Various Artists
Gothic Magazine Compilation XXIII (Batbeliever)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

The compilation-assault from Germany’s Gothic Magazine continues. This particular release is a double CD - 32 tracks of music, plus a couple of video clips thrown in. There’s allegedly some sort of concept at work here, because disc one is subtitled ‘Goth Soul’ while disc two is ‘Goth Body’. In practice this seems to mean that disc one contains a variety of ethereal, folkie or restrained rock stuff; anything with ‘sensitive’ lyrics, or some sort of delicacy of musical style seems to get in under the wire.  Meanwhile, disc two is skewed towards the EBM/synthpop end of things. The trouble with setting up your genre-categories like this, of course, is that you end up leaving a lot of stuff out, and creating the impression that goth is a much narrower field than it really is. But that, of course, is my principal reservation with these compilations: in their efforts to represent all the sub-genres of goth, they end up ignoring all those artists who don’t fit into those neat little predetermined categories.  Which means, in my view, that they ignore most of the interesting stuff.

But let’s suspend our scepicism for a moment, and dip into the music. Goth Soul encompasses the flotation tank ambience of Mona Mur’s ‘Eden’, the meandering electro-acoustic ballad that is ‘Alive’ by Swans Of Avon, the smoothly produced coffee-table gothic rock of Dronning Maud Land with ‘Hollow Eyes’, and the string-soaked power balladry of Leaves’ Eyes and ‘Norweigian Lovesong’. There’s the mild-mannered, mid-tempo folk rock of Schandmaul’s ‘Die Flucht’, and much the same again, with a bit more of a stop-start rhythm, from Adaro with ‘Minne Ist Ein Süsser Nam’. Estampie deliver an ecclesiastical choral piece entitled ‘Al Jorn - Carceres’ and Stoa give us the medieval-flavoured ‘Captivity’. Incongruously, the final two tracks on this disc - ‘Fade Into You’ by Final Selection and ‘Sex ‘n’ Cross’ by Distain! suddenly swerve into synthpop territory: both tracks are smooth, bland, and pass by without leaving a trace on my memory. In this company, Frank The Baptist seems slightly lost, with ‘Beggars Would Ride’.  Hemmed in by folkies and etherealists and practitioners of hippy-metal, the assertive alternorock of Frank and his fellow riders seems strangely muted.

Goth Body includes the electro-stomp and gutteral chant of Blutengel’s ‘Love Killer’, the low-rent take on old-skool Front 242 of Spetsnaz’s ‘On The Edge’, and The Retrosic’s tiresome exercise in ‘angry’ distorted vocals, on ‘Total War’, like we haven’t heard that stuff a million times before. We get the curiously dated hardcore motherfuckerisms of ‘Mechanische Unruhe’ by Xotox, with a vocal that sounds like a wino chuckling to himself in the street. We get the cinematic battle scene of Decree’s ‘Violent Reckoning’ - high drama, to be sure, but ultimately this track simply sounds like an intro in search of a tune. We get the pleasant, but unremarkable, synthpop of E.R.R.A. and ‘Energy In Your Eyes’. We get Metallspürhunde’s ‘Teenage Years’, which wastes a rip-roaring female vocal on a forgettable synthpop tune. In short, it’s all a bit underwhelming.  Only ASP with ‘Ich Will Brennen’ - with its mad guitar riff and gravy-browning vocal - shows any real individuality; the song jumps out of the track listing like an energetic shark in a paddling pool.

Overlaying the Goth Soul/Goth Body concept on this album wasn’t quite the masterstroke it might at first appear, if you ask me. The principal problem remains: too many of the songs here are really no more than forgettable exercises in ticking all the right generic boxes. I’m sure - I *know* - that there are many bands around who ply their trade in the goth zone without neatly fitting the pre-formed templates, or following any of the generic rules. It would be nice to hear some of those bands, some of the maverick tendency, the awkward squad, if you will, represented on these albums. So far, unfortunately, it just ain’t happening.

The tunestack:

Disc One: Goth Soul
Mona Mur: Eden
John Alexander Ericson: A World You'll Never Reach
Swans Of Avon: Alive
D'Arcadia: R.I.P.
Frank The Baptist: Beggars Would Ride
Dronning Maud Land: Hollow Eyes
Cell Division: Fingerprints
Leaves' Eyes: Norwegian Lovesong
Schandmaul: Die Flucht
Adaro: Minne Est Ein Süsser Nam
Dargaard: Bearer Of The Flame
Estampie: Al Jorn - Carceres
Stoa: Captivity
Kontrast: Eisberg
Final Selection: Fade Into You
Distain!: Sex 'n' Cross
John Alexander Ericson: A World You'll Never Reach (Video)
Atrocity: Cold Black Days (Video)

Disc Two: Goth Body
Trümmerwelten: Princess Of Blood
Soko Friedhof: Blutsauger (und du kommst...)
Blutengel: Love Killer
Silent Assault: Subzero
Spetsnaz: On The Edge
Run Level Zero: Under The Gun
Taubkind: Knie' Nieder (Club mix)
ASP: Ick Will Brennen
X-Fusion: Left Hand Path
The Retrosic: Total War
Xotox: Mechanische Unruhe (Cycloon remix)
Solitary Experiments: Existence
Angeltheory: Cold Fire
Decree: Violent Reckoning
E.R.R.A.: Energy In Your Eyes
Metallspürhunde: Teenage Years

The Gothic Magazine website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: