With its talk of "anonymity as function" and music "conceived in the shadows to be consumed in the dark," the mission statement on the Vault Series website is hardly what you'd call inviting. But then nor are the records Subjected, Sawlin and Mørbeck have released on the Berlin-based label since it started in 2010. Vault Series' first artist album from Subjected is, in the artist's own words, "strident, statement-free techno."
Though Subjected seems keen to avoid all the usual clichés on Zero, he still gets it started in exactly the same way as plenty of other techno albums: with a beatless but pretty dull soundscape. From that point onwards, it's straight to the floor. If Subjected is determined to let the music speak for itself, the voice seems to be largely a howl of rage. "VX800" is almost nihilistic in its brutality, "SD1" is a grinding dreadnought bristling with what sound like whirring rotor blades, and "The Throne" uses the same sort of proto-dubstep bassline as 2562, but plumbs much dirtier depths.
While almost every sound is filthy and distorted here, Subjected does boast a definite clarity—almost purity—of vision. Most of Zero is techno at its most atavistic, a throwback to FUSE's "Substance Abuse," Joey Beltram's "Energy Flash" and the raw sounds that have been pummelling away in clubs from Birmingham to Berlin for aeons. And while Subjected has refused to weigh himself down with the cult of personality, his tracks can sound a bit too anonymous when considered away from the dance floor, though their sheer bloody-mindedness makes them simply too hard and heavy to work anywhere else. Which, for Subjected himself, probably means mission accomplished.