I do sometimes go see other bands in concert outside the realm of "goth" and mostly I'm unimpressed with what I see and hear and it solidifies my affinity for the underground. Having said that, it is rare that an alternative/indie band would spark my interest enough to make me want to write about them. So here I am, about to write a review of an alternative/inde band called 11th Hour... get the hint? Yes, they are that good. Awash in a sea of mundane cover bands and uninspired and unoriginal groups that clog up the club scene in Seattle trying hard to grasp onto some vestige of what was the grunge explosion, 11th Hour was an unexpected treat.
At a small, non-descript bar in Enumclaw, Washington -- a rural tinged town South of Seattle, I sat on a bar stool, with two very dear friends of mine expecting just a night out drinking and reminiscing. The bar, small as it was, was completely packed. So much so you could hardly maneuver through the aisles. I'm sure we were breaking some kind of fire code. Playing that night in the far corner of this small bar, was a young friend of theirs, someone they knew from the neighborhood. His name is Christopher Forry and he is merely 19 but had been playing and writing music for nearly six years and had formed this band, 11th Hour, two and a half years ago. It was easy to see he is a natural front man before he even took the stage... boyish good looks, a towering stature, a sly smile and un-ending energy. He played the class clown off stage mingling easily between friends and his family -- mother and grandparents were in attendance (very nice people too!).
Eventually the band took the stage and I must say, I've never been this impressed with an alternative rock group. Christopher's vocals reminded me a bit of bands like Candlebox and Matchbox 20. Hearing him sing live his voice was raw and strong - completely natural - no effects, and was on the mark every single time. Their original songs are complex - no fluff or filler and run the gambit between hard rock n roll and more melodic alternapop. They sound as if they had been playing together for a decade - everything was tight and in tune and surprisingly very professional proving you dont need a great sound system, stage or venue to sound good -- if the natural talent is there; it'll shine through. I had to keep reminding myself not one of them was even 21 yet! They played three sets with small breaks inbetween. The bar owner asked them to play longer -- the crowd just kept growing. To fill the time they sprinkled their sets with popular cover songs that the crowd responded well to and while good, I enjoyed their original material so much better it was almost disappointing to hear them launch into Creed just to appease the masses (I suppose you do have to play to your crowd eh?). The great thing about this band is its bounding energy - and perhaps that has to do with their age, but if they can retain that level of excitement and interaction on stage it will serve them well. Their happiness is contagious. To put it simply, they are fun to watch. I sometimes wish I could forgive my misgivings towards the mainstream, I'd love to play the talent scout and bring a band like 11th Hour to some label's attention - they'd kick the butt out of any Mtv play thing. Infact, they'd give a young band like Lifehouse a good run for their money.
For now, they continue to play small places in and around Seattle. I heard they got a gig at The Ballard Firehouse - a definite step up in venues for them. They don't have a webpage that I know of and they're just now starting to record tracks in a studio in an effort to make their first CD. So yeah, those of you who do follow the alternatve/indie scene - keep an ear out for these guys... and hopefully, you can say you heard about them first here.
Christopher Charles Forry - guitar and vocals
Justin James Cormier - bass
Cody James Tegner - drums
Andrew Earl Brunette - guitar
Songs on the set list that night:
Too Sad to Cry
Isaiah's Song (Better than Expected)
Angel About to speak
Bound to Break
February 02, 2002
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
In an October 2000 *Starvox* review I predicted "With work, some lineup tweaking, and a little bit of luck Datura could easily go on to bigger and better things." It's always nice to see prophecies fulfilled. When I first saw Datura two years ago, they were playing the upstairs room at a small club. Tonight they're at Batcave, one of the largest weekly Goth events in America.
As they open up with "Pulse," I can see they have been putting in the practice hours. In the October 2000 review I commented that "Pulse" seemed sludgy and keyboard-heavy. The new mix has lost many of the muddy samplers and replaced them with Paul Jablonski's guitar work. I can hear the improvement even through sound problems and technical difficulties. Once they overcome monitor and feedback hurdles, and begin "Demon," Paul breaks a string. He manages to sing the final verse and chorus while strapping on a replacement guitar; I'm impressed. Learning how to deal with sound issues and equipment failure is something which cannot be done in the studio, or even in the rehearsal space. Datura has obviously been playing out live for a while, and has mastered the fine art of Expecting The Unexpected.
"Disbelief" shows just how far Datura has come as a band. This was one of the standout tunes in their earlier performances. Despite a tight new arrangement, and backing vocals from Amy Lord, it's now overshadowed by their new material. Tunes like "Ghost Page" and "Bleed for Me" are crisper and sharper, propelled by Jablonskiís stinging guitar riffs and Arthur Omeljaniuk's bass lines. Datura 2002 is a guitar rock band, with samples and keyboards in a decidedly supporting role. It makes for a much more theatrical show: guitar players have more onstage mobility than musicians stuck behind a keyboard bank.
The closing number, "Hunger Artist," highlights their musical development. Jablonsky's songs use many odd chord changes. At best the effect is eerie and unsettling; at worst it can become strident. This tune, named after the famous Kafka story, achieves the former. It's creepy, powerful stuff, and should make for an interesting video.
Is Datura ready for prime time yet? Not quite. Lord hasn't quite jelled into the lineup yet: this problem should take care of itself with time, practice and a few more gigs. I'd also like to see Paul Jablonsky, Datura's songwriter, sit down and listen to Wagner's Ring Cycle and to some of Stravinsky's later 12-tone work i.e. *Agon.* He's got a good ear for power chords and for interesting, intricate changes. I'd like to see him develop more of a feel for melody and hooks; he's definitely got the musical skill to appreciate classical music, and I've always found that copying Stravinsky and Wagner produces far better results than copying the Band Of The Moment. But they've definitely established themselves as a band to keep an eye on, and have shown a definite pattern of improvement. In 2005, Datura could very well be a five-year Overnight Success Story.
Jablonski: vocals, guitars, programming, songwriter
Arthur Omeljaniuk: 6-string bass, programming
Amy Lord: backing vocals
with Altered States, Venus Fly Trap & Cauda Pavonis
@ the Underworld, London
Friday December 7 2001
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
(photos courtesy/property of Pat Hawkes-Reed)
London is a place of many marvels, but one thing it's definitely not is a late-night city. Live shows typically kick out at 10.30/11.00pm, which means that tonight, with a bill of four bands to squeeze in before the curfew, the gig opens at the absurdly early hour of 6.30. Consequently, there's a distinct lack of an audience in the venue for the opening band. Hey, it's the *afternoon*, dammit! Most people are probably still at home having their tea! Still, at least this means I get served quickly at the bar. Thus fortified, I stroll to the front to see.....
Pavonis. They're a two-piece, but any resemblance to the traditional two-men-and-a-drum-machine
Brit-goth band stops right there. For a start, the duo comprise a real
drummer, and a female vocalist up front. In a further departure from the
goth-norm, their inspiration seems to be pop-star period Adam And The Ants
- which means a dressed up, flamboyant image, publicity blurb which describes
the band as 'Notorious Darkwave Buccaneers' and, just in case we still
don't get the message, a cover of 'Stand and Deliver'. As a stylistic starting
point this at least has novelty value. Trouble is, the full-on energy rush
which the Ants so effectively conjured up doesn't really happen with Cauda
Pavonis. With only two people in the band - and one of those stuck at the
back behind the drum kit - the main visual element of the performance becomes,
by default, the large area of empty stage in which precisely nothing happens.
It's also unavoidably obvious that most of the music is coming off the
backing track, and here again there seem to be curious gaps in the sound.
It's dominated by washes of atmospheric synth: Marco Pirroni-style crashing
are noticable by their absence. The overall effect is curiously minimalist while also creating odd juxtapositions. The singer's delivery is dramatic and forceful, the drummer wallops his kit in fine style, and both these elements sound far better live than on the band's albums, which suffer from rather underwhelming 'home recording' production. But the vocals and drums really need to be set among a more dense, powerful, sound for maximum effect. The backing-track synth-washes don't really cut it, and the 'empty space' factor on stage takes the edge off the visual presentation. Cauda
Pavonis handled the dreaded opening slot with admirable panache, but if the band intend to move on I think they'll need to work out ways of filling the musical and physical gaps...
Fly Trap have been lurking on the outer fringes of the UK alternative scene
since the 1980s. In spite of this impressive longevity the profile of the
band has never risen much above the level of topsoil. They've certainly
never had any presence in the goth scene, so it's odd to find them suddenly turning up at a goth gig. Perhaps this was an attempt by the promoter to attract a wider audience by introducing a more general 'alternative' element - although if that was the intention, advertising the show with the line 'The best Gothic line-up since Gotham' rather knocked it back again. VFT take us into reassuringly familiar two-men-and-a-drum-machine territory, although with a generic alterno-rock sound rather than anything overtly gothic. The guitar sound is dense and the vocals dryly precise, but again the visual side of things is a let-down. In fact, there's less to grab the attention than with Cauda Pavonis, who at least *tried* to overcome the limitations of a two-piece line-up and whip up a storm. VFT don't even make an attempt: they stand glumly on the spot like a couple of wet weekends. I confess this kind of thing annoys me intensely. If you're not going to *do* anything on stage, why *be* on stage? Time to visit the bar, methinks, and stay there until Altered States come on...
Altered States also have some history behind them. They first emerged in the 1980s with the album 'Is Anyone Out There?' and have hung around, in a rather erratic manner with several splits, reformations, and line-up changes, ever since. It's odd to find the band holding down a support: a few years ago, Altered States were a no-shit headline act, and the Dream Disciples were the young contenders in the support slot. How strange it is to see these positions reversed. This neatly illustrates what happens when a band loses its momentum - the brash young upstarts overtake! Tonight, Altered States make a creditable stab at regaining their former status with a rumbustious set of chunky guitar-driven stuff. They also win bonus points for being the first 'real band' of the night - their four piece line-up fills the stage and gives the evening a lift after the barely-there presence of Venus Fly Trap. The Altered States sound has never really changed throughout all the band's permutations - it's still dark and driving, somewhat like a more 'rock' Joy Division. As ever, the crowd responds best to vintage songs like 'Low Life' and 'Twin Obsession' - plenty of new material gets an airing, but this is unfamiliar territory (the band haven't released anything since 1995) so the reaction to the new stuff veers towards polite interest rather than wild enthusiasm. This, I suppose, illustrates the dilemma for Altered States - whatever profile they enjoy these days almost exclusively derives from their status as 80s survivors, rather than any current scene-presence. They're still a quality live act, but they really need to establish themselves as a band of *now*. And for that, I think a new album is definitely required...
The Dream Disciples have no need to worry about their profile on the UK goth scene. They're pretty much our top band these days. Their recent album, 'Asphyxia', is a seamlessly professional left-field rock record, which strikes exactly the right balance between dancefloor electronix and guitars, guitars, guitars. It's no surprise to find the band's live show effortlessly scales similar heights. Encouraged by a sudden influx of punters from the bar (there's no doubt which of tonight's four acts most people wanted to see) the band almost literally hit the ground running. A burst of roaring energy detonates on stage as the band hurtle through a set largely drawn from 'Asphyxia' material - 'Room 57', 'OPS' - with a few old favourites like 'Care of the Devil' thrown into the mix. Colin's voice sweeps and soars like he's playing vocal Quidditch, the guitars mesh and burn, and the beat never gives up. It's a totally convincing performance from a band which has honed its live skills over many, many tours and instinctively knows how to sweep the audience along. Diehard fans at the front heckle good-naturedly, the moshpit seethes, and every song is greeted with cheers.
And yet, and yet. The very success of the performance begs a question - where do the Dream Disciples go from here? They've achieved Top Band status on the UK goth scene, but - let's be brutal here - that doesn't count for much in the wider world. Within the UK, I think any further progress can only come by broadening the band's fanbase to include a more general alternative-rock element. And why not? In terms of music and image, the band is essentially there already. Elsewhere - well, any progress would be good progress. Some European festival dates wouldn't go amiss - and as for that US tour, which has been languishing in the if/but/maybe file for far too long - lads, just cut the crap and *do* it! 2002 is the year in which the Dream Disciples really need to break through and realise their potential. They're simply too good for this not to happen. Gentlemen - make it so!
