It isn’t a popular thought, but if bands could only learn to be proud to be Goth instead of exploiting the audience that exists, then loudly, and defensively, proclaiming themselves ‘alternative rock’ or, even worse, mumbling pettily that they never want to categorise themselves, they might actually get somewhere. The 69 Eyes are happy to nail themselves to the Goth mast in Finland and have managed to top their national charts with no comeback. A lesson to us all, perhaps?
There has been a comeback, naturally. I lied. Some people dislike what they’ve achieved because they’ve done it a way which eased themselves into contention, even admitting their sound is somewhat AOR, but so were The S*s*e*s, and nobody wet themselves about that. If you want to be successful, without exceptional luck on your side, you need big vocals and a big sound, because that’s what the radio actually plays. Try it any other way and you’re a fool because the only options available are to be a prickly, adventurous underground thing, and happy with that, or move into a more restrictive arena and possibly sell a lot of records. Previously…The 69 Eyes borte a strking similarity to S*s*e*rs circa Vision Thing with guitar interjections a la Cult at their best, which saw both areas collide, but now there are subtle changes at work.
Musically, this isn’t something they deviate from here, but the warmer sound and spacious, rhythmic-based production gives this lightness of being and accessible power. Straight away they win you over, if you have no axes to bury in their heads, with the seriously addictive ‘Crashing High’, boasting lots of pausing, with exquisite, almost purring touches, then whoosh, off they go again. A chorus, you think! My God, a veritable chorus!!! And it works…
The vocals are worth mentioning because they follow a consistent course through the album, and may sound rather familiar. Eldritch’s voice always started deep, grazed and delved downwards into his scrawny ribcage where it rattled. Jyrki’s start mottled, the throat constricted, giving each syllable its moment in the spotlight, but then he punches words up and out like a geyser. Where Eldritch was a sore, addled academic, Jyrki has clearly been influenced but here is an old head on young shoulders. In ‘Dance D’Amour’ he’s like a curious, knowing host guiding us through a romantic twilight, as the music fits cosily around his presence. He has shadows in his voice, and I’d like to see them flutter a bit more.
‘Don’t Turn our Back On Fear’ is positively stadiumesque, I kid you not, with low slung riffs, even lower vocals and neon keyboard lighting as away they cruise, with big, bright gymnastic, low-fat Goth. Where this actually stumbles is vocally, because you need emphasis and it sound so wispy. A conventional vocal delivery would have really made the most of the lyrics, and the feel, but here the band come over as rather restrained, and the album doesn’t often take you on any great journey of the mind. The music comforts, but you never get seized and dragged along, screaming, which I think we all enjoy from time to time.
This happens on most songs, and may be because the guitars take a muted presence - when they go for power it’s everyone raising the tempo – but they do make a point about having an 80’s keyboard sound, opulent but sparse, rather than sleek and bleak as in cold futurism. Weirdly, these are laid on by Jonny Lee Michaels, their producer. So how much of what we’re hearing is what they are capable of is open to doubt.
It isn’t all of one tone, as ‘Grey is a starker blighter, with a nice mailed first of guitar – whether these are buy Timo Timo or Bazie I know not - getting in a few good shots, and ‘Betty Blue’ has a bright rocky flair, with seriously flame-grilled vocals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot more of this coming out later. ‘Still Waters Run Deep’ is beautifully elegant, with supple keyboards, with the riff belting in, on an identical course of action, ‘Forever More’ has grand storm-tossed guitar with the ghost of Billy Idol bouncing through and ‘Stigmata’ is a joyous mess, where they get wild, Boom!
This is Goth, Jim, but not as you know it, and we really do need this kind of success replicated by other bands worldwide.
1. Crashing High
2. Dance D'Amour
3. Betty Blue
6. Don't Turn Your Back on Fear
8. Forever More
9. Still Waters Run Deep
10. Dawn's Highway
Return To Eden: The Early Recordings
~reviewed by Matthew
Though there are an impressive and promising number of newer bands on the scene right now that have riveted my attention, my deepest and most passionate love of Gothic Music is rooted in the past. A few summer’s ago, after stumbling across an And Also The Trees CD in a used bin, I have been attempting to assemble and investigate all those special gems from the mid 80’s ‘high period’ of Gothic Rock, that fell through the cracks. Sure, we all have Dawnrazor and Floodland and Tinderbox, (I hope) but there were a number of lesser-mentioned bands that deserve the same, if not more recognition for their contributions to the development of the genre. Along my search, I stumbled across a few mp3s of very early All About Eve, a band I knew very little about other than Julianne Regan’s connections with The Mission UK and Marty from The Church had served as a guitarist for the band for a number of years. Other than that, they were pretty much new to me.
The two Mp3’s in question were “D Is For Desire” and “Don’t Follow Me, March Hare,” both of which were shaded with an early Cocteaus and Banshees vibe, but there was definitely a crackling spark of power and muscle that set All About Eve on a plateau all their own. The tracks were from around ’85 or ’86, and were recorded as b-sides a few years before the band inked a deal with Polygram records and recorded their debut self-titled release. So my immediate reaction, like many Goths of my generation, was, “where can I buy the CD?” Of course, the songs were not available on CD. I finally acquired a copy of the band’s debut album, and as much as I liked it, it was a bit more polished and some in the kindest possible way, a bit sugar coated for my tastes (it has long since grown on me ;P) But it definitely lacked the raw Post Punk punch of the material I had heard via the mp3’s.
I did some more digging and found there were a few more songs from the period prior to the release of their first album, but had no luck finding the tracks online. So I basically gave up and just burned what I had to a mixed CD.
Lo and behold, a few issues ago, one of my peers at StarVox ran an interview with Ms. Regan and I discovered that All About Eve are alive and well, and had recorded some new material and had embarked on a small tour. After being directed to the band’s website, my heart skipped a beat when I saw advertised Return To Eden – a collection of the band’s early pre-Polygram singles and B sides! Finally, after many years, these tracks were made available again and for the first time, on an official band approved release.
When I finally had the disc in my hands, my anticipation was bursting and I sat and listened to the first five songs in absolute astonished bliss. The wait was definitely worth it! Following the two aforementioned tracks was “Suppertime,” a song that had previously been available on a rare magazine compilation entitled “Gunfire & Pianos.” It certainly didn’t deserve to be lost in obscurity. Despite some admittedly quirky lyrics, the music is outstanding, with the gorgeous jangle of overdriven guitars, interlocking bass lines and shuffling, snapping drum work that defines the Gothic Rock sound. Despite the brooding Post Punk sensibility, there is as well a foreshadowing of All About Eve’s mastery of catchy pop hooks and memorable melodies.
The driving gloom of “End Of The Day” follows, perhaps my favourite of all the first five tracks on the album. A thick bass line rumbles above deep mid paced drums, accented by eerie pinch harmonics and Julianne’s nwavering alto. The song crescendos into a spiral of stark psychedelic guitar wizardry and continues to blast along at full force until the song draws to a magnificent close. I love it. “Love Leads Nowhere” is weighed with an even deeper melancholy, falling somewhere between early U2 and the manic Death Rock of the legendary Skeletal Family and Xmal Deutschland. The track is the perfect blend of dark mood and melody, and is another rarely heard masterpiece.
I remember reading in one of Mick Mercer’s books that at one of All About Eve’s concerts, they had played in front of a banner that read “Goth RIP.” While probably the first five tracks on this compilation are the only tracks in the band’s discography that could be comfortably and unanimously tagged as Goth,’ they were masterpieces in their own right. They really didn’t need to continue on in the same style, as they had already perfected it.
All About Eve really didn’t develop or become comfortable with their own sound until on the debut release, where they really began to come into their own. A decidedly more uplifting, melodic, and accessible sound, they may be one of the most overlooked 80s alternative/pop outfits. There was substance to their music from the beginning and probably always will be, and it is a shame they didn’t achieve more widespread success.
Whatever the case, I loose sight of my purpose here. While All About Eve were never a straight up ‘Goth’ band, I cannot recommend this release enough to fans of vintage Goth Rock and Post Punk music. In addition to the early unavailable 12” b sides, a wealth of demo tracks and alternate versions of material recorded for the first album makes up the rest of this 70 minute compilation. Classic tracks like “In The Clouds,” “Shelter From The Rain,” “Every Angel” and “Flowers In Our Hair” appear in earlier, rawer and perhaps more aggressive forms here. The latter, “Flowers In Our Hair” appears in both its demo and extended forms, both of which are anthematic and powerfully animated gems of uplifting melancholia. That track had always been my favourite from the debut release, but these versions are twice as good.
“Our Summer,” the band’s second single and a track, which unfortunately did not appear on the debut album, is probably one of my all time favourite All About Eve songs. Two versions appear here, the 7” single mix as well as an extended mix. I honestly can’t pinpoint it exactly, but the song is animated with such genuine sweetness and uplifting melodic power that I can’t help but feel ‘good’ every time I hear this song. Of course, you might be thinking “how very UN-Goth of you” but despite the rumours and reports that I am always a crabby forlorn Grinch, I have my frequent spells where I do not want to bring an end to Christmas and I enjoy a good pop tune. Unlike much of the over produced and sappy drivel that defined mainstream 80s radio, THIS is what a nostalgic walk through summer fields should sound like, and “Our Summer” stands as one of my all time favourite songs.
I could gush about this disc for hours (and I am aware that IS what I am doing), it is just so splendid and perfect in every way. While not my usual blend of oppressive Death Rock or Doom, this is one of the most fantastic collections of vintage Goth Rock material available today. If you have ever at all been curious about All About Eve, then this is the CD for you to begin your love affair with this band. If you are a longtime fan, then there is A LOT here to be thankful for to complete the band’s ‘pre-discography.’ Honestly, buy this now. It is available directly from Julianne and the band at their website below. You won’t regret it.
1.) D Is For Desire
2.) Don’t Follow Me, March Hare
4.) End Of The Day
5.) Love Leads Nowhere
6.) In The Clouds (first version)
7.) Appletree Man (demo)
8.) Shelter From The Rain (b-side)
9.) Every Angel (demo)
10.) In The Meadow (demo)
11.) Our Summer (single)
12.) Lady Moonlight (b-side)
13.) Our Summer (extended mix)
14.) Flowers In Our Hair (single)
15.) Paradise (b-side)
16.) Devil Woman (b-side)
17.) Flowers In Our Hair (extended mix)
About Eve was:
Tim Bricheno (Guitars)
Andy Cousin (Bass)
Julianne Regan (Voice, Keyboards)
James Richard Jackson (Bass)
Manuela Zwingmann (Drums)
About Eve/Julianne Regan – Official Site:
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
I may as well be forward with you - Analog Missionary's music doesn't grab me. While I like some similar artists such as Brave, Tori Amos, and even Radiohead, I can't fully get into Analog Missionary's Transmitter. So am I biased in doing this review? Sure, but even if I may not entirely appreciate or like this album, it has plenty to offer to fans experimental rock and anyone who likes the band's noted influences (including Radiohead, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, King Crimson, and Kate Bush).
A lot of ingredients make up Analog Missionary's sound. Their singer Anstrom has a very calming voice that is similar to Tori Amos, though it is no direct copy. Interestingly enough, she also plays guitar and a theremin. The theremin playing contributes unusual and often ambient sounds, radiating that otherworldly atmosphere that the instrument is known for conveying. The keyboards also give some of the music an ambient feel and generally mesh well with Analog Missionary's multi-layered sound. The percussion is quite diverse, reminding me of Brave/Arise from Thorn's debut, which also took a rock sound and made it intriguing and original with non-standard percussion.
The guitars provide some melody and solos, but more so they focus on rhythm so that Anstrom's voice can carry the melody. All of the guitar work is competent and fitting, though not particularly memorable by the time the CD finishes playing. The bass is quite noteworthy because Tony Novak plays both standard bass and the Chapman stick. This allows the bass sound a real presence in the music and the varied approach keeps it fresh. The bass playing is very adept the whole way through and adds yet another layer to the ambient prog rock sound Analog Missionary is going for.
The only identifiable complaint I can come up with about the band is that the production could use some work, but it's not like the band is on a huge label with expensive studios at their disposal. The production is good enough to hear every instrument, and even though it gets cluttered at times, it remains listenable.
With all of these elements building a complex framework of sound, you might wonder why the music doesn't grab my interest more. Ultimately, I think Analog Missionary is just going for a feeling that doesn't entirely appeal to me. Their music is very calming and peaceful almost the whole way through the CD. If you're into a prog rock sound without a hard edge, then I can safely recommend "Transmitter." Usually when I delve into this style it's because the band in question does have some sort of edge or more pronounced technical skill. For instance, Brave's vocalist pours her heart out into her somewhat epic singing. Radiohead has impressive guitar playing that takes their music a notch above their competitors. While everyone performs admirably on "Transmitter," it presents a sound that intrinsically has no such edge or outstanding technical performances.
If you dig the calmer side of prog rock and a multi-layered sound with some interesting experimentation and ideas, it's worth your while to check out Analog Missionary. If you're looking for something with an edge or less inhibited performances... you won't find it here. That means music fans into The Gathering or Brave for their powerful moments may want to look elsewhere, but anyone who likes those bands for their more tranquil and ambient rock moments will find "Transmitter" to be another solid effort in that style.
