All About Eve
~reviewed by Jezebel

When Julianne Regan sends you an email asking if you would be kind enough to review the new album from All About Eve, you don’t say no. You would be a complete fool to say no. It’s Julianne Regan for goodness sake – the songstress with the silky and smoky voice who has more than complimented many an evening curled up with a book and glass of red wine.

When it arrives at your home you rip open the package while jumping up and down with anticipation. You giggle like a child and run frantically to the CD player with the CD trying at the same time to read the promo material (and avoid the cat).

As I have an advance copy – I don’t have the packaging…and any regular reader of my reviews knows that I love packaging…but okay…no problem. You may also know that I hate promo/press releases jobbies. They are usually overwritten, over thesaurused pieces of public relation muck. Every band in the world should take a copy of this release and LEARN. This is humble, yet confidently written and already I am thinking of warm darling thoughts about the band and the new material. In fact, I grabbed the bottle of red wine, poured a glass and pushed play.

This is a warm snugly duvet for the soul on a cold, snowy winter’s day. Simple. Julianne’s voice wraps around you and keeps you comforted. The album, themed to winter, is much more than a themed project. This is atmospheric. This album creates the environment from within, a cold winter’s day, sitting in a bay window in front of the fire while small, individual snowflakes fall silently to the ground. (And don’t forget the red wine)

We open with a cover of a well known and either well loved or hated song, “Last Christmas” done by Wham so many years ago (were you wearing day glo then? Come on, admit it!). This icy and sexy version removes all the corny and overdone vocals of George Michael. The lilt of the song is not lost, but softened so the pop is gone and replaced by an adult and mature rendering of the rhythm. I dare even say that this is ever so slightly jazz-like. It swings softly. The most impressive aspect of the track is that it enhances what was already a well-written song both musically and lyrically. George Michael had a great pop hit with it. This is what happens when music grows up.

And now, we go to “Walking In The Air”, another cover – this the theme from the Snowman. I don’t know this song so I can’t go about comparing to the original. But on its own, this is frosty. This track is very space-like to me with much more use of synthesisers and samples and perhaps a touch too much production on Julianne’s voice. The beauty of her voice is her voice and too much manipulation of it somehow makes it sound just like any other voice manipulated. What a second….um….I just figured out what is missing. Andy? Andy? Are you there Andy? There is no bass. Um. There isn’t a guitar either. (well, Marty did leave).

Okay. I need to step back and either hold on to death the idea of what AAE has been for years or start to open my mind up to what AAE is becoming. I question as to whether they are losing what is the core of AAE. What is the core of AAE? To me – it has always been gorgeous and insightful lyrics with a great gothic/folk/rock guitar sound. Can I open it up to include synthesisers to the exclusion of guitars, bass? As I continue to listen, I am sure I can….as the sound produced enhances and explores. This is AAE exploring what is out there, taking chances and succeeding where most bands don’t or if they do – fail.  Perhaps this is a testament to their musicianship and talent, taking on new technology and methods and still producing music that is evocative.

We revisit December with “December Revisited” which I always felt the original was their epitomical winter song. This is all remixed and synthesised. Again – atmospheric. Again not what you expect from AAE. Or what I expected. I don’t think I will be so easily won over to the idea of manipulating Julianne’s voice as is done here, but it works well and seems to be dancing in and out of the snowflakes of music and rhythms. Damn, did I finish my wine already? It is a seven-minute remix. Overdone? I don’t think so. The song continues on a generous and genuine path and never seems to be lagging or losing its way. It comes to a natural and quiet conclusion.

OOOOH!!!! New stuff! New Stuff!
“Melting” starts off with a sound from Julianne’s voice which we are familiar. Her smoky sound. And when the music kicks in, I now understand the departures of the two preceeding tracks. AAE has grown up, evolved, explored, experimented and found a new sound which holds on to the beauty of the music they have always produced and yet uses new ways of attaining it. The music is somehow fuller and richer, with a depth that can usually only come from finding new paths and not being afraid to really explore them. I sense this was a challenging album for both Julianne and Andy as this possibly pushed them to say goodbye to some of their old ways of workings and techniques and to fully embrace the new and unknown.

So, wine poured again. Snuggled up on the couch with the cat, the duvet and the laptop, I await “Cold,” the next offering up. This is sexy. Percussive, little noises and loops. Oh I know this was probably not done on a piano, but oh – can’t wait to hear it actually done. Even the cat is starting to really dig it as his purr gets louder. And louder. Damn cat, shush. I won’t hear Julianne when she starts to sing. Oh – I like that bit right there, that chord change. Reminds me of David Bowie’s “Thursday’s Child.” The same kind of chord changing, the same swing. The same percussive sound. Here’s the break. Damn cat, shut up! Julianne’s about to sing. But I was left to listen to only Regal’s melody of purrs (he might have a career, must talk to someone about that), as this is entirely instrumental. Andy and Julianne throw a curve ball at us and demand that we listen to the music and really hear it. I don’t mind being dictating to if it means I get to listen to music like that over and over and over again. Thank  you.

Julianne has been a fan of Queen for – well, forever and so it was no surprise that there is a Queen cover. “A Winter’s Tale” is another one of the covers that the original is unknown to me. But who cares???????? This is gorgeous. Julianne’s voice floats while the music wafts in the background, ready to join her fully. Not only does the music join but also some excellent manipulation of echo brings Julianne’s voice wrapping around like a soft twister and then, dispelling, just disintegrating and leaving the music alone to haunt you. This almost operatic music is just that, haunting and dark. Julianne’s voice comes back in and you are again swirling and twirling. Dreaming.

And the last offering drums at you loudly and aggressively. That being “December Amnesia Mix”. I don’t know – perhaps it is supposed to make you forget the original version? Okay, this scared the cat, probably because I started to bounce up and down to the almost jungle like sounds. To be honest, I really don’t want anyone to tell me it came from a synthesiser or drum machine. I am much happier with the vision of Julianne and Andy standing in a room and banging the hell out of all sorts of bits and things with big cheesy smiles on their faces. Stomp should get a hold of this and use it as a jumping off point for one of their next pieces. The percussion is amazing. The rhythms intricate and surprising. Look – I am a tap dancer for last “ahem” years of my life. I know good rhythms and I want to move my little feet and make some noise along with this. I don’t know if it ties in ~exactly~ with the atmosphere of the other tracks on this album…perhaps it’s supposed to wake us up from our dream like state and go and shovel the snow. Somehow my wine didn’t seem appropriate anymore. (I drank it anyway). It does go on a bit without really truly giving us much of the actual original version of December. But once done….I was quite a happy little bean.

AAE will be touring the UK in April 2003 (won’t SOME intelligent promoter bring them over to the States please!!!) which will coincide with a new studio EP of new compositions. I will be there with bells on (drinking wine, without the cat)

This is not the album AAE fans will be expecting. Fine. It’s not 1988 anymore and to be honest, a rehashing of it all once again would have been tired and a tad boring. To know that a great band can reinvent themselves while still retaining the core of what they are and do is an amazing thing in this world. And I am so happy that it’s AAE that’s been able to do it.

As Freddie Mercury said, “It’s all so beautiful…Like a landscape painted in the sky”

1) Last Christmas
2) Walking In The Air
3) December Revisited
4) Melting
5) Cold
6) A Winter’s Tale
7) December Amnesia Mix

All About Eve are:
Julianne Regan – singer
Andy Cousin – bassist and producer

Through the Cracks of Death
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

I was ready to really slam Abscess for being generic death metal before I read a few things about them. Apparently the band was formed from the ashes of Autopsy, so Abscess isn't one of those groups that just now found its way into the death metal scene. This doesn't make them any more original, but it's good to know they've been at this for a while. More importantly, I found out the band lives very close to me, and could quite easily stop by to puncture my lung for a good laugh.

That being said, Abscess really is about what you'd expect from the name/cover. All the standard death metal elements are here, and you probably don't need me to list them out. Let's instead assume you've been acquainted with the prototypical death metal framework. That way we can discuss what separates Abscess from the death metal band whose bassist tried to vomit on me (note to readers - wear a poncho if you plan to see Exhumed). Actually, I think Abscess' Through The Cracks of Death is a formidable contender and ready to duke it out with all of death metal, so I'll save you the protracted dissertation about why Abscess is better than Exhumed.

Through the Cracks of Death is most notable for the groovy vibe. These guys do know how to bust out with a rockin' groove, which is exactly the kind of thing you'd want in a mosh pit, unless you're one of the people desperately trying to claw their way out. The riffs and solos are all well played, and some of the soloing fits with the groovy vibe in a cool way. Abscess have mysteriously lost or eaten several of the bass players they have worked with, so when it came time to record, all three band members shared bass duties. That's a lot of people to work on the one instrument you can't hear too clearly to begin with. I like production to be much cleaner than you'll get with Abscess, but the raw and gritty quality is more befitting of what the band is going for.

If I sound a bit lethargic in this review, it's because I just don't have the enthusiasm for this style of constantly repeated death metal that I once had. Come to think of it, I never had much enthusiasm for it. The reason I'm mentioning my own bias is because I don't feel I can give Abscess an entirely fair review - I think this is the kind of music that is much more intense and engaging in a live setting. If you've got a taste for recorded versions of blazing death metal performances, then Abscess is actually a pretty kickin' choice. Their sense of grooviness and ability to write real solos (instead of making a bunch of blippy noises) puts them pretty far ahead of their more humdrum competitors.

The CD also features an unorthodox amount of variety within a usual death metal context. There are slower bits and odd noises that seep out of the woodwork for no discernable reason - and that's part of why they work. There are even more atmospheric portions that are usually accompanied by the rest of the band. So we're not talking about "creepy" intros here, just weird breaks within the songs that give the music a darker feel than constant throbbing could.

Basically, if you consider yourself a death metal fan, it's in your best interest to listen to an Abscess mp3 and see what you think. If you're burned out on the style or simply don't get into rawer and groovier forms of death metal, then there's not much here you're likely to be interested by.

Track List:
1) Raping the Multiverse
2) Mourners will Burn
3) Through the Cracks of Death
4) Escalation of Violence
5) Serpent of Dementia
6) An Asylum Below
7) Tomb of the Uknown Junkie
8) Monolithic Damnation
9) Die for Today
10) 16 Horrors
11) Vulnavia

Abscess is:
Chris Reifert: drums, vocals, bass
Clint Bower: guitar, vocals, bass
Danny Coralles: guitar, bass

Peaceville Records:

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Most comments I have seen given about this band have been strained and underwhelming, so it was something of a shock to find just how the mighty the possibilities are for this raucous bunch.

I can see why people might be annoyed by their approach, or by them not necessarily fitting in anywhere, but that also means they have a chance to impress Goth, Industrial, and Indie audiences.

As it’s an EP I’ll be kind and say they have room for experimentation here, which an album might preclude. On the forthright side they give us their version of a traditional marching song (’Left March’ - geddit?), and this is where we see the other fluidity problem. Their dance mechanics aren’t yet past the apprenticeship stage, so often it drags off the beat, but throwing such a powerful strop, sweetened by synth, gives them real impetus. Worse, two wasted opportunities are the ‘Faith And Steel’ and ‘Bloc Rocking Beats’ tracks, which have the gabba (gabba hey) ethos at heart, operating at unnatural speed, and all empathy with a normal listener is lost. They also do a version of Sting’s ‘Russians’ so they have a sense of humour, redeeming this choice by turning into Heaven 17, with scalding guitar.

Now, It’s not all quirky Nitzer Ebbisms either because ‘Dancefloor Putsch’ could well be Killing Joke trying to keep the bailiffs out, apart from the bloody awful vocals, and while I’m as guilty as anyone of making them, I never usually believe comparisons in other people’s reviews, but here I admit the New Model Army suggestion holds true for ‘Home (Redux),’ which is a scathing winner.

The drawback to their maddening Industrial method is that while they have a great knack of establishing a blinding idea, they don’t yet have the ability to match their imagination, as opener ‘Anthem’ reveals. They can create a quite brilliant mood, but then each instrument/individual merely sticks with what they’re doing. There is no attempt to embellish the mood, or enhance the energy, which is a shame because there is wonderfully empassioned singing to take us with the surging spirit, and it simply ends up going on too long with no added oomph. A bit like communism!

But don’t be put off. When they sort out if they’re going to go for it without scattering their focus, by having silly dance styling, and they tighten up the wayward singing, they have the musical ideas and the sense of urgency to create something special. This is genuinely very interesting.

1  Anthem Of Youth
2  Left March
3  Dancefloor Putsch
4  Faith And Steel
5  Russians
6  Home (Redux)
7  Left Move (Kronstadt)
8  Bloc Rocking Beats

Aesma Daeva
The Eros of Frigid Beauty
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Aesma Daeva's new album 'The Eros of Frigid Beauty' is... indescribable, really.  I wish I could personally visit the home of everyone that is reading this and play the album for you.  Since this is a written review, though, I'll do my best to fulfill my obligation as a writer in the hope that I might convince you to immediately seek out this masterful recording and purchase it.  What is it that I find so exceptional about this unheralded and largely unknown band?  In short: their technical skills, artistic vision, and boundless ambition.

Composer John Prassas and his entourage elegantly meld many genres of music into a complex, deep, modern symphony. Not content to try and convey his ideas using the typical progressive metal band arrangement of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, Prassas enlists an army of musicians to his cause (wielding a dazzling array of instrumentation) and winds up with a true modern day chamber orchestra.  No barriers are left standing as he breaks down the walls between classical orchestra music and progressive metal.  That's not the end of his hybridization, however: the overall tone of the album and the operatic vocals of Melissa Ferlaak will appeal to fans of gothic music as well.  There are a number of passages that recall baroque harpsichord compositions.  That's not all, though.  Prassas is also a classical guitarist, and a number of Segovia-esque acoustic guitar movements work their way into the mix.  My feeble descriptions are inadequate to relate the degree to which all of these sounds are seamlessly merged into a moving and powerful whole.

It is also worth noting that the production on the album is amazingly clear, allowing all the instruments plenty of room to breathe even in the most densely packed compositions.  Wild burbling synth leads, growling guitars, lilting vocals, a pipe organ, harpsichord, drums and several horns might all be playing at once, but the sound never becomes muddy or over-saturated.  Instead, there is simply a tremendous depth to the music that begs to be listened to again and again, and everything sounds vibrant and alive.

'The Eros of Frigid Beauty' is not structured like a typical metal record.  The pace of the music varies often, moving frequently from fast, aggressive parts to slow, emotional moments or dark atmospheric passages (often with accompanying changes in instrumentation).  Prassas makes great use of dynamics to set the mood, allowing the music to ebb and flow from loud and noisy to quiet and intimate.  There are recurrent thematic elements (melodies and instrumental arrangements) that are carried throughout various tracks and developed over the course of the album.  It's really more akin to a classical symphony than anything you'd find in a typical commercial rock/metal/pop format.  In fact, nothing about Aesma Daeva seems geared to appeal to any particular commercial audience (they proudly proclaim 'Guaranteed No Hit Potential' in their press releases).  Prassas and his crew appear to want to make their unique brand of music solely for the sake of creating worthwhile art... and they've succeeded in doing so.

I could ramble on for pages and pages if I were to dissect each song on the album in an attempt to convey its merits to you.  I don't know that it would serve any real purpose though, as this music truly needs to be experienced to properly be appreciated.  Aesma Daeva deserves to find an audience for their unique hybrid of metal and orchestra.  Many bands include symphonic elements in their work (particularly in the powermetal and black metal genres), but rarely if ever are those elements an integral part of the music, inseperable from the conventional metal instrumentation.  Such is not the case here, as Asema Daeva tightly integrates the two musical worlds.  'The Eros of Frigid Beauty' is as worthy of being called a symphony as anything by Bach, Handel, or Mahler.  It is a work of art uncompromised by commercial concerns, unfettered by any implied stylistic restrictions.  Anyone who appreciates avant-garde music or wishes to support worthy artists should make every effort to find this album and purchase it.

Track List:
01.) Lysander
02.) Devotion
03.) In My Holy Time
04.) The Eros Of Frigid Beauty
05.) Overature
06.) The Minstrel Song
07.) Lysander II

Aesma Daeva is:
John Prassas - Composer/Guitarist
Melissa Ferlaak - Vocals
Earl Root - Guitar
Craig Ohren - Drums

Guest Musicians:
Carolyn Barber - French Horn
Aden Brumer - Vocals
Nick Copernicus - Additional Words, Production & Programming
Julia Ellison - Piano
Francisco De La Rosa - violin
Chad Lewison - Electric Guitar Solo
Molly Poessehl - Flute
Andrea Vieth - Flute
Sara Williamson - Vocals
James Wheat - Trombone

Aesma Daeva Official Website:

Root Of All Evil Records:

~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Before I heard Antimatter, I wasn't sure if blood ties to the acclaimed Anathema would pre-dispose Antimatter to sounding a lot like the infamous doom metal act. At the very least, I did expect Antimatter to be partially a metal band. It isn't. Not even a little. Now before you go running off for one reason or another (I tend to have that affect on people), I'll tell you right off that Saviour is an excellent album worth the attention of anyone into any kind of dark music.

Many descriptions of the band have been floating about, and one that stuck with me basically described a darker Portishead. Antimatter does bear a resemblance to Portishead, and they are, in fact, darker. Perhaps that's why the comparison stuck. Antimatter's music is very calm and melancholic. In addition to the backing orchestrations, the songs are full of straightforward beats and bass lines that are often very catchy and capable of lulling the listener into an almost hypnotic state. The problem is that once you've reached that state, the depressing lyrics and feeling of dejection can take their toll. Saviour is the kind of album that is best to listen to when you feel you're a little too wound up, or maybe the week has been going unexpectedly well in the kind of way that irritatingly infringes on your usual vortex of negativity.

There are a number of different female vocalists adding their various touches to Saviour, as well as vocal performances by two males. I like to give credit where it's due, but my tired mind was incapable of deciphering the array of track numbers and symbols surrounding each of the many vocalists in the liner notes. After an exhausting decoding process that ultimately failed I decided I'd be better off just enjoying the music, and I'll leave the number work to Stephen Hawking.

"over your shoulder" is one of my favorite songs off of Saviour. It has a great guitar melody, and the male and female vocalists divulge wilderness survival tips very effectively. The atmosphere is relaxed and even a bit on the serene side, but there is a certain sadness to the low-key song. "god is coming" comes as a surprise every time I listen through Saviour. It is a startlingly intense song with urgently demanding vocals that, frankly, freak me out just a little. This is what people are going to blare on loudspeakers as the apocalypse is taking place. Now, I know what you might be thinking - an intense song by a band related to Anathema, it must have heavy guitars, right? No! You're horribly, horribly wrong if you think that! The song instead has a backing string section that is quite foreboding, and a somewhat harsh series of electronic sounds and beats.