See the rest of the photos here: http://www.starvox.net/photos/dd/dd.htm (thanks Pat!)
by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Dream Disciples: http://www.dreamdisciples.net
Altered States: http://www.altered-states.co.uk
Venus Fly Trap: http://www.spiralarchive.com/venus_nav/venus_home.htm
Cauda Pavonis: http://www.caudapavonis.com
The Underworld: http://www.foundationgroup.co.uk/clubs/underworld/underworld.htm
with Greenhaus & Psychophile
@ The Garage, London
January 18 2002
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
(flyers by Flag Promotions, live concert shots property of and courtesy of Septic Tank)
The Garage is one of London's medium-size club venues. It's a few steps up from the small back rooms of pubs which form the basis of the Brit-goth gig-circuit - but it's not the Enormodome. Even so, when you're the first band on, early in the evening before most of the audience has arrived, the expanse of empty floor in front of the stage must look as dauntingly vast as the American prairies appeared to the first settlers.
Psychophile bravely venture forth into this less-than-ideal arena armed only with a purple fun-fur guitar (Mat) and a PVC dress (Lucy). And within a couple of songs they've pulled the sparse early audience to the front, grabbed everyone's attention, and heated up the venue like an oil-rig flare. Their gung-ho enthusiasm and big, rumbustious sound (which packs far more of a punch live than it does on the band's recordings) can't be ignored by even the most dedicated barfly. Granted, it may not be an entirely new idea to combine chunky analogue electronics with chainsaw guitar and a relentless beat, but Psychophile deploy those ingredients far better than most. Lucy's voice swoops and hollers like it's riding an audio rollercoaster, and she makes it all seem so effortless as she dances behind the mic stand. By the end of the set there's a phalanx of instant Psychophile fans cheering for more. I think we can chalk that one up as a result.
Tonight's gig is brought to us by Flag Promotions, who were originally best known as promoters of London techno clubs. Over the last few years Flag have branched out into promoting live shows, initially in the EBM/synthpop area but more recently (especially after the demise of Nemesis Promotions) in the realm of Bands With Guitars. I mention all this by way of introducing Greenhaus. They're a techno outfit who turn up with bewildering regularity at Flag Promotions shows. Their curiously frequent appearances make a certain sense once you know that the band includes Frank, the man behind Flag Promotions. Hmmm. Promoter books his own band - now there's an interesting ethical point! Perhaps that's where I went wrong in all those years of running Nemesis Promotions: I should've formed my own band, awarded myself some juicy support slots, and turned myself into a rock star!
Now, Greenhaus actually make a pretty decent dance floor noise: thumping beats and samples, straight techno influences mashed with elements of trance and left-field electronica. In the appropriate club setting this would be good floor-filling stuff. Alas, as part of a live show, especially one that's not especially techno-friendly, it's out of place and slows the evening down just at the moment when it should be gathering pace. There's no *show* - just a bunch of blokes, more or less heads down and anonymous throughout, hunched over black boxes while the music pounds around them. Images and patterns are projected over the band, but so dimly the effect is lost. It just looks like Greenhaus are playing with the stage lights off - which doesn't exactly help the group's already rather underwhelming visual presence. Overall....nope, sorry, doesn't work. And the fact that they're only here because the promoter has favoured his own band over other contenders (again!) means they don't win any 'for real' points, either!
Frank Tovey - he who is Fad Gadget - probably has 'for real' written through him like a stick of rock. Right next to where it says 'hero of the old skool'. He crawled into our consciousness in 1979 as the first-ever signing to Mute - the label Daniel Miller initially created to release his own slice of electro-punk minimalism, The Normal's 'Warm Leatherette'. Fad Gadget's early recordings were very much up the same alley - strange electronic pulses over which Fad would intone surreal, fetishistic lyrics. Later material featured slightly more lavish musical arrangements as Fad Gadget eased gently from his original status as a solo electro-weirdo towards being a real band. Then, in 1985, Fad Gadget was put back in his box. Frank Tovey emerged as an artist under his own name (and embarked upon an entirely new career - a tale I have no time to tell here, alas) and we all thought we'd seen the last of post-punk's greatest maverick.