3.) This (can't be happening)
4.) Walk to the sun
5.) Open Star
6.) Dirty Road
11.) Sundering Sea
Anstrom - Vocals, guitars, and theremin
Tony Novak - Bass, Chapman stick, and keyboards
Kevin Kaiser - Guitars
Russ Miglicio - Drums and percussion
Josh McNaughton - Drums and percussion
Adam Taylor - Keyboards
Missionary - Official Website:
Farthest from the Sun
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
In ancient times the dark lord Sauron ruled over Middle Earth. He was a rather large fellow, speaking purely in terms of height, of course, as dark lords can't appear too portly to their minions. He was also a particularly nasty dark lord, even as far as dark lords go. So you can imagine - a guy like that probably has some stories to tell.
::cut to modern day view of a cold, cold, blackened forest in Norway::
In 1993 a new Sauron emerged to take over the world. Unfortunately, he was armed solely with an Amiga computer, a 4 track, and a cheap reverb box and microphone. Needless to say, this Sauron, the sole musician and composer of Apotheosis, was unable to get much attention initially. But the new Sauron did have plenty of stories to tell, and while he may not have been striving to enslave the human populace, he was determined to expand his musical ideas.
After nearly ten years of demos and planning, or perhaps plotting, Apotheosis' debut full length is out, courtesy of Nocturnal Art Productions. "Farthest from the Sun" is a thoroughly intense journey through epic and fantasy based black metal. "Victory" starts the album off on a thoughtful and all encompassing note. The song is a six minute composition that rivals soundtrack scores, as the elaborate orchestrations take the listener through a variety of feelings and atmospheres. The music is very suited to exploring any fantastical area such as ice caverns, distant palaces on remote islands, and even busy towns that are occasionally terrorized by dragons. If you ever need guidance on finding locales such as these, just ask your local travel agent and they'll give you the appropriate brochures.
The other three tracks expand on the ideas of the opener, but introduce many more elements and sounds into the mix. There are four tracks over 50 minutes, so as you mathematical geniuses have no doubt concluded by now, the last three tracks are quite long. And thankfully, they're as long as they are epic. Throughout them there's never a single chance to get bored. Sauron alternates intense black metal runs with exceptional synth interludes that are ambitious and multi-layered. None of the synth work on here is tossed in as an afterthought, and in some ways it is far more evocative than any of the metal elements. There are also black metal vocals that accompany the heavier sections perfectly. Sauron's voice reminds me of Satyr (from Satyricon) at times. He also forgoes the rasping to speak plainly instead where appropriate. The vocals are very limited here nonetheless, and "Farthest from the Sun" feels more like an instrumental album than anything, punctuated occasionally by vocals on the middle two tracks.
The metal flavors do add an intensity that cannot be matched by synthesized sounds. The guitars are mighty and primal. There's a certain emotional quality to black metal guitars that anyone into black metal is familiar with. Sauron mixes the more unrefined stylings of early 90's black metal with elements of thrash. The result includes angry and incredibly fast machine gun riffs, loosely timed driving riffs that have a certain honest sound (honest in the "Sauron would be willing to beat you unconcious with the broad side of a sharp blade" sort of way), and there are even interesting guitar solos. Some of the solos sound more rock oriented than anything, and keep the diverse music entertaining. The soloing on "Kingdom" is similar in sound to the neo-classical style pioneered by Yngwie Malmsteen. Though you shouldn't get the wrong impression, there's no guitar hero stuff on "Farthest from the Sun." No bad hair, either. Just soloing that always fits the music appropriately and doesn't feel overdone.
On average, a song from this CD will change its direction every 2-4 minutes. And with songs exceeding the 16 minute marker, you can expect a lot of variation in every track. Inexplicably, everything manages to fit together and remain cohesive. Fast metal sections will abruptly segue into synthy interludes that will eventually tie back in with metal riffs later in the song. It all comes together in the end, like any good journey that doesn't involve being eaten should.
The resulting combination is one of intensity, epic granduer, and intensity. All black metal fans should give this a listen. Anyone into Satyricon, Emperor, or even Bal-Sagoth will likely appreciate Apotheosis. Sauron's work on "Farthest from the Sun" has grown on me increasingly with each listen, and soon I may find myself starting up a fan club. Thankfully, I'm writing this before becoming fully enchanted by his influence, so you're getting an honest account of his work. Sauron may not take over the world with "Farthest from the Sun," but he'll sure make some waves in the black metal scene.
2.) The Maimed God
3.) Raise the Dragon Banner
Sauron - Vocals, guitars, programming, everything else...
Where The Shadows Lie
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
When I am presented with a recording which is purported to contain 'epic fantasy music', a certain set of expectations coalesces in the remaining functional parts of my brain (which has by now absorbed far too much loud noise to work at peak efficiency ever again). Furthermore- when the 'epic fantasy music' in question is said to be inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien and based on his works, even more preconceived notions jam their way into my consciousness. Too many movies, composers, metal bands, and artists (not to mention Tolkien himself!) have already trod upon the roads of Middle Earth for me to ever again approach such works objectively. It was with trepadition, then, that I dropped Battlelore's debut album into my player and engaged its mechanisms... for it indeed claims the title of 'epic fantasy music' inspired by you-know-who.
Where The Shadows Lie is an enthusiastic recording by a group of Finns who obviously love fantasy stories. Unfortunately it is also a very uneven listening experience. Occasionally, for brief fleeting moments, Battlelore succeed in transporting the listener to the realms of fantasy that they aspire to tap into. More often though, the only thing the music evokes is the desire to skip to the next track. There are too many jumps in style and jarring transitions to ever immerse the listener in any one atmosphere for long. For every moment that effectively recalls lands far away where epic adventures take place, there are three moments that effectively recall a cut-rate Dream Theater cover band that's fronted by a death metal singer.
Over the course of the album the band dabbles in hard progressive rock, thrashy death metal, pseudo-power metal, strangely psychadelic goth sounds, and a little bit of folk. These are not genres that segue into one another very well. Unfortunately, Battlelore attempts to do so often. Sometimes they at least wait until the next song to change the mood... but other times they slam on the breaks in mid-track and completely switch styles. Listening to the entire album in one sitting can be mildly disconcerting, as it seems there has been no attempt to attain any kind of musical continuity over its length. Compounding the problem is drummer Henri Vahvanen's tendency to randomly inject off-kilter syncopated drum beats which several times jarred me out of any mood that was being created by the rest of the musicians.
Despite the pervasive lack of flow, the album would be mostly listenable if not for the "Raging Vocals" of Tommi Havo. That's how his contribution is listed in the credits, and rage he does... sadly, though, when he's got himself all worked up in a fervor and is raging away he sounds more like Cookie Monster than anyone you should be scared of. His ranting reaches comical hights not scaled in quite some time by any other metal vocalist I can recall. If there were a Grammy for 'Best Vocal Impersonation of a Muppet', Mr. Havo would be first on my ballot. His... distinct delivery borders on entirely unlistenable for large tracts of the album, waylaying any music unlucky enough to reside below the thunderous growl. A special accolade must be given to the whole Battlelore crew for the thoroughly intolerable final minute and a half of the song 'Raging Goblin'. I would attempt to describe the slowly pitchbending guitar whine, drawn out yells, and pounding drums of this landmark track in depth, but my brain is even now healing over the trauma and has blocked my memory.
Incidentally, Napalm Records site for Battlelore states the following:
"After finishing work on their debut for NAPALM RECORDS, Tommi Havo parted ways with the BATTLELORE amicably due to personal circumstances that prevented him from dedicating the necessary time and energy to the band."I guess all that raging takes its toll.
Seriously though, I bear Mr. Havo no ill will and hope that he finds somewhere else to release his frustrations... just not on a CD I have to listen to.
The other male vocal contributer to Battlelore is Patrik Mennander. His clean, theatrical singing ranges from suitably atmospheric to overdone and a bit silly. He lacks the emotional credibility to really pull off the serious tone he aims for... kind of a speedier alto version of Peter Steele's Type-O-Negative crooning. Perhaps in time he'll learn to achieve the resonance and depth that would make such singing effective. For now though, his vocals are a mixed bag.
The one saving grace for Battlelore that prevents this album from being thoroughly forgettable and largely unpleasant is the ghostly, dreamlike singing of Kaisa Jouhki. Her voice is the sole instrument on 'Where The Shadows Lie' that truly summons the spirit of fantasy. Though somewhat monotone and limited in range, her vocals nevertheless manage to create an atmosphere conducive to drifting into epic tales of days gone by. She appears on many of the songs throughout the album, but is only alotted a few tracks where her singing is the focal point. If she had been the sole vocal performer on the album, I would have far fewer complaints about it.
Though this review is dragging on, I would feel remiss if I didn't mention the uni-named Maria's keyboard stylings. She provides alternately interesting and distracting tones throughout the album, but on the only real standout track -'Journey To The Undying Lands'- her underutilized synth arpeggios are the highlight of the music. I'm pretty sure she also provides some capable backing vocals to Ms. Jouhki, though no credit is listed for such a contribution. Maybe my brain hasn't healed as much as I thought.
The time is past due for me to conclude this epic fantasy review. Strange that I had so much to say about an album that will likely not find its way into my CD player again. How, then, should I sum up my thoughts? I will say this: Kaisa Jouhki's haunting voice -almost- makes 'Where The Shadows Lie' worth purchasing. If you're desperate for new Tolkien themed metal and have money to burn, perhaps buying Battlelore's debut wouldn't be the worst thing you could do. If I were you, though, I'd search out Summoning's album 'Stronghold' instead and wait for Battlelore's next offering. Perhpas by then they'll have settled on one style and recognized that Kaisa holds the keys to fantasyland.
2.) The Grey Wizard
3.) Raging Goblin
4.) Journey To The Undying Lands
7.) The Green Maid
8.) Khazad-dum pt.1 (Ages of Mithril)
9.) Ride With The Dragons
Jyri Vahvanen: electric and acoustic guitar
Mikka Kokkola: bass guitar
Henri Vahvanen: drums
Tommi Havo: 7-string guitar and Raging Vocals
Patrik Mennander: clean male vocals
Kaisa Jouhki: female vocals
Searching for the Sun
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
If you've yet to encounter Brave's music, it's time you were formally introduced. Brave released their debut under the name "Arise from Thorns." The work was incredible, as it somehow fit into the metal scene without being metal at all. Their sound mixed acoustic guitars, electric guitars, powerful female vocals, and a diverse bass and drums/percussion rhythm section. To top it off there were keyboards that provided a symphonic element. Last year Brave gave us a teaser ep - "waist deep in dark waters." The CD showed the band moving in a slightly more progressive and heavier direction, and after hearing it I only wanted to get the band's next full length effort. It's finally here, in the form of "Searching for the Sun." And I couldn't be more pleased.
Brave's latest CD is full of the qualities that made their music so captivating before, and the improved production alone is enough to make this my favorite Arise from Thorns/Brave album. "Searching for the Sun" has the incredible diversity in songwriting that the band's Arise from Thorns work had, and it also mixes in occasionally heavier and more progressive elements. The end result is a focused piece of work that is worth the attention of metal fans, or anyone into The Gathering, A Perfect Circle, or even Radiohead.
"Escape" opens with a nice electric guitar riff and Michelle Loose's vocals. For those of you have yet to hear her, you're really missing out. Her voice has confidence and strength that you won't come across often. She isn't afraid to experiment with her singing to give each song a unique feeling and tone. It's also nice to hear a female vocalist that isn't constrained in anyway. She can handle the softer vocals with ease, but she also knows when to let go and really put everything she has into her singing. Michelle's emotional performances imbue the music with a certain power that should appeal to metal fans, even those who normally don't listen to material that loosely fits in with progressive rock.
"Falling into Bliss" is one of my favorite tracks, and it features excellent acoustic guitar work courtesy of Scott Loose. If you're looking for overtly technical performances, you aren't going to find them here. But Scott's skill as a guitarist is revealed in his ability to write consistently interesting and varied material. "Falling into Bliss" also features acoustic soloing that blends perfectly with the music. It mixes in with the rest of the sound on casual listens, and offers another layer of depth for focused listens. Scott has a penchant for writing material that doesn't demand attention and contributes to the overall sound, but is full of subtle intelligence that can be heard when you listen intently.
The other band members perform similarly. Thanks to the production, it's easy to hear the bass in the mix. Chris Wellborn is also skilled when it comes to filling in a final sound. His bass playing adeptly thickens the rhythm section. And on closer inspection, there are some very cool bass riffs going on. The exotic guitars and bass in "Out of Focus" blend together to give the song its own unique sound. Trevor Schrotz's drumming is also well suited to the band's material. He covers the band's various acoustic and electric sections with progressive drumming that adds additional depth to Brave's music. Some songs even feature other types of percussion to keep separate tracks from blurring into each other.
And finally, there are the keyboards and piano. The keyboards take more of a backseat role on "Searching for the Sun" then they did on Arise from Thorn's "Before an Audience of Stars." A lot of times I won't even conciously recognize the keyboards because there is so much else to focus on in the music. But they add another layer to the sound, and on repeated listens it becomes easier to notice them over the vocals and guitars. On "Candle in the Dark" they are especially emotive, as string sections rise in the background over Michelle's piano playing and vocals. This song is also quite suited to radio play, as are some of Brave's other tracks. It's too bad radio stations are so busy playing generic and uninspired music, because Brave has a radio friendly sound but with an inspired passion and intelligence that is foreign to most commercial stations.
I strongly recommend listening to Brave and getting ahold of their work. It's rare that you find such brilliant music that is also catchy and suited to radio. I think a good comparison for the band would be A Perfect Circle. Maynard James Keenan is another vocalist that puts everything he has into his performances. They also have a rock based and somewhat progressive sound. Brave's music is more varied and progressive than APC, but the emotional qualities and radio friendly atmosphere are shared by both bands. Metal fans looking for something heavy and fast won't find it here, but I think anybody that appreciates honest and skilled performances will enjoy Brave.
2.) I Believe
3.) Falling Into Bliss
4.) Trapped Inside
5.) Before Nightfall
6.) To Dream Again
7.) Bleed Into Me
8.) New Beginning
9.) Out of Focus
10.) Candle in the Dark
11.) Waiting All This Time
Michelle Loose - vocals, piano, keyboards
Scott Loose - acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards
Chris Wellborn - bass guitar
Trevor Schrotz - drums and percussion
tape for a blue girl
the scavenger bride
~review by Jezebel
What has always struck me about the work from Projekt records and specifically, from Sam Rosenthal and Lisa Feuer of black tape for a blue girl, is the amazing fullness, depth and detail of their work. The professionalism in everything that they do is evident, palatable.
I am not one for "concept" albums. It's not that I don't like them. It's just that normally, when done within the gothic genre, they are often pretentious and self-satisfying attempts at being "musicians with grand ideas" than it is with creating throughout an album a story, feelings and emotions well and beautifully. More than a normal album, a concept album is supposed to (in my opinion) transport you. Whether to another time, place, emotional place or all of the above. This is not easy.
black tape for a blue girl has done it.
This concept album, tells the dark and romantic tale of a bride-to-be and her emotional roller coaster as well as the stories of her former lovers. Set in one of the most magical cities, Prague in 1913 and inspired partly by the writings of Franz Kafka and the artwork of Marcel Duchamp, this concept album exemplifies the beauty and the tragedy of these works.
From the first strains of the scavenger bride you are being brought somewhere. Like the first strains of a magnificent opera, you are transported to another place and time where you can suspend your claim on "reality" and lose yourself in someone else's story.
The talent Sam Rosenthal has decided to put together and utilize for this project is amazing. Elysabeth Grant's voice floats and hovers and soars through the second offering of "kinski" which tells the story of a woman's unrequited love of Klaus. Softly and yet with some sort of inner pressure, you hear the pleading of the bride for Klaus to love her in return. To be part of her. In addition to the lovely voice is the added surprise and wonder of sound which comes from the playing of a dulcimer, played by Michael Laird from Unto Ashes. An underused instrument (I know of only one band, Seventh harmonic, which uses it to any extent), it gives a new edge and layer to the sound.
"all my lovers" is a gorgeous song which is deceptive in how the lyrics never, to me, specify to whom she is singing to….the lovers or the fiancé. Perhaps that is how it is to be, as the schavager tells how "she is ill-defined."
"shadow of doubt" starts with a softly pulsating electronic background and the whispering voice of Elysabeth. Completely, slowly, and deceptively engulfing you and drawing you in. A change encounter, perhaps an indiscretion on a train with a stranger. Perhaps this, the confession to her lover. In and of itself, a gorgeous offering, but since you are feeling almost safe with her whispers, the flailing of voice as she cries out that "must'a been a dream. It's just a dream I had. Swear" as she tries to deny to herself her own indiscretion. Was it a dream? Or was she unfaithful?
"the doorkeeper" is a sad tale of getting so close, knowing some one so well, yet still, still being unable to really connect. The singsong approach makes it even more tragic as it has the sound a child's song, kind of the sadder "Ring Around the Rosy" again, the haunting voice of Elysabeth gives so much to the song.
"floats in the updrafts" would serve as the song before and perhaps after the intermission. The voice of Atham Maroulis from Spahn Ranch gives us an insight into how the schavager is feeling as he reveals the story of the bride to us.
The groom to be finally emerges in "a livery of bachelors" as he tells of his feelings of emptiness(?), loss(?), confusion (?) at seeing and knowing of his beloved's former lovers. He knows how they still love and adore her, want her to remain with them, perhaps a free spirit. But there is hope in that "I still see her before me" she does not leave. She remains with him.
With no vocal within the piece itself, yet within the liner notes, "das liselottenbett" is an interesting inclusion. I am not personally a fan of pieces which give you one but yet not the other. I am not sure that this works exceptionally well. "Lyrically" it did forward the storyline and I therefore question why a melody with the lyrics was not included. The music itself is gorgeous and completely reflects the lyrics…so why not included?
Brett Helm of Audra has his chance at the mike with the next offering (having done backing vocals on earlier vocals). And I must say that it is the only vocal wrongly cast. This piece would have been perfect for one person on the Projekt label and would have been such a challenge and a refreshing surprise. Voltaire. The lyrics are so perfect for him:
I'm the one who made them this way.But as he would have had to deliver this in such a different style, not the sarcastic, ironic style to which we are all accustomed to and some of us love, I think it would have been amazing to hear him actually attempt this very serious and emotional offering. Brett Helm's voice, although quality, somehow was not up to the challenge of the emotional lyrics.
I'm the one the caused all of this to happen to them.
I'm the one who's rightly to blame for everything.
It is after this song which has one of the most powerful and, in so many ways, timeless pieces of poetry/prose which is scattered throughout the liner notes. I say timeless in that in 1913 Prague, a woman purposely loses herself to please the man in her life. She changes, shifts, remoulds, represses and recreates to keep that which she must have satisfied. This, as we all know, happens to this very second, let alone day. And so eloquently expressed. It is a slice from within someone's diary, journal, played out for us.
One of the many pieces interspersed throughout the liner notes, these are perhaps the "scenes" for the actors if this concept album were to ever be a live performance. And it is within these that the listener (or is it reader? or is it audience?) gets more detail into the story line. The jealousy of the groom. The sheer insecurity and fear of them both. They pieces, as most stories do, begin wonderfully, all perfect and filled with joy and love, as the bride speaks of her unending, complete and total love for her groom, her intended, but as the songs continue, as the prose continues, the cracks in the their relationship begin to become evident. His jealousy at her past in "your jealousy is slavery" clearly expresses his insecurity at a woman, his woman, having a past, a world that existed before him which not only did he not take part in, but cannot approve of. And in "my controlling angel", the bride tries so valiantly to explain that she is not the crippled woman which he first met and saved, but has grown, healed and now, needs him to accept that. It is obvious from what they both say that he is one who cannot handle a woman who is independent and has her own thought and strength, what I would assume was the general idea and practice in 1913 Prague. Well, 1913 anywhere. Perhaps 2002 as well.
And we realize through "the little monkeys" that she trapped and that for all her strength and intelligence, she is trapped and cannot escape from the world that she is part of. From his world. Oh, how masterfully Sam Rosenthal and Lisa Feuer have crafted this. I have an entire production in my head, I have details of why she cannot leave, what are the ties and bondage that keeps her within. Although I know that I should be thinking Kafka, I get feelings of Miss Julie in Strindberg's play of the same name. Caught in the birdcage, unable to leave.
"nothing I can say" is the second last of prose pieces within the liner notes and it is the most, as earlier written, poignant, as it truly expresses that which the bride has decided to subject herself to.
Returning to the music, "the scavenger's daughter" puzzles me as I try to figure out who is being referred to. As we are later asked by the schavager why this is the story of the scavenger bride and not the scavenger's bride, I take the leap of faith that the bride and this daughter are one in the same. She is not marrying the scavenger, for that is not how the groom's character feels to me. But perhaps she is of a scavenger and therefore that is all that she knows to scavenge for life and existence and perhaps, even, happiness. What also points me to this being about the bride is the lyrics so gracefully presented by Elysabeth, "from everything comes something, I can dissolve, reform, return, dissolve, redefine, return." This continual redefining of oneself seems like a pivotal part of the character of the bride. She recreates herself within the environment to survive within it.
There is something unnerving about "like a dog/letter to brod." Something sinister and dangerous. It is as if we are seeing into some depth of soul that is tortured beyond that which we can easily understand. Is this part 2 from one of the lovers that bride leaves behind? Is he tortured by the fact that he will never possess her but can be confined by her, controlled by her. Is this some masochism? And as it continues to unnerve musically, lyrically, we are sent to question again all that we have come to understand. Is the bride just a metaphor for something more? If there is a bride, why do we presume there be but one groom? Is there just "the one" that we are destined to be with? And in thinking that, do we set ourselves up to be victims of an elaborate and unconscious trap?
"the whipper" solidifies the questions of whether there is a fetish edge to some of the former "crimes" of the bride that the groom cannot forgive, as she goes into the clerk's desk to find two of her former lovers being whipped. There she says her goodbyes. Has the bride accepted her fate?
And we close musically with "bastille day 1961" and as the bride dies we are left to wonder whether she accepted the marriage or, is leaving a world that she made what must have been a spectacular decision and lived as she wanted. Does she have regrets? Some. But I sense from the beauty of Elysabeth's voice (yes, I love this woman's voice) that she was happy in the end. And that whomever she decided to be with, she loved wholly and fully and completely.
Our last prose offering is that of the schavager, with his captive audience, leaving them with questioning what exactly the bride was and is, as she herself did as she reinvented herself according to the experiences around her. Tragically, she never does find that which is her true self, as perhaps one can't if continually changing.
There is no doubt that what Sam Rosenthal and Lisa Feuer have created is nothing short of a masterpiece in music, song and drama. This album takes you into a world and gives you the tools and materials to create Prague 1913, with full characters and storyline. As someone who spent too many years getting her degree in drama, I have completely staged this in my mind, the costumes, including the richness of the bride's blue dress….midnight blue. Lighting which spotlights different parts of the stage for each song or piece of prose. "bastille day 1961" I especially have lit. A brass four poster bed, A stand-in for the bride in the bed, her hand being held, and yet, because of the dim lighting, we do not know who it is being held by, leaving the audience wondering and questioning as they leave the theatre.
There are few, if any, cracks in this gorgeously painted musical picture. The music itself is deep with layers upon layers of brilliant crafted melodies. The lyrics capture emotions and details of characters better than any spoken word could. The level of talent that has been gathered, including those mentioned above, as well as Julia Kent (ex-Rasputina), Christopher David (Judith), Martin Bowes (Attrition), Steve Roach and of course, the gorgeous flute renderings of Lisa Feuer and Vicki Richards on violin.
And of course, unsurprisingly, the quality of production, musically and concerning liner notes, packaging, is right spot on the money. Nothing, nothing is left to chance. Nothing is done halfway. You get the feeling that if Sam couldn't do this completely how he wanted it, he wouldn't have. 100% of his vision went into this production, and we get every last drop of it.
I would love to see this actually produced, actually staged so that they beauty and subtlety of the music, lyrics and prose can be brought to life and enrapture an audience in yet another way.
As I stated earlier, concept albums I am not a fan of. They are difficult mountains to climb and most who attempt it either don't bring enough equipment as they feel they are almost too good for the mountain, or bring too much, daunted by the sheer magnitude of the mountain. Black tape for blue girl has done neither. They climbed the mountain with respect for the beauty of it and with the right equipment.
Black tape for a blue girl has forged, yet again, new ground, and definitely have broken through and evolved. I don't think anyone else can or should attempt what they have, but need to learn from this CD (and the band as a whole) about true mastery of lyric, music and character.
1) the scavenger bride
3) all my lovers
4) shadow of a doubt
5) the doorkeeper
6) floats in the updrafts
7) a livery of bachelors
8) das liselottenbett
9) the lie which refuses to die
10) the scavenger's daughter
11) like a dog/;etter to brod
12) the whipper
13) bastille day, 1961
Tape for a Blue Girl are:
Elysabeth Grant - vocals and viola
Lisa Feuer - flute
Julia Kent - Cello
Vicki Richards - ciolin
Sam Rosenthal - electronics
Michael Laird - Unto Ashes
Bret Helm - Audra
Athan Maroulis - Spahn Ranch
Christopher David - Judith
Martin Bowes - Attrition
The Tension and the Darkness
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
Canadian duo EXIST compare their sound to "Merzbow [running] down contestant's row on the Price is Right" or to Madonna dropping LSD and turning to "glitchcore." Both are worthy role models, but, alas, EXIST's sophomore effort for D-Trash lacks both the discipline of Merzbow's controlled chaos and the infernal stick-in-your-brain-like-a-tapeworm catchiness of Madonna's songcraft. Using snippets from game shows, cartoons, radio, etc. ala Gysin's cut and paste or Throbbing Gristle's noise collages, The Tension and the Darkness is intermittently interesting but frequently fails to rise above the banality of its source material.
There are moments of real beauty on this CD. "Straight Between the Eyes (Can't Stop Me Now)" begins as the soundtrack to a robot love scene, then turns into music for a robot breakup and a fast, angry stomp before returning to its melancholy beginning. The emotions here are made more poignant by the chilly, distant affect. In a similar vein, "Lose my Mind (Keep on Pushing)" gives us doorbells reverberating through a sonic void, their tinkling echoing and reechoing upon itself like church bells, only to vanish before a harsh, deep voice.
More frequently, though, the music consists of endless repetitions of dissonant, mechanical sounds. At times the proceedings are livened by some catchy, danceable rhythms On "When you Least Expect It (Hit You Like a Truck) the beat blows through everything -- melody, counterpoint, dissonance -- like a brakeless semi rolling down a mountain. Almost as powerful is "Custom Made (All Over)", where harsh, mechanical sheets of noise keep threatening to form a melody and finally settle into a catchy rhythm.
Even here, though, J. Schizoid and .miQ often shoot themselves in the foot. Just when you start sliding into the hard EBM/gabber beats of "Writing on the Wall (Too Blind)", things slow to an ethereal crawl. Maybe they are trying to challenge the listener; maybe they are trying to mimic John Zorn's "channel surfing" changes in key and tempo. In either case, the experiment frequently falls flat. Their best efforts are their most structured ones. The twisted remains of a lounge track are given cybernetic life in "What they Want to See (to Get Attention)," which bops and beeps through its changes like the bastard child of Astrud Gilberto and Kraftwerk, while an eerily distorted atonal lullaby on acoustic piano provides a backbone for "When I Look Back (Seems Like Yesterday)."
Far from being undisciplined or random, Noise demands the sternest discipline and the most intricate structures. EXIST has learned the discipline of turning samples and found sounds into sonic sculptures; they haven't yet mastered the art of turning banality into transcendent beauty. Still, this is a promising sophomore effort. With a little more work, and a little more practice in Industrial Alchemy, they may well move on to bigger and better things.
When I Look Back (Seems Like Yesterday)
2: Writing on the Wall (Too Blind)
3: Custom Made (All Over)
4: Straight Between the Eyes (Can't Stop Me Now)
5: When you Least Expect It (Hit You Like a Truck)
6: What They Want to See (to Get Attention)
7: Have to Pretend (Instead of Remembering)
8: All of Nature Wild and Free (No Cares in this
9: Lose my Mind (Keep on Pushing)
Official Exist Website
D-Trash Records Website
& Disease/Jeff Greinke
Dream the Red Clouds
~reviewed by Jezebel
I have a strong affinity to the music of Dara Rosenwasser and Eric Cooley of Faith & Disease. The soft melodic sounds of their melodies and the wistful, longing voice of Dara has always been one of my top choices in my CD collection. Want to find me on a Sunday nite? I will be in the bathtub with a Faith & Disease CD on in the background, as a sip wine and my candlelit bathroom.
So when Blu sent me this special one-off collaboration between Faith & Disease and Jeff Greinke, I was more than excited. I haven't head anything from F&D in a while…new material! Yahooooeeee.
Unfortunately, the best that I can say about this collaboration is the Faith & Disease fans get what they want out of the band. Layered and interesting, the tracks are lovely and stylish, with all of the poetry and movement that you expect out of the band. But….I don't think was too much of a push for them. This didn't really press their boundaries or challenge them. It sounds like another day in the office.
Yes, there are more interesting rhythms percussively and some interesting sounds layered into the structure, but as wonderful as it is…as it does not really make you rethink F&D, is it really collaboration? Or is it just brining in another artist to add something more to an already existing piece?
A collaboration to me is the working of different artists from the germination of a project to its fruition. From what I hear, it seems that F&D had this work already set, and brought in Jeff Greinke to add sounds and rhythms. That is not a collaboration in my eyes.
Do not get me wrong. If you can buy this album, buy it. Dara's gorgeous voice is sweeping and soft and lovely. Its simplicity is what serves it best. It is haunting without being pretentious.
Eric Cooley's bass and guitar are their normal wonderful best. And Jeff Greinke's additions are enhancing to the tracks, but no so much to really not just label this a F&D album featuring Jeff Greinke.
It's a fine addition to your ethereal collection. Now, the question is, when will the new Faith & Disease album be out?
1) how far does the sky go?
2) lost in translation
3) one September
and Disease are:
Dara Rosenwasser - vocals
Eric Cooley - electric guitar and bass
Jeff Greinke - sounds and rhythms
I am a Lie
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Oh boy, here we go again. Another large group of angsty youngsters looking to tell us all what's wrong with the world. Because surely, they have profound insight into the matter, and can help us all in our quests for enlightenment. Except that Filth doesn't actually have a discernible or concrete message. They repeat consistently, among bits about hating humanity and what not, that we are being lied to. Is "we" the band? Americans? Humanity? Who is lying to us? What are the lies? Apparently, Filth doesn't actually know, so they just keep repeating themselves throughout the whole CD. Occasionally there are allusions to the effects of television, but surely that can't be the lie, because any semi-educated person has an idea of how television affects people in large doses. And anyone watching it in large doses probably isn't listening to Filth.
As I see it, this approach is pointless. Take a look at Rage Against The Machine. They had a real message, and they told the public what they thought was wrong with the world. Then they encouraged people to become active and get involved. This is how change gets started. Telling people they're being lied to and not elaborating does absolutely nothing.
Musically Filth provides even less noteworthy material. The guitars drone on the whole CD with simple and slow power chord riffs that aren't particularly harsh as the band advertises. The drums are a mix of electronic and acoustic, though both fall flat and do nothing to enhance the sound. The keyboard "melodies" are made up of random non-harmonic notes that sound oh-so-scary and have nothing musically interesting to offer. The most listenable melody on the whole CD is from the last track, and the first part of it sounds exactly like a Robert Miles theme on his "Dreamland" CD. Normally I'd be willing to pass it off as mere coincidence - but given the total lack of inspiration and value across "I am a Lie," I'd also believe their one bit of tolerable music is stolen.
The real focus of the sound is on the vocals. And they're as uninspired and mundane as anything else on here. John Castro listlessly shouts and whispers. I wouldn't be nearly so hard on him if he didn't repeat his sound and the lyrics across the whole CD. Even after several forced listens I can scarcely tell the songs apart. Perhaps the most amazing aspect to the music is that it took 7 people to create. I'd hate to think what Filth sounded like in the early stages before they had so many members.
At this point in the review you're no doubt wondering if I'm being too harsh on the band. The fact that I can't stand their music or "message" has been the fuel for this bitter review, and maybe I am too hard on them. But ultimately there is nothing original here, and you won't get more than sub-par performances with repeated lyrical themes. There is a quote on their press sheet that, to me, really sums up their intent:
"Now Filth is trying to get as many shows booked as possible in the unlikely hope that one-day they will be recognized and can avoid the monotony of normal life."
The last part passed right by me the first time I read it, before hearing their CD. But after listening to something that sounds so thoroughly uninspired, I'm starting to think the band members are really just bored out of their minds and thought maybe they could become rock stars. It's fully possible their live show is great and people like them. It's fully possible metal or hardcore fans will even like their CD - at $7.00 if you're into their music it's not a bad buy, and you can hear their mp3s and read their lyrics on their website. Nevertheless, I cannot find a single good thing to say about the music. I hope that if the band continues they decide to expand their lyrics a bit and actually try to inform people and get them worked up and active. That alone would give the music some value. And at the very least, they could work on some more variation in tempo, if not in style (most of the tracks plod along at the same slow pace with the same basic feeling).
If you really dig underground hardcore-ish music I won't try to stop you from giving the band a listen. I do caution against believing the band's description of their sound, however. They claim that their music is "The unification of passionate melody with the wrath of abrasive heavy metal." There's no real wrath to speak of, and the use of distorted guitars playing power chords does not make music metal. There is no element of speed in the riffs or leads, or any other instrumental elements stylistically similar to metal. Seeing as how the keyboards sound like they were played by someone with no training, I'm not sure the band understands what goes into passionate melody or what makes something melodic. In any case... my bitter rant is now over, and only the most masochistic music fans are encouraged to give Filth a listen.
1.) Productive Member of Society
2.) Mass Mind Rape
5.) Fall Down
6.) I Hate Humans
7.) Evil Machine
8.) Net. Worth
9.) Ignorance is Bliss
10.) John Q. Public
John Castro - Vocals & guitars
Mike Scuzzese - Guitar
Shawn Vales - Keyboards
Justin A. Slater - Bass
Paul Tremiti - Guitar
John La Valle - Electronic Percussion
Colin Ward - Drums
Oceans of Tears
~reviewed by Blu
"FUNHOUSE is the name and Blastorama Goth'n'Roll is the game"
A best of CD cataloging this Swedish band's European releases from the last five years, Oceans of Tears is available in the U.S. courtesy of Neue Asthetik and thank the gods for that. This one will make my end of the year top ten list. Maybe more U.S. DJs will play Funhouse now -- a band that freely admits its links to the goth scene in a lighthearted and fun way. There's a note inside the CD sleeve that says, "Recorded... in a haze of cheap perfume, cherry wine, roses, Jim Beam and burning candles." Now that's my kind of band. Formed in '86 with their first EP release in '87 and continuing strong to present day; I suspect Funhouse is much bigger in Europe. I've noted that their website has their most recent gig in London this past May and it seems they are currently in the studio hard at work on a new CD. As usual, I've got to say, where the hell has the U.S. been? I would have been dancin' my boots off to this stuff long before now, its sooooo excellent. The packaging itself is beautiful, wrapped in a lush green cover and minimal but intriguing band photos on the inside; the CD is a lovely black on black design and my only complaint is that there are no lyrics whatsoever in the CD sleeve or on their website (says the self-admitted lyric whore).
Musically this CD boasts 13 very accessible, very club worthy, danceable, meaty goth rock songs that for familiarity's sake are something of a blend of Sisters of Mercy, Clan of Xymox, The Mission and The Cult. And if the band will pardon the all too familar references, I'd like to add they by no means completely define or limit this band who does have its very own, original sound flavored by an apparent care-free and fun-loving attitude. Heavy guitars and bass lines propelled by a steady up-tempo beat, topped off with deep, powerful vocals and memorable melodies make this an oldschool goths' wet dream. Meltdown Magazine drooled, "If God was a rockstar, He would be FUNHOUSE" to which the band replied, "I'm sure ready to burn in Hell for that one."
The CD opens with a haunting intro called "Whispered in the Wind" -- ominous music accompanied by winds, desperate cries of women and children, tolling bells and operatic background vocals. (I tried to find what this was in reference to but came up with no hints anywhere**). They then launch into the first song, "Stand Alone" which bares a heavy influence by The Cult - especially in the guitar melodies but even more complimentary, I find that I like Mikael's vocals *much* better than anything I've ever heard from the Cult and god I cannot stop dancing to this thing, seriously. Its that good. And it just gets better with "Forever True" whose Xymox-like chorus is a sure hook - "I never promised you eternal love, never promised you a kingdom come..." "Voices" stands out as a very sexy song with vocals plunging into deeper registers and the Swedish accent more prevalent than on the other tracks. "Sea of Dreams" is a bit more laid back in tone and tempo while the biting, more aggressive theme in "It Won't Happen Again" is not so unlike Diary of Dreams (but with guitars - YaY for real instruments!). Skipping down a bit (because I'm really trying not to sound like the drooling fan girl that I am), "Dreamtime" and "Body & Soul" have lyrics made for swooning (even if "Body & Soul" is a Sisters' tune, its much tastier in this version), and rounding out the CD is the very sad and beautiful "The End (Wish You Were Here)" with its classic acoustic guitar, piano and emotional vocals.
All 13 tracks are superb, there's not a dud in the bunch as one would hope from a Best Of release. What a perfect CD for the U.S. scene to sink its teeth in. Note to DJs: next time some kid asks for the Sisters, play Funhouse instead. You and they, will be glad you did.
And really, what more is there to say then - bring in on fellas...we've got our appetites wet. Thanks for the treat!
** and like a knight in shinning armor, Jan Gajdos swoops in to save my curiosity on the intro by writing: "To satisfy your apparent curiosity a little - the bell tolls and cries are borrowed from "Apocalypse Now", just before Charlie's Point is made surfable. ( Scene 55 in the pre-script at http://film.tierranet.com/films/a.now/an_draft.html )"
1.Whispered in the Wind (intro)
2. Stand Alone
3. Forever True
4. Voices (short)
5. Sea of Dreams
6. It Won't Happen Again
7. Velvet Kiss
8. Out of the Blue
10. Body & Soul
11. Forgive & Forget
12. The Second Coming
13. The End (Wish You Were Here)
sure to check out their website for updates on their upcoming CD, gigs,
photos and for mp3 samples.
Asthetik Multimedia, Inc
by Warner Chappell Music Scandinavia
Tripping Back Into The Broken Days
~reviewed by Matthew
After two well-compiled retrospective CDs of outtakes and rarities, Lycia has snuck up on Projekt fans with an unexpected full-length release of new material. Most of us were under the impression that Estrella was the band’s final studio release, and that the husband and wife duo of Mike and Tara Van Portfleet had laid the long beloved darkwave outfit to rest. Thankfully, that is not the case as they have come out of their premature retirement and present us with Tripping Back Into The Broken Days.
A simpler and more straightforward release, the instrumentation for “…Broken Days” is stripped down to merely acoustic guitar, wonderfully atmospheric synthesizers, and the usual alternating vocal duties between Tara and Mike. Longtime fans of Lycia have probably noticed the ongoing fraction between the broodier material Mike usually sings and the more mischievous and honeyed material written by Tara. As much as I enjoy Tara’s voice on a number of tracks throughout the band’s discography (especially the Burning Circle & Then Dust material) I have always been more partial to the tracks sung by Mike. With this release, I feel much the same. His smoky whisper has been the definitive characteristic of Lycia for well over a decade now, so despite the lack of reverberated drums loops and processed guitar playing, this is unmistakably easy to spot as Lycia.
I might suggest the vibe of the album is similar to that invoked by 80’s Floydian psychedelia, mixed with a tinge of Death In June in their Rose Clouds/Symbols Shatter prime. It has the same lush, floating quality to it courtesy of Tara’s delicate keyboard contributions, and overall, I would say it is a much more relaxed album than anything the band has released in the past. The atmosphere is not quite as claustrophobic or dark, giving the songs a bit more room to breathe. However, for me personally, I don’t find this release to be as ‘exciting’ as earlier Lycia nor do I find it to be as emotionally powerful. The consistent chord strums and swirling keys sort of get a bit monotonous after you have gotten through a half dozen songs.
