Do serious rock fans listen to stuff like this and imagine flaming glories in their life? Does it transport them? Is that ‘Kashmir’, or ‘Trampled Underfoot’? The Led Zep songbook is at work, and if you want a light rock barbeque this won’t let you down, because you turn up the heat and riffs spray out, but to what purpose exactly? For a band formed five years ago and declaring themselves a mix of Goth and Black Metal they’re far too homely.
They have some nice elongated musical passages, and a few unexpected noises, but mostly what you get is what you heard last track. Again. You have low grubby riffs, with higher guitar decoration, and mellow vocals which cannot disguise the anodyne lyrics - “in the misty morning, under the moonlight” (etc), and he does sound rather like Dave Gahan.
Hey, this is me trying to be positive! When vocals hold great sway, instead of the music, it helps if the vocals are great, sharp, insistent. These are too mild, and the sound falls into line behind him. ‘Desire’ may be vamped-up dross, and you hardly notice any bass, apart from in ‘Mortal’, and it wasn’t until ‘Hate Tunes’ that we get big drums.
They can be brighter, with ‘The Lack Of Inventive Genius’ (irony, anyone?) or moody, as in ‘Through’, but it all seems like a pleasant day in the office with guitars involved. So, I’m sorry, but for me when Rock is processed in this clean, easily digestible form it isn’t rock at all. Sure, they throw a riff into every song, usually to hold our interest, but this like is like heavy pop, without striking melodies. There is nothing dangerous here, nothing desperate. It is efficient Rock, it is adequate, an that’s hardly good enough.
Requiem To The Sun
Garden Of Eden
Symphony Of Sadness
The Lack Of Inventive Genius
Beyond the Soul
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
According to Projekt Records (who distribute this CD in the States), Am'Ganesha'n is an "All star Gothic Metal Band from France featuring leaders from Rajna, Speaking Silence & Les Secrets de Morphée. Forgot Dead Can Dance and welcome AM’GANESHA’N."
I'm not sure where "Gothic
Metal" comes from... Fields of the Nephilim this ain't. On the other
hand, the suggestion that you "forget Dead Can Dance" is right on the money.
Every Worldbeat-influenced band with female vocalists is inevitably compared
to DCD. (By
that token, every band with a skillful keyboard player and pretentious baritone singer should be compared to Emerson, Lake and Palmer... ) Am'Ganesha'n are a superb band in their own right, with a unique sound that is at once accessible and challenging. Smart listeners will check their preconceptions at the door, and prepare to be amazed.
The vocals on this CD are astonishing. The birdlike trills on "Dogma" and "Hymonia" are reminiscent of Yma Sumac or Minnie Ripperton; high, but never piercing or grating. On the low end, the sonorous chants of "Ashes' Dance" and the odd baritone scales of "Road to Ishnar" are hypnotic and unsettling. Things get especially interesting when the two combine: the vocal interplay in "Arthesia" evokes a choir dancing around a sacrificial altar, while the eerie throat-singing on "Tibetan Dream" creates a menacing atmosphere, like tanks gathering at the border.
Equally interesting is the instrumentation used. Gerhard, formerly of Rajna, astounds with his mastery. The portentous bass drum on "Illyria" could have come straight out of Moria, while the chimes and flutes of "Fiery Pilgrimage" and bowed strings of "Majakong" and "Khatag" are goaded on by tablas and other less identifiable percussion. Here he's stretching himself and challenging the audience. The odd harmonies and dissonances spice things up and keep the CD from falling into the "World Muzak" trap.
Am'Ganesha'n appears to be a side project for the musicians involved. I definitely want to hear more from their main bands: I would also encourage them to get back in the studio again with this group. Side projects are frequently self-indulgent egofests, of interest only to the most rabid or obsessive-compulsive collector. Occasionally, though, you strike gold. Freed of worries about commercial viability or genre, the artists are able to make the music they love. That appears to be what happened here. This isn't a "commercial" release ... but it's definitely got the potential for commercial success. If you like ambient/chill music, or if you're a fan of Worldbeat, this CD is indispensible.
3. Road to Ishnar
4. Stroke of Fate
5. Ashes' Dance
6. Tibetan Dream
8. Fiery Pilgrimage
Official Am'Ganesha'n Website
Am'Ganesha'n Available at
Am'Ganesha'n Available at
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen and Joel Steudler
Since good fortune (or so it seemed) smiled upon us and Starvox received two copies of ...And Oceans' new album Cypher, we originally decided to run two reviews - the more the merrier after all, right? As it turned out though, Cypher was too much for any one man to handle... thus reviewers Eric and Joel braved the depths of this ambitious and impressive musical work and collaborated to bring you the following joint review.
Eric: When someone asks you what you think of Finland, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it has always been: Finland? What the hell is that? If you asked me that today, however, I'd have to tell you about the Finnish group ...And Oceans. Their new CD is Cypher, and it's kind of like a drug. Addictive, and full of side effects that may or may not include: paranoia, depression, manic episodes, and general psychosis.
Joel: The really confusing thing about the album (and there are actually a number of confounding elements therein) is that the music manages to be at the same time exciting and yet full of hopeless oppression. A constant flow of hard hitting riffs propel things along at a manic pace throughout, but the vocal approach is undeniably bleak. The unsettling dichotomy sounds like what might happen if Rammstein and Ministry got together after a drunken night on the town and inexplicably reproduced - creating a sullen, angry child who liked to play with synthesizers and thrash out on the guitar.
Eric: Track 2 provides a good example of that effect. "Picturesque" starts out with a heavy groove to attract unwary metal fans. In no time you'll be swaying your head and randomly shouting "yeah!" with your fist raised into the air (only to lower it again, when you realize people have begun to stare). After ...And Oceans has cleverly tricked you into listening to the song, they start introducing unusual elements into the sound. There is a kind of hollow sounding melody that slips into the music and makes for a haunting backdrop to an otherwise normal metal song. Kenny's convincing and truly psychotic vocals then turn the song into a mix of paranoia and hopeless depression that will have you bouncing along merrily until grief overcomes you and your conciousness decides to go on a temporary vacation.
Joel: A subversive undercurrent runs through the whole album, slowly chipping away at any rational worldview you may have been clinging to beforehand. The lyrics that are intelligible are universally downbeat and worrisome. If ...And Oceans set out to strip their listeners of the will to carry on in the fragile and desolate world we inhabit, they sure did a good job of it. The jolly electronic blips that dance over many of the songs seem to say 'It's okay to continue listening! You don't need to turn this off' but in reality, all hope is lost. There is no reason to go on. Nothing we do makes any difference in the grand scheme of things. You may as well give in and accept your sad, unavoidable fate, where noth---
Eric: As much as I hate admitting it, Joel is completely right. The reason I was excited about getting Cypher is because I really liked ...And Ocean's AMGOD. AMGOD was a decidedly upbeat metal affair. The band took the symphonic-meets-metal-wall-of-sound approach that Dimmu Borgir is known for, and super imposed it over happy techno keyboards. This made for a catchy and altogether enjoyable CD that, while containing moments of despair and hate, was pretty exciting and listenable. If you can imagine taking that style of music and adding a dash of Edgar Allen Poe, the pain and despair one gets from reading a detailed Van Gogh biography, and some choice selections from "Asylum Sounds at Night: Volume 1," you'll know exactly what to expect from Cypher.
Joel: My despair is measureless. Nonetheless, I will definitely recommend buying this album to fans of any branch of metal. The band's musicianship is impeccable, and they create a unique sound once again. You may not feel like getting out of bed once you've listened to it a couple times. In fact you may lack the willpower to do much of anything. Why prolong your suffering by struggling to make your way in a world that only seeks to crush your spi--- AGH! Must... not... succumb... to... negativity! Man, after reviewing the new hate-fueled Internicine album last night and the unceasingly bleak 'Cypher' tonight, I -really- need to bust out a Helloween album and let some happy-metal vibes carry me away.
Eric: I can say, quite safely,
that if you're inclined to listen to subversive music hell-bent on tearing
down your sanity and radically altering your perception of everything around
you, then Cypher is the album for you. You can't avoid its message forever.
to all the Helloween you like, just as Joel will, but in the end you'll
realize that the mood of nothingness Cypher inspires will prevail and continue
to provide a whole lot of nothingness. ...And Oceans have taken their work
to a new level of art, it's just not the kind of level anyone on the edge
of suicide should be visiting. If you've got a strong will and appreciate
artistic metal, give Cypher a listen, and don't say you weren't warned.
1.) Fragile: Pictures of Silence: Melting the Skies
2.) Picturesque: Cataclysm Savour: And The Little Things That Make Us Smile
3.) Angelina: Chthonian Earth: Her Face Forms Worms
4.) Halcyon: The Heavy Silence: In Silent Rain
5.) Aphelion: Light Evanescence: Into Extinction
6.) Opaque: The Morning I Woke Up Dead: Today Is The Day
7.) Aphid: Devil Flower: Fruits Of Lunacy
8.) Voyage: Lost Between Horizons: Eaten By The Distance
9.) Catharsis: End of Organisms: Absolute Purification of Sins
10.) Silhouette: In White Rooms: Vacant Bodies
11.) Comatose: The World Amnesia: Planet Dead
12.) Debris: The Magenta Harvest: Liquid Flesh
13.) Nail: An Odyssey In Flesh: Celebrate The New Skin
...And Oceans is:
Kenny - vocals
Pete - guitar
T - guitar
Q - bass
Sami - drums
...And Oceans - Official
Century Media Records:
Going To The Theatre
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Sometimes the greatness is obvious, and the Helm boys, Bret and Bart, are going to be holding us enthralled for many years to come. Keeping it simple, I’d say, as ‘Midnight Mood Swing’ proves, if Bauhaus ever did shoegazing they might rival this, if they were lucky. Nice repetitive guitar is able in an instant to accentuate the atmosphere with a tiny riff, and constant crawling vocals are delicately poised, rather than delicate. It’s all so deceptively simple, and the simplest things are always the hardest to pull off.
‘There Are No Snakes In Heaven’ has beautiful genuflecting guitar, proudly moody vocals and some creepy lyrical imagery, before it all simply melts away. ‘Going To The Theatre’ is feckless and reckless youth exposed, and it’s the way his voice, with a wispy guitar holds centre stage alongside the sordid words of - ‘I’m gonna catch me some great disease’.
When you figure he might make a thing of nocturnal stories, some proper sense comes with ‘All The Ghosts Spend Their Time Alone’, the guitar and bass entwined, as odd keyboards move it along, and mark time, which is fitting for a sorrowful tale, of people as ghosts. So that’s quiet and ‘In A Dark Room’ hints at some aggression with music that buzzes, moth-like holding sway.
Changes enchant for where that’s broad, ‘Face Go Red’ is narrow, scary imagery done in a higher pitched vocal, in a sad story around which sounds hang and linger. ‘A Walk In The Woods’ gets livelier, especially when it swerves around to the vocals. At one point the drawled approach made me think Eldritch had been given an enema, but banish that thought - oh God, banish that thought! - as that’s one Goth comparison too many. They’re nothing like that. Their fragrance may be damp, but they don’t reek. Interestingly, when I was first hearing that song I was laying on the floor, looked up and found I had a small woodlice for company (they sometimes creep in through the catflap). I lifted him on some paper and placed him outside where he momentarily flipped on his back and wiggled. I think he was saying thank you for that song, although he still hasn’t called….
Having got you hopelessly excited they do disappoint with a few of the later songs but expecting perfection right now would only be cheeky. There’s a few too many ordinary moments for this to be a minor classic, bit it’s close. ‘Fearless Peaches’ is, sadly, a stinker, an ordinary lyrical homage to a community ‘character’ and practically a dull, hippyish fable, lame because there’s no shock, sting, or triumph. ‘Cabaret Fortune Teller’ has darker musical redemption, but ‘Another Pretty Lament’ is only a snapshot of resignation
It is a wonderfully compelling album and this blissful clarity is only possible because they share individual quality and the sum is greater than any whole they could ever dig.
One day these boys are going to create magic.
~reviewed by Jezebel
It is refreshing in a scene where sometimes, a new album is just a rehashing of the last one that something like Astronomica comes along. Bands need to become more of themselves while developing further and, The Changelings have done it.
I have been a fan of this band for ages, loving the way that they incorporate so many different styles, particularly Middle Eastern styles, of music together to envelop, enrapture and stretch the boundaries of gothic ethereal as a whole. This is not always well done, as it can seem put on and affected, but somehow, The Changelings had made it part of their fabric, part of their soul and being.
We open with what is seemingly a typical song, "Departure" once again incorporates Middle Eastern influences, but takes those to space and gives one the image of flowing among the stars, daintily touching one and yet another, rhythmatically floating through it all. "Orbit" takes us back to their ethereal roots and once again showcases the growth of the band, as revisiting creates something more than what was there before instead of just regurgitation. Regeana Morris' voice is that which Kate from Seventh Harmonic inspires to, folk, yet ethereal; angelic, yet grounded.
"Outrun Your Fears" starts off sexily and seductively, willing and whispering to you to enter this world. Glorious piano (?) and string playing is the substance to the smoke of Regeana's voice.
The accompanying release speaks of the "raw passion" of "Veils of Gold" and I can see where this description. Showcasing the sexiness and lushness of The Changelings sound, once again Regeana's voice is the invitation to this very romantic and rich landscape they have created.
"Parallax" is an offer that threw me the first time I listened to it. It's definitely The Changelings, but somewhere the percussion section has become more focused upon and more of a thrust for the sound. Paul's strong playing is prominent and excellent enough to garner mention, but the percussion playing of Chandler Rentz deserves much more. Interesting rhythms and timing changes create a different journey for the regular Changelings listener. This challenges them to hear something different from the band, a different aspect I don't feel has been showcased quite so much or so well before in previous releases. It also has probably one of my favourite Changelings lyrics not only in wording but in delivery:
don't know the date
don't know the time
the lab rats are insane
and I fear that I'll be next
"Hyperspace" is a bit more ethereal than I have really encountered before from The Changelings. It's "ambient" as the release explains, but I believe it is more of an exploration than anything. It is definitely well done and I think that as The Changelings continue to put out amazing albums, you will hear more of this influence (similarly as you heard in the recent Shroud release).
"Olympus Mons" features vocals by Damon Young and is an amazing trip. And I mean that. It's a trip. I listened to this lying in Hyde Park in London, under a tree around 6pm as dusk was starting to fall. It seemed as dusk fell, this song filled that which was left empty. Soft and evocative, I hope that we get more from Damon on future releases.
But my absolutely favourite song on the album is "See Emily Play" a cover of the Pink Floyd song. I need, want, must see The Changelings do this song live. I just hope to see the whole band jump up and down as Regeana sings "There is no other day, let's try it another way, you'll lose your mind in flames, free games for me, See Emily Play". It's a great exploration of her voice, a great exploration for the band, taking the original and just making it all their own and yet retaining that which made the song good in its original form. Oh yeah.
And our final offering…the melancholy and touching "My Shadow, Your Ghost." This is haunting and although back from our happy trippy song and back to a tempo more related to the The Changelings, here we do get a bit more of the range of Regeana's voice…this is ballad-like, some what soft jazz like perhaps?, yet with, The Changelings stamp.
Being a fan of the band,
I thought that it would be difficult to be objective when reviewing the
CD. I mean, come on….I have everything they have ever put their stamp on.
But, The Changelings surprised me. They have taken their sound, found the
core of what makes it what it is and then used it as a tool to interpret
other styles and genres. It was not changing those styles and genres into
The Changeling's, but making something more, new and evolutionary in a
scene which desperately needs broadening.
3 Mata Hari
4 Outrun Your Fears
5 Veils of Gold
8 Olympus Mons
9 See Emily Play
10 My Shadow, Your Ghost
The Changelings are:
Paul Mercer - Violin & Viola
Regeana Morris - Voice, Bass Guitar and Hammered Dulcimer
Nick Pagan - MPS Orchestral Plus, CSX1, Nano Synth, Mini-Moog, "Mellotron", Phased Chimes and Backing Vocals
Chandler Rentz - Drums and Percussion and Backing Vocals
Damon Young - Guitars, Olympus Vocals
The Changelings: http://www.changelings.com
Middle Pillar: http://www.middlepillar.com
Tristesse des Manes ( Prikosnovenie)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
They look serious people, but approachable, hanging around a big posh room, instruments around them. Sensible clothes, sensible hair. Against the classical sound of piano and cello (with violin), the female voice(s) uses a real melody, giving us classical songs. The violin usually throws in some brisk moves to change the tension the cello drawls and sets the mood, which the piano enhances. It isn’t background music either, because it gets everywhere.
They are usually slow, with delicate vocals, but they stay high in the mix, and strong, for this isn’t willowy ethereal material. Singing in French, apart from “Kergal”, and then you don’t really notice, adds to it all. The French can do a romantic mood better than anyone (not a stereotype, more an independent musical observation), and this will please you immensely? Nothing is desolate or stark, as its ruminative. Sadness is a factor, encouraging reflection, and by not being able to understand the words you invent your own mood so it is slightly mysterious, without with being light or disposable.
Nor is it heavy or daunting, which would have been such an easier route to go. Only “Un parc, une tonnelle” is dark just as “Un automne restant” is lighter, almost waltzing, in the old Josepheine Baker chansons style of her 60’s musing. It’s like any band, either they have the variety and imagination or they don’t and with the exception of one song which is like a capricious musical joke (“Loire et lethe “) yet not glaringly out of place, it all works.
This haunting music cleanses the room effortlessly, and is the most beautiful thing I have heard outside of Ataraxia. It reminds me of music that backs Stephen Poliakoff tv films (remember the awesome ‘Shooting The Past’ or ‘Perfect Strangers’ music?) in that it just makes you tingle. This is an album of exceptional beauty, delivered in such a way that it’s an album to truly cherish.
Aux glycines defuntes
La, ici ou alliers
Au sacre des nuits
Le parc enniege
Les chants de peine
Loire et lethe
Les temples eleves
Aux cordes eternelles
Un automne restant
Un parc, une tonnelle
La source du jour
La tristesse des manes
Distributed by Projekt: www.projekt.com
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
In the ever changing evolvement of underground music, nothing can compare to the joy of finding really great artists tucked away on the internet. Such was the case when I first stumbled upon the Dream Disciples, a four man line-up of dedicated individuals, who have been pushing their sound for 10 years.
Despite the U.K. acclaim for this band, much of their work still remains obscure to most underground music fans in the U.S., and quite frankly, they don’t know what they are missing. Truth be told, it seems those of us in the States are still a bit behind the times, often wanting the “traditional” goth rock sound as heard in Sisters of Mercy, Fields of Nephilim and that ilk. Thankfully, the European bands are not sitting around and remaining static, but progressing with the times we live in by updating the old classic sound with a new found energy and harder beat.
This current CD is a live recording taken from Sheffield N.M.B on 9/29/01 and Camden Underworld on 7/12/01. While most live CD’s often show a band at their most vulnerable, Dream Disciples demonstrate that their longevity is due to phenomenal talent, drive, ambition and determination.
The “Intro” opens with crowd cheers of anticipation while dark morose tones herald the oncoming session of abject pleasure. This segues with Col shouting a greeting to Sheffield, and then all the sparks ignite, the bullets are out of their chamber as “Velvethead” is brought to the front. Like a cruise missile, the energy simply catapults the sound to a goth-industrial frenzy that hasn’t been seen on this side of the continent in about 20 years. Lead singer Col simply makes one breathless with the notes and ranges that he is able to achieve. Anyone who doesn’t get goose bumps with Col singing the high notes of “voice of an angel,” as if he was knocking down the wall of Jericho, has to already be dead! The initial impression was that things have to end off on a low note after this because it seems that all their nervous energy went into the first song. WRONG!
Col and company catch a momentary breath and explode with “Veins.” Col seems to have taken on a cybernetic aura of Rozz Williams while Gord and Sid played chords that would make even the most proficient guitarist have bleeding fingers for months. This song demonstrates their ability to take energy and pour it like a rushing geyser and then pull back when essential to avoid overkill.
The crowd roars its approval as the band segues into their hit Cobalt Blue. Col sings this with such passion that one may be moved to tears, particularly when he takes his vocal chords to newer and stronger heights.
Col plays with the crowd a bit. The keyboards percolate and froth as the rest of the band hit flawless notes with, “Perfect.” Col maintains the vocal intensity and passion with this angst driven track.
The crowd and Col exchange a bit of chatter and then the phenomenal hit “Room 57” slams into the psyche like a new religion. Having learned a bit about the band over time, this track is pretty much autobiographical of their lives and struggles as musicians trying to get their songs out to an apathetic world.
Mid-eastern goth chords are doled out of the guitar as if heralding the coming of a new reigning King from the Nile. Instantly, we are thrust into the confines of “Antidote,” another angst ridden track that is a veiled slight against the medical establishment and their pill pushing ethics while also being a metaphor for a love relationship.
The pace is slowed down a bit to a darkly seductive level with “Misery Whip.” Additional mid-eastern goth stylization comes flowing forth, while Col becomes the singing narrator of feeling lost and alone, seeking a bit of momentary comfort. One can only imagine a sea of lighters being held up while this track was being performed.
Col jokingly tells the audience to “smile, you’re on compact disc.” The keyboards percolate an intro for the guitarists and bassist to strut more of their talent as they present the track, “Black Widow.” By the time Col reaches the lyric “guilty by complicity,” one can’t help but feel as if this is anthemic in nature and something that the crowd needs to comprehend.
A bit more audience exchange with the audience and the keyboard manages to once again thrust the crowd into a dark chasm. The effervescence of “The Enemy” had to have the crowds dancing in a frenzy in the aisles!
“Care of The Devil” segued immediately from the last track and is from their earlier album, “A Cure For Pain.” The standard traditional goth notes are delivered with a bit more of an updated edge, leaving the crowd screaming for more.
When one finishes listening to this Cd, it is impossible NOT to be simply in awe that the Dream Disciples maintained the energy level that they did. If ever a vocalist commands our respect, Col will go down in the history of goth as one of the few tenor vocalists who knew how to pack a punch without resorting to standard goth vocal clichés.
Admittedly, this reviewer was one of the many in the States who longed for the old school goth sound from bands, and found myself sharing my adoration for their earlier albums with other folks. However, Col forthrightly declared on the phone one evening, “don’t be a wanker mate, that stuff is about 20 years behind the times. THIS is what goth is over here on our side.” Much gratitude is bestowed to Col for providing an essential lesson on the changing sound and face of goth music from around the globe.
In the final analysis, one cannot help but be in awe with Col’s vocals which simply croon as though from a gilded throat. He is at once fiery, passionate, seductive, angst-ridden and morose, all in the span of a breathtaking second. Furthermore, it is impossible not to be in awe with the rest of the band who play like Gods from Mount Olympus. They brandish their instruments like sonic weapons, heralding the new age of goth, almost defying our notions and stale expectations.
If you haven’t heard of Dream Disciples, you owe it to yourself to pick up their music. Additionally, this live recording is highly recommended, particularly because of the drive and energy of its execution. One can only hope that a future tour in the States will become a reality.
4. Cobalt Blue
6. Room 57
8. The Misery Whip
9. Black Widow
10. The Enemy
11. Care of the Devil
Gord: guitars & programming
Sid: guitars & programming
Available at www.darkcelldigitalmusic.net
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
Some have said that Gothic Rock is dead -- killed by Synthpop, or by EBM, or maybe Andrew Eldritch. Miami trio Deep Red must not be reading the obituaries. Their latest release "Chimera" is a tasty piece of modern Gothic Rock, and if it's dead, it is one beautiful corpse. Combining the elegaic grandeur of vintage Bauhaus with the catchy rhythms of modern dance music, "Chimera" proves the naysayers wrong. Bela Lugosi may be dead... but a quick listen to this CD will prove that Gothic rock is still alive, well and relevant.
How do they do it? For starters, they have a Real Live Person behind the drumkit, not just a beatbox. Mario Soto is a superb percussionist. His steady hand underpins Martha Arce's ethereal vocals on "Moments" and cuts through the keyboard haze on "Blue in Heaven." Not content to rest on his drumming laurels, he also adds a tasty bass lines on "Starless" and the X-Vortex remix of "Sin to Sin." He's got rhythm, he's got music, he's got good tunes -- who could ask for anything more? (Well, maybe Cole Porter could ask yr. humble reviewer for an apology... )
DC Astro's keyboard stylings are also enormously important to the Deep Red sound. Thankfully, he avoids the New Cliches: the whooshy, wispy chords which are part and parcel of most modern synthpop only make brief appearances in "Chimera II." His smooth, rhythmic progressions alternately evoke Giorgio Morodor or Kraftwerk, but never overwhelm Martha Arce's vocals or become tedious or tiresome. Deep Red uses keyboards as an instrument, not as an end in themselves. Astro is also the man behind the slick production and mixing: if he ever tires of playing in a band, he's definitely got a potential career in the studio.
And last, but certainly not least, there are the vocals and lyrics of Martha Arce. Arce is a skilled singer, but also (thankfully) refreshingly free of ego. She's able to work with the band, not as the leader so much as another part of the equation. She's able to sing with the band and support the music... a rare talent in singers. Her throaty, sexy vocals give "Books of Fate" real single (and dancefloor) potential, while her multilayered harmonies on "Nothing's Ever Enough" are more than enough for rock and roll.
Once upon a time, New Wave gave the lumbering beast which was Arena Rock a swift kick in the tush. Today dance culture has done the same with Gothic Rock. This isn't synthpop, but it has definitely been influenced by synthpop and by electronica. Avoiding the "hand stapled to forehead" cliches of Goth Rock and the "cue the whooshing synth/cue the drum machine/cue the baritone vocal" cliches of Synthpop, this release has both brains and a beat, and should please Gothic purists and synthkiddies alike. Highly recommended.
1) The Etruscan Kills Again
5) Battle Lines
6) Books of Fate
7) Sin to Sin
8) Living in Black
9) Blue in Heaven
10) Nothing's Ever Enough
11) Chimera II
12) Sin to Sin (X-Vortex Mix)
13) Glimpses (bonus track)
DC Astro: Keyboards, Drums,
Programming, Sound Design
Martha Arce: Lead singer, lyricist
Mario Soto: Drummer, Guitarist, Bass, Keyboards,
Back-up and Lead Vocals
Official Deep Red webpage
~reviewed by Anthony Flores/BlackOrpheus
With their 2002 release Chimera, Florida band Deep Red, has added yet another noteworthy release to a small but exquisitely crafted collection.
Deep Red's album CHIMERA
is not particularly standard, nor is it formulaic fare. The music of
Deep Red is a fusion if you will of elements as diverse as electro and
ethereal, and as unified as goth and darkwave. Their music betrays a skill
and creativity that isn't readily attained. It is possessed of many more
moments of outright beauty and sublimity than one is generally accustomed
to. The band is not new, nor is it unknown. It does however fail to enjoy
of its better publicized peers. It is my hope that word of mouth and the continued quality of its releases will remedy this inequity. The following are a few of the tracks I'm most partial to on Deep Red's CHIMERA.
"Moments" is a song that almost immediately settles itself down in the seat of your emotions. It is a song of longing and release. "Moments" felt everything and could forget nothing. It seeks embrace and reassurance, when ones world has come unravelled. It wants to call out after you, even as you're walking away. Martha Arce skillfully invokes the universal memories of shared emotion and experience. She does so with verve, as each lyric is imbued with a rawness that cannot fail to register recognition with the sensitive listener.
"Sin To Sin" is another track upon which I cannot help but enthuse. It is a limpid attempt to convey the feelings associated with a shared intimacy. It succeeds wonderfully well. It is all at once sensual and at the same time self knowing. It recognizes that need fulfillment is frequently traded upon the act of being intimate with someone emotionally and otherwise. It is no ones fault when the intimacy concludes, as both parties asked impossible things of mere intimacy. The song is a haunting treatise on dependance, and beautifully conveyed by the knowing voice of Martha Arce once again.
Closing out my favorites on this album is "Blue In Heaven". This song possesses the easy familiarity of great 80's New Wave fare, Berlin meets "Til Tuesday, perhaps. The song is energetic and affirming, and in my opinion has definite dancefloor potential. I'd recommend a remix most assuredly. Great song!
As I approach the end of my sojourn with Deep Red's CHIMERA, I'd like to make a few closing remarks.
As a reviewer, I think it'd be helpful to have access to current album lyrics. Currently, they weren't to be found in the cd liner notes or on the bands lyric page posted on their site. Ideally, I'd rather see lyrics in the cd's booklet than band photos. It is both helpful and of interest to the listener. It would be helpful to see the menu labelled clearly as well. When my cursor came to rest on each portion of the menu page, no area designation appeared. Lastly, I really believe it might best serve the band to consider revising their bio page. It lacks the skilled craftsmanship of their music. These are just suggestions, no offense intended.
CHIMERA is a competent album evincing the continued honing of the bands craft. If they continue on in this vein, they cannot fail to capture the larger audience they're so deserving of. I enjoyed this album very much, and felt the slower songs were where the band really broke out and truly shined. If you aren't familiar with the band, CHIMERA is a great introduction to a gifted group of musicians. Many thanks to Deep Red and Osiris Soundworks for the opportunity to review the album. Best wishes for the future.
1)The Etruscan Kills Again
6)Books Of Fate
7)Sin To Sin
8)Living In Black
9)Blue In Heaven
10)Nothing's Ever Enough
12)Sin To Sin (x-vortex mix)
Deep Red Are:
DC Astro: Keyboards, drums, programming, sound design
Martha Arce: Lead singer, lyricist
Mario Soto: Drummer, guitarist, bass, keyboards, back-up and lead vocals
Web Site: DeepRed.Com
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
With Dave from Vendemmian involved you’ve got to give it a go. He handles instruments and Yasmin sings, it’s all very polite, there’s no website and I don’t have a great deal to say about this, because I don’t think it has a great deal to offer than you might already realise.
Picking highlights I’d have
to say that ‘Wanting’ is very attractive musically, which is short and
to the point, quietly melodic, but with hazy, rather expressionless, vocals.
‘59’ is a sleepier, filmic, music that stops way too early, and with the guitar urgency underplayed ‘Caged Bird’ is sweet, but I’m not overly impressed.
In ‘So Close’ Yasmin’s vocal deficiencies are highlighted by the music plodding forward. Her voice isn’t that bad, but certainly lacks strength and she can’t sustain anything high pitched, so the musical arrangements leave her frequently exposed . The music also has a problem in that certain Goth sounds have ossified and this rekindles memories of the early to mid 90’s, having acquired no added depth, which maybe down to a lack of equipment, or effervescence. The irony is that when they don’t sound noticeably Goth the music actually has a tranquil charm, but when it does get Goth it sounds dated. ‘Blind Faith’ being slow suits her voice better, and has greater personality because the emphasis is on her character, but it remains rather dour, just as ‘It’s A Sin’ is a nice little song, which would have sounded far better with a fresher sound.
One for the diehards.
It’s A Sin
No website? Weird, but e-mail email@example.com or write to Excession, 16 barrow Road, London, SW16 5PF
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
The English music press is calling them "the next Oasis" -- and they aren't even offended. What's more, Fischerspooner openly boasts of their "mediocrity" and considers their musical ouvre to be a mere framework for their elaborate stage show. (Several of their tracks include loud "blips," so that they'll hear the cue for costume changes even if the monitors aren't working). It should be easy enough to loathe Fischerspooner -- or at least to dismiss them as a bunch of posers. And it would be... if it weren't for that damned "Emerge" track.
You've probably heard "Emerge" by now: It's been getting heavy rotation in clubs around the world. It features profound lyrics like "Looks good/feels good/is good/that's right ... / is good too" combined with hooks that will leave you singing in the shower for weeks. It's literally "unforgettable" -- not in the Nat King Cole sense of the word but in that wrap-around-your-synapses-like-an-octopus-then-grow-until-you're-humming-it-in-elevators way. Remember "Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats? I bet you can remember the first verse and chorus, even if you hated the ferschlugginer song. Well, "Emerge" is even more contagious.
If you're following the career path blazed by Flock of Seagulls and other one-hit (too many) wonders, you'll give the public one good single amidst a CD full of dreck. Looking at the selection on this CD, I suspect Fischerspooner may be more ambitious -- or more talented -- than they let on. Sure, they have the requisite second-rate retread of their big hit ("Invisible") and the unnecessary instrumental ("Ersatz"), but they've also got a couple of *worthwhile* songs on their debut. The moody keyboards of "The 15th" wouldn't be out of place on a Depeche Mode album, while "the driving, propulsive rhythms of "Fucker" and "Turn On" are guaranteed to fill a dance floor.
So what's their secret? The
production helps: it retains the slick, anhedonic feel of 80s synthpop
without the sappiness that plagues so much 21st century Synthpop.
So does the basic simplicity of this music. Despite all their costume
changes and overblown stage shows, most Fischerspooner tracks are uncomplicated
affairs. They find a groove, then nourish it tenderly, allowing it
to grow into a full-fledged monster riff. There's nothing
particularly challenging here -- but that also means there's nothing to get in the way of the melody or the hooks. This is pop in the purest sense of the word: built for pleasure, not cogitation.
Would I recommend this? Does it matter: you're going to be hearing it sooner or later, no matter what I say. And it's going to make you dance. Why fight it? Get your copy now.
Casey Spooner & Warren Fischer
(with numerous contributors)
2. The 15th*
5. Turn On
6. Tone Poem
9. Natural Disaster
Official Fischerspooner Website
Give 'Em More Rope
~reviewed by Blu
This third release from Ghoultown knocks their standards up even further. Always a band that aspires to nothing less that perfection in their music, Give 'Em More Rope goes above and beyond anything they've done to date. Not easily classified in any genre, they are unique unto themselves. Most often coupled with bands in gothabilly and psychobilly genres, Ghoultown stands apart from the pack with their more serious take on horror and the macabre. This is not your campy, cheesy, rockabilly based stuff. No no, these guys might as well have walked through a portal door from an alternate reality. They really DO wear cowboy hats and cowboy boots and they really do know how to play Spanish styled acoustic guitars and trumpets. They just happen to love horror films too. Blend that all together and you have the post-apocalyptic-Western-meets-Zombie-flick world that Ghoultown inhabits. I guarantee you've never heard anything like this before.
A scratchy record plays a lonesome melody in the short "Intro" that segways into the dusty plains that Ghoultown occupies. It launches you straight into the song "Fistful of Demons" - a powerful in-your-face song that tells you upfront what kind of band this is. The guitars grind without mercy, the drums pound away and the lyrics are nightmarish and as classic "ghoultown" as you'll ever get. Count Lyle sings:
I was born without a faceAnd with a trumpet's blare the first track is over and you're left, chin dropped wondering what freight train just ran you over. Before you can catch your breath, "Dia de Los Muertos" kicks in with a superb Spanish styled trumpet and you're off on the next adventure. Perhaps the coolest thing about this song, and about Ghoultown in general, is their ability to fuse different musical styles seamlessly. In the middle of this very Southwestern track is a slicing guitar solo that is more along the lines of hardcore metal.
on some forgotten halloween
in 13 rusty mason jars
my mother buried me
in some old shack behind the woods
where no one ever goes
but a soul don't rest in the devil's arms
cuz on one really knows
One song that comes off really well on this CD is "Return of the Living Dead." It's a bit more mellow in tempo but the melody line is so contagious that by the second chorus you're singing right along. Stand out musical features on this song are the slick and cool acoustic guitar work and back up vocals by Anna Oakley and Sandy the Temptress. The guitar solo on this song is also excellent and has a deep south blues feel to it. The subject matter - obviously - is something near and dear to the heart of these horror movie buffs.
"Wicked Man" got a powerful response when performed live and it's just as effective on this CD. The chorus is immediately catchy with boisterous western guitar riffs propelling it along. It's dirty and gritty in a good old Johnny Cash kind of way. "Dirty Sanchez" features more outstanding trumpet work as the backdrop to a story about someone you wouldn't want to meet. "Hang Me High" almost reminds me of a song by The Toadies with its more prevalent bass line, marching percussion and freight train rock-guitar rhythms.
"Smoke Break," "Bandito Sunrise" and "To the Gallows" make up the impressive instrumental tracks on this CD that give recognition to the outstanding musicians that make up Ghoultown. "Smoke Break" has some excellent blues guitar work moving it along with trumpet, "Bandito Sunrise" showcases some stylish acoustic Spanish guitar and "To the Gallows" digs right into the very heart of Western themes complete with multiple trumpet tracks (make sure to listen well past the end of the music for some grisly sound effects!).
"Wait Until Dark" was much fun live and hearing it here on the CD brings back a big smile. There's a twangy guitar lick that's the highlight of the song - slightly silly in a hill-billy type way - you can't help but tap your feet. Perhaps it's witchcraft? Lyle and Anna Oakley sing:
two bat wingsHad enough yet? I'll shut my mouth and get to the point -- with a whopping 16 tracks this is one hefty CD that's worth every penny if not more. If you've been following Ghoultown you probably already have this (as if there were any choice once you're addicted...) and if you haven't heard them before, no matter what type of music you're into, I'm gonna bet that you'll be impressed. Check out their webpage if only for the visuals. We'll lure you in yet.
a raven's tongue
seven eyes of newt
three dead flies
a dirty skull
and one old leather boot
throw it in a boiling pot
and what have you got?
wait until dark...
2. Fistful of Demons
3. Dia de Los Muertos
4. Return of the Living Dead
5. Wicked Man
6. Dirty Sanchez
7. Hang Me High
8. Smoke Break
9. Wait Until Dark
10. Man With No Name
12. Draggin' Your Bones
13. Whipping Post
14. Bandito Sunrise
15. Carry the Coffin
16. To the Gallows
Angry Planet Records
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Are you going to believe them when they say this live electronic feast is specifically designed to ‘stimulate the primal rhythmic areas of you brain, without affecting the fight or flight response’ or their froth about Industrial funk grooves? I would, if I were you.
They know how to hold a pulse, to be strong and bold, and when it kicks off it’s seething madness like NIN-gone-dance, because they can construct a jaunty approach with monstrous vocal style, leaving tantalising pauses, and then guitar comes crunching in on the rhythm, and hammer the ending out, while words spew forth like, “chaos is a whore” which makes no sense, but sounds fine. They have strategy on their side, and they know lunacy. They know pace, and they understand the difference a raucous chorus makes.
They can do some skinny lean funk, as easily as their stir samples into the mix without driving us to distraction, and the vocalist has what most Industrial bands don’t have, a big voice with great character. He dominates as he should, and no matter how loud and vast the music gets, he is vaster. He is colossal, and at times it even gets commercial, like Alice Cooper done Industrial (no, not like Manson), which keeps you gripped. It’s a well-enunciated grime attack with absolutely no manners. It is a disgrace.
One of them is called ‘m. bolism’.
Red meat and sex
Open playing field
Shoot to thrill
the anachim thorn (alectric records)
~reviewed by Steph
The anachim thorn is an exercise in disturbing minimal noise with occasional swells of synthesized sound that startle and surprise. This album is a bit of a departure for me as reviewer because it's entirely instrumental, and I have long been known for my love affair with the human voice. Appreciating the subtleties of an instrumental album requires a perspective shift.
The track listing indicates 11 distinct songs, but in reality, the whole plays like one long musical interlude that fades in and out. Changes in pitch and tempo signal the transitions from one song to another. Throbbing frequencies grow louder by imperceptible degrees until they're echoing in your head.
hellothisisalex, who are a duo consisting of Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey, are often referred to as David Lynchesque for the low key, yet insinuating uneasy quality of their music. This album won't grab your attention, but play it often enough, and you might just find it lurking in corners of your mind.
01 Bus ride to the corner store
02 it's a girl
03 from over the phone
04 everybody's having fun getting naked
06 dinner at a restaurant
07 the unsettling car ride home
08 the transylvanian teacher's federation
09 sorry for borrowing your car
10 outside in the cold the school lights burn bright
11 lights out
Momentos en el Tiempo
~reviewed by Jezebel
Johnny Indovina is, to me, one of the most amazing and insightful songwriters in this genre. His way of twisting, testing and turning a phrase into a lyrical delight is something which should be cherished.
This live album showcases this in a raw, innocent and stripped down way. His scratchy, yet in the same way, clear and focussed voice works through many of his well known and some not well known works. "Death of An Angel" has always been a beautiful song for me, so poignant, so lush in its sadness, but is brought forward even more with this live version. "Tired" understated pulse is now more hypnotic in this scaled down version. (and I love that "yeah" at the end….just so damn sexy)
"Skin" starts delicately, seductively and yet again, innocently. "When all was simple, When nothing could penetrate my skin," gorgeous lyrics, whispered tragically. "When frowns stranger than smiles." This song of a time lost, an innocent lost, the child-like wonder of the world lost is so simply given over to the audience, yet the depth of the loss being so complex, is understood. For me it has always had a bit of a mantra "Let me grow in a world of childhood innocence" - let me continue to feed my inner child milk and cookies and yet grow and mature. Let me be in a place where that is okay and safe, and "nothing can penetrate my skin."
"Fascination and Fear" - once again a scaled down version (okay - all of the versions on this album are scaled down, acoustic and solo) takes on so much more. "I can almost feel your heart beating, see confusion in eyes so clear, the line between fascination and fear." Fascination is when you will explore, fear is when you run away. The line between taking that step towards something or running away. Again, the tragedy of the song, the fact that he knows he will not get what he deserves, the object of this song will never be able to cross that line. He will "never be satisfied."
"As Love Comes Tumbling Down" and "The Silent Dance" are lovely songs in which Johnny showcases the gorgeous voice that he has when it is true and clear and not doing his sexy whispering vocals (which he does well, believe you me). It's strong, powerful and surprisingly, young sounding. I do not mean to infer that Johnny is an old man, but it has a soft young richness in it that is in juxtaposition to his normal presentation of voice which sounds of wisdom, maturity and experience.
"Yesterday is Here" is a Tom Waits song and to be honest, you can hear the influence of that voice and style, but somehow, it has been Indovina-ed at the same time. "It is Fear" gets a fresh new arrangement and sounds lovely. It's slower and less passionate and in some ways more aptly describes fear. Horror to me has always been loud and in your face, fear, on the other hand, is sneaky and quiet and furtive. And this song is just that.
"Can't Cry Hard Enough" is a gorgeous, none Johnny Indovina written song and again you can sense the change and yet, his talent is able envelope a song and make it sound as if it came from his own pen and heart. And again - this is an offering which showcases his gorgeous voice without as much whispering.
"Forever"'s new arrangement makes it more of a song for lover's and for those that know this is "it." "Your Fire" is new to me and I believe that it is a new favourite.
We end with "This Tangled Web," a constant favourite of HD fans. And it's arrangement doesn't add much to the song, but it is still a lovely song with lyrics that are touching and evocative. "You can wrap your arms around the wind, within lies the reasons for this tangled web we weave."
Okay - bad parts. There has to be bad parts, right????? Okay - the packaging is confusing. It's not a jewel case, but one the cardboards ones which would be fine if it opened like most do, kind of folding out. This had a tray that slides out, revealing only half the cd, which you then have to manoeuvre out. Great idea, but it's just a bit clumsy. Because of that packaging, there is mot much space for information and what is there seems cramped. I would have loved to know which songs were recorded where. We are only given a list of the locations.
Otherwise…another prized possession of mine. A Human Drama/Johnny Indovina album. What more can a girl ask for???
1. Mr. Storyteller
2. Death of An angel
4. My Skin
5. Fascination and Fear
6. As Loves Come Tumbling Down
7. The Silent Dance
8. Yesterday is Here
9. It is Fear
10. Can't Cry hard Enough
12. Your Fire
13. Sad I Cry
14. This Tangled Web
Human Drama is:
Distributed by Projekt: www.projekt.com
Reroute to Remain 4-Track Teaser CD
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
You might have noticed that the album title for the new In Flames release is a bit peculiar. I assure you, however, that the version I received is called Reroute to Remain 4-Track Teaser CD. That's because there are only four tracks on the CD, and, curiously, it is a teaser CD. This is because the full album has more than 14 minutes of music. Now, you might be wondering what good it does a reviewer to receive such a small portion of CD. I'll tell you:
It doesn't do any good.
But hey, who am I to argue with a band and label's decision? I am perfectly capable of reviewing 4 songs! So I'll keep this short:
1 - Cloud Connected
This song is typical In Flames. It is neither better nor worse than their older material, except that it has a grittier production that makes it sound a lot like nu-metal. Nu-metal that is uninteresting and boring.
2 - System
This is another song on the CD. And it's about as exciting as The Previous Sentence. There is a slow section with adult contemporary vocals that isn't metal at all. Hey, I'm all for experimentation, but I'm not into mixing my metal with contemporary soft-rock and mundane soft-singing. If you're all for that, though, I can say with complete authority that you will like some parts of this one track. And I can say with no authority that the rest of the album may be as crappy as this song.
3 - Reroute to Remain
4 - Dawn of a New Day
Hey, something different! Amazing, In Flames have managed to make a unique song that is totally forgettable and a waste of time. This one features some folk-ish acoustic guitars, which sound pretty good until they're marred by the vocal performance. I don't know what happened to Anders, but at some point he decided he could sing. He really can't. But he thinks he can. See where I'm going with this?
The clean singing isn't any good, but it's used a fair bit in these 4 songs. He also tries a low spoken voice approach on this song, and says "I never thought I'd join the udders." Now, I'm really not trying to mock his accent here, but he clearly did not say the word "others." He said udders. And in a folk-ish acoustic piece with spoken words, why wouldn't he be talking about udders?
So there you have it, a review of four songs. Nuclear Blast told me that this was the only version of the CD they had to send reviewers. If you're reading reviews that don't point out they received a limited promo, either they're misleading, Nuclear Blast is lying, or the reviewers secured mp3 copies of the rest of the album. Because, as some of you might have guessed, it's not hard to get ahold of those. Since the CD is out, they're all over the net.
What good did it do to send me a cut version of the CD? None, unless you're finding this crippled review in some way helpful. I can't tell you whether or not the CD is any good. Maybe the other tracks are all brilliant, and Nuclear Blast is just messing with me. Either way, they're only going to hurt themselves. If any of you want a more complete review, feel free to send me $20 for a full version (which I promise will be really, really cool!).
So, seeing as this little experiment didn't do anyone any good, let's turn it into a really long winded way for Starvox to say this:
We are no longer going to review teaser CDs.
1.) Cloud Connected
3.) Reroute to Remain
4.) Dawn of a New Day
In Flames is:
In Flames - Official Site:
Nuclear Blast Records:
The Book of Lambs
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Perhaps unwisely, I decided that I would review one-man-band Internecine's debut album The Book of Lambs as I listen to it play. That works for most albums, but in this case it's making my head spin thanks to the dense, unyielding wall of speedy guitars and mechanically thudding drums. Practically every minute of this half-hour long album is filled with high tempo death metal riffing that simply never lets up. The structure of the riffs and solos is as typically disorienting and all over the musical scales as one would expect of a death metal artist, which is only heightening my sense of dread and unease... not to mention vertigo. If I pass out while I type this, someone please get me a glass of water and turn off the music. I don't want it doing any permanent damage.
When I said that Internecine is a one-man-band at the beginning of the last paragraph, I was sort of right and sort of wholly inaccurate. The one man in question is Jared Anderson, a likely candidate for intensive mental therapy if I ever heard one. Jared doesn't quite go it alone, allowing two guest drummers and a guest guitar-solo-player to intrude on his sovereignty... but otherwise he plays guitar, bass, and vocalizes on the album in addition to having written all the songs over the course of five years.
Now, I read in the press release that accompanied this album that Jared is from Ohio, which explains much. I've driven through the featureless wasteland known as Ohio several times. The interminable voyage across its vast expanse is marked only by endless fields of trees and farm... type... things. I'm not familiar with the parlance of the 'country life' so I don't really know what what the buildings are properly called or what all those silos are for. In Jared's case, he may use his to store the corpses of his enemies, or just people that die from ruptured brains after hearing him practicing his material. I think Ohio has some cities though, but they're few and far between, and can't be all that interesting since I've not encountered much of anything good thats come from them. It's easy to imagine how one might go crazy growing up in such a place and wind up writing music like Internecine's.
... and if any of you reading this are from Ohio: I'm sorry. Take that as you will.
Getting back on track, there's not much to be said about The Book of Lambs. It's extreme death metal, played with a high degree of technical ability. Mindbending riffs abound, and the unyielding drums pummel the listener into a well beaten pulp. If you like that sort of thing, you'll probably like this too. Anderson's vocals are a mid-range growl which is surprisingly intelligible at times... not that I really want to hear what he has to say. A scan of the song lyrics revelaed a call to action for all good soldiers of darkness to rape, pillage, drink blood, and commit plenty of other vile deeds. What I could stand reading seemed to be phrased in relatively intellectual terms- but nothing so poetic as, say, a Cradle of Filth album might have. If you lost your 'Guide to Being Evil', you may want to pick up The Book Of Lambs for use as a valuable reference tool.
The guest performers on the album acquit themselves well, and lend their distinct talents to the overall cloud of despair and hopelessness that will engulf all but the most stout hearted. As if there was a need to further drive listeners into either paranoid dementia or a maddened rage, Anderson saw fit to include a 37 second long track of crazy people making crazy-noises before concluding the album with another mind numbing blast of death metal. I can only assume that his intent was to drive people into the icy grip of the devil via making them lose touch with reality. If that's so, then good job! I'm going to have to listen to a few Helloween albums to expel the overbearing wave of hate and evil thoughts that my brain is sloshing around in at the moment.
My review thus far may lead you to believe that I wouldn't recommend this album for purchase. On the contrary, I can see many valid uses for it. The military could use it played at high volumes to alternately pump their troops into a genocidal rage, or to drive people out of any place they're holed up in (like we tried to do to Manuel Noriega in his Panamanian dictator-complex back in the 80's with much tamer rock music). Also, if you've been too happy lately and need to be brought down to the point you can do little more than curl up in the fetal position, this is the recording for you.
Finally, for those that are
fans of extreme death metal, you may recognize that Internecine is a 'supergroup'
of sorts, sharing members of Hate Eternal (Anderson, Rutan, Roddy); Nile
(Laureano); and Morbid Angel (Rutan again, who has decided to focus on
Hate Eternal now instead of MA). You'll probably enjoy The Book
of Lambs - if such a word as 'enjoy' can really be applied in this
case. As for me, well, I think I need to take a vacation from the
dark and dangerous shores of Deathylvania for a while. Now where
did I put that copy of Keeper of the Seven Keys...
1.) The Elder Gods
2.) Ceremonies of Deceit (Effulgence Rituals)
3.) For Thee I Bleed
4.) Hallowed Guidance
6.) Encrypting The Vehemence
8.) Hymns on Sanctity
9.) Calling Of The Hordes
Jared Anderson: guitars, bass, and vocals
Tony Laureano: drums (tracks 1,3,4,5,6,7)
Derek Roddy: drums (tracks 2,9)
Erik Rutan: guest solos
N THE NURSERY
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
A 20 year career, tracks
picked to highlight the ‘interactive, inspirational and motivating nature
of music’ Good. Personally, I avoided them from day one (more or less)
because of their cretinous flirtation with ‘Tin Drum’ imagery, and while
I realised they weren’t serious nazis, because they looked such wimps, it rankled and I avoided them. All that must seem like an age ago to them, what with their film music and anniversary.
I have no way of knowing what has happened here, of who has improved or dramatically altered their work, but it stands as a testament to the strength of their compositions that the whole CD works as a diverse for involving collection.
But for the flat production Flesh Field’s ‘A Rebours’ might have turned into a dance epic, Faith & The Muse create stunning vocals in the richly evocative ‘Angelorum’ and Chandeen show the hidden commercial edge in ‘Belle Epoque’, but it doesn’t all work. Steve Bennett produces sluggish, intoxicating beats, Assemblage 23 are a bit vacuous, as if Dubstar had vitality, and Ivan Lusco turns into Sash! for ‘El Secreto’. Only A Robot is truly dire, with lacklustre bass and vocals, although I’m charitably forgetting ITN’s own Love Will Tear us Apart where you get singing worse than Curtis without his nervous energy, making it a Petshop Boys reject.
The Mediterranean opening
to ‘Corruption ‘ which turns into an odder swathe of espionage sounds makes
And Also The Trees one of the best contributors here Attrition have seriously
thoughtful, stripped down rhythmic gymnastics, Haujobb
get squelchy and a trifle psychotic, but Electronium work deceptively with twice the menace, and then it ends wonderfully with Seize parading a pretty soufflé, before plunging away into crazed tech deviance.
The boys (and girls) done good.
A REBOURS – Flesh Field
ANGELORUM – Faith & The Muse
LOVE WILL TEARS US APART – In The Nursery
BELLE EPOQUE – Chandeen
CORRUPTION – And Also The Trees
MIRACLE ROAD – Steve Bennett
HYMN NOIR – Assemblage 23
AND YOUR EYES – A_Robot
TO THE FAITHFUL – Attrition
EL SECRETO – Ivan Lusco
L’ESPRIT – Haujobb
CHRONICLE – Electonium
CAPIRCE – Seize
They Will Return
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Kalmah is yet another band to go unpunished by the Time Preservation Society. Too many bands are culpable for digging up forgotten riffs and solos, and then giving them a nice modern production job, adding in some angry growly vocals, and calling it original. Kalmah is not, in fact, one of those bands. They are responsible for future theft. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it is the most logical explanation for *They Will Return*. Kalmah does not repeat anything that has been and gone, but they do use many riffs and solos from future albums by Children of Bodom and Dark Tranquillity, in addition to a riff or two from the unexpected Mithotyn reunion of 2005.
I believe this is where some of Kalmah's quality song-writing comes from. It's not that I think the band is replete with thieves. It's not that I expect any new metal band to have ripped off other metal bands in some way. Rather, I just don't see how else Kalmah could have written material that feels like it belongs to other bands, but hasn't been done yet and doesn't sound derivative in the slightest.
"Hollow Heart" sets things in motion with some speedy metal riffs and solos that conjure to mind images of Children of Bodom. Or sounds of Children to Bodom, as images tend to have very little volume, or none at all. "Principle Hero" is another future-Children of Bodom influenced song, and it happens to be one of my favorites. It features some excellent and very fast progressive guitar soloing and keyboard melodies that layer the sound effectively. The vocals are pretty typical rasps - they don't get boring, but for the most part only because you learn to listen to the other instruments more. The drumming on this track is full of variety, as it is on the rest of "They Will Return." Kalmah's drummer is a lot more interesting than the drummers of related bands, so drum-fans should find a lot to get into here.
Kalmah's complete approach to several notable metal styles is what keeps this sophomore release engaging. They may not be wholly original, but they only borrow from future recordings of other bands sparingly. The resultant mix is distinctly Kalmah. I'm not sure what separates a band like Kalmah from less original metal groups playing similar music. If I had to speculate, I'd say the energy and the sheer conviction they play with allows "They Will Return" to be a rather invigorating release.
Still, when you hear songs like "Kill The Idealist," I won't be surprised if you're reminded of songs from Dark Tranquillity's *The Gallery*. It's truly amazing how much Kalmah can remind me of another band, without sounding like anything the band in question has done before. This is why, as I've expounded already, I'm quite convinced Kalmah has a time machine and is stealing from the future. "Kill The Idealist" is the only song on They Will Return that slightly borrows from the past. Parts of it are incredibly similar to Dark Tranquillity's title track off The Gallery, down to the slow section with distinctly non-metal percussion.
For the most part, Kalmah plays top-notch metal that is worth the attention of metal fans. A simple description of their sound might be this: A more symphonic and black metal oriented version of Children of Bodom and Dark Tranquillity. I'm desensitized to fast metal, for the most part, and it takes some exceptionally arousing metal to get me going. Not arousing in the dark erotic Cradle of Filth sense (eek), but moreso the spirited-makes-you-want-to-beat-people sense. They Will Return is an adrenaline rush in a CD.
The last thing I need to point out is the quality of the solos - they're really high quality. The solos, that is. Kalmah's guitarists possess rather incredible skill, at a level that you don't normally see in this style of metal. So much of today's metal regards soloing as a forgotten and archaic art. "It's boring!" they say, "Music with no soloing whatsoever is so much less predictable than bands that solo all the time!" they say. "They", if you're wondering, are the people who've decided soloing is lame and whiny and should be built into some kind of humanoid robot that can be set on fire and shot. I say they're all wrong! Kalmah is a great example as to why. They cover soloing styles that range from the more melodic, progressive shredding, and even various emotive rock styles, which I found surprising.
Kalmah also covers Megadeth's "Skin O' My Teeth," and they do an admirable job. The soloing in particular has that tried and true kick ass feel. Kalmah, clever band that they are, probably figured that if they were going to steal from the past, they might as well do so in the acceptable cover format. All in all, They Will Return is a surprisingly good album, and I definitely recommend picking up a copy before the Time Preservation Society winks it out of existence.
1.) Hollow Heart
3.) Principle Hero
4.) Human Fates
5.) They Will Return
6.) Kill the Idealist
7.) The Blind Leader
8.) My Nation
9.) Skin O' My Teeth
Pekka Kokko - guitar & vocals
Antti Kokko - lead guitar
Janne Kusmin - drums
Pasi Hiltula (ETOS) - keyboards
Timo Lehtinen - bass
Kalmah - Official Site: http://www.kalmah.com/
Century Media Records (US distribution): http://www.centurymedia.com
Spikefarm Records: http://www.spinefarm.fi/metal
THE LADY OF THE HOUSE
The White Ship
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I truly am not the man to ask about experimental music, because I remember my first experience of it, with David Bedford Rime Of The Ancient Mariner that left me perplexed, and from Punk onwards anything that was from the avant garde side of things left me cold. This doesn’t, because it has nothing offensive about it. It doesn’t seem to want to try to be something, it just is. I don’t understand why Angela Grima (vocals/flute/Tibetan bells and bowls) or Peter Crane (electronics) want to do this, but I can’t get annoyed.
Sod the song titles, this is music composed of semi-noticeable swirls and vocal exercising, creating a nice weird mood for when you’re idling. The Tibetan instruments give it an air of secluded stillness, with a mystic caress. It is light and spacious (hardly difficult when there’s almost nothing here) so that when any beats come in it makes things seem uncouth and gloomy. Music, such as it is, comes like fragments of paper, blown on the wind. Here, noticed, then gone again.
What made rather a mockery of it all is the track ‘Song Of The Succubus’ being given a ‘seduced mix’ where a serene rhythm which makes all the same elements far more attractive. Maybe they don’t want to be labelled the new Enigma, but I’d remix the lot, use that as the starting point, then keep these emptier skeletons as the remixes.
THE DRAGON GRAVEYARD
SONG OF THE SUCCUBUS
THE WHITE SHIP
GARDEN OF SORROW
SONG OF THE SUCCUBUS
Tripping Back Into The Broken Days
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Having taken a two and a half years away from the Music Industry (eh?) Mike and Tara VanPortfleet are back, with an album the press release makes clear is very personal, and features a new sound, where the bleakness goes (for the most part) and in its place is an acoustic emphasis, which Mike claims as a “treated acoustic/ambient hybrid’. In plain words, voice, guitar and loads of harmonious noise swirling around.
The other point made in the press release concerns ‘longing’. Music of longing? Yes, that’s what most contemplatative music concerns, be it a paean for past treasures, or a sense of emptiness involving emotional squabbles. In this case the usual brittle imagery, the sense of distance, people in wide spaces. It’s a curiously remote feeling, which isn’t encouraging to the listener.
I’m not going into detail, because there are just several main points to make. If you like Lycia, this will either disappoint, because it can seem ordinary, or it will come as an exciting surprise. If you don’t like them you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about, and suggest the pair get out more, as longing has a melancholic fustiness here.
The problem for me isn’t the sounds that hang around everything like frisky varnish over sour vocals, it’s that bloody guitar. He has such a jangley sound, and at times the crisp production brings through the squeaking of the strings, which can be seriously irritating. If it had been a warm, deep resonance in the guitar it would have fitted the mood and set the vocals off, being a sound base beneath their emoting. Instead it’s a grating, clumpy thing, and it’s everywhere.
The high points are the overall feel, which you may be swept along with or, more likely, sucked in by. It’s not happy material, and Tara’s voice isn’t that strong, so billows softly. Only Mike brings character and a sense of disquiet in his voice, which clearly has more depth. He sounds genuinely a bit mental in “The Last Winter”, then, musically, ruins bliss with an ugly guitar plod through “Give Up The Ghost.”
Personal to them, certainly, as they understand what is trapped here, but with soft-focus on the effect the lyrics sound trite. For the rest of us it’s hard to imagine what mood you would want to have this embellish, why would you put it on? It’s no balm for sadness, it will make you feel worse, and uplifting? I think not. The sounds may be a hybrid but they also take away from what’s being sung, by neutralising it with a sense of air freshener, and if I wanted to be cruel I’d say this might just as well be Sixpence None The Richer, gone ‘mature’. I kept forgetting it was on!
It’s Okay To Be Small
The Last Winter
Asleep In The River
Fades Down Far
Give Up The Ghost
Vacant Winter Days
Gray December Desert Day
Halfway between Here And There
Cat & Dog
Pale Blue Prevails
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
Whatever else you may say about Synthpop, you can't deny that it inspires strong emotions. Love it or loathe it, you'll find that few Goths are neutral on the subject. Your feelings about the genre may well determine how you feel about this offering from Seattle duo Memo.
Memo wears their influences on their sleeves; you could call them "Very New Romantics." William's vocal stylings on songs like "Shades of Gray" and "Away" wouldn't be out of place on a Visage or Japan album, while the melancholy keyboards and soft guitar lines evoke Depeche Mode and vintage New Order. On the up side, this means they are influenced by some great bands: on the down side, it means they are mining the same vein as many other acts.
In the original New Romantic/Synthpop acts, the anhedonic, emotionless vocals added to the general feeling of loss and melancholy. (See Gary Numan for further details). This lesson has been lost on many of today's Synthpop artists. Thankfully, it hasn't been lost on Memo. The wispy, understated vocals in "Quiet Days" and "A Thousand Times" are far more effective than the Hand Stapled to Forehead approach, especially when combined with the bittersweet instrumental accompaniment. They sound neither histrionic nor bored: that alone puts them head and shoulders above most of their brethren in the field.
This is a great Synthpop CD, probably the best I've heard all year. It's not particularly ground-breaking or revolutionary; rather, it's a solid example of the genre at its best. If you like Synthpop, you'll love this band. Even if you don't, you may want to give them a chance. Their music is smooth and tuneful, with more hooks than a tackle box, and the production is excellent. Listen with an open mind, and you may just surprise yourself.
1. Shades of Gray
2. Quiet Days
4. A Thousand Times
Eclipse Of The Mood
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Prepare for baffling comparisons, as four people get to share the vocals - Damian and Dave only get one each, Jack and Jemma four each, and what a mixture they present us with. ‘The Deed Is Done’ has mighty potential, with everything about their modern pop sounding freshly appointed, and the slightly off key male voice repetitive as a bass line plops along, and that’s because it’s overlapping blueprints for New Order’s ‘Ceremony’ and ‘Happy Monday’. ‘See A Lot’ is milky synthpop, that wouldn’t be out of place alongside St Etienne in the bargain bins. What they have is very pretty and pretty bloody obvious. Not cool.
It’s easy enough to get along with a track like ‘Time To Play’ with its semi-haunting melody, and weak, wispy vocals, while the lush ballad, ‘Let It Flow’ could throw up nightmarish ‘Flashdance’ visions for some, although it’s so light a breeze would render the song invisible at times, but Jemma has a charming voice.
With syndrums, and grumbling music, with the vocals having no effort behind them ‘Everybody Everywhere’ is OMD this time, ‘Golden Days’ repeats the New Order parlour trick, and ‘Real Cool Party’ is rather sweet, because the singer can’t sustain a note so they pitch it all lower, giving a rather downbeat feel. You can almost imagine Tiffany doing her old dance to ‘Tonight I Am Safe’ (or Flock Of Seagulls come screaming out of the speakers). So how weird is this? They do nicely ticking 80’s styled Europap, but they’re American?
Experts in musical taxidermy.
THE DEED IS DONE
SEE A LOT
TIME TO PLAY
LET IT FLOW
REAL COOL PARTY
TONIGHT I AM SAFE
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
I'm not entirely sure that drummers -particularly those belonging to death metal / black metal bands- are actually human. In fact I would hardly be surprised to learn that somewhere in the frozen wastes of Norway (which lie beyond the cold, cold forests) there stands a factory. In this factory, drummers are constructed out of advanced cybernetic parts, meticulously machine crafted and programmed by the highest technology Scandanavia has at its disposal, and ultimately issued to each new extreme metal band to be spawned from the icy northern tundras. Of course, you have your occasional abberations.. like Horgh from Immortal (who clearly is descended of ancient Yeti, and not built out of unrelenting steel)... but I'd be willing to bet that Myrkskog has to thoroughly oil and clean their drummer, Secthdamon, between performances to prevent him from overheating and siezing up. There's no way that anyone human could possibly hammer out the stacatto blasts that issue from his drumkit, retorting like machine gun fire underneath the onslaught of chaos that the Norweigan group expels from their instruments.
In fact, I'd really like to know what Secthdamon's drums are made of. NASA could likely use the material as advanced impact shielding on their spacecraft. With the pounding 'ol Secth continuously puts on his skins, Im amazed the band ever managed to get through recording a full song without him splitting them wide open. Or he himself splitting wide open, for that matter. Maybe they have some sort of high intensity energy-bar they eat for breakfast in Norway... Or perhaps Secth is juiced up on premium-grade diesel fuel, if my hypothesis is true and he is a DrumBot MkII Z3000.
Enough of that, though, for a band is not made of drums alone. Myrkskog is no exception, having a guitarist/vocalist and bassist as well. It's really quite remarkable that three guys with relatively unexceptional tools -common musical instruments- can make such a ruckus. The eight tracks on 'Superior Massacre' (which are sandwiched by a relatively throwaway intro and outro) are loud, fast, and intense. Engaging yet discordant riffs propel the music along at its breakneck pace, occasionally making way for short bursts of nimble soloing. Destructhor is indeed a talented guitarist, both in terms of his ability to write disharmonious, skittering leads and churning rhythms. His vocals are a bit more pedestrian, being of the garden variety 'low growler' genus. Nonetheless they serve their purpose well, indicating that perhaps you wouldn't want to run into Mr. Destructhor in a dark alley. Or in broad daylight, if you value your health and posessions.
I'd comment on the bass, but other than a constant low pulsing it's not terribly noticeable. It may be that upon careful listening, the potentially elaborate patterns being played by Demariel would become apparent, but I'm sure as hell not putting on headphones to listen to this. I have more albums to review this month, and I fear deafness would be inescapable given my customary volume levels through the headset. Brain liquification would be on the pleasant side of possible outcomes if I were to attempt such a feat. Suffice it to say that there is a meaty bottom end to the sound on 'Superior Massacre' which fills out the sonic spectrum to an appropriate depth.
I think it's safe to say that Myrkskog have the hang of making frighteningly crazy death metal. They don't water it down by mixing in any other genres either. From the fusilade of drum blasts to the illogical, quirky soloing... from the unintelligible growls to the utter disdain for melody... yep, quintessential death metal mayhem. The relative brevity of the album (weighing in at about a half hour of actual music) keeps things from becoming dangerous or boring. Any more and I would have wound up comatose or ran screaming from the room... but with such a concise approach, Myrkskog has won my affection insomuch as any group of brutally pathological Norsemen can. If you like your death metal intense, fast, heavy, and relentless, you should add 'Superior Massacre' to your shopping list. Who knows, if enough of you follow my recommendation, Myrkskog may even be able to buy a few more vowels and switch to a name we can all pronounce.
2.) Domain Of The Superior
3.) Detain The Skin
4.) Trapped In Torment
5.) Indisposable Deaths
6.) Over The Gore
7.) Blood Ejaculation
8.) Utter Human Murder
9.) Bleeding Wrists
Destructhor: guitar, vocals
Ten Thousand Things’
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Now this takes a little getting used to but, like most great things, can bring surprising benefits. It isn’t easy, but then why on Earth should it be? It is on the fringes of experimental music, but doesn’t have a twittery New Age faux senility, and it’s doesn’t go near the angst of the dank Cold Meat Industries hard ambient ear-killing fields. It’s different, and put together by André Custodio who obligingly describes himself as ‘Sound Designer - Composer - Dunce’. It’s not pretty, but you’d need to redefine things to call it ugly, because the only rules which apply here are your own. Can you take it, and having done so, use it?
If I say track 1 sounds like a troll threatening some Tibetan horn player, that hardly helps, but track 2 allows a slowly encroaching mood to gather in your room, making noises that sound as though they’re outside. It makes an impression, and causes unease initially, reminding me of when you wake troubled from what could hardly be called lucid dreams - you’re semi-conscious but drifting and thoughts circle. That’s what this is like – it vaguely fits, has form, and fills the room rather subversively. On a musical level it’s more of a whirring noise, and a machinery rhythm but divorced from Industrial experiments in this line. These are subtle creations. Not ghosts in the machine so much as ghosts of the machine. Sitting here at the pc with the speakers behind me it’s as though there’s a portal opening behind me that I’m deliberately ignoring.
Despite being rudimentary and supposedly empty, none of these are actually quiet. It’s close to ambient washes but in a diseased way, like standing beneath power cables when the air hums. He’s got a few things happening in very thin layers, making strange music, creepy rustling, often with an ominous build in the sound before the fog closes in again
Occasionally there’s audible noise at the periphery but far from atonal, like Gregorian chanting but from a distance - monastic mumbling? - feeling very desolate and disturbed. And sometimes it’s mad. I haven’t bothered giving titles to these pieces because track 1 is ‘I’, then track 2 is ‘V’, which then runs consecutively until the closing track 8 which is ‘XI’ but ‘VIII’ 5 has mischievously curly sounds, from curlews perhaps (here’s hoping), but reminding me of old science films (crossed with Clangers, which may not mean much outside of the UK!), where two sound waves are seen bending on a tiny screen and the helpful professor turns up the volume and you hear the pitch change. It’s almost, unintentionally, aboriginal, but then slips back to the tones, the curlews, the late night lakeside nightmares.
Once it offers garbled, mood music with vibrations gathering mournfully around pretty, listless keyboard notes but also – weirdly – lots of virtual nothingness going on for a while which leaves you in suspense wondering what the hell is happening and, more ominously, coming? You get used to melodramatic lowing, with crackles and an abrupt end or disembodied voices sweeping by, otherworldly an closest to a full blooded thing, but still a thing.
I wouldn’t have thought I’d be playing this more than any of the other CDs I have stacked around me, but it’s a fascinating record, being perfectly fitting background while working or reading horror, but also bringing in a peaceful mood, and André himself says his semi-improvised electroacoustic stuff creates ‘meditative spaces with occasional excursions into the realms of noise’ It doesn’t make you stop, slightly, even if it can’t make you think.
I bet he looks normal, but bites if approached.
(a better site is being worked on)
The Door of Serenity
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
French duo Rajna compares their sound to Dead Can Dance. It's not an entirely unfair comparison. Like DCD, their music is not so much "World Music" as "Exotica." It bears as much resemblance to Moroccan or Turkish music as "The King and I" bears to Thai culture. This isn't necessarily a Bad Thing. "The King and I" is a brilliant musical... and while Jeanne and Fabrice might not be Rogers & Hammerstein, they're definitely talented and imaginative musicians with eclectic tastes and a good ear for melody.
Listening to Door of Serenity,
it's difficult to believe this is a two-person production. This is
largely because Fabrice is his very own orchestra -- in addition to synths,
he plays the santoor, tabla, bendir, udu, darrabuka, water-drums, damaru,
oud, dulcimer, saz, balalailka, tampura, sitar, kora, singing bowls, bells,
gongs, cymbals, and a whole bunch of other instruments that even Peter
Gabriel has never heard of. Add in Jeanne's multitracked, multilayered
vocals and you've got a whole lot of music for the money.
The music is consistently tuneful, and occasionally gorgeous. "Belorkai" features a breathtaking vocalise from Jeanne, backed by what sounds like a sitar, while "Djalambo" is underpinned by a low hum that could be a singing bowl or a digideroo. (Trying to guess what is producing those strange, lovely sounds is half the fun of this CD). Fabrice draws his influences from around the globe: the chord progressions which underpin "Door of Serenity" and "Whirling Souls" pay homage to Moorish/Spanish guitar, while "Shalim Dhar" could be the love theme to a Bollywood musical.
If I could offer Fabrice and Jeanne any advice, it would be this: trust your audience more. Door of Serenity is a good CD; if it were a bit more challenging, it could be a great one. There is nothing here that will offend an ear accustomed to Western music: on the other hand, there's nothing here which pushes the envelope. There are few of the unusual time signatures or strange tunings which are part and parcel of Middle Eastern or Indian songs, few of the odd yet lovely harmonies found in Bulgarian choral music, and little of the eerie grandeur of Siberian and Tibetan throat-singing. I would love to hear a Rajna CD which consisted of actual World Music... not music intended to "capture the mood" of <insert exotic locale here> but rather music OF said exotic locale. Sure, it might be more challenging ... but it wouldn't necessarily be less successful. The last time I checked, Passion was still selling briskly.
Jeanne -- Vocals
Fabrice -- Instruments
3. Tore sensuous
4. The Door of Serenity
6. Whirling Souls
9. Into the Dream
10. Shalim Dhar
11. Djalambo (epilogue)
12. Bonus Track (untitled)
The Witch Haven
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
The Witch Haven is a strange beast. Its forty eight minutes contain a cornucopia of styles: lengthy passages of dark ambience, eerie vocals that drift in and out of the soundscape, sudden bursts of orchestral action, grinding mechanical sounds, and other bizarre sonic textures. Before reviewing this album, I was unfamiliar with Shinjuku Thief's earlier work (and still am). I can't say if listening to the two albums that preceded this release (The Witch Hammer and The Witch Hunter) would necessarily make The Witch Haven easier to digest... but it may have at least left me better equipped to handle the freakish menagerie of sounds I was about to hear.
Sometimes it pays to read the press notes that come with these albums I'm given to review (though it's admittedly a rare occasion). This was one such time. The press release mentioned that this album had been delayed for quite a while due to the soundtrack commitments of composer Darrin Verhagen. In that light, it's somewhat easier to understand where The Witch Haven is coming from... for in many ways it feels like a lengthy section of underscore from a gothic horror film. Instead of developing anything resembling a theme or recurring motif, though, Verhagen spends most of the time creating moods and ambiences - which he then arbitrarily destroys with ill-placed ventures into different directions.
The album is comprised of a seemingly random collection of dark textures punctuated by occasional blasts of strangely incongruous orchestral bombast. In fact, 'incongruous' could be used to describe the entire listening experience. There is an almost total lack of consistency across the sixteen tracks of the album, aside from generally residing in the vicinity of 'dark' and 'scary'. Even that, though, is shattered eventually with track 13: 'A tavern of midwives', which would be right at home in a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Verhagen seems like a child let loose on an empty playground who can't decide where to spend his time... after climbing on the dark industrial monkey-bars for a minute, he dashes over to a merry-go-round filled with ethereal ghosts wailing out evil sounds, then jumps off to head to the slide as timpanis pound behind him and the percussion drives him onward.
The Witch Haven would make more sense to me if it actually -was- a filmscore, and the tracks had been tailored to match the scenes that they accompanied... then perhaps the rather jumpy nature of the album would feel justified. There isn't any film to which this is attached, though, and it was meant as a stand alone album. According to the press release (oh, how useful it's been! Good PR department for once!), Shinjuku Thief's Witch trilogy of albums was based on the Malleus Maleficarum, a book in three parts that deals with witchcraft, god and the devil. Perhaps familiarity with those books would allow me to derive more enjoyment from listening to this... but I think that's a bit much to ask of the casual listener or fan new to Verhagen's work.
As I see it, you can look at The Witch Haven from two perspectives:
1) The Witch Haven is a diverse but inconsistent album which ultimately fails to provide a satisfying listen due to its confusing nature. Though well performed and filled with interesting sounds, the conflicting styles of many of the tracks fail to establish and maintain any particular mood. There are too many jarring sounds for fans of dark ambience, and not enough melodic / thematic content to interest people who may like dark symphonic albums or filmscores.
2) The Witch Haven is a diverse album that paints vividly dark colored textures that are wide open to interpretation. Composer Darrin Verhagen tells a strange story with his dramatic combination of synthesized, mechanical, and symphonic sounds... and it's up to the listener to fill in the blanks and figure out whats going on before they're whisked away to a new and even more unexpected array of grim noises. Fans of experimental dark music will find much to like on Shinjuku Thief's latest release.
Personally, I'm in camp '1'. Perhaps I just don't 'get' it, but The Witch Haven left me with the distinct feeling that if Verhagen had picked any one of the album's tracks (save track 13, the awful cartoon music), stuck with that style, and expanded upon it in subsequent tracks... things would have wound up a lot more interesting and I could recommend this without reservation. By combining the sixteen tracks though, it becomes a clear case of subtraction by addition, where the sum of the parts only diminishes the whole.
01.) Waking at dusk
02.) Edge of the Wilderness / Black cockerel White stick
03.) The witches ladder
04.) The gestation of elben
05.) A red room / A slow dance
06.) Five dark corners
07.) Father of Lies
08.) The spores of death
09.) The White Lady
10.) Procession of souls
11.) Sign of the Black Eagle
12.) An event near the commons at dusk
13.) A tavern of midwives
14.) The Night Child
15.) Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
16.) Blood and Fat
Shinjuku Theif is:
Darrin Verhagen: composer / performer
Eryn Tooey: violin
Dimitri Kyriakou: violin
Phillipe Pietruschka: viola, clarinet
Tony Norris: trumpet
The Machine in the Garden
~reviewed by Jezebel
Receiving this fifth release from The machine in the Garden was a delight as I had heard quite a bit about them, but had never really consciously heard them. This was my chance to find another great band.
Great band? Good band with excellent possibilities ahead of them is how I would put it. Described as having "soaring guitars, tribal rhythms and electronic sweeps," tMitG is an interesting combination of gothic rock, ethereal, electronic and ambient music mixed together with a spoon of inspiration.
I don't think "Mask" was the best choice for an opening track as it tends to drag a bit and really doesn't start the CD off with anything put a whine. A good song wrongly placed.
"Outside", the second track, doesn't exactly pick up the tempo but it definitely picks up something. A softness and an unique sound which is captivating and haunting. I hear in Summer's voice all the influences that she has mentioned in interviews, especially Monica Richards from Faith and the Muse. Monica has more strength in her voice, but I can hear within Summer the same talent and ability of reaching and sustaining notes in such a way that denotes strength. I think it's partially a production choice, as Summer's vocal sometimes gets lost in the swirling sound of synths and guitars.
We move on to "Time", the third track which opens with some interesting and provocative percussion. It takes on this description at first because of the tone of the first two tracks, therefore, to hear the sound almost wakes you out of the trance the first two had put you in. Unfortunately, as good as the song is, it lulls you back to your trance, yet perhaps on a different level. Hypnotic, yes; haunting, yes; but I don't if that makes an exceptional track anymore in the ethereal/darkwave/gothic genre. It does make a good track.
"Wonderland" is supposed to be a club friendly dance track and there is within it the possibility for it to be one, with some more mixing, as it lacks the depth and layering that would really make it able to fill a dance floor. Although many slower songs do get the dance floor packed (The Cure is the obvious example of this), as a dancer, this song lacks the push to get me onto a dance floor. There is something raw about the production, rather lean to it, which I do like about it. But because of that it lacks the punch, the "oomph" that songs that fill a dance floor have.
"Icarus" starts out lovely. A great strong beat. A bit of electronic tripping over the keys, but then we return to the slow drag of sound that has been too predominant in the preceding tracks. Individually, the songs are great, but linked together, I am starting to want them to "get on with it" and pick up the tempo. It's all one very sweet, slightly variated, completely slow tempo with bits of "Wonderland" being the exception.
"Seek" is the other self-described dance track and the album and to this, I completely agree. Still a little bare, but with a good remix filling it in, this could definitely get people on the tracks. A great beat (which sounds slightly pre-programmed) to keep the bottom half of one going with the swirly sound of the melody to get those ethereal arms carving into the air.
"Photographic" is the cover they have chosen (seems a trend to have at least one cover on any given CD). Any early Depeche Mode song (written by Vince Clarke off the Speak and Spell album), it is old enough that many would not know the song. It also does fit quite well with their style.
All in all, tMitG is a good band. Solid vocals, solid music. I don't think it is "rich or "compelling," but a general and good CD which will be a happy part of my collection. I think they do suffer from proper production which would give them the depth that I think their sound would be benefited by, their sound seeming to need more complexities.
Again - a solid album. A good album. A good band. But I am left empty for the possibilities.
The Machine in the Garden
Roger Frace and Summer Bowman
Middle Pillar: www.middlepillar.com
THE NAKED AND THE DEAD
The Naked And The Dead
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
It’s not often you get a letter mentioning Ritual as being an influence but Greg Fasolino, a friend of Blu, contacted me and sent through this retrospective CD of The Naked And The Dead, which is a genuine case of 19809’s treasure trove. Just looking at it is nostalgia nirvana with masses of high hair, and those weedy black vests and leggings. (No kung-fu slippers?) That was early 80’s Post-Punk, which had more character that mid-late 80’s Goth ever would. Greg admits that the band was influenced by Sex Gang, Bauhaus, Iggy, UK Decay, South Death Cult and Birthday Party, and the evidence is all there, but as with other talented individuals at the time, they have their own sound emerging from it all. The energy would probably confused most young UK Goths who like things rounded and noisy, but don’t understand this rapier-thin intensity any more, but that’s their loss.
Spindly guitar and ’difficult’ rhythms, involving some frantic floor tom activity, are to the fore, with little vivacious vocal bubbles (think Claire Grogan with attitude) and a cool way of applying a wash of sound to the demos, with the guitar as star player. A nice overall commotion to the repeated songs here, including the jittery ‘Taboo’, plus tough twisters, ‘Cassandra’ and ‘Carousel’, which are also shown in their considerably more basic live incarnations. ‘The Gate’ has a fantastic rhythm going with bass and drums chugging out the same roaring beat there was in the award-winning advert for the Guinness ad where the swimmer awaiting the enormous wave. (Get your lawyers on the case now!) A frothy ‘Kisses Like Death’ isn’t bad and it’s a shame there’s no demo of ‘Faith Floods Down’ because that’s another one with rivulets of splendour glinting through the tumult.
Oddly you get one and a half versions of UK Decay’s ‘Duel’, the second of which is quite cute, a version of ‘Real Cool Time’ which I shall charitably call Stooges-Lite and a decent stab at ‘Sense Of Elation’ where the intricacies prove just a little too difficult. Bit of a shambles, actually. It was all over for them too quickly, which is a shame, because the later material is interesting. ‘Cat Of The Nine’ is rubbish, but the scrappy edginess in ‘Crown Of Thorns’ and the effects/vocal symphony that was ‘Godfather Grimoire’ really impress, especially the latter which was either a fluke, or ahead of its time.
Greg sells the CD for a ludicrously small sum and you’d have to be crazy to miss out if you appreciate a time when people still were pioneers. Truly!
The Naked and the Dead:
Deathrock.com - http://www.deathrock.com/nakedandthedead/
MP3.com - http://www.mp3.com/The_Naked_and_the_De
IUMA - http://artists2.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/The_Naked_and_the_Dead/
mPulse - http://www.mpulse.com/martist.asp?aID=5187
Hubba - http://artists.hubba.com/thenakedandthedead/
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
When it comes to music that is openly, well, open, to interpretation, it's easy for CDs to be simply hit or miss. I often feel this way about ambient CDs that attempt to convey to the listener absolutely nothing. "Here are some sounds!" they say. If you ask what they're supposed to mean, you're subjected to a brief run-in with Rogerian therapy as they answer: "Why don't you tell us what YOU think they mean." It might not be any wonder to you that with my general attitude towards ambient music - I just don't get into it that much. Fortunately, my recent encounters with ambient and experimental electronic music have begun to obliterate my usually stout and stubborn defenses against enjoying the music, and I'm now opening up to the strange genres. Upland plays experimental electronic/ambient music, and Knut Ruud's work has been instrumental in turning me to the, er, ambient side.
The difficulty in describing music that you need to experience for yourself is that it does no good to describe what the experience feels like - no one would ever entirely agree with my view of it. What I can tell you, however, is that Upland's debut CD features a heap of interesting electronic sounds and progressions. The first track opens with syncopated rhythms and unnatural electronic sounds. Admittedly, this is my least favorite song, but it is a suitable introduction to the others. As the songs progress, there is a definite movement towards more concrete sounds.
The rhythms stay syncopated, but often maintain an identifiable beat amidst the clicks and knocks, and various types of melody start to work their way into the music. The melodies are used sparingly, and evolve throughout the disc. In the beginning, there is little to no melody. Later, dark ambient noises and synth sounds are introduced into the soundscape alongside the rhythms. And then notes that are only loosely melodies work their way into the mix. Finally, by the last track - "Marshgate" - there is a fully identifiable and expressive melody.
The majority of the music does not imply any sort of emotion, but the general mood is dark. When listening, I can almost imagine being stuck in a dream where I am floating through space, happening upon shadowed planets and ships full of hardened mercenaries that eye me warily and keep a hand/paw/antennae on their weapons. Granted, Knut Ruud probably didn't set out to launch me into space when he designed this music, but he did leave the music open to interpretation intentionally. While I've come along way from merely regarding these recordings as hit or miss, it's still worth pointing out that Upland is a hit.
Upland has a good balance of rhythm, ambience, and melody that is suited to intrepreting whatever story you can dream up to go along with it, or whatever you may be engaged in when listening. The progression from beginning to end also gives it a feeling of movement, which is typically lacking from ambient music I encounter. Anyone into IDM, experimental, and ambient music including some Autechre, Plaid, and recent Ulver should give Upland a listen. And any fan of darker music not into those bands and genres may still want to give Upland a listen, particularly if you're into other Jester Records artists.
2.) Twin Gap
3.) -Nd Falling
6.) Carrier Down
Upland - Official Site:
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
I expected Sleepless, Maor Appelbaum's earlier collaboration with David Bendayan, to be World Music/Goth in the Ofra Haza meets Dead Can Dance mode. Instead, it was a smooth, polished work which evoked mid-period Pink Floyd. I was ready for more of the same when I received Vultures, his latest project: imagine my surprise when my eardrums were bombarded with Ministry-Meets-Merzbow-Meets-Metal! If nothing else, Maor wins points for diversity.
The opening track, "Internal Plea", starts things off with a scream... literally. Vocalist Rani Zager sounds like he's been gargling drain cleaner. His harsh shrieks pierce through the grinding guitars and throbbing drum machines like a stilleto. Zager's It's not easy listening ... but if you're in a shitty mood, it certainly is cathartic. (And let's face it; if you live in the Suicide Bombing Capital of the World, you've got anxiety and gloom to spare).
Gal Cohen's guitar work plays no small role in this band's success. Once upon a time every band had a guitar player: for many bands today, electric guitars have gone the way of mullet haircuts. The distorted metallic chords which underpin "Vulture's Splendor" shows just what they're missing. An amplified string instrument produces harmonics and undertones which cannot be duplicated on even the best synthesizers. (This, incidentally, is the reason why electronic pianos sound so silly next to acoustic baby grands).
I'd like to see a live drummer included on the next Vultures CD. As it is with guitars, so it is with drums; no machine can recreate the sound of a Real Live Human beating the hell out of his skins. A live drummer would take these proceedings over the top. Still, this is a strong and worthy effort. If you like hard industrial music, it doesn't come much harder -- or better -- than this.
1) Internal Plea
2) Vulture's Splendor
3) In the Head
4) Examine (Datach'i Remix)
Gal Cohen: Guitars, Noises
Rani Zager: Vocals, Samples
Pointer: Samples, Programming, Noises
Maor Appelbaum: Synths, Effects, Samples, Programming
Songs Of Terror
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Tony Lestat’s sleeve notes say, ‘Poe’s roots run deep into the soul of this dark adventure that we call the gothic world’ and with an album where songs are reputedly chosen for their relevance to certain indicated works by Poe I was expecting a certain mood, but that didn’t really happen.
What you get are tracks that stand out quite easily. Midnight Configuration’s ‘Decline And Fall’ with its light guitar razors scraped across grumpy synth stubble is one of these and Trev’s slightly pantomime vocals can’t distract from a beautifully turned tune. Desmo Donte brings fruity, hesitant vocals in a classical Goth tone to ‘Nevermore’, with a great chorus and you can sing along lustily it’s so good and Wreckage ‘s own ‘Come The Night’ is pleasantly juicy with a concise clean feel strangely reminiscent of Heave 17’s ‘Come Live With Me’
Elsewhere, Stone 588 are consistently impressive throughout ‘Momento Mori’ with a wounded rock feel and fluttering vocals that emanate intensity, as and Faith And The Muse dripping musical poison of a Brecht/Brel school of thought with ‘Through The Pale Door‘ which is exquisitely constructed.
The rest are all good, but fairly predictable. Immortalis Amor have particularly high quality vocals over a routine tune, Kommunity FK create deliciously demented vocals, Stun Gun have a wonderfully imaginative mix of styles, and Jennifer Hope’s conventional lament style is winsome. Cinemas Strange do a fine guitar tattoo over busy yelping and Cruciform are reliably springy but Fear Cult, Trance To The Sun and Ex-Voto are all fairly mundane.
As a representation of Poe I was disappointed that not one single track went for a slow stark approach, conveying an atmosphere of dread, as all got rather excitable and dramatic. On the upside, as a compilation to be judged against others this is far better than most with some very distinctive contributions.
Decline And Fall - Midnight Configuration
Undulate - Kommunity FK
Nevermore - Desmo Donte
Come The Night - Wreckage
Closer To My Death - Immortalis Amor
Momento Mori - Stone 588
Through The Pale Door - Faith And The Muse
Virginia’s Lament - Trance To The Sun
Silence Is My Solitude - Stun Gun
Dream Within A Dream - Jennifer Hope
Evil Eye - Fear Cult
Alone - Cruciform
Legs And Tarpaulin - Cinema Strange
The Assignation - Ex-Voto
Tribute Of The Year Faith No More
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Sometimes when a record store label says ‘file under rock’ you think no more about it, but FNM should be buried beneath something. Oh, just kidding. Teasing. Love ‘em really, or I confess I liked Faith No More, with either Chuck or Patton but a greater fondness for the latter, due to his character being one of his weapons. I even enjoyed parts of Mr Bungle, which isn’t the kind of statement I’d ever make in court, and I found all FNM songs fine, in principle (or those I remember, I was hardly a diehard) as the only thing I didn’t like was Jim, the metal-looking guitarist.
Of course there’s an argument which says like minded (God help such beings) bands will do the songs in a more basic vein, due to the financial limitations when assembling a compilation, and may, therefore, give the songs a truer feel, because nearly everything FNM did would have been partly gentrified by record label bosses who are, for the most part, ‘sensitive’. London Records certainly never had a good feel for bands, so they would always have been looking for a softer direction. Maybe today’s young gunslingers could make these songs really snarl?
No ‘Penis Head’ or creepy ‘Nestles’ jingle fly here, and not one band had the guts (or temerity) to handle ‘From Out Of Nowhere’, but there’s tons for the fans. Now me, I’d allocate a given number of tracks on a first come, first served basis, because bands who then got something they weren’t prepared for would work harder at it, but here they can obviously choose what they want, causing duplications.
I’ll just pick some highlights, or nice attempts, because what does it matter if some bands I’ve never heard before sound atrocious here? Voodou’s ‘Stripsearch’ is trim enough and copies Patton’s little drag down on the final word of lines. Bile’s ‘Midlife Crisis’ is scooped out and then rocking, with frayed edges. Parallax 1 are quite murky and subterranean in ‘We Care A Lot’ but someone can’t hack it with the vocals. Tub Ring’s ‘Mouth To Mouth’ is a galloping dash through a bazaar FNM would probably approve of, and Imbue’s take on ‘The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies’ sees a weighty riff at last, with a grizzly bass and fantastic vocals. Ditto, Drowning Season’s ‘Kindergarten’.
The Rib create a mental death
thrash symphony for ‘Malpractice’ and Ichabod (‘Absolute Zero’) sounds
like early Christian Death. Victims In Ecstasy do a better ‘Stripsearch’,
and Hate Dept turn ‘Edge Of The World’ into a big succulent fairground
experience, as Germ Theory go ridiculously twee and daft in ‘A Small Victory’.
Basement Love’s ‘Underground Stripsearch’ has a twittery rock opera woman
involved briefly, and sounds very expansive, a bloodshot struggle, as a
heavily percussive Sicken’ bless ‘Midlife Crisis’ with Cady Spencer’s cool, snotty voice, and there’s some noble guitar swordplay.
It’s nice to see SMP have the rap attack for ‘Another Body Murdered’. New Grenada make ‘Why Do You Bother?’ delightfully pretty, Window Panes’ ‘Spirit’ is a polka for fuck’s sake (!!!) and although I didn’t want to mention bad things, ‘As The Worm Turns’ left in the hands of Yellow #1 is a disenfranchised, unspeakable atrocity!
It’s right at the end, judiciously
enough, when it works best, for Combine Heathen’s
‘Edge Of The World’ is brilliant! At last, someone sees that a woman singer best produces the sleepy sleaze, like a syphilitic Portishead. Patton never sang like other men, he sang like a woman, but who is Nussuno and Clifford E Sheep? No? Me neither.
VOODOU - Stripsearch
BILE - Midlife Crisis –
PARALLAX 1 - We Care A Lot
TUB RING - Mouth To Mouth
IMBUE - The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies
THE DONKEY PUNCH - The World Is Yours
DALQUIRI - Everything’s Ruined
DROWNING SEASON - Kindergarten
THE RIB - Malpractice
ICHABOD - Absolute Zero
SUMP PUMPS - Be Aggressive
YELLOW #1 - As The Worm Turns
VICTIMS IN ECSTASY – Stripsearch
MEDULLA NOCTE - King For a Day
ESPER’S OBSESSION - We Care A Lot
GRIM FAERIES - Jizzlobber
HATE DEPT - Edge Of The World
GERM THEORY - A Small Victory
DIE:SCHON - We Care A Lot
NEW LOW - Blood
FOUNTAINHEAD - Naked In Front Of The Computer –
BASEMENT LOVE - Underground Stripsearch
SICKEND - Midlife Crisis
SMP - Another Body Murdered
NEW GRENADA - Why Do You Bother?
HUMAN BEINGS - Surprise Your Dead
WINDOW PANE - Spirit -
SON OF INDRA - Digging The Grave –
MUKRAK - The Rea Thing
COMBINE HEATHEN - Edge Of The World
IMBUE - http://www.imbuenet.com
SICKEND – http://www.members.nbci.com/cadyspen/sickend.htm
Dreams in the Witch House Compilation
Grave News Records - 1995
~reviewed by Jezebel
Yes, you read the date correctly - 1995. Do you remember what you were doing in 1995? I think (and this is only a theory that I am working on) that I had forgone much of the gothic club scene in the US. Had I known what was going on over here in the UK, damn, what a difference it would have made.
I found this lovely CD compilation in a bunch that was being packed when we moved. Popping it in the stereo, I found myself transported oddly to a time where I hadn't been put should have.
We open with Incubus Succubus and "Take My Hunger". Yes, I did spell that right. This is 1995 and the band hadn't quite changed their name yet. Oh my goodness, a young band they were then. Only together for a few years, the production values are not what should or could be or what we are so used to hearing now….But hold off, I will comment on production values later.
This is young, early and innocent Inkkies…and a must for collectors of their music. Actually it's a must for any fan of any of the bands that are featured on this comp. Children on Stun, Die Laughing (John Berry plays guitar, now plays with Passion Play and used to play bass with this Burning Effigy), Revolution by Night, the Marionettes, soul Inside, Cries of Tammuez, Vendemmian, Blood Simple and This Burning Effigy.
For some of these bands - this was a one-off, like in the case of Blood Simple. For others, like This Burning Effigy, this was the beginning of their careers. The first time they were in a studio, the first time they were on a CD. The Marionettes last release was in 1998, this being on their second to last album before breaking up. Bands like Inkubus Sukkubus and Vendemmian (see their review this month) are still going strong. As well as Revolution by Night which has resurrected themselves after disbanding in 1998.
So why get this compilation? Why? One, if you are a fan of any of these bands, it's a great way to complete your collection. Some of the bands don't even mention this release in their discographies. Secondly - because in 1995, although gothic music wasn't young by any stretch of the imagination, many of these bands are and you can here it. The production isn't perfect, the playing is perhaps a bit off, but you can hear, almost palatably taste the talent that either had been or just beginning. This is raw, not overly polished, pretty studio recording. Sampling and programming and the like were not used as predominately and were too expensive anyway for these bands to be using. This was ADAT. There is not even a mention of a synthesizer. Keyboards are as fancy as these bands got.
There is a history to gothic music, which which sometimes gets lost, forgotten and that is the smaller bands that perhaps shined brightly once, or continue to shine. This compilation brings them back to you….ten songs which take you back to 1995. Darn I wish I could remember where the hell I was.
1 Incubus Succubus - Take My Hunger
2 Cries of Tammuz - Rosicrucian Ritual
3 The Marionettes - Savage Garden
4 Die Laughing - Harlequin
5 Vendemmian - Hang the Shame
6 This Burning Effigy - Communion with Sophia
7 Soul Inside - Desire (Heave into Dust mix)
8 Revolution by Night - Selling Heaven
9 Children on Stun - Celebration (original mix)
10 Blood Simple - Rainbow Head
For ordering information…
Bands (which still have websites/are still going)
Children on Stun
Revolution By Night