Until now. Quite what has prompted Frank Tovey to awaken Fad Gadget almost 20 years after putting him to bed is a mystery - but I'm very glad he did. He prowls the stage in orange comedy trousers and a black rubber lizard skin shirt, as lean and fit and as intense as ever. His band, a punk gangster heavy on electro-drums and two skinny Manic Street Preacher types on bass and guitar, swirl and thump and grind behind him. He gives us all the classics, like the years since 1985 hadn't happened - 'Lady Shave', 'Fireside Favourite', 'Ricky's Hand' - even his goth-seeking missile, 'Collapsing New People', which is greeted with cheers by a black-clad audience who long ago adopted the song as an ironic anthem. With a voice like a hungover Peter Murphy plus the bug-eyed stare and manic on-stage moves of an animatronic Lux Interior, Fad is the consummate post-modern, post-rock, rock star. It's astonishing to think he's giving us an act essentially the same as when he was last on stage in '85. Have we moved on so little? Or was Fad Gadget so far ahead of his time? A bit of both, I suspect. He launches himself upon the crowd, and surfs out to the mixing desk and back. He strips off his lizard shirt to reveal a torso painted with latex and covered in feathers. He is, quite simply, magnificent. Whether his return heralds new material is something I don't know - so far, there's a new compilation to be going on with, but I hope new stuff is on the way. Paradoxical though it may seem, I'd say Fad Gadget - 80s vintage weirdo that he is - has a few things to teach us in the 21st Century...
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Gadget official site: http://www.fadgadget.co.uk
Fad Gadget page on the Mute Records site: http://www.mute.com/fadgadget/index.html
The Garage: http://www.meanfiddler.com/mf/mf_html/pages/garage.asp
@ Slimelight, London
Saturday February 2nd 2002
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
(photos courtesy/property of the bands' websites, see links below)
Live bands in a club setting: it works, and yet it doesn't work. On the one hand, the bands theoretically get to play in front of a ready-made audience, which is of course a great advantage for newer bands who would not be able to pull a crowd to a show of their own. On the other hand, a club audience will not necessarily be interested in the bands - certainly, in the Slimelight on a Saturday night, most of the crowd just want to get blitzed and dance manically for hours on end, waving their glowsticks to the bangin' chunes thrown down by the DJs. Live bands in this situation are seen as a tiresome interruption to the non-stop dancefloor action. The bands' first problem, therefore, is simply to command a bit of attention from the glowstick-wielding hordes.
Neurophoria pass the test. Two black-clad keyboard-ists loom at the back, a guitarist who looks like a refugee from the Jesus & Mary Chain throws shapes stage right. An unfeasibly cheery cyber-geezer decked out in purple dreads and goggles gurns and hollers up front - usually Nurophoria have two vocalists, but tonight it seems they're playing one man down. This minor glitch doesn't hold them back. They launch headlong into a hammering cyberpunk noise, all rough edges and corrugated sheets of noise, but based around sufficient bursts of EBM-ish beats to keep the Slimelight club kidz happy. Just when you think you've got the measure of the band, they do something unexpected. The guitarist grabs a wine bottle and wrestles Neil Young style slides out of his guitar. The vocalist grins and jokes with the crowd, instantly demolishing the messiah-of-angst demeanour he adopts during the songs themselves. They're a ramshackle bunch, but they've got personality and individuality and ultimately it all works.
Void Construct, alas, don't score highly on either personality or individuality. They're a two-piece electro-industrial outfit, all thumping beats and fractured noise. They adopt the familiar set-up of one person standing behind a keyboard, the other out front on vocals. In this case, the person standing behind the keyboard (I won't say *playing* the keyboard, because it's pretty obvious that Void Construct are essentially a backing-track band) is a kewl cybergirl who gazes around with an air of bemused detatchment as the DAT machine display counts down in front of her. The vocalist is an anonymous bloke-in-black, who half chants, half shouts through a distortion effect - a vocal style so crashingly unoriginal in this genre that I practically weep with relief on the rare occasions I find an industrial band that *doesn't* plod down this well-worn path.
It's not that Void Construct are *bad* at their chosen style - on the contrary, the programming is precise, the combination of beats 'n' electro-noise is suitably thunderous. It all hangs together well enough. But - it's been *done*, y'know? This sort of music is the industrial scene's equivalent of the Sisters-soundalike bands which used to clog up the goth scene a few years back. No matter how well it's executed, the over-familiarity makes for a rather dull experience. Sometimes bands can overcome this by sheer presence, but even here Void Construct don't cut it. The keyboard-girl simply seems bored, while the vocalist shuffles around the stage looking, frankly, rather unfit. He gets visibly out of breath between songs - odd, because he doesn't put much force into the vocals. The distortion effect does most of the work. Perhaps the kewl cybergirl should come forward to front the band while the vocalist switches to the keyboard? That would give him an apparently much-needed rest while possibly resulting in some more interesting vocals. Just a suggestion! For now, I'm afraid we must file Void Construct under the heading of 'Familiar Territory' - and move on...
