see also our current feature story on Belisha
our previous interview with Belisha
our review of The Hounded (April 2002)
our review of The Hounded (January 2002)
a recent interview with Belisha on Albion/Batcave (NY)
People Of The Dark
~reviewed by Blu
If you were lucky enough to attend one of their shows on the West Coast of the U.S.A. you probably got your hands on this new CD and will have had a chance to hear what most people won't for a few more months yet (it's slated for a mid-April release in the UK and later for the rest of the world). Lucky, lucky people you. San Francisco DJ Rick A Mortis just named People of the Dark one of his top CDs of the year alongside work such as Cinema Strange, Penis Flytrap, Peter Murphy and David Bowie. Greg Fasolino, noted alternative music journalist and guitarist for The Naked And The Dead, has said it's a "damn good" CD and named their track, "The Fall Of The Evergreen," as his favorite off the StarVox Trinity Compilation. You see, it's not just me.
So what's all the excitement about you ask? Buzzing around subjects as diverse as UFOs, ghosts and paranormal activity, matters of the heart and rebellion against unfair practices of organized religion and government, is a complex, well produced, textured and musically powerful CD. At times it's a seething ball of fury and criticism on political fronts; at other times it has all the abandon and fun of bouncy, riotous punk and every once in a while, there are moments of pure blissful beauty and heart-felt soul. If I had to make references for familiarity's sake, I'd say mix up a bowl of one part Sex Pistols (for the angry energy) and one part New Model Army (for the politics) and toss in a bit of Killing Joke, Led Zepplin and The Damned for musical flavor. It's not a perfect CD, I don't know any that are, but it is highly superior on many levels and will undoubtedly make my "Best Of' list at the end of the year.
What I first noticed is how crystal
clear the production is. The sound is really top notch. Candy to the
ears -- it's as crisp and brilliant as any CD done by a big name label.
What makes this even more incredible is that this CD was engineered by
Belisha's very own guitarist - Byder. Talk about a DIY band!
Track 3 is one that many may have downloaded off Belisha's website earlier this year. They wrote "People of the Dark" for the goth scene in appreciation for our support of their music (an unusual bit of thanks that we don't normally get from a non-goth bands). If you've read any of the interviews done with this band you know that one of their goals is to crush the way the mainstream music industry works and they're more than happy to take us along for the ride: "Dark ones, Take hold, People of the dark will meet -- the realm is turning, People of the dark will set the land a burning..." Musically it's a mid-tempo song with a catchy melody that I've no doubt had running through my head many times since I first heard it.
Getting into more personal territory, "Pain" is a bleak and dramatic song centered around heartache and loss. It's driving tempo and guitar melodies echo the desperation and emotional turmoil of a broken heart searching for a reason to continue on. Vocalist Dan spits out the word "pain" on the chorus as if on the verge of complete frustration and breakdown. On the flipside of this emotional roller coaster they've taken us on, is lusty track "Want." Built around a staccato, bouncing bass line that lends itself to punk inclinations, it's lyrically romantic: "I held you I felt you I want you I need you I see you I breathe you I want you I need you." There's a nice bridge here that slows it down and changes the feel of the song for a bit before rousing back into the main chorus.
Track 6 does not have a title but a symbol. Upon first listen it appears to be a scratchy radio transmission of some kind and if you know Belisha and one of their favorite past times, it's not too hard to surmise that this is a recording of a UFO encounter. What makes this terribly interesting is that it's the actual transmission from one of the UK's top UFO controversies that happened in 1980 near RAF Woodbridge in eastern England. It's been dubbed the "Rendlesham File" and ironically, only recently has this information been made public. In press releases that hit the news on Nov. 29th, the complete government files have been made accessible to the public for the first time. It's completely fascinating to be able to hear this recording especially in light of the recent news. See more info on this case on CNN here and stay tuned to StarVox for a new interview with Belisha and more about this subject.
"Negative" is one of my favorite tracks because it's massively heavy and hard hitting. We've all had those people in our lives who insist in wallowing in their own pain for illogical reasons, who don't listen to reason, who refuse to help themselves, who seem to do nothing but bring everyone around them down. That's the theme behind this song. With guitars that are almost metal in nature and lyrics that are nearly shouted and always fueled with anger; I daresay they'd attract a few headbangers with this one.
"Eyes That Blacken" is a great example of how keyboardist Pit uses samples and keyboards in just the right places to accent a piece rather than over loading a song with them as many modern bands tend to do. It starts with vocals over synthetic percussive elements so low you almost don't hear them and then a siren comes in blaring before giving way to bell tolls all to highlight yet another song about heartbreak. It develops into a fairly fast tempo propelled by a nice bouncy bass line.
Track 9 is a 43 second track titled "Lizzard" and if you've got the capability to play it backwards you will unlock the mysteries of the universe. Otherwise, it's a bit harsh on the ears. Don't get me wrong, I find these odd interludes (tracks 6 and 13 included) completely fascinating and they often aid in understanding what motivates this band; however, when you're listening to the CD over and over again in the car for the pure joy of hearing good music, this track gets to be a thorn in your side and I'm now automatically reaching for the "skip" button when it comes up. So perhaps, the idea was good and the sentiment important but the placement of it is bothersome when listening to this CD for purely musical reasons.
Next up is the jewel of the pile for many people. "Shroud of King" has been the surprise favorite with those who picked up the CD on their recent West Coast tour. It continues a theme first explored on their CD, The Hounded, in the track "Into the Casparian Sea." Exotic and mysterious sounding, textured with more Middle Eastern melodies, it's got a good beat and great allure with it's adventuresome tale of kings and battles. Sexy and serpent-like it winds and slithers and begs your body to move to its rhythm.
Then we have track 11. To be completely objective I have to admit that "Hero" does not work for me. While the lyrics are obviously fueled by some strong emotion, the music itself seems much too pop-ish for its own good and to me, the lyrics lose their affect in the seemingly carefree tone. Even though it starts out a bit more down beat with a great bass led melody, by the chorus it's sing-songy and light and just too happy sounding for what the subject matter is. Could just be me. It's not a bad song mind you - it has plenty of personality and I do catch myself sometimes bopping along to it; but something just does not click with me even as they whisper "I hate you I hate you I hate you" in the background. Maybe I'm missing the irony?
"The Fall Of The Evergreen" almost needs no introduction here as this was the first song released prior to this CD on a teaser EP and then again on the StarVox Trinity Compilation. It has been the song they've gotten most club play with and certainly a favorite for fans. This CD has a different version from the one on the EP, a bit more uptempo and more textured. It's been perfected and is seamless in production. This is a perfect example of the kind of tight rock n roll Belisha is capable of. The guitar here is especially good and varied - classically jangly in all the right places, screeching and ripping in some instances and distorted and dirty in others. The chorus is very addictive and the uptempo beats are hard to resist. I predict this is the song that will get them the most comparisons as a modern version of bands like The Cult.
If you're not paying attention track 13
will buzz by and you won't notice it. Or perhaps you'll only think, "odd,
that's a bit of a long silence between tracks." But it's not silence. No
no, it's another odd little treat Belisha has stuck in there for us called
"Altered Ones". If you turn it up and listen to it with headphones on it
should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and chills run
up your arms. At least it does to me every time I play it. Even though
there is nothing to give away the subject matter per se; it is sufficiently
spooky all on its own. I had a suspicion of what it was and later asked
them about it and they confirmed it for me. What you'll hear here
is some EVP recordings - or Electronic Voice Phenomena - which is supposedly
the low-audio sounds of paranormal activity caught on tape and only audible
by intense magnification. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... creepy. Not recommended
when all alone in a dark house.
Speaking of ghosts and paranormal things, "Old Barbed Wire" is another unusual track - a spoken word part set in a creepy dreamscape that seems to portray a vision of a battled and beat army. I like it because the subject matter is pretty morbid and being a silly American, I find the British accent completely delightful. I do have one small complaint though. Despite the superb production on all the other tracks, the beginning of this one seems entirely too loud. For some reason that first rush of harp is just overpowering and I find myself turning it down for a few seconds only to have to turn it up again to hear the vocal part. I'm unsure if this was done on purpose -- as a way of whisking the listener down into this dream world -- but it's loud enough to make me adjust the volume every time and that's a tad annoying. Beyond that little bit of criticism, I think it's a fairly effective as a descriptive soundscape on the horrors of war and the mis-guided evil that humans are capable of.
"Rising" continues their anti-religious theme but in a less aggressive way than "Agnostic Jihad" did. The lyrics are a bit more cryptic, almost riddlelike: "Buried in the certain veil, Balance form soul to sail, Suffer with the Holy Ghost, Every man needs it most." This music is laid back but still heavy in a kind of dramatic stadium-band way and it's really grown on me the more I listen to this CD. It's deceptively more complex than you think upon first listen. Myself and others have found odd comparisons between Belihsa and bands like Led Zepplin and I find that most apparent here although I think it was entirely unintentional. It starts out with keyboard lines that are both regal and a bit psychedelic in tone with long, drawn out guitars and rumbling low bass lines. The drums are heavy and accented. The chorus is strong and clear and very catchy. The keys are the real stars of this one because this song suddenly changes and builds to a feverish dirge of sorts, each instrument, one by one chiming in on a the same melody line until a whole orchestra is let loose and it's pounding very heavily altogether completing a dramatic climax with accompanying break beats in the percussion (and this is where it's most like Zepplin). It never fails to make me head bang like a highschool boy. I love it.
And finally, my second favorite song and by far my favorite in their live show is "Illuminati." Accessible in a good way, aggressive and another great example of that kind of excitement I can only tag as "Belisha Energy." It's angry and alive. It's especially fun in headphones or in a good surround sound system on the chorus because you get Dan whispering in your ear and then you get pierced on all sides by the group chorus. I'm almost obsessive about this chorus - it literally just RIPS out of the speakers. It's like a good roller coaster ride. Musically they just go insane on this one. There's a guitar solo in it that's off the hook and the drumming get maniacal. Subject wise it's their "love song" to world governments and just the kind of tongue-n-cheek cynicism that I like best in this band. On CD and especially live, Dan goes completely mad and we get the full extent of his anger as no one is left out of this political reaming: "Fuck G8, Fuck Rockefeller, Fuck Rothschild, Ruck UN, Fuck Nato, Fuck Bilderberg!"
I think Johnny Rotten would be proud.
Management and label: