48 Sin
Talking Of Michelangelo
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Incorporating elements of melodic synth pop, lush metallic atmosphere, and Industrial rhythms, this independent one-man project is noteworthy for the successful execution of relatively refreshing ideas and arrangements.  The musical vision of Chicago native Patrick Windsor, I found 48 Sin to be chock full of interesting (and at times, teetering on the brink of heavy!) guitar arrangements, heart felt vocals, crafty synthetic rhythms, and warm orchestral keyboard swells.

Patrick’s voice is unique – it is hard to liken his vocals to any notable dark music vocalist.  There is a throaty quality to his voice, powerful and well suited for the music.  By no means pitch-perfect, but when he does stray from the key friendly path, the effect is one of emotional expression, a painful pleading, and honest, unpolished rawness that enhances the experience rather than deters from it.

“Key” introduces some buoyant violin passages, which return again, accompanied by cello, on the EP’s finalé, “Equal.”   The extra presence of live classical instruments gives this an added sense of maturity, and provides a perfect balance between the organic and the synthetic.  As expected, these songs, both of which being slower, introspective ballads, stand out considerably and hopefully, 48Sin will continue to incorporate this winning combination of instruments.

On the other end of the atmospheric spectrum, and the other key strength to 48 Sin is the guitar work.  Muscular, intense, and dense, the guitar work provides both some heavy walls of Industrial crunch and also offers riffs that would fit comfortably in the arrangements of some of the better Goth Metal bands on the scene at the moment.  Though not entirely original or that complex, there was just something extra special about the guitar work on this release that I did not expect.  As a guitarist myself, I found myself nodding with great approval at the arrangements in the opening track “Faster Than Me” and “Nature,” which could be described as Moonspell greeting a sedate KMFDM.   Bold and playful, and unfailingly interesting, “Nature” is a progressive mix of styles, by yet another new artist that seems more concerned with making music with a musician’s integrity rather than harping on a dance floor accessibility.  There is much to be enjoyed and absorbed.

With my own personal musical preferences, I’d like to hear the violins accompany the shredding guitar riffs and weighty crunch.  But then again, that is an acquired taste and I am not exactly sure where 48 Sin wants to fit.  At this point, the project offers a little bit of everything and I hope the band continues to defy categorization and genre limitations.

“Hibernating” is a piano centered ballad, with interweaving layers of vocals.  Fantastic ideas are put to the test, and a tense and effective atmosphere is created.  However, the vocals could be seen as falling short here.  They needed to be more precise, being that they are such an integral part of a rather minimalist song, and the arrangement itself is quite demanding and at this point, might be a bit beyond the ability of Patrick’s vocal abilities.  Purists will criticize his lack of precision.  But my guess, judging by the honest expression of dreary pain in this track, is that he wasn’t shooting for perfection and could careless.  The final result, once you let the song seep in, is a dramatic pairing of orchestral Depeche Mode-isms colliding with softer Pink Floyd.  Though not perfect, I quite enjoyed what was being attempted on this particular song.

“Pray For A Full Moon” charges from the bleak confessional quiet of the prior track, thus accentuating it’s strength.  I love this song; I can definitely hear what Patrick was shooting for.  Everything about this song is infused with an earnest power – and sadly, we as listeners can only imagine how effective this song could be if performed by a full band, with a live drummer, a pair of guitarists, and Patrick’s best vocal performance capping it all off.  A divine, sweeping Goth Metal track with wonderful pop hooks.

This then exhibits a reviewer’s predicament.  (And you all think it is so easy to sit around, amass tons of free CDs and review them).  The challenge comes when you receive an  ‘amateur’ independent recording, that is animated by an assertive and impressive vision, fueled by interesting and immaculate ideas, and bursting at the seams with unquestionable talent.   As a reviewer, we are trained to pick up on this.  The big question is if a release such as this is ready for public consumption.  With its technical limitations and thin perhaps too synthetic production, it might not be as effective to the average listener.  Which sucks, because at this stage of the game, this is the best the independent artist can do, the most he can offer at the early stage of their career.  They just want to get their material out there, and hopefully, receive some positive attention.  Which puts an incredible amount of pressure on US.

Therefore I will say this: 48 Sin is a project that will hopefully never give up or become discouraged by the competition and other obstacles that keep musicians from realizing their dreams.   If I were independently wealthy, I’d finance the trip to the studio for this guy.  With that, I hope to express that I believe in this band, and that this EP demonstrates what could be.  With a full band, a more organic sound to thicken the backdrop and lighten the responsibility of the keyboards, this band could be incredible.  The voice is there, just a bit of fine-tuning.  The guitar work is great, and the ideas superb.  Just a matter of time…

My advice to readers: it might be a rewarding and fun ride to accompany this project along into a promising future.

Track List:
1.) Faster Than Me
2.) Key
3.) Nature
4.) Looking At Today
5.) Hibernating
6.) Pray For A Full Moon
7.) Equal

48 Sin is:
Patrick Windsor – synths, programming, guitars, bass, vocals

Ashley Corron – violins
Chris Weltzer – cello
Jon Sapsford – additional live guitars

48 Sin – Official Site: http://www.theholyhour.net/~sin/

48 Sin – Mp3 Site: http://www.mp3.com/48sin

Email: UglyX48Sin@aol.com

The Mantle
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

In rare instances, I will come across a musical work that is so powerful I can become completely absorbed by it. And while I am lost in the vast soundscapes, I can find myself again at the end of the journey. There are few bands capable of provoking this kind of response in me. In The Woods... was one band that invited me to explore their world, and ever since they broke up I have wondered if any other group might come along to make music that was similarly exciting, thoughtful, and full of subtle intensity. Agalloch caught my attention with their debut doom metal album: Pale Folklore, and I have patiently awaited this new release for quite sometime. It would be unfair to say that Agalloch sounds like In The Woods, and for all I know the bands don't know of each others' existence, but the sheer power of their works makes them similar in my mind. The Mantle is the newest addition to my list of personal favorite works that create a world and share the experience on several levels.

I did like Pale Folklore very much, and it was much more metal oriented than The Mantle. As you may have guessed, I think that Agalloch's newest output is not only a worthy followup to their original, but also an album worth even more praise and attention. The melancholy vibe that permeated Pale Folklore is still present on The Mantle. Yet as you almost always see when a band expands its sound, the feeling that defined Agalloch's first album is only one of the many components on their new CD. Yes, the music is still depressing in its own way, but as the instrumental "Odal" best expresses without words, there is some hope amidst all of the melancholy. As the song builds towards its climax and everything that had been charging up in the sound comes together to resolve, there is an epic feeling behind the music. It has direction, it's moving towards something powerful. I can't say I see that in much that is purely doom metal, because by its very nature that style of music tends to move more lethargically and not climb and build with great force.

To continue the In the Woods comparison, Agalloch's music also builds up a sound and then tears it down, only to rebuild it again. What I find so appealing about this style of song construction is that no single emotion dominates the music. Moreso, it feels like you are moving through the halls of memory, and recalling some things with great joy, others with great sadness, and the rest with a response that falls between those two. As "The Hawthorne Passage" begins, it features acoustic guitars that speak to the listener, much in the way folk guitars might, though the feeling is more modern. That becomes noticeable as an electric guitar solo kicks in and keeps the relatively upbeat pace going. Then, about three and a half minutes in, the song slows down for some time before building up the way it did originally. The song has many more twists and turns, as it manages to break down and build up in ways much different than it did in the first four minutes.