I think that "psalms" is one of the most representative songs on the whole CD, and coincidentally that's the song you can grab right on this page:  "psalms" has a steady beat and a decidedly dark orchestral accompaniment that comfortably adds color to the catchy guitar theme and bass riffs. The vocals are also undeniably catchy, though they are equally melancholic and emotive. The final result is a song that is expressive, a little depressing, and damn listenable.

I'm still not entirely sure how music this sad can maintain the level listenability that it does. I'm also not sure if listenability is a word. The point is - the moments tinged with hope are outweighed by the generally lamenting atmosphere, but it's the kind of thing that could conceivably still make its way onto any radio station that plays Portishead or similar music.

The US version of Saviour features excellent acoustic versions of "over your shoulder" and "flowers," making it worth your while to seek out The End Records distribution of this album. If you are into dark semi-electronic music with easy going vocals and a quietly distressing atmosphere then you should be first in line to give Antimatter a listen. Anyone coming from the doom metal side of things should also find a lot of appealing material here, but without any of the heavyness or crunch that you might be used to. I do tend to think that the atmosphere and the strength with which it's conveyed should be more important than genre trappings, however, so if you really appreciate darker music of any variety, there's no reason not to give Antimatter a chance.

Track List:
1.) saviour
2.) holocaust
3.) over your shoulder
4.) psalms
5.) god is coming
6.) angelic
7.) flowers
8.) the last laugh
9.) going nowhere
10.) over your shoulder (acoustic)
11.) flowers (acoustic)

Antimatter is:
Duncan Patterson - bass, guitar, keyboards, programming
Michael Moss - guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals
Vocal guests:
Michelle Richfield
Hayley Windsor
Danny Cavanagh
Jenny O'Connor

Antimatter - Official Site:

The End Records:

Daniel Ash
Daniel Ash (Psychobaby)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

Round these parts, Daniel Ash might (still) be best-known as the guitarist in Bauhaus, or perhaps as one third of Love And Rockets. But over the years, on and off between other projects, he's carved out a career of his own, as a rather cool solo artist.

His third solo album has just arrived, and, rather confusingly, it's simply entitled 'Daniel Ash' - which either means that Mr Ash experienced a severe imagination failure when it came to thinking up a proper title, or perhaps that he sees this album as some sort of new beginning. I suspect the latter, because this album is...different.

Daniel Ash's previous solo outings have been half-glam, half-psychedelic excursions into low-slung rock. Just what you'd expect, I suppose, given his band-background. Here, he takes a slightly different route. Sure, there are moments of glam 'n' psychedelia, but there are also excursions into trip-hop, weird pop, and a series of heavily rhythmic rock 'n' roll mantras. Don't panic - Daniel Ash certainly hasn't 'gone dance', or anything as crassly obvious as that - but he's certainly discovered *rhythm*.

More to the point, the opening number, 'Hollywood Fix', sounds disturbingly like Daniel Ash has discovered the first Sheep On Drugs album. The track is a rattling voodoo floor-filler, much in the style of SoD's own vintage groovers, but what brings me up short is the vocal, half chanted in a sardonic tone: 'Jesus flies when you're having fun...' It's the J-word that does it. If you'd told me this was a remix of SoD's 'Flaming Church Of Baby Jesus', I'd have believed you!

The odd sense of deja-entendu doesn't stop there. The second track, 'The Money Song', kicks off with a flurry of percussion bizarrely akin to the intro to 'Fizzing Human Bomb' by Danielle Dax. I fully expect an enterprising DJ to seamlessly mix the two tracks together at some point - I'm sure it could be done. Here, Daniel Ash wrenches out some guitar-noise over the rhythm, and chants a half-heard lyric. It's nice, but frankly a bit throwaway.

'Mastermind' comes in on a roar. A big, bad, circling guitar figure and a booming rhythm. Again, the vocals seem to be no more than a few chanted slogans, distorted and down in the mix. There's a bit of vaguely eastern-sounding keyboard: this, it seems, is the theme. Daniel Ash isn't doing *songs* here. He's setting up mantras, and letting them unwind. As a concept, it's interesting and often effective, but there are moments when I can't help wishing he'd cut the crap and slap a bit of song-structure on all these long, loping, rhythms.

'Come Alive' is a case in point. It's one big, long, hammering, groove, with some distort-o-guitar weaving among the restless, relentless beats. The vocals are minimal - not much more than a frantic caterwaul of 'Come Alaaaaaaaaive!' It's as if Daniel Ash has written a fantastic chorus, but he's forgotten to write the song to go with it. I kept expecting the track to shift gears, resolve the tension which the big rhythm builds up, but it just doesn't happen. That's a weirdly frustrating feeling - I *like* this stuff, but I want it to *go* somewhere.

Maybe Daniel himself realised he couldn't keep the big rhythms coming for an entire album. 'Ghost Writer' is a proper song, somewhat akin to 'Higher Than This' from his earlier album, 'Foolish Thing Desire'. There's plenty of percussion walloping away, and it all goes into an extended instrumental outro, but there's a song in there somewhere, and that helps to pull it all together. From this point, the album becomes much more varied - witness 'Kid 2000', which could almost be a 50s sci-fi movie theme. A neat way of breaking up the full-on flow of the album so far.

'Chelsea' sounds like Portishead. A warmer, happier, Portishead, but Portishead nonetheless. It even has a female vocal, by Nova McCarthy. I'm getting the feeling that this album, at least in parts, is Daniel's own tribute to his record collection. (It's interesting to see that Adrian Utley of Portishead gets a namecheck in the album's 'Thank you' list. What did Daniel do, ask permission to be influenced?) 'Burning Man' is a weird dub-dance track, an out-there take on Moby's style, and a vocal that speaks of 'Chemical tricks...' Hmm. Is this Daniel's 'I don't do drugs any more' song?

'Spooky' sees Daniel going psychedelic-jazz, with a pleasant little croon of a vocal. 'In the cool of the evening, when everything is getting kinda groovy...' he sings, and then has the audacity to rhyme that with 'movie'. But I'll forgive him, because this is a neat tune, with some intriguing lyrics...and a synthesised finger-snap sound which I swear Daniel's used before, on 'Foolish Thing Desire'. Is he sampling himself?

'Sea Glass' is a freaky surf tune which is far more...odd...than it at first appears. It's the kind of thing Brian Wilson might write if he was still living in his sandpit. 'Trouble' sounds like Frank Zappa, if he were (a) still alive, and (b) going industrial. Here, Daniel gives us an unsettling, close-to-mic vocal while the beat looms menacingly, ever-larger in the background, like a nightclub bouncer getting ready to sort out a bit of bother. And then...Daniel hits the button marked 'weird pop genius' and gives us 'Walk On The Moon', a gloriously off-centre little pop tune which is just crying out for hit-single status. In another dimension, maybe. The album wraps up with 'Rattlesnake', which is another nod in the direction of trip-hop: a late-night, sit-in-your-chair-and-stare-at-the-wall, come-down instrumental. It's nice, but it's the kind of tune which needs the right time and place to be effective. I'll give it a spin one night when I've come back from a club, and see how it works in that situation. Oh, and there's an extra secret track as well: a bass-heavy instrumental groove which is pleasant, but not, frankly, essential.

And that's yer lot. A bewildering album, in all sorts of ways: the leap-frogging from style to style, the influences pulled in from everywhere - even the running order is confusing, with those mad mantras piled in at the beginning, before the music takes off in all sorts of other directions. Some of the tracks here don't *quite* hit the spot for me, but it's nevertheless intriguing to try and follow Daniel Ash's musical ideas, even if in the end I decide not to go along with him.

Daniel Ash's head must be a strange, strange place...but I'm glad he's allowed us to glance inside.

The tunestack:
Hollywood Fix
The Money Song
Come Alive
Ghost Writer
Kid 2000
Burning Man
Sea Glass
Walk On The Moon

The players:
Daniel Ash: Vocals, guitar, keyboards, loops
Patina Creme: bass, Keyboards, loops
John De Salvo: Drums, samples
Richard Bradford: Percussion
Malcolm Watson: Violin
Nova McCarthy, Allister Ash, Amanda Staples, Diony Evans: Vocals
Swati Patel, J.H. Wyman: Spoken word

Daniel Ash's website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Nordland I
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

The name "Bathory" carries a lot of weight in metal circles. Quorthon is the man behind the music, and in 2003 he'll be taking Bathory into their 20th anniversary. Considering that black and viking metal (in its modern state) is recognized as having begun in the early 90's, it's remarkable to realize that one of its most important founders from a decade before that is still alive and kickin'. Some of you may not like me for what I'm about to say in a minute here. People tend to have some sort of expectation for the quality of a new Bathory CD... I didn't. The reason why may deem me punishable by flogging or some other ritual torture: before receiving Nordland I, I had never actually heard Bathory.

Yeah, yeah, I know... a Scandinavian metal fan who doesn't even know what Bathory sounds like? I'm sure it's blasphemy on multiple levels to true metal fans out there. There is an advantage to my relative ignorance of Bathory's previous work, however, and that's the following unbiased review of Bathory. Let's forget for a moment how you feel about Bathory historically - the real question at hand is whether or not Nordland I is a worthwhile release in today's scene.

And the answer is a deep, booming, Odin-enhanced "YES". Nordland I is a very epic and ambitious release that captures the Nordic spirit and recreates vast icy expanses, beautiful forests, and the awe of mother nature. It's easy to ignore nature in today's modern world. The power of the natural world is seen as distant and largely separate from our day to day lives. Or maybe I only feel that way from living in California where snow is a distant dream, and it's a bit hard to pay attention to much besides the sun. Regardless, Bathory forgoes the usual nonsense about taverns and viking battles. He focuses his full musical prowess on paying homage to the world around us. If I had to sum up the recording in one word, there's no question what it would be: Nordic.

Quorthon achieves this sound with rather lengthy and ambitious songs. After the beating of drums and an orchestrated synth arrangement in the opening, the nine minute "Nordland" emerges with a massive guitar riff. Despite the general heaviness of the song, the vocals are very melodic and clean. Quorthon manages a bit of rasping on Nordland I, but the emphasis is on cleaner melodic content. "Ring of Gold" is an especially melodic piece that overflows with excellent melodies and harmony. Layered acoustic guitars are accompanied by an emotional vocal performance.

Nordland I features a fair amount of acoustic guitar work. The acoustic sections have a strong folk vibe, in a uniquely Scandinavian way. "Foreverdark Woods" opens with a horse's gallop and a neat acoustic riff. The song then quickly builds into a much more powerful distorted riff and somewhat upbeat vocal performance. Quorthon has a knack for writing larger than life guitar riffs that feel as folk-oriented as the acoustic guitars. He treats the electric guitar very much like an acoustic instrument, paying no heed to special effects of any kind.

There are certain points in which the guitar leads are mixed so loud that they have a painfully piercing quality. The production on Nordland I is actually quite good, so I'm not sure why some of the lead guitars were allowed to rip through the Nordic soundscapes and savagely wreak havoc on the listener's ears. Quorthon went a bit crazy with the overdrive for the lead guitars in "Foreverdark Woods," a song that has smoother electric guitar riffing. "Broken Sword," on the other hand, is the closest thing to power metal you'll find on the disc - and the rapid riffing meshes more appropriately with the sharp leads.

There's an informative interview with Quorton online at Black Mark's webpage (link below), and in it Quorthon hits on the idea that he does not wish to act as a historian with Bathory. You may not get a true representation of traditional Scandinavian folk music with Norland I, and obviously the metal elements were unheard of until more modern times. But what you will get is a representation of the Nordic spirit filtered through him, and in a way that personal approach gives as true a representation of the spirit as any traditional music could. Nordland II will be released sometime next year, and I think I'll be made into an official Bathory fan if it's as effective and artistic as Nordland I. I strongly suggest checking out this CD if you are a fan of Bathory or Scandinavian metal, particularly if you enjoyed Ulver's first two albums.

Track List:
1) Prelude
2) Nordland
3) Vinterblot
4) Dragon's Breath
5) Ring of Gold
6) Foreverdark Woods
7) Broken Sword
8) Greate Hall Awaits a Fallen Brother
9) Mother Earth Father Thunder
10) Heimfard

Bathory is:
Quorthon - music, lyrics

Black Mark:

The End Records (US):

Black Ice
Black Ice EP
~reviewed by Professor Jef

Doncha just hate it when a band that you like puts out a suckass side project? Yeah, rock history has seen many failed side-projects, but there have been some exceptions, like Love and Rockets. Black Ice is a side project of Phantom Limbs, the whirling-dervish deathrock outfit from Oakland. Take note: while Black Ice sound NOTHING like Phantom Limbs, they DO NOT SUCK ASS.

Whereas The Phantom Limbs specialize in sensory – and soundboard – overdrive, Black Ice create a slow and spacious deathrock sound not unlike those experimental moments at the opening of “Bela Lugoi’s Dead.” Evocative and patient, Black Ice are in league with the monsters under your bed. They entrance you. They misplace your car keys. They steal your socks.  They play around with nifty studio effects! They use broken organs, wine glasses, piano wire, water faucets, and all sorts of found sounds. Hopefully, these folks will bless us with some shadowplay on film, because this music would make for a better project than The Limbs’ disappointing tour video, “The Early Years.” I’m jealous of those west coasters who’ve seen Black Ice live, since side projects like this seldom stray too far on their own. Black Ice would, however, make for an economical and totally wonderful opening act for Phantom Limbs.

Old school deathrock fans, those who covet artifacts from the height of 80s gloom like so many delicate skeletal remains, should sweep on over to and order a copy.  A split 7” with Sister Mary Shoelace has been slated late fall 2002, and a full length will appear in 2003. Until then, this four song EP is your sole source for a sneak peak at one of the brave, new deathrock outfits. Like everything by keyboard maestro, Stevenson Sedgwick, you’ll want to get on in this early.

Black Ice are:
Miss Kel (vocals)
Stevenson Sedgewick (keyboards, etc.)

Black Ice live also include:
Mister Brown and Melanie X.

Black Ice EP song list:


On mp3:

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

My enthusing over The Naked & The Dead forced Corey Gorey to send me some CDs and I hope I can review the two EPs planned for release before the end of this year because this material is madly endearing. Eight songs crammed into eighteen minutes and from start to finish bubbling with life like a toddler pissing on your couch.

They have a definite Punky energy to almost everything, effervescing with that damn organ of theirs, and jumpy tunes that don’t always have the coolest of choruses, but overdose on energy and are quite impossible to ignore. Give me a band like this over a hundred gloominous pretentious twats any day of the week.

They’re frisky, they’re able to change from a take on early Blondie to a bloodshot Rezillos freak-out at will, and the lyrical content is well within Goth boundaries but oooh, they’re having fun, how DARE they?!!! You can just imagine how many sad wankers turn up their noses at this.

So, we’ve established it’s hugely enjoyable, and something like ‘Drunk Dreams’ may appear to be tempestuous stupidity, but it isn’t riddled with quirkiness at all. It works on its own merits, because there’s a sense of character about it, and the music often has weight behind it. The drums are terse, the bass quite bulbous. The vocals aren’t insanely chipper, often being downbeat rather than mentally infectious, and overall they have poppy splendour with some bracing guitar, but ‘Scalpels And Screws’ reminded me of the early Alice Copper ‘Pretties For You’ era. Given that they end by vomiting up some 60’s-flavoured instrumental cocktail called ‘They Can’t Keep Their Damn Clothes On’ I’d say they can easily lay siege to all styles, and I’m looking forward to anything else they release, and I gather two EPs are to be granted parole before the end of the year.

If You Dance
Invitation Only
My, My, My!
Scalpels And Screws
Quit Your Smoking In Heaven
Black Florid Death
Drunk Dreams
They Can’t Keep Their Damn Clothes On

Dismal Abysmal
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

More mayhem from this bright and bolshy band. Eight brisk items, heavily laced with character and designed to move you at times in a vice-like grip of inanity. You have to love the way the organ stabs the air between the vocal fists of ‘Hi!’, or the whimsical thrash of ‘The Infinity Hotel’, and you barely get time to catch your breath.

I was quite taken by their slower moments this time round, be that the perversely scary imagery of the title track, with its misleading happy-clappy start, or the lopsided emotion of ‘Wives Turned Widows’. Do they fear being too serious? They have the wit and wisdom, but not the lyrical strengths? Nonsense. They could do anything they want, but they have a high-energy diet and ‘We Are Still Ladies And Gentlemen Here’ will run you through with its sharp guitar, then trundle you off to be disembowelled in time with the grumbling bass. You can probably ignore the frantic yelping of ‘Stomache’, I know I did, but then nod wisely when I say ‘Party One The Angelmaker’ was almost good enough t be part of ‘Buffy - The Musical’ and deceptive again, as you swoon at its corny approach until the line, ‘in the death camps of my dreams, I’m ignoring all the screams’ pops up.

They have a wild world inside their head and you get temporary admission to the asylum. It’s worth a visit.


~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Every so often an artist comes along that makes us wonder: should this person be on medication? Bumblefoot is one such artist. And the answer is probably yes. Hands sounds like early to mid-90's alternative rock/rap/metal, except from a dimension where artists have impossible control over their instruments, a tendency towards the experimental, and a penchant for the bizarrely absurd.

After a two-record deal with Shrapnel Records as a solo artist, Ron Thal made a transformation into the artist now known as Bumblefoot (hey, it's catchier than "The artist formerly known as Ron Thal"). His original Shrapnel releases are out of print, and most likely appealed to musicians (guitarists in particular) because of Bumblefoot's crazy playing ability. Hands was the debut album under his new moniker, and what a debut it is... if you're hitting music from the guitar/shred/prog side of things, you'll be happy to note that Bumblefoot's solos are nicely impossible and each one has a distinctly cool and unique feeling to it. But unlike his original solo albums, Hands should hold a lot of appeal for most rock and metal fans in general.

There is a definite emphasis on songwriting. Every song has its own feeling and off-beat lyrical theme. "backfur" is a detailed account of a man's struggle with undesireable hair growth. It is sung, in complete seriousness mind you, as an angry rock song. At least, for a minute or two, and then the tune takes a left turn and ends up somewhere in the 60's with a poppy melodic feel and harmonized vocals. The seemingly disparate genres that Bumblefoot mixes across songs and during them all fit together because of the excellent songwriting. Bumblefoot's brother Jeff Thal fills out the rhythm section with some awesome drumming, and he keeps up with all of the unexpected changes perfectly.

The underlying theme on Hands is actually quite dark, and the angry/rappy/melodic vocal approaches are unexpectedly serious despite the silly lyrical themes. I've never been a big fan of music for comedy's sake, but Bumblefoot makes the amusing and sarcastic lyrics an integral part of a mostly non-comedic sound. Bumblefoot's singing is rich with diversity as he covers a number of singing styles flawlessly and with an unusual amount of emotional sincerity.

