Alio Die & Amelia Cuni
~reviewed by Matthew

This latest release on Projekt is probably the ‘sleepiest’ of all this year’s successful releases.  The label has slowly been expanding its styles to include more ‘rock’ oriented acts like Mira, Low Sunday, This Ascension and the like.  But this release from Alio Die might be more what many expected of Projekt back in the mid 90’s when artists like Love Spirals Downwards and Black Tape were at the forefront.

Though Alio Die is considerably more ambient and minimalist, there is a strong female voice at the heart of his music and the same romantic spirit encompasses the music.  Amelia Cuni, an Italian alto vocalist is equipped with a remarkably soothing and smooth voice, seasoned with an exotic flare and pervaded with a sweet sense of melancholy.

Alio Die’s music is comprised of low, quiet synths, warm textures and subtle organic samples.  He has been revered for several musical collaborations in his past, the most recent being VidnaObmana and Robert Rich (both artists are reviewed this issue – I can’t escape this stuff!)

As the title would suggest, the theme of this album revolves around Hindu myths concerning the ‘Apsaras,’ or water nymphs as we may commonly refer to them.  Suitably, the album exhibits both an authentic Eastern flavour and a fluid, briny sensibility that is quite effective in evoking the appropriate mental imagery to correspond with the mythical themes.

“Asparas” is much too quiet and relaxed for my tastes.  I never have the time to unwind and relax so the appropriate timing for this kind of music never arises for me.  But for those ‘meditative’ Goths and dark music fans out there, who are looking for something tranquil and lightly contemplative, this is for you.  I am tempted to describe this release as Dead Can Dance on quaaludes, as Amelia possesses the same kind of stark quality in her voice as Lisa Gerard.  I think the only subtle difference is that Lisa’s voice tends to be more mournful, while Ms. Cuni’s voice is lighter and has a slightly sweeter tone to it.  Nonetheless, Cuni is carrying on the same ‘dhrupad’ tradition of singing that DCD made so popular and turned so many people’s attention to.  Check this out if you are at peace with your inner self.  Or at the very least, have the time and wish to make the effort to work on establishing it ;)

Track List:
2.) Island Of The Rose Apple Tree
4.) Water Memories
5.) Churning Of The Ocean

All music composed by Amelia Cuni and Stefano Musso/Alio Die

Projekt Records:

A Fine Day To Exit
~reviewed by Matthew

I cannot resist the temptation to use the following and by now probably worn out pun: Now might be a fine time for Anathema to exit altogether.  As harsh and as rude as it may be to say this, I am more disappointed than anyone that it is necessary to say it in the first place. But I can’t help but feel betrayed by the band’s latest release.  Not because they changed their musical style.  They have been steadily moving away and eclipsing all of the elements their core death/doom metal fans have loved about the band since their fourth release in 1996.

Rather, the problem is that as they have continued to adopt a melodic and more alternative friendly/Pink Floyd drenched style, they have become less unique and less innovative.  With this latest release, Anathema has pushed the Floydian tendencies aside to present themselves more directly as a bunch of Radiohead and trite commercial alternative rock rip offs.  Quite frankly, there is not much different in the latest release from Anathema, despite a bit more emotion and honest musicianship than what is usually required to make it on rock radio, than bands like Oasis and Train.

Ok, now that I have ranted and blown off some steam, I am going to do my best to take a much more objective approach.  I personally do love a few tracks on the album, including the mopey “Barriers” with its smoky male and female vocal duets, the closing track “Temporary Peace” which it’s suitably depressive and thought provoking lyrics, and the tracks “Leave No Trace” and “Looking Outside Inside.”  The latter of which features a dreamy, beautiful acoustic intro with some awesome eboed guitar effects ghosting about the backdrop.  There is a great vocal performance on the behalf of Vincent Cavanagh, and a rather unique musical arrangement overall.  The chorus gives the song a less than stellar effect, as it seems a bit out of place when compared to the rest of the song, a little too ‘sudden’ perhaps.

God I feel horrid.  This is one of the hardest reviews I have ever written.  My intention is not to offend, but rather to vent my reactions of disappointment (which I have mulled over for almost two months since I received this disc to review).  I have been a hardcore fan of this band for years, and kept an open mind throughout all the releases that became less and less dark. But I am having a difficult time swallowing this album.

Objectively speaking, I can clearly see that the band is maturing.  It has been over ten years since they began and they were all extremely young when they released their “Crestfallen/Serenades” and “Pentecost III” albums.  They want to move on.  They are growing up and their tastes are changing.  I gave Paradise Lost the benefit of the doubt on the very same principles.  But the difference here is that the music is not as interesting as the band and the label might want you to believe.  I had a hard time making it through the entire disc as it stays exactly the same pace and it seems like it’s almost in the same musical key the entire album!  A very dry CD, with no twists, no turns, no unexpected bursts of emotion, just a rather soporific journey along a rather monochromatic canvas.  Of course there is the pseudo punk rock tangent “Panic” which I suppose is the album’s ‘energizer,’ but that song sounded forced and was less than impressive.

Anathema is still a quartet of glum, talented chaps.  But I don’t feel like the album taps into their hearts as much as on their previous two releases 1999’s “Judgment” and 1998’s “Alternative 4.”  I think they are capable of more.  I HOPE they are capable of more. I know this release is going to upset a lot of doom fans that live and die by this band's first few extremely dark and sorrowful albums.   I know I won’t be alone in my opinions of this album.

On the other side of the coin, I am willing to bet three times the amount of people in the world would respond more positively to this album rather than their earlier work.  It’s more in tune with the direction of today’s rock music.  And Christ knows we sure as hell could use some talent in the mainstream!  It would be absolutely fantastic if Anathema could break into the mainstream with this album.  But I doubt it is possible, for several reasons.  For one, they are a British band on an underground label.  They have a past firmly rooted in death metal.  It is not exactly going to be easy to market this band in the mainstream.  So I can’t help but wonder why they seem to be writing music to appeal to that crowd and in the process alienate those who helped them gain the status and reverence they have?  It is a question only the band could answer, and I can almost guarantee they would reply that they don’t care about whether or not their music is commercial, doom, or whatever.  That they are writing the kind of music they want to, and it is their freedom to do so.  But I also feel that people should be aware of the drastic change in the release.  And also that fans of the style of music that Anathema are currently gravitating toward should be aware that there isn’t some new impressive band to welcome into the annals of the genre. There is really nothing all that unique or impressive about this album, especially when you compare it to the output of bands like Radiohead, Low, Pink Floyd or the Beatles.  You would be better off listening to those bands, rather than imitations of it.

I still maintain it to be rather presumptuous of music fans (including myself) to attack bands for not putting out albums for their fans; that bands should be chided for expanding their own creative expression.  But what can you expect when a band has strayed so far from what the music buying public expects and hopes for from them? It’s a controversial argument.  All I can say is, if you are expecting an album that sounds like the bands previous work, you will be disappointed.  “A Fine Day To Exit” is a good album.  The more I listen to this CD, I begin to like bits of it.  But it is a confusing release that I really don’t know what to make of and it is extremely conditional.  If I am cranky, I will want to bust the CD and its bland case into a million tiny pieces.

It is without question the most depressing album Anathema has ever released – however in a wholly different sense of the word, and it is not a word of ‘Gothic’ veneration but rather dispirited disappointment.  Beg to differ, please.  So I can just feel dumb.  I would love to believe that Anathema is still one of the greatest bands on the planet.  I want to believe this more than it probably shows in this review, which I am reluctant to even publish in lieu of my respect to Koch, MFN, and the band.  Make your own decisions, but have no expectations.  That is the purest and only unbiased way to hear this CD.

Track List:
1.) Pressure
2.) Release
3.) Looking Outside Inside
4.) Leave No Trace
5.) Underworld
6.) Barriers
7.) Panic
8.) A Fine Day To Exit
9.) Temporary Peace

Anathema is:
Vincent Cavanagh – vocals, guitar
Danny Cavanagh – guitars
John Douglas – drums
Les Smith – keyboards
George Roberts – session bassist

Anathema – Official Page:

KOCH Records:

Music For Nations:

Peaceville Records:

Amber Spyglass
Amber Spyglass
~reviewed by Matthew

Boston’s Amber Spyglass takes an interesting approach to alternative/gothic music.  They succeed in keeping the listener on their toes and blend genre specific elements found in post rock and college alternative, not to mention a brief, tasteful, and controlled dabbling into progressive metal.  The band does a good job at sounding fresh and stands apart from other bands performing similar styles.

The band is a primarily a duo, the creative core of the band being vocalist Kelly Godshall and guitarist John DeGregorio. Her vocals are deeper, reminding me a bit of Anneke from The Gathering and other strong alto vocalists.  The guitar and bass work has a slightly bluesy approach at times, and other times the music meshes together beautifully to create an almost psychedelic hypnotism.  This is Goth with a decidedly different kind of groove, but perhaps only because I am probing so deep into the constructs of the music.  The overall result is extremely listenable and catchy.

The opening track “Higher” reminds me of the surreal exotica of Norwegian cult act 3rd & The Mortal, with a suspenseful build up to a climactic and the unexpected metallic aggression I mentioned earlier to draw the song to its close. The third track “Going Down” is a more down tempo and swirly track, with a nice variation to the vocals, expressing both the lower and higher abilities of Ms. Godshall’s range.  “Simple To Say” is carried by a strong bass line and some jazzy percussion, jangley guitars, and twinkling pianos.  This is a very nice, laid back and sophisticated song.  The closing track “Creep” is probably the song most firmly rooted in the classic rock/psychedelic tradition, with some interesting flute passages that I could not help but think of Jethro Tull.  But this is obviously much darker and more ‘Goth’ friendly.

Amber Spyglass is a tight and vastly talented band.  I imagine elder Goths, with a penchant toward more depressive plain-clothes college rock of the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s would be a good audience for this.  But then again, any lover of female vocals and good musicianship will consider this a treasure as well.

This debut EP is available through Projekt’s Darkwave store as well as  This is definitely worth checking out.

Track List:
1.) Higher
2.) Burning At Sunset
3.) Going Down
4.) Simple To Say
5.) Creep

Amber Spyglass is:
Kelly Godshall – vocals, keyboards
John DeGregorio – guitars, samples
Ajda Snyder – keyboards, flute

Additional musicians:
Fernando Medina – drums
Jason Volpini – bass
Peter Johnson – keyboards on “simple to say”

Amber Spyglass – Official Site:

Amber Spyglass – Mp3 Site:

The Shark Who Pulled A Mussel
~reviewed by Kevin Filan

Every morning I ride the subway past the open wound that used to be the World Trade Center; the stench from the ruins lingers high and acrid as an echoing scream.  Jetliners overhead make me cringe. I start crying at odd moments for no reason at all.  And over and over I've listened to Charlottesville's debut CD, The Shark Who Pulled a Mussel, and found some kind of consolation in Miles Fender and Iris Lapalme's melancholy ruminations on love, life, and loss.

Fender first achieved public notice as the leader of British goth band Earth Calling Angela.  With his relocation to San Francisco came a stylistic sea change. Charlottesville has been compared by some to bands like Low and Red House Painters.  I'm more reminded of the great AM pop of the 60s, with cheery optimism replaced by a wistful Remembrance of Things Past.  If Brian Wilson had picked up an acoustic guitar and recorded "Endless Autumn," it might have sounded something like this: at their best, Charlottesville's moody harmonies and penetrating lyrics wouldn't have been out of place on Simon & Garfunkel's "Wednesday Morning 3 a.m." or "The Sounds of Silence."

This could all become unlistenably dreary, Music to Slit Your Wrists To, were it not for Fender's ear for tuneful hooks.  "Chicken Coop for the Soul," the CD's opener, has a tasty synthesizer riff which echoes vintage Duran Duran, supported by a warm harmonica.  It's enough to make you tap your feet as Fender tells his lover "I'm going to open up this cage and get myself outside of you."  Every breakup should sound this good.

Charlottesville's music develops at a leisurely pace, and tends to be more minimalist than flashy.  Softly voiced piano chords and a high-hat rhythm form the underpinning of "Embarcedaro."  As a muffled bass drum kicks in, Fender's voice rises with a wispy song of unrequited love.  The piano chords rise with him as he gives us her final bit of advice ... "Next time don't take it further than the end" ... and then fade back into silence, the soundtrack to an unproduced film about a love that never was.

Being a good singer-songwriter demands skill in several disciplines... singing, performing, composing, and lyric writing.  "Lost All This Time," shows off Miles Fender's skills in all of the above.  In three verses he takes us from that rush of love with "a thousand dreams inside my self/all of them of you and no one else," into, "I never thought I'd see you lose your smile/It's not a state of mind it's just denial" into "And here's nothing I never said before/You're not my savior you never were" into "A thousand thoughts inside my mind/every single one is real unkind/and you can come here any time you want/just shut the door on your way out."

The wind has shifted as I'm writing this.  The air stinks faintly of powdered concrete and burning plastic.  Outside the leaves have started to turn; this morning it was very cold.  As I start playing Charlottesville again I realize it's going to be a long time until spring.

1.  Chicken Coop for the Soul
2.  Lost All This Time
3.  Not That Far
4.  Embarcedaro
5.  Why Don't You?
6.  Into the Sea
7.  Anything Other Than You
8.  How To Survive
9.  Be Your Friend
10. Thrown a Curve

Charlottesville are Miles Fender and Iris Lapalme
Written and Produced by Miles Fender
c. 2001 Streetlight Farm Records

Charlottesville Website

Charlottesville MP3 Site

Dawn Desiree
~reviewed by Matthew

Dawn Desiree first lifted up her head and cried out to the world through the progressive gothic metal band Rain Fell Within.  Her aching voice was the centerpiece of the band’s 1998 debut EP “Believe,” providing an emotional and soprano calm to the storms of synthesized pianos and rapid guitar riffing.

I suppose in between studio sessions with Rain Fell Within (the band is slated to release their first full length in early 2002), Dawn found the time to record her own musical project, just simply bearing her own name.  Stripping down to nothing more than piano and synth accompaniment, this is a more personal and tender side of the melancholic siren.  The five songs that make up this short EP are intimate, ethereal ballads, exploring themes of isolation, unrequited love, and the trials of romantic relationships gone awry.  However worn out these ideas and themes may be to some, they never are to those that endure them.  There is definitely sincerity in Dawn’s performances on this disc, and though her lyrics are rather plain and straightforward, they are thankfully free of vague or forced metaphors.  Dawn’s lyrics succeed because of their common and basic clarity.  As lyrics in the opening track say “I know just what you’re going through/I live it everyday/Everyday of my life I think of my dreams that never came true.”

Her vocals are emotionally rich and ripe with a chilling, vulnerable sadness.  Though some have criticized the lack of variation in Dawn’s vocal performance with Rain Fell Within, I find her voice to be captivating and extremely moving to listen to.  She is a soprano vocalist.  That is her range.  And though every 21st century metal band has their own token soprano female vocalist, the one thing that sets Dawn apart from other vocalists in the dark music genre is that her voice is constantly riddled with an intense amount of feeling, to the point that though her voice is quite strong and soars atop the music with a remarkable fluidity, her voice still shakes and quivers with the emotion she passionately expresses.

For me, the highpoints on this disc are the final two tracks where the piano is silenced to make room for a greater variety of instrumental accompaniment.  The neo-baroque synth harpsichords add a more refined touch to “My Eyes Are Closed” while a harp brings an archaic and mediaeval flavour to the final track “Thy Painted Garden.”  The vocals sound more ghostly and reverberated on both of these final tracks, therefore giving them an eerie, almost chapel-like ambience.

This is an enjoyable release.  Nothing at all new, nothing all that mind boggling or progressive, but this EP is a short journey into the heartache of one solitary yet talented musician.  As long as human beings continue to wound one another, there will always be an audience for this music, and there will always be someone hurt enough to be compelled to compose it.   The trick is getting the music to the right audience, and this EP will delight fans of Black Tape For A Blue Girl and fans of other neo-classical female fronted ethereal outfits.

This uniquely packaged EP is a limited edition release through a new independent label called The Fossil Dungeon.   Check out the websites below for more details on how to obtain a copy of your own while they last.

Track List:
1.) Dreams
2.) Where Are You Now?
3.) While I Lay Here
4.) My Eyes Are Closed
5.) Thy Painted Garden

All music and vocals performed and written by Dawn Desiree

The Fossil Dungeon:

Distributed by Middle Pillar:

Rain Fell Within:

Darkness Enshroud
~reviewed by Matthew

One would be apt to think that a band bearing the moniker ‘Darkness Enshroud’ would be another predictable black metal outfit; however, that is hardly the case with this particular project.  Though primary musician Michael Ford has a history rooted in the aggressive black/death scene with his involvement with the project Black Funeral, Darkness Enshroud is instead a more organic and minimalist experimental/ambient project.  Coining the genre term ‘black ambient’ (here we go again!) this release weaves esoteric and sinister occult themes with eerie synths, vocal chants, whispers, and modest electronics.

As some regular readers may have noticed, I personally grapple with this style of music constantly.  It is a style I want to like, that I often give the benefit of the doubt, but more often than naught, it fails to truly affect me on any emotional or technical level.   Sometimes I really like this stuff, and other times I just outright hate it.  Darkness Enshroud succeed more so than others, in that they are capable of invoking a truly dark and authentically spooky atmosphere, as best heard in their track “Hymn To A Melancholy Angel” with its drones and static darkwave rhythms.

But I am not quite sure if this is a good example of what the project is capable of, as apparently these eight tracks were ‘unearthed’ with the master tapes for the prior album “Unveiled Ghostly Shadows.”  These left over tracks were sent to Barry Galvin (Mephisto Walz, ex-Christian Death) and were remastered by him.  These tracks make up a solid body of musty musical gloom, and serve as the perfect funereal background music.  If the album was a bit longer and more developed, it could be the ideal CD to accompany late night reading sessions of classic horror and Gothic literature.  However, I am not sure if the CD would be as interesting if the listener were to give it their full attention.

Darkness Enshroud definitely have a masterful skill at invoking atmosphere, and the atmosphere in question is genuinely dark, and not strained or at all cheesy.   I just would like to hear more done with it. I felt rather incomplete after the first few listens. Perhaps more structured classically inspired movements would improve this greatly, eliminating the sense of repetition and droning monotony.  I think the use of vocals is very well balanced, using them only occasionally and having them mixed further back than usual.  I just would like to hear more solid instrumental and melodic elements in this music.  It sounds as if these are the blueprints for a project that has yet to be completed.

Then again, this just may not be for me.  Fans of Cold Meat Industry artists, Mortiis, and other dark ambient projects of that nature will probably take a great liking to this.  But get to Middle Pillar quick, as this is a limited edition release through the Fossil Dungeon label.  Very nicely packaged but only 250 of them in existence.

Track List:
1.) Totentanz
2.) Immortal Manifestation (Finsternis II)
3.) A Hymn To A Melancholy Angel
4.) Mirror Of Nekalah
5.) The Stars Align To Dispel Equality
6.) Age Of Blood & Fire
7.) A Rose Upon A Coffin
8.) Transference Of Aeonic Energies

Darkness Enshroud is:
Michael Ford
Shanna LeJune

The Fossil Dungeon:

Middle Pillar Distribution:

Bill and John Storch
Discovering Zero
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

Bill and John Storch, brothers and self taught musicians, have had an extensive background in the music world. Their father was a violinist for the New York Metropolitan Opera and their uncles were violinists for various orchestras around the country. Having grown in a household that encouraged multiple music styles, everything from classical to pop and rock, it isn’t a mystery where their talent was cultivated.

Initially, the brothers  leaned towards a soft pop style but then after sampling the underground music of legends such as Patti Smith and The Sex Pistols, they took their muse-like inspiration in the direction of composing punk/new wave style songs and created a number of band projects.

Some of the previous works with early bands made a modicum of  success on the East coast.  After the typical scenario where band mates change, leave or otherwise disrupt a group, the two composers tried their hand at experimental electronic music.  Since the two of them have always written the music for their bands and were in synch with each other most of the time, this was only a natural progression for the Storch’s  musical expression. Their style is often described as Muslimgauze or Shinjinku Thief where they combine noise elements with “lush symphonic sound.”

It wasn’t long before their avant garde style brought them to the attention of many prestigious dance troupes across America. Their work has been utilized by renowned choreographers Demetrius Klein and dancer/choreographer Cherie Carson. Klein is the winner of a number of awards and recipient of grants from The National Endowment of The Arts as well as from The Guggenheim Foundation. Carson has had work aired on PBS numerous times and in addition to being a part of this 3 day sold out performance of Discovering Zero, also has recently garnered much success with touring within the Pacific Northwest.

This particular CD, which was part of a collaborative stage work with The Demetrius Klein Dance Co. and Dow Raku Theatre Projects, incorporated life size puppets, avant-garde music, experimental dance as well as stage collages.

Despite its high brow intensity, Discovering Zero remains approachable, incorporating a lifetime of styles and sounds in an eclectic hybrid that is anything but standard. The artists are not afraid to experiment with sound samples of ordinary objects and scenarios and find ways of utilizing the tones and textures to color their musical palette with the ease of an expressionist painter’s  brushstroke.

Introduction colors in dark tones and anticipatory dread, bordering on symphonic goth. Crackling sounds underscore the sound, giving rise to the visual concept of total destruction, brought from the elemental sound changes and sharp angles with which the music is delivered. Higher notes spring forth, culminating in a light space feeling that issues some form of hope.

Seperation (sic) collides like a vortex of electronic space age energy. A rising chasm of coalescing universes that “seep” the hidden “beat” into the electricity while rising horn-like tones give a sense of expansion and cauterization. It develops into an osmotic flow of growth from a sloughing process, yielding extensions of stronger aspects but remain mindful of the dark oppressiveness from whence it came.

Blindness delivers a myriad of undertones of dark confusion with reminiscences to “spy theme” soundtracks. The noise elements are woven in a tonal fabric which illuminates some sense of uncertainty, obstacles, acquisition and ultimately a form of enlightenment with a reminder of risk.

Finale seems to take us full circle. The dark tones are transmuted into macabre-like whispers of a psyche in torment. This opens to lush symphonics underscored with steam like sounds that punctuate the progressive awareness, hope and bittersweet longings. Full symphony and Middle Eastern style percussion along with jazz elements emanate with cascading notes, creating images of a cooling water of cleansing and rebirth.

Closing is a somber and introspective piece whose depth of finality seems locked in an all consuming circle that reflects changes of attention without changing the substance.

Soundscape # 3  has a science fiction impression to the opening, transmuted by rising tides of electronic notes splaying sound as color in multifaceted shapes and intensities. Despite the living energy, there seems to be a soulless machination involved, programmed to elicit changes without concern for repercussion. There is a calculated coldness which gives rise to a futuristic world of disembodied characters who merely interact but seemingly never interrelate beyond a mere functionality of exchange.  Deeper tones are later incorporated to bring in an element of life, thereby illustrating that without the trauma of darkness in some sense, all would be sanitized and less than whole or complete. The poetry reading that is later introduced brings this all to fruition, questing for the interaction between God and humankind.

Soundscape # 4 reflects a sense of fear and solitude actively seeking for niches beyond any form of imposed entrapments. It brings about the need for repetition and active pursuance. This ultimately brings about learning, thereby eliciting change.

Discovering Zero is an avant-garde musical collage of noise, space effects, lush symphonies and personal discoveries to the dark center of ones soul. It is not an easy piece to cogitate and requires some semblance of desired experimentation on the part of the listener.

Since the work is extremely complex and without genre specification, the choreography to this had to have been tantamount to a revolutionary transition within the confines of structured dance and movement. Bill and John Storch set out to create a composite piece that brings us to the “ground zero” of our lives, rooting out the fears, longings and expectations thereby creating a willingness and desire for self-actualization and personal transmutation. Many of the sounds are intentionally uncomfortable, giving rise to the reality that life is not always a comfort zone in which one can stagnate indefinitely. This work is highly cerebral and will appeal to those in the underground who are seeking something completely left of the center of anything they have experienced previously.  For those with ears to hear, they will marvel at the intensity of sound being utilized to create movement which resonates internally as well as externally. Discovering Zero is not a club friendly type of work and is recommended to those whose inner worlds are pensive and highly reflective during their time alone.

Dow Raku Projects: Mark and Dan Leahy in association with Consider The Lillies, Demetrius Klein Dance Co., and Bill and John Storch.

A Dance/Theatre Performance Collage
Choreography:     Demetrius Klein
Music:        Bill and John Storch
Concept, Design, and Staging: Mark and Dan Leahy
Text:     Gail Shepard
Featuring:    Demetrius Klein and Gina Buntz

Released by:
Lantern Records

Discovering Zero
1. Introduction
2. Seperation
3. Blindness
4. Finale
5. Closing (written and performed: Lucia Hare Leahy) Zeroscapes
6. Soundscape #3
    “Ich bin derselbe nech, der kniete.”
    Text: Rainer Marie Rilke, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
     Reading: Patricia Stroch Goodrich
7. Soundscape # 4

Aggression Depression Addiction
~reviewed by Sonya

Feeling depressed? Well then, you might want to avoid Aggression Depression Addiction by Experimental Blue.  For those with suicidal tendencies, hearing words like "I just want to go away" might just put them over the edge. If you think you can handle it... then step inside the demented and twisted mind of this performance artist from Boston Massachusetts named Experimental Blue.

You can definitely hear the Nine Inch Nails influence within this music. Track 6 has a sound to it much like NIN's, "Closer".  Experimental Blue cites NIN as his "industrial roots", as well as bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy.

Experimental Blue has a synthesized story to tell, broken down into three emotions: Aggression, Depression, and Addiction... each emotion has 2 tracks; with the final track, Lies, summing up the albums entirety.

While  listening to Experimental Blue, The "Depression" portion of this cd felt as if I were watching a movie akin to 2001: A Space Oddity. "Evil" feels like a disabled  spaceship, floating in space. Engines keep humming with the interpretation that they drone on  for an eternity - long after the lone human voice has been silenced by death or madness.

Still feeling depressed? Well, according to the bio that came with this cd, Experimental Blue has theatrics planned for his future live shows... he plans to "blow his brains out on stage".   Consider yourselves warned.

Track List:
Track 1.  We Sacrifice Our Innocence
Track 2.   Fight Back
Track 3.  Evil
Track 4.  I just want To Go Away
Track 5.  Nothing Is a Real Thrill Anymore
Track 6.  Addiction
Track 7.  Lies

Immaculate Black
Songs Of Lust, Tragedy, And Despair
~reviewed by Matthew

Despite silently chuckling at the album’s subtle title, the first thing I thought of when I first heard this CD is that it reminds me of an entire disc comprised of the ambient and spooky interludes on the first few Cradle Of Filth releases.  I use this as a point of reference only, as Immaculate Black are in no way, shape, or form a dark metal band.  But the wintry synths, mischievous pianos, tolling church bells, and the layers of sepulchral male vocals instantly recalled the eerie Gothic elements that COF uses to contrast with their usual black metal bombast.

The band formed in 1996 and has toured with the likes of Front 242, Theatre Of Tragedy, Christian Death, and Das Ich to name just a few.  Originally, this debut album was to be produced by London After Midnight pretty boy Sean Brennan.  Sadly, when the word leaked that Brennan was only producing the record and that the label couldn’t capitalize on his involvement, their deal was dropped, leaving the band in limbo.  Thankfully however, the band was not deterred, and took matters in their own hands and released the album on their own with the aid of Hollowpoint Management.

With that said, this is an unquestionably solid release, very dark (but sometimes on the verge of being a bit repetitive and a bit ‘too’ dramatic) and true to form, featuring ten tracks of dramatic, orchestral Gothic splendour.   The vocals are extremely deep and throaty, and they work quite well actually, not at all coming across as basic Andrew Eldritch, Carl McCoy, or Peter Steele rip offs.  They are actually deeper than that, and as I mentioned earlier, if any comparison is warranted, they can be likened to the deepest of Dani Filth’s various clean vocal styles.

I don’t know how much processing was done to achieve this vocal effect, but its quite cool.   Though an uncountable number of bands attempt to perform deep vampyric vocals, this is actually very effective and well done.  There is even a fair amount of darkly erotic sensuality in the way the vocals are expressed, as the husky rumblings are often broken by chilling whispers. Doesn’t really do much for my libido, but I just know way too many gals that melt anytime Peter Steele opens his mouth.

The drums sounds great, having a very punchy clarity and the synths are extremely cinematic and symphonic in their scope.  A live bassist adds a dense and mischievous backbone, characterized by the essential lulling strum that has come to define Gothic Rock.

The miniscule problems I have with the disc is that the band does not deviate much in mood at all, which by the end of the CD sort of nullifies the impact of the music’s ‘creepiness’ and will wear thin on the more skeptical and demanding listener.  I think the band could stand to stir things up a bit, especially in the vocals, which seem rather detached and cold compared to the musical content.  They indeed sound cool; but they are lacking in emotional expression.

I also think the addition of a talented guitarist could benefit the band immensely.  I praise the band for its masterful use of symphonic atmosphere. It’s truly remarkable.  However, I still think there is something missing.  A truly innovative and mood conscious guitarist, a player that is not just going to crunch along with simple power chords but instead a guitarist capable of contributing some dark watery arpeggio passages, reverb and delay drenched leads and other 4AD type theatrics.  I think that such an addition would provide this band with the edge they need.

With Immaculate Black’s fidelity to Gothic mood and atmosphere, I think by stirring up what already makes them unique and harnessing a few more elements to flesh out their sound could make them one of the best new darkwave/Gothic rock acts around.  This band’s aim is not to sound like everything else that is popular right now, they certainly have no ambition for churning out the next dance floor hit, and for that, I praise them.   My hope is that they bring a bit more of an old school edge to their music, vary the vocals a bit (maybe some anguished wails here and there), and remain faithful to their gloomy symphonics.  Then, I believe their music would be utterly impossible to ignore.

Track List:
1.) Why Now
2.) One Last Chance
3.) Seasons Change
4.) Let It Rain
5.) So This Is Love
6.) Desire
7.) Always
8.) Undone
9.) Tonight
10.) Fly Away

Michael Maclane - Vocals
Angelika - Bass
Alano Capelo - Keyboards
Tyson Gwinn - Drums

Hollow Point Management:

Immaculate Black Info:

The Mansions
Charms for Love and Revenge
~reviewed by Blu

There are goth bands, and there are bands that goths like. A large sect of the goth population seems to have a thing for the Brit-pop sound - bands like Oasis, Suede and Placebo have crept their way into dark hearts. In that vein, The Mansions may find a place among the goth crowd. I do however, caution the band in this regard when doing promotions. Their promo packet came to me with quotes like "A Gothic Rolling Stone" and inferences that they sound like Peter Murphy. Hold that ego in check boys... just because you wear black finger nail polish doesnt make you the second coming of Bauhaus. The subject matter and tone of this CD is hardly dark. Secondly, their manager told me to check out specific tracks on the CD (instead of all of them?) I suspect because he thought those were the most "goth sounding" and most likely to appeal to a goth magazine. That's selling a band short in my opinion. If you put out a 10 track CD - all 10 tracks should be worthy of a listen. Telling an editor to check out specific songs is a bit dismissive of the editor's ability to listen with an open ear and of the band's talent.

Having gotten that criticism out of the way, this 10 track CD is pretty good. I don't suspect it'll be a hit in the real goth clubs any time soon, but again, if people reading this have a thing for Brit-pop bands, they'll definitely like The Mansions. Track 4, "Z-28" is upbeat enough that it could blend in nicely at a 80's/new wave night. My favorite tracks on this CD are "Love and Other Human Rituals" (one that wasn't recommend by their manager - ha) which sounds more like older Gene Loves Jezebel than anything else if a comparison has to be made for familiarity's sake and track 10 - "Little Atomic Bomb" - a slower song more in the vibe of Oasis. Keyboards create smooth soaring soundscapes providing a back drop to guitars and a driving beat.

More likely to appeal to the mainstream and Indie crowds who for some-reason-or-other, think The Mansions are gothic (????), they're worth investigating if Brit pop floats your boat.

Track Listing
1. Brave New World
2. Rock and Roll
3. Under the Sky
4. Z-28
5. Love and Other Human Rituals
6. Sirens
7. The Drive
8. Beyond the Satellites
9. Oblivious
10. Little Atomic Bomb

Maudlin Of The Well
Bath / Leaving Your Body Map
~reviewed by Matthew

To put it bluntly, this band may represent heavy metal’s intellectual Anti-Christ.  Never before has there been a ‘metal’ band as engrossing, mysterious, ambitious, or as gifted as New England’s Maudlin Of The Well, and all competition, if there even is a single band in the same class or dimension as these guys, they best beware.

I have been wrestling with these CDs for over two months, trying to decipher them, trying to absorb every minute detail and become familiar enough with this music to relate it to our readers.  This music is nearly impossible to explain verbally, it relentlessly demands to be heard, and it is surely the intent of the near dozen musicians responsible for this to leave their fans and critics in a state of mind-boggling fascination.

Where to begin?  Well, Maudlin Of The Well first appeared on the scene in 1998 with their debut “My Fruit Psychobells…A Seed Combustible” for Dark Symphonies records.  A manic, schizophrenic release that provided a veritable orgy of various atmospheres and stylistic juxtapositions.  From doom metal to psychedelia, from jazz to thrash, to prog rock to the undefined, the album left me speechless and an immediate fan.  Never could I have imagined how they could possibly top it, but trust me, they have and they have done it in a way that is nearly impossible to even fathom.

Three years have gone by, and the band has returned to send your brain and heart into overdrive.  Two releases of brand new material, perhaps linked conceptually, or perhaps not?  This band has a sense of mischievous and black wit, as well as the desire to challenge the mental capacity of their listeners.  They purposely have given no insight into their cryptic lyrics, and though the album entitled “Bath” features a sketch of a map on the cover and the cover of  “Leaving Your Body Map” has an illustration of a bath tub, they claim the albums are two separate conceptual entities?!

That is only the beginning.

I could spend three days here and attempt to explain my ideas of what these albums are to represent, but I will leave it up to you.  All I can say is that if you think dark metal music is a close minded, predictable genre that is for burn outs, dead beats, and death obsessed adolescents and testosterone driven maniacs, there are scores upon scores of bands that will prove you wrong.  These guys will render your theory to ashes instantaneously.  These guys transcend all labels, all boundaries, all formulas and all expectations.

The music is superbly well orchestrated, epic and giant in scope.  The album goes from one style of music to the next, causing the listener to blink in disbelief and ask, “what the bloody hell are they doing?” but the brilliance of it all is that it all fits, merging together to create a vast dynamic examination of the human experience, both physically and spiritually.   The first disc, “Bath” opens with a lush and soothing jazz influenced instrumental, building around spacey guitars, acoustics, brass instruments, and light drumming.  And then track two, the aptly titled “They Aren’t All Beautiful” responds to the tranquility with a punishing death metal attack, only to merge into the third track that sounds like what would happen if Amorphis and Pink Floyd met for an impromptu jam session at a beatnik café.   Sojourning along next with “The Ferryman,” with its dense dreary doom metal sensibility, spirits you into the very abyss of the Underworld. And you ask yourself, “Where the hell are these guys taking me?” but there is no choice but to surrender.  And that is only the first half of the first CD!

Astral metal.  That is what some people are calling it.  I just try to call them Maudlin, because there is no genre that this band can comfortably fit under, no umbrella term that we journalist’s can use without defying the intent of this band.  These guys are a well-rounded group of dark artists.  You hear virtually every kind of ‘cool’ kind of dark music; everything from doom, death metal, Goth, prog rock, jazz, classical, even emo for Christ’s sake! They just do it all, utilizing all the instrumentation and vocal styles that characterize these varying genres.  And as you can expect, there are moments of creepy doom metal with soft emo vocals, atop jazz percussion.  And moments of terrifying hardcore metal screams only moments after tender acoustic passages that recall Sunny Day Real Estate.  I think you get the point. Maudlin make it all work in unison and harmony to provide the score for the surrealist imagery provided by the esoteric lyrics.  It is the perfect marriage of literature and music, with the muse of philosophy lingering close at hand.  Quotes and references as diverse as Blake, Shelley, Coleridge, Virgil, Aleister Crowley, Nikolai Gogol, and William Peter Blatty appear, but nonetheless, in context, one can see the relation and the music does seem to be the soundtrack to the opium drenched dreams or nightmares of some of these individuals.

This is truly art.  So what do you do about it?  Buy them.  Now.  As soon as humanly possible.  I cannot stress this enough, these releases elevate dark metal and hell, even music in general to a degree that as admirable and awe inspiring as it will be to some, it will also be intimidating, excessive, and probably even pretentious for others.  Make no mistake, these are not lightweight albums and if you like your music trite, simplistic, and predictable, you may need to hear this more than those who would be open to it.  It may provide the shock of a lifetime for you.

But I am sure a lot of people just won’t get it.  “What the hell is he singing about a girl with a watering can for? What are those symbols mean that represent the instrumental tracks?  Who the hell is Qlippoth?  Why is He Numberless and who stole it from him?”  Never you mind.  Though I don't at all claim to know the secrets behind this band's imagery, but I still maintain it to be impossible that any music lover, literary romantic, or inquisitive artist would not find something of interest or remotely fascinating about these releases.

The albums are not sold as a set, but I cannot imagine one without the other.  If you have to make a choice, “Bath” is perhaps the more challenging album, with a greater diversity of mood while “Leaving Your Body Map” is darker, definitely the more depressive and eerie of the two in my opinion, but still completely mind blowing in its range of expression.  There is absolutely NO filler on these albums, every track is excellent and it is truly rare to claim that about one album, let alone two.  Even if this is a marketing ploy like the “Use Your Illusion” albums by Guns N’ Roses for instance, Maudlin has the talent to make it worth every penny.  My recommendation is that you buy them both and prepare to be overwhelmed.

What else can I say?  Probably a great deal, but as I said before, this is an album that needs to experienced on an individual level, and there is enough here to be completely and entirely engrossed.   Keep an eye out here at Starvox, for you have not seen or heard the last of these guys, as we hope to go straight to the source with an in-depth interview with the band in the coming months.  Stay tuned!!

1.) The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth
2.) They Aren’t All Beautiful
3.) Heaven And Weak
5.) The Ferryman
6.) Marid’s Gift Of Art
7.) Girl With A Watering Can
8.) Birth Pains Of Astral Projections
10.) Geography

1.) Stones Of October’s Sobbing
2.) Gleam In Ranks
3.) Bizarre Flowers / A Violent Mist
5.) The Curve That To An Angle Turn’d
6.) Sleep Is A Curse
7.) Riseth He, The Numberless
9.) Monstrously Low Tide

Maudlin Of The Well is:
Jason Bittner: trumpet
Jason Byron: vocals, keyboards, percussion
Toby Driver: vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, cello, percussion
Maria-Stella Fountoulakis: vocals
Sam Gutterman: vocals, drums, percussion
Greg Massi: vocals, guitar
Nicholas Kyte: bass
Terran Olson: vocals, keyboards, clarinet, flute, percussion
Josh Seipp-Williams: guitar

Sky Cooper: guitar on “Monstrously Low Tide”
Anna Wetherby: viola

Maudlin Of The Well – Official Site:

Maudlin Of The Well - Site:

Dark Symphonies Records:

A Midnite Choir
You Have Been Warned
~reviewed by Blu

No doubt this CD will go down at the end of the year in my Top Ten list. Its surprise finds like this CD that give me faith in the creative ability of today's musicians - all is not lost on mindless electronic push button bands. This band has no website yet, and as far as I know, nothing up on mp3 or anything like that. They do play a rare local show every now and then I hear - be watching our NEWS section for me foaming at the mouth when this occurs.  If, after reading this review, I've done my job and convinced you this is the Next Great Thing You Must Have (for surely it is), I do have email contacts for them listed at the end of this review for you to write to them and plead for your Very Own Copy.

This CD was handed to me by Austin Quist at a Halloween concert featuring The Spectres, his other band. I had known Austin to be their very talented upright bass player and was intrigued to find that he was involved in other projects.  I was DJing Halloweeny Things and he quite humbly plopped down this CD, said, "This is my other band, you might like it."  I asked him if any of the tracks would be appropriate to play that night, he kind of grinned and said, "well, all of them I suppose, they're all kind of morbid, but 'Amelia' is really good - rhymes with Necrophelia you know..." Yes... well. Hm. So I did play "Amelia" that night, as well as track one, "Physical Withdrawals" and was, on the spot, a fan.

What does A Midnite Choir sound like you ask? Hard to explain, but I am reminded of my first writing gig at Flipside Magazine where I was brought on to be the token "goth reviewer."  During the initial stages of my "interview," the editor asked in jest, "Do you know of any Goth Polka bands? I've always wanted to hear a Goth Polka Band."  I answered, "No, I'll let you know if I run across one though..." and well, I suppose I owe him a email now because A Midnight Choir, *could* be considered a Goth Polka Band with instrumentation that includes an accordion, a banjo, organ, piano, "Glockenspiel," upright bass, saw, clarinet, raw meat (don't ask) and I swear even a bassoon but they don't list it. There's also a mysterious bunch called the Midnight Boys Choir and the Midnight Choirgirls who added "Screams, Gaffaws and Arrgghs." Are you beginning to get the picture?

Like some twisted combination of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Danny Elfman lost in a Tim Burton film (or perhaps Clive Barker), lead vocalist Greg Adair narrates, inspires and conjures a nightmarish cartoon world (think Jack from A Nightmare Before Christmas when you see the word "Greg" and you'll be close). Track one, "Physical Withdrawals" opens with minimal music set against a thunderstorm while Greg comes in with gritty vocals that somehow remind me of old Disney films... "...when the bad things find you, when you're spewing up your stew, by the light of a urinal moon, with your guts spread out before you, the bad things will come for you...."  And suddenly the song breaks into a fast polka rhythm, complete with Danny Elfman-esque "la la la la" vocals in the background and lots of maniacal laughter and cackling. Its quite a rush and sets the dramatic tone for the rest of the CD.

"Whiskey Eyes" could be considered the "ballad" on this CD, but of course, its no ordinary ballad. A sing songy accordion provides the main melody while Greg sounds more and more like the best qualities of Tom Waits. "Don't save me, I want to drown, drown inside your whiskey eyes."  Then you have "Happy Hour in Hell" -- which has quickly become one of my favorites off this CD.  Like a carnival barker complete with top hat, Greg announces, "Come one, come all...Hell has a happy hour, and it starts at noon! Well don't ya be the last to board our little vessel of doom! Suck in that gut there Sonny, there just might be room. "  And I, I end up smiling like an idiot every single time I hear it... the delivery is quite grand and dramatic. From there the song breaks into another accordion driven polka beat complete with a gallery choir of "Heave Ho!" in the background. He quip's, "And Oh, I forgot to tell you, the ship, it only sails one way...and now there is no turning back, the gallows are filled to the roof...and the oars they row in cadence, to the thundering of the cloven hoof... Heave Ho!" wherein the song breaks into a 3/4 rhythm chorus. No expense is spared in creating an "environment"  on this song, you even have the sounds of beer bottles clanking and drunken masses having quite a party.

Continuing on with the maritime theme, "Bourbon Tide" is a beautifully haunting song - minimalist instrumentation - sounds like just the accordion and that damn bassoon they don't list playing a very subdued bass line, while vocals lament a sad and yes, at times, morbid, sailing tale. The most remarkable thing about this song is the sound effects they add to it -- all through it there's the creaking sounds you hear on old vessels as it rocks gently on the ocean... there's a haunting wind breezing through the sails, and in the distance you hear the clanking of buoys. The atmosphere is completely convincing - I get chill bumps!

And next we have "Amelia" and yes, as Austin had alluded to, its about "...a girl named Amelia who suffered from an acute case of Necrophelia" much to the dismay of her boyfriend who, after finding her in a crematorium (her "day" job) cheating on him with a corpse, finds a um... creative way to resolve their problem. Quite a twisted delight, what I find most admirable about this song is the subtle attention to detail that makes it utterly hilarious. In addition to the absolutely creepy, cartoonish sounds of demented Amelia twirling around in the background giggling, there is a perfect comedic series when the vocalist says, "Well her damned infidelity, it make me quite furious, but something inside me was still... slightly curious... she said she could never love a man in good health...[and here he breaks down in sobs] ... but that gave me hope..." and HERE is what makes the song worthwhile -- there's a bright, chiming bell tone and you can just SEE this cartoon light bulb pop up above his head in a bubble before he announces his solution. I have never heard a CD so thorough in creating vivid, morbid, comedic imagery.

I'm only on track 5 you know, and there's 15 on here, so rather than frighten our dear readers away with a long drawn out, song by song review, I'm going to skip down a few but let me assure, they're ALL worthy of great praise. "The Drunken Elephant March" is notable for its upbeat tempo (quite danceable) and swell banjo strumming while "Midnight" is a haunting instrumental with a beautiful spanish-flavored acoustic guitar, lonely harmonica, mournful bass line and that same haunting wind you hear in "Bourbon Tide." And finally, in "Ode to My Employer," I do believe Greg speaks for anyone who's worked a shitty job when he says,  "I'll piss on your grave when you die, I'll drown your sweet mother in the pool, I'll gouge out your eyes with an old rusty spoon, you asshole, you slave-driving goon. And I will piss on your grave when you die, I'll smash in your face with a big heavy brick, I'll burn you alive like a swine on a spit, you asshole, you can't fire me, I resign."

So there you have it. Have I drooled enough? As the title of this CD states, You Have Been Warned. If dark, twisted comedy with a dose of ingenious drama and quite excellent musicianship is something that sparks your fancy, have at it. I do believe, these boys would give even Voltaire, the master of underworldly comedy, a run for his money.

1 Physical Withdrawals
2 Whiskey Eyes
3 Happy Hour in Hell
4 Bourbon Tide
5 Amelia
6 Suicide Watlz
7 The Drunken Elephant March
8 Lovesong
9 Midget Caravan
10 Midnight
11 Moreschi's Waltz
12 One Fine Day
13 Lobotomy
14 Lullaby
15 Ode to My Employer

Booking info:
Jimmy Berg -
Austin Quist -

Silent City Records
PO Box 94356
Seattle, WA 98124-6656

A Midnite Choir is:
Greg Adair - Lead vocals, Accordion, Banjo, Guitar, Organ, Saw, Piano, Glockenspiel
Jimmy Berg: Accordion, Organ, Lead Vocals, Melodica, Glockenspeil
Austin Quist: upright bass
Luke Hopkins: Percussion, Saw, Raw Meat
Backing vocals: The Midnight Boys Choir
Stomps: Greg, Austin, Jimmy and Paula
Guest Musicians: Shirl Sherburdt - Piano, Kevin Hinshaw - Clarinet, Sari Breznau - Vocals, the Midnight Choirgirls (Sheri Sherburdt and Paula Oliver): Screams, Guffaws and Arrgghs.

My Dying Bride
The Dreadful Hours
~reviewed by Matthew

This review may be a bit biased, as this band has been my all time favourite band for almost eight years, so in my mind they can do no wrong.  “The Dreadful Hours” is the band’s seventh full-length release and seventh testament to quality gloom.  After the band received some criticism for 1998’s “34.7888% Complete” release, they followed suit with the now legendary release “The Light At The End Of The World” which brought the band back to form, including the resurrection of guttural death vocals that the Aaron had abandoned after their canonical “Turn Loose The Swans” release.  “The Dreadful Hours” picks up where the last album left off, continuing to juxtapose extreme melancholia with metallic horror.

While some may be apt to criticize MDB for ‘recycling’ their sound and ideas, hardcore fans are genuinely appreciative that the band continues to perfect their sound and retain the characteristics that they have come to be known for.  Unlike bands like Theatre Of Tragedy, Anathema, Katatonia, and so many other acts that were once contemporaries of MDB, My Dying Bride continue to give their fans what they want while the aforementioned bands’ recent output is barely recognizable as Gothic, Doom, or even Metal, or thanks to the influence of trends and labels, not even DARK.

My Dying Bride continues to be the salvation of the bleak hearted dark music fan.  They can pull this off because they are excellent and unrivaled at what they do, and being that the inspiration for the music originates within the souls of these musicians, and remains unfiltered by trends, the music will continue to be effective, powerful, fresh and undeniably 100% My Dying Bride for as long as they continue to release material.

This album is without a doubt, a welcomed addition to my collection.  I cannot say that I was at all disappointed with it.  There were admittedly some things that were different than I expected, but the surprises on the disc were more pleasant than disappointing. The band has always been remarkably good at kicking their CDs off with a strong opening track.  (The piano/violin duet and crestfallen narration of “Sear Me MCMXCIII” for “Turn Loose The Swans” and the cascading drums and dreary feedback of “Cry Of Mankind” for “The Angel & The Dark River” are their most memorable and best loved intros) The title track that opens “The Dreadful Hours” is easily my favourite prelude they have done yet.  The sound of rain falling while a lethargically plucked watery guitar plays and then BAM perhaps one of the most depressive and SAD riffs the band has ever composed explodes through your speakers, with Aaron’s wistful and unsteady voice pleading above it all.  But just as you are ready to slash your wrists, the band takes a sudden turn down memory lane and tears through a galloping death march of thick guitars, pummeling drums and Aaron’s monstrous death growls.  The chorus dances at the edge of melodic black metal, with raspy shrieks, cold swelling synths, and double bass pedal blasts.  A stunning juxtaposition of theme and mood that foreshadows the emotionally manic album that follows.

“The Raven & The Rose” kicks in next with a very crunchy beginning, a pretty straightforward old school sounding MDB song, that concludes with a solo piano interlude that segues into another collage of gorgeous moody guitar riffs.

“Le Figlie Della Tempesta” was one of the pleasant surprises. An extremely long and dreary song, with an inarguably dense Gothic Rock feel throughout the verses, somewhat like a thicker Fields Of The Nephilim or early “Catastrophe Ballet” era Christian Death.  Nice cascading drums, a lulling bass line and layers of ghostly synth effects in the background.  The gloom of the song is broken by a more aggressive and metallic chorus, but overall the song is one of the most unique I think the band has ever done and easily one of my favourites.  A bit too long for club play (and admittedly a bit repetitive) but that hasn’t stopped me now on at least two occasions!

“Black Heart Romance” simply rules, with a sludgy, dare I say, sexy down tempo intro, very dark and swayable with an awesome watery guitar break between the first few verses, and then a return to sludge.  The song breaks for an eerie cadence of strange guitar fret noises and murky synth effects, then charges into a mid paced, mischievous Sabbath-inspired groove to carry the song to a close.  Another perfect example of how the band still sounds 100% like themselves but introduce some new and subtle twists to the mix.

The first half of the album has more of the aggressive elements, while the latter half is predominantly more melodic tracks with Romantic lyrics. “A Cruel Taste Of Winter” begins with sentimental courtly imagery in the lyrics (in their usual macabre sense) that eventually acquires more metallic muscle and crunch in the middle, when Aaron turns his voice from woeful contemplation to his beloved growl.

The Romantic sentiment continues for the extremely touching and moving “My Hope The Destroyer” with a decidedly upbeat gallop, however containing some of the albums most heart-rending and beautiful melodies in both the guitars and the synths.  The keyboard work in this song recalls the bands earlier days, when the passion was intensified by the presence of a live violin.  Though not as organic, the sense of orchestral drama in the track succeeds on several levels.  This is also perhaps one of the most accessible tracks on the album, featuring only a light shading of death vocals that in no way disrupts the forlorn fluidity of the song.  This is the song that fans should attempt to introduce the band to fans of traditional Gothic or ethereal music.

The big finale of the album commences with a long-awaited re-recording of the song “The Return Of The Beautiful” from the band’s debut release “As The Flower Withers.”  Rumous have been abound for years that MDB had planned on re-recording some of their earlier material, and christening it with a warmer and fuller production, as well seasoning it with some of the band’s newer vocal elements.  While I very much like the new version, now dubbed “The Return TO the Beautiful,” I don’t think it holds a candle to the funereal claustrophobia and unsettling drama of the original (which was partially due to the poorer production, not to mention the presence of a live violin).  The main thing that disappointed me about the new version of the song was the vocals.  The original song was growled all the way through. Though true to the starkly erotic and slightly necrophilic themes of the song, I envisioned clean vocals for some of the more dreary parts, which would have better expressed the gloom and regret of the lyrics (which in part deal with the death of beautiful woman, spoken through her widowed lover).  Instead, Aaron brings a more ‘black metal’ rasp to his voice, making the vocals sound suitably daemonic, which is great but there are no clear vocals save for the very last verse.  Where they were originally.   Though the production is better, the song is not that much different and I have to reluctantly question if it was worth the re-recording since it is not that considerably different.   This is the only time that I think the band were capable of being more innovative.

The song will still scare the living hell out of people, but it’s not nearly as effective as the original.  Overall, I was quite pleased with “The Dreadful Hours.”  It continues to forge ahead for the band, finding them dabbling with some different production techniques and studio effects, but remains loyal to the elements that made them absolute heroes and masters of the Gothic Metal genre.  One of the year’s best releases without any shadow of a doubt.

Track List:
1.) The Dreadful Hours
2.) The Raven & The Rose
3.) Le Figlie Della Tempesta
4.) Black Heart Romance
5.) Cruel Taste Of Winter
6.) My Hope The Destroyer
7.) The Deepest Of All Hearts
8.) Return To The Beautiful

My Dying Bride is:
Aaron Stainthorpe– vocals
Andrew Craighan - guitars
Ade Jackson – bass
Hamish Glencross – guitars
Shaun Steels – drums
Yasmine Ahmid – keyboards

My Dying Bride – Official Site:

Peaceville Records:

Private Void
~reviewed by Blu

In a world of overplayed synthpop; it takes a lot to impress me these days. I suppose I'm getting old and jaded. Nothing quite seems to measure up to the joys found discovering the magic sounds of bands like Wolfsheim so many years ago now. I have recently been stubbornly dismissing anything that calls itself synthpop in nature, expecting the same old same old. Until now. Enter a Swedish band bound to take the US club scene by storm:  the Morticians.

Mike Ventarola, a StarVox staff writer and creator of Hidden Sanctuary, sent me a link to this band's music and I immediately feel in love with it and wrote to them inquiring. They were very gracious and sent over a press kit and CDr which hasn't strayed far from my CD player since it's arrival.

Founded by Andreas Rimheden in 1991, Morticians started out as a harsher, industrial band but has, over the years, morphed and grew into what he says is "a mix of soft melodic electronic music like synthpop and a cold hard EBM-inspired sound." Musically speaking, the beats are good and varied (not this dull thump thump thump we've been hearing a lot in clubs) and the melodies are are brilliantly simple and irresistibly catchy. The lyrics are wonderfully sarcastic, dark and morbid at times. Quite a punch packed into an innocent sounding lullaby. As if the music alone wasn't enough,  Andreas - whose vocals are smooth and quiet, yet masculine;  brought in Marie Hagelquist to do backing vocals on this CD. Perfect point and counterpoint -- I don't think you could have asked for a better combination.

Upon hearing the first track, "Alive", I knew this CD was going to be wonderful. A solid yet complex set of percussive rhythms plays against keyboard melodies before Andreas vocals come gliding over the top singing quiet freely,  "Life is just a lie, just a terrible way to die."

I suspect the songs "Goodbye" and "Aware" will be a huge favorite on the dance floor with their harsher EBM beats, (early) Depeche Mode-like melodies, and again, lovely bitter lyrics sung so innocently, "Is the meaning of love, to say goodbye?"

"Last Dance" is my absolute favorite song on this CD in melody and sentiment.  There is a certain peaceful comfort that wells up in my eyes when he sings, "The end is near, I can feel it closing in now, I've lived with fear, I'd really love to rest now, so long my friends, this is my last dance." Wonderfully danceable and dreamy; I believe I could keep this song on repeat for hours.

"Wonderland" is a nice change with the sound of acoustic guitar pluckings initiating the tempo as an electronic melody builds up behind it.  I don't think even Robert Smith got as gloomy as this on his best days: "Wishes never ever come true; but nightmares do..."

"To Heaven" is a *beautiful* ballad where Marie's vocals are wonderfully showcased in this duet with Andreas. The melody speaks of simpler times, and reminds me of favorite singer/songwriters that I used to love when I was little like Cat Stevens.

It's a long walk to heaven yet
Quite a way
Don't think I'll reach it on Saturday
One step forward and two steps back
Life keeps dragging me off my track
I will build an aeroplane of dreams of lost
And I will fly beyond the world where living costs
A million miles from heaven still but moving on
Fantasies will be for real
The day I'm gone
Hear me whisper in the wind
Empty words that never had a meaning
Every time you try to understand
I'm in heaven
Definitely a skilled musician with quite an knack for keeping things interesting yet minimal, I think there's something for every one with the Morticians whether you're into club hits, or melodies, or lyrics or even ballads. Its out there for free on the internet so do yourself a favor and check it out. I guarantee you'll find a favorite new song. I'm looking forward to hearing some of this in clubs...

1. Alive
2. Stereotyped
3. Goodbye
4. Last Dance
5. Wonderland
6. Sustaining Waves
7. To Heaven
8. Aware
9. Bedlam
10. Reincarnation
11. Distant
12. In My Head
13. Electric I

Official Website:

Hear them:

This Midnight Stream
~reviewed by Kevin Filan

Best known as America's country music capital, Nashville is also home to darkwave duo Carole Edwards and Robb Earls, a/k/a This Midnight Stream.  Their CD "Cinematic" combines the slick sound of darkwave pop with heartfelt lyrics that wouldn't be out of place on an album and vocals straight out of a Projekt sampler.  The end result is accessible but complex enough to bear repeated listenings, and the musicianship and production is never anything less than top notch.

"Cinematic" is definitely the product of two talented musicians with unique and frequently divergent visions.  Edwards' ethereal vocalising provides the underpinning for "Midnight Stream" and "The Way Inside," and shows she is as skilled at providing background as lead vocals; in the uncharacteristically upbeat "Dream Love," she even shows a talent for shiny happy 80s synthpop.  I was most impressed by songs like "Esther" and "Fallen Angel," where she paints bleak pictures of alienation and despair among America's substance-abusing class.  The narrator of "Fallen Angel," who "[sits] here with tihs bottle late... All around my twisted fate/mocking me I can't see straight... Oh momma say a prayer" could be the hero of any Hank Williams (SENIOR, thankyouverymuch) song, as could the young Black protagonist of "Esther."  The sound is Darkwave pop -- there are synthesizers and drum machines, not steel guitars and cheesy string sections -- but the sentiment is genuine.  It's a welcome change: far too much Darkwave is about as emotionally involving as an Andy Warhol exhibition.

Robb Earls' is technically quite an adept singer, but I found his vocal stylings sometimes at odds with the instrumental backgrounds.  His Reznor-esque muttered/sung/growled vocals on "Black and Blue" and "Where Does the Time Go" were too precise, and the production too clean and smooth, to capture that Industrial angst-and-rage.  His duet with Edwards on the Bauhuas track "She's In Parties" is more successful, as is his baritone crooning on "Midnight Stream" and "Down to the Bone."  But I found that his instrumental and studio skills were the real standout. He provides a gorgeous lead guitar line on "The Way Inside," and glossy, crystal-clear production throughout this disc.

The dynamic tension between two talented artists can result in a sum that is greater than the parts: Lennon and McCartney come to mind immediately.  Edwards and Earls are both exceptionally talented artists.  This is a promising debut which shows there's more to Nashville than the Grand Olde Opry.  Southern Gothic never sounded so good.

1.  Fallen Angel
2.  Black and Blue
3.  The Way Inside
4.  Esther
5.  Midnight Stream
6.  Down to the Bone
7.  Dream Love
8.  Head
9.  Where Does the Time Go
10. She's in Parties
11.  Midnight Stream (Tommy Dorsey Dance Remix)

This Midnight Stream is:
Carole Edwards - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards
Robb Earls - Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Programming

Additional Musician:
Derek Greene - Drums on "Head"
Tim Lorsch - Violins on "Fallen Angel" and "Black and Blue"
Kirby Shelstad - Tabla and Tambourine on "Esther"

Produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Robb Earls at Sound Vortex, Nashville, except for Midnight Stream (remix) produced and arranged by Tommy Dorsey.

This Midnight Stream MP3 site

moth wranglers
never mind the context
~reviewed by Michael Otley

Moth Wranglers debut full-length is a very interesting collection of folk emo songs spanning the spectrum from the beautiful and gentle Galaxie 500 influenced songs to a brutally annoying Beatle-esque chantmid-album.  Overall this is a really amazing release.  I've been listening repeatedly for days, although there are a handful of tracks that I really can't bare, the rest give me chills.  It's one of