The sheer range of sounds found on The Mantle is impressive. There are chimes, bells, beautiful acoustic guitars, harsh metal guitars, extreme vocals, melodic vocals, a variety of synth and keyboard sounds, along with piano, and even samples (such as the sound of someone walking through snow, adding a very personal touch to the music). There are more instruments used than those listed, but their effectiveness is always in how they contribute to the overall sound. Each sound serves to further move the listener into Agalloch's creation.

The lyrics are as thoughtful as the music, though it is difficult for me to analyze them as something separate from the music itself. They belong with the music, and that's where they most need to heard. The vocals are used with great care throughout the songs. Many minutes can pass before they return, but you know that when they do return it's because they will make a passage more expressive then it could be as an instrumental. I really value this approach, because so many bands feature a constant growling vocal presence that makes the music feel monotonous regardless of instrumental variation. The clean singing  is used as effectively as the metal growls. "...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth" features both vocal styles as prominently, and the alternating vocals compliment the mix of acoustic and electric guitars with a strong mix of melody and harshness. The following acoustic solo is very melodic, and feels as intense in its own quiet way as any heavy riff or speedy solo ever could.

I realize that somewhere along the line this review became an essay gushing about Agalloch, but it's rare that I'm so moved by a piece of work. I definitely recommend that doom metal fans give Agalloch a listen, as well as anyone that appreciates progressive rock that can mix dark and light without coming across as confused or trying too hard. Fans of Pink Floyd, Ulver,  or even Opeth are doing themselves a disservice by not listening to Agalloch. And any fan of Agalloch can rest assured that Pale Folklore has a most impressive follow up that is worth their attention.

Track List:
1.) A Celebration For The Death Of Man...
2.) In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion
3.) Odal
4.) I Am The Wooden Doors
5.) The Lodge
6.) You Were But A Ghost In My Arms
7.) The Hawthorne Passage
8.) ...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth
9.) A Desolation Song

Agalloch is:
J. William W.

Agalloch - Official Site:

The End Records: http://www.theendrecords.com

Souls Highway
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

I am convinced that Napalm Records has devised some way to clone goth metal groups. There are simply too many similar sounding bands on the label for this to be untrue. Oh sure, you can generally tell the groups apart, but the typical quality and consistency levels remain the same, as do the stylistic elements. Thankfully, there's usually a fair amount of competency, especially when the band in question has an artistic cover (or at least, something other than a woman chosen because she was willing to flash her boobs for the camera).

In the case of Beseech, I have mixed feelings about Souls Highway. On the one hand, they fit right into the goth metal scene and offer no ground-breaking originality. Nevertheless, Beseech have a more distinctive sound than many goth metal bands. The music focuses on melancholic moods with alternating clean male and female vocals. The singing is the most expressive element in the sound, but it also merges well with the other instruments. Lotta Höglin has a beautiful voice that is as pretty as it is sad. Unlike so many metal bands that claim to be goth because they found some woman to sing with them, Höglin contributes to an actual gothic sound. Erik Molarin's singing contrasts Höglin quite well. He has a deep voice that calls attention without commanding it, and retains the same melancholic quality each instrument has.

You won't confuse Beseech for other Napalm bands, but my main problem with those bands is that they don't always vary the sound throughout their CDs. If a band had the most original style in the world but repeated it 11 times on a CD, I'd still end up feeling that the music was somehow generic. Beseech suffers from this problem to a certain extent. There are just too many times where the basic elements in the sound remain unchanged, and if someone were to re-order the songs or play some of them twice I very likely wouldn't notice.

But as I said at the beginning of this confused excuse for a review, I do have mixed feelings about Beseech. Sometimes their brand of variety across the songs is subtle. "Between the Lines" offers a catchy electronic break, for instance, and the title track features some soft keyboards and acoustic guitars to mix things up. There is even some jazzy soloing on "Blinded," showing that the guitarists are capable of playing more than the riffs they mostly stick with. The peaceful "Beyond the Skies" also stands out. It's a nice instrumental piece that actually reminds me a lot of Robert Miles. Mainly because one of the melodies in "Beyond the Skies" is partly just like a melody from a Robert Miles song on "Dreamland," but also because the Beseech song has a calm and semi-electronic feel that is similar to Miles' work. I'm sure there was no theft involved, though I have to wonder if Beseech have any interest in Miles (and of course, they might all be stealing from some obscure classical piece written a couple hundred years ago).

The quiet variation throughout the songs isn't enough to hold my interest. There is too much sameness across songs, and the end result is yet another goth metal album that is enjoyable, but ultimately unfulfilling. On the bright side, depending on how you look at it, I often feel this way about goth metal albums. Perhaps the lack of great variety is just an element of the style. If you enjoy other Napalm Records goth bands, or even recent Katatonia, then there's a good chance you'll like Beseech. I do not dislike their work, I just don't have the same patience I once did for bands that find a solid formula and stick to it religiously for every song. Needless to say, anyone who has stuck with the recent goth metal sound so far would do well to visit Beseech's web page and download an mp3.

Track List:
1.) Illusionate
2.) Between the Lines
3.) Souls Highway
4.) Blinded
5.) Endless Waters
6.) Fiction City
7.) Sunset 28
8.) A Last Farewell
9.) A Season in Green
10.) Beyond the Skies
11.) Gimme Gimme Gimme

Beseech is:
Erik Molarin - Male vocals
Lotta Höglin - Female vocals
Jonas Strömberg - Drums
Klas Bohlin - Guitar/Vocals
Robert Spånglund - Guitar/Programming
Daniel Elofsson - Bass
Mikael Back - Keyboard

Beseech - Official Site:  http://www.beseech.net/

Napalm Records http://www.napalmrecords.com

The Chaos Engine
Escape Ferocity
~reviewed by Step Quinlin

What is escape ferocity? It is the fierce desire to escape, or the fierce joy and abandon that follows a successful break for freedom? It's not clear on this album whether The Chaos Engine are fighting to get out, or dancing a victory dance at a successful breakout.

This new release sees the band in full-on aggro mode, and it suits them well. The blinding energy of the title track proceeds into the warm thundering roar of "Me and My Army", in which Lee Chaos threatens "We have come for your children!"

The children of today should be so lucky.

As usual when doing a review, I play the album all the way through a couple of times to get a feel for it, and it strikes me as very long, so I check the track listing on the CD. There is something..devious at work here. No, not quite devious. Sly, perhaps. Look at the back of the CD case. 14 tracks are listed, but the accompanying numbers are not in numerical order. Now take out the CD sleeve and open it up. There are 23 tracks listed inside.

I've listened to just the tracks listed on the back of the CD case, then I listened to the tracks not listed, and then I listened to the whole album straight through. I'm sitting here feeling very confused. What is Lee Chaos doing to my head?