Hands most closely resembles work by Primus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rage Against the Machine, but I think it could draw in listeners with more exotic taste as well. Anyone into those bands will find a lot to like, but one listen to "Brooklyn Steakhouse" on shows that Bumblefoot means business. There is a loosely experimental feel that fits with all of the genre jumping, and the tone is quite dark and serious. That song is also notable for a literally unbelievable guitar solo that defies logic and normal human capability.

If you're a strict guitar fan and into Shrapnel artists, I can't recommend Hands on the merits of the guitar work alone. Yes, every song has an amazing solo, but there's very little in the way of overt showing off, and there's a much heavier emphasis on the composition than the soloing. However, anyone out there looking to branch out and explore new musical bounds should go listen to Bumblefoot right now. The bottom line is that Hands is an excellent and memorable CD. Where radio-rock often loses its luster over time, Bumblefoot's attention to detail has produced a work with more long lasting power than your average pink bunny. Plus, it's a mere $10 over at, so give the online mp3s a listen and show Bumblefoot some lovin' by stopping by

Track List:
1) hands
2) swatting flies
3) what i knew
4) shrunk
5) dummy
6) chair ass
7) noseplugs
8) vomit
9) brooklyn steakhouse
10) drunk
11) backfur
12) tuesday in nancy
13) dirty pant'loons
70) *cactus
86) *trainwreck

Bumblefoot is:
Bumblefoot (aka Ron Thal) - guitar and vocals
Jeff Thal - drums

Bumblefoot - Official Site:

Bumblefoot on

~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

If you've followed the work of Bumblefoot, you might have gathered that the man is quite insane, or at least borderline crazy. Listening to the second Bumblefoot CD will only further cement that idea. Uncool hits new levels of wackiness by any standard. It's a quirky rock album that I've been playing almost non-stop since I got it - and I'm still amazed and surprised with each listen. Quality music with a fun and funky vibe can be hard to come by, so fans of most any music should pay attention to Uncool.

The general feel on Uncool is quirky and experimental. "t-jonez" is the best representation of the sound, and you can get it as an mp3 or video on Bumblefoot's Uncool page. The song has a 70's lounge music feel with melodic harmonized vocals, some nice melodic guitar soloing, and a vocalized trombone. Oh, there's a modern rock song in there with growly vocals, too. It all fits, right? For the most part, the genre jumping on Uncool isn't as wild as on past work Bumblefoot has done. And like all of his work, the brilliant compositions make even the most off the wall tracks memorable and fun to listen to.

As you might have gathered from the last paragraph, there is a definite focus on melodic content throughout Uncool. Bumblefoot's vocals are better than ever, and he really shows them off on songs like "t-jonez" and the latin-y love ballad "delilah." The strong melodies and excellent performances work together to make songs that should be in some way appealing to any fan of good music. This is what music is all about. Several of the songs add in harder rock sections that tend to be a bit more serious than the 70's lounge moments, and give the music a grittier edge.

I realize that some of you might be thinking the music sounds too "happy" or wacky for wacky's sake to be worth your time. Most serious music fans aren't into a lot of amusing and downright funny content permeating their music. Bumblefoot adeptly side-steps those trappings by making music that is serious in its own right. Bumblefoot is a wacky guy - it wouldn't exactly be honest to make a bunch of non-wacky music, now would it? It doesn't take too many listens to figure out that this music is thoroughly sincere despite the absurd content. It is also likely that the sincerity will lead you to believe that Bumblefoot is simply nuts. No one's going to go out of their way to argue against that claim, so feel free to think so!

Guitar fans might be a bit disappointed to see a movement away from Bumblefoot's usual guitar antics. There's an occasional crazy solo here and there, but the mostly thematic content lends itself more to Bumblefoot's vocal stylings than guitar soloing. Uncool is even stronger because of this, and Bumblefoot still puts his guitar playing to good use in a melodic and non-insane sort of way. The acoustic soloing in "i hate me more than i love you"  sounds great and fits the song better than any wild soloing could.

It's rare to find an artist as capable and honest as Bumblefoot, so I strongly advise giving his mp3s several listens with an open mind. The superbly crafted songs on Uncool are perfectly suited to many, many listens, and I have already played it an unhealthy amount of times. You won't know what you're missing until you check it out.

Track List:
1) intro (untitled)
2) go
3) t-jonez
4) my world is you
5) dominated
6) kiss the ring
7) what's new pussycat?
8) i hate me more than i love you
9) delilah
10) ronald's comin' back now
11) finale (untitled)
12) can't take my eyes off you

Bumblefoot is:
Bumblefoot - guitar and vocals
(with over 20 contributing musicians)

Bumblefoot - Official Site:

Bumblefoot on

~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

If you aren't familiar with the story behind this album, it deserves a brief introduction. 9/11 was originally titled "Guitars SUCK" until the tragedies of 9/11. Bumblefoot decided to dedicate the album to "the incomparable honor, courage, and bravery of all those who gave their lives to save others, to the memory of all those no longer with us, to the comfort and healing of those suffering with personal losses." All of the profits from the CD are being donated to the American Red Cross. The themes in the songs were already rather dark, so it's fitting that the lyrics have a lot to do with negative influences trying to bring us down.

That being said - 9/11 is one of the best CDs I have ever heard. Every song is thoroughly unique and awesome in its own right. It's actually quite difficult to describe the album as a whole due to the amount of variation throughout the songs. The overall theme is fairly dark and sprinkled with bluesy elements, but there are also some fun instrumentals like "don pardo pimpwagon" and "legend of van cleef."

"raygun" is one of those rare songs that is so irregular and mind bogglingly odd that it has been etched in my mind since hearing it. The song is a slow bluesy piece played with a fretless guitar. Bumblefoot calmly solos with a mix of bluesy licks and 50's raygun sounds like you've never heard before (that is to say, the song stands out as original even among the countless radio classics that employ 50's raygun sounds and bluesy soloing). At the end of the piece Bumblefoot plays an unaccompanied solo that sounds quite complicated and impossible to play. It's about the only point on the record where he even starts to approach showing off. Despite the technical aspect to all of his solos, he pulls off even the craziest movements with such ease that they never come across as pompous. His solos are more about communication and working well within a song than they are the oft-implicit message of guitar heroes: "look what I can do with my guitar!"

The guitar work is definitely the highlight of 9/11. Bumblefoot demonstrates his skill in a number of styles. "R2" features some great Latin-y soloing with a jazzy vibe and a very melodic feel. At times the guitar even takes on a quality similar to a human voice thanks to the inventive phrasing Bumblefoot uses. "hall of souls" is a very dark and haunting instrumental played on a nylon string guitar. You can feel the emotion vividly in this piece. The improvised "hole in the sky" and the strangely distorted and cello-enhanced (tm) "time" are similarly evocative.

On the lighter side of things, "don pardo pimpwagon" puts you in the middle of a fun-filled 70's car chase, complete with all the bizarre soloing you'd expect. From Bumblefoot that is, not from 70's car chases. Mattias Eklundh contributes a unique and unusual solo in this song, giving it an even more distinct feel. There is another excellent guest solo on "top of the world," this time played by Dweezil Zappa. That song features some of the more emotional soloing to be found on the album, as it is distorted and modified in a surprisingly expressive way. Bumblefoot really gets into the singing on this bluesy doo-wop song, and the combination of the guest solo and powerful vocals make for a very emotive piece of music.

I've only given you a small taste of what to expect from 9/11, and you should definitely head here  to hear some of the songs for yourself. Compared to Uncool, 9/11 is a much more guitar oriented album. Bumblefoot's amazing technique and fretless guitar playing make the album worthwhile to guitar fans of all varieties, but more importantly, the innovative songs and sheer amount of emotion put into the work is more than enough to make me rank the CD as something all music fans should look into. If you haven't checked out Bumblefoot yet, this is a good place to start, and since buying the album results in a donation to the American Red Cross, how can you go wrong? Give the mp3s a few listens and bask in the unique experience that is Bumblefoot.

Track List:
1) fly in the batter
2) lost
3) raygun
4) hole in the sky
5) children of sierra leone
6) don pardo pimpwagon
7) legend of van cleef
8) guitars SUCK
9) hall of souls
10) top of the world
11) R2
12) time

Bumblefoot is:
Bumblefoot - guitar and vocals
with Lafrae Olivia Sci - drums (tracks 5, 6, 7, 10)
(and various other contributing musicians)

Bumblefoot - Official Site:

Bumblefoot on

Lover Of Sin
Christian Death Presents: Lover Of Sin
~reviewed by Matthew

It just wouldn’t be right if any new developments in the continuing legacy of Christian Death were not accompanied by mass confusion and/or controversy.  This latest Candlelight Records release is certainly no exception.   First things first: “Lover of Sin” is NOT the new Christian Death album.  Rather, it is the solo project of Maitri, Valor’s wife and the long-time bassist / female vocalist for Christian Death.  Her presence in the band dates back to the poorly titled yet magnum Goth Rock opus, “Sexy Death God,” which was released in 1994.

With that said, there is no need for any kind of significant upset.  Had this been a Christian Death album, it would have been quite a stylistic departure (even for the ever evolving madness of Valor) and would have enraged the remaining few who still care.  Maybe.  Whatever the case, it is necessary to evaluate this album as a separate entity, rather than an additional testament to Valor’s unacknowledged musical genius.

Maitri’s Lover Of Sin is a gritty, violent, and unquestionably METAL project.  With elements of classic Black Metal, spiked with over-the-top Hardcore angst and Crust Punk attitude, it makes for some uneasy listening. Fans that stuck around the Christian Death camp for the previous two records (1997’s “Pornographic Messiah” and “Born Again Anti-Christian” from 2000) will already be privy to Maitri’s style of snarling screams and delightfully crude bass lines.  Like previous female vocalists that have contributed to Christian Death, Maitri has Eva O’s throaty strength combined with Gitane DeMone’s sheer vocal power, but accentuated with her own uncompromising and sometimes indigestible fury.

The first half of this 45-minute disc goes straight for the jugular and tears it right open.  Eerie tremolo-picked guitars swell to climax with a violent primal scream and thus begins the aural slaughter with “You Should Have Died.” The drumming is quick and precise, pausing only briefly for a mid-paced pre-chorus respite before charging ahead at full speed. “Unspoken” maintains the blistering pace - the guitars buzz along with a slick and creepy grandeur, machine gun double bass drumming fire at the song’s core, and Maitri’s voice rings out like a siren on a bad acid trip, busting blood vessels and windowpanes like it’s no chore at all.

The slithering of an Eastern violin (Valor’s phantom appearance?) crescendo into sinister Spanish guitars and a percussive dirge, and thus begins the lurching ritual gloom of “Stone Cold.”  Dense power chords and swinging tribal rhythms bash behind Maitri’s spiteful chants for the first truly striking song on the disc.  “The Vision” follows, complete with a near Nu-Metal vibe and an obnoxious abrasiveness that just rings tediously in my ears.  Not much going on there.  The marching discordance and groove oriented “Darkness Walks With Me” follows and though a better song, it also constitutes for a temporary weakness in the flow and strength of the album.

I suspect the first run through this disc, even fans familiar with Maitri’s vocal style and the kinds of raw metallic backdrops that best support her voice will be taken aback.  But once the listener lets their guard down, the combination of her vocals with the familiar metal elements offer a rather refreshing interpretation of long stale ideas.  The latter half of the disc is much more diversified, memorable, and intriguing.  “No Shame” can be described as a dirtier, more unsettling dirge that shares some atmospheric threads with the legendary track “Cervix Couch.”  “Paradox” is the masterpiece of the album, where the dynamic between the Black Metal elements and Maitri’s vocals fuse together in their most poignant partnership.  The riffing is catchy and memorable, the rhythms shift mischievously, the drums snap along at a riveting pace, and Maitri’s voice is at its most intense, yet has a conscious restraint and doesn’t become too overbearing.  The subtle accents of synthetic chimes add a nice touch as well.

“Where The Dead Sleep” crunches along with taunting vocals, an average track playfully enhanced by a wayward Gothic interlude of bewitching whispers, tolling bells, militant snare snaps, and B movie orchestration.   Touring with Cradle Of Filth combined with one too many listens to “Of The Wound” or “The Death Of Josef” most likely had something to do with that little foray into dementia.  The album lingers in the same nightmarish wonderland for “Eulogy Cathedral,” a surreal intermission of odd guitar effects, dramatic orchestration, spidery pizzicato strings, militant percussion and lurid spoken narration.  A cool track delivered just in time for Halloween.

“Lamb To The Slaughter” brings the entire album to a close, which lurches along at a snail’s pace.  Maitri spookily warbles “Kiss the crucifix, ‘til death us do part,” before the tempo gradually accelerates for a manic crescendo of noise (a la “Ashes”).   A quick refrain to more grinding sludge and pounding crunch and the album reaches it’s rather abrupt finale.

So who should buy this record?   Basically, anyone who would like to hear a strong female vocalist who is not afraid to get her hands dirty at the helm of a remarkably tight dark metal band.   ‘Pretty’ female vocalists are still a major selling point of many atmospheric metal bands.  Sometimes that’s cool, but most of the time, when done poorly, it is a tiresome disgrace. Maitri doesn’t really bother trying to sing on this record.  But goddamn does she know how to scream!   And she can run with the best of her male counterparts.   To Christian Death fans that enjoyed Maitri’s tangents and tantrums on the previous two albums, this will surely please.   A long lasting affair with the vast discography of Christian Death is not necessary to appreciate this album.  The only thing required is an open mind, strong nerves, and high tolerance.  Maitri will make you wince and writhe, but on certain days and in certain moods, you will probably really like it.

In the meantime, I impatiently await the return of Valor…

Track List:
1.) You Should Have Died
2.) Unspoken
3.) Stone Cold
4.) The Vision
5.) Darkness Walks With Me
6.) No Shame
7.) Paradox
8.) Where The Dead Sleep
9.) Eulogy Cathedral
10.) Lamb To The Slaughter

Lover Of Sin is:
Maitri  (bass/vocals)
Punchy  (guitar)
Nabu Cadnezza
Akkadian Ea

Co-written and produced by Valor

Christian Death – Official Site:

Lover Of Sin: (updating soon)

Christian Death – Fan site with a wealth of info:

More Historical info:
RozzNet – Christian Death (Rozz Williams):

John Collins’ Christian Death pages (Fantastic sites):

Gitane DeMone:

Bikes and Pyramids
~reviewed by Michael Otley

Chandeen, long time 'Heavenly Voices' act, returns with a very smooth and clean almost Enigma-esque release.  My immediate reaction to this album was recognizing the nice mix between smooth electronics and gentle female vocals.  The release is very crisp and reminds me of a more subtle laid-back version of Madonna's Ray of Light in many places, especially on the album's opener "My World Depends on You".

Chandeen consists of primary song writer Harald Lowy and lead vocalists Antje Schulz and Stephanie Harich.  Rhythm tracks consist of soft percussion and often subtle strummed acoustic guitar.  Much of the ambience is created by lulling synth drones on some tracks and simple synth lines on others.  Chandeen has an incredible pop sensibility, particularly notable on track 5 "You Love Him" which I could see transcend today's popular radio songs in that medium itself given the chance.

Much of the disc is remnant of Enigma without the requisite club-like approach Enigma takes.  At times the album also approaches Delirium with it's clean and friendly structural approach without the heaviness, and even recent works of Loreena McKennitt.  Chandeen always remains light.

Track List:
1. My world depends on you
2. Pink
3. Days in time
4. A Silent Love (Part I)
5. You love him
6. Walking
7. Heute nacht
8. One way love
9. Apples and Oranges
10. Smooth man's melody
11. Lucky Life The Spacerider Legend

Escape Ferocity
Wasp Factory
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Never having been a fan of the more playful noisy bands, Chaos Engine will never be a favourite of mine, and with many tracks here sounding like second division Prodigy it’s hard to get doubts from my mind. To people who do like the torrid jumble of hammering rhythms which emerge from typically slow and wayward openings this should go down fine. It has clear character and obvious variety, and if anyone needs mania thrown at them here it is. I consider playing anything like this out of choice at home. It’s a live or walkman-about-town experience.

The drawback here for me is eight entirely pointless diversions which crop up between actual songs, (the tracklisting covers 23 tracks), and the fact some songs make a mess of certain changes, just as the vocals lags sorely behind in their capabilities. In the perfectly provocative ‘Nerve Opera’ the music is brilliantly captivating but the voice horribly disappointing, just as they all but drift off during the adventurous ‘Resurrection Kisses’.

Musically, they’re quite predictable a lot of the time, because the furious jumble just sparks into life after forty seconds of music, and then it’s just down to how well it holds your attention. They’re capable of capturing the incisiveness of early NIN, with brighter edges, but they can also wobble precariously, with vicarious thrills being too brief in sluggish songs as ‘Sick, Broke, Happy’; and ‘Welcome To The Future It Is Broken’. The final irony is that they also don’t get as loud or as powerful as you start to want at many stages.

When it works, like the hippo in a china shop called ‘Rebellion Lite’ it has the power and variety, with cool verbal tenacity all reaching a peak together, with ‘Jesus Christ V2.0’ pushing it close, then ‘Naphephilia’ is brave enough to remain subdued throughout. The final track is what has to be their standard for them from now on, because ‘Go Offline’ really holds the interest in a specific way that none of the others do, as it’s the one track here where the lyrics actually connect with you. It adds an extra layer of excitement, and a few more experiences like that would have radically altered my perception of them.

It’s a very good record, but not for me.


Claire Voyant
Love Is Blind
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

It seems as though only once in a generation that we are privy to a vocalist whose style is a combination of velvet softness and seductive abandon. Victoria Lloyd, lead singer for Claire Voyant, graces our ears with blessed vocals to rival many female singers in the underground or mainstream world for this generation.  Her vocal contributions have also been included with Daniel Meyer’s (Haujobb) side project HMB and more recently with Mono Chrome, both of whom utilized her uncanny heartfelt delivery to adorn the sounds of some of today’s hottest industrial music.

“Love Is Blind” is the latest offering from the dedicated band, which is currently released through Metropolis Records. Similar in vein to another Metropolis artist, Rhea’s Obsession, Claire Voyant manage to color outside the expected parameters of hard driven industrial tones to create music that is at once comfortable in a home like setting as it is in a club. This present album is an amalgamation of various rhythms, from trip hop to drum and bass.  Ben Fargen’s guitars and Chris Ross’ keyboard and programming skills continue to exceed expectations, as they are talented and intuitive musicians who help to round out this productively talented trio. The band remains a tightly knit family-like unit, something unheard of in the often-fractionated world of musicians and their erratic temperaments.

So what is the magic called Claire Voyant? Essentially it is the release of passionate talent that simply transcends the listener into another magical realm of sorts. Lloyd’s vocals clearly inspire any musician to want to deliver their best and wrap it around her voice in prismatic fashion. She turns a phrase or lilts a word that can simply break a heart or seduce a nation. Her forays into many side projects with some of the most outstanding artists in the goth/industrial underground is no small endeavor and clearly demonstrates her professional rapport and unique versatility as a vocalist.

The internet world was treated to a preview of the CD’s opening track, “Pieces” just prior to the release date. It is a wonderfully done trip hop song about relational disillusionment. In spite of the heartfelt sentiments of the song, it is also quite erotic.

“Twenty-four Years” follows with such a bittersweet tone that it is able to put a lump in your throat. The music cascades and breathes a life of its own. Unlike much of the goth styled darkness, this is the sound of one’s heart breaking set to music. Lloyd’s vocals simply push us over the edge with sentiment.

“Mirror” takes on an introspective parameter. It is a relational involvement where of passion vs. stagnation and expectations. There is more of an ingénue quality to this track where Lloyd embodies the young maiden who wakens from her reverie to realize that there are essences of herself that are changing. Some of these changes are acceptable while others are unnerving.

“Abyss” weaves with an angelic and ethereal quality accompanied with subtle drum and bass. This shimmers and twinkles like a starlit night in the Arctic region.

“Silence” comes back with a bit of a goth rock edge that merges with subtle hints of industrial and trip hop. There is much involutional introspection taking place. Lyrically we are guided to a snapshot in time of unrequited longing.

“He Is Here” takes the sounds and gently does a backward masking at the intro. We are swept into a moment of loving and uncovering lies and deceit. This is that forlorn time between learning something unsavory about one’s love and deciding to deal with it or just give up.

“Close To Me” is another bouncy track about being close with someone who seems to know us at our deepest levels but just seemingly out of reach. The tension is expertly delivered via twists of the music and the pushing of the vocals through a filter.

“Warm” asks to be taken to that that safe space, away from the gamut of pain. It pleads with the one we love to hold us during our darkest hours of insecurity.

“Not Like Me” has delicious blends of macabre elements suffused around a rather sad trip hop/rock track of knowing it is time to say goodbye.
“Love Is Blind” takes us full circle with the title track. After the multitude of emotions that were triggered, enhanced or openly sung about, we now face the culmination. We are gently coaxed  to question the truth of emotions that often require us to suspend our disbelief of another’s integrity.

Love songs have been the standards in the music industry for decades while songs of loss and longing have been  more prevalent in the Goth underground. Rather than resorting to predictable mawkish elements of unrequited love,  Claire Voyant took these songs and tossed them in a jar of bittersweet essence. Here, Lloyd cloaks herself in many robes requiring the listener to feel with the senses rather than understand things at face value. The majority of song reviews above intentionally avoided delivering too much of the “meaning” because this is  work that the listener really needs to experience and interpret on a personal level.  It is not unthinkable to imagine many listeners catching one lyrical line and finding it hits home on many subconscious levels.  Anyone who has ever been in a loving relationship will find themselves somewhere amidst these 10 tracks.

Stylistically, the band has ventured into many sounds that actually fit with this recording. It is at once cohesive despite its diversity while never venturing too far afield to be out of place at any time. The sequencing is well laid out and carries us along from track to track in our own reverie.  Lloyd’s uncanny ability to turn a phrase is stronger than ever that one would have to be completely heartless not to have any emotions evoked from this wonderful collection of tracks. There are a number of surprise hybrids that can easily find themselves included on club playlists, so it isn’t all created just for the music cogitators out there.  Many kudos to the entire band for moving ahead with a creative approach, which pays homage to some of the more popular underground sounds while still keeping them fresh and original.

1. Pieces
2. Twenty-four Years
3. Mirror
4. Abyss
5. Silence
6. He Is Here
7. Close To Me
8. Warm
9. Not Like Me
10. Love Is Blind
Band Line-up:
Victoria Lloyd: Vocals and lyrics
Ben Fargen: guitars
Chris Ross: keyboards and programming


Sound samples also available at:

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

The one man project from Leicester want to be known as Dance Techno Industrial Darkwave
and has been making music since the 80’s. It’s not James Dean Bradfield, but otherwise this mystery creator remains just that. Whoever they are they’ve come up with an interesting collection of tracks which cover most of the areas mentioned, but I didn’t see much Darkwave, and I have no idea what the line on the sleeve means about ‘let the power of Christ compel you’. That was strange.

It isn’t just doof, it’s dance which reminds me of early 90’s techno which had taken the original Acid stance and pumped ahead, and it’s attractive for a few songs then becomes a routine for a short while, but JDB has a few tricks up their sleeve. The use of samples isn’t, however, one of them. They are rather bland and used either too much or too sparingly, depending on the circumstances, which can leave us with a frisky rhythm and little else. Nor are there a great many changes, when this music is all about well-constructed surges and the sound of the rhythmic impact itself doesn’t vary much either, when these are elements that mark out those who can, and those who cannot.

The good thing is it connects well and you follow it. The layers are good, with a spidery motif coming in against a heavy beat, the mood is generally edifying rather than crass, with synth lines filling out the spaces, but never trying to dominate. This keeps things fluid. Where I find things get odd is you need a stamp of identity and this album features too many variants for a sense of character to emerge. It can be good, buzzy or twinkling happily, but the lack of a voice is a problem. This isn’t 100% electronic music you would find in an Electronic section. Dance works best with human presence, and the only vocals which appear on this lack confidence.

Now if this doesn’t sound terribly encouraging worry not, because the early tracks are bouncey-bouncey which is often good enough, and it finishes with things of a darker hue, and also with a poppy sensibility. You get to see stranger sounds working in parallel with the beat, and also interestingly patterns which could do with the power being a little less basic at times. Drop the more monotonous of rhythms, definitely ditch the Europop (‘She Says’ stand accused!), and by concentrating on the actual musical backbone you’ll have an artist worthy of appreciation. I think there’s a certain amount of trying to cover too many bases here and wanting to please, when what’s in there is already enough.


Noiseplus Music
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Everyone likes Garbage unless they’re pretending, being trendy. Everyone wanted Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’ to have more artistic balls. Well that’s what we have here. Imagine if Garbage weren’t so old, and forever chasing the commercial endzone. Imagine if William Orbit wasn’t such a thoroughly decent and workmanlike chap. Statik does the music and KaRIN has the intimately expressive voice, and together they have created something here which is like a slow-mo Curve, full of detail and sumptuous surrounds. The press releases blathers on about the meaning of chasing ghosts, and that it’s all a search for essence, and hopelessly exotic. That means occasional whiffs of Eastern influence appear. Nothing to be scared of.

A firm posture, but no loud posturing, this music is smoky, and perfumed, and the vocal often glide across the treacly musical tributaries, or come breathing lightly through a mechanoid haze. It’s fairly sensual, it bumps and nuzzles. Sections shimmer, and rarely does it shake, as they’re going in through the eardrum with keyhole surgery, and it’s burglary, with some close face-to-ear combat. The music becomes a pulse, the voice a breeze.

The inclusion of their cover of ‘White Rabbit’ actually does nothing but emphasise how they don’t have the commercial sense to turn any of their songs into something that reaches out to grab, although the cleaner, clearer delineation of ‘Ocean’ makes you go mmmmm and even though there’s no stand out track, it’s a complete whole. I find it works beautifully on repeat play, bathing your room in seductive shadows,

More a meaningful caress than a full-on collision.


Dancing Ferret
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Have you noticed how it’s all so clean sometimes, this modern, modular world? That’s why Cruxshadows march on so successfully with their attractive sounds, which have won them so many friends on their travels. People who can’t quite stomach the harder end of Industrial and EBM get an easy ride in the synthier sideshow, because it’s a more commercialised form. It is softly provocative, and yet suggestive of a fruitily debauched view on life. To love music like this is to feel in touch with your senses and surely to have more dignity than those involved with the more grizzled end of the electronic world but, that said, I’d rather shit myself than listen to this again.

I realise that seems harsh, and it’s certainly no criticism of The Cruxshadows themselves, even if Rogue has by far the least convincing vocal delivery I have heard in ages. This album is not helped by a robo intro, or the instantly droll approach of his often nasal tones, but synthpop walks a dangerous line, because it’s seriously close to Europop, which can be creative death. When they’re slow they can ooze sensual sweetness, but if you look for the power to have a feel, of effort, it won’t happen as the burbling feel is innate. This means all lyrics have the same worth, and in their case they’re not going for anything deep.

They do try to appear interesting at times, which can be endearing, but this is usually on the shorter pieces, so nuances can become nuisances as they’re never completed well, but ‘Earthfall’ is nicely skittish, ‘Carnival’ is a weird little ditty and ‘Spectators’ has moments of genuine beauty, but in all cases this is because Stacey Campbell is by far the more artistic singer.

Often very attractive musically, but uninvolving, this is a record which doesn’t have much of a central focus, but sounds like there’s several versions of the same idea going on, without once producing a biting chorus. It’s inviting, in a dainty way, but keeps you at a distance, so I don’t see the point of it.

Basically, they sound alarmingly like the Pet Shop Boys, without the majesty of their best work.

SPIRAL (DON’T FALL) (American label) (UK distributors)

Daimonia Nymphe
~reviewed by Kevin Filan

When Greek musicians Evi Stergiou and Spyros Giasafakis (a/k/a Daimonia Nymphe) get back to their roots, they REALLY get back to their roots.  They aren't just inspired by the myths of ancient Greece -- they're playing reproductions of old Greek instruments like the lyra, varvitos, pandoura, kithara, double aulos, syrinx, keras, seistro, krotala, cymbals and samviki.  Their music has been described as "Supreme Ancient Hellenic Ritualistic music, using exclusively acoustic instruments, thus giving a clean picture of Ceremonial magick" and "Ancient Hellenic Ritualistic music, Paganistic Hymns and Ceremonial Odes to the Ancient Gods and Deities of the Hellenic Pantheon."

The end result is ... different.  To start with, the vocals are not sung so much as chanted over a slow drumbeat: the effect is hypnotic and alien.  The accompaniments -- slowly strummed strings, panpipes and cymbals -- only add to the tension.  Throw in the sounds of wind and running water, and you can easily imagine this as the soundtrack to a dark pagan ritual. (This is especially true of the third track, "Hymm to Bacchus," which features Dionysian female shrieks which call to mind the Maenads or Diamanda Galas ... not that there's necessarily a huge difference between the two).

Does their CD Tyrvasia succeed as historical re-enactment?  I couldn't tell you, since the ancient Greeks didn't leave any CDs behind.  What I can tell you is that it succeeds as music.  Alternately enchanting and unnerving, Tyrvasia sounds like nothing you've ever heard before.  I'm not sure if this EP is still available: however, all hope is not lost.  Daemonia Nymphe's first international release, simply titled Daemonia Nymphe' will be released by French based company Prikosnovenie.

Prikosnovenie Records

Deep Red
~Reviewed by Mike Ventarola

Deep Red released a Cd which included a darkly beautiful enhanced video that make the purchase price all the more worth it. If slamming EBM is your forte, Deep Red delivers the goods once again. Lyrically, there is more angst that is woven between  the lyrics that are simply timeless.

This has to be the closest the band has reached in being able to appease the goth and EBM crowds equally. Despite their previous popularity in the underground, much of their earlier work skirted around the edges of darkness without fully plummeting towards it. However, this release clearly has them embracing the more morose tones that goth’s have come to love so dearly, yet they also manage to make the work that much more club friendly to build a bridge between the genres.

“The Etruscan Kills Again” opens with a film sampling dialogue piece and percolates with up to the minute dance club grooves. Many Dj’s tend to avoid songs with samples in it for some reason, but from a consumer standpoint, this reviewer enjoys them immensely.

“Chimera” has an intro reminded me of a darker version of Company B’s “Fascinated” and would segue well from that track in mainstream clubs rather effortlessly.

“Moments” shimmers with the same essence that made their earlier hit “Holy You” such a delight, though this track has even more passion  and more BPM’s. The lyrics are most telling as well, “IT'S ONLY A MOMENT WE GET THIS IN THIS LIFETIME BEFORE YOU NOTICE IT'S GONE. /CARELESS ABANDON, LEAVING YOU STRANDED. THIS ROAD'S NOT PAVED WITH GOLD./OUTSIDE THE WORLD GOES, ON AND ON WITHOUT YOU, AS YOUR DREAMS GROW OLD.

“Starless” features Mario Soto on vocals, something that is often overlooked by DJ’s who are enamored with Martha Arce’s beautiful vocals. Soto did a tour de force rendition of Ultravox’s hit, “Vienna” on their last release that really should have been broadcast on radio from coast to coast. This high-tempo pumping track takes him away from the realm of cover songs and really lets him explore the dark dance element in his psyche. It is up to the minute EBM and one that is bound to please club patrons. It is lyrically angry and delves into disillusionment.

“Battle Lines” is among the darkest intro’s that Deep Red has done thus far. This too segues into an up to the minute EBM pounding dance number dealing with relationship dissolution. Arce’s vocal’s are given a filtered tweak before she comes bursting through like an overwrought woman on the brink.

“Books of Fate” has a funereal style intro that sizzles and then segues with thunderous beats. During the chorus, Arce is vocally cut up and bubbled underneath as an added and delightful sound effect.

“Sin To Sin” is a trip hop track that has Arce drawing us into her sonic seductiveness. It is a sorrowful song of love and loss. Arce’s delivery is extremely heartfelt that one has to wonder if there is a bit of autobiographical content within its confines.

“Living In Black” is another track from Mario Soto where he is lead vocalist and Arce contributes background vocals for a wonderful rendition and utilization of both of their talents together. Here, he explores the angst of fitting in and wondering about being used. This sentiment seems to know no age boundaries. In spite of its dance floor friendliness, it is poignant with personal sentiment.


“Blue In Heaven” has a more 80’s dark pop flavor where Arce’s vocals are given a full treatment of high end seductiveness and sampled cut up splicing as though she were Hecate herself.

“Nothing’s Ever Enough” really opens the vein on a relationship from hell. It delves into that frustration that we have all felt at one time or another where nothing we do ever seems to work or be enough. A toxic relationship put to song!

“Chimera II” is a slow and somewhat macabre instrumental track. It would probably get club play out on the west coast where they are less restrictive and have been known to play similar tracks from artists such as Xorcist, My Scarlet Life, et. al.

“Sin To Sin (X-Vortex Mix) this mix took away the trip hop and added more “oontz.” Much of the dark element was stripped away and replaced with a mid-tempo Euro beat.

“Glimpses” is a hidden track that isn’t listed on the CD. It is a more trip hop ballad style that gives rise to another incarnation of Mario Soto’s vocals. Here, he shows less angst and more heartfelt longing.

This is an album of highly constructed dark dance tracks, that also features the wonderful vocal contributions of Mario Soto. Having Martha Arce and Soto pair off lends itself well for variety and helps the band really shine like never before. In particular, it is great to hear Soto adding his voice yet again. After his wonderful contribution with Vienna on Darkwaters, some wondered if he would record again or if that track was merely filler.  Thankfully he has 3 tracks on this outing because his darker tones coupled with Martha Arce’s  seductiveness adds an element of balance to the overall feeling of the CD. Arce has been the vocal star of Deep Red, however, Soto’s contributions also demonstrate that this band is willing to explore and go ever deeper
and onward with their style, sound, mood and emotions.

For those who want dance music with a dark edge, do seek out this recording.

Band Members:
Martha Arce: Lead vocalist, lyricist
Mario Soto: Drummer, guitarist, Bass, Keyboards, back-up and lead vocals
DC Astro: Keyboards, drums, programming, sound design

1. The Etruscan Kills Again
2. Chimera
3. Moments
4. Starless
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. Glimpse (Hidden Track)

Sound Samples:


Plainfield Cemetery
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Oh, lookie here, Sesame Street's infamous cookie monster has inspired yet another gore metal band. If it weren't for the awful song titles, I'd just as soon believe that Deranged was belching out nursery rhymes. If they were, I could at least give them more credit for creativity than I'm about to. As I see it, there are two primary ways of looking at

Deranged's music:

1) The Taking-It-Seriously Approach:

Let's assume for the moment that Deranged intends for us to regard their music in all seriousness. Their music is pure brutal/gore/death metal with low grunty noises, fast chunky guitars, blast beats, piss-poor production (in the sense that they left the microphone flushed halfway down the toilet while recording), and their music is full of awful lyrics and song titles. "Beaten, Raped, and Fuckin left to die" is a pretty horrid song title. Hey, I'm cool with music trying to invoke the spirit of satan and what not, but Deranged has some morbid fascination with violence, especially violence against women. I'm not naive enough to think that this CD is going to inspire some violent rape, but there is absolutely no redeeming artistic value to Deranged's music that would condone such pathetic derogatory lyrics.

It should be noted that I'm basing my complaints primarily off of older Deranged lyrics, as I have no access to lyrics for Plainfield Cemetery. It's entirely possible that the band did decide to sing nursery rhymes this time around. No one would notice the difference.

There's another aspect of Deranged's music that needs looking at, and that's how well they hold up against their peers for what they're trying to do. My complaints aside, Deranged seems quite intent on making a speedy and gory romp through brutal death metal that will pummel people into submission... or something. Unfortunately, the complete and utter lack of variation for the entire length of the CD effectively kills any chance at being pummeled. I get more thrills listening to the never ending pitter-patter drone of rain than I do Deranged's low bass-y thud. Admittedly this music is more tolerable than, say, Disgorge, but at least Disgorge has the audacity (stupidity?) to make the most inhumanly low thud on the market. Deranged fails even moreso when compared to the likes of Cryptopsy or Cannibal Corpse, who know how to work in a mosh-worthy groove to their patented takes on bass-y throbs.

2) The it - Approach:

Although the older Deranged song "Black Semen Vengeance" describes a violent rape, it also contains the line: "Possessed by the semen demon I am". That sentence makes me think of three things: demons, porn, and Yoda. I don't know about you, but I can't take a demonic porno Yoda very seriously. So we can always hope that Deranged is just trying to have fun and cater to their crowd. In any case, it doesn't change the fact that their music is outdated, pointless, and largely uninteresting.

Well, that turned out to be a short approach.

If you're really, really into gore/brutal metal... so into it that you'll listen to -anything- released that has that label, then by all means, check out Deranged. If you've got higher standards for taste, seek out better death metal and don't waste your time on Plainfield Cemetery.

Track List:
1) Beaten, Raped, and Fuckin left to die
2) Stab and Hack
3) Mutilate and Dumb You
4) We Lure and Abduct
5) God is Dead
6) Deathgasm
7) Imbecile Humans/Drag her out to die
8) Suffering the Sweet Suffering
9) Roadside Rendezvous
10) The Deviant dead

Listenable Records:

~reviewed by Brian Riggs

In a sentence: testosterone-drenched Cro-Magnon banality. The press release bends over backwards to ally them with the old-school metal community, trying to put as much distance between them and the ‘neu-metal’ label for obvious reasons. It’s such overtly trendy neu-metal garbage that they actually feel compelled to fill up a whole press release trying to convince you otherwise. Ridiculous, when this is obviously the same pony that’s been trotted out by record companies for years, heeding the call of the Brand New Thing.

The metal I grew up listening to in my early teens was not only of a much higher calibre musically, but the bands involved seemed genuinely excited to contribute original material to a movement that had not yet been assimilated fully into the mainstream (as it most obviously has today, with the popularity of Static X being the most obvious example. A ‘growler’ band would have had no place on television in 1995) This, on the contrary, seems to be the work of astute magpies; they know which bands to credit, but they lack the spark of originality and drive that made those bands great. How many second and third tier death metal acts out there that deify Carcass, Meshuggah, Death, At The Gates and the like court success by rehashing the same riffs that earned their predecessor’s immortality? Such is the nature of fandom, I suppose, and its resultant impact on the genre it most eagerly wishes to contribute to.

If you still don’t believe they’re riding that Brand New Thing, take a peek at their (Poco Records) parent company: EMI, lads, and we were all given an idea as to the limit of their integrity in the Sex Pistols fiasco.  Aided in part by the gobs of money they clearly have available to them for presentation, production and advertising (the sound is thick and lustrous, all instruments are well represented on the mixing board, but what else would one expect?), I’m sure the target audience hungry for the fresh aural assault the next dumbed-down Meshuggah-clone produces will rejoice at this, the Newest of the Brand New Things. What is perhaps most offensive is that they claim to be primarily influenced by the highly technical death/thrash of the 80’s, e.g. Death, Testament, and Meshuggah, but I find them to be derivative of the dropped D chug-core bands of the late 90’s (e.g. Machine Head, Clawfinger, Drowning Pool, Godsmack, Fear Factory, etc.), with tightly controlled, throat-rending screams ala Linkin Park or any other of the current crop of headbangin’ homies with stars in their eyes and 80’s metal records on their shelves (at least the ones who know who they are aping). There are plenty of deuling guitar harmonies intermingled among the palm muted riffage, even a song with caucasoid Finnish ‘rap’ artist Paleface (a record company suggestion to entice the American hip-hop demographic, in my estimation) contributing some mush mouthed lines of sub-par white rapper poetry, much to the dismay of this author. It all comes across as tired and forced, reminding me of a band already long past its prime.

This album is a dead horse, devoid of interest, but if anything it may hopefully prompt the young metalhead to visit his used record store instead of thumbing through the latest Kerrang for current releases by Finnish neu-metal band X or Scandinavian black metal band Y and pick up something of actual artistic and technical merit. Namely, Death’s ‘Individual Thought Patterns’ or Meshuggah’s ‘Destroy Erase Improve,’ both highly uncompromising works of a tremedously innovative and METAL nature (for each artist’s respective time periods, of course), and both of them rocked with an aggression and innovation that is simply not present on this album, no matter how emphatically they credit those bands with inspiration. It’s all just a terribly standand affair, dressed up in nice packaging to make it look like something it isn’t: an above average, even great, European metal record.

1. Angel
2. Icon of Flesh
3. Tunnel of Pain
4. C22
5. Creatures of Deception
6. Hollow Point
7. Intomesee
8. Enemy
9. A Fear
10. Renaissance

Rainer Nygard: Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
R. Virtanen: Bass
Marko Utriainen: Lead Guitar
Heikki Malmberg: Drums


Divine Lust
Divine Lust
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Portugese quinetet Divine Lust's eponymous debut album 'Divine Lust' is, well... kind of odd, really.  It's not exactly doom metal... definitely not quite hard rock... and is surely not progressive rock/metal.  It is, however, a skillful blend of all those genres with a dash of their own secret ingredient thrown in for good measure.  The lengthy debut offering from the band consistently evokes a melancholic but not entirely downcast mood, at once gothic but not depressing, wistful without becoming lugubrious.  Overall, Divine Lust have offered up an ambitious and engaging album that, while flawed, will still capture the attention of listeners.

Divine Lust sets out to assemble a deeply layered sandwich of sounds, piling thick slices of synth-keyboard and piano on top of a meaty chunk of distorted guitar and a hefty slab of drums... then garnishing the whole affair with creamy vocals and a dash of black-metal-esque growling.   The whole construction is surprisingly easy to swallow, and has a mellow taste throughout.  Even when the tempo picks up and the action gets a bit more intense, the overall character of the music remains smooth.

The band's heavier moments are reminiscent of a slightly more tuneful Paradise Lost (circa Icon and Draconian Times, and occasionally their more recent material off of One Second and beyond)... or perhaps a combination of a less overwrought Type-O Negative and an unusually sedate Motorhead.  The riffs that carry the songs along owe more allegiance to rock-and-roll than heavy metal, but don't veer close enough to either genre to warrant labelling the band as one or the other.  At the same time, the keyboards and epic length of a few of the tracks lend the album a progressive air, but Divine Lust never fully veers into Rush or Dream Theater territory- sticking instead to the gloomier side of things. It's an odd sound, but one that is unique enough to hold the listener's interest through even the more ponderous moments on the album.

The most distinctive weapon in the Divine Lust arsenal is the voice of Filipe Gonçalves, which (to continue the Type-O Negative allusion) sounds like Peter Steele if he'd ingested some helium.  Mr. Steele's voice is normally so subterranean that a helium balloon would take him to a generally mid-range pitch, which is where Gonçalves' crooning resides.  In fact, on the band's website, Filipe lists Steele as one of his infuences/favorite performers.  Their vocal approaches are very similar, particularly in the way both emote excessively at times.  Gonçalves' performance is close to being derivative... but retains enough of its own character to avoid sounding like idol-worship.

My biggest complaint against the album is that the production is a bit flat.  It lacks the gloss and polish that most commercial releases these days boast... which is understandable if you take into account that Divine Lust funded production of the album by themselves with no major label support.  Nevertheless, their sound will improve considerably when they can afford more lush production values.  The piano that is used continually throughout the album particularly suffers from this, and sounds more like a cheap synth reproduction of a piano than an evocative instrument that can convey the emotion of the compositions being played on it.

Aside from concerns over the production, I have few complaints.  There are times where the band's performance feels a bit loose, and perhaps the album would have benefitted from trimming off a few of the duller moments... but those minor quibbles don't stop it from being enjoyable on the whole.

I'm looking forward to the day when Divine Lust is signed to a label (or become independenty wealthy) and can fully explore their artistic ideas without having to worry about financial constraints.  By the time they release their next album, I suspect that the band will have more fully realized their sound and tightened up their performance... and will be ready to take fans of melancholic dark music to new levels of doomy delight.

*If you're interested in purchasing this album, you may have to contact the band directly via their website (and while you're there, check out some of the mp3 samples they offer).

Track List:
01.)  Again
02.)  Alone In The Dark
03.)  Morrigan
04.)  Where Only The Weak Survive
05.)  V
06.)  Goddess Night
07.)  Your Cruel Thirst
08.)  Embrace
09.)  Scarlet Room Of Passion
10.)  Divine Lust (a story of a bloody passionate desire)
Divine Lust is:
Filipe Gonçalves - vocals/guitar
João Costa - drums
Jorge Fonte - bass
Ricardo Simões - keyboards
Pedro Prata - guitar

Divine Lust Official Website:

Divine Souls
The Bitter Selfcaged Man
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Many of you aren't aware of this, but currently Sweden is contending for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. They're shooting for "largest number of blatantly ripoff bands in a single genre." Right now, after a solid 10 years of existence, the Swedish death metal scene is still going. Which isn't a problem in itself. It's only an issue because new bands in the style are playing exactly the same thing we've been hearing for nearly the full 10 years. Even pop artists know when enough is enough and devise some new form of torment for underground music fans. Mysteriously, nothing has slowed down the flow of bands emerging from Sweden that completely rip-off At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and most specifically In Flames.

I don't know how much more of this style a person can reasonably take. Is anyone still listening? I can't stomach the lack of variation within In Flames' discography, much less the countless copycat recordings that offer nothing new over In Flames' successful formula. I'm running out of things to say in reviews of this genre. Someone ought to make a "Swedish Death Metal Review O-Matic!" that outputs a randomly generated review based on the following descriptions:

Blazing twin guitar leads!
A truly unique voice in metal!
A superb mix of melody and aggression!
Tried and true Swedish formula!
Technically exceptional!
Etc, etc, etc.

And when I say "tried and true," it's only meant as a nice euphemism for "I can't believe people are still making these sounds."

I'd like to give Divine Souls the benefit of the doubt and think that somehow, beyond all chance, they're artistically compelled to play this music despite its current popularity and abundance. I just can't do that. There's no reason to believe that after several years and countless similar releases, Divine Souls just happened to come up with this sound independent of the scene.

To the band's credit, and the credit of all the other Swedish death metal bands I hear, they are technically adept and can write catchy songs. There is a moment of originality on "Divided," where Matthias Lilja shows off a decent clean singing voice in a very catchy chorus. I'm not talking about originality in the grand scheme of things, but for a moment there Divine Souls sound like a distinct band, and not an In Flames cover group. Up 'til that point in the CD I was thinking the band had been digging through In Flames' trash when they stumbled upon several unused songs and thought recording them might prove successful.

Reviewers have it rough when it comes to overdone styles because they're stuck hearing every damn release from that genre. I realize that fate doesn't treat everyone with the same type of cruelty I've been privy to as a writer. And if you've deftly escaped the horde of In Flames soundalikes, then Divine Souls will not offend you. In fact, you may even enjoy them. Unfortunately, if you own any In Flames records or other similar releases, Divine Souls offers nothing new to the style and I cannot recommend them.

Track List:
1) Empty Words
2) Simply Shattered
3) Silhouette
4) Bitter Selfcaged Man
5) Grief
6) Bleed
7) When Life Slips Away
8) Divided
9) Last Season in Sin
10) Elysian Emerald

Divine Souls is:
Matthias Lilja - vocals
Mikael Lindgren - lead guitars
Daniel Sjolund - drums
Stefan Hogberg - guitar
Daniel Lindgren - bass

Scarlet Records:

Dominion III
Life Has Ended Here
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

'Life Has Ended Here' is a thunderous, bleak epic of industrial decay and cold atmospheres that will lull listeners into an uneasy hypnotic trance.  The fertile minds of Dargaard's Tharen and Elisabeth Toriser (along with Amestigon guitarist Lanz) have fashioned a grim, futuristic palette of harsh synthetic sounds and suffused them with Ms. Toriser's heavenly vocals to create -as they put it- 'apocalyptic electronic music'.  The soundscape they paint is at once inviting and yet frightening... compelling in its artistic vision and execution but disquieting in the emotions it draws forth.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this album is that while it feels unique and original, it very successfully co-opts the styles of several other bands without actually ripping them off.  Fans of dark industrial/techno music will find themselves in familiar territory.  Several tracks on 'Life Has Ended Here' are more than slightly reminiscent of Rammstein, Samael, or other bands of that ilk... but what pleased me most about this album is that the bulk of it feels exactly like what one would expect if a post-'Stronghold' Summoning had veered away from Tolkien and tackled the Terminator instead.

The monstrous, resounding percussion and hypnotic rhythms of 'The priests of emptiness' are unmistakably hallmarks of Summoning's distinct sound... as are the monotone rasps and oddly uplifting keyboard melodies that pierce the dark atmosphere.  Here's the rub, though:  Tharen and co. out-Summoning Summoning and beat them at their own game.  Whether by chance or design, Tharen has climbed to the pinnacle of hypno-metal that Summoning peered down from while delivering their masterpiece, 'Stronghold'.  From this lofty perch, Dominion III has unleashed several tracks that bear the unmistakable blend of beauty and ferocity that their Austrian bretheren have been known for.  'A dead heart in a dead world', 'The priests of emptiness', and 'Coming winter' are all instant classics of undeniable quality that will please any fan of this genre of music.

Simply put, if you enjoyed Summoning's performance on 'Stronghold' or 'Nightshade Forests', and would like to hear more of the same but set in an industrial, futuristic context, this album is a must-buy for you.  Fans of Dargaard will like this album if they can deal with the harsher electronics and sound effects that may well have come out of David Lynch's private collection.  Elisabeth Toriser's angelic laments lend the music an otherworldly flavor that distinguishes Dominion III from the other bands that share a similar sound.

I usually don't praise bands for being derivative of their peers... but in this case, the sound Dominion III achieves is less 'derivation' and more 'expansion'.  Tharen has taken all the best elements of dark industrial music, hypnotic black metal, and electronica and merged them into an extrememly satisfying, powerful whole.  'Life Has Ended Here' is a tour de force exhibition of Dominion III's mastery of setting a grim mood and transporting the listener into an enraptured trance from which they may never want to escape.

Track List:
01.) A dead heart in a dead world
02.) Life has ended here
03.) The priests of emptiness
04.) Conductors of live
05.) Unreal
06.) Code red
07.) Coming winter

Dominion III is:
Tharen - all music, vocals
Elisabeth Toriser - vocals
Lanz - guitar, bass

Dominion III Official Websites:

Napalm Records:

My Last Prayer
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

I find it somewhat disheartening that Finland, heretofore known to me as a stalwart producer of sometimes-weird-but-always-interesting music, is capable of the same commercial blandness we are here in  America.  Finland is the same frozen wasteland that spawned the likes of ...And Oceans, Fintroll, Nightwish, and Children of Bodom.  The unifying link behind those bands is that their music is related to rock/metal, is high quality, and will hold your attention through an album of listening to it through its virtuosity, originality, or sheer oddity.  I suppose it was rather naive of me to think that they represented the overall level of musical talent in Finland, and all other bands would be of a similar ilk...  as it happens, though, that isn't the case.  Downfall, while certainly able craftsmen, have failed to produce an album that advances beyond balndly commercial radio rock.

I guess we can't all be crazy geniuses... so I can't fault the members of Downfall too much for failing to have the wild leaps of inspiration that lead to truly memorable music.  They can certainly handle their chosen instruments with aplomb, and seem to have a solid grasp of how to write songs that will likely get radio airplay.  Unfortunately, at least eight of the ten tracks on 'My Last Prayer' are virtually indistinguishable from one another in regards to their tempo, structure, and tone.  That isn't the biggest problem I have with the album, though.  If Downfall at least added something new to the radio-rock formula or had more personality of their own, I might be able to stomach such a homogenous recording.  Alas, though, they sound nearly identical to countless other bands whose music permeates popular media and is overexposed to the point of becoming trite.

Downfall most resembles the current crop of 'harder than rock but not quite nu-metal' outfits that litter both MTV and the radio airwaves here in the US: bands like Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, or Static X.  Perhaps that's a sound new to Finland, but it has been done to death here, and with no really memorable tracks on 'My Last Prayer' -no killer hook that will drive a hit single to the top of the charts- Downfall's latest effort falls short of being an album fans of the genre should go out of their way to purchase.

When you can turn on the radio and listen (for free) to an hour of music that sounds almost exactly like Downfall's latest album - but has catchier melodies and choruses - I certainly can't advocate that you spend your hard earned money on this release.

Track List:
01.)  Hateshades
02.)  Sweetest Wrath
03.)  Hollow Mind
04.)  Time to pay
05.)  My Last Prayer
06.)  Torn Apart
07.)  Soulsearching
08.)  Revelation Black
09.)  Dark Parade
10.)  Withered
Downfall is:
Jani Peippo - Vocals
Timo Eskelinen - Guitar
Hannu Kumpula - Guitar
Dmitry Martynoff - Bass
Kalle Tulonen - Drums

Downfall Official Website:

Low Frequency Records:

The End Records:

Dancing Ferret Discs
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

It would be overly simplistic to compare The Dreamside to Inkubus Sukkubus, and not just because they sound nothing like them, but that’s reviewing for you: get one feeble idea into your head and you start to pursue it. For all their charm, of which they have plent,y Inkubus Sukkubus are actually pretty conventional, whereas The Dreamside, who share IS’s nagging familiarity, seem to have wobbled right off the radar.

I can well imagine them being a band like IS who bring with them a cosy sense of respectable songcraft, and they have the whole dippy Faery thing going for them. I daresay there’s even been some Pagan imagery in their songs in the past, so it’s in that territory, but it also has strange shafts of primordial sunlight flashing through the usually mid-tempo songs which comes from wholly opposite ends of musical spectrums, such as faux Arabic, lean and mean Rock, and a whole lot of pop.

Why is this? I don’t know.

Much of the impact naturally hinges around chanteuse Kemi Vita, who sounds like a laboratory experiment which fused Siouxsie and Bjork, and this gives the middle eastern elements genuine rawness with the mild ululating, but when that is first demonstrated with the opener, ‘Goddesses’, it’s also a sign of a letdown because this is beautiful music, that often threatens to get truly griping, then eases off and reveals what is, nearly always, a pained but essentially attractive visage.

There’s so much here to enjoy that it tends to swamp the disappointments, much as I experienced with Collide, although they’re more devious with their imagination. The Dreamside rock out, with a bit of hawkish metal in ‘Get Away’ but are more convincing with the woozy ballads ‘Faery Child’ and ‘The Dreamside’ for they have a great knack of producing gently swelling melodies, where the verse structure is so good you’ll think it’s a chorus. Or something.

There are some bad points. ‘The Divine’ is truly pisspoor pop, and their rock often sounds of the poodle variety, so when the two things combine, as they do in ’Mirror Moon’ or, to a lesser extent, ‘Fear Of Being’, it’s like Jennifer Rush has risen from the commercial grave. But there are curious, almost Mediterranean, influences on acoustic, there are little medieval twinges, and there are subtle shifts of anger, which threaten to tip certain songs over. And that is A Good Thing.

Yes, maybe they’re trying a little too hard to be all things to all (faery) folk, or maybe it’s purely unconscious absorption of influences, but they produce a bizarre mess of exquisitely arranged songs, all the more wonderful for being so bloody perverse. ‘Ce Soir’ is deliciously French, ‘Apaika’ flagrantly restful. I wouldn’t call it dreamy, but it seems pretty lucid to me.


DDV Laboratories
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

It’s another one of those strange cases where you see the press reviews stating experimental music and coming out of left field, wherever that is, and your spider senses start tingling. Eventually there’s spiders all over you and you’re still no wiser, but it just seems to mean where music and noises get intermingled. Nothing more obscure than that in this case. It’s the work of Jordan Reyne who looks normal, but she’s shrewd, has a history and keeps on going, with a weird mind and stories that evoke photographic snapshots.

I like it when people surprise me and right off we’re into ‘The Washing Machine Song’ which stinks as a title but it’s her mind reaching out like nutcrackers and getting your squishy brain under her control, as she talks with a super cool delivery over a clanking backdrop, and some Middle East floatation to the vocals, but in a unique manner, veering between narrative and moodiness. The conclusion passed me by but I couldn’t tell, was this uplifting or just plain maudlin.

And when she’s got us hooked with ‘Gotham City’ which could be Clannad fed through a paranoid computer you know this music has beauty, but there’s a trace of canker now and then, a lament where the sounds help create and distort the mood. The reason it can be en chanting is because of the impeccably measured vocals that have a delightful timbre of mischief. It’s harmonious, not ugly.

There is material here which I’d ignore, such as the three mini ‘Echoes’ instrumentals, which seem like doodles to me, but there’s also the songs which move more towards solid territory, such as ‘The Keening Song’ with vocals that aren’t conventional, but sounds to work in tandem with stark, siplle sounds, which succeed in a way the recent Lycia comeback didn’t. It sounds like a Muslim influence, but that’s me being vague, and a rich tapestry of threadbare guitar. These acoustic doldrums are extended in ‘The Factory’, but cut by strings, and passionate vocals one level above guttural. I have no idea what the strange imagery means, but it’s like staring at a mirror painted grey.

Musically it’s always moody t one degree with the guitar and percussive slant of ‘Measurement’ being particularly anxious,. ‘Part II’ set in a station with tannoy announcements and clunky footfalls being picturesque, but ‘Not Because’ ends with fluttering mayhem and what I find weird is how the songs are just one step away from sleek, gorgeous mainstream accessibility! ‘The Cure’ is a spooky tirade with gothy guitar and a nasty upturn behind commanding singing and ‘The Sentence’ is mild but with no greater vocal emphasis but still has sustained impact.

It’s a beautiful, perverse album which will reap further rewards the more you allow it to. The success of such mood music depends on yours.


Wasp Factory
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Their final release under this name, for reasons that have yet to made clear, this shows them reaching heights which should rival the biggest of any band from the mainland European scene, as they have more ideas, and their cavorting imagination translates magnificently to the music. It probably isn’t helpful to point out that early Depeche Mode constructed songs along similar lines when they got out of their bippity stage and started having deeper impact, in case you think I’m making a comparison, which I’m NOT, but it’s an indicator of how easily a major could swoop for these mad creatures. Wasp Factory must hope major labels wake up at some point, and do a tie-in deal.

It’s the voice that impresses first and not just because it’s highlighted by mute backing on the brief entrée, but when they get frosty or noisy (apart from the delightfully colourful frenzy of ‘Child’) the clarity and character of the vocals keeps you impressed. Even when not breathless, their songs maintain a decent pace and ideas that never bore flit in and out. They play with their boundaries, going for higher vocals in ‘The Burning’ and a harder glazed furore, but when you have such a huge array of sounds this isn’t difficult. They have a truly epic collective imagination, and can hold back, offering serenity with a sour sickening twist, or have a tubercular surge with rasping vocals barking out a rhythm. They scratch at the speakers and bang on their bars, cutting back for a few guitar pleasantries, then sicking up blood and splashing through it, and that’s just ‘ My favourite Sin’.

They have pop efforts, which seem to be falling apart, there’s a cretinous waste of time (‘End Of Madness’) and cyberwar from ‘From The Sublime To The Obscene’, but there’s plenty more oscillating ogres besides, and best of all it’s all got class, and it sounds aggravated.

The Entity
~reviewed by Jezebel

Once in a while, a troll through the website gives up some treasures. And The Entity is one of them. From Norway, I had never heard of the band until I downloaded a few sounds and sat back with a pleasant smile on my face.

The Entity is not about being in your face and demanding that you listen to them. They are about approaching you softly from behind, touching you softly on one shoulder and appearing from behind the other. They are, at the same time, a haunting band, with soft vocals which wrap around you sweetly and calming, yet at times can break out and push boundaries. Confused? You shouldn’t be. Many a band have been doing this sound and getting way too much money not doing it as well (like those fools that recorded the theme song from Spiderman).

The album sent to me only had three songs  on it and if I can. I hope to give the band a bit of advice. Put the name of your songs ON the liner notes, not just on the CD. Makes reviewing or, as a casual listener, finding a track rather difficult.

The first track, “Salt,” has the sweeping quality that has been found in anthems for those action movies and comic book recreations. Gorgeous lyrics and vocally, you can see the video, within the soft bits, the hero touches the face of the woman that he would never have, during the more hard bits, he is swinging/driving/flying/sailing/insert large adventure activity. It curves and shapes.

The second track, “Duality,” is a bit harder and gives again, a strong soundtrack sound (too many albums are doing this to me lately…is it me or the way that music is going or soundtracks are going?) Video just becomes a perfect medium as the sound gives way to heroes and heroines and strong locations. Even with the metal guitar sounds “grrrr-ing” in the background, the softness of the another guitar part leaps it well footed into the mainstream metal scene of today. Not the hard metal scene, mind you. They won’t be opening up for Metallica soon. But the softer of the scene, NickelBack (second band I have compared to them…a trend?) etc.

The third track, “Most Precious Ignorance,” starts warmly and then really hits its guitar metal teeth and grows. And then pushes. Guitars pulsated. Drums vibrate. And then they almost give up. It’s almost that that the singer (who is rather talented and has a gorgeous timbre to his voice) can’t really live up to the hard sound that the band has created. He is a metal crooner, but could never handle a good scream and yell of the louder/harder bands. He leaves that sound to his band and steps away, only to come up to sing lovely.

I can’t say this is a great band. I can’t say that this is a good band. They are a treasure to find on when so much of what is being put up there I wouldn’t get paid to listen to. I do think their time is now, when this sound is being licked and lapped up by mainstream labels…or is it gone? Are they already onto the next thing?

What I would love to hear is the vocalist exploring his harder side and the band trying to help him find it. They already have the hardness in bass, guitars and drums. They need to bring more depth and variety to their sound by letting Hakon Viken explore.

A good band, a possibly excellent band. And possibly a commercially successful band. Time, management, and luck will only tell.

Track Listing:
1) Salt
2) Duality
3) Most Precious Ignorance

The Entity is:
Christian Potland – guitars and vocals
Tore Grindheim – Guitars
Pal Lystrup – Drums and percussion
Anders Vaage – Bass, guitars, vocals
Hakon Viken – Vocals


Sweet Painful Reality
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

It often takes bands several albums to realize their full potential and hit upon a sound that is both uniquely their own and suberbly crafted.  I can't say for sure that Envy's mastermind Niko has reached the upper limits of his ability on 'Sweet Painful Reality', but I can say with conviction that he has produced an expertly shaped opus of progressive gothic rock.  Astoundingly, this is his (and Envy's) debut album.  If 'Sweet Painful Reality' is only the tip of Niko's creative iceberg, I can hardly wait to hear what will surface as his artistic skills mature.

Some songwriters simply seem to have a gift for knowing how to arrange lyric, flowing music.  Niko and his cohort Thomas blend brooding keyboard chords, emotionally charged vocals, various electronics, and heavy guitars into a smooth and powerful listening experience.  The mood throughout 'Sweet Painful Reality' is generally somber, melancholy, or wistful... but Niko doesn't mope around.  Mid-paced tempos drive the music along, and there always seems to be something interesting to listen to popping up over the course of each lengthy track.  The full album weighs in at a hefty seventy-one minutes, but it never feels like it's been overextended or bloated with filler.  The active and dense instrumental arrangements and generally lively percussion see to it that the listener is never bored.

Niko's vocals are the highlight of the album.  His voice reminds me of Jon Olivia or Zak Stevens from Savatage... though not as powerful as the latter nor as gruff as the former.  Niko delivers the lyrics with an expressive mid-range timbre that is well suited to the style at hand.  Too often these days, bands seem to feel that they're obligated to include either a classically trained female vocalist or a growly, menacing male rasper on their albums.  It's refreshing to hear a band (if you can call two guys a band, anyhow) rely on a single male vocalist who employs clean vocals over the course of a whole record.  Even more pleasing is that the performance never becomes stale, and the lack of vocal variety doesn't hurt the music at all.  Note to other bands: having clean, emotionally charged vocals can be just as effective and intense as gravel-throated rasping!

Fans of dark, progressive music with a gothic edge are likely to love this album.  I can safely recommend it to anyone that appreciates the smoother side of dark music, especially those that enjoy articulate and stirring clean male vocals.  For a debut album that was independently funded and produced, Envy's 'Sweet Painful Reality' is a very mature offering with high production values.  It is easily on par technically with any other commercial release from the big record labels, and deserves to find its way into the hands of what should become a broad fanbase.

Note:  The official Envy website contains links to the retailers selling the album online (like and CDBaby).  You also can hear some of the tracks from 'Sweet Painful Reality' on at: .  Go listen!

Track List:
01.) Snow.
02.) Indulgence.
03.) Endure.
04.) Pulse.
05.) Just One More Kiss.
06.) In The Twilight.
07.) When It's Over (Let Me Linger).
08.) Oh Little Girl.
09.) Raining Unlike Water.
10.) Of Heavenly Blood.
Envy is:
Niko - vocals, keyboards, drums, programing
Thomas - guitars

Envy Official Website:

The Nature Of Gothic
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I wonder how people like David Quinn will be judged, and who they’ll be placed alongside, if journalists of the future ever wake up and get round to regarding Goth as one of the most cerebrally uplifting forms of music? Will he be cast as a latter day Leonard Cohen figure? He’s almost miserable enough.

I could be a cheerful old sod, but not detecting much in the way of irony here, I think David exorcises some partial demons, without ever choking up the full bile he may have stored inside. He clearly doesn’t actually want to go too far down the corridor marked Psychiatric Guidance, and so these are sheltered songs, finely crafted and fit for almost any cogitative state you may have building up. It’s background music, where you don’t want to be looking over your shoulder.

One man and his musical arsenal, the eight tracks rarely get above the middling pace of gloom, other than some feisty guitar flexibility, and so you are kept in place by the wash of autumnal guitar and husky vocals. All of which is surprisingly pleasant, despite the lyrical mire.

Typically, as in ‘Rain’ or ‘Electric’ you’ll have sombre bedposts, inside which a pained voice breaks forth, and then a touch of spiky guitar rips up through the mattress. When there are deviations from this, it’s usually some divertingly beautiful musical touches where the song’s sinuses get a quick clean out, allowing a niftier rhythm to break out, a bit of space.

It all hangs together fantastically well and works as a collection you know you’ll return to, but only when the mood is right. I would have like more of the prettier moments that he allows glimpses of, and a touch more stillness, because the subtle guitar layers can be obstructive, and mainly I would like less vocal affectation. No one is born speaking like this, and you’re not Lee Marvin at David’s age, so unless he actually sounds like Mr Bean I don’t see the problem. True, the voice sounds normal in ‘Hidden’ if rather small, but that’s preferable to the overwrought style that really got on my nerves during ‘Drown’, but a lot of singers do it. It’s generic. Its time will pass.

Given that it isn’t brightness and choruses, I suppose the standout for me was ‘Why I Hate Children’ which was full of grim guitar and bleak thoughts, ending with austere gargling. Good job he never became a teacher.


Fiction 8
Chaotica (Cryonica Music)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

Sometimes I think electronic music has become a bit too easy. These days, it's as if anyone with half an idea and a few soft synths on their home PC can set themselves up as the latest synthpop sensation. I've heard so much stuff of late which seems to have been hacked together by mere technicians as an academic exercise in assembling beats 'n' sequences, rather than created in a flurry of inspiration by someone with *musical* ideas, that I've become quite irritated by the state of things in ElectroWorld.

So it's a nice surprise to discover Fiction 8 - who are, unashamedly, a pop group first and foremost, and an electronic pop group almost incidentally. They've made an album that's all about the music, the songs, the *ideas*. It's a cool, upbeat collection, and it doesn't sound like anyone except Fiction 8. That's some achievement by any standards, and in the world of electronic music it immediately puts the band a long way ahead of the usual doof-doof suspects.

Apparently, this Cryonica-label release is the 'UK edition' of the album. The band, who come from Denver, Colorado, made an entirely different recording for their US label, Nilaihah Records. I suspect this odd situation comes as a result of some unspecified contractual wrangling; what the musical differences between the UK and US versions of the album might be, I can't say. I *can* say, however, that the UK edition, at least, is rather good.

'Chaotica', the first track, is a cinematic instrumental: the opening titles, if you will. It blends seamlessly into 'Let Go' via a nifty little keyboard finger-dance, and then a rolling beat kicks in and shoves it all forward. Michael Smith's vocal comes in, intent on taking us to the chorus as quickly as possible. 'Sister Illusion' has a thwack-and-thump beat and a flinty-eyed bassline - this, dare I say it, is Fiction 8 going slightly industrial on us. The vocal here is a bit of a harsh chant - which doesn't win Fiction 8 any originality points, because, let's face it, everyone's done this vocal style a million times before. Still, the band's pop sensibility wins out in the end: again, they can't resist taking it all to a climactic chorus, which saves the song from industrio-chant hell.

'Somnabule' is a highlight, because the vocal here is taken by Mardi Salazar, and the combination of an assertive beat and a rich female voice works very well. And - yep, the band's songwriting trademark is present and correct - it's another of those Fiction 8 numbers which appear to be mostly chorus. This means that even on a first listen, you find yourself trying to sing along. It's a lot more difficult to write songs with that quality of immediacy than you might expect (go on - try it sometime!) but Fiction 8 seem to have the art well and truly nailed.

'It's Over Now' takes us back into harsh-male-voice territory, but the effect is tempered by female backing vocals and yet another rousing chorus. I bet this one gets 'em putting their hands in the air when it's played live. 'Break The Line' powers forward in a gotta-fill-that-dancefloor manner, but remains unashamedly a *song*, rather than just a beat-workout. I like the little drum-roll flourishes, which I strongly suspect Fiction 8 borrowed from 'Living On The Ceiling' by Blancmange.

'Stasis' is the moody number, all underwater synths and backwards-loops. The rhythm is muted, and a violin swims in and out. 'I Scare Myself' wraps up the main chunk of the album with an odd but effective anthem-o-weird - a haunted house of a song which throws odd angles at you from a grab-bag of beats. But it's still got a chorus. Even when Fiction 8 are being a bit spooky they still keep a tight grip on their sense of pure pop.

Then there are selection of remixes, which apparently are exclusive to the UK version of the album. 'Somnabule' makes a re-appearance in a woozy, late-night, dubbed-out version; 'Let Go' returns as a 'Revved Up Mix' which - bizarrely - isn't actually particularly high-octane. I was expecting something as mad and frantic as James Ray's Gangwar, but the tune has been stripped back to its basics and actually isn't as powerful as the original. Paradoxically, 'Set You Free (Freedom Remix)' features exactly the blend of sampled guitar noise and bash-'em-up beats that I was expecting on the Revved Up mix of 'Let Go'...which comes back yet again for the 'Spank Mix' which, frankly, doesn't take the song anywhere particularly different. And finally, 'Nothing Undone' sees us off with a slight anticlimax: it's a decent enough synthpop workout, but not Fiction 8 at their best. I mean, c'mon. Don't bore us, get to the chorus!

So, a rather neat album from a band who know how to write a cool pop song, and have the ability to get those songs bang on the pop-money more often than not. My faith in electronic music is hereby restored.

As a final aside, I'll just mention that I'm a little bemused to find that for all their sure pop touch, Fiction 8 don't seem to have any particular visual identity. There are no band-photos on the CD inlay (maybe they didn't have room, after mentioning over 130 people in their thank-you list) and the Fiction 8 website does not feature any straightforward band-shots. Odd that a band who seem to take such care with their music should blip over what is surely an integral part of the package. Cameras out for next time, chaps, OK?

The tunestack:
Let Go
Sister Illusion
Set You Free
It's Over Now
Break The Line
I Scare Myself
Somnabule (The Nine vs Inertia mix)
Let Go (Revved Up Mix)
Set You Free (Freedom Remix)
Let Go (Spank Mix)
Nothing Undone (DJ Skott Something Redone Mix)

The players:
Michael Smith: Guitar, keyboards, percussion, random noise, vocals
Mardi Salazar:  Bass, violin, keyboards, percussion, vocals
Steven Hart: Keyboards, programming, turntables, backing vocals
Kelly Bearden: Backing vocals

Fiction 8 website:

Cryonica Music website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Fields Of The Nephilim
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Fallen is yet another new release from a classic Gothic Rock band that needs explanation (see Christian Death/Lover of Sin review this issue).  I will just cut right to the chase here and offer the information directly from the most reliable source – Carl McCoy, the great dusty esoteric cowboy himself.  The following is taken from the official Fields Of The Nephilim/Nephilim website and Watchman newsletter:

Neither the single “From The Fire” nor the album “Fallen” is officially endorsed, or is being promoted by the current band, which records under the name The Nephilim, and has not officially used the name Fields of the Nephilim since 1991. It is not a name that it wishes to use again for future recordings, feeling that it is best to move forwards than go backwards.

The track listing on 'Fallen' was allotted by Jungle Records alone. None of the names are official titles, although some are early working titles. The Nephilim played no part in deciding on the track listing nor the material used, and was not consulted on these matters. Those tracks used are incomplete pieces or early demos.  Additionally, The Nephilim was not consulted on the artwork used on the album. It was not asked to contribute artwork, and thus it was not undertaken by Sheer Faith.

New material by The Nephilim is being readied for release, and will be up to the standards it wishes to set. This will be tied in with new projects and live events.

So there you have it – the official explanation of this latest release.   I, however, was unaware of all of this, and even went ahead to plan a release party for one of the club nights I host with my fiancée here in Pittsburgh.   When I first heard the album, I was a bit let down and had the intuitive feeling that something was awry.  The songs seemed incomplete, and felt rushed.  The rhythmic aspects especially, as the songs are feebly backed by a drum machine.  Though the efforts to create an authentic organic drum sound is admirable, it seemed rather foolish for a band of this caliber to release their reputed ‘comeback’ record without the original drummer, or at best, a flesh and blood session drummer.   That was the first clue.

A quick glance through the rather sparse lyric booklet reveals that this incarnation of ‘Fields Of The Nephilim’ is only two-fifths of the famous line up.   Thus providing clues number two and three respectively, if one recalls how eloquently packaged prior Nephilim related releases were designed by Sheer Faith.

The bottom line is Fallen is a demo for Carl McCoy and Tony Pettitt’s latest project, which goes by the name of The Nephilim.  To do a bit of backtracking,1996 saw the emergence of 'The Nefilim'  with the Zoon release through Metal Blade Records.   To describe that rather underrated album, I would say the listener could imagine the darkest moments of Slayer fused with the characteristic sound of vintage Fields Of The Nephilim.  Zoon was an aggressive release bursting at the seems with sonic guitar assaults, blistering double bass drumming, and Carl’s most gritty vocal performances to date.  There are many moments of atmospheric bliss, courtesy of fluid watery clean guitar arpeggios (a staple in the early FOTN sound) and moody Floydian synth parts.   That album, with tracks like the furious “Exodus” and the near club hit “Shine,” is a fantastic release that pleased Psychonauts the world over and still seems relatively undiscovered and unappreciated by far too many fans.

Fallen hints of a worthy follow-up, and now that my hunch that it was unfinished material has been confirmed, I am much more comfortable with the album and find it easier to hear the potential greatness of most of the tracks.  What is confusing, admittedly, is that there ARE new versions of FOTN tracks – first with “Darkcell AD” and then with “One More Nightmare (Trees Come Down AD).”  Both tracks originally appeared on the debut EP Burning The Fields in 1984 and both ‘new’ versions appeared last year on a teaser single released through Jungle Records.   However, these songs are just the result of Carl McCoy taking an opportunity to update and modernize the tracks, and with the creepy shuffling gloom of “Darkcell AD” I would say he was phenomenally successful.  The re-interpretation of “Trees Come Down” however I don’t think works as well – overall, it is too noisy and crowded by samples and would be improved by a straight up live performance of the song in this harsher style.  The idea is great, but at this stage, the song still falls short of achieving greatness or even occupying the same aesthetic dimension of the original.

The new material on the disc is promising nonetheless.  Particularly, the driving “Subsanity” which is a snare snapping fast paced cyclone of a track with great layers of shimmering guitars and crunching power chords at the back bone.  Some climaxes of dissonant synth work and double bass drumming give the song a remarkably pummeling edge.  “Hollow Doll” is also an incredible track, standing out since it is the only track out of the ten that features live drumming.  McCoy’s sepulchral rasp meshes with more layers of guitar that buoy atop slick slap bass lines and epic sweeping synths.

“Thirst” and the title track both offer something special for longtime fans, but still seem a bit rough to successfully judge at this stage of the game. It does not require a strenuous leap of imagination to hear how all of these songs will most likely shape up once the band lays down the final touches on them and the time comes for a proper release.

Overall, it is important the fans are aware of exactly WHAT this release is – that it is nothing more than a collection of demo material for the band The Nephilim.  It is not the follow up to “Elysium,” the swansong release for the classic incarnation Fields of The Nephilim.  Nonetheless, it is unquestionably of interest to fans of the band’s legacy and despite the confusion and record label contract drama, “Fallen” is a confirmation of the Carl McCoy’s activity, and that, of course, is exciting news for all of us! Stay tuned…and of course, keep talking.

Track List:
1.) Dead To The World
2.) From The Fire
3.) Thirst
4.) Darkcell AD
5.) Subsanity
6.) Hollow Doll
7.) Fallen
8.) Deeper
9.) Premonition
10.) One More Nightmare (Trees Come Down AD)

(Fields Of) The Nephilim is:
Carl McCoy
Tony Pettitt

Fields Of The Nephilim – Official Site:

Metropolis Records:

Jungle Records:

Godspeed You Black Emperor!
Yanqui UXO
~reviewed Kevin Filan

For Yanqui UXO Montreal collective Godspeed You Black Emperor! has retained the production services of Steve Albini.  At first glance it seems an unusual combination: GYBE!'s orchestral improvisations are a far cry from former Albini clients like the Pixies, Helmet, Nirvana, Bush and The Jesus Lizard.  Albini and GYBE! may both deserve kudos for stretching their range.  Still, the final result is mixed and ultimately unsatisfying.  While it has moments of glory, Yanqui UXO never matches the brilliance and beauty of earlier GYBE! releases.

Yanqui UXO has none of the 'found monologues' which graced its predecessors; instead, it relies solely on the band's instrumental prowess and compositional abilities.  This was a step in the wrong direction.  Some of GYBE!'s most memorable moments have come from the juxtaposition of spoken-word monologues with instrumentation -- the haunting violin threnody alongside a preacher's "When you see the face of God you will die..." speech from Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, the amusing yet chilling street person rant underpinning "Bbf3" on Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada.  Perhaps Albini was trying to slim things down... but he's thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

To make matters worse, Albini hasn't stopped the occasional self-indulgence which has always crept into GYBE!'s works.  "09-15-00 (Part One)" begins with a pretty guitar phrase... but, alas, five minutes later he's still working on the same phrase.  GYBE!'s work has always featured a slow buildup into a riveting crescendo, but "09-15-00 (Parts One and Two)" is too slow and the crescendo not riveting enough.  Instead of calling to mind Gorecki's gorgeous sonic sculptures, this one evokes Phillip Glass at his most self-indulgent.

On "Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls" Albini lets his grunge roots show.  The production here is as distorted and reverb-heavy as anything on In Utero ... but this is a nine-piece band featuring a violinist and a cello, not Nirvana!  The melody gets lost in sonic sludge, with echoes of clarinet, trumpet and timpani occasionally peeking through but never able to rise above the noise.  Albini appears overwhelmed here: unable to turn this unweildy nonet into a unit, what he creates instead is an echoing mess.

Only on "Motherfucker/Redeemer," the thirty-minute two-part closing track, do things finally improve.  Where most GYBE! works begin slow and build to a climax, this one starts out with a wall of sound that would have done Phil Spector proud, then gives way to a plaintive violin line rising out of the chaos.  This one has all the breathtaking beauty of earlier Godspeed releases and here Albini's reverb-heavy hand only adds to the proceedings.  Arguably the best thing GYBE! has done to date, it is a powerful closing which nearly redeems everything that has gone before it.

While Yanqui UXO is ultimately an unsatisfying CD, it is not a disappointing one.  On the heels of a masterpiece like Lift Your Skinny Fists..., it would be easy enough for GYBE! to rest on their laurels, creating pretty tunes until they became sad parodies of themselves.  Yanqui UXO shows that they are still trying to expand their horizons.  It is a bold step, if not an entirely successful one, and gives me hope that their next CD will be their best one yet.

Track Listings
1. 09-15-00
2. 09-15-00
3. rockets fall on Rocket Falls
4. motherfucker=redeemer
5. motherfucker=redeemer

GYBE Pages:

Grief of Emerald
Christian Termination
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Whoa! Check out that awesome cover with burning skeletal masturbating nuns! And the CD is called CHRISTIAN TERMINATION! You know it's gotta be good.

Or horrid.

In fact, I almost don't need to write this review, because the cover is a perfect representation of the album. And if you're turned off by it for any reason, as I was for its generic cheesyness and amusing attempt at being offensive, then you have no reason to pay attention to Grief of Emerald. Sometimes you can't judge a book by its cover, but often times you can make a decent guess about a death metal album by its terrible artwork.

Grief of Emerald plays your run of the mill brutal death metal, with just a hint of a Dimmu Borgir symphonic black metal feel. The songs are played almost entirely at non-stop fast tempos, creating a rather droning affair that I find best suited  for use as a sleeping aid. The ever present speed and harshness ultimately has the opposite effect of what is intended. While Christian Termination is designed to kick your ass, I find that no matter how much of my mental focus I'm applying to it while listening, it just becomes glorified background music. On a song by song basis it's decent, if very generic death metal with lackluster keyboards. Also - hearing it a track or two at a time can be fairly intense. But is there anyone out there who still feels the intensity after the first 20 minutes? Even the harshest aural assault becomes humdrum after a time, and in the case of Grief of Emerald, metal fans have all heard this routine many times before.

I do find it amusing that Grief of Emerald passed on the standard black metal aliases like Grohnok, Thor, or BlackenedMan, and instead used their first names exclusively. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm inclined to believe that warriors named Horgh or Ihsahn are going to come kick my ass if I provoke them. Somehow, I'm less worried about Robert and Jimmy.

If there's still a soft spot in your heart for aimless Christian bashing and masturbating nuns that may or may not be on fire, hey. It's your choice. Personally, I have heard more than enough blast beat oriented extreme metal CDs with simple orchestral arrangements. Grief of Emerald doesn't do anything to distinguish themselves from the abundance of groups who still think playing this style is cool.

That being said, everything here is played adroitly enough for what it is, and the songs can be reasonably enjoyable metal listens if you hear them individually and isolated from the rest. There is the rare slow moment or change in tempo on Christian Termination, but the slower bits tend to sound a lot like Dimmu Borgir's dullest "creepy" moments. If you're interested in imaginative music with lasting appeal and some kind of real purpose, you won't find it here. But if you're looking for another metal-for-metal's sake album to pass the time, then you could do much worse than listen to Grief of Emerald.

Track List:
1.) Alas, Spiriti Sancti
2.) The Almighty is Rising
3.) Raped by the Servant of God
4.) Scum of the Earth
5.) The Cause
6.) Christian Termination
7.) Deformed Imagenations
8.) Consumed By Fire
9.) Those Who Bear The Mark
10.) Humanity's Fall

Grief of Emerald is:
Johnny - guitars and vocals
Anders - bass
Jimmy - guitars
Jonas - drums
Robert - keyboards

Grief of Emerald - Official Site:

The End Records (US Distribution):

Listenable Records:

Crimson Thunder
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Listening to Hammerfall's latest album is like stepping into a documentary on the golden age of classic power metal.  'Crimson Thunder' is a veritable time machine, whisking the listener back to an age where metal was about soaring leads, vocals that sailed through the stratosphere, and glorious clashes of epic heroes.  You will find no guttural growling on this album... no harsh, raw assaults on your ears.  Every second of sound is so glossy and polished it's a wonder the CD didn't slip out of my hands before I could insert it into my stereo.  Hammerfall embodies every virtue that Brothers In True Metal aspired to back when metal was a lifestyle and not just a genre of music.  Depending on your point of view, all of this combines to make 'Crimson Thunder' either a must-have album or totally hilarious to listen to... or both.

Nuclear Blast has a stable full of acts that seem to have stepped directly out of 1985 and into modern recording studios.  Along with Primal Fear, Manowar, and Stratovarious, Hammerfall carries on the proud legacy of bands like Iron Maiden (who surprisingly still exist to this day), Judas Priest, and Helloween.  Come to think of it, Helloween still exists too.  So does Gamma Ray.  Who would have thought that such a goofy genre of music would be so enduring?

Hamerfall masterfully capture every nuance of the classic powermetal sound.  This is as historically accurate a recording as anyone could ever hope to create.  From the wailing siren vocals, chant-like choruses, bouncy riffs, lyrics that take themselves far too seriously... every aspect of classic metal has been recreated.  There's a traditional metal ballad (the far too earnest but true-to-the-time 'Dreams Come True'), speedy fist pumpers, and slow churners... all aspects of the genre from that time (aside possibly from a true 'happy metal' tune ala Helloween's "Livin' Ain't No Crime") are covered in loving detail.  What's more, the production could not possibly be any better.  Every note is clear and beautifully rendered, every vocal line drenched in lush reverb.  The sound is so candy-sweet it could rot your teeth.  'Crimson Thunder' is a miracle of modern science... ancient classic metal grown anew in the labs of the mad scientists Hammerfall.

If you still dress in a studded black leather jacket, sport hair that flows down past your shoulders, and commonly wear skintight pants and shiny black boots (oh, and are male!)... you probably have bought this album already.  On the off chance that you didn't know about Hammerfall, well, now you do... and in order to stay on the Righteous Path Of Metal, you're obligated to go purchase it.  This album is for you, and is made by people just like you.  You'll love it.

If you're like me, however, you have a more difficult choice on your hands.  I am a fan of metal from the era Hammerfall recreates... but I heard enough of it then and still have enough of it in my CD collection to satisfy me.  I am no Brother In True Metal.  I like progress, and even when I get a hankering for powermetal, there are other bands out there that have added new ideas and original sounds to the genre.  Labels like Scarlet Records keep coming up with groups like Thy Majestie and Heimdall who take the old formula and push it to new heights.  Hammerfall is so rooted in the past that they add nothing to the body of work already available in the genre.  Despite that, 'Crimson Thunder' may be the most exquisitely produced powermetal album I've encountered.  It can be enjoyable to listen to merely to hear the beautiful sound quality... and I have to admit, a number of the songs put a smile on my face as I recall the pumped up bravado their kin inspired back when such music was relatively new.

Depending on which camp of people you fall into (those like me vs. the Brothers In True Metal), Hammerfall's blast from the past will either be a mandatory purchase or mostly redundant.  The near perfect production of the album may be enough to win you over even if you've heard it all before, but the utter lack of any new ideas may turn off other listeners.  Historians, though, should certainly pick up a copy for their archives.

Track List:
01.)  Riders Of The Strom
02.)  Hearts On Fire
03.)  On The Edge Of Honour
04.)  Crimson Thunder
05.)  Lore Of The Arcane
06.)  Trailblazers
07.)  Dreams Come True
08.)  Angel Of Mercy
09.)  The Unforgiving Blade
10.)  In Memoriam
11.)  Hero's Return
Hammerfall is:
Vocals: Joacim Cans
Guitar: Oscar Dronjak
Bass: Magnus Rosén
Guitars: Stefan Elmgren
Drums: Anders Johansson

Hammerfall Official Website:

Nuclear Blast:

Bloodred Hatred
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Hatesphere has a rather potent moniker. Their CD Bloodred Hatred is no less potent than their name - Hatesphere plays thrashy deathy "let's beat the hell out of everything" metal that could potentially appeal to any fans of The Haunted, Terror 2000, or Steelbath Suicide era Soilwork.

If you partake in this style of modern thrash metal and happen to garner some enjoyment out of it, then there's a good chance you will like Hatesphere. Their music is largely angry and fast, with rapid thrash-styled riffs and solos, along with loud rasping vocals that happen to be very grating. I know that some of you out there not only like that harsh sound, but are also in competition with your friends to find the most unlistenable shrieking imaginable just to claim you've got nerves of steel. While listening to Hatesphere I sometimes wish they'd just replace the vocals with nails and chalkboard, but for the most part Jacob Bredahl does an admirable job of being angry in a relatively listenable manner. He doesn't always shriek, either, opting for an occasional death growl or even some partially clean shouting.

"Insanity Arise" is a good song to listen to if you want to hear what Hatesphere has to offer beyond their chosen genre. It has some almost-clean shouting and background keyboards that lend it a lot more of an atmospheric feel than Terror 2000 and their ilk ever got going. Similarly, the cleverly titled "Intro" sets up a dark and menacing atmosphere that paves the way for the blazing "Believer." This song is of the kick-ass thrash variety that can really get you going. There are a number of great riffs and change-ups that keep the pace fast and intense.

Unfortunately, those are about the only things that stand out on Bloodred Hatred. For the most part their music is completely unoriginal, though it is well played and roughly equal in quality with Terror 2000. The problem I have with these types of recordings is that the bands rarely see fit to slow down. I'll never find constant droning speed as captivating as music that mixes tempos and consequently empowers their faster sections more force. But clearly, there is a market for the non-stop-assault modern thrash approach, and Hatesphere pulls it off as well as the best of them.

Track List:
1.) Intro
2.) Believer
3.) Hell is Here
4.) Insanity Arise
5.) Disbeliever
6.) Plague
7.) Low Life Vendetta
8.) Deeper and Deeper
9.) Kicking Ahead

Hatesphere is:
Jacob Bredahl - Vocals
Peter Lyse Hansen - Guitars
Ziggy - Guitars
Mikael Ehlert - Bass
Morten Toft - Drums

The End Records (US Distribution):

Scarlet Records:

The Almighty
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

I don't know about you, but I can safely say I've never wondered what James Hetfield would sound like if he had an Italian accent and sang for a power metal band.  In a bizarre stroke of fate, though, that unasked question has been answered by Heimdall.  Perhaps some otherworldly deity wanted me to know what Italia-James would sound like, and thus delivered this pleasantly listenable album into my clutches... or maybe it was simply a bizarre coincidence.  Either way it sounds like something I might have seen on Leonard Nimoy's 'In Search Of...' TV show years ago.   Whatever celestial confluence resulted in my receiving this disc for review, I'm glad it happened.

I suppose I should clarify the whole 'Hetfield' thing.  In an unexpected twist for a powermetal vocalist, Giacomo Mercaldo deploys a slightly gritty midrange voice which never once drifts into the glass-shattering, ear splitting range so frequently employed within the genre... and unless my ears deceive me, his voice has more than a passing resemblance to the aforementioned Metallica frontman.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you!  The vocals on 'The Almighty' are probably the album's greatest strength and most distinguishing factor.  The melodies he sings are often quite compelling and Mr. Mercaldo lyricizes with an earnest panache that makes his foibles forgivable.

Oddly, my only major gripe with the album also concerns Giacomo.  On a few occasions, the band tries to pull off tender-emotional-ballady moments, and sadly Mr. Hetfi-- Mercaldo isn't really up to the task.  It's the accent that does it.  Mercaldo retains enough of an Italian accent that certain words just don't come out right when he's singing in English... which is odd since on the whole his vocals are articulate and clear.  Nevertheless, on 'The Search' in particular he sounds out of his depth trying to convincingly pull off an emotional plea for... something.  I have no idea what since I can't make out what he's saying and have no lyric sheet to guide me through the darkness.  Overall though, I'm making a mountain out of a molehill... his vocalizing on the other 90% of the album is appropriate and enjoyable.

The rest of the band turns in a satisfactory performance that has just enough of an unusual edge to keep it from sounding like every other power metal record ever made.  The album's nine tracks are populated with sweeping guitar solos,  epic chord progressions, soaring melodies, and pulse-quickening beats.  But wait!  There's more!  You also receive acoustic guitar interludes and harmonized vocal passages at no extra charge.  It's all familiar territory for anyone who's listened to power metal in the last twenty years... but there's a barely perceptible electronic edge coming from the keyboards and electric guitar tone that keeps 'The Almighty' from sounding exactly like the metal of old.  Even so, if you were to replace our friend Giacomo with Kai Hansen (who I am contractually obligated to mention in every power metal review I write), you'd swear you were listening to some derivation of Helloween or Gamma Ray.

Keeping all that I've told you in mind, the only real question you need to ask to decide if you should purchase this album is whether you feel like spending $15 (or whatever your local currency is) to listen to the 'Italian James Hetfield' belt out some power metal.  It's good music.  It has crisp, clear production. It has all the prerequsite elements that make up a quality release... but it's kind of like cranberry juice.  Go to the grocery store, if you haven't recently, and check out the juice section.  Chances are you'll find about fifty varieties containing cranberries as their basic element.  You have your Cran-Grape, your Cran-Apple, your Cran-Apple-Grape, etc etc.  Heimdall is Cran-Pineapple power metal.  It has a little bit of an exotic flavor, but you can't get away from the fact that it's just more cranberry juice at heart.

Track List:
01.) The Calling
02.) The Search
03.) Eternal Race
04.) Godhall
05.) Wanderer
06.) Return To The Fatherland
07.) Last Journey
08.) Beyond
09.) Symit

Heimdall is:
Giacomo Mercaldo: vocals
Fabio Calluori: guitars
Carmelo Claps: guitars
Nicola Calluori: drums
Giovanni Canu: bass
Sergio Duccilli: keyboards

Scarlet Records:

The End Records (US Distribution):

Liquid Len Recordings
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Fuck! You always wonder when you find the band is a home-based recording unit, whether it’ll be soft and sappy, or under-produced guitar/electronics that sounds in need of a big sound, but you don’t expect to be tricked by convivial piano, an escalating beat and then a mad ranting voice of the ‘oi, geezer!’ variety coming at you with clean and pretty guitar-based music bucking all known trends behind it. Try to imagine a modern take on a collision between Inca Babies and Alien Sex Fiend, it’s that diverse and clompy.

First of all they made me laugh, and then whisked the carpet out from under me, because just when you think you’re in the company of able-handed lunatics they show their other face with ‘Fifty Seven Days’, a slippery song which starts slow, over which a camp vocal delivery bemoans his lot in a bitter world, and then it all cuts up rough. They do things with sound, and have the most wonderful hisssss to the taut percussion, creating a jumbled amalgam of styles but within sensible confines. There’s no experimentation going on here, other than with their sanity, so don’t think these are dribbling electro bores who want to be seen as left-field eclectic artistes. These are great songs, but with genetic abnormalities inside. Sometimes the music tends to shove the vocal aside, but this rumpus is very different, so maybe that’s intentional, and at the same time quite persuasive. The title track may have psychotic guitar at times but overall could be Danse Society (circa ‘No Shame In Death’) in league with Portishead. That sort of thing.

They don’t accept any rules, so how can they obey them? Audacious, quite audacious.


The CD can, and should, be bought for £3.50 from The Liquid Lens Recording Company, PO Box 197, Potters bar, EN6 4SH or e-mail for details at

In Strict Confidence
Herzattacke EP (Sony)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

Germany? It's a different world.

In Strict Confidence are a German EBM outfit who, in the UK or USA, would probably occupy a position in the 'underground' scene. They'd be signed up to a small independent label, they'd rely heavily on print-fanzines and webzines for their publicity: in short, they'd hardly register as a blip on the radar of the mainstream music biz.

But in Germany, different rules apply. Doors that would be firmly shut for In Strict Confidence elsewhere are wide open. They're on a major label (and you can't get much more major than Sony). Their releases hit the charts. They're all over the mainstream media. They do all that 'proper band' stuff which can only be an unattainable ambition for artists from other countries. In short, in Germany you can make this kind of music and actually have a *career*.

This EP came out a while back as a taster for the band's 'Mistrust The Angels' album, which is probably selling by the truckload to thousands of enthusiastic German fans even as I type. Elsewhere on the planet, where In Strict Confidence don't enjoy such a high profile, it serves as a useful introduction to what the band are all about.

And what they're about is - as previously noted - EBM. The lead track on the EP, 'Herzattacke (Extended version)', is actually quite subtle, given that we're dealing with a genre here which isn't exactly known for subtlety. It sneaks into view on a wash of synth-colour and some odd little forest-floor effects, like the theme tune to a nature show on TV. The beat isn't allowed to dominate the track, and even the lyrics - half-spoken in German - don't sound as uncompromisingly harsh as much EBM stuff tends to do.

However, if you want harsh, In Strict Confidence can do harsh - as they prove with 'Herzattacke (Club mix)', which is a take-no-prisoners stomper. The rhythmic elements of the track have been pushed up front: it's all beat, sequences, and a chanted, sometimes distorted, vocal. No doubt this would work well in a club, but it's not such a great experience to listen to - it's ultimately nothing more than an exercise in pressing genre-buttons. And anyway, didn't DAF do this stuff back in the eighties?

There are three further mixes of 'Herzattacke', of which the most interesting from a StarVox point of view must certainly be the 'Clan of Xymox remix' by Ronny Moorings. There have been so many instances over the years of goth bands trying to give themselves some sort of dance-floor makeover in a bid to expand their audience that it's ironic to find an EBM outfit going for a slice of goth-pie. Ronny's remix adds layers of atmosphere, sampled choirs and - yes - an insistent,  clangourous, descending guitar riff. The result is a mad, towering, anthem of industrio-goth which would fit very neatly into a DJ set, possibly sandwiched between 'Du Hast' and 'Doctor Jeep' (I throw this in as a virtual request to any passing DJs!) Nice one from Mr Xymox, there.

Three other tracks complete the tunestack: 'Into Ashes', which is all cinematic effects and a long, long intro; 'Kaleidoskop', a late-night cruise of an instrumental (and actually a very effective mood-track), and 'The Final Embrace', a spooky ambient-dance piece with an incongruously frenzied vocal.

The overall effect is that In Strict Confidence are a bit more of an interesting proposition than many other contenders in the EBM genre - in fact, the less generic they are, the more interesting they get. There's possibly a lesson in that. Still, it looks like Sony Germany invested wisely when they signed the band - but I wonder what it would take for Sony Rest Of The World to follow suit?

The tunestack:
Herzattacke (Extended mix)
Herzattacke (Club mix, by Olaf Wollschlager)
Into Ashes
Herzattacke (Clan Of Xymox remix by Ronny Moorings)
Herzattacke ( C.P.R. mix by Chris Peterson of Frontline Assembly/Delerium)
The Final Embrace
Herzattacke (Single version)

In Strict Confidence Website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Killing Miranda
Transgression by Numbers
~reviewed by Jezebel

I broke two nails doing this review. And it was not from an argument with Rikki; the more vocal and controversial of the foursome that makes up Killing Miranda (search our archives for an interview with them for more on the band). One was broken putting the CD in and one dancing around my house to the opening track.

This is not a new CD and many DJs have played it almost faithfully in the London area and abroad. It has been performed by the band during their numerous appearances in London and Europe. This is one band that courts and creates controversy. This is one band that claims and quite rightly so, that they are a different alternative to the gothic scene. That they are ready to shake it up and make it move in a way that it should and perhaps used to be. Whether true or not, Killing Miranda live and on CD is a band to contend with.

We open with Discotheque Necronimomican. This dance club favorite is supposedly a tribute to the infamous club, Slimelight here in London. And I can understand why. Pulsating and energetic it rightly parallels the energy (drug influenced without a doubt) of the club. The lyrics also herald the drug culture of the Slimelight scene (and unfortunately, part of the London/gothic scene):

 We got the white line fever……
 We got the ricus cheekbones…..
 We got cocaine hysteria…..

This is a song that I know gets the crowd jumping and ready. It’s a great crowd pleaser whether played by the band or by a DJ. It’s just one of those songs that does it. Anthem? Could that word be thrown around? Don’t know….I think it would be too mainstream for the band.

“Spit” comes out punching as only Killing Miranda can.  Damn - with all the vendettas and conspiracies associated with Killing Miranda on upg you wonder who they heck they are talking about.

 I’m gonna fuck your friends up
 I’m gonna kill your parents
 You think I’m fucking psycho
 I’ll show you fucking psycho

Done spitting in your eye…..they move on to “Angelfly” and for some reason right now, I start to hear what is really great about the band in the intro. Irish Dave gives a great guitar line, Chris Wareham (no longer with the band) a driving bass line and Belle bangs out a rhythm that pushes and stretches. Perhaps this is the first song that gives a bit more of the stage to the musicians and less to Rikki, the vocalist. Good as he is, I always have felt that the band has been focussed more on Rikki than as a group as a whole. I want more of the BAND and less of the Rikki Show….

We move on to “Salome” which again, thankfully, starts to show off the talent of the band. Rikki steps away from the mic and lets the band, for the most part, have the center of stage and really show us what makes Killing Miranda one of the more important bands from the London scene right now. I am nervous about saying that this is gothic rock or gothic music evolved. Why? Because KM has taken it in only one of the directions that was possible. But saying that, in the direction that they have taken, KM has reached forward and brought back to us music from the future and really has pushed bands (Rikki’s upg rantings aside) to understand that sitting back on their laurels and regurgitating the same sound over and over again is not only going to not further the scene, but kill it in the process.

Back to the song. At points, a quieter version of KM and at times, slightly, dare I say it? Metally pop? NickleBack does spring to mind….but hold on guys (ducking from Rikki) – the better version. What they want to be as opposed to what they are.

Next? “Blessed Deviant.” Beginning with just a taste of the talent of Belle, their drummer, this track eventually gives you much more of what he is capable of. Belle is one of the unsung drumming talents of the scene and should be given more opportunity to really shine. His work live working with Simon Rippon from Fields of the Nephilm during recent Nostalgia gigs gave us more of opportunity to really appreciate his work…..hopefully with KM, he will have more of a chance to really showcase his excellent ability.

I speak about Belle, and other matters, because this song just doesn’t stand out. Except for one absolutely annoying sound in it….it sounds way too much like the sound for my intercom!!!!

“Meat”….well. If you are a vegetarian, just skip this track, okay? Musically, the band is hard and fast and stubborn, everything you want from the band. They rock. Forget about rolling. This band doesn’t roll over for anyone. They are in full out all about war. And screw you – they will eat an entire cow raw just to piss you off. What I think is great about the track is that it is as raw as meat can be. It’s in your face, fuck you and everything your sanctimonious vegetarian tree hugging enviro warrior stands for. You can almost see because of the sound the heads banging and the hair swinging in that way that only metal heads can.

Oh Oh Oh!!! “Teenage Vampire” Come on everyone!!! Dance…..Bop!!!!! Bounce up and down in a silly way!!! Come on!!!

Seriously. There was no sarcasm. Join me. If Spike could find an anthem, this would be it!!! Look, I wasn’t a fan of the band….and then I heard this song live and I was hooked. There is something, dare I say it, catchy…about it. There is something very Buffy meets the bad band on the other side town in it.

We come down back to earth with “Blood/Seed.” Wait a second….hold the phone…alert the morning papers. Rikki sings. Rikki sings. No, let me say that again, Rikki sings. Yes, he sang on all the tracks, but this is almost crooning, this is almost a ….um….a….ballad. Rikki starts to work with a voice that I never knew, and am surprisingly excited about. Where the hell have you been hiding this??? The track puts an entire new spin on the album and surprises you in a way that you can actually be excited in what they will eventually give us next. Is this a hint of things to come. Huge, gorgeous vocals? To be honest, I can only compare to those spiralling, encompassing ballads that are used for comic book hero movies these days. And this is NOT a bad thing. This is the essence of what gothic music has always been. The ability musically, lyrically and vocally to create huge atmospheres and emotions that are dark and haunting. And damn, who the hell knew Rikki had such a great voice??

Oh, but the boys only teased us. We are back to what KM does, (and after “Blood/Seed” I can’t say best) and that is “See You in Disneyland”. We rock out again. Once again with the pounding of guitar, bass and drums and perhaps…wait…I retract my statement. Rikki sings here and perhaps as the CD goes on we are getting a piece, a little hint, of what to expect down the road. Yes, we will rock, yes, we will be controversial, but we have the talent to fight with the big boys. We have the big sound not only musically, but also vocally. Now, without the liner notes telling me otherwise…..I need to guess who does the backup vocals…I am torn…Alien Dave or Irish Dave. I know Irish Dave can sing…but that soft sound??? Hmm. Me guess Alien Dave. Guys??? I’ll pay for the drinks down at the Dev for they that sung the back up. (a round btw – I know how you guys can drink)

And we are at the ending, “Transgression By Numbers.” And I start to bop at my laptop. Another perhaps of those tunes that can be played at the infamous Slimelight and the glow stick robots could robotcially dance to. (we do need to give them something to feed upon, don’t we?). this is a mix of the new and old.

Okay. Against all my “better judgement” and despite the teasing I may get, I will admit it. I like Killing Miranda. I may not always like the public relations stance that Rikki, their lead singer takes or some of their “entourage/crew” take….but putting that aside, I like the music that they create. It’s innovative and pushing all boundaries. It’s trying to take gothic music forward without losing the core of what it is. Yes, Rikki is not the most diplomatic at times and some of his “crew” makes all of our flesh crawl with constant insinuations of conspiracies within the London gothic scene, etc., but that does not take away from the music because it is that good. Scary – a band that is better than their bad publicity.

Track listing:
1) Discotheque Necronomicom
2) Spit
3) Angelfly
4) Salome
5) Blessed Deviant
6) Meat
7) Teenage Vampire
8) Bleed/Seed
9) See You in Disneyland
10) Transgression by Numbers

Killing Miranda is:
Rikki – vocals
Alien Dave – guitar
Irish Dave – bass
Belle – drums


The Kovenant
In Times Before The Light
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Since describing The Kovenant's music leads to writing that is tepid and droning, I've decided to write a review where you can choose your own adventure! This way, you don't have to feel bad about skipping the entire middle of the review, which you were thinking of doing already. Prepare yourself for murder, intrigue, Norwegians who dress suspiciously like Marilyn Manson, and above all else, orange.

It begins in an off-beat record store...

You notice the brightly colored cover and decide to investigate further. "What kind of CD is this," you wonder. Curious, you examine the tracklist. "Dragons, black winds, kingdoms, a raven and a storm... this sounds familiar," you ponder. Glancing at the cover again, it strikes you that the hippie tie-die color explosion does not fit the black metal theme from the tracklist.

You may now:

Quit reading the review because you know what to expect from a remastered and remixed version of The Kovenant's first CD (when they were known as Covenant).

Skip to the exciting conclusion because your interest is waning rapidly.

Continue reading, today you are feeling particularly masochistic.

You find a tattered and charred review transcript in the hand of a dead music journalist, it reads:

Kovenant sucks. When they were Covenant they made a dull debut CD that was far too long to be enjoyed by any normal metal fan, and just when they showed promise with Nexus Polaris, they changed their band name to The Kovenant. Their line-up was radically altered and their sound changed into some kind of Marilyn Manson-influenced electronic metal on their last album, Animatronic. It was catchy, but mostly uninteresting, and I decided a while ago that their new CD would determine how I feel about their new direction. Animatronic didn't totally lose sight of good metal, so it's hard to say if there is hope for Kovenant's future or not.

Strangely, Kovenant's new album still hasn't been released, and Kovenant fans are being given a re-release of In Times Before The Light to chew on in the meantime. It is remixed and remastered for a big improvement in sound. The keyboards had to be redone because the original keyboard performance wasn't on tape. Really, not much has changed aside from the sound quality. I thought that Lex Icon might mutilate the original music by adding in silly keyboard sounds, and while some of the new additions are questionable when it comes to silliness, they don't interfere with the original cold, black Norwegian metal vibe that In Times Before The Light was known for. The improved sound quality makes this re-release even more entertaining than the original, although purists will disagree.

Nevertheless, only die-hard Covenant fans need apply. This is hardly a necessary purchase, and it doesn't measure up to similar releases like Dimmu Borgir's Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. The re-release might be better than the original, but that's still not saying a lot. It is a long, plodding affair that only stays exciting for a few songs before it all begins to blend together. If you're a new The Kovenant fan and worship or at least enjoy Animatronic, you might be surprised to find that In Times Before The Light is much scarier hardcore symphonic black metal. That's the fundamental problem with this release - new The Kovenant fans probably won't get it, and old Covenant fans probably don't care anymore. Take this review as you will; you've probably heard The Kovenant at some point by now, and if you really like them or still have a soft spot for albums like Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, it wouldn't be a bad choice to buy this CD. However, I think your average metal fan can pass it up.

You set down the transcript and proceed to the exciting conclusion.

The Exciting conclusion!

Using your powers of clairvoyance you divine the following:

The music journalist was killed after writing the review, in a mysterious accident involving an orange. Coincidence? We think not. What  did this have to do with Kovenant? Very little! But it's better that way.

Trust us.

Track List:
1) Towards the Crown of Nights
2) Dragonstorms
3) The Dark Conquest
4) From the Storm of Shadows
5) Night of the Blackwinds
6) The Chasm
7) Visions of a Lost Kingdom
8) Through the Eyes of the Raven
9) In Times Before The Light
10) Monarchs of the Mighty Darkness

The Kovenant is:
Lex Icon - vocals and drums
Psy Coma - guitars, bass, keyboards &  programming
Sensei Bogus - additional bass and programming

The Kovenant - Official Site:

Hammerheart Records:

Limbonic Art
The Ultimate Death Worship
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Limbonic Art -hands down, no question about it- have mastered the Terrifyingly Soul Shredding Scream.  To paraphrase Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, these screams could horrify you into a coma.  As harsh and relentless as the 'throat full of broken glass' growling is that Mr. Daemon liberally slathers across the eight tracks of his new album, it's the tortured wailing of people apparently suffering unspeakable fates that's making me want to stop listening.  I'm sure there are those among you that derive great pleasure from hearing agonized yowls come out of things that will probably soon be deceased.  I could do without, personally... and since these banshee wails seem to pop up every few minutes, it's putting my sanity and patience to the test.  Nevertheless, I soldier on...

The tandem of Daemon and Morfeus are quite capable technically.  They craft musically compelling epics of black metal, utilizing an array of standard conventions (buzzy tremolo guitars; machinegun drum blasts; atmospheric keyboards) and eerie synthetic/industrial sounds.  The album is filled with unindentifiable clanking, thumps, and rustling noises that emanate from sources I'd rather not think about at length.  There are also a number of creepy and disturbing atmospheric patches sprinkled throughout the album's length, giving the listener temporary respite from the blasting guitar assault... but offering little in the way of solace or relief.

On the guitar front, interesting riffs abound.  They appear frequently and rapidly, awash in a sea of malevolent noise.  Interestingly, at one point (the specific song it happened in is beyond me- I was too busy trying to survive the album to notice) Limbonic Art seems to borrow the main chorus riff from Metallica's 'Creeping Death' for a few bars in the middle of a flurry of disorienting sound that interprets the source material in an entirely unwholesome way.  Despite their general adherance to standard black metal practices, there's no doubt that the two men behind Limbonic Art are skilled musicians who know how to create and sustain the mood they desire.

Thematically, the album dwells in rather familiar and unsurprising death-obsessed territory.  What seperates it from the rest of the blackened pack is the apparent conviction with which the lyrics are realized in Daemon's vocals.  I have rarely heard a sound so repellantly evil as the hateful crackle of his distressed cries.  If his goal was to sound inhuman, he succeeded.  Everything about his vocal delivery is worrisome and extreme.  This will undoubtedly please many fans of such noises, but it left me uneasy and seriously questioning whether anybody really needs to make (or listen to) such sounds.  The vocal style makes the occasionally hateful lyrics a good deal more potent than they otherwise would have been, and turns even the most benign missives into ugly screeds.  Occasionally Daemon will take a break from his hellish ranting to insert a discomforting spoken word segment into the proceedings, but it does nothing to lighten the mood... which is in keeping with his intent, I suspect.

I won't lie.  Due to the relentlessly evil and venomous nature of the music, listening to Limbonic Art's latest release has been an ordeal I am not keen on repeating.  I wish my ears could vomit the sounds of this album back out so that they wouldn't fester in the corridors of my mind, making me queasy when I think of what I've heard.   Nevertheless, this album will appeal to a certain crowd. 'The Ultimate Death Worship' lives up to its name, and those who find some release in listening to the most pointedly hateful and extreme music will consider their money well spent on this album.  They can have it.

Track List:
01.) The Ultimate Death Worship
02.) Suicide Commando
03.) Purgatorial Agony
04.) Towards The Oblivion Of Dreams
05.) Last Rite For The Silent Darkstar
06.) Interstellar Overdrive
07.) From Shades Of Hatred
08.) Funeral Of Death

Limbonic Art is:
Daemon: Lead vocal, guitars, and nocturnal poetry
Morfeus: Electronics, lead guitars, and additional vocals

Limbonic Art official website:

Nocturnal Art Productions: