Portuguese Darkwave/Ethereal/Gothic Rock band Aenima has faced an uphill climb. Soon after the release of their excellent debut, Revolutions, their label -- and any promotional assistance therefrom -- died. Despite this, they were able to sell out their first pressing. Appearances at Germany's M'era Luna festival, and on Cleopatra's Unquiet Grave vol. 3 compilation, helped them to establish a growing following around the world. That following won't be disappointed by their sophomore effort, Sentient. If Revolutions was a promising beginning, Sentient shows a band which has found its voice and triumphed over adversity.
Aenima's music takes the standard Gothic forms and gives them a Celto-Iberian flair. The melancholy acoustic guitar on "Song for a Moonlit Mermaid" would be right at home in a fado hall; so would the multilayered a capella vocalise on "Dusk" and the swooping trills on "Rites of Passage." This is not surprising. Portugal has a long tradition of hauntingly beautiful music... and of synthesis. It is a land where Moorish tiles emblazon Catholic churches, where North African rhythms liven Celtic melodies. In joining the Cocteau Twins with Fado, Aenima has created something which draws from world traditions and in doing so becomes quintessentially Portuguese.
Rune's production abilities stood out on their first CD: listening to *Sentient*, it is clear he has not been resting on his laurels. The recording is crystal clear, no mean feat for a band as dynamically diverse as this. The smart, stylish bass lines by Paulo are crisp and clean on Gothic rockers like "Lilith" and solid but unobtrusive on ethereal flights of fancy like "The Light." The electric guitar work from Rune and Nor is as melodic as the acoustic, particularly on "Shelter for a Lesser God" and "The Soil Stained Black."
The most notable improvement of all is in Carmen's singing. On Revolutions Carmen was a rock-solid and competent singer. Here she's gone from Very Good to Absolutely Astonishing. "Lilith" has low notes worthy of Amy Ray or Alison Moyet, combined with trills that would make Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays envious. This is by far the best vocal work I've heard all year; Carmen combines the precision of opera with the passion of folk, with incandescent results.
Some say that Gothic Rock is dying, that Industrial has mutated into Psytrance and Gothic into Synthpop. Bands like Aenima offer hope of a resurrection; here's hoping they can find the audience they deserve. This is one of the best releases this year, and will definitely be one of the highlights for Middle Pillar Presents, their American distributor.
02 Shelter for a Lesser God
03 Silently There
04 Old Europa
08 Rites of Passage
10 The Soil Stained Black*
12 Song to a Moonlit Mermaid
tracks written by Aenima, lyrics by Carmen except *lyrics by Hugo
Recorded at the Sacred Ground
Produced and mixed by Rune and Paulo
Rune: guitars, samples
~Reviewed by Michael Johnson
The Czech band Agmen are the newest band to be signed to Breath of Night Records and based on their debut, Damnation, this very well may not be the last time you read their name.
Agmen play a blend of brutal black metal mixed with melodic and technical guitars. When mixed with surprisingly clear production, the recording becomes very palatable, especially for people with varied tastes. While I have found many new releases to be suffocating and unmemorable, I find Agmen to be quite the opposite. Take “Apokalypsa” for instance. A very simple yet highly effective riff starts the track and manages to carry the song. This is prevalent throughout this CD and tracks like “Temne Hory”, “Zatraceni”, and “Pisne Temnych Noci” only back up me up further when I say that this is a fine release.
Agmen play as fine a mix of blackened death metal as I have heard in a very long time. It’s bands like this that continuously revitalize my love for this music. I would definitely recommend this album and I look forward to hearing more from them. Hopefully it’s in the near future.
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
Listening to Amorphis’ Am Universum is likened to an ecstatic religious experience. Whenever a band has all the ingredients correctly aligned from musicianship, instrument dexterity to lyrics and vocals, it is simply hard to call it anything other than that.
This Cd comprises songs with elements of industrial, goth rock/black metal and alternative to create an amalgamation of wall to wall killer tracks just daring you not to like them. Lead vocalist and lyricist, Pasi Koskinen, has a singing ability to slay fire breathing dragons. Each track is turned into a personal display of heart felt emotion, passion and energy. Rather than running vocals through compression and excessive filters and other electronic wizardry, Koskinen is given free reign to feel the emotion and put it all to sound. Despite the raw sentiment, it is never forced and in fact demonstrates his ability to turn each word into a story telling nuance without veering beyond the printed lyrics themselves. These tenor vocals pierce the nightsky in a magical evocation with the ability to open the gates of heaven itself.
As far as the rest of the band, Tomi Koivusaari on rhythm and acoustic guitars, Esa Holopainen on lead guitars, Santeri Kallio on Keyboards, Niclas Etelavuori on bass and Pekka Kasari on drums, simply round out this rock chorus of divine magnitude. This is tight and dedicated musicianship. The band’s website currently states that as of April 2002, drummer Pekka Kasari will be leaving the group to attend to family obligations.
The Finnish based Amorphis have been around ten years or so, with 12 CD’s to their roster. Sadly, much of this great work has not been given half the attention in the American music scene that it so greatly deserves. Luckily, Nuclear Blast was wise to feature their track “Alone” on the Beauty in Darkness Compilation 5 Cd, which has helped to bring them new found attention and fans. “Alone” is also the first track featured on this CD and is merely one of 10 tightly woven songs. Their website also offers a video to this track for those interested in seeing the band in action.
Sakari Kukko was also noted to have contributed saxophone on Alone, Crimson Wave, Drifting Memories, Veil of Sin and Grieve Stricken Heart. These contributions simply round out the subtle warmth or heartbreaking passion in an otherwise body of tracks which are darkly introspective. Anitti Halonen contributed the SAW for Grieve Stricken Heart which works in a rather understated but macabre way.
When all is said and done, Amorphis crafted a fine body of work for the masses that could easily cross over to the alternative market without a hitch. Despite its somewhat commercial appeal, it is neither commercial sounding nor trite. The band simply found the formula to make an entire album of songs with a wide and enduring appeal that can comfortably cross the limitations of genre enslavement.
Pasi Koskinen: Vocals
Tomi Koivusaari Rhythm and Acoustic Guitars
Esa Holopainen Lead Guitars
Santeri Kallio Keyboards
Pekka Kasari Drums
Sakari Kukko Saxophone on tracks 1, 5, 6, 8, 10
Antti Halonene Saw on track 10
2. Goddess (Of The Sad Man)
3. The Night Is Over
4. Shatters Within
5. Crimson Wave
6. Drifting Memories
7. Forever More
8. Veil Of Sin
9. Captured State
10. Grieve Stricken Heart
North American Booking
Tim Borror for Rave Booking
Phone: (718) 206-4204
Fax: (718) 658-0840
~reviewed by Matthew
To say the least, fans of the early work of Anathema were less than pleased with the band’s most recent album A Fine Day To Exit. Since the departure of the band’s original vocalist Darren White before the release of their third album, Anathema have strayed further and further from their Doom/Death metal roots with each successive release. It is the opinion of most that the band has matured artistically, while there is quite a few of us who have followed the band from the beginning that are extremely disappointed and feel somewhat betrayed. Quite simply stated, Anathema has become a second rate Radiohead rip-off and the earnest gloom that once defined the band has all but vanquished.
That is neither here nor there, and a matter of subjective opinion. But the release of Resonance II is perhaps the final nod to the band’s darker, heavier past and the last chance to celebrate the doleful Doom the band once pioneered. Arguably, Anathema were one of the absolute BEST Doom metal bands ever. A little background information for those who may be unfamiliar with the band. Anathema was one of the bands from England in the early 1990s known as the ‘Big Three.’ Though linked with British kinsman My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, Anathema definitely stood their ground and each band offered something new and unique at that time. Paradise Lost, though remarkable in their own right, were never nearly as depressive or intimately emotional as Anathema or My Dying Bride. Though unlike My Dying Bride, the emotion of Anathema was not conveyed through the use of violin or Romantic lyrics, but rather by the expressive manner in which they utilized their guitars.
Anathema’s mood was more primal and organic. They let their guitars set the tone, and didn’t rely on embellishing their sound with any kind of symphonic atmosphere. Warm twin lead guitar harmonies rung out over watery arpeggio backdrops and the mood of utter sadness was broken by thick power chords that crunched atop sluggish drums and eerie bass lines. The band’s riffs were dripping with a desperate and melodic kind of sorrow and the mournful desolate spoken word and anguished guttural cries of Darren White are to this day unrivaled. Though White may not have been the greatest vocalist, and his own project The Blood Divine lacks the impact he had with Anathema, his voice was perfectly suited for Anathema’s early work and I have yet to hear a vocalist that conveyed such a powerful sense of Gothic wretchedness.
So it is safe to say, I would probably argue the merits of Anathema’s first three releases as if my life depended on it.
Resonance II is the second in a series of compilations from Peaceville Records. It is a best of collection that is meant to center on the darker highlights of the band’s career. Along with some fan favourites and ‘anathems,’ there are some valuable B-sides included in the collection (“Eternal Rise Of The Sun” and “Nailed To The Cross”), as well as the superbly claustrophobic video for “Mine Is Yours To Drown In.”
As a longtime fan of Anathema, I was excited to find out earlier this year that a release like this was planned. It would indeed be cool for a point of convenient reference to exist, so that fans can recommend a single CD to potential fans as a proper introduction to the band. While Resonance II as its merits, I found that the tracks chosen were a bit poorly representative and fall short in capturing the most memorable moments of the darker half of the band’s career.
The disc kicks off with “Lovelorn Rhapsody” and “Sweet Tears” from the debut 1993 release “Serenades.” Both of these tracks were well chosen. The third song to appear is “Sleepless,” probably the most accessible track from the band’s first album, but we are treated here with a hard to find re-recording of the song from 1996 with the band’s second and current frontman, Vincent Cavanagh. Though I prefer the original 1993 version of the song much more, this updated version is definitely cool to have. It would have been nice to include a song from the Crestfallen EP, especially the title track itself, but for time constraints, I can forgive that. What we do have instead however, is the rare gem “Eternal Rise Of The Sun,” a dark, gloomy and wonderful B-side that was recorded during the 1994 Pentecost III sessions.
This brings me to perhaps my biggest gripe: Though there is a video included from the Pentecost III release, this album was pretty much neglected. “Kingdom” and “We The Gods” are probably the finest performances from the Darren White era of the band, and though the songs are long, they very easily could have been edited. This CD suffers immensely for not including at least one of these songs. For what it may be worth to our readers, Pentecost III is bar none one of the most depressive, darkest, gloomiest and earnest Gothic/Doom metal album ever recorded.
The Silent Enigma was the first release to feature Vincent Cavanagh on vocals. Truthfully, it was the last universally ‘dark’ Anathema record. The stark and gorgeous “Sunset of Age” is the album’s highlight, and it is thankfully represented here, along with “A Dying Wish,” a fan favourite that the band has used to close their shows for many years now. I could have done without “Nocturnal Emission” however – perhaps the weakest song from The Silent Enigma. It is a shame that “Shroud Of Frost” was not included in its stead.
The absolute worst part of this album follows. The inclusion of the band’s weak and boring cover of the Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) song “Hope.” Why? Why is this song on here? It is easily the worst song on the Eternity release, with a terrible unsteady vocal performance and above all, it is not even their song. This was a bad, bad choice, especially considering that the video for the song appears on the first Resonance compilation. “Cries In The Wind” somewhat cures the foul mood you will be thrown into after hearing “Hope,” a nice track, but perhaps “The Beloved” would have been better (and shorter) song that better represent Anathema’s dark side. From the band’s fifth release Alternative 4, the melancholy and beautiful “Fragile Dreams” is included. This song is a vastly important track for Anathema, which illustrates their bittersweet melodic development. If they had speared off in this kind of shoegazey Goth rock style it would have been an amazing ride indeed – Goth fans should check this song out. “Empty,” which is also culled from this album, is a very upbeat song, almost reminiscent of the darkwave direction of recent Paradise Lost. A nice track, but a slightly poor choice – the title track Alternative 4 would have been a much better suited.
The album closes with “Nailed To The Cross/ 666” which is a partially unreleased track. The intro to the song is a suffocating slab of discordant doom, which abruptly segues into a dark punk rock tangent, repeatedly shouting “666.” Though cute, the ‘666’ half of the song was better off as a hidden track on Pentecost III.
Ah, what can I really say here? The album is worth getting for fans of Anathema – mainly for the video track, and the three unreleased tracks. And the convenience of having some of their better songs on one CD. However, I feel that the album fails to properly represent the most sincere and darkest songs of their career, which is what I assume this album was attempting to do.
Peaceville and Anathema may have profited from the manner in which My Dying Bride chose the tracks for their recent collections. By leaving it up to their fans and organizing a poll on their official website. I think Anathema has long since lost touch with what their early fans enjoy about them, and this release shows it in some ways. So just for the hell of it, here is my fantasy track list for a collection of Anathema’s best and darkest songs. This would indeed be the perfect soundtrack to the coldest and foggiest of Autumn days…
1.) Lovelorn Rhapsody
2.) Sweet Tears
3.) Under A Veil Of Black Lace
4.) Crestfallen (edit)
5.) Sleepless ‘96
6.) Eternal Rise Of The Sun
7.) Kingdom (edit) or We The Gods (edit)
8.) Sunset Of Age
9.) Shroud Of Frost
10.) A Dying Wish
11.) The Beloved
12.) Fragile Dreams
13.) Alternative 4
14.) Nailed To The Cross/666
Actual Track List:
1.) Lovelorn Rhapsody
2.) Sweet Tears
3.) Sleepless ‘96
4.) Eternal Rise Of The Sun
5.) Sunset Of Age
6.) Nocturnal Emission
7.) A Dying Wish
9.) Cries In The Wind
10.) Fragile Dreams
12.) Nailed To The Cross / 666
Video Track: Mine Is Yours To Drown In (Ours Is The New Tribe)
Vincent Cavanagh – vocals, guitars
Daniel Cavanagh – guitars
John Douglas – drums
Dave Pybus – bass
Les Smith - keyboards
Darren White (former vocalist)
Duncan Patterson (former bassist)
– Official Site:
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
It seems like this band came upon the underground psyche in an overnight flash. Their history is poignantly detailed on their website with a behind the scenes account of the trials and tribulations they had to endure before becoming the underground dance darlings for the world.