If you listen only to the tracks listed on the CD case, the CD is a whirling vortex of anger. The music skids along wildly like a train about to go off the rails. A fear of failure, anger at that fear, a blinding determination to succeed against all obstacles. A fierce acceptance of his position as an outcast - "This is the Outcast Manifesto!" - and anger at the society that condones the rejection of those who don't fit the mold. These are just a few of the elements that combine to form the core of energy that the songs revolve madly around.

The tracks not listed add up to a scant 15 -20 minutes of  music, with no discernible pattern. They are unsettling.

Listened to in its entirety, Escape Ferocity is aural  madness on a par with the maverick artistry of David Lynch.  Odd interludes pop up between the core songs, pulling your  senses off to the side just a bit before releasing you back  to the main attraction. Is Lee Chaos trying to distract us  from the angry energy that permeates this album, or was he  trying to distract himself?

This is a difficult, challenging and utterly gripping album.  Love it or hate it, you won't walk away unaffected.

Track Listing
Escape Ferocity
Me and My Army
Broken Children
Nerve Opera
Elegance vs The Abyss
Rebellion Lite
Industrial Society and the Consequences
Jesus Christ V2.0
The Guiting Power Institute for Supreme and Unnecessary Evil
Custom Built for Anger
The First Law of Averages
The Second Law of Averages
Sick, Broken, Happy
404/Signal to Noise Ratio
Resurrection Kisses
Don't Expect Us To Be Close After This
Little Miss Misanthropy
Welcome to the Future It Is Broken
Go Offline


The Changelings
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, The Changelings formed in 1995 and five releases comprise their discography.  Some Anne Rice fans out there may be familiar with the band, as they had played a few of Anne’s annual balls in New Orleans.   Fusing meditative psychedelia with Gothic and fantasy themes, the resultant sound is a breathtaking, rhythmic and gorgeous experience of dynamic ethereal alternative music.

I have been wanting to check these guys out for quite some time, having read nothing but glowing reviews of them over the past few years.   My introduction came late but better than never, as “Astronomica” ranks as one of the most delightful and engrossing releases I have heard so far this year.   When the opening track “Departure” kicks in, the listener is immediately awestruck.  The Changelings instantly assert that they are a band with substance, musical authority, and atmospheric supremacy.

First and foremost, each and every one of the musicians behind this project is exceptionally talented.  The ideas presented here are powerful and the arrangements are superb, progressive, and coursing with sublime inventiveness. Paul Mercer’s sizzling violin passages contribute an exotic Eastern flair, sweeping acoustic and treated guitars and tastefully tweaked electronic effects ring out in heavenly waves of sound, while fantastic and precise drumming serves as the hefty anchor to it all.  Regeana Morris’ voice is the glistening ruby jewel in the crown, sweetly operatic when the music sinks to a calm, humid and sensual as in the awesome seraglio jam “Veils Of Gold” and charming, playful, and frisky in the deliciously elegant “Mata Hari.”

“Parallax” is probably my personal favourite song and a track I can’t wait to include in my DJ playlists.  A tight drum pattern swings along behind dense, hypnotic swells of brooding electronics.  Regina’s voice soars to operatic heights, pinched with a compelling sadness and a breathless intensity.

“Hypersleep” quite possibly could be one of the most memorable instrumental tracks I have heard in years – while most instrumental tracks serve as space fillers and tedious interludes, this is truly provocative due to its stark bass line, ritual percussion, and murky orchestral grandeur.

Guitarist Damon Young steps up to the mic for “Olympus Mons,” a swirling and dreamy ballad, recalling the early “Obscured By Clouds” and “Meddle” years of Pink Floyd.  And if the Floyd influence wasn’t conveyed quite clearly enough, The Changelings confirm any speculation with a mischievous and muscular rendition of Syd Barrett’s “See Emily Play.”  A rousing and faithful adaptation of the song, which reinvigorates the song carefully and attentively, making it as relevant today as it was over thirty years ago. Sonic violin climaxes, bouncing harpsichords, and pounding drums fatten the chorus wonderfully – all in all, one of the best and most creative Floyd cover tunes this reviewer has ever heard.

“Astronomica” draws to a Romantic and haunting close, with the touching requiem “My Shadow, Your Ghost.”  A heartfelt and effective song, complete with imaginative percussion, a stellar vocal performance, a sleek acoustic guitar solo, and lovely piano.

The Changelings convey the same maturity and musical genius as say, October Project, and they share the same penchant for dark Goth friendly psychedelia as Babylonian Tiles or the Legendary Pink Dots, but when it all comes down to it, The Changelings are in a league of their very own, without a worthy competitor or challenger in sight.  Absolutely high class listening, and recommended to all fans of intelligent and transcendent alternative music.

Track List:
1.) Departure
2.) Orbit
3.) Mata Hari
4.) Outrun Your Fears
5.) Veils Of Gold
6.) Parallax
7.) Hypersleep
8.) Olympus Mons
9.) See Emily Play
10.) My Shadow, Your Ghost

The Changelings:
Regeana Morris – vocals, bass, hammered dulcimer
Damon Young – guitars, vocals on “Olympus Mons”
Paul Mercer – violin, viola
Nick Pagan – keyboards, synthesizers, chimes, backing vocals
Chandler Rentz – drums, percussion, backing vocals

The Changelings – Official Site:

Middle Pillar Presents:

Conscious Structure
Non Human Figure
~review by Matthew Heilman

There just is nothing like the sound of a brooding cello.  My love for the instrument resulted from the strangest of places (experimental metal music) but I eventually wound up where I was supposed to be, immersed in the quiet strains of Bach’s famous suites, and the sonatas of various Romantic composers of the 19th Century (Brahms, Fauré, Saint-Saens, etc.)  I have noticed as of late that the instrument is creeping its way into darkwave and Gothic music as a centralized instrument – (* see also the Unwoman review this issue)- most notably in the mischievous hands of the much loved yet over-rated Rasputina (they’d be great if they’d TUNE their cellos ;P).  But bands like Amber Asylum and Sunday Munich have long been successfully utilizing the cello to create a unique juxtaposition between dark electronics and organic orchestral grandeur.

Washington DC’s Conscious Structure is the brainchild of three multi-talented musicians, who besides being classically trained, also exhibit remarkable expertise with synthetic and electronic soundscapes.   In addition to cello, the band also flawlessly incorporates violin, viola, and tasteful guitar passages into their arsenal of instruments.   Their debut release Non-Human Figure offers challenging rhythmic Industrial and techno influenced backdrops, dreamlike cinematic interludes, and exceptional mid-ranged female vocals.   The atmosphere created is appropriately dark and wonderfully edgy, a plus being that so many bands hide beneath a counterfeit umbrella of derivative ‘Gothic’ mood.  The arrangements are particularly impressive, seeming to opt for a more progressive result rather than a typical dance floor friendly accessibility.  While some of these tracks could be successful in a club setting, they may contain too many drastic changes and jagged rhythms to smoothly segue between one 4/4 EBM band to the next.   This, however, is all the more reason DJs should pay attention to this CD.  Stir things up a bit, and give club kids a dance-step challenge!

On a purely musical level, it doesn’t matter whether this CD receives club attention or not.  Non Human Figure is certainly one of the most intriguing ‘electronic’ based CDs that I have heard these last few months.  And while some tracks do not stand out as much as others, there are some that particularly rise to the top and stick in the memory.  “Every Time” may be the most accessible and it is a well-chosen track to kick things off.  It quickly foreshadows the vibe of the album, showcasing how well the band can seamlessly weave trip hoppish rhythms, subtle electric guitars, and ethereal string arrangements into a successful formula.  Crowned with lovely female vocals, the song is definitely a hit.  “Malsituation” a decidedly more Industrial track, features male vocals in the lead with peaks of harsh guitar chords and manic pizzicato string accents and valleys of swirling Kronos Quartet like brooding.

The dreary operatic magnificence of the album’s title track puts session vocalist Sarah van der Vate into the spotlight, as she hits higher and stronger notes, and the band incorporate a wide variety of instrumental accompaniment to her voice.  The verse passages of the song are particularly eerie, with an almost disorienting shift in rhythms, sprawling swells of static, and impressive piano.

I am not a usual fan of frequent instrumentals, and this CD sometimes suffers a slight disruption and plunge in attentiveness with its three or four breaks – however, I did enjoy “Thread; Destination,” primarily for its complimentary placement after the title track and it’s insect-like buzzings, sudden treated scream effect, and murky pianos.

Conscious Structure’s masterpiece appears late in the disc in the shape of the shuffling gloom of “The Last Façade.”  Opening with an anxious and devilish cello passage, the song waltzes along with a feverish mischief and playful dementia.  Sarah’s vocals crown the song beautifully, and the mini-quartet provided by layered cello and violin haunt the song perfectly.  Breaking only briefly for a short purely classical interlude, the song sweeps along steadily and probably provides the most consistent beat on the disc for club kids to skip around gleefully on the dance floor.

While Conscious Structure has an admirable debut release to their credit, the album is not without its flaws.  Some songs seem to have a greater passion underlying them than others, and as mentioned earlier, perhaps some of the instrumental tracks drone on a bit.  On the other hand, it is feasible to assume they contribute to the continuity of the disc, as all the songs do combine well to present one fluid symphony of uniform concept.  This is an album that is best listened to as a whole.  Unfortunately, the success of many bands in this genre is fueled by club play.  I can’t fully decide where I stand on the issue of the band’s club accessibility.  It might not hurt Conscious Structure to produce some harder hitting, consistent songs with the cello even more in the forefront in the future.  They definitely have it in them to produce catchier songs that can add artistic class to the dance floor, yet not betray their musical integrity or spoil their lofty aspirations.

Come what may, fans of Darkwave will enjoy the atmospheric and technical appeal of this release.

Track List:
1.) Introduction
2.) Every Time
3.) Escape
4.) Into Your Hands
5.) Escape (reprise)
6.) Malsituation
7.) Realm; Journey
8.) Non-Human Figure
9.) Thread; Destination
10.) Fluid
11.) The Last Façade
12.) Field Of Radiance
13.) Frozen
14.) Thoughts In Static

Conscious Structure is:
David Belazis: vocals, cello, guitar, keyboards, programming
Tenoya Bennett: vocals, violin, piano
Matt DiBeneditto: guitar, piano, bass

Session musicians:
Sarah van der Vate: vocals
Gavin Duncan: additional drum programs
Gene Markley: viola, violin
Chris Duncan: sound design/engineering

Conscious Structure – Official Site: http://www.consciousstructure.com

Email: info@consciousstructure.com

Das Ich
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

It's probably best for the lot of you if I stick to my normal reviewing habits instead of branching out into unfamiliar territory. But how fun would *that* be? So in my first attempt to exceed my normal bounds, I decided to take on a serious challenge. An album in a style I am only marginally familiar with by a band I've never heard of that provides their lyrics in a language I can't speak or read. Not to worry, however, I've overcome all obstacles to provide you a review of unparalleled accuracy. In part by quoting someone wiser than myself.

Das Ich play a style of dance industrial that is as suited to bouncing around a dance floor as it is to brooding in a dark throne and plotting the end of humanity. The music is made up of enough elements to catch your attention immediately and hold it on further listens. There is always a syncopated rhythm of some sort driving the music along and adding the dance element, and the vocals are often rhythmic in their own way (also very up front in the sound). Those elements only make up the base music, however, and the subtle background touches are arguably as important as the catchier elements (that's catchy in an evil sort of way, in case you were getting worried. And yes, I know pop is evil, but we're talking about the satanic sort of evil here).

The deepest levels of the music come in the form of occasionally subtle orchestral elements that give Antichrist an atmospheric feeling. The layers of more traditional dark ambience and orchestral aspects merge to convey strong emotion. You get the sense that the band is really communicating, and through several types of sound at once. The vocals add another  range of emotions on Antichrist. At times they will be angered or forceful, while at others there is a tangible lamenting feel that can make the music as sad as it is atmospheric and bitter.

I have been listening to Antichrist ritualistically since getting the CD, and amazingly, there isn't all that much to say about it. For all of the different moods and feelings in the music, it ultimately expresses a solitary kind of sense that has to be experienced to be fully understood.

And speaking of understanding (or lack thereof), I can scarcely begin to analyze lyrics written in German. StarVox writer Matthew can read them, however, and he has said that the lyrics are full of references to "biblical visions of the apocalypse" (you can read more in his own Das Ich review from the StarVox June 2002 issue). The great thing about "Antichrist" is that you can get a good picture in your mind of what's going on whether you can read the lyrics or not - the atmosphere is that powerful.

I wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone who owns a large throne, plans to invoke satan for some nefarious purpose (or to get free beer), and it's also suited to anyone who enjoys danceable electronic music with real feeling behind it. I believe that most any fan of Skinny Puppy would similarly appreciate Das Ich. The dark atmospheres and broken rhythms are shared by the bands, but each is a unique entity. Antichrist is my favorite Metropolis release so far this year, so make a point of checking it out.

Track List:
1.) Engel
2.) Keimzeit
3.) Grund Der Seele
4.) Vater
5.) Krieg Im Paradies
6.) Tor Fur Hölle
7.) Garten Eden
8.) Das Dunfle Land
9.) Sodom Und Gomorra
10.) Der Achte Tag
11.) Keimzeit (rmx)

Das Ich is:
Stefan Ackermann
Bruno Kramm

Das Ich - Official Site: http://www.dasich.de

Danse Macabre Records:  http://www.dansemacabre.de

Metropolis Records:  http://www.metropolis-records.com

Dark Tranquillity
Damage Done
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Dark Tranquillity are known for helping to kick off the Swedish melodic death metal scene, and they have already earned their place in metal history. In Flames has been similarly praised, though in recent years they have been sticking to their tried formula while Dark Tranquillity have continued to evolve and grow. I'm typically more interested in bands that are always looking for ways to enhance their sound, so it's no wonder that I've been following DT for some time now. The Gallery and Projector are among my favorite releases of theirs. The Gallery best captured their ability to write amazing twin guitar leads and melodies that had a lot of energy and general coolness. Projector was a departure from the old style into uncharted terrain - terrain that had unusual but honest and likeable clean vocals as well as slower songs. With the followup Haven, DT seemed to be moving back towards their roots. And with this newest release, DT have successfully paired their older style with a new quality that makes the music exceptional.

The great melodies and leads from older Dark Tranquillity are still around today, and they're cool as ever. Niklas Sundin and  Martin Henriksson make an awesome guitar duo, and the sheer number of awesome riffs, leads, and solos leads me to believe they've discovered some ancient songwriting technique that keeps each new song fresh without losing the quality that made the last song effective. I don't want to spend too much time describing this aspect of their sound because if you're into metal you're bound to have heard some Swedish melodic death metal... so you've got a good idea what makes up the sound.

What separates Damage Done from other Dark Tranquillity work and their peers is the atmosphere. Martin Brandstrom's keyboard performance adds an ambience that takes the music to new heights. It's difficult to explain specifically how this works. Sometimes he'll just play a background melody, or chime in with more subtle synth oriented touches. Somehow, the end result is something that could fit a movie soundtrack. If you were to cut out the more extreme elements of the sound and replace them with visuals from, say, Blade Runner, everything would fit together in a meaningful way. But since the music is written to be a complete sound that needs no visuals, it of course works best just as it is - with background sounds to set the stage and lead guitars and vocals to tell the story.

I really enjoyed Mikael Stanne's clean vocals from Projector, but it looks like that was the last time he'll ever use them. A lot of fans criticized them or found them intolerable, so I can't quite blame him if he got discouraged or just decided it wasn't the right direction for the band. But nevertheless, his death metal voice has improved considerably over the years. Damage Done features his best extreme vocal performance yet. Unlike so many groups he actually growls in sync with the music and puts a lot of force into the vocals where appropriate. In the past, some of his vocals have bothered me because he never varied his approach. Although Damage Done doesn't have any great amount of vocal variation, the differences in pacing and ferocity throughout the songs keep things interesting.

The lyrics span topics ranging from psychology and conciousness to chaos theory and quantum physics. I think the songs stand fine on their own even when you can't understand a word Mikael Stanne growls, but reading the lyrics helps create a more lucid picture of what the band is going for.

It's also important to note that some of the slower moments are the most emotive. The peaceful ending instrumental is among my favorite Dark Tranquillity songs of all time. It has a mix of atmospheric keyboards and melodies that contribute to a very dark and slightly sci-fi feel (though I'm not calling it sci-fi or anything, I just keep thinking of Blade Runner when I listen).

If you've enjoyed any release by Dark Tranquillity in the past, then you'll very likely get into Damage Done. I wasn't too fond of DT's last album, so I'm glad to see they're still evolving and refining their sound. It's comforting to know that while I might not go stupid with glee each time the band puts out material, they'll always keep trying new things instead of getting stuck in a rut. If you're into metal and have somehow missed hearing Dark Tranquillity for this long, Damage Done is the best place to hop in and see what the rest of us have been listening to for years.

Track List:
1.) Final Resistance
2.) Hours Passed In Exile
3.) Monochromatic Stains
4.) Single Part Of Two
5.) The Treason Wall
6.) Format C: For Cortex
7.) Damage Done
8.) Cathode Ray Sunshine
9.) The Enemy
10.) White Noise / Black Silence
11.) Ex Nihilo

Dark Tranquillity is:
Mikael Stanne - vocals
Niklas Sundin - guiars
Michael Nicklasson - bass
Martin Henriksson - guitars
Martin Brandstrom - electronics
Anders Jivarp - drums

Dark Tranquillity - Official Site:

Century Media Records:http://www.centurymedia.com

Common Sky
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

As I sat at my computer the other day, I found myself thinking 'Man, I wish I had an album of music to listen to that totally rips off of Korn and Limp Bizkit!'... and wouldn't you know it, the promo copy of Elfman's new CD Common Sky showed up in the mail and fulfilled my wildest fantasies.  That's a lie, actually.  I didn't -really- want to listen to any overtly vulgar nu-metal that was laced with profanity delivered by a hysterical vocalist who thinks he's Johnathan Davis.  I -really- wanted to listen to what the blatantly dishonest press release advertising the album promised... but more about that in a moment.

Before I vent my wrath further, I feel obligated to mention that if for some inexplicable reason you actually like Korn and their nu-metally bretheren,  you'll probably enjoy this exceptionally derivative album.  Its a miasma of nu-metal cliche, with plenty of customary 'I'm so sick and twisted and insane that I must tell you about it' songs, and even a highly intolerable Bizkit-y rap number.  They even toss in a Creed-ish ballad at one point (ironically the most listenable song on the album for me) just to cover all the radio-metal bases.  The production is of a quality that matches what gets played on the airwaves or mTV, so you wont be disappointed there.  All Elfman needs to do is to pick out some crazy masks and assign the band members numbers for names, and they'd be guaranteed crazy money and all the 15 year old zombie-groupies they could ever want.  Oh- and guys, don't forget to grow nutty facial hair and partially shave your heads too, in case you take the masks off.  I hear the kids really dig that kind of hip stuff these days.  Yo.  Word.

Back to that press release comment:  here's an unaltered excerpt from it for you to evaluate before I dig in and start firing with both barrels.  The whole text of it can be found on the WAB records page listed at the bottom of the review, under 'bands', then 'elfman'.  I'd direct link you but they used frames on the WAB page, and I'd hate to spoil their oh-so-elegant layout.  Er, anyhow, that excerpt:

New ways of creating sounds and arrangements became possible, which finally ended up in what elfman is today: "a new kind of new rock".

A completely new sound, a never-heard combination of synthetic vibes and rough instrumental parts, electronic bass grooves and melodies, aggressive guitars and expressive vocals.

Fitted with their own style elfman gets established in the underground-scene and soon reaches a larger fanbase by playing a lot of club-gigs.

Now, I expect some doctoring of the truth in a press release... a little creative euphamism, perhaps... some deft wordplay to spin the band's image in a direction thats appealing to people.  The chicanery above though is filled with such preposterous lies that its laughable.  Elfman blatantly cling to all the conventions of nu-metal, which has polluted the radio in the US for years (and Im sure has reached far overseas).  Additionally, the singer religiously mimics Johnathan Davis' vocal mannerisms and Fred Durst's 'angry white rapping'.

Someone like Devin Townsend or Trent Reznor -might- be able to invent "a completely new sound, a never-heard combination of synthetic vibes and rough instrumental parts, electronic bass grooves and melodies, aggressive guitars and expressive vocals"... In fact, both have in the past.  These posers in Elfman can barely elevate themselves above the status of a Korn cover band.  The ridiculous claims of the press release / band bio gave me a far lower opinion of Elfman than I would have had if I'd known they were a garden variety nu-metal bandwagon-hopper in the first place.

You'll find absolutely nothing new or innovative in Kor-- er, Elfman's album 'Common Sky', despite the outrageous claims of the record label.  You will find well executed, slickly produced, highly formulaic nu-metal.  If that's your cup of tea, then knock yourself out and go 'insane' listening to this 'sick and disturbed' offering from Austria's Elfman.  It saddens me to think that this could indeed become very popular if promoted well in the US.  Judging by what I've seen of Wait And Bleed Records (who themselves rip off their name from a Slipknot song, of all things) there's not much danger of that happening.  I'll just have to quietly hope that mTV never gets sent a copy of this 'never-heard completely new sound' or we may never hear the end of it.

Track List:
01.) Why Dont You Say
02.) Drive
03.) For You
04.) Glory D.
05.) By Myself
06.) Hold Out
07.) Sail Away
08.) Inside
09.) Raggedy Ann
10.) Entertainment
11.) Common Sky

Elfman is:
Varga Oliver: vocals, guitar, progr.
Kostron Georg: bass, vocals, progr.
Kropej Thomas: drums
Saint Sferic: turntables, fx

Elfman Official Website: http://members.aon.at/elfman/info.htm

Wait And Bleed Records: http://members.aon.at/wabrecords/e_index.htm

a CD Preview - untitled
~review by Matthew Heilman

The almighty Funereal Doom Metal ensemble Evoken are gearing up to record their fourth full-length album.  Being a long time and rabid enthusiasts of this kind of uncompromisingly dark music, I pester these bands for updates and news as often as I possibly can. The pay off came early when Nick Orlando, the guitarist of these New Jersey misanthropes, was kind enough to send me an unmastered demo of their latest material.

The band will be entering the studio this October, with a slated release date in late Winter/Early Spring of 2003.  The album is as of yet untitled, but is slated to contain up to seven tracks, five of which I have heard with my own misbelieving ears.

For fans of despondent and dreary Doom, this is IT!  This is the album that will ensure Evoken’s staying power and majestic reign amidst the dark metal elite, on both sides of the Atlantic.  These five songs are encompassed by a sinister power that few bands have ever been able to harness.  Though not of the same genre at all, I can think of only two musical outfits that have slithered along these same bleak shores of hopeless abandon: Current 93 (on the I Have A Special Plan For This World CD) and the 20th Century Classical composer Kryztof Penderecki (for his “Threnody For The Victims Of Hiroshima.”)

All the tracks exceed the nine-minute mark, and generally comparing the material to Quietus, the band’s breakthrough third release, I would say the material is more powerful, darker, and not as emotionally detached.  Where as in the past, Evoken’s music conveyed a distant, almost ‘outsiders’ view of desolate atmosphere and emotional wasteland, the band now seem to have immersed themselves deeper into the spirit of their music.  Throughout the Quietus CD, I often anticipate specific memorable passages in the songs – parts that manage to outshine and stand out above the greatness of the whole release.  This material however, I feel is stronger and contains even more memorable moments.  Each of the five tracks I have heard offer some spectacular moment of Doom Metal perfection – whether it be a passage of the utmost heaviness, creepiness, or a profound bittersweet sadness.  It’s all here in many fresh and creative guises.

The riffs are heavier, and the keyboards three times as interesting and sophisticated compared to the band’s previous efforts.  There is especially some outstanding interplay between the guitar parts and keyboard passages – the synths at times possessing an unsettling discordance and eerie disharmony, swelling recklessly and climactically behind the guitar chords.  Elsewhere, they fill in the spaces with full, ghostly, and chilling orchestral splendour.  The band recently had a bit of a ‘keyboard crisis’ and it was uncertain whether or not they would include the instrument in future releases.  Even some fans were unsure of where they stood with their opinions on the presence of synths.  All I can tell such uncertain fans is that the keyboards are awesome, and in no way detract from the uncompromising rawness Evoken are known for.  They intensify the atmosphere with an even greater feeling of haunting unease.

And speaking of unease – there is one track in particular, tentatively titled “The Last Of Vitality” which can be described as sheer macabre evil.  The track creeps along at an ungodly pace, with unwholesome clean guitar parts and disharmonic keyboards weaving throughout the heaviest and dense guitar passages on the entire release.  John’s vocals arise straight from the blackest pits of unholy perdition, and the atmosphere is so suffocating that it may take listeners a few cautious times through before they can fully appreciate the sublime blackness of this piece.  By far one of, if not THE darkest metal song I may have ever heard.  Nothing comes close to comparison, not even Skepticism, and not even the darkest works of any of the band’s contemporaries.

This is the first time I believe we at StarVox have ever offered our readers this kind of review – under normal circumstances, there really wouldn’t be a need to preview a release this far in advance.  While this material will without a doubt go through a slight though inevitable metamorphosis in the upcoming months and in the studio, I am honoured and still a bit dizzy to have been allotted this special sneak peak into the mind’s of metal’s most promising band.  I champion a lot of stuff here at StarVox, and while I know that Evoken and their style of music is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea (Metal fans and Goths alike), this is what I personally deem the most impressive and emotionally effective music available in the underground.  I love music, and I hear a lot of it.  To me, metal bands have been getting lighter and lighter, straying farther from the aesthetics established by early Gothic Metal and Doom bands.  Whether it be overexposure to ‘dark’ music in my case, or just the fact that I have been overly critical lately, this satisfied my ever searching need for something ‘DARKER.’

It’s not easy to get into, nor is it easy to absorb.  It may bore fans of faster Black Metal, scare the living hell out fans of ethereal music – but those of you out there that use music to explore the darkest recesses of your psyche – you know who you are - this band is what you are looking for.  And their next album will be their finest and most intense yet.  I doubt I could recommend anything more sincerely to fans of genuine dark music.

Demo track list (Tentative)
1) Omniscient
2) Coveting Elysium
3) Reverie In Tears
4) The Last Of Vitality
5) Antithesis Of Light

Evoken is:
John Paradiso:Vocals/Guitar
Nick Orlando:Guitars
Steve Moran-Bass
Vince Verkay-Drums
Dario Derna-Keyboards

Evoken – Official Website:

Evoken – Mp3 Site:

~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Excession is a new project lead by ex-Vendemmian guitarist Dave, after the demise of his previous band.  At first, nothing struck me as particularly exciting about this British duo, as much as I am loathe to say that about any hardworking independent band.  Most of the time, I know right away whether or not I am going to enjoy an album or not.  This was one of the rare exceptions to that rule.  It took me a few listens, all of which occurred in various moods and mindsets, but the appeal of this band finally began to sink in, when I knew what to expect.  It grows on you, as we say, so if you come across this album, give a few spins before you come to your final verdict.

Excession provides a noteworthy and direct kind of emotional female fronted Gothic Rock.  Commendable and beautiful guitar playing, driving bass lines, and well-done drum programs characterize the band’s sound.   Gothic bands that use drum machines can be broken down into two very distinct categories. The first being those who were unlucky in finding a real life drummer.  So, they do the best they can to utilize synthetic drumming in order to create convincing rhythmic backdrops that somewhat resemble the organic. Then of course there are the bands that are just lazy and for whatever reason think that it’s ‘cool’ to use drum machines and that it is part and parcel to the ‘sound’ of Gothic Rock.  They don’t even try to find a real drummer.   This is a plea to all individuals thinking of picking up an instrument: put down the guitar and buy a drum set!

Anyway, Excession is of that hardworking and dedicated first category, the ones that do their best to create the most organic sound they can.  At times, the drum programs on this album could almost pass for being played by a real life human being, which is indeed the goal.   Perhaps it seems ridiculous that I am harping on this detail, but if you are anything at all like me, you are sick to death of basement Goth bands and their hokey keyboards and Fisher Price drum machines.  </rant>

As well, few keyboards are used, outside of the short instrumental interlude “59” and some accents of subtle piano in “Caged Bird.”  Instead of relying on synths, the processed washes of jangling, flanged guitar is the primary source of the sad misty atmosphere.   Excession makes quite a bit of pleasurable noise for two lone musicians.  The main drawback and what perhaps fueled my initial lukewarm feelings about this act were Yasmin’s deadpan vocals.  Her voice does at least have a deeper, sultry quality to it – much more convincing than many of the thin ‘angelic’ styled sirens out there.   The problem is that her voice often falls flat, there is little variation, and she sounds ‘tired’ and rather lethargic throughout most of the disc.  I am willing to bet she is a lovely and wonderful gal, however, I can’t help but feel that her vocal performance on this CD was a bit sub-par.  There might be a great deal of emotion in her lyrics, but she doesn’t sound particularly animated or excited to be in her position as a vocalist.

As important as strong vocals are to some, I do not feel that this release is really that hindered by them.   Once I let go and even as I sit down to review this with the upbeat melancholic bounce of “Desire” playing in the background as I write, Excession’s genuinely earnest and evocative moods of sadness have completely won me over and have successfully moved me to a deep contemplative feeling of dreariness.   The sun is shining mockingly outside my window, but it’s raining in this bedroom.  It may sound silly, but when a band is able to take such a strong hold of a listener’s feelings, and transport them from reality to an aural realm of personal fantasy, I deem that success.  The music of Excession definitely has that power.

Not much biographical information is available, nor was I able to dig up a website for either Excession or Vendemmian.  Nevertheless, the CD is available through Resurrection Records in the U.K and through Metropolis distribution in the U.S.   I think fans of The Shroud, Mephisto Walz, and This Ascension would enjoy this a great deal.  Though the vocals need some work, this is promising Gothic Rock I hope to hear more from soon.

Track List:
1.) Wanting
2.) Aurora Borealis
3.) Desire
4.) 59
5.) Caged Bird
6.) So Close
7.) Blind Faith
8.) Something
9.) Vapid
10.) It’s A Sin

Excession is:
Yasmin: vocals/lyrics
Dave: all instruments


Write to:
16 Barrow Road
London, SW16 5PF

Resurrection Records:

Buy it through Metropolis Records:

Gaussian Surface Project
Slanting Waves of Optic Horror
~reviewed by Dibrom

Slanting Waves of Optic Horror is one of those albums that soothes its way into the background and slowly engulfs the listener within it's influences.  Before you know it, you're completely focused on the music, and loving every minute of it.  Yet, it has happened so gradually and gracefully that you didn't even notice it taking place and when you reflect back on it, you're left in amazement.

These days, it can be difficult for a particular artist to stand out in the sea of experimental electronic music.  This is not to say that most of it is boring, far from it, it's just that leaving a very distinct signature upon one's music is not the easiest task in such a genre.  I believe that GSP has accomplished that with this album though.  It has a very unique feel to it.  The underlying musical techniques are not necessarily groundbreaking, but the composition of such certainly feels so.

SWOH is very listenable.  It works so well because the beats, the melodies, everything about it create a presentation which is interesting and detailed, but at the same time easy to ingest.  One will not find them self struggling to listen to this album in their search for more great experimental electronic music.  Instead, they will only find a fine and ever so carefully woven mesh of synthesized textures, effortless floating melodies, loops and drum patterns which contain a definite groove, and some very well utilized samples from the likes of movies such as Pi and Apocalypse Now.  Indeed, the masterful composition of the songs on this album are almost reminiscent of a soundtrack.

Perhaps the only real downside to this album is nearly the same attribute that makes it so enjoyable -- that fact it flows together so well... perhaps too well.  The album is great while it lasts, but it just seems to fly by too quickly with too few memorable moments.  At nearly 40 minutes, it's not short enough that this should be an issue. By the time the album is over, I find myself wishing there was more to come, and so I often have to end up looping the cd to get my fill.

All in all, I find that the only real downside of this album does almost nothing to hamper it's overall worth.  The album is executed with a degree of ingenuity not often seen and the effect is simply great while it lasts. And In the end, the fact that I'm wishing there was more is really good sign, a sign that the artist incited significant interest from the listener.  I can certainly say I'll be patiently waiting for more to come from GSP in the future.

Track List:
1) dictation
2) osseary in angel's breath (the dilemma of st. francis)
3) five fears of motion
4) two16
5) the ceiling moves, slithering worms and insects
6) optic horror (eye of the oppressed)
7) the mending apparatus

Gaussian Surface Project is:
Jeremy Dziedzic
Rob Kukuchka

Dysgenic Records:

Cain’s Way
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

All those Polish jokes have finally taken their toll, pushing a long mocked people past the point of patience and – well, at least a handful of their younger more aggressive types, into a veritable frenzy.  Try to sink this screen-doored submarine, if you dare.

Hate, like their fellow countrymen Vader, is an unrelenting Death Metal machine. Hate began my admittedly rocky relationship with World War III records a few years back.  With a few exceptions, I personally didn’t feel any of the bands on label’s roster matched the might of these pissed off Poles.  When I heard the band was set to release their second WW3 release, I was skeptical whether it would be able to contend with the band’s blistering previous masterpiece, Holy Dead Trinity.   But after only a few moments of “Apocalypse,” the track that kick starts this deadly opus, it is firmly attested that Hate are certainly no fluke or flash in the pan.  This is the real deal.

I still am amazed at how certain bands can manage to make a genre as predictable and derivative as Death Metal still sound relevant and interesting.   Armed with a crisp, bottom heavy production and engrossing material, Hate is definitely the cream of the current crop.  Standing back to back with Hate Eternal and Morbid Angel, these guys shred from one gut-wrenching grind to the next, fueled by an esteemed aggression backed simply by strong and memorable material.

The quality of the production adds greatly to the album’s appeal – a warm and deep crimson red to clash with the all-prevalent icy grey of contemporary Black Metal (let’s not forget the rosy pink aspirations for the forlorn sable of would-be Gothic Metal).  A scorching collection of material, noteworthy for its simple aggression rather than cartoonish theatrical ‘blasphemy.’  Sure, these guys aren’t singing about Snow White’s faerie tale courtship by Prince Charming, but they aren’t simply praising Satan for the sake of metal cred.  And besides, there is just something bleakly poetic about the song titles “Shame Of The Creator” and “Resurrected But Failed.”   It’s the little things that can please me.   I like it when evil metal bands try to make God feel guilty for his negligence rather than when they just aimlessly toast his arch enemy with empty plastic cups.

There is not much really to say other than this is quality Death Metal.  All the right elements are here, no filler, just breathless rage fueling unrestrained evil.  Crushing walls of crunch, flawlessly smooth blast beats, sprinkled with the occasional eerie harmony, capped by venomous guttural growling, all working in unison with one mission and one mission alone – to splinter the Holy Cross into barely visible fragments and drag the weak Lord Jesus Christ kicking and screaming back into his empty fucking grave.  Grrrrrrrrrr!!!!

The Most Unholy Track List:
1.) Apocalypse
2.) …And The Sin Becomes…
3.) Sectarian Murder
4.) The Fifth Eternally Despised
5.) Through Hate To Eternity
6.) Shame Of The Creator
7.) Resurrected But Failed
8.) Cain’s Way
9.) Holy Dead Trinity
10.) Future Is Mayhem
11.) From Cain To Oblivion

Hate is:
Adam The First Sinner - Vocals & Rhythm Guitar
Mittloff - Drums
Ralph - Lead Guitar
Cyprian - Bass Guitar

Hate – Official Site: http://www.hatesatanic.org

WW3 Music: http://www.ww3music.com

Icon of Coil
The Soul is in the Software
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

One day, I tried to conceive of the perfect electronic band. Perfect as I saw it, of course, and since electronic music encompasses such a far reaching set of genres, I was thinking of something not too far removed from techno. The bouncy rhythms had to be there, the danceable aspect. The speed and the blippy sort of energy. But there also had to be depth, moreso than you're likely to find in the happy hardcore music adored by certain ravers. There had to be more emotion than programmed energy, and this meant there most likely had to be vocals. And anytime you're going to look for a variety of emotion in art, you're going to find that sadness is most always present at some point.

So in other words - I wanted to hear depressing techno. You know, something that would get me bouncing around to the groove and yet ultimately feeling like I'd digested something intelligent. Something that would go over the heads of any brightly clothed person inhaling various household items. Little did I know, Icon of Coil had already released an album along the lines of what I was looking for. And thankfully, they aren't nearly so pretentious as I can be when I'm deeming all that is intelligent and all that isn't.

The Soul is in the Software is IOC's second release, and it's just about everything a fan could hope for. I really got into their debut Serenity is the Devil, but it may have been a bit techno-heavy at the end of the day. It didn't offer the same thoughtful pacing that their newest effort does, despite the somewhat sad vocals and occasional slower piece. IOC's new release, however, is a much more diverse effort. The techno energy is still there (and yes, I know that the band is often categorized as EBM, but when I say techno you know very well what I'm talking about), but the vocal performance is much more varied. Some of the tracks are darker, such as "everything is real?", a piece that questions reality over a contemplative and hypnotic mid-tempo beat. The old energy and seeming happiness can be found on other songs as well, like "access and amplify." But the vocals have an undeniable sadness, partly due to the lyrics and partly to the performance, and they bring to the music much needed emotional variation.

There are a lot of pads used to fill out the sound. Subtle symphonic elements back the main sound and add that extra emotion that takes even the blippiest and most trance oriented sections into the fabled realm of "vast replay value." It's easy to find things in the soundscape that weren't apparent on the first several passes, and the great variety in pacing and feeling on each song keeps the CD interesting throughout.

I have no solid criticisms of The Soul is in the Software, though I can't help but feel that some of the songs could have been made better. The elements of great EBM can be found in every track on the album, but some of them pull it off more convincingly than others. I can only say that in the context of the personal impression the CD left on me, and no two people will experience it in exactly the same way. If you enjoyed previous Icon of Coil music or have been looking for an upgraded version of their sound, you'd be smart to buy The Soul is in the Software.

Track List:
1.) comment
2.) thrillcapsule
3.) violations
4.) in absence
5.) access and amplify
6.) everything is real?
7.) other half of me
8.) love as blood
9.) disconnect
10.) simulated

Icon of Coil - Official Site: http://www.iconofcoil.com

Metropolis Records: http://www.metropolis-records.com

The Imperial Orgy
The Imperial Orgy Community Sampler
~reviewed by Kevin Filan

Caesar Pink doesn't just sing in a rock band: he's a self-proclaimed "artist, musician, activist, and shaman of  The Imperial Orgy," an art collective and "open celebration of life, love, sexuality and rebellion."  Ambitious? Certainly.  Pretentious? Possibly ... but at least he's got a dream and a vision, and the charisma to attract other like-minded souls.  The Sexual Revolution is not Over! gives us the fruits of this Dionysian symposium... a mixed bag but never a boring one.

Mr. Pink realizes that it's not a revolution if you can't dance to it.  He starts things off in a funky way with "Sexual Revolution," a crooned-word performance with one foot in the funky 70s and another in the naughty Aughties.  The syncopated beat here wouldn't be out of place at Studio 54, while the erotic energy evokes today's (some say soon to be yesterday's) Berlin/Williamsburg "Electroclash" sound.  As if that weren't enough, Pink gives us the alt.country stylings of "Happy Endings" and the hiphop-influenced "Rabid," along with a somewhat less successful cover of the Stooges' classic "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog."  Whatever else one may say about the man, no one can accuse him of playing it safe.

If Pink doesn't stick to one sound, neither do the artists whose work is sampled on this CD.  Friction's "Father Knows Best" is poppy, danceable alternarock, while Clint Starr's "It Can Happen to You" is poppy, danceable triphop/house.  Both tracks are sweet sonic lemonade; not groundbreaking, but refreshing and enjoyable for all that.  With their deathmetal opus "Gabe Every I & II" Always is not Forever try to prove themselves the bastard children of My Bloody Valentine and Katatonia.  If they don't quite make it, they at least deserve points for trying.

Spoken word artists get their moment in the spotlight as well.  Vanessa Hidary's "Culture Bandit" is a spicy brag-shoutout about the author's mixed Puerto Rican/Jewish heritage, while Heather Milburn's breathy delivery proves that "Words Can Be Sex" indeed. Brother Earl's "Cornfield" strives for Barry White but ends up Chef from South Park - not that this is necessarily a bad thing - while "Joan of Arc" shows that Das Ubermensch wants very much to be Jim Morrison.  (Of course, so does Andrew Eldritch, and Das Ubermensch would probably be a better dinner companion).

Any compilation CD, particularly one as wide-ranging and willfully diverse as this one, is going to be uneven.  Still, there are enough high points to make this one worth a listen ... and, besides, who do you know who's against a sexual revolution anyway?  Buy this one now and help keep up the fight.

1. Caesar Pink, "Sexual Revolution"
2. Heather Milburn, "Words Can Be Sex"
3. Stuck, "Sushi"
4. Koester, "The Blood Red Poppies of October"
5. Clint Starr, "It Can Happen to You"
6. Vanessa Hidary, "Culture Bandit"
7. Brother Earl, "Cornfield"
8. Das Ubermensch, "Joan of Arc"
9. Caesar Pink & The Imperial Orgy, "Happy Endings"
10. Caesar Pink et al, "Rabid"
11. Caesar Pink et al, "I Wanna be your Dog"
12. Friction, "Father Knows Best"
13. Tal Peretz, "Tied"
14. Frank Picarazzi, "Etude #2"
15. Always is not Forever, "Gabe Every I & II"

Imperial Orgy Website

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In Tenebris
Fall Away
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

In Tenebris is a developing darkwave trio hailing from Charlottesville, Virginia.  It is rather hard to ignore the fact that they share their home turf with the likes of Vehemence Realized (VR) and Bella Morte, as the latter of the two seem to have made a profound influence on the band.  To put it in the simplest ways possible, Fall Away is not only distributed by Some Wear Leather, the same label that p