I knew nothing about Regenerator before this gig. Never even heard the name. However, after some extensive research (translation: I looked at their website) I can tell you that they come from California, they've been around since 1992, they've made five albums, and, like Void Construct, they're a male/female duo - Patrice Synthea (who looks the absolute spit of Isabelle from The Breath Of Life) and Wrex Mock. They are now signed to the new Belgian label, Alfa Matrix (Hey, I think my cousin had one of those, until he traded it in for a Fiat Uno) and this is their first-ever UK show.
Playing a Slimelight slot must be a real in-at-the-deep-end experience for Regenerator, and sure enough they seem hesitant and nervous on stage. Still, they're an intriguing band - obviously not just another bunch of doof-doof merchants. Behind the nerves, there is real creativity at work. Vocal and instrumental duties are swapped between Patrice and Wrex, and the music itself is impressively varied - ranging from slow, ethereal numbers, through electropoppy stuff with catchy choruses, a few walloping dance-floor tunes, and some heavy-duty industrio-noise workouts. Sometimes they'll mash up several of these elements in the space of one song.
The variety of Regenerator's music, unfortunately, exposes the downside of playing the Slimelight: the club kidz simply don't *want* variety. They want a relentless doof-doof beat, and they want it *all* the time. Thus it is that whenever Regenerator throw in a slower number, or indeed anything that deviates from the floor-filling blueprint, the audience thins out as people leave in search of bangin' beats on the downstairs dancefloor. Which is a shame, because they miss something of a treat. Regenerator seem to have more ideas in their little fingers than most bands can muster in an entire career, and the fact that I'm never *quite* sure what they're going to do next ensures that my attention doesn't waver.
The only minus point is their cover of the Psychedelic Furs' 'Love My Way', which in the first place is a lousy song - it represents the Furs' woefully dull AOR period - and in any case has just been covered by Assemblage 23. If Regenerator want a Furs song to cover, I'd suggest the bleak, sparse 'Sister Europe' (which I think would suit Patrice's voice admirably) or perhaps the rolling thunder of 'Pulse' - leave the late-period FM-radio material *well* alone!
I'm just being picky here. Regenerator caught my imagination and impressed
me with their ideas, their willingness to go out on all sorts of unusual
musical tangents, and their ability to remain cool under pressure. I'll
definitely be picking up 'War', their new album, and I hope they play again
in the UK before too long - hopefully under slightly more sympathetic circumstances.
An appearance at Infest, the UK's annual industrial/electronic/noise fest
would be good. I'd suggest their booking agent (or whoever sorts out these
things) gets on to the Infest crew asap. Show those club kidz what they're
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Regenerator mp3s: http://www.regenerator.net/music.html
Alfa Matrix, Regenerator's label: http://www.alfa-matrix.com
Void Construct mp3s: http://www.voidconstruct.swinternet.co.uk/sounds.htm
Cryonica Music, Void Construct's label: http://www.cryonica.com
seem to have absolutely no web-presence of their own. The best I can do
is point you in the direction of the Cybase 23 message board, where info
about the band is sometimes posted:
official Slimelight website: http://www.slimelightlondon.com
DJ Steve's unofficial (but original!) Slimelight site:
And while I'm here....The Psychedelic Furs: http://www.burneddowndays.com
@ Underworld, London
Saturday February 2, 2002
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
(flyer courtesy of Regeneration Promotions,
band photos courtesy/property of each band's websites - see links below)
Promoters come, and promoters go. And I should know! Tonight's gig is brought to us by a new name on the London live music circuit, Regeneration Promotions. This is their second-ever gig - the first, last year, featured the UK debut of Funker Vogt. Regeneration seem to specialise in UK debut gigs, because this is also Zeromancer's first time here. A bit of a risk for both band and promoter - Zeromancer are big in their home base of Norway, and indeed around the continental circuit generally. However, as with so many other bands, the UK has never really been a priority for them. Their albums have never been released in the UK, and the band's profile is corespondingly lower. This gig, therefore, represents something of a step into the unknown for all parties...
we get to Zeromancer, we have a couple of support bands. Tonight's supports
were originally announced as well-known UK scene contenders D.U.S.T. and
Revolution By Night. However, by the night of the gig, both had mysteriously
been replaced by two unknowns: Conetik, from Norway, and Undergod, from
Sweden. These bands, it appears, are filling the support slots on the entire
Zeromancer tour, of which the London show is the first date. Apparently
nobody remembered until the last minute to tell Regeneration Promotions
that Zeromancer came as a package with their own support bands. Don't you
just hate it when that happens?
turn out to be two blokes in white T-shirts. One stands behind a pile of
technology, the other sings in a bizarrely Sisters-esque growl. Most of
their stuff sticks pretty closely to the familiar EBM blueprint - imagine
Andrew Eldritch trying to get his head round VNV Nation and you'll be there,
more or less. In truth, it's not wildly exciting, although the sound is
clean and the final track, in which Conetik conjure up huge slabs of shuddering
noise, hints that there may be a more interesting side to their music.
Another time, maybe, eh lads?
Undergod are...a metal band. They're a three-piece, guitar, bass, drums, dressed in head to toe black with the two guys up front sporting bleached rockstar hairstyles. They're fast, tight, loud, the very model of modern metal. In the same musical ball-park as Misery Loves Co, perhaps. In the right context (ie a metal gig) they'd be quite impressive. Here, the assembled goths and cyberheads just look confused. While it's nice to see a totally organic power trio after Conetik's (apparently) backing-track based set, the fact remains that at this gig Undergod are just *wrong*. D.U.S.T., who were Regeneration Promotions' own choice for this slot, would've been far more appropriate.
After those supports, it's rather a relief when Zeromancer finally take the stage. They're a five-piece, with a real drummer lurking at the back, a keyboard player triggering samples here and there, guitar, bass, and vocals. They're all dressed up for the occasion in hi-end cyberwear: in fact, it looks like they were sent down to Cyberdog with their record label's corporate credit card and told not to come back until they'd bought themselves a complete cyber-rock band image kit. The singer is bare-chested, his David Bowie-via-Simon le Bon hairstyle in full effect. And it's not entirely fanciful to drop those names, because for all their full-on cyber image, Zeromancer are in fact a fairly straight-down-the-line glam/pop/rock band, very much in the same area as dear old Duran Duran, or latter-period David Bowie. They've got a big, brash guitar sound, and the bass player tries to inject a bit of rock 'n' roll atmosphere by yelling such rockisms as 'AWL RAAAHT!' and 'YEEEEEAHH!' at intervals (so loudly he can be heard at the back of the venue even when he's off-mic) but the music itself is entirely accessible, nay, even commercial, catchy pop/rock. I fully expected Zeromancer to go into a cover of David Bowie's 'Jazzing for Blue Jean'. They didn't, but that illustrates the area we're in. They have a winning way with a throwaway lyric - 'We are nothing but Eurotrash/We take plastic, we take cash!' - but the overall visual identity of the band, all dressed up just a bit *too* much, like their whole career is one long MTV video-shoot, rather got on my nerves after a while. I actually like a bit of knowing contrivance, a touch of the cyberglam aesthetic here and there, but Zeromancer are just so full-on with it that the effect eventually becomes rather tiresome. A lighter touch, even just an ironic, sidelong glance from the singer now and then would've eased the image-overload, but it seems Zeromancer don't do irony. They're slick, professional, commercial, very highly stylised - but ultimately rather unsatisfying, like a beautifully decorated cream cake that tastes nice - but still leaves you hungry...
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Click on 'Samples - Audio' for Real Audio downloads.
Undergod probably have mp3s on their website, but as the site won't let me past the front page I'm afraid I can't point out their location. That's a shame, isn't it.
Conetik mp3s here: http://www.conetik.com/music.php
The Underworld: http://www.foundationgroup.co.uk/clubs/underworld/underworld.htm
Cyberdog (You too can dress like Zeromancer!): http://www.cyberdog.net