From an American standpoint, their album “7” was the turning point for the band, fraught with growing success and legal hindrances. It seems that while this Cd was turning heads, Stephan Groth was bucking the legal system, refusing to take part in the national service in the Norwegian army due to his pacifist leanings and beliefs. While the album was taking off and further public appearances brought them more widespread attention and fans, Groth’s legal battles demanded his participation with the army. After much contention on both sides, Groth was allowed to serve his country by doing civilian work within the confines of civil service for the subsequent 14 months. . This impeded the band, who were well on their way to “stardom,” yet teetering on the edge within the confines of a very fickle music world. The music was temporarily halted until Groth and the band mates were able to reconvene and focus on their next plan of public appearances, releases and publicity.
Despite the temporary setbacks, the heavens were properly aligned and the band found themselves within a flurry of activity from remix projects, compilation appearances and new tour dates. Much of the follow up work after “7” has been appropriately recorded elsewhere. Presently, the band that went from a tongue twister name, to endearingly being known as Apop, have come forward with a new release, Harmonizer.
Unlike many in the goth scene who seemingly resent the encroachment of electronic music, this reviewer is comfortable in the goth and dance music worlds equally. That being said, it is important to note that this isn’t the strongest Apoptygma Berzerk CD as far as the underground scene may be concerned. Initially the band set out to garner the underground music fan’s attention, and brilliantly layered dark tones among some of the catchiest beats the world had ever heard. With their new found acclaim, they seem to have veered more into typical “happy” poppy techno styles that have been redone five times to Sunday by just about every major studio thus far. Essentially, the overall work has similar loops and hooks that just seem to fall short of delineating any new form of creativity. It’s not a bad CD by any means, but it is highly commercial and lacking in enduring substance.
“Suffer in Silence” is a poppy dance tune that would work well in regular clubs, however the lyrics are rather banal and annoyingly repetitive. This simply means that it is earmarked as a major studio release and not something that the underground would appreciate. Much of the sound here is reminiscent of early work by Giorgio Moroder and the late Patrick Cowley. Dance clubs have been there and done that way back in the late 1970’s at the height of the disco rage.
“Unicorn” offers more promise with dark tones and delightful harmonies. Claudia Bruckman is also credited with the vocals on this track as well and her sound simply elevates the track a bit higher. Maybe it is too much to ask for, but the lyrics are delivered with more technique rather than actually any sizable passion. Ms. Bruckman however, delivers the passion with subtle turns and lilts, helping to make this a track to put on repeat.
“Until The End of The World” starts off with typical high notes that have been featured on any number of dance club hits. The repetitive chords between the oontz oontz during the intro and throughout parts of the song, simply prolong it needlessly. This is a good dance track, but not something one could imagine an underground club playing without receiving the ire of the patrons.
“Rollergirl” utilized Vocoder effects and typical programmed constructs. Sadly, by this point, I wanted to rip the headset off my head because of the disappointment that I was hearing something that was yet another track that was a rip off from the late 70’s era. Those who were not around for the onslaught of dance music more than 2 decades ago will find this fresh and revitalizing, however, the older fan will simply not find anything new here other than 12 disco records that would mix well with this in a heartbeat.
“O.K. Amp- Let Me Out” demonstrated a bit more intense rhythm and dance beats. However, the repetitive loops and silly lyrics sadly pull away from a track that would have actually been salvaged with a touch more creativity to it.
“Pikachu” should be an indication that this CD is being marketed for the youngest crowd possible. Kaori Kinoshita adds the female spoken voice to this ballad. It is dedicated to “my little angel,” so one may assume it may be for Groth’s child that this song was created. Despite the sentimental anecdote, the heartfelt delivery is strained at points.
“Spindizzy” was actually a name for a New Wave label back in the early 80’s, though I doubt that was what this song was meant to convey. Chorus vocals were added by Christine Klausen, however even she couldn’t overcome the formulaic sound from the construct of this track despite a very well noted effort to do so.
“Detroit Tickets” was recorded and composed in the nightliner outside City Club in Detroit on September 16th, 2000. The vocals are by Ronald Miller and APB fans in search for tickets. The purpose of this track beyond ego masturbation is unknown.
“Photoshop Sucks” attempts to capitalize on early Kraftwerk with vocals by Computorgirl.
“Something I Should Know” is constructed with some vintage drum loops and synthesizers. Something the hard core fans would be interested in, however, if you have heard all the early synthpop, techno, and disco for the last 20 years, this won’t provide anything musically new. However, it is important to note that the vocals here are from Pal Magnus Rybom from Echo Image. His vocals simply elevate the track to a level worthy of repeated listens. Further down, after about 12 minutes of silence, there is also a hidden unnamed track.
As an underground CD, Harmonizer fails miserably. As a commercial product marketed to the teens, it should prove to be a welcome respite from all the Britney Spear’s and boy band trash glutting the market and poisoning the airwaves as of late.
The major contention with this CD is that it offers nothing new and seems to have been rushed in order to capitalize on the band’s growing momentum. This may have been an effort designed to wake up the music marketers across the globe, and if so, the work simply makes sense on that score.
The sad thing is that Apop went from delivering finely constructed tunes to something that has already seen the light of day within the last 20 years. Though the loops may be in different sections, it still pretty much sounds redundant.
Apop initially started as a band that shot to the middle of the bell curve during their early marketing efforts. Their earlier work was able to cross the age boundaries by providing fresh and new sound and intelligent lyrics which kept club patrons on the floors and fans hooked up to their headsets for days on end. Seemingly this new transition and marketing will alienate many fans, as the monotony can be simply grating. Rather than growing with their initial core audience, Apop seems to have shot for another core audience, mainly younger teens, who would not be as critical of the lack of creativity delineated within the confines of this work. It is a sad assault to the older fan who championed their initial success and demonstrates how easy it is for an artist to disaffect an established fan base. Let’s hope that this more commercial sound is not due to the lacking of ideas from the well of inspiration. However, another CD such as this and Apop may find themselves hurling towards obscurity just as fast as they rose to acclaim
Suffer In Silence
Unicorn (Duet version)
Until The End of The World
O.k. Amp- Let Me Out
Something I Should Know
The Sham Mirrors
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Insane. Pompous. Melodic. Atmospheric. All fine words that can be used to describe the musical soundscapes Arcturus crafts. But assuming you've heard the band before - all I have to tell you to describe the music is that this release is very much a worthy addition to the Arcturus discography. It is unpredictably wacky, and yet more traditional than the last two Arcturus releases (which covered dark ambience and bizarre carnival-like sounds to electronic remixes of the aforementioned).
