-Leichenschrei, but pre-Machine Age Voodoo material. With early material vacillating between noisy textures and punk trappings, and the later tracks showing hints of their synth-pop direction, there’s a definite dichotomy here, but both halves excel greatly in what they seek to do. Opening with material from their confusingly early singles, Factory, Mekano, and Meat Processing Section (all of which shared tracks between them), Contact and Mekano both use abstractly processed and effected guitars with what sounds like metal barrel percussion and rather naked vocals to create something that’s closer to “punk” than “industrial,” to attach genre terms, but fits into neither pigeonhole well. Germanik amps up the dissonance, with the guitar sounding as if it is piped in from another room while metal percussion and barked pseudo-fascist German vocals become the norm. Once we get to the middle portion of the album the dissonance is ramped up. The previous three tracks come across as downright quaint once Retard starts. Different from the Information Overload Unit track of the same title, the combination of extreme high and low frequencies rival Throbbing Gristle’s Subhuman for pure obnoxiousness, and the lyrics discussing the autopsy of a 12 year old girl is anything but pleasant. I honestly have problems sitting through the entire song just due to the high pitched whistling noise that never relents. But, of course, there is Slogun. I think an entire book could be written on both the track and its legacy in various forms of aggressive music. An unidentifiable morass of electronics, guitar, distortion, and what sounds like power tools blast for over six minutes, underscored by an overdriven, rudimentary drum machine beat. Probably most well known is the vocals: manic shouts from both Neil Hill and Graeme Revell barking the slogan of the original Socialist Patients Collective, “Kill for inner peace / bomb for mental health / therapy through violence.” Words can’t do Slogun justice: it is a visceral, physical experience that never stops. I’ve never heard any other piece of music from any genre that hits on such a somatic level. I cannot disagree with the masses that sing the praises of this song: most of SPK’s career was great, but this is the perfect culmination of their work, and perhaps the definitive song of the era. There wasn’t an attempt to do a “Slogun 2” after this, on either Information Overload Unit or Leichenschrei, nor should there have been. The remainder of Auto-Da-Fé is a selection of studio and single tracks from 1982 and 1983, taking the song-oriented direction that was hinted at on Leichenschrei (i.e., Despair, Day of Pigs), but strip away much of the noise and distortion, revealing a sparse, dour proto-pop that is quite different from what they did before, but not entirely out of character either. Metal Field keeps many of the pieces from Leichenschrei: synthetic and metal drums, analog synths, and vocals, but it’s more restrained and subtle. Revell is actually singing, though in a flat, emotionless monotone, and the synths are sequenced into actual melodies and bass lines. It is ostensibly danceable electro, but has this cold, detached feel that makes it anything but conventional. Similarly, the more upbeat Walking on Dead Steps puts together many of the same pieces, but even with its faster tempo and higher energy, lyrics like “fascism is in fashion again” show it wasn’t an attempt to gain commercial success. While Leichenschrei is SPK’s most cohesive, singular work, I probably show Auto-Da-Fé some favoritism because it has such a varying sound to it. It actually excels in its disjointedness, and the fact that it has Slogun on it doesn’t hurt either.” – Creaig Dunton
Side A originally released on various singles in 1979.
Side B new studio recordings for this LP made in 1981.
B1 Metall Field
B2 Walking On Dead Steps
B3 A Heart That Breaks In No Time Or Place
(Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien/Unofficial Release)