~reviewed by Joel Steudler

I'll admit, when I received this album to review, I wasn't expecting to like it.   The album cover art was off-putting (featuring a skinny naked guy in a bathtub who apparently has just slit his wrists) and their logo was unreadable.  I wasn't familiar with the band, and not even being able to easily tell what their name is pretty much soured me to the notion of listening to their music.  Luckily, though, I soldiered on and gave Mactätus' new offering a listen... and was rewarded for my dilligence.

Mactätus deftly weaves together elements of black metal, death metal, and thrash into a seamless tapestry of harsh, dark sounds.  The vocals are straight blackened rasping, fresh from the frozen tundras of Norway... so no surprises there.  Likewise, the drumming rarely deviates from the traditional battery one might hear in nearly any black metal outfit.  You'll also find some standard black-metal condiments in the cupboard... namely atmospheric keyboards, solo violin parts, and haunting piano melodies sprinkled sparingly across the album's 41min length.  So far, 'Suicide' sounds alot like a trip into Dimmu Borgir territory, but thankfully, the album turns out to be much more interesting than that.

The guitar work is where Mactätus really shines.  Mssrs. Gaut and Ty (assuming it is indeed they who write the guitar parts) really have a knack for crafting energetic riffs.  They borrow from a wide range of influences when doing so.  Many of the riffs throughout the album could easily be found on the latest Immortal release... or recent Testament... or 'Heartwork' era Carcass... or perhaps somewhere in the annals of Morbid Angel.  There's even a guitar solo on 'Bringer of Silence' reminiscent of the late, great Chuck Schulinder (though not quite delivered with the artistry he always posessed).  You never know where the guitars will be headed next, and there is a definite sense of movement permeating the album- which keeps things quite fresh over its running length.  The songwriting never sounds haphazard though, which is a constant threat when mixing so many influences.

In summation, what you get on 'Suicide' is an amalgamation of a number of neat styles of metal.  It feels mostly like a crossbreeding of Immortal's 'Sons Of Northern Darkness' and  Dimmu Borgir's better moments across their last few albums.  Headbanging riffs are abundant, and the pace never slackens to the point of becoming dull.  There's nothing groundbreakingly original to be found on this album, but should you purchase it, you will likely find it an engaging listen if you enjoy the thrashier side of black metal.

Track List:
01.) Dead And Alive
02.) Epilogue - The Tale Of The Psychotic
03.) The Whisperers
04.) Sanctity In Murder
05.) Language Of Disloyalty
06.) Bringer Of Silence
07.) To Distance Death From Life
08.) Measurement Of Discipline
09.) Concluding Act Of Violence
10.) Broken Dreams Of Death

Mactätus is:
Hate Rodvitnesson - Vocals
Gaut - Guitar
Ty - Guitar
Mjolne - Drums
Forn - Synths
Mefistofeles - Bass

Mactätus Official Website:

Napalm Records:

~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Anyone who activates their long-range sensors and scans the vanguard of modern powermetal will find an eclectic group of bands from Scarlet records pushing the genre out of the 80's and into your CD player.  It's refreshing to listen to bands like Thy Majestie, Heimdall, and now Manticora who are not content to regurgitate the same formula that every powermetal band in the world has used since Helloween were new on the scene.  Some other labels - Nuclear Blast, for one - seem to be deriving great financial success from the likes of Hammerfall and Manowar... groups that have made a science out of polishing up twenty year old stylings and repackaging them in a new album cover every year.  Manticora's epic new blast of futuristic power-prog is probably more accurately labelled 'evolutionary' as opposed to 'revolutionary', but make no mistake - forward progress has been made.

'Hyperion' is a concept album based on the book of the same name by author Dan Simmons.  I'm not familiar with Mr. Simmons' work, so I can't say how well the album embodies the spirit of the source material... but I can say that it's likely to capture the fancy of anyone who enjoys power metal or the harder, speedier side of progressive metal.  Manticora captures the best aspects of prog and powermetal and deftly weaves them together into a blazing assault on the senses that rarely pauses to let you catch your breath.

Dense waves of layered sound fill each song's sonic real-estate.  Intricate lightspeed guitar soloing and rhythm riffs propel the album along at breakneck speed, abating only occasionally to let scintillating keyboard leads race by.  Strange ambient sounds that would be at home in any sci-fi movie mix in and out of the soundscape, providing Planet Manticora with some contextual atmosphere.  Drummer Mads Volf (my nominee for 'Best Name For A Musician, 2002') is appropriately robotic in his down-to-the-millisecond accuracy, yet his drumming is full of life and is as astoundingly fast as the rest of the band.  Kasper Gram's bass playing is often lost in the sea of sound, but gets to shine through in a fill here and there.  Everybody in the band displays a high level of technical ability and uses their talent to produce some very entertaining and intense songs.

Something that often turns off neophytes to power metal is the tendency for powermetal singers to employ an upper vocal range that could shatter glass... no such worries here.  Lars F. Larsen's midrange delivery is safe to listen to around your delicate glassware and fine china, and is pleasant in a 'constantly intense' sort of way.  How he mustered the enegry to belt out the whole album sounding like he was on an adrenaline rush, I'll never know.  I'd not be surprised if he often collapses during live shows from oxygen deprivation.  Added to the vocal mix are some very prog-ish spoken word passages delivered by Stine Pedersen and the lovely singing of Karin Bodum on selected tracks.  I would be shocked if any fans of this style of music were disappointed in the vocal performances on 'Hyperion'.

Any long-time reader of my reviews (all two of you) will know that I love comparing a band I'm reviewing to other bands I'm familiar with.  Keeping with tradition, I'll point out that Manticora are sort of like what you'd get if you combined Dream Theater, Helloween and Queensryche... and shot them up on amphetamines.  Manticora definitely have their roots in the thrash, power and prog of the late 80's/ early 90's, but they are not slaves to the sounds of that era.  They have moved forward and pushed the bleeding edge of powermetal into the present day and beyond.  'Hyperion' is what modern powermetal is all about: fast, articulate, technically adept musicianship that inspires the listener and brings them to new worlds.