If you have heard other recent Arcturus albums then you're in for a shock, because "The Sham Mirrors" isn't nearly so unpredictable and frightening. If you haven't heard the band, however, this is a perfect and accessible introduction to their work. The songs are more up-front and to the point, featuring mid-tempo and often catchy guitar riffs. There are even some progressive tinged metal solos that pop up now and then, taking more precedence in the mix than past solos did.
Garm's vocals are better than ever. He has always put a lot into his vocal performances - but man, who knew he could sing this well? The vocal melodies are infectous and suitably dark when they need to be. Garm also adds in some spoken word sections and even an occasional King Diamond-esque wail to mix things up a bit from the catchy chorus work. He stays clear of rasping entirely, but someone by the name of Ihsahn from a band you probably haven't heard of (Emperor something-or-other) adds menacing rasps to "Radical Cut," making it the most aggressive track on the album.
The production gives "The Sham Mirrors" a more complete sound, allowing all of the instruments to breathe equally. The drumming is a mix of live and sequenced percussion that can be as aggressive and spiteful as it is catchy and electronic sounding. I'm not positive Hellhammer modified or sequenced any of the drumming electronically, but Arcturus is very much a studio project and the band members have always made the music they wanted with no limitations - so I'm pretty sure some sequencing is used for effect. I've always thought of Hellhammer as an overall talented musician and songwriter instead of purely a drummer. His thought out and effective compositions here prove that fully.
A big highlight of this album is the use of keyboards. Sverd has always been one of my favorite keyboardists, and he really goes all out here. The classical minor key piano intro to "Star-Crossed" gives the song an elegant but brooding feel before the guitars and vocals jump into the mix. The interludes on the last track are also worth mentioning, because Sverd gets a chance to shine on his own. He doesn't bother with ultra fast or technical keyboards (ala Warmen), so his skill doesn't come from the speeds at which he plays. Instead, the elegant and emotive compositions speak for themselves.
Now that you have some insight into the individual contributions of the band members - you might be wondering how it all works together. And truly, it's something amazing. It would be easy to say Arcturus is going a more mainstream route with this CD. It is definitely catchier and more listenable than about anything they've ever done, and as with the most recent Solefald, you do have to wonder if the band is trying to reach a wider audience. But what's really important is what the band does with the more standard song structure. And in this case, it's something very much "Arcturus."
The multi-layered passion found here is unusual in a scene where aggression reigns supreme. The songs are mostly all dark, and occasionally aggressive, but there is much more to it than that. The quiet keyboards on "For To End Yet Again" contain some hope. They lead into a really upbeat and action-packed segment that rides out a while before the live horn player kicks in and adds his touch - at that point things start sounding real weird. So yes, you could say Arcturus is trying to reach a wider audience with "The Sham Mirrors," but it's impossible to ignore the abundance of non-metal elements that shine through the unexpectedly metal structure (and I say unexpectedly because "La Masquerade Infernale" was about as far from metal as you can get while still containing some heavy guitar and drums).
It becomes clearer as you listen more that each of these songs is cleverly crafted and full of depth. It's difficult to mix that with something so catchy and listenable, but Arcturus has done it. This is my favorite album so far this year and I highly recommend it to fans of metal and Arcturus fans alike. It may take some getting used to, but it is a very rewarding experience. And might I add - an experience that is more fun to repeat frequently than the thoroughly challenging masterpiece, "La Masquerade Infernale."
2.) Nightmare Heaven
3.) Ad Absurdum
4.) Collapse Generation
6.) Radical Cut
7.) For To End Yet Again
Trickster G. Rex - voices of ghosts and monkeys and general manipulation
Steinar Sverd Johnsen - fugue key figure
Hellhammer - drums and flames
Knut M. Valle - high guitar rider
Dag F. Gravem - low guitar driver
Ihsahn: spitting voice on track 6.
Mathias Eick: ubu's horn on tracks 3, 6 and 7
single: "People of the Dark"
Full Length CD: The Hounded
3 Song EP: The Fall of the Evergreen
~reviewed by Blu
I finally got a package from Belisha - (no thanks to the postal service for losing the first one sent back in January). I've spent the past two days listening to The Hounded and their EP as much as possible. And one thought has played over and over again in my mind: The mainstream can be so f*cking stupid - excuse my french. After finally hearing Belisha and then reading this in the interview that Jezebel did with them for this issue of StarVox; I was dumbfounded:
"... we have taken knock after knock. Things written about us, never going to take us on board in the mainstream. Kerrang, although they gave us a fair review, generally they won’t do anything with us. They just turn their backs on us...They care about Travis. Who cares about them? It’s so boring.”The mainstream had them first and didn't want them?!? *Stupid* mistake. Your loss folks - OUR gain. One day when the mainstream does come calling, and make no mistake, I believe whole heartedly they will; the goth scene will have the satisfaction of knowing that they were ours first -- that we had embraced them and devoured their music with enthusiasm. Thanks in great part to DJ Dave "Exile" in the UK, Belisha has found a home amongst the goth crowd. It seems all the early influences were there - Dan mentions being very motivated by the Sex Pistols early on and their "kiss our ass" attitude towards mainstream culture. They have a fondness for bands like The Cure, The Cult, Kate Bush and The Mission so it's no wonder their own music is edgy and dark and rebellious.
And if I sound like I've done my homework on this band, you can thank StarVox writer Jezebel for picking up on Dave's que. She wrote to me one day all excited about them and asked if she could contact them and possibly do an interview. You see where it's led don't you? Her original CD review is posted below for reference and the interview/feature she did with Belisha is one of the best things I've read in a long time. Now US DJs are clamoring for promos and Belisha is turning up here and there on playlists from Chicago to LA. Witness history in the making kiddies.
And Belisha isn't ungrateful. Infact, they've written a new song about the goth scene's friendly acceptance of them. They comment in our interview:
“ 'People of the Dark' is because of all you lot... Because we thought at last, ‘people actually care about music’. We were getting really sort of disillusioned, more angry and hatred and vengeance driven than sadness, so it’s really good.”"People of the Dark" is available on their site for download as it's so new it's not on any of their releases yet (so go download it... what are you waiting for? Free music!). It will appear on their second full length CD which they're working on as we speak and if I predict correctly, could become another great goth anthem. Upbeat, it employs contemporary keyboards as Dan's voice comes in whispery smooth at first then kicks into high gear at the chorus. It's immediately catchy. The guitar breaks between verses are nice goth rock in style and Dan implores us all to "take hold" as if we can catch the wind off their coat tails and fly. If you've read the interview by now, you'll gather that they're very, very energetic in person and I think this quality communicates over into their music immediately. Take Hold indeed.
Dark wounds glimmer alone againNow, as for my impression of The Hounded --
A barrage of hunting horns follow in our wake
The cold dark oil of night engulfs the final flame
People of the dark will meet the realm is turning
People of the dark will set the land a burning
Woh oh oh oh woh oh
Borrowed time lives on apart to our graves
Land locked isle of sin together we are made
5 walk by nowhere to go enter into the maze
Leather and steel white face of hail
Never to turn our backs on the darklight we appeal
The cold dark oil of night engulfs the final flame
"Wormwire" is an odd song with odd time signatures and tempo changes running throughout. It opens big and majestically and then blows full steam into a hard rock song. It almost has a Led Zepplin feel to it at times. One thing this song does well, is tell the listener from the beginning , that Belisha isn't a frilly pop band. They've got power and they mean business: " Am I noble, Am I king, Am I torn up, and I sing, oh my darling can I sing." I just *love* that line. Something about the confidence that it exudes is extremely attractive.
"Hope of Pills" is a song you can download off their webpage so I had heard it before getting this CD. It's got an exotic theme to it with lots of jungle noise in the beginning (my what large animals you have!) and has a flute (or some various woodwind sound on keyboard no doubt) part flying about here and there adding to the cultural flavor of the piece. I am assuming from the lyrics it's meant to be a bit psychedelic as the song seemingly points out the the ill effects of drug use.
"Cannibal" is a great, danceable track - perfect for club play IMHO and full of vivid imagery: "A sepia image of the black and blue..." Then track 4, "Filthy" comes in on a dangerous prowling tempo. I love this song for it's gritty ugliness. Dan seems to really get into it literally growling at times when he sings "All you filthy sinners get up and get moving." What's nice, texturally, is the rather East Indian over tones in the melody lines that slither along in contrast.
Continuing some of the exotic over tones, but certainly more mellow in theme, is "Into the Casparian Sea." This time the boys take us on a Sea faring journey -- old, adventure-worn travelers, monsters of the deep and fables that parallel life -- "Hear him cry hear him cry, only fabled beasts can fly, are you there are you there using men to cause despair, never ending rise to the surface of the sea, the body lies somewhere a soul that's never free..."
The title track, "The Hounded" is also available on their website (no excuse not to check it out!) and again, is an easily accessible song and one that I've seen pop up on alot of playlists in the UK (along with "The Fall of the Evergreen"). It's got a mid range tempo and some great guitar hooks - straight up rock with a punchy chorus and all the delicious Belisha energy you can handle (I think the term "Belisha-energy" deserves an official definition all it's own). Certainly, if they weren't thinking "dark and goth" with lyrics like these, they did pretty damn good at inviting darker elements into it: "Feasting on the conscious drink from the blood and bone, drink from my first born age to hold and keep, do you want me to get closer about to turn and shrink, over to the darkness lips will kiss and drink."
And probably because up until this point, the band has been pretty aggressive, I was totally taken aback by "Every Sentimental Moment." It seems there is a softer side to Belisha - even though, that toughness -- that hint of danger is still there; there's big heart in this song as it marches along in a creepy 3/4 waltz time punctuated by an almost carnival sounding keyboard line. Dan sings, "Turning to face me, your eyes hold every sentimental moment I've been feeling, wrapping myself around you, talking my time to know every look and every move and how you want me." (Feeling faint yet ladies?) And then there is a notion of loyalty and protection that as much as it is a threat to would be foes - it's lovely in it's sentiment... "No one like you should be trapped in and burnt, no like you, anybody who would to that is gonna die by my hands... that are touching your heart and are holding... every sentimental moment I've been feeling."
There's a bit of a track misprint on the CD sleeve - as "The Fall of the Evergreen" is listed as track 9, instead of 8. No worries though - it's rather obvious what song comes out of the speakers after a few moments. If any song reflects that contagious "Belisha Energy" it's "The Fall of the Evergreen." A fast tempo with bell tones open it up before guitars rip in with a lovely melody - god it's got a good groove. Makes me movvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvve. Definitely one to get your heart rate going on the dance floor - it's no wonder this has been the track showing up most on playlists. I'm quite curious to watch the video now (which you can download off their website). There's lovely pagan over tones in the lyrics too - its quite interesting to read the words and listen to Dan's heavy British accent.
"Wolf's Head" is a dark toned song - heavy and brooding, the verses are sung in group - almost a march and cadence. The layered vocals VERY effective and again, the imagery is visually assaulting, "Sorrow the raven and the priest ignore, eyes wide shut and the human whore..." Ironically enough, even though they aren't familiar with Fields of the Nephilim (see part 1 of their interview), I find the guitar break in this song very Nephilim-ish in mood and texture which is definitely not a bad thing.
And finally, "Ball of String" utilizes that East Indian melody again contrasted against distorted rock guitars as Dan's vocals - which are so sonically textured and "real" for lack of a better word, sail effortlessly.
The 3 song EP contains a different mix of "The Fall of The Evergreen" - the fast tempo is still there and from the bit I've been able to compare the two, it seems they've just polished it up a tad more - Dan's vocals are equalized on the chorus where they seemed to be slightly over powering in the first mix on The Hounded. And I'd have to listen again - but it seems he growls more in this version - which is kind of sexy sounding actually. "Ball of String" appears again here, unchanged and then, the surprise gem on this one for me is "100% APR." And I'm going to go out on a limb and make a comparison that some people may call blasphemous -- but this song very much reminds me of Skinny Puppy. Now I'm not alone in this either - I played it for fellow musician and huge Puppy fan, Jyri Glynn (from the band The Sins), and he agreed that the vocals were very Puppy-ish. So there. It's also very experimental in nature - lots of electronic noise going on there - sampling and looping. I'm quite curious if written lyrics even exist for this song - as with Skinny Puppy, much of it is a combination of spoken, shouted, screamed and mumbled words. God he's just screaming his lungs out at points - Belisha unleashed and wreaking havoc. I bet this song is startling live. Every once in a while I catch a nice string of obscenities. I think it's also the "tone" of Dan's voice that reminds me so much of Ogre - the harshness, the abrasive, raw, throaty accusations. The song does give up its chaotic nature at some point and launches into a group-sung chorus before delving back down into angst-filled depths. Completely different from anything else they've done - its an amazing testimony to the broad variation this band is capable of.
In the interview Jezebel did with them, Byder says, “It’s been a long time coming because we have… its why we are so pleased to find you." And then, Dan comments: “I want to entertain people.”
Well then, I have only two things left to say ... we're happy to have you and consider the job well done.
Hounded Track List:
2.) Hope of Pills
5.) Into the Casparian Sea
6.) The Hounded
7.) Every Sentimental Moment
8.) The Fall of the Evergreen
9.) Wolfs Head
10.) Ball of String
Fall of the Evergreen promo EP:
1. The Fall of the Evergreen (single mix)
2. Ball of String
3. 100% APR
You can download music samples, including "People of the Dark" AND the Video for "The Fall of the Everygreen" off this page: http://www.belisha.com/music.htm
- Official Website:
After a recommendation from a leading DJ here in London, I decided to give Belisha a listen…I need to listen to that guy more often.
The first track at first made me doubt the word of my intelligent friend. Wormwire seemed disjointed and out of synch as if the metronome used by the band had gone all wrong and they kept playing with it never realizing that it would speed up and slow down…and not that delicately. Perhaps an “effect” was being approached here, but it left me taking deep sighs and hoping for something better.
And I was not disappointed in the least. These men from East London are another of the bands that need to be watched because of their versatility and strength, something sorely lacking in many bands who can do one thing well and that will be it. The fiercely danceable Cannibal should work well in the club scene, as will the title track, The Hounded and especially, The Fall of the Evergreen (although most Goths might be out of breath after the first chorus). These are danceable goth rock tracks with a metal twist brought in for good measure and even enough electronic in the background to keep bleepy types somewhat satisfied (although why that would be important is beyond me).
And for those like me who like an album to ebb and flow and turn and twist, there is "Into the Capsian Sea" and "Every Sentimental Moment". Both, especially the latter showcase a poetry in the lyrics that are in sharp contrast to the rest of the album.
From "Every Sentimental Moment":
Life has such meaning with true love that’s burnin
Changing my yearning for your love that’s turning me
No….that is wrong. I have it wrong as I read through more. There is a poetry in ALL of the songs and that is perhaps what makes it magical. Through this lovely poetry and fine writing (and great vocabulary – calubrious????) the music creates enough strength, anger and energy to take the poetry to another level, changing its identity and giving it more levels than the original words possessed.
I have tried to find some similarities to other bands and I feel I may have to duck some tomatoes here. The versatility of the band actually remind me of early Goo Goo Dolls who were able to balance themselves between hard hitting punk sounding and more relaxed pop sounds.
The vocals are strong, powerful, filled with depth…. and hard to find a comparison to. Believe me, I tried. I found some of the guitar work a bit laborious, and a bit too layered, but again, an overall package that takes away any weaknesses.
Some small problems may arise for these guys if Carl McCoy ever takes a gander at the inside of the liner notes….those images are just “bit” too close to the FotN logo for taste. Thankfully, the logo for the band (available for download on their website) is nothing like the liner and actually is a quite cute alien line drawing. (Hope the guys don’t find that offensive, but I find the little guy cute).
These are hard working guys who have a new video which will be showcased on MTV-2 and Kerrang. I have yet to see the footage, but know there is a copy waiting for me.
This CD is good. It’s solid. And it a great foundation for a band. In that I mean, it doesn’t blow you away so much that any album in the future will be a let down, but gives you the band a way of bringing you in, sitting you down for a nice before dinner drink and then later, will wallop you with a seven course meal that would make a Cordon Bleu chef jealous.
2.) Hope of Pills
5.) Into the Casparian Sea
6.) The Hounded
7.) Every Sentimental Moment
8.) Wolfs Head
9.) The Fall of the Evergreen
10.) Ball of String
- Official Website:
~reviewed by Sonya Brown
Synthetic darkwave influences with retro synthpop stylings set the stage for Butterfly Messiah's drama, "Priestess".
Angelic female vocals contrast against semi-spoken male vox telling tales of nightfall and graves. These contrasting male and female vocals give Butterfly Messiah many acts to their drama. For example, the track "Serpentine" features pouty female vocals with an 80's sort of beat; while "Visitor" is more operatic. Male vocals in "Ring The Bells" has a bit of a Joy Division influenced quality, mingled with flecks of the sound of the band Garbage. The acapello female chants in "When Autumn to Winter Resigns" reminds me a bit of This Ascension.
The final track, a "faery song" entitled "Reverie" has the most poetic lyrics:
My light is the moonWhat visuals this poetry conjures for me! Thank you, Butterfly Messiah, for including lyrics with your music! Stunning imagery is reflected in the cd insert. Butterfly Messiah credits Janet Garson for the photography and artwork.
She whispers of the sun
The cat of the sky
On a neverending run
For the star mice
Brutal and beautiful, it is now the butterfly that captures the listener in her delicately webbed net... and we are most willing victims.
Land Beneath the Waves
Ring the Bells
When Autumn to Winter Resigns
in the US by Middle Pillar
Distributed in Europe by Dark Vinyl
The Shadows' Madame
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Cadaveria is a new band formed by the woman who calls herself Cadaveria. She is best known as the vocalist in Opera IX. I can't make comparisons to her past work because I haven't heard any, but as Cadaveria is a new band, it may be best to judge it without any pre-conception of what the vocals should sound like. I have to say though, after hearing the vocal performance on "The Shadows' Madame," I'm a little worried to check out more material with vocals like this. Cadaveria is one harsh and evil sounding singer. If anyone thought harsh metal vocals were a man's job, this will make them think twice.
The vocals are most closely related to darker forms of heavy metal. They remind me of Mercyful Fate, only harsher and Cadaveria doesn't go to extremes of high and low pitch. The closest comparison I can think of for the music overall is Mercyful Fate. The band takes a similar evil sound that sticks true to heavy metal standards and modernizes it. There are keyboards used for background atmospherics, and "The Shadows' Madame" is generally more extreme than anything you would have heard in the 80's.
The guitarist provides a healthy dose of metal riffs that drive the music along at just the right pace for this kind of metal. The solos stay away from the usual "let's just move our hands as fast as we can" approach, so every solo here stands out as being different than the last. The bass isn't easy to pick out when listening, but with a name like Killer Bob, you know the bassist must be good. The drums are also pushed back in the mix more than I'd like, but they do a good job of adding some extra punch to the overall sound. I like albums much more when every instrument has something to contribute and isn't just there for the ride, and the musicians in Cadaveria do a very good job working with each other.
If you were to look at a handful of songs on this release you'd find some quality material. The downside is that the songwriting doesn't vary much throughout the entire CD. Cadaveria sticks to a basic formula the entire way through. Every song has a couple of identifying sounds or elements, but for the most part I'm disappointed that they didn't spend more time with the songwriting. The grating vocals pause only to speak or sing in a sort of haunting voice occasionally. Generally they sound the same all through the CD as with everything else.
The reason I say I'm disappointed isn't because I despise consistency, but because the first track is just so damn cool. "Spell" has a number of exciting things going on, and once it ends the songs become routine (if solid) in quality the rest of the way through. "Spell" opens with the crackle of what sounds like poor radio reception and a classical choir playing through the "radio." Then the choir stops and the song bursts forth with a fast riff and harsh metal vocals that fit with the choir's rhythm. The mix of interesting riffs and keyboards that follow make this song well above average. It's just too bad no other song on the CD has so many neat things going on at once. "Absolute Vacuum" does stand out from the pack, just not in the same way. It has some half singing/half rasping vocals and starts with some melodic guitar playing. There are even some vocal lines that sound like actual melody in a few spots.
I am fairly impressed with this debut album, but I can't listen the whole way through it very often - it just repeats itself a few too many times during tracks two through six. Heavy metal isn't exactly known for great variation throughout songs, so if you like Mercyful Fate or similarly evil heavy metal, chances are you will like Cadaveria. I suspect the band would be very cool to see live and that they may put out some real classics for metal fans of all shapes and sizes in due time. But for now, only those interested in this specific type of sound are going to find something worth buying.
2.) Declaration of Spiritual Independence
3.) In Memory of Shadows' Madame
4.) Circle of Eternal Becoming
5.) The Magic Rebirth
6.) Black Glory
7.) Absolute Vacuum
Cadaveria - vocals
Frank Booth - guitars
Killer Bob - bass
Baron Harkonnan - keyboards
Marcelo Santos - drums
Distribution via The End Records:
~reviewed by Michael Johnson
As soon as I popped this CD in, I though of this as a head-on collision between old Entombed and the newer material by Dismember. This is the sound of Centinex at its core, but the influences of other great bands shines through again and again, making this album a memorable listen.
While the guitar sound may be that of Entombed and Dismember, the sound of Centinex gives way to other bands such as Edge of Sanity and In Flames, but don’t think this is yet another clone band, as Centinex has actually been around since 1992 and were pioneers of the Swedish invasion. The riffing is highly melodic yet still retains a very heavy feel. Ample melody and time changes keep the music very interesting, as do the short solos thrown in here and there. Occasional keyboards float through, but are only ever seen as a break, rather than a foundation for the song.
Although this style of music has been around for quite some time now (considering how fast everything shifts nowadays), I still do not feel it is at all dated. Rather than become a clone of the other bands preaching the Gothenburg sound, Centinex has twisted it a bit to suit their own needs. “Demonic Warlust”, “Spawned To Destroy”, “Diabolical Desolation”, and “A War Symphony” have assured this disc at least some sort of regular rotation in my player.
This is a CD that absolutely pounds from start to finish. Fans of highly melodic music with extremely articulate guitar work will be doing themselves a favor in picking this one up. As for me, I’ll be checking into their back catalog and trying to grab some more of this absolutely fantastic, pure metal.
Johan Jansson – Vocals
Martin Schulman – Bass
Kenneth Wiklund – Guitars
Jonas Kjellgren – Guitars
Kennet Englund – Drums
3.Spawned To Destroy
6.On Violent Soil
9.A War Symphony
~reviewed by Matthew
“At their best, the Cranes made music so startlingly alien that it was impossible to tell if they were closer to the elegant bird or the ugly machine of their namesakes” (Dadaphonic Website).
Future Songs is the much-anticipated sixth full-length album from the Cranes, one of dark pop’s most unique bands. The album has finally made it to the US shops and I happily purchased a copy of it only a few weeks ago. Though some fans were a little apprehensive about this album, after the seemingly unfocussed Population 4 release a few years back, I can attest that Future Songs is definitely an excellent addition to the Cranes’ discography.
The first half of the album is very moody, quite dark and Goth friendly while the second half is lighter in tone, and will appeal to bliss pop fans. Though the ‘whooping’ sonic guitar assaults that characterized their earlier releases have been hushed for quite a few years, stark acoustic guitars dominate most of the atmosphere throughout this album and are just as emotionally striking. The title track is wonderful, mopey, and relaxing. It sets the tone of the CD perfectly. “Submarine” is probably my favourite track on the whole album – an odd time signature, shadowy electronics, spooky acoustics, and Alison’s ghostly pout gives the song a solemn darkwave sensibility. “Flute song” is a strong and plodding dirge, with hypnotic synth drones, slinky drum programs, and brief synthetic flute interludes (hence the title). “Sunrise” reminds me quite a bit of the material from “Loved” and “Forever,” with a cool vocal melody and nice layers of acoustic strums and echoing lead guitars. The trancey “Don’t Wake Me Up” dabbles even more with dark electronica, with slow break beats and murky sound effects. This is a very cool song as well – and I think fans of the Cranes’ darker moments will be extremely pleased with the first half of this album.
On the latter half of the disc, the band rises ‘de profundis’ and the lighter, more beautiful Cranes emerge. “Driving In The Sun” showcases Alison’s voice spirited with the same familiar charm for which we have long loved her. “Fragile” is sort of like this album’s “Paris & Rome” only without the climactic ending. A very pleasant song, which reminds me a bit of Love Spirals Downwards’ Flux CD, with it’s jazzy ambient electronics and reverberated vocals. “Eight” is a sudden and brief foray into cacophonic noise – it sort of comes out of nowhere. When I look at the cover of this CD, this song just makes me assume that the car plowed headlong into a concrete wall and Jim Shaw happened to be standing by with a sampler. And then it’s back to the verdant pastures and dreamy ballads with “Even When” and the short ambient instrumental “Everything For.” “The Maker Of Heavenly Trousers,” despite its silly title, is a pretty straight forward, uplifting jam with graceful slide guitar and layers of gorgeous melodic sound.
The bonus tracks on the U.S. release did not seem to differ too drastically from the original mixes on the album, but by buying this version of the release, you get more Cranes. The album is longer. So that is good.
I was extremely happy with Future Songs. It showcases the emotional extremes of the band, giving a solid and delightful variety of the light and the dark. It would be hard for me to believe that Cranes fans would be disappointed in this and I am sure for those unfamiliar with them, it would be an appropriate introduction to this monumental band. Other good news for Cranes fans: the band will be embarking on a US tour this spring! See dates below and make your plans.
1.) Future Songs
3.) Flute Song
5.) Don’t Wake Me Up
6.) Driving In The Sun
9.) Even When
10.) Everything For
11.) The Maker Of Heavenly Trousers
12.) Fragile (Remix) *
13.) Don’t Wake Me Up (Remix) *
14.) In The Reeds *
Jim Shaw – guitars, programming, bass, drums, samples
Alison Jane Shaw – vocals, guitar
Paul Smith – live keyboards, guitar, and bass
John Callender – live drums
/ Dadaphonic Website:
– Official Fan Site:
Dos_Unit (Electric Blue)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Stand by for blasting. This is probably what the German industrial heartland of the Rhur Valley would sound like, if you melted it all down and turned it into music. E-Craft themselves describe their music as 'Dampfhammermaterial' [loose translation: steam-hammer stuff] and you know what? The boys ain't wrong.
E-Craft comprise three intense young gentlemen from somewhere in Germany, a load of electronix, and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Now, that's pretty much par for the electro-scene course these days: there's no shortage of bands who have similar line-ups and make music in the same general area. Where E-Craft score over their contemporaries, however, is that they're a whole lot louder, heavier and simply more menacing than most..
Maybe it's the fact that the lyrics are delivered in German, a language which always sounds sternly authoritative to English ears, maybe it's just that hard bastard of a beat relentlessly walloping away, or maybe it's the shards of electronics scattered over everything like broken glass - but this is big, bad, music that sounds like it probably doesn't like you very much. Which, in this context, is a *good* thing!
'Farenheit' strides out at us like a squad of special forces on parade, 'Embryonic' is all freaked-out noise and a rhythm which sounds like a diesel engine warming up. 'Kill The Fakes' uses distortion like coarse-grade sandpaper on your ears, while 'Final Cutoff' is full of cross-rhythms, metallic clangs among the electro-pulses. Only 'Civilisation' eases things down a bit, with a loose-limbed, syncopated, loping instrumental which, in the context of the album as a whole, sounds almost friendly.
This is music for bad moods, music for when life has dumped you in the shit again and you want a suitably cold-eyed and threatening soundtrack for your revenge fantasies. Not an album you'd particularly want to play every day, maybe - but for those occasions when you feel like getting mad *and* even, this is your music.
Kill The Fakes
E-Craft's main man is Guido Henning, but neither the CD inlay nor the E-Craft website credits the other band members!
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
E-Craft's page on their label's site: http://www.ausfahrt.de/I12580.htm
~reviewed by Michael Johnson
In a field called Cova da Iria outside a town called Fatima, three children bore witness to a miracle. While World War I savaged the globe, this small village on the outskirts of Portugal would become the epicenter of hope as the Virgin Mary visited these children not once, but seven times. These mystical and highly sacred events are the inspiration for the Japanese band, Fatima Hill.
Fatima Hill plays a blend of eighties rock and progressive metal. As expected of an all-Japanese band, the guitar and keyboard work are highly technical and would be the most prominent part of this release if not for the extremely powerful voice of female singer Yuko. Her almost ballsy voice absolutely dominates this album, crushing many of the performances by other female singers in the metal genre. Combined with a crystal clear production, this album is much more powerful than it lets on to be.
Lyrically, Fatima Hills revolves around the events of 1916/17. They seem to take different views from the documentation provided by the only one of those three children that still survives today, Lucy. The music follows nicely, from heavier themed pieces to psychedelic prog rock.
Fatima Hills is really a good band. They do very well in Japan but the US market is a bit tougher might not quite be ready for this particular blend of vocals and music. Based on the quality of this release, though, Fatima Hill is not going away soon and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them ranked along such bands as Nightwish in the near future.
The Black Bat
The Song For Beatrice Part 3/The Seven Songs
Yuko – Voice and Chorus
Anjue Yamashiro – 6 & 12 Strings, Electric mandolin
Takamichi Koeda – Keyboards
Hayato Asano – 4 Strings
The Rage of Tears
~reviewed by Blu
Some may wonder why I'm bothering to do a review on a band that is no longer together. Simply put: Their music is still available and I think it's very worthwhile. Fans of gothic rock - especially fans of groups like Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission and dare I say it, Sisters of Mercy, should own this CD.
First of all, we need to get the thing about a drummer out of the way. If you're read my reviews in the past you know I hate drum machines and think they strip so much potential and energy away from a band that it's generally pathetic. And here - reading who made up Frost, I notice they don't have a drummer. It's noted that Lee Compton does vocals as well as "programming" and well, may I just say, I'm impressed. And I'll say that for once, not having a live drummer on *this recording* did not hinder the band in the least (live would have been a different story). Not once, while listening to this CD, did the drums sound mechanical or programmed. Infact, I never noticed and did not til just now as I was typing out who was who below. I'm a bit flabbergasted at those bands that DO use them so badly now -- you mean, they don't HAVE to sound that contrived? My my my. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything at all - but listen for yourself and see if you don't agree. Obviously the percussion was laid in with the idea of live drumming in mind - varied, punchy, real - non of that repetitive bleepy shit. If Lee hasn't been a drummer before - I'd wager to say he'd make a good one from what I'm hearing.
Overall, The Rage of Tears is a heavy, emotional roller coaster of dark, brooding goth rock and although comparisons will be made - especially to Fields of Nephilim, it should be understood that this is complimentary in nature and is not an indication that Frost does not employ its own unique sound and vision - they do on many levels.
The CD starts out with "Soma" and an ominous voice that announces, "This is a holocaust /Waiting to make itself" against beating-heart percussive beats and a chant-like background. Keyboards come in with mysterious melody lines until the voice returns and everything falls silent as the heart beat slows and it says, "Welcome to Oblivion." This is the intro into their bleak world. Speeding headlong into track 2, "Leaves" - you're met head on with a rumbling bass line and a super heavy, distorted guitar. A bit too metal for my taste in the guitar portion; Lee's soaring vocals even it out with melody lines and make it palatable enough for easy digestion. Although his vocals are at times raw and gritty, they're no where near as gravel-filled as McCoys and are infact, quite a bit more clean on some of the higher notes while maintaining their deeply masculine tones.
"Take the Dream" is one of the outstanding tracks on this CD. The approach is softer this time with a sing songy bass line and seductive, serpent-like vocal melodies that work up into a feverish chorus that is so strong its almost anthem like... very reminiscent of Sisters of Mercy or Fields of Nephilim in that respect. I would expect to see a crowd full of fists in the air when this was played live. This is followed by "Only You" which is, like "Leaves" very guitar heavy. Too heavy for me but I suspect that metal/goth crossover fans will really dig it.
"Stain" is another stand out piece in my opinion and takes its cue from the more mystic sounding Nephilim tracks. A nomadic atmosphere is created and the bass line carries the pace on urgent chords. Lee's vocals are by far the best highlighted element here - so powerful they should make you cringe. Long, strong notes in the chorus make you wonder if he has iron lungs to sustain them. During the verse they are low and rumbling and sometimes there's a slight snarl or two for emphasis. Brilliant mesh of over lapping guitar and bass and once again, you could have fooled me completely on the percussion not being the real thing. Sounds like it to me. There's a FoN'ish break in the middle where things grow quiet save for the ever pulsing beat of the bass guitar while the band builds back up into the chorus. The lyrics in this one are particularly appealing too - self destructive and full of regret and pain: "Stains on the floor, and once again I'm sorry for what shouldn't have been, With eyes of fire and heart so cold, Forever alone..."
"Carried Away" takes a 180 turn and starts out with a elegant piano piece - classically styled, that leads into a vast cinematic soundscape provided by a more delicate guitar and solid bass. A pensive Lee sings about lost love and bitterness as a keyboard line adds melody and texture... "It's a dark, dark day, when we return to this, For hours and hours, We scream at the bricks, With pride in hand, and the sins that make us, We carry ourselves away..."
"Pray" is immediately addictive with its punchy chorus and groove-like beat and I have to comment again on Lee's incredible vocals that can go from deeply smoldering to high powered, higher octaves without blinking -- he has an incredible range. "Reach Out (frostbite)" starts out really slow and heavy -- but stick with it and don't let it fool you. This sucker winds and serpentines its way into one helluva kicking chorus -- infact, its one that I'd love to dance to some night on the dance floor. They sold me on the chorus, "it's cold, it's cold, it's cold inside, And all around me faith dies, Cold, it's so cold, so cold in here, While the devil may I don't care..." There's a delicious break in it and the song changes structure again, Lee gets gritty and vengeful while the layers build and build til that delicious chorus rides into break the dissonance. From imagery to structure, it's a beautifully bleak song.
"Heaven By Now" is more straight forward; driven on a rock beat with lots of guitar while "Afterlife Mine" rounds out the CD softly powerful and brooding with beautiful echoing guitar work - sparkling chords and light (what sounds like) timpani drums in the background. The whispered vocals make me shiver -- VERY much like McCoy's here (I'm thinking of "Love Under Will" in particular). Its dark and moving and very emotional. The drum part in particular really propels this along with primitive beats and there are times when the bass guitar takes the spotlight and hammers out a life force rhythm. The vocals are amazing at the end -- enough to make me cry. You just don't get emotion like this every day from these new bands... you can literally feel him ripping his guts out to sing these words.
Come what may - whether Frost ever reforms or not, we do have this CD and it's a great testament to what Frost was at that time. Their website and mp3 site are still up and functional and CDs are still available. Take a listen and get in contact with them if you feel moved... I'm more than sure they'd be happy to hear from you.