Nonetheless, I can see many people digging this – listeners can sort of glide along through this CD. It doesn’t demand much other than patience, and it can be quite a delightful trip if in the right kind of open mindset. I think perhaps I have been a little too anxious as of late to really enjoy the first half of this album properly as it wasn’t until toward the end that my attention was fully captured.
The pair of songs “Vacant Winter Day” and “Gray December Desert Day” gave me a much-needed shake, as both tracks illustrate that special kind of mood that only Lycia can successfully create. A very earnest darkness and desperation shapes these two songs, and both instantly recall and stand proudly among some of Lycia’s best work from the past.
“Halfway Between Here And There” is another stand out track, with a superb vocal melody, perfectly swelling and fading with the warm enveloping synths and acoustic strums and along with the opening track “Broken Days” stand as the two strongest tracks that work best with and show the duo the most comfortable with the Lycia ‘unplugged’ format.
While this album didn’t move me as much as their past works, I am truthfully thankful that both Mike and Tara are back and doing what they do best. This is a soothing, tender and consistent release, sure to please fans of both Ethereal and perhaps Apocalyptic Folk. As Mike himself has said, “[This] is our purest release. All the trappings have been stripped away, and it’s just like it was when I started writing music back in the early ‘80s: acoustic guitars and vocals, with me trying to express and escape.”
An intimate and vulnerable performance by both artists, Tripping Back Into The Broken Days may not have the same immediate stark and seductive appeal as other Lycia releases, but it is definitely a welcomed addition to their discography.
1.) Broken Days
2.) It’s Okay To Be Small
3.) The Last Winter
4.) Asleep In The River
5.) Fades Down Far
6.) Give Up The Ghost
7.) Vacant Winter Day
8.) Gray December Desert Day
9.) Blue Heron
10.) Halfway Between Here And There
11.) Cat & Dog
12.) Pale Blue Prevails
Mike and Tara Van Portfleet
– Official Site:
a thousand petals
~reviewed by Aaron Garland
Judging from the innocuous cover art, non-descript song titles, and an esoteric name like Maenad, here is something I would have easily passed over in the experimental/electronic/ambient bin of my local record store. As a former zine publisher, I used to get stuff like this in droves. Some were real gems, others were bad, but many were simply unmemorable. All of them, though, required a certain discipline to actually sit down and LISTEN.
Much is the case with this release, as I put on headphones and sat in a somewhat meditative fashion before hitting the play button. The first track, ‘consequence school’, presented an overwhelming, near impenetrable wall of ohm impedance whose low frequencies began massaging my temples. In the distant background, I heard singing voices that reminded me of scenes from “Midnight Express” about an American man confined to a Turkish prison. The result was simultaneously one of numbing relaxation and paranoia.
The second track, ‘in within’, continued the journey with more "synth-driven" backdrops laced with crackling fire, thunderstorms, deranged piano, and vague female voices. It was like being immersed inside someone else’s dream that could ultimately become your own if you imposed your imagination upon it.
The second half of this Cd took a noticeably different turn with ‘the one who is created’, a disturbing mix of sputtering electronics that sounded like the last gasps of a once formidable and powerful machine. A low, deep backward voice meshed into barely audible instructions of an autopsy procedure. The grand finale of ‘pigs My Fly’ featured intriguing and ominous keyboard loops completely offset by some fundamentalist talk-show lady droning on about satanic conspiracies and the destruction of Christians.
One of this Cd’s strong points is that there are no separate tracks. Instead, they overlap into one another which seems more effective to the overall mood that Maenad expresses here. An old college radio program where I used to live in Las Vegas called this kind of music “difficult listening”. Difficult perhaps for the obvious reasons, but even more so because it’s nearly impossible to digest or appreciate in convenient MP3 style sound bites, or even while driving a car. In other words, it is music that should be LISTENED TO.
The one who is created
Pigs my fly
Refined Clinical Research, LLC
14 Layne Road
Somerset, NJ 08873
Gathered Around the Oaken Table
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Mithotyn were among the elite in the viking metal scene until they decided to break up after their final 1999 release, Gathered Around the Oaken Table. Very few copies of the album were printed before their record label also called it quits, and up until now it has been impossible to secure a new copy of the album. And you just try prying away used copies from the people who own them. The select few individuals with out of print copies of this album defended them with viking weapons and a vigor unseen for ages past.
It's no wonder, then, that I was hopelessly defeated in my initial efforts to get this album. After three years of going without, however, Mithotyn's final opus received a proper US release courtesy of Hammerheart records.
Hammerheart, I love you.
Now that my life is virtually complete and I own Gathered Around the Oaken table, I thought to myself, "what better way to celebrate then to convert other people to the Viking order of Mithotyn?" So here I am! This album is a true classic in viking metal. Mithotyn had an uncanny ability to write classy guitar leads with a definite folk vibe and a clear melody. The guitar playing on their albums is truly infectious. The playing is technically very adept and covers the range of slow and folky to fast and all out heavy metal-y.
On "In The Clash of Arms" there are downright rocking riffs that are reminiscent of older heavy metal, and it provides a nice contrast to the usual Mithotyn sound. On one of my favorite tracks, Watchmen of the Wild, there is some positively frantic folk-metal riffing, speed picked lead lines, and an urgent choir that gives the piece a very fast paced and battle-like feel. Mithotyn's ability to write such consistently solid music with a lot of variation in tempo and dynamics is a rare quality in metal. Not a single riff, lead, or solo on the album feels forced.
The sense of pacing throughout the songs makes them at once catchy and memorable. "Chariot of Power" starts with a slow mid-tempo riff in the usual Mithotyn style. Soon after the guitar begins to speed up, eventually morphing the riff into a speed-picked version of the original melody with an accompanying blast beat. The song then slows down again. You don't usually see that kind of precise timing and pace in viking metal. After the tempo slows down again the vocalist starts alternating rasps and a very effective clean voice that give "Chariot of Power" a diverse feel. When Rickard Martinsson uses his clean voice or the band acts as a choir, the result is always spectacular. They use both elements tastefully and sparingly, however, so they're all the more effective when used. I've never been a big fan of Martinsson's rasping, though it isn't bad as far metal rasps go. The song continues to travel through a variety of tempos and feelings, making it one of Mithotyn's most memorable tunes.
It may sound like I'm gushing, but unless you've heard Mithotyn's work, you really have no idea how inspired the music on their CDs feel. I wonder if the band managed to travel back in time, chill with some vikings and participate in a few battles, then head back here to tell the story in the form of a metal album.
The bass playing is slightly less audible than on their last release, King of the Distant Forest, and the production is grittier overall. Nevertheless you can still hear some cool bass lines going on in the background. The grittier sound makes the music even more appropriate for those days when you find yourself wielding a large axe and hacking down all who oppose you. The abundance of awesome guitar leads is balanced perfectly with the aggressive and fast riffing to make the music both angry and melodic.
This CD comes highly recommended to any metal fan. I consider it Mithotyn's best work, with King of the Distant Forest coming in second. If you've managed to avoid Mithotyn until now, definitely give them a chance. With their music re-released in the US this is the best time to get ahold of their material. It really is too bad the band decided to break up, but at least Hammerheart has given us the chance to hear their final output. Oh, and if you're specifically a fan of viking metal, you really should already own this CD or be on your way to buy it this instant. It's that mandatory.
1.) Lord of Ironhand
2.) Watchmen of the Wild
3.) In the Clash of Arms
4.) Hearts of Stone
5.) The Well of Mimir
6.) Chariot of Power
7.) Nocturnal Riders
8.) The Guardian
10.) Guided by History
11.) The Old Rover
Rickard Martinsson - vocals, bass and choirs
Stefan Weinerhall - guitar and choirs
Karsten Larsson - drums and choirs
Karl Backman - guitar, keyboard, choirs, and lead vocals on tracks 8 and 11
4 Song Demo
~reviewed by Blu
I have written and read the name "Myssouri" so many times that I've nearly forgotten how to spell the state. The other day at work when filling out an address I actually had to think hard about it. Just goes to show you where my priorities lay (or my obsessions). It's acknowledging just how much I've written about them that bothers me with this review. Can I say anything new or vibrant about a band that continues to impress me? Do I have enough worthy adjectives in my vocabulary?
Over a year since I attempted to unravel the mystery that is Michael Bradley in an interview and nearly as long since a new release, I am no less fascinated with the man and the band. They are still perched high above on a pedestal shrouded in dark veils of intrigue. After a year or so of rocky lineup changes, Michael seems to have rounded up a solid core of musicians and new songs have poured fourth like blood out of fresh wounds. I had heard from a few people in Atlanta that Myssouri's new songs were incredible live. I bit my tongue, wished I was there, and waited patiently for a new recording. In January of 2002 they finished recording a demo with the new lineup in hopes of pursuing some record label interest. Kindly, they sent me one a few months ago and it hasn't been far from my CD player since. My only complaint of course, is that it's only four songs. I am greedy when it comes to music I love.
The music is as tight and as complete as the new band photos will lead you to believe (they even look more like a group now don't they?) and the power and intellect in the lyrics remain a strong and driving force behind this band. What's changed, and perhaps for the better, is that they've gotten a little bolder and a little more punchy in their delivery. Michael's loosened up his singing style quite a bit and the percussion has gone the way of a dirty rock n roll beat with a slight hint of the blues. Never fear though, the unique qualities that made Myssouri such a stand out band are still there - the slide guitar, the western twang, the dark sentiments -- all there like a well worn pair of riding gloves.
The first song on the demo and the one I've heard commented on most often is "The Floorless Jig." Michael's love of Westerns is evident here as he carves out a brutal story snarling and growling. The music is complex and perfected -- minimalistic when it needs to be to let feature parts shine through. Slide guitars slither at just the right moments and the drums are predatory set against the driving lines of bass and rhythm guitar. The guitar solo in the middle is nothing short of being delta-blues infused. Add to that a compelling story and you have a perfect Myssouri song:
the bottle made me do it. Now I'm famous like a saint.
The man says, "You will rue it."
I say, "I am the great I ain't!"
He says, "You got a last request, son, you better speak up now."
I look boldly from the scaffold, say, "I need a bigger crowd!
I need an audience all tense to see me swing!
They can tell my ma how they saw my floorless jig."
"Landlocked Blues" is next. It's a melodic song with a mid-tempo beat. What's noticeable here is the nice back up vocals provided by band mates giving the chorus an extra thickness and texture. And even though I don't think he ever does it purposefully (for he's a naturally talented lyric writer), Michael's use of alliteration and rhyme is superb. Words that should ordinarily tongue-tie people roll of his lips as smooth and as slick as oil:
"Catalog of Woes" might just be my favorite new track. The song structure itself is different and quite affective. It's composed of stanzas that utilize repetitive lines to drill in an phrase. The drum beats here are straight forward and pounding emphasizing this repetition until the chorus comes in the music breaks and becomes more melodic with an almost cadence like march to it. It drives and pushes and builds into a riotous climax at the end. The guitars are full blown Western on this one and quite glorious in their big, fat sound. I've yet to unravel the lyrical content of this song -- something to pick Michael's brain on in the future I think. Overall this is a song with a giant sound and with the religious over tones come the inevitable Nick Cave comparisons.
...But the reason for my reason, and something without a name.
But mostly I encountered, on that odious odyssey, enough broken loathesome living as to pluck the heart from me...
Then I road out a hellish gale upon a wild and churning sea.
When a massive whale rose, and rolled, and man, he looked right into me.
And brother at that moment, for the first time, I felt freed of the slurs and oaths and omens, and petty ways that tempered me.
But it wasn't long, my brother, before I felt landlocked once again. And a witless, dim accomplice in the wicked ways of men.
Well, they shed me of my wonder and they shod me in my woe. And they rumoured of a river that roils in black below.
And finally we have "Orphan Song" - as bleak and as black as you'd expect from Myssouri. A slower pace but nonetheless effective, the lyrics are full of symbolism and hidden meanings, dark analogies and surreal imagery:
As I listen to this CD for the hundredth time; I am thinking how grateful I am just to know of this band -- just to hear this awe-inspiring music. By far it's the most masterful, musically talented and skilled CDs I've heard this year - easily. Why this band has not been snatched away from us into the realms of big labels and international tours is a mystery to me. The rest of the world has no clue what it's missing. There's so few bands that I can think of on this level - and they're all legends by now. Myssouri will be there one day too. Just wait and see.
Liege and lord, whom I've abhorred, I do entreat, I do adjure: Liege and lord, restore my child to me.
Lord and liege, with deepest grief am I beset, so I beseech: Lord and liege, restore my child to me.
Liege and lord, whom I've ignored, now I do plead, and I implore: Liege and lord, restore my child to me.
Lord and liege, my broken plea, with broken throat, for clemency: Lord and liege, restore my child to me.
Innocent! Innocent! Innocent of what?
Lord of pain. Suzerain. The useless sun, it shines again. Lord of pain: Restore my child to me.
Lord of war. Manticore. Source of all fallacious lore. Lord of war: Restore my child to me.
Lord of death. Monolith. A feather drifts on my wasted breath. Lord of death: Restore my child to me.
Innocent! Innocent! Innocent of what?