Track List:
01.) A Gathering Of Pilgrims
02.) Filaments Of Armageddon
03.) The Old Barge
04.) Keeper Of Tie - Eternal Champion
05.) Cantos
06.) On A Sea Of Grass - Night
07.) Reversed
08.) On A Sea Of Grass - Day
09.) A Long Farewell
10.) At The Keep
11.) Swarm Attack
12.) Loveternaloveternal

Manticora is:
Lars F. Larsen: Vocals
Kristian Larsen: Guitars
Martin Arendal: Guitars
Kasper Gram: Bass
Mads Volf: Drums
Jeppe Eg: Keyboards

Manticora Official Website:

Scarlet Records:

The End Records (US Distribution):

VAMPYRE: Symphonies From The Crypt
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I may not be the best person to judge this on two accounts. Firstly, I have always tended to regard Vampire material, be it music, film or literary-based, as garbage and the last thing I want is an album of clichéd fodder repeating the same old crap thank you very much. Nor am I knowledgeable to any degree about film music, which is the kind of thing you’re getting here.

What I can say is that this is often breathtakingly brilliant! I’m sure there’s people out there who could stodgily feign disinterest and suggest certain tracks remind them of passages from this and that, but what do I care? I just hear the vibrant quality, and wonder why big film studios aren’t throwing money at Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka.

The first few tracks skip by as emblematic nothings. We’ve all heard incidental film music from Horror films just like this, and yes, the vampire theme is familiar, because some things are bound to seem like clichéd moves here. So it’s already a known quantity, but then it starts to slap you around a little, as track two contains emotional friction, track three is almost Buffyish, four changes mood deceptively, and so on, right until the end when some real urgency creeps in.

Granted, they have endless influences to call upon, and you can probably nick a fugue here and there and simply embellish with grandiose synth, but this is stunning work they’ve created. Think Holst crossed with The Omen soundtrack and you’re on the right path. Epic, dazzling tracts of ear-tingling excess, or sometimes brief, startling bursts, this is classique-noir and scandalously alluring.

In fact I hope the title doesn’t put people off!

Unhallowed Ground
Crypt Of The Forsaken
Winged Fury
Blackest Rose
Ravages Of Time
Unseen Eyes
Undead Hunters
Ancient Tomes
Spectral Masquerade

Ad Nauseam
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

This is the first time I've heard MonumentuM, and I'm rather impressed with their work. Ad Nauseam is a gothy electronica/EBM avantgardian sort of CD with plenty of sounds and things. Ok, that's a rather awful description of their music, but it's a bit hard to sum it all up. There are elements related to EBM, for instance, but MonumentuM isn't an EBM band by any means. For the most part, they take all of their influences and mold them into a dark and atompsheric work with goth vocals (both male and female).

"Last Call for Life" is a very suitable album opener, as it gives you a good indication what to expect from the rest of the CD. But it does so without revealing MonumentuM's entire bag of tricks. For the most part there is a genuinely disconcerting atmosphere on Ad Nauseam. The melancholic vocal melodies, emotive synth work, and catchy back beats do make the music very accessible - but as you start to peer behind those initially catchy layers of music you'll notice a very disturbing backdrop that poisons the music with dissonance and unexpected sounds. The soundtrack-ish approach lends itself to multiple layers of darkness. The combined effect ensures that you're bound to become uncomfortable while listening, even if you could normally handle a couple of the musical ideas on their own.

Unfortunately, there are times where the music can become almost comical. Now I'll be forward about this - I've got a rather absurd sense of humor. Most of you probably wouldn't find the whispering creepy vocals on "Perche' il mio amore" comical in any regard. I wouldn't under normal circumstances, except that when the vocalist is making shaky and odd noises with his voice, he sounds frighteningly similar to Birdman's assistant Peanut on the new cartoon version of Birdman. If you haven't seen Birdman, you very likely won't notice anything. If you have - you may laugh. If anything though, I suspect my need to laugh during some parts of the music comes from the constantly serious nature of the music. There really isn't much here to help loosen up all the tension that gets built, and this is a depressing CD from start to finish.

Although Ad Nauseam inspires a wet blanket of depression that clings tightly and doesn't let go until the music stops, there is a lot of variety present. Andrea Stefanelli dominates the vocal landscape with his goth-influenced vocal style. He does a fine job of adding in creepier elements and more melodic and passionate styles of singing throughout the songs. Alis Francesca Bos jumps in now and then to infuse the music with more melodic content. Her vocals are not secondary to the songs they're used in; she is given a prominent spot in the sound and  her rich tone is used to its fullest.

The mix of live instruments and (somewhat experimental) electronic  sounds give Ad Nauseam a living, breathing, organic feel. This isn't  "goth" in the loose sense of Icon of Coil or other EBM bands. The tone  on here is full and complete, and MonumentuM does their best to edge you towards suicide for the full 49 minutes of Ad Nauseam. The music can get to be a bit much after that time, but as I'm not a regular goth listener, I probably just haven't built up the kind of tolerance necessary to stay sane and happy through a whole album.

MonumentuM was originally on the metal label Moonfog, but have since moved to partner label Tatra to reflect their change in style. This is not a metal album by any stretch, and while I haven't heard MonumentuM's previous work, I'm quite certain they have changed their sound dramatically. If you've followed Tiamat's stylistic changes with giddy delight or you're into dark and depressing goth music with a nice backing beat, you should give MonumentuM a listen. Their music is pretty creative, if rather determined to make you cry. If any of the describing I've done so far has made you enthusiastic about hearing MonumentuM, at least... as enthusiastic as you can get over really depressing music, head over to The End Record's website (link below) and give the band a listen.

Track List:
1) Last Call for Life
2) Angor Vacui
3) Distance
4) Under Monochrome Rainbow
5) Perche' il mio amore
6) I stand (nowhere)
7) Numana
8) A Tainted Retrospective
9) No Redemption
10) Reaping for Abel

MonumentuM is:
Andrea Bellucci - digital wisdom and drums programming
Andrea Stefanelli - vocals and digital perversion
Daniele Bovo - guitar and piano
Diego Danelli - bass guitar
Elisa Carrera - drums
Alis Francesca Bos - vocals
Roberto Mammarella - digital perversion and guitar

MonumentuM - Official Site:

Tatra Records:

The End Records (US Distribution)

The Salt Flats
~reviewed by Brian Riggs

The latest single from UK indie/hardcore act Nameless clocks in at three minutes and nine seconds, is called ‘The Salt Flats,’ and is the second single released under Penarth-based Petrified Records. This seems to be all the information they care to include about a band that doesn’t come off as terribly interesting anyway, not from the song I’ve been charged with the task of reviewing, at any rate. Granted, the first few seconds are rather promising with a jangly distorted guitar and a rapping, insistent snare drum, but it promptly shrugs off any notion of originality and begins chugging along at a predictable pace with the requisite shouted lyrics and brief respites from the cacophany in which the moshpit is encouraged to catch its breath.

Since the late 80’s this style has been popular among the southern California skate punk and hardcore scene, but the tremendous buzz being kicked up about this band in the UK (according to the press release at least, bless them) is testament to the fact that just because it’s a tapped-out market in the states, it’s a hidden treasure for record companies to cash in on by signing as many soundalikes as possible for a whole new continent of oblivious consumers. Is that wrong? Yes, but in this age music has become an accepted commodity just like anything else, and the demand (or perceived demand) requires a steady stream of bands (like our friends Nameless, winners of the Most Ironic Name of the Year Award) with little to no talent but with the hip image and marketability to keep MTV (European and otherwise) and the record companies afloat.

There are a lot of business-savvy opportunists out there with a modicum of talent and an eye for stardom, willing to do the Brand New Thing in exchange for a quick buck. In the UK, it appears this is the Brand New Thing, in the Indie charts at least, so good luck to them and may they enjoy popularity for as long as they are able.

1. The Salt Flats

Al: Vocals
The French: Guitar
The Reverend: Bass
XXX: Guitar
Dems: Drums
Tephlon Monkey: Keyboards, Guitar


The Narcissus Pool
Rehearsing For Dementia (Advance promo)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

First, the essential orientation. The Narcissus Pool come from the city of Bristol, in the south-west corner of the UK. They've been around, in an assortment of line-ups, since 1998. This is their second full-length album, although they've also released a bewildering quantity of CD singles, EPs, and limited edition what-nots, as well as notching up a few compilation appearances along the way. If you're in the USA, you might have encountered the band on the Invisible Records compilation, Notes From Thee Real Underground, or you might have picked up on them via their collaborations with Jeremy from Element. If you're in the UK, you'll doubtless know them from their regular forays onto the goth-gig circuit, and at various festivals and all-dayers.

Many people in the UK seem to regard The Narcissus Pool as a cybergoth outfit, but in truth that's always been a rather ill-fitting label. It probably only attatched itself to the band in the first place because Sneakybat (of those merry cyber-pranksters, Sneaky Bat Machine and Goteki) played keyboards in an early line-up. The Narcissus Pool's sound has always featured whacking great slabs of cranked-up guitar, even if the supporting structure is electronically generated. The new album continues in this vein, but it's not just more of the same. The sound has become bigger and bolder and far more wide-screen: it's a real full-speed-ahead-and-damn-the-torpedoes experience. This is the sound of a band reaching, dare I say it, some sort of maturity.

The title track pitches us in, with sampled movie-voices under a menacing hum. The beat crash-lands on this with the force of a slamming door - it's a very fine piece of production, and proof that virtual-studio recordings don't have to sound thin and weedy. A sleazy voice drawls out the lyrics, and suddenly everything piles in to the mix at once. The track builds up tension with some slashed-out guitar chords, and rolls along to a drawn-out finish. 'Culture Jamming' is the full-on club choon, hammmering along like mad machinery, with a guitar riff shouldering its way into the mix...and a nifty chorus which gets dangerously close to singalong territory. This is the one the DJs will probably go for, but it's very much a *song* rather than just a 'club track'. That, I suppose, is The Narcissus Pool's approach in a nutshell: they write songs you can dance to, rather than simply slapping some lyrics over a dance-floor workout and hoping for the best.

'Alien Nation' is a big, bad, monster rhythm which builds to one of *those* choruses, the vocal so sardonic you'd think someone had sold the band a year's supply of John Lydon pills. 'Alan Smithee Presents...'  is a slice of electro-punk, the Dead Kennedys with their fingers in an electric socket. ' This Is Not 4 You' might not have the world's best song title, but as an exercise in nailing together big beats, menacing synth riffs, and operatic samples, it does the business. A good showcase for the band's 'big' production, too.

Throughout the album, sampled voices crop up - odd little snippets of movie dialogue, to the point where at times you could almost convince yourself you're listening to a soundtrack album. The vocals are a sardonic drawl throughout - sometimes, perhaps, a little too far back in the mix: there's so much going on musically that occasionally the vocal gets crowded out. But the overall sound is very impressive. I'm struck by odd little details: the way the little synth-squeals pass by in the intro to '(I Am) The Quitter', like smart missiles screeching down a distant street, and the natural reverb the band have somehow contrived to load onto their cymbal sounds. So many synthi-cymbals have an annoying 'cut off' as the sound simply chops off short, instead of naturally dying away, but The Narcissus Pool have sussed how to create electronic beats which sound convincing, without simply trying to imitate a drum kit.

This album is the sound of a band coming of age, a band who've had the courage to say 'Nuts!' to the thankless task of trying to chase whatever the goth scene wants this week. They've simply made the album they want to make, and it's a good 'un. This is the sound of targets being well and truly hit.

The tunestack:
Rehearsing For Dementia
Culture Jamming
Alien Nation
Alan Smithee Presents...
This Is Not 4 You
One Night Standard
The Haldol Shuffle
Nobody's Fool
(I Am) The Quitter
Without Chemicals He Points

The players:
Phill: Vocals, programming
Shane: Guitar
Polly: Bass, additional guitar
Marcus: Keyboards

The Narcissus Pool's website:

Phill of The Narcissus Pool contributes to the Whitby Gothic Weekend

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Hello, folks! Welcome to StarVox's first Death Metal Trueness Test (tm)! You see, I'm so used to death metal bands having names with "Necro" in them that I had to think hard before realizing that Necrophobic is an unusual title. Are we to think that Necrophobic are actually afraid of death? Haha! A death metal band that can't stomach their own content... or looking at things more optimistically (pessimistically?), we might infer that the band seeks to instill a fear of death in their listeners. Either way, Necrophobic is a most unusual name, so an analysis of their Death Metal Trueness is obligatory.

Pt. 1: Album Cover Analysis
Unreadable logo - check
Blood and skulls - check
Pentagram - check
Optional Naked chicks - negative

Pt. 2: Music Analysis
Growly man vocals - check
Raging guitars - check
Barely audible bass - check
Fast as fry drummin' - check

Pt. 3: Lyrical Analysis
Satanic references - check
Christian bashing - check
Excessive violence - check
Use of swear words - check

This is the point in the film where the analysis machine makes a lot of wirr, wizz and plink noises, and I nod along like I understand why a modern day computer is making so much noise. Also, to help build anticipation and suspense, imagine complex 3D models on the computer flying around impressively while the results are being calculated.

The Results:
Necrophobic is a true death metal band!

Well, I guess those of you out there that still listen to high-octane death metal can rejoice and go buy Bloodhymns, because it's as true to the death metal cause as it is unoriginal. If you only listen to a couple of songs at a time the music can be quite exciting. The riffs have a Swedish death metal tinge and there's even a slight blackened feel to the music. The distinctly European sound puts Necrophobic a few steps ahead of any gore or brutal death metal, but it's quite hard to seriously recommend the kind of music I've heard by countless bands already.

To be fair, however, I'm not familiar with Necrophobic's back catalogue, and they have been releasing CDs since 1992. That's about when this whole scene started taking off, so Necrophobic isn't just hopping on the bandwagon. Their music can be very enjoyable if you're in the right mood, and unless you're sick to death of this kind of music, there's really no reason you shouldn't listen to a sample or two and see what you think. The riffs, solos, and drumming are actually a bit better than average, and Necrophobic's music has a fairly technical feel as far as death metal goes. So while I can't honestly say you should run out and grab the CD right now, you can't go wrong with it either, assuming you're into Necrophobic's chosen brand of music.

Track List:
1) Taste of Black
2) Dreams shall Flesh
3) Act of Rebellion
4) Shadowseeds
5) Mourningsoul
6) Helfire
7) Cult of Blood
8) Roots of Heldrasill
9) Blood Anthem
10) Among the Storms

Necrophobic is:
Tobias Sidegård - Vocals & bass
Sebastian Ramstedt - Lead guitar
Johan Bergebäck - Rhythm guitar
Joakim Sterner - Drums

Necrophobic - Official Site:

Hammerheart Records:

November’s Doom
To Welcome The Fade
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

“To Welcome The Fade” is the fourth full-length studio release from November’s Doom, the unsung veterans of America’s relatively small Gothic/Doom metal scene.   It has been a long, wearisome journey for founding member and lyricist Paul Kuhr, who has seemingly met with every possible obstacle – both within the band and the constant rotating line-up but his own personal experiences have threatened to slow him down. Thankfully for those of us who lie hypnotized by the sounds of emotion laden and atmospheric metal, the band has pressed on, receiving favourable critical attention and sincere praise with each successive release.  After the crushingly bleak and blissfully dark lamentations of their debut “Amid It’s Hallowed Mirth” (my personal favourite release from the band), November’s Doom has developed its own unique sound. Their densely layered and harmonic guitar sound instantly sets them apart from contemporaries. With this latest release, the band’s sound seems to have reached a pristine perfection - rich in melody, intensely personal and magnificently expressive.

Though the band is pure Doom in atmosphere and spirit, there are many bands currently active with a greater fidelity to harsher, colder funereal oppressiveness.  While certainly nowhere near the realms of reaching commercial success, the band’s latest collection of material is their most accessible yet, having the same progressive yet melodic qualities as Opeth, Katatonia, Dark Tranquility, and later My Dying Bride.   The band’s appeal will surely not be limited to fans of Doom alone, but the material comprising “To Welcome The Fade” stands alongside some of the greatest and authentic Gothic metal albums of the past decade.

“Not The Strong” forebears any lengthy, long winded album intros, and instead plunges right into the thick of things with a burst of snapping drums and sweeping guitar galloping, accompanied by intelligible death growls.  The song’s lyrics are sensitive, yet stripped of any flowery pretense.  They are straightforward testaments of vulnerability:

If only my mother knew the real me
Her heart would break, for I am shame
Not the strong man she raised from birth
A coward, a child, a scared soul.

The song marches along through a melodic dual guitar serenade before sinking into a groove-oriented Sabbath-esque jam. Finally, it tumbles back into the moody melancholic harmonies that characterize the chorus and leave the listener mesmerized.   “Broken” is also comprised of many rhythmic shifts, from the epic, shuffling crunch that starts the song to a slow watery guitar interlude that introduces the first clean male vocals on the disc, as well as the first appearance of female vocals.  The female vocals at first did not sit very well with me.  They weren’t the usual willowy, weak angelic whines that many metal bands employ, nor were they an attempt at grandiose operatic soprano work.  Though barren of the usual clichés, I at first found the vocals to be rather average, mid ranged alto vocals with nothing all that remarkable in character.  The overall techniques and style would be more at home on any given pop rock, or dare I say, contemporary country record.  Not what you would expect in a dark metal band, and at first they definitely seem painfully out of place.  It is not until you get to “The Spirit Seed” and especially the album’s outstanding highlight “Torn” that they begin to make sense.  But I jump ahead of my critique.

“Lost In A Day” continues along with cool shades of watery guitars and dense, fiery walls of heavy guitars.   “Within My Flesh” is the album’s ‘doomiest’ track, with a lush acoustic intro that bursts into a sluggish, heart wrenching crescendo of gargantuan guitars and pounding drums. Venomous vocals deliver more pensive lyrics:

My bride to comfort me when all seems lost
A kiss upon my brow to soften my suffering
She means so well I haven’t the heart to tell her
My smile was forced

My mother cries for me when no one will
Her words of compassion swell my eyes
‘It’s not fair this has happened to you
And I’d do anything to take away your pain.

“If Forever” is a lovelorn acoustic ballad, with a powerful clean vocal performance and warm enveloping choir synths to thicken the sound.   There is nothing remotely metal about the track, though a weighty and moving effort despite the absence of the band’s usual morose metallic arsenal. “The Spirit Seed” flows through various movements, funneling down from a thick heavy collage of guitars and striking vocal harmonies into a churning sea of acoustic and chorused electric guitar passages, and a more effective use of Nora O’Conner’s vocals.

But it is indeed “Torn” which stopped me dead in my tracks and riveted my attention from the first note to the final dissonant echo of power chords. A deceptive indie rock jangle opens the track before an encompassing swell of electric guitar arpeggios and deep drums break the silence for a sequence of multi-layered darkness.  The song sports three vocal styles, each representing a different ‘character’ – the female vocals sing of ‘life’ where predictably the guttural vocals represent ‘death.’  But in between is one of the sweetest and moving clean male vocal harmonies to represent ‘torn.’  As I had mentioned, the female vocals here finally shine, and the simplicity and ‘common’ realism that I at first disliked about them is exactly what makes them so poignant – the female figure is within reach, and attempts to calm the raging emotions of the song’s protagonist. She represents strength, healing, and caring, and the beauty of this is in the optimistic hint that such a blessing is attainable.   But the vocalist’s darker and ugly side is skeptical, afraid, and resisting in order to prevent himself from being hurt again.  And then there is the part of him that is ‘torn’ and yearns to be safe and finally begin the process of healing.  But his fear ultimately prevents him from being saved.  “It would take an eternity in Hell for my heart to rest in peace.”

Sure, you can read in to nearly any song, but few bands actually inspire their listeners to do so.  November’s Doom actually provide their listeners with enough noteworthy lines to read between.  For that, this band should surely be recognized – not to mention the fact that they provide such remarkably appropriate music to accompany the lyrics as they unfold.

“Dreams To Follow” is a brief solo piano interlude, paving the way for the murky guitar arpeggios that ring out mournfully at the onset of the album’s final track “Dark Fields Of Brilliance.”  The final track is tragically animated by a bittersweet mood, hinting simultaneously of hope and defeat. The female vocals float alongside the clean vocals, until the guttural vocals sever their partially formed bond.  The gloom builds for one final chilling and sonic climax of interweaving guitars and frigid synths, and then silence.  The listener is left in a state of deep musing, emotionally devastated yet musically and artistically enlightened.  You want more, and yearn for more, but are left hanging by the proverbial thread.

For all the nights I lie awake
And stare into the void
Just once I wish to grasp
Some glimmer of hope
Continuing to build on the majesty and grace that enriched their previous and masterfully hailed release “The Knowing,” “To Welcome The Fade” is a giant leap forward conceptually, musically, artistically, and lyrically for November’s Doom.   Though the album might be ‘light’ for extreme Doom purists, it is nevertheless an unquestionable triumph for the progress of the band.   This is a startlingly mature and well-written album that will enrich the collections of moody dark music fans the world over.  Highly recommended to not only fans of Doom and Gothic Metal, but to all bleeding heart Romantics, regardless of their usual musical interests.

Track List:
1.) Not The Strong
2.) Broken
3.) Lost In A Day
4.) Within My Flesh
5.) If Forever
6.) The Spirit Seed
7.) Torn
8.) The Lifeless Silhouette
9.) Dreams To Follow
10.) Dark Fields For Brilliance

November’s Doom is:
Paul Kuhr – vocals
Eric Burnley – guitar, keyboards
Larry Roberts – guitar
Joe Nunez – drums, percussion
Brian Gordon – bass
Nora O’Conner – female vocals
Neil Kernon – guitar solos on tracks 5 and 10

November’s Doom – Official Site:

November’s Doom – Mp3 Site:

Dark Symphonies Records:

The Order Of Azrael
The Book Of The Beginning Of The End Of Days (Advance promo)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

There's nothing like a short and snappy title, and 'The Book Of The Beginning Of The End Of Days' is, indeed, nothing like a short and snappy title. So who is this bizarrely wordy band, The Order Of Azrael? It's not easy to find out. The band have barely raised their heads above the parapet as yet, and their website, while extensive and well-designed, manages to be at the same time frustratingly short of basic information. I can only tell you that the band is based in the vague hinterland of near-London, they're a three-piece, they call themselves things like 'Watchman' and 'The Doctor', and the (short, inconclusive) biography on their website begins like this: 'An occult master and a high priest of technology meet in an inappropriate pub in Kent. A decision was made to start a band that would be something different. Something darker - much darker...'

Well. High concepts ahoy, obviously. This is a band with grand designs (literally - look at the artwork on their promo CD!) - but are they nothing more than a high-falutin' vanity-project? I mean, there's a special links-page on their website for fan sites, which is surely a touch of the Spinal Taps from a band who don't even have a fan *base* yet, let alone fan *sites*. Or do The Order Of Azrael actually function on a more prosaic level as a no-shit rock band? We shall play the CD and find out.

The opening track, 'Red Water', elbows its way into latter-day Killing Joke territory with a big, crunchy, guitar riff. There's a busy jingle of electronic highlights over the top, and a vocal which (intentionally?) seems to have been given a Rosetta Stone-ish treatment. Think 'Adrenaline' fighting it out with 'Millennium' and you won't be far off. The production is smooth, but perhaps a little over-compressed - when the band take it down to a kick-drum break, the sound is a little muted where I'd prefer it to...well, *kick*. Then again, I suspect this is a guitarist's band: the guitar is more to the fore than the rhythmic elements of the music, and that's always a dead giveaway.

'Seven Kings' opens with a vintage-goth drum machine flourish and one of those classic goth guitar parts which I didn't think anyone did any more. The vocals here are more of a croon - I get the impression the singer's being slightly careful, cautiously feeling his way around the lyrics, rather than just letting rip. His vocal also seems to have been multi-tracked for that 'monks in the cloisters' feel, which isn't necessarily the best option when you're trying to hold your own against a raging guitar. But as a slice of late-eighties goffick rock, this works. The band obviously have the style nailed down, to the point where I'd wager that this is where their musical hearts lie.

There's a little virtual (?) harpsichord interlude, and then '1563' takes us into folk-metal territory, with lyrics that speak of 'Mist in the fields' while the biggest guitar sound since Black Sabbath churns away. Again, the vocal effect is multi-tracked and thus curiously muted. I'd really like to hear this with *one* big voice, right up front, and a real drum kit hammering away behind everything. The drum machine sound - a less than explosive 'tchok-tchok-tchok' noise - is frustratingly weedy, up against the big, bad, wall-o-guitar. There's a take-no-prisoners rock anthem in here somewhere, but it needs a rock *band* and rock *production* to bring it out.

'Killing Time' sees The Order Of Azrael go a bit Rammstein, and in this case the drum machine sounds much more appropriate, in this fast-paced dance-floor friendly track. I'd still like to hear the kick-drum really stick the boot in, though. 'Tomb' is sombre and portentous, a slow-moving procession of a song, with lyrics that speak of 'No justice in the halls of men...' 'Deus Veneficus' remains in the same emotional zone: an introspective song which nevertheless picks up the beat a bit and even features a synthi-string section. It's the kind of thing that would probably sound like an awesome tower of rock 'n' roll - a veritable Orthanc, in fact - if it had a Jim Steinman production. The Order Of Azrael's self-produced sound can't scale such dizzy heights, alas, but you can see where they're trying to go.

And that's probably a good overall take on the album. The band are obviously trying to go for a *big* rock sound - sometimes with a bit of goth-influence, sometimes with a touch of contemporary industrial rock, and sometimes with a slab of Sabbath-style crunchy metal added to the mix. There's probably room on the rock scene for a band like this, because nobody's bringing together those influences in this way at present, but when you're going for a big sound, a large-scale, cinemascope production is really what's needed. The Order Of Azrael aren't quite there yet, but if they could convince a record label to stump up for a week in a half-decent studio with an experienced rock producer, I reckon they just might be on their way.

The tunestack:
Red Water
Seven Kings
Killing Time
Future Mourning
Deus Veneficus

The players:
Watchman: Vocals, Guitar, Programming
The Doctor: Vocals, bass, keyboards
Huxter: Guitar

The Order Of Azrael's website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Chuck Owston
Dead Roses: Songs Of A Dark Troubador
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Accounts of the Black Plague, murder ballads, medieval court songs, ancient mythology, tales of ghostly maidens and even a forlorn vampiric love song – what more could you want?  These and other sundry tales make up the lyrical imagery in the latest compilation of dark folk music by Pittsburgh’s wandering minstrel Chuck ‘Owl Stone’ Owston.   All local music scenes have their legends, and Chuck is surely one of the most active and internationally recognized musicians from Pittsburgh.  A longtime figure in not only the city’s Goth scene, but he is also a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, a noted supporter and performer of the Blues, a frequent organizer of local folk rock events and has performed at appeared and performed at various Renaissance Festivals over a bazillion times.

Chuck is a prolific musician, having been playing guitar, mandolin, cittern, and nearly any odd stringed instrument he can get his hands on for nearly forty years!   In addition to his musical endeavours, he has been the minister of Bryn Mawr Church of Christ in White Oak, PA for the past twenty years.  It may seem surprising that an active Christian would be drawn to such dark imagery and avidly support the Goth scene, but when you begin to think about the amount of macabre Christian imagery that is basically the very backbone of the music scene, it begins to make more sense.  Chuck himself says of his excellent and brooding take on the traditional English hymn “Down In The Forest”  -“The best Christian hymns should [have] dark, gothic imagery.”   He is an extremely open minded man, with a firm knowledge of history and mythology, a veritable Renaissance man for the modern age. His music has attracted the attention of such noted legends as Julianne Regan of All About Eve, and most recently, David Tibet of Current 93.  Tibet has purchased several of Chuck’s self-released CDs through his Dreaded Folk record label.

This latest CD compiles some of his most beloved originals and crowd-pleasing interpretations of traditional songs.   As well, it contains material from Hypnos, a project of Chuck’s dating back to the early 1990s and has a more traditional ethereal Goth rock approach.  “Dead Roses” and “Ruby Tears” finds Chuck’s usual acoustic guitar stylings plugged in, chorused, and flanged for a nice Cure-ish effect.  The majority of the material however will please most fans of apocalyptic folk and ethereal strains of Goth music.  Chuck’s voice bears a remarkable resemblance to Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus fame (funnily enough, Chuck hasn’t heard Sol Invictus until recently) and the music ranges from edgy galloping anthems to haunting melodic ballads.

Several female vocalists have helped Chuck along the way.  His daughters Stephanie and Mandy Owston contribute to his work on a number of tracks. Stephanie appears on the Jasper Nighthawk material, such as “The Lantern Bearer” which is also known as ‘one of the greatest hits of 1348 a.d.’ according to the disc’s amusing liner notes.  Mandy contributes penny whistle to the traditional Scottish ballad “Cruel Sister” and lead vocals on “The Trees Grow High.”   Kacey Sherrod joins Chuck for a rousing and driving rendition of the popular murder ballad “Polly Vaughn.”   Marie Alexander provides the vocals for the Hypnos tracks, sweetly shining on the classic number “She Moves Through The Fair” and Vonnie Holt delivers an exceptional performance on the track “Carcosa” which is based on a 19th century work called “The King In Yellow” by Robert W. Chambers.

While some songs are admittedly stronger than others, the discs highlights appear with “The Bloody Crow,” a dramatic minor-keyed live favourite which is an ode to Morrigan, the Irish goddess of war, who took the form of a crow and sailed above the battlefields, scouring for prey.  “Willy O’ Windsbury” is a moody, bittersweet track characterized by twanging mandolin and Chuck’s most disciplined vocal performance on the whole disc.  “Two Ravens” stands out with its layers of mournful vocal chants and a hypnotic drone that ominously haunts the entire track – the song recalls some of Current 93’s middle years on the “Christ & The Pale Queens” and “Crooked Crosses for The Nodding God” albums.   And speaking of ‘pale queens,’ Chuck’s original track “Three Pale Queens” which is inspired by the death of King Arthur, is probably my favourite song he has ever done.  This version has a strong synthetic drum track and lulling bass line at its heart, with sharply strummed acoustic guitar passages drenched in ghostly reverb.  The somber male/vocal duet gives the song an even stronger sense of dark Romanticism that is finalized by an instrumental break of gloomy pipe organ and sinister flutes to enrich the atmosphere. “Dirge” is another of Chuck’s fantastic originals, though it is so steeped in the code of the ancients that it could easily be mistaken as the work of a traditional Renaissance minstrel.

Though not Chuck’s best work, his two tracks “The Darkest of The Angels” and “The Lazarus Man” are noteworthy for their stylistic variations.  Both are driving rock-based songs, affectionately in tribute of Fields Of The Nephilim. (Chuck’s nickname at the Goth clubs is fittingly ‘the preacher man’)  These tracks fall short primarily for the unconvincing synthetic drum parts, and a slightly muddy sound.  But it’s easy to envision how the songs could sound backed by a full live band, which undoubtedly Chuck will get to one of these days.   And they illustrate the variety of Chuck’s influences and abilities.

At any rate, Dead Roses is a prime collection of this local musician’s best work.  I highly recommended it to readers that have a passion for the Medieval and Renaissance, fans of Lorenna McKennit, Dead Can Dance, and especially those that enjoy the purely folk music of Sol Invictus, Current 93, and Death In June.  While not quite at the professional calibre of those aforementioned bands, Chuck’s philosophy is in the spirit of true DIY independent and underground music.  The quality of the songs speaks louder than anything else, and the passion behind them is what shines through.  The production of this CD varies, but most of it is far above mere demo status. One of Pittsburgh’s most prized exports, it’s definitely worth checking out – David Tibet thought so!

Track List: (Band in parenthesis)
1.) Dead Roses (December’s Darkness)
2.) The Lantern Bearer (Jasper Nighthawk)
3.) Cruel Sister (Briar Rose)
4.) She Walks The Night (Hypnos)
5.) The Moon Shines Bright (Jasper Nighthawk)
6.) Willy O’ Windsbury (Owl Stone)
7.) Carcosa (Grieving Maiden)
8.) The Bloody Crow (Hypnos)
9.) Two Ravens (Owl Stone)
10.) Three Pale Queens (Jasper Nighthawk)
11.) Ruby Tears (Hypnos)
12.) Polly Vaughn (Scarlet)
13.) The Darkest of the Angels (Owl Stone)
14.) Dirge (Hypnos)
15.) Down In The Forest (Owl Stone)
16.) She Moves Through The Fair (Hypnos)
17.) The Trees They Grow High (Briar Rose)
18.) The Lazarus Man (Owl Stone)

Chuck Owston – Official information:


~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Having always been a bit of a mystery, this band was totally new to me, and having been knocked sideways by this I just hope Andrea and Michael won’t be going AWOL for another decade before the next record. On this showing they could easily have most of the worldwide Goth audience drooling at their feet.

The irony is that some people who don’t remember the 80’s with any clarity might listen to this and see it seething with S*s*e*s guitar, not realising what a grubby band they were until the German emphasis fell over E*d*i*c*, and if you really want to understand this fantastic record, and why the band have such quiet energy, you need to track down some Belfegore. The 80’s had bands who let the guitar rule the song, by letting it set the melodic trail that everything else would follow, just as in the 90’s the guitar merely established a sense of place.

‘Berenice’ which starts it off is a romp of crisp keyboards and chopping riffs, where the rhythms set their stall out early by being so damn snappy, and the vocals are big and sleek so absence hasn’t dimmed their confidence at all. ‘Darkened Skies’ is a tantalising, skipping ride that seems empty, but that’s the trick. They radiate seductive power throughout the album to draw you into enclosed spaces then spin you till your head pops. They have their darker moodiness, as ‘My Sweetest Return’ proves, and commercial sensitivity in ‘Your Coldest Smile’ with a slow trickled chorus, and with that and ‘Oceans’ they show they aren’t always modern because both move close to the slipstream of melodic Goth, like a softer Love Like Blood. I’m also sure a cover of Laura Branigan’s ‘Self Control’ must have made sense to them at some point, and it has that woozy Europop beat that makes it whip past neatly. It works, without seemingly doing anything, just as ‘get faster’ is a playful exercise in pop drama, which reminded me of Art Of Noise gone rocky.

It ends fairly sleepily, as ’Sacrifice’ could be overwrought filler, and the stealthy, sultry ‘Waiting For You’ just gently tapers off into nothingness, but by then you’re already hooked. ‘Dawn Of Life’ is a beautifully sad embrace, on an album which stills the beating heart and lets your emotive side bounce freely, and the real mind-squeeze comes with ‘Dunes’, a slow stroll with vocal dominance on a desolate tune, the vocals gliding over the bass, melody intertwined.

In a word, magnificent.

1. Berenice
2. Into The Ice
3. My Sweetest Return
4. Your Coldest Smile
5. Oceans
6. Self Control
7. Darkened Skies
8. Dawn Of Life
9. Dunes
10. Get Faster, Reach Devil
11. Sacrifice
12. Waiting For You (American label) (UK distributors)

Paralysed Age
Into The Ice
~reviewed by Matthew

Don’t let the cheesy Nordic metal cover art deceive you – this album is to be filed somewhere in the midst of Nosferatu, The Damned, and Two Witches at their most focused and masterful.  Germany’s Paralysed Age is one of the few traditional organic Gothic Rock bands left that has the potential to flourish.  Led by deep male vocals (riddled with an oh so appropriate foreign accent for that extra vampiric cred), Paralysed Age rely on light yet resonant power chord crunches, thick bass lines, admittedly flat yet suitable female vocal accompaniments, and rock based drum programs.  The songs are catchy and rich with memorable choruses and pop hooks, and the entire package is enhanced by a warm and dense production.

Inspired by the classic Edgar Allan Poe chiller, “Berenice” kicks the CD off on a soaring and incredibly infections note.  Already test driven for a few months on the dance floors here in Pittsburgh, the song is a bonafide club hit and has been appearing on playlists of DJs in the know all across the country.   The song has nearly everything a Goth Rocker could want – though upbeat and poppy, it is enriched by a mischievous decadence and has a kind of dark splendour that hasn’t been tapped since perhaps the Sisters or Rosetta Stone.   “Berenice” is a fantastic track that needs to be heard and played repeatedly.    The album’s title track, though offering a more delayed gratification, eventually weasels its way into the conscious and will remain there for a considerable time.  A late blooming track that I liked but grew to love after consecutive listens.  “My Sweetest Return” is a dark, plodding track, which features the talents of record label mate Rachel McDonnell of The Crüxshadows.  Minor keyed synths stab jaggedly as the willowy violin drifts above the foggy gloom, before angular power chord crunching appears alongside Michael’s macabre crooning and chilling whispers.

“Your Coldest Smile” is a beautifully melancholic track, with strong bass lines rumbling throughout, overdriven guitar chords panning from speaker to speaker, and ghostly synths seeping in, gray and foreboding.  In some ways, I am reminded of early Xymox when absorbing the antiquated icy charm of the song.  The absolute magnificence of “Ocean,” the album’s masterpiece, appears fifth on the disc.  The first time I heard this song, I knew it was one of the best Goth Rock tracks I have heard in years.  Anthematic and peppy yet awash with a gorgeous sensual gloom, it reminds me of what Big Electric Cat could have been.  The fantastic overdriven, jangling guitars sweep above the dense orchestral landscapes with grace and finesse, and the vocal melody is sung in earnest and with a lovelorn moodiness.  A climactic interlude (the guitar work recalling The Damned’s recent work) is accentuated by bellowing, pleading vocals and an epic instrumental passage – a wonderful reminder of Gothic Rock’s enduring emotional power.

The sincerity and intensity of “Ocean” gives way to a playful cover of “Self Control,” an 80’s pop track originally recorded by Laura Branigan.  Another track that has received some successful club play, and sparked the amusement and nostalgia of elder Goths and baby bats that had their ears tuned to FM radio when they were growing up.  A fun and creative cover, that perfectly translates into the band’s concept.

“Darkened Skies” is a return to the successful formula of mid paced, subtlety synthetic structures while “Dawn Of Life” is a more melodic ballad that though a decent track, lacks the strength of early songs.  “Dunes” is another slower track, somewhat reminiscent of Ikon, though with more effective reverberated washes of processed guitars.  “Get Faster, Reach Devil” is perplexing in it’s lyrical meaning, but it is a return to more upbeat pastures.  However, it is ultimately a weaker track that lacks the punch and sincerity of “Berenice” and “Ocean.”   The final two tracks fail to provide any grandiose or climactic finale, and the album ends on a rather mediocre point, but that is not to say that the album leaves the listener feeling dissatisfied.

While Paralysed Age places their greatest treasures and shiniest gems on the first half of the disc, the album itself is an impressive feat, and well worth investigation for fans of guitar driven Gothic Rock, as there are several tracks that rank alongside the greatest anthems of Goth’s second wave in the 1990’s.  Get in touch with Dancing Ferret discs and pick this up without hesitation.

Track List:
1.) Berenice
2.) Into The Ice
3.) My Sweetest Return
4.) Your Coldest Smile
5.) Ocean
6.) Self Control
7.) Darkened Skies
8.) Dawn Of Life
9.) Dunes
10.) Get Faster, Reach Devil
11.) Sacrifice
12.) Waiting For You

Paralysed Age is:
Michael – vocals, guitars, bass, keys, programming
Andrea – bass, keys, vocals

Paralysed Age – Official Site:

Dancing Ferret Discs:

Paralysed Age
Into The Ice
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

For those who still contend that there isn’t any good Goth left, one must simply point them to this release from Dancing Ferret Discs.

Paralysed Age rose like a phoenix from the ashes when Patrick Rodgers put some of their earlier work on the Empire Of The Vampire CD for the US market. Needless to say, the floor packing status of their track “Bloodsucker” need not be repeated. After reading their interview on the Albion-Batcave page ( it seems like they were almost ready to disappear into the history of bands who “could have been.”  Thankfully, fate intervened to keep them with us just that much longer.

After a lengthy wait for a follow-up release, “Into The Ice” arrived in the mail and it’s among the few that I really don’t want to take out of my stereo. Alas, reviews must be done and we reviewers don’t have the luxury of lingering too long on a particular CD.

The opening track “Berenice” launches into an old school Goth rock tune that simply made the stereo jump with energy.  There can be no mistaking that this will become a club favorite before long

“Into the Ice” added a bit more of the macabre elements and seemed to reflect a bit of the cold barren landscape as seen on the cover artwork. Again, we have an old school goth rock track with a touch of New Wave elements that don’t come across as dated in the least.

“My Sweetest Return” has a bit more electronic morose weavings between orchestrations that take on a classical and a Middle Eastern tone. The track brings in some crunchy guitars while adding a metaphoric lyrical content. Rachel McDonnell of The Cruxshadows contributes violin to this song. McDonnell’s celebrity as a violinist is becoming quite large as well, simply because one can identify her style without having to look at the liner credits. Adding her talent elevated this track quite well.

“Your Coldest Smile” has an intro that is akin to a horror film. This flows and segues rather nicely with old school bouncy type goth circa the early The Mission UK days.  This is among the bevy of songs with some of the more heartbreaking lyrics that are infused around infectious grooves.

“Ocean” opens with ocean waves crashing to shore, which is then momentarily heralded by an angelic choir. This immediately segues into yet another goth rock dance cut, delivering sentiments of love and disillusionment do to moody transitions that are as unpredictable as the waves.

“Self Control” is a cover of the Laura Brannigan hit back in the 80’s. Laugh if you want, however the lyrics are perfect for a Goth cover and one has to be amazed it took this long for someone to figure it out. When the song was first recorded by Brannigan, she was adamant about having William Friedkin of The Exorcist fame film the video. She wanted to convey the dark essence of the nighttime and considering the type of music available and marketed by the major labels, this was a rather risky venture for her, especially since it predated Michael Jackson’s
“Thriller” by a couple of years.  At long last, this track has been delivered to the hands of goth where it has been given the appropriate treatment that the lyrics called for in the first place.

“Darkened Skies” is the track that is currently getting a bit of NYC rotation. There are veiled lyrical images incorporated into the song without actually coming right out and saying anything about vampires. Considering the separation between the goth and vampire scenes that abounds at times, one can’t help but have a secret glee that this track is somewhat helping to bridge that gap.

“Dawn of Life” is a dark love song that also incorporates a bit of cynical questioning. It isn’t as pumping as the other tracks but still retains a mid-tempo beat that would start off an evening without a hitch.

“Dunes” starts as a very understated shoe-gaze style track with reverbed vocals fully upfront.  The song doesn’t pick up too much of a pace until close to 2 minutes into the track, which by that time should have drawn you in with the almost hypnotic delivery.

“Get Faster, Reach Devil” reaches back into the bag of macabre elements with a nod to the very early goth days when punk/goth were merging. Also added to the hybrid is the middle era of the goth music with the pumping elements of Sisters, Fields of Nephilim, etc. Listen closely though, because this track brilliantly mixes with their previous hit, “Bloodsucker.”

“Sacrifice” is written in such a way that one could extrapolate a variety of meanings with the lyrics. On one hand it could almost be called a love song to a vampire master, yet it could also be interpreted as an homