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There are good feelings all around with the Nature of Gothic compilation. First and foremost it should be made known that all proceeds go into The Forget Me Not Trust Fund, providing treats for children with terminal illnesses, and the Shirren Rescue Centre, a shelter for pure breed cats. Most bonus.
The artist lineup read like a homecoming flyer for me with such familiar groups as Tri-State Killing Spree, The Agency, The Strand, Autumn, The Machine in the Garden, Collide, Doll Factory, This Ascension and even Attrition. Most of whom I have worked to promote through club play and mp3.com radio station play and all of which I have heard their material and adored. When running circles in the realm of promotion you get a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart each time you stumble across a familiar name. Several of the tracks left me kicking myself for not saving their mp3.com submissions and promo emails as blackmail for times like these. There were also many new names to my eyes such as Loss of Will, Acid Ice Flows, Pathian, From the Icy Coast, Animus Ex Machina and Eternia. Overall, this compilation contains material by fifteen remarkable artists who leave little to be desired. The Nature of Gothic is an ideal introduction to the new and up and coming names in the scene.
The first chosen track is "Touch" by Doll Factory, who is the joint efforts of Chris Roy and Garrick Antikajian. The two have been friends and artists since their junior high school days. Although their paths have taken them apart for the time of a few years, fate eventually brought them back together. This song just so happened to be the very track I chose for my mp3.com station at the time and I am delighted to hear the revisions done. Since a year ago, "Touch" appears to have taken on a harder edge, firmer production and more readily defined guitars. The organic qualities of the track have become more intense, more emotionally driven with subtle synth lines, background murmurs, and atmospheric string ensembles. Chris and Garrick have stepped further away from their earlier industrial feel and closer towards an electro-rock definition in sound. This suits them well and I applaud Neue Aethetik Multimedia for allowing the use of this song on the compilation.
The next track is "What They May." Loss of Will is manned by Jeff Jordan doing programming, guitars, and vocals and Peter Burke doing programming and keyboards. They are entirely reminiscent of early Stabbing Westward. "What They May" is full of delightfully squirming sequences and melodies. The vocals are intensely prurient, the programming and production magnificent and full of dark undertones. Darkwave, industrial in feel, "What They May" is sure to delight anyone, electronic purist or not.
The haunting percussion and peripheral piano melodies are what caught my ears at first with "Surrounded," by Acid Ice Flows. Then the estranged vocals demanded full attention. This track is softer and more demure, almost minimalistic. Every instrument comes together to create a dreamlike pedestal upon which Gollum's vocals tell their tale. The song is beautiful, reminiscent to The Cure, Gossamer, and even Dead Can Dance in some ways. The well rounded complexity of the song made it surprising for me to find that Acid Ice Flows is the solo project of Gollum. "I found that working on your own seems to be the best way to accomplish anything," he explains on his artist bio page. The only disappointment I had with "Surrounded" was the way in which the song ends. The forced volume fading undermines the beauty of dthis song. I wish that it would have faded in layers, the same way that the song built up in the beginning. Speaking as a DJ, such an ending would have made for the perfect segway into another track.
Track four is "More than Pain" by Pathian, another solo artist. The metal influences are the first feature that anyone might notice about this song, most likely to the delight of anyone looking for a gothic-metal hybrid. The guitar work was impressive and the synths and drums were well programmed, but there was a missing element. Not just the absence of any vocals. As I have yet to hear any other work by this artist, I am uncertain whether or not his sound can be fairly defined by this track alone. Based on purely on what I have heard thus far, the different layers do not seem to work together and instead they seem to be doing their own thing entirely. The ending is not really very much of an ending, instead the subject of a long and drawn out volume fading. Overall, "More than Pain" feels more like a demo of someone who is still unsure of what direction they are going in. I hope to hear Pathian do a remake of "More than Pain" one day, when all the different layers are finally tied together and compliment and interweave with eachother, instead of indifferently playing on top of one another and fading into nothingness without any actual conclusion. Right now "More Than Pain" feels half finished.
The next track is From the Icy Coast's "Frequency." Howie Sennet provides us with tune that is also comparable in composition and vocals to Stabbing Westward, only with a subtle Deftones aura. The track composition is well produced, flowing from soft lyrics into a harder, guitar bitten chorus. The most appropriate description of this tune would be darkwave-rock. At a speed of 89 BPM, heads up DJs. This will work with your slower sets, melting nicely with any darkwave, gothic, or even ethereal track.
Ranking as track six, Tri-State Killing Spree is one of those groups who are both incredibly talented and incredibly unrecognized for all their ability. Sean Sonnet serenades you with his voice, Matt Bayne's command of the guitar and bass is simply enchanting, Jyri Glynn retains a heavenly talent for the violins, and Thomas Atwell's emotion flows through empyreal guitars. Stylistically, Tri-State Killing Spree pushes well into the realm of The Cure, caressing your ears and quickening your hearts. With open arms and closed eyes, "My Socrates" sways your body and soul. Nothing else I could say could even begin to do this remarkable act any justice. Tri-State Killing Spree is to be experienced, not explained.
"Blue Movie" is an excellent track by The Agency, from their album Drowning Lessons. With Mike David on drums and percussion, Jason Lee on vocals, Barry Wittaker on bass, William Tabanou on guitars and backing vocals, and even Cami Gutierrez and Jeff Moeller extending their assistance on writing and keys, The Agency can only be looked upon as a paradigm of a true band. Fully developed in every way possible, they have built a solid foundation of ability and experience; their music is nothing short of professional. Smooth, moving, and able to tantalize any dance floor, The Agency shies away from the stereotypical goth flavor. Instead they can be more appropriately described as being dark alternative. They would be a welcome addition to anyone's collection dominated by Peter Murphy, VAST, and Echo & The Bunnymen.
Track eight is an unusual track for this particular artist. The Strand hail from Arizona and can typically be defined as an energetic, industrial, EBM-rock band. With tracks like "Chicks Suck (Guys Suck)" and "I Hate My Fucking Job," you are suddenly thrown a loop when confronted with the tranquility of "Bookmark on the Shelf." Fronted by Kimberly Brown, the tune is on common ground with "Slut" by Velvet Acid Christ. A random, demure anomaly. For this alone, Steve Laskarides, Scott Levy, Neal Z., Jeremy Reich, Randall Hampton, and of course, Kimberly Brown have demonstrated an amazing flexibility with their sound. "Bookmark on the Shelf" is heartfelt and beautiful. A wonderful finale to the album, In the Trench.
From This Ascension, we have been given the gift of "Mysterium." An amazingly moving track from their album, Sever. Any number of This Ascension tunes would invoke a sense of wonder, and this one is by far no exception to the rule. Dru's vocal gifts are sublime; she has the ability to reach deep within herself and harness amazing songs from the soul. One capable of stirring even the coldest of hearts. Matt Ballesteros and Paul Sutherland on percussion and drums, Kevin Serra on guitar, Tim Tuttle on keyboards, and Charlie Dennis on bass come together as one body of musical expression. This Ascension can be compared to This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins and even Sarah McLaughlin.
The next track falls completely away from the heavenly presence of This Ascension. Anima Ex Machina with their modest track entitled, "1," drags you ears first back into the harsh construct of acrimonious guitar work and enraged vocals. Clayton Caine and Gil Baram are the seeming proteges of early 16 Volt. Aggressive and guitar oriented with a firm grounding into the industrial sound, "1" is a refreshing track for the fans of the early to mid 90's industrial sound. Although Clayton and Gil definitely have some room to grow, as the song-writing is a little cliche and the levels do not quite fit with eachother, the talent and ability is definitely there. I for one will eagerly be looking forward to hearing new material out of this duo.
"Lip Sync (Xenophobia Edit)" is the surrealistic creation of Attrition off of "The Hand That Feeds" remix and best of album. Painted with the hazy pelting of beats and retro-sounding keys strobbing through your mind, the vocals command nothing less than obedience on the dance floor. Martin Bowes is not a musician. To consider him as merely such would only serve to insult this man. No, Martin Bowes is an artist by every definition of the term. Attrition as his creation stands, no, levitates with such company as Skinny Puppy, Die Form, Coil, and Legendary Pink Dots. Bow down and pay homage. None of you are worthy.
From the album The Hating Tree comes Autumn's "Even Now." Seductive and ethereal, Autumn can be compared to The Cure, The Shroud and Siouxsie & The Banshees. Julie Plante's singing abilities are simply lush. Neil Mckay's guitar and programming evokes a peaceful quietness in your soul and Jeff Leyda fills you again with a passionate appreciation through his bass and cello. "Even Now" is simply delicious, alleviating any nostalgic hunger for the days when hair was full, lipstick was dark, and Hot Topic did not exist. "Yummy," as they would simply sigh here in Los Angeles.
The bearer of the thirteenth standing on this compilation is Eternia, with "Rain." As the solo project of David Quinn, I found his sound to be entirely reminiscent to Corpus Delecti, Diary of Dreams, and early Sisters of Mercy. The sudden intro with a shaking sequence was admittedly intimidating, but then "Rain" smoothed into the peaceful melodies of guitars and the deep, comforting voice of David. For a self proclaimed snob who is "more gothic than goth" (see the website) I was impressed at the considerable restraint taken to avoid indulging in any overly cliche gawth sound [/playful taunt]. "I've screamed 'I just wanna die' with my bass howling feedback until we got kicked off stage...I've played a 45 minute version of "Edge of Reality" backwards and without the choruses." 10,000 Goth Points for David Quinn. I would love to see that one day.
Summer Bowman and Roger Frace of The Machine in the Garden must certainly be descended from the muses. They live and breathe their music and weave such wondrous sounds from almost nothing. In two different cities I watched as they gave a very human performance a divine quality, moving the audience to passive attentiveness and some even to tears. Their only fault is that their confidence cannot support their unearthly ability. (Summer and Roger, you are VERY good at what you do. Take pride in your work. End story.) "The Unaware (Smooth Motion Mix)" comes from their new album, Out of the Mists (Middle Pillar Productions). It is the sort of tune that you should lose yourself completely to so that you can understand the unspoken measures and experience the haunting rhythms as they travel through your every limb.
The final measure of this compilation is "Halo," by Collide. From kaRIN and Statik's new album, Chasing the Ghost, "Halo" rides ephemeral middle-eastern layers and exotic sequences. Delightfully moody, kaRIN's silky vocals dance with Statik's cool melodies and create a blissful composition. Unfortunately for me, their every song must end with regret. Simply for the rumors that Collide has no plans of ever touring. I would kill for a chance to see kaRIN and Statik perform live.