1. Floorless Jig
2. Landlocked Blues
3. Catalog of Woes
4. Orphan Song
mp3 page: www.mp3.com/myssouri
To End All Hope
~reviewed by Matthew
This Halifax outfit makes the claim that “Doom Metal lives!” in their brief press release, which accompanies the band’s second EP “To End All Hope.” Frequent readers know I will raise my wine to that! Firstly, I must say kudos for the lovely cover art, courtesy of none other than Caspar David Friedrich, an early 19th Century landscape painter. Good choice guys! While The Prophecy’s music is heavily shaded by the moods and atmospheres attributed to Doom Metal, they incorporate elements of early Death Metal, Thrash, and traditional metal into the mix. Whether or not this is an asset or a drawback regarding the band is a matter of personal taste.
This EP’s first track, “Silent Descent” would definitely throw off fans of Doom Metal with its rapid pace, shrill guitar solos, and frantic vocal work. Beginning an album claiming to be ‘Doom Metal’ like this may be a bad move on the band’s part – gives the album a false and misleading start. If I judged albums by the first track, I probably wouldn’t have given the rest of this a listen.
Fortunately I skipped ahead and was immediately impressed by “Till Light Enshrouds,” which I consider as the first real track of the album, as well as the best. The intro opens with a moody restraint, resonating with deep piano chords and the sound of falling rain, tolling bells, and a theatrical sense of gloom, all culminating to a sudden explosion of dreary power chords. Icy synthesized choirs flesh out the regal Gothic wasteland, accompanied by sullen spoken word. Before long, the song sinks deeper into an atmosphere of unbridled Death/Doom, as monstrous vocals tear across a dense backdrop of crunching guitar and ominous church organs. This is definitely more like it, and it appears they are definitely drinking from the same village well as My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. Some subtle violins speed up the climactic center of the song, distant and haunting before the song takes a sharp and breathtaking left turn toward frantic death metal (done the right way). When this nine-minute epic finally winds down to its finale, the Doom Metal enthusiast is left with a satisfied feeling, and despite its amateur rawness, any aficionado of this genre will walk away as if from a near-religious experience.
The remaining two tracks (which flow together fluidly and compliment one another quite well) continue along in the same vein, and though noteworthy, lack the power and confidence of “Till Light Enshrouds.” The Doom Metal influence is still the most noticeable characteristic of the band’s style here, but the traditional metal and death metal influences peak through more so on this track than any others.
As a reviewer, I am kind of uncertain what to say here. While The Prophecy does a good job on the second half of this EP at bringing all their influences together harmoniously and effectively, and stand out a bit among the pack, they do a much better job with “Till Light Enshrouds,” which is 100% dark Gothic Doom Metal in the style of many other bands. So should they continue to try to find their own sound? Or should they do what others are already doing, but continue to contribute more quality to the genre? My guess is probably the latter, as though there is a wealth of bands playing Doom Metal, there is still room for a few more great acts. I personally don’t want the mix – I prefer 100% Doom and I think these guys have it in them to produce some remarkably morose and memorable material.
One thing is for certain, and that is that the first track needs to be scrapped, for another mediocre death metal song contributes very little to the world of dark music and it distracts from the finely wrought gloom that makes the rest of the band’s material shine. I am thinking that the band is still in their early stages, and with a more concentrated direction The Prophecy could comfortably stand among the ranks of other leading Doom Metal bands. A few more walks along the moors, some more candlelit practice sessions, and a few more evening reads of Gothic novels should do. In the meantime, I can say that the gem “Till Light Enshrouds” is well worth the price of investigation. Check it out at the mp3 site below.
1.) Silent Descent
2.) Till Light Enshrouds
3.) Cursed Earth
4.) The Killing Fields
Greg O’Shea – guitars, bass, keyboards
Matt Lawson – vocals
John Bennett – drums
Karen Macloud - Violin
Prophecy – Official Page:
Prophecy – Mp3 Page:
~reviewed by Jezebel
One - bands really need to stop sending out press kits that seem more like a thesaurus wet dream and less like a description of a band.
Two - bands need to STOP, absolutely STOP shying away from labels that they so completely embody. It's annoying when any band does it. Accept the label and move on. Please. Doth protest too much.
Three - despite this (or perhaps in spite of this), sweatysuedelips is a good, solid industrial band.
I don't know if the music is "designed to rattle rafters with a pulsating, elaborate sonic indulgence native to the band's hometown, where like electronic music, the unforgiving clang of the auto assembly line demands man and machine marry in the name of creation." Um, what? Okay - you are from Detroit and a perfect place for industrial music…but um….what?
Thank goodness they are good.
A bit of Nine Inch Nails, a bit of Curve with some Radiohead definitely thrown in, this band really has something to offer. They are tight, well produced bunches who seem to make sense. They fall together well. And although not pushing the boundaries too much with their own work, the cover version of Kate Bush's "Running up that Hill" shows precisely what they can do when given the right opportunity and quality (shall we say legendary) music and lyric to work with.
I think Bret Haupt's vocals are captivating and I am sure that there is much more within him that meets the ear - the cover version only giving us a bit, a little kiss of it. Saying that, I will through in a nu-metal influence, Linkin Park. Yes, I could hear some of that on the CD, or is it vice versa?
There are only five offerings on this CD and that is unfortunate. A full CD would be more than welcomed as opposed to this tease.
I don't know if the band believes their own press, or the overly adjectived descriptions given to them, and I hope they don't. There are too many bands that believe in the pretentious OTT drivel press releases have become and somehow lose something along the way (um, perhaps humbleness?)
I want a full length CD from this band….and then, I will dive right in.
Bret Haupt - vocals, guitar, synths, programming
Ken Roberts - bass, synth, programming
Jessie Laney - synths and samples
Mark Damian - drums
1) Swallow to Renew
2) To Idle Eyes
4) This Matters
5) Running Up that Hill
At Sixes and Sevens
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Here's a shocker for you: for once -perhaps the only time in the recorded history of man- a successful band has split up and yielded not one... but TWO excellent bands as a result. This kind of mitosis is rare indeed, though I'm sure all you armchair historians will argue the point. A single listen to Sirenia's new album 'At Sixes and Sevens' or Tristania's 'World of Glass' will demonstrate to even the most ardent skeptic that addition by subtraction can actually happen. The subtraction in question came when Morton Veland extracted himself from Tristania after their album Beyond The Veil. Citing creative differences, he left them and formed Sirenia... and I for one am glad he did.
Tristania's Beyond The Veil was a fine album. It had gothy-metal-symphonic-black-doom flavor in spades, and provided a satisfying repast to those hungry for such dark sustenance. In retrospect though, it never scaled the creative summits that either Sirenia or Tristania have conquered since. It also seems clear that both parties wanted to incorporate sounds into their work that the other wasn't interested in. 'What might those sounds be', you wonder, 'that caused the rift leading to Sirenia's birth'? You're in luck- I've heard the album and will be happy to elaborate!
*flowery metaphor alert* If I might liken the music Sirenia produces to a physical object, I would compare it to an ocean of sound- one ravaged by storms that only occasionally abate and afford a moment of calm. It would be an ocean densely packed with diverse elements, and posessing an ever shifting surface that belies a steady foundation... a force of nature- vast, deep and mysterious. The fertile mind of Mr. Veland has found a way to mix many genres into an epic sea of music that is both gloomy and yet packed with energizing riffs... always dark and bold, gripping and compelling. Like Poseidon himself, Veland wields the elements at his disposal to create a mighty wave of music that will crash against your shores, threatening to overwhelm you with its unchecked power.
... I'll stop using the maritime metaphors now. Got a little carried away.
The stylings of many other bands are evoked, yet not imitated in Sirenia's music. The doomy thrash riffs of Paradise Lost in its middle years (Icon, Draconian Times) show up quite often... though Sirenia performs them with an energy Paradise Lost rarely displayed. Less frequently, a vocal line will unexpectedly -but not inappropriately- ring out which would feel right at home in a Depeche Mode song. Many elements of Tristania's former sound understandably make their way into Sirenia's arsenal as well. The bands share members both former and present. Violinist Pete Johansen and vocalist Jan Kenneth Barkved worked with Tristania on 'Beyond The Veil' and 'World of Glass' in addition to their duties in Sirenia.
A focus on vocal diversity is apparent throughout the album. Ethereal female vocals courtesy of French singer Fabienne Gondamin grace many of the tracks on 'At Sixes and Sevens'. She seems content to be part of the greater whole though, rather than commanding the show like Vibeke Stene in Tristania. Continuing with the 'French singers' theme, there are numerous appearances by a very dramatic classically trained French choir throughout the album. Further, no less than three male vocalists trading off clean lines and deathy rasps round out the bevy of singers. Throw some keyboards, a 12-string guitar, heavy electric licks, and violin solos on top of all the singing, and you should get the picture that Sirenia makes a lot of noise. Veland and producer/mixer Terje Refsnes have taken this wall of sound and drenched it in reverb, creating a truly epic tone that fits the album spectacularly.
Truly, any fan of metal in general should be able to find plenty to enjoy in Sirenia's debut album. From melodic death metal to symphonic black... from gothic metal to just plain gothic... even progressive metal.. all these genres blend into an album of such scope and intensity that it may well be called a classic in years to come.
2.) Sister Nightfall
3.) On The Wane
4.) In A Manica
5.) At Sixes And Sevens
7.) Manic Aeon
8.) A Shadow Of Your Own Self
9.) In Sumerian Daze
Morton Veland: vocals, guitar
Kristian Gundersen: vocals, guitar
Hans Henrik Varland: keyboard
Fabienne Gondamin: vocals
Pete Johansen: violin
Jan Kenneth Barkved: vocals
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Terror 2000 is back for their second release to kick the asses of thrash fans everywhere. Why kick the asses of their fans and not the non-believers? Faster Disaster may be full of violence and head bangin' riffs, but it's also undeniably fun, a quality you don't see too often in metal. This music is made especially for thrash fans, and if you didn't like thrash in the early 90's, you probably won't change your mind now. The only real analysis you need of Terror 2000's sound is that it's straight forward thrash with fast and energetic riffing, crazy metal solos, speedy drum fills and rhythms, driving bass lines, and fast, angry vocals from hell.
Faster Disaster is straight out of the early 90's but with today's production. And if you liked output by Slayer, Exodus, or early Testament, you'll no doubt appreciate Terror 2k's aggressive and high-octane thrash approach. The lyrics are also in your face and to the point. As violent as some of the songs can get with the razor sharp riffing and extreme vocals courtesy of Soilwork's Speed, it's easy to see these guys are out to have a good time and aren't taking themselves too seriously. On "Formula Flame Feast" Speed even shouts "Go get 'em Cliff!" as Darkane guitarist Cliff is about to launch into a fast guitar solo.
Bjorn "Speed" Strid and Klas "Cliff" Ideberg are the most well-known members of Terror 2000, but there are also guest appearances throughout the CD from other musicians in Soilwork, Darkane, and The Defaced. The end result is a truly ass kicking thrash album that will appeal to any fans of the genre. It's hard to call the music original, but at the same time Terror 2000 isn't ripping off or copying any specific band or thrash sound. They're making their own mark on old-school thrash that is rockin' and good fun.
Apparently Speed lost copies of the lyrics for about half of the songs on this release, so he had this message put in the booklet: "If you as a listener has a clue what the hell I'm singing on the rest of the songs, feel free to e-mail me."
I suspect it's not a coincidence that Nuclear Blast calls the music "beer-driven thrash metal." If you weren't sure before, now you know the band just got together to have a bunch of fun and tear things up! It's also relieving to know that I'm not the only one who has trouble understanding what Speed is yelling.
case you're still reading, I'll make this simple - you're sure to like
this album if:
a) You hate Metallica's new output and want to hear a band play quality thrash
b) You dig fun and rocking metal with tight riffs and outrageous solos
c) Amidst the haze of rasps and growls coming from modern metal bands you quietly wonder what happened to the shouted choruses you used to drunkenly yell along with
That's right folks, if you fit any of the above, you will like Terror 2000's music. It's the most straight ahead and yet enjoyable thrash release I've heard in quite some time. There isn't a lot of variation across the songs since many follow the same format, but the quality is consistent throughout. A little At The Gates influence even creeps into the sound to mix things up. With all of the guest appearances the songs are kept even more interesting, so do yourself a favor and give Faster Disaster a listen.
1.) Back with attack
2.) Formula flame feast
4.) Infernal outlaw
5.) Burnout in blood
6.) Faster disaster
7.) Menace of brutality
8.) Stalker in the night
9.) I'm speed at night
10.) Killing machine
Bjorn 'Speed' Strid - Screams & thunder bass
Klas "Cliff" Ideberg - String torturer No. 1
Nick Sword - String torturer No. 2
Erik "The Engine" Thyselius - Burn-out battery
2000 Official Website:
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Imagine turning on your favorite hard-rock/alternative commercial radio station and hearing music that didn't come out of the Corporate Cloning Vats. If you're like me, you actually don't have a favorite commercial radio station and disdain them all with equal fervor, but thats neither here nor there. What -is- here, in my hands... well, on my desktop since I can't type and hold it at the same time... is Tapping The Vein's debut album the Damage. Now, the reason I bring up unsightly radio grade alterna-rock when discussing this fine album is that the two share many similarities. Thankfully though, Tapping The Vein manages to impart a degree of soul and raw emotion into their music that generally is found lacking when you cruise your FM dial.
All this talk of commercial radio is making me feel a bit dirty, but I must persist. Tapping The Vein has taken a familiar formula (several in fact) and made it palatable by adding in a spicy dash of their secret ingredient: singer Heather Thompson. Her voice isn't perfect, nor is her pitch... but it is posessed of an honesty and desire you can't get from FemaleSingerClone Mk. IV (tm, C AOL/Time Warner). Thompson's distinctive vocal stylings range from a plaintive clean tone (perhaps recalling Gwen Stefani from No Doubt if she were rougher around the edges) to a ferocious, gravelly shout that seems to come straight from the gut. She often saves the moderately simplistic lyrics from becoming tiresome with her dynamic delivery. What would otherwise be pleasant but generally forgettable music is greatly enhanced by ms. Thompson's energy and heart.
What of the music then? Stylistically it springs from the same well as most radio-friendly alternative rock. The musicians play their instruments adroitly but without any great panache. Clean and lightly distorted electric guitars provide the bulk of the rhythm. The sound never verges into particularly heavy, dark, or fast territory, usually staying around mid-tempo and middle of the road intensity. Its worth noting however that over the course of the album there is enough variation in the approach to each song that Tapping The Vein's sound never becomes stale or stagnant. The variety is oftentimes attributable to the use of synth / electronica elements through many of the tracks which reminded me a bit of 'Pretty Hate Machine' era NIN (though less aggressive). The synth elements are not prominent in most cases, but instead provide just enough of a different flavor to each track to keep things interesting.
Cranking up the Compare-O-Matic again, results show that people who like The Gathering's recent output would likely enjoy 'the Damage'. Both bands build a somber, melodic atmosphere, but Tapping The Vein adds more aggression to the mix (largely drawn from Heather Thompson's singing). Occasionally a more optimistic sounding, radio friendly hook will pop its head up and the music will take on a tone that strikes me as being decidedly Kings-X'ish... which is to say: downcast, but with a ray of hope.
On the whole, Tapping The Vein presents a solid effort on their debut album. 'the Damage' is packed with catchy songs driven mainly by Heather Thompson's engaging vocals, and will appeal to those who want to hear a fresh new voice accompanying familiar alterna-rock. If you're in the mood for a trip to the more sedate side of dark music, Tappin The Vein will be happy to give you a lift.
1.) The Ledge
3.) Sugar Falls
6.) The Damage
11.) Falling In
the Vein is:
Heather Thompson: vocals
Mark Burkert: guitar
Joe Rolland: bass
Eric Fisher: drums / programming
The Vein Official Website:
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
There are a number of ways for an artist to deal with hopelessness and despair. S/he can turn it into a condemnation of evil, or a testament to human survival. S/he can attach the obligatory Hollywood Happy Ending, or follow Greek tragedy's grim path toward defeat. S/he can even use the ironic distance of "Camp" to transmute suffering into a "Hand-Stapled-to-Forehead" fashion statement. Daniel Ross, recording as UNITUS, has chosen a different tack altogether. Surrounded by smooth, bland darkness, Ross has looked squarely into the wasteland which is today's city -- and today's synthpop scene. His reply, Cross Contamination is harsh as a shopping-mall shooting, a celebration/indictment of modern culture and a reminder of Industrial music's potential raw power.
In 1913 Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo wrote of "... the sounds of water, air, or gas in metal pipes, the purring of motors ) which breathe and pulsate with indisputable animalism), the throbbing of valves, the pounding of pistons, the screeching of gears, the clatter of streetcars on their rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of awnings and flags." (If you call yourself an Industrial fan, yet haven't yet heard of Russolo, then get thee hence to Luigi Russolo and the Art of Noise without further delay!) Cross Contamination shows that Ross has learned the art of transforming grind-into-groove. The tight riff which underpins "Obmutecre" charges through the crumbling landscape like Cthulhu looking for a snack, while in "Cable Winder" a heavy guitar line rumbles forward on a bed of pumping machines and whipcrack percussion.
Despair transformed into beauty has been a staple, and a stereotype, since Poe was in diapers. Despite the brutality and dissonance, Cross Contamination has some moments of eerie, mournful grandeur. "Metal to Ashes" strings sampled machine noises together into a hypnotic requiem, while "Recombinant" recasts screeches and caterwauls into atonal fanfares. It is not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is it unrewarding. Many "hardcore" artists wallow in noise-for-the-sake-of-noise. The better ones -- artists like Ross -- understand that Industrial music should not only destroy outdated aesthetics, but should create something new in their place. At its best, Cross Contamination has the beauty of a Deco skyscraper, or of Rotwang's robot in Metropolis.
If you're looking for an introduction to Noise, or for an alternative to "alternative" music, this might well be a good start. It's challenging stuff -- I reviewed this CD in fifteen-minute shifts to avoid headaches, nausea and irritability -- but it's well-crafted. I wouldn't recommend it to the faint of heart or eardrums ... but it's got a good beat and most of the time you can dance to it.
All aspects of composition and execution carried out by Daniel Ross
3. Metal to Ashes
5. Cable Winder
~reviewed by Blu
One of the things I've come to appreciate most about the Southern California Deathrock scene is the amount of people in it that sincerely care about the music. Even though it comprises a smaller percentage of the rather large gothic population; I believe it has a higher percentage of active DJ's, promoters, bands and musicians dedicated to supporting this scene and moreover who support each other. A prime example is Dave Skott (Release the Bats) who has on more than one occasion bounded over to me with great excitement to share some kind of tidbit about a band. At any given night you'll more likely find the crowds at deathrock clubs talking about music, about this band or that or who's touring where rather than who's wearing what and slept with who. A few Release the Bats ago, Dave handed me this promo Cd with a glimmer in his eyes. "Have you ever heard of The Vanishing? They're from San Francisco and they're absolutely GREAT!" And no I hadn't "...but are you giving me this CD to keep? Really? Right on. " Infact, he was handing out several that night all in the name of spreading the word about this band. So that is how I got my hands on The Vanishing's 3 song promo.
This is good stuff. Better than good infact, its fantastic. Its strong, aggressive, clean yet gritty and the coolest thing, at least to me, is that it's female fronted. And no, this is no small voiced cooing girl. None of the silly frilly fluff that makes me nauseated. No, this is balls to the wall punked out heart wailing gut wrenching singing. They call it "death disco" on their webpage. Certainly it is unique and innovative.
"Disaffectionate" starts out with a retro synth line, followed by a fat, bouncy bass line that's immediately addictive. You're grooving before the lyrics kick in. Then watch out - snarling like a revamped version of Joan Jett the vocals come in for an added burst of adrenaline. There's a nice punk undercurrent spiked by honest to goodness old fashioned rock sensibility.
"Get in the Car" is my favorite of the three if I had to pick. It starts out rather unassuming but quickly picks up speed. The drumming runs tribal on this one and again, there's a retro sounding synth. The key to this song is the vocals. Serpent-like, they creep along dangerously while the sense of anticipation builds. When the chorus finally kicks in there's some great guitar work going on that purposely sounds like screaming and struggling. These "wailing" noises are not overpowering but absolutely MAKE this song. The chorus is aggressive " get in the car now, I want to see you on the floor, where you belong now, I want to see you on the floor..." I am reminded slightly of Blondie's early songs.
And finally, "Assisting Suicides" is their hardest track on this CD. It starts out with a hard bass line and never lets up, the vocals in perfect counterpoint. And get this, it morphs at the end in a strange, space-age instrumental complete with sax!
I cannot recommend this band enough. Anyone who's into gothrock, punk or deathrock will love it. They're certainly one of the more talented bands I've heard in a long while and certainly not par for the course. I expect great things to come...
Jessie (subtonix, knives)
brian (knives, robotronik)
sadie (the lies, the husbands)
in the bat haus - upcoming release on cochon records, 4 tracks, 10". release date: 6/1/2002.
on this promo:
2. Get in the Car
3. Assisting Suicides
Queen Of Spades
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
This isn’t new, but if they’re new to you I guess that counts and I have been playing this non-stop at night for quite some time, so it has had a definite effect, offering a more balanced, basic counterpoint to much of the heavily streamlined and well-nourished material I’ve received.
It’s an exercise in frugality but works time and time again, stuck midway between musical signposts suggesting Industrial, Ambient or Ethereal destinations, and with a credible past – including Jeanne D’Arc and Camerata Mediolanense - they’ll not let you down, wherever you end up.
These are scene people, as they also have their print zine, and have often organised events in Italy. They make their records, obviously for the love it, without any grand outlay. They are prime representatives or the very essence of Goth of the sleepy, miasmic variety, and a simple majesty comes through on these six brittle tracks.
has depressive gloom and string synth simplicity like a bad fairytale,
with a nice motif running through which makes me think, hmmm, Angel episode
This very measured, rather than flowing, approach helps to maintain a graceful contemplatative feel. It’s a piquant blend, for when you walk those city streets in the early hours, convinced you’re in your own video game, where menace lurks round every corner but you don’t give a fuck because you’re lost in the sounds.
‘Le Silence’ strews clattering percussion across the chillier depths wild, fractured vocals - anyone remember KaS Product? – but there’s a couple of small gaps in momentum and it ends poorly. ‘I Dannati’ has very attractive keyboards, the vocals are confidently powered out despite a lack of strength, giving it a very moving groundswell and a tribal ‘Queen Of Contrast’ is like a lo-fi Creatures; too orthodox for ambient, yet too deep for ethereal. Small, slow-paced, even when the shrill guitar appears, there’s a beat but no rhythm, and another unnecessarily abrupt end. By singing in English Serena lacks inflection, and just has emphasised intonation, as Anja once did in Xmal, creating atonal distraction.
‘Lost In Time’ is a funny one. An odd sound is achieved from word go, like a sci-fi Gregorian treat, with the bolshy vocal placement reminding me of early Danse Society, and not many bands do that. It’s an interesting, fulfilling interlude, but with a link to the past. There’s a lot of the original Goth sounds at work here, yet ‘Fuge del Nulla’ has very pretty, ethereal vocals, and creates a nicely disembodied, modern sound.
A highly personalised sound, you can rely on this for artistic substance. It feels cold, but marble can create something beautiful. I hope, in time, they can carve it out.
ROSA SELVAGGIA - Zine
~reviewed by Blu
Voltaire is just about the only musician I know who has the balls to take a personal situation and make it public. What's more, he makes fun of it and puts it on his new CD - call it humor as catharsis if you will. By now his break up with his long time partner is no secret to most people. At Projektfest he announced to the entire crowd that it was his first convention as a "single" man - lord forbid. His latest CD, Boo Hoo is described on the Projekt website as "a break up record for lonely hearts with an ax to grind!" and inside the CD sleeve in the credits he writes, "Dedicated to 'you know who' with love, hate, bitterness and reconciliation." So while the songs on this CD are as funny and as witty as you've come to expect from Voltaire, I cannot help but wince just slightly knowing that some of it is based in truth. Perhaps he should tour with Funhouse when they come to the U.S. They could call it the "Songs About My Ex" tour and we could all show up for a night of drunken musical therapy. Count me in.
Now, let's get to the music shall we?
The CD starts out with "Future Ex Girlfriend" - a song with pop sensibility accented by his trademark violin player as he laments the sad story of falling in love with a beautiful model who doesn't have a bit of sense. Funny, I thought that's what guys wanted? wink wink. Hmmm. Renaissance man indeed. The writing is superb as we've come to expect. In what seems like a straight foreword song, he sneaks in smart and sassy lyrics:
I don't care that you're a model"I'm Sorry" starts off in a brisk gypsy flavor and is a slightly more serious song. No witty punches here. Infact, this is quite radio worthy in an indie-band sort of way. The melody is catchy and the strings add a nice texture while the beat is quite danceable. Track 3, "#1 Fan," actually starts off with a bit of electric guitar before the strings kick in. It's a song, quite obviously, about a rabid fan -- something I'm sure he's had his fill of. What stands out about this track musically is the vocal styling on this. Instead of his usual half-spoken, half-sung method there's some honest to goodness singing here in the chorus that's quite good (I've often thought he sounded eerily like another Projekt artist - Thanatos - has anyone ever seen them together in the same room? eh?).
Cause let me say it's clear to tell
That your brain is shot to hell
And no one cares that you love Keanu
Oh, what's the difference anyway
Everybody knows he's gay
Okay, I don't really know that
But let's face it
He's too hot to be straight!
You'll find no humor in "Where's the Girl?" which is a straight faced heart-felt ballad. Again, the more serious side of him has induced a nice vocal style that's a bit more refined than on his previous CDs. Could it be that we're seeing a slightly more down to earth side of Voltaire? Track 5, more along the lines of "I'm Sorry," is "See You In Hell" - more self-pitying sentiment that finally ends in determination to move on with a dash of bitterness.
Track 6 is "Bachelor(ette)" and if any of you are on his mailing list you'll know that he's been infatuated with Bjork for quite some time. This is a cover of one of her songs (clearly an excuse for him to contact her don't you think? hahahaa. Sly devil.) I couldn't quite imagine him covering one of her songs because she has such a unique voice, but surprisingly, it turned out rather well as he treated the vocalizations with respect. He does indeed have a really nice, velvety smooth singing voice when he wants to. I think this calls for a duet...
More material to wallow in comes your way with the lounge - nah - even jazz inspired - "Hello Cruel World" and smart ass comebacks run amuck in "Irresponsible." Anyone who's seen Voltaire perform in the past few years after he spent a few conventions with the Cruxshadows knows that he loves to make fun of vocalist Rogue in a friendly manner. The tradition continues here as he quips,
I'd never lie, my hair requires aerosolMy favorite track on the CD is up next - yes - it's "The Vampire Fan Club." Appropriately done in a rockabilly style, it's almost like the musical version of his Oh My Goth comic books. The song is so f**king hilarious that I cannot help but giggle every single time I hear it (not to mention it's a riot to dance to). If you cannot laugh at yourself folks... well then. (Lyrics provided for your amusement at the end of this review).
I want it ten feet tall
And I don't care about the hole in the sky
If Rogue don't mind, why should I?
It just so happens I'm that kind of guy.
Cartoon fanatics should recognize "BRAINS!" from Grim and Evil on the Cartoon Network. Again - great rockabilly flair here in the vocals while the strings keep it folksy.
"Graveyard Picnic, " another favorite of mine, is melodic and beautiful musically and filled with more gothic symbolism than any other song I know. Poe would be proud. (Fans of Damien Youth would like this quite a bit I suspect).
Track 12, "...About a Girl," would drive me insane if I had to listen to it too many times. Don't get me wrong, it's funny, but once is enough for this big -band -crooner styled song. I keep picturing a nightmarish scene of Voltaire dressed in polyester in some 70's martini lounge.
Another rather serious track, "Let It Go" chimes in at 13 and then his cover of a Tori Amos song, "Caught a Lite Sneeze" finishes it off. The only Cleopatra CD I actually bought last year was the ungodly tacky Tori Amos tribute CD solely in order to get this Voltaire track. While the other bands made half-hearted attempts to seriously cover the queen of whiney drama while not doing one innovative thing to the songs; Voltaire picked the one track, that when sung by him was completely hilarious. Musically the production is gorgeous. Backed by trip-hop electronic beats and infused with his signature set of strings it works well as a club track and differentiates itself from the original enough to be interesting. However, hearing HIM sing, "Boys on my left side, boys on my right side, boys in the middle but you're not here... I need a big loan, from the girl zone," never fails to make me giggle. Infact, I think I like this version better than the original.
Over all, Boo Hoo is a solid and worthy release from Voltaire. The comedy that you've come to expect from him is here in doses but there's alot more of the serious stuff going on and it seems as though the music has gotten a bit more serious too. His vocals are better and more confident and the orchestration of the stringed instruments through out is nothing short of breath taking. Props to Voltaire for making classical instrumentation part of our current music talent pool. We need more of that.
The Vampire Club
Fangs were flying, capes were torn
Hell hath no fury like a Vampire scorned
The number one rule in this game:
Never call one by his real name
Wigs were pulled, top hats were crushed
By pointy boots in a rush
And Boris at the bar orders a Bud and says,
“It’s just another night at the Vampire Club.”
Missi lost a fang in the ladies room
And we all laughed and called her “Snaggletooth!”
And Dee was mad cause he broke his cane
And he flushed his contacts down the drain
There was so much angst after the fight
Vlad and Akasha broke up that night
While some rivet-heads danced in a puddle of goo
That use to be “Father” you-know-who!
Well, it’s hard to believe but we’re still around
And when we hang out it’s always upside down
Dressed in black from toe to head singing,
“Bela Lugosi’s still undead!”
A gaggle of Goths is a peaceful site
We’d do anything to avoid a fight
But if you really want to see some gore and blood
Wait ‘til the Ravers come to the Vampire club!
Wisdom Like Silence
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
In UK goth circles, when the talk turns to the current crop of up-and-coming guitar bands of the scene, the same few contenders almost always get namechecked: The Faces Of Sarah. Corrosion. Belisha. The Ghost Of Lemora, maybe. And one or two others.
Strange and illogical though this may be, it seems nobody ever mentions Waterglass. Now, that's odd. You'd think that Waterglass would be an immediate hit with everyone who likes a bit of well-crafted guitar-goth, done with style and individuality. And yet, the goth-scene radar always seems to blip over the band.
Waterglass have been around in assorted line-ups for a few years now, and have played some high-profile gigs with the likes of The Horatii and Clan Of Xymox. They've always maintained a 'real band' line-up - guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals - and this in itself has made them stand out in a scene where so many bands exist in a strange kind of backing-track half-life. They've released a clutch of EPs which have demonstrated impressive musicianship, a knack for naggingly catchy songs, and production values which make most bands' efforts sound distinctly 'bedroom'. You'd think, by now, they'd have been noticed in a big way by the scene.
Maybe their individuality has counted against them: so many of the bands who are touted as contenders for the guitar-goth crown wear their influences - typically Mission or Nephilim, or a combination of both - on their sleeves. Waterglass give the listener no such easy angle. For a start, they're a female-fronted band - you'll hear no Hussey-style rock histrionics or McCoy-esque growling here. You could, I suppose, put them alongside All About Eve - in their more robust period, rather than their hippy-folkie incarnation. Wild Hearted Woman, not Martha's Harbour. But why should we always have to grope around for old-goth comparisons to justify the contemporary bands of the scene? Can't we just take the music on its own merits? Let's try that radical notion with Wisdom Like Silence.
Waterglass are a 100% live band, and this album captures their live sound as surely as if the essence of one of their live shows had been bottled. The production is raw and immediate, to the point where it sounds like the band is right there in the room with you. This may come as something of a shock if you're accustomed to the over-compressed, smoothed-out sound which many self-produced bands on the goth scene seem to use - that 'cotton wool' sound which seems to come as standard with home pc based recording software. Wisdom Like Silence is the sound of real people, walloping away at real instruments in a real studio. You can hear the acoustics, the ambience of the room, the scratch of plectrum on guitar string. The way the cymbals snap and hiss and clatter is almost physical.
The first two songs are hangovers from previous Waterglass incarnations. The cognoscenti might recall 'Departure' and 'Longshore Drift' in earlier versions with the band's old vocalist. It's actually quite brave of the band to open up the album with two songs which will immediately invite comparisons between their vocalists then and now. These new recordings introduce Victoria, the band's new singer. Her voice has that raw immediacy which characterises the approach of the whole band: she's singing directly to *you* in a gritty, emotional manner that recalls the likes of Marianne Faithfull rather than any goth-vocalists of yesteryear. Hold that Julianne Regan comparison *right* there!
The band's playing is precise and noticably more...careful...than the kind of gung-ho full-speed-ahead approach they tend to take on stage. This, I suppose, is yet more evidence that Waterglass are a *real* band - they're not tied down to the never-changing pre-programmed sound of a rollin' DAT. This is *organic*. It's interesting to note that when Waterglass do bring in a little element of pre-recorded effects, it doesn't quite work. 'Longshore Drift' comes in on a sound effect of seagulls and rain, which, rather awkwardly, cuts out of the mix as abruptly as if someone's just hit a pause button. Fading the sound down gently would probably have been a better option here - but it's easy to forgive this little glitch as the guitar drifts into view like sea mist, and the song gets under way. Listen to the way the bass carries its own little melody - isn't that effective? You know what - this is the sound of *musicianship*. How rare it is to hear that in the world-o-goth!
'Lover' begins as a whisper and abruptly changes gear half way through, as the guitars pile up like a car crash and the drums rumble like boulders tumbling down a mountainside. This is Waterglass proving that they're a *rock* band. The loud/soft dynamic is, of course, a tried and tested technique, but it always works well - and here it demonstrates the band's absolute control of their music. 'Star Of The Sea' follows a similar musical map - the intro to the song almost ecclesiastical as Victoria does her choirgirl thing, neatly punctuated by a just-so bass. Then the rest of the band crank up, and the song powers ahead with a rhythm that I'm sure would get the Top Of The Pops audience doing that hands-in-the-air sway...er, if we can suspend disbelief high enough to envisage Waterglass on that fine TV show. In a parallel universe, maybe.
And then we come to 'Fading Fast'. This is the showstopper. It's a genuinely moving song on the subject of love and loss and courage in adversity, and I swear if you have the faintest shred of humanity in your soul, you'll be all choked up by the first chorus. When Victoria tries to reassure herself - 'Shine on, love/Shine on/For I am fading fast/Keep talking, keep smiling/This will be the last/Song I write for you' - while the band takes off like a rocket behind her voice, you'll be reduced to a small heap of emotion on the floor, I promise. You know how the saddest lyric in Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' was the outwardly prosaic 'Why is the bedroom so cold/Turned away on your side'? Waterglass conjure a similar mood here, with a lyrical snippet which seems almost mundane when you see it written down: 'The perfume you adored/Lies half empty on the floor/I don't use it any more' . But this little detail, so simple in itself, carries such an emotional punch in the context of the song that you'll catch your breath. This is Waterglass knocking on the door of pop genius.
'Sympathy' busts the mood with an abrasive punky rocker which sounds like X-Ray Spex, all buzzsaw guitars and a sardonic caterwaul of a vocal, while 'Forget Myself' is a gentle duet between Victoria and Rose, the band's keyboard player. Their voices intertwine with delicate grace. It's arrestingly effective. 'Staring At The Sun' slinks into view on the back of hissing cymbals and a light-footed bass, and then takes off into a gritty rocker with more of that loud/soft dynamic: the guitar gets heavy enough during the choruses to make even diehard metalheads sit up and take notice.
'Return' is a psychedelic ballad, a nimble acoustic guitar twingling away over warm, dreamy textures. A song for a picnic on a summer's day, and the kind of thing that I doubt any other Brit-goth band would be brave enough (or, dare I say it, technically able enough) to attempt. 'Transcendence' wraps things up with a rolling, mid-tempo number which builds and builds to finish the album on a climax. Here, Victoria's vocal is pitched rather too high for me: while she can certainly reach the dizzy heights, the light and shade of her voice isn't apparent - it's all 'up there' and once I've marvelled at Victoria's ability to climb into the vocal stratosphere, I find myself wishing she'd come down again and give us a little less of the choirgirl thing. But that's just me: I always like a bit of grit in the gears.
Waterglass have created a very fine album - full of the band's own personality, and stuffed with a diverse range of songs that anyone who considers themselves a musician would surely give their eye teeth to have created. The musicianship is outstanding, but in a natural, effortless way - there's no hint here that Waterglass are showing off their technical ability. They can just *do* it.
Now, all you've got to do is *buy* it!
Star Of The Sea
Staring At The Sun
Aidan: Bass guitar, acoustic guitar
Andrew: Drums, percussion,. acoustic guitar, keyboards
Pete: Electric guitars
Rose: Keyboards, backing vocals
Waterglass website: http://www.waterglass.co.uk
by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Wisdom Like Silence
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Such has been their whispered reputation, and torturous history (see website for full details, along with an entertaining recent tour diary), that it was always going to be a question of will-they, won’t-they, mixed with a tinge of do-they-even-exist? They have, they didn’t, and they do. What they do next is anyone’s guess.
Any comparisons that come at them, from Cure or Cranes to the great Morcheeba, have one thing in common - nobody mentions anything duff. The band have no spurious release baggage to turn people off, as no-one really knows how they’ve changed through time, so despite having existed for 11 years it’s like beholding a new band, and people are anticipating this record.
When guitars skew behind deceptively powerful vocals and a melody nags in the opener ‘Departure’ you relax, for this is a big tight modern sound, and the trick is that while the vocals are not too clear, they’re strong enough to really draw you in with a curious intensity, and the music sensibly swims round it to accommodate this appeal. ‘Longshore Drift’ makes me utter only one of two comparisons I feel drawn to make - The Sundays, with added vigour. Again, this isn’t even a great song, being indie with strings, knobbly bass, and messy guitar, but Victoria’s vocal delivery really bites, and the melody lingers long.
It’ll be ‘Lover’ which makes the most immediate impact. They don’t start too obvious, while the voice comes to the boil, then bursts like one, offering total vocal dominance, in an unpleasant tale, with aching resignation and, thankfully, defiance, that greatest of spirits. However, when they really remind you of old, fey indie bands things aren’t so good. ‘Star Of The Sea’ has almost casual vocals, with a high, flossy delivery, cuts alarmingly badly to a second phase that is pure repetition, and by comparison to others is a bit of a stinker. ‘Return’ is sleepy mush, and ‘Forget Myself’ is also sunny and airy, so a stark fact soon emerges. Waterglass work best, almost majestically, with misery.
However we can celebrate the variety for this is an album which grows better with time, and already has a fine vintage. ‘Transcendence’ is slow and bizarrely wobbly, but strangely serene, ‘Sympathy’ refreshingly snotty, ‘Fading Fast’ has a lovely Julee Cruise feel to it and someone’s certainly been at the Badalamenti, with the sonorous bass caresses much in evidence behind the withdrawn, wispy vocals, and overall emotive dream quality. ‘Staring At The Sun’ is plain playful, almost deliberately pedestrian., cracking open briefly with a lovely feel, and filled with plenty of delightful moments, the secret of any great song, and a great snarling end.
It’s impressive, with a subtle Goth relevance, but mainly an old Indie resonance, going back to the time when Shoegazing all but killed off melodic indie through lack of inspiration. Since then Indie got swamped with malodorous Britpop/Dadrock and individualism was ignored by old journalists stuck in dayjobs endlessly promoting all they felt happy reviewing. (Hence Stereophonics, Starsailor, The Music et al.) This doesn’t make it easy for most bands, so Waterglass still have a long, uphill struggle ahead of them.
Of course for people too young to remember a time when Indie bands of quality could soon make themselves known, such things are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the music and its use, and this is perfect for anyone who likes a bit of phosphorous in your coffee?
Star Of The Sea
Staring At The Sun