The formation of Peter Kernel is one of those mythic rock back-stories. The trio formed in 2005 to record the soundtrack for bassist/vocalist Barbara Lehnhoff's experimental film Like a Giant in a Towel. Graphic designer and guitarist/vocalist Aris Bassetti, drummer Ema Matis, and Lehnhoff enjoyed the Giant sessions enough to form their own label, release their first full-length (How to Perform a Funeral, 2008), and a follow-up EP, The Ticket in 2009.

White Death & Black Heart -- out October 3rd on Africantape -- is an aggressive, art-house assault. Lehnhoff's fuzzed out bass lines fit tightly with Matis' pummeling beats, and Bassetti weaves twangy, gritty guitar riffs in between and underneath the dynamic rhythm section. As a vocalist, Lehnhoff hovers somewhere between Lovefoxxx of CSS and Hanin Elias of Atari Teenage Riot, while Bassetti's vocal turns take a more sketched-out-yet-not-paranoid approach.

The record almost loses steam with "Tide's High" -- a spoken-word track over sparse instrumentation placed smack in the middle of a noisy, energetic album. "Tide's High" poses as an extended intro to the ballad-like "Captain's Drunk!" making the record's momentum shift a bit more forgivable in the context of the album.

At a time when mainstream artist have been putting forth a message of acceptance and self-love, it can be almost confrontational listening to Kernel sing about poor self-image and depression in tracks such as "I'll Die Rich at Your Funeral." But even at "I'll Die's..." seemingly lowest point, Lehnhoff inists, "If you're here, it's because I want you, here."

Although most of the album's tracks are capable of standing alone, they're at their best when you listen to the complete album and let the songs gather strength from one another. White Death & Black Heart is a record that begs to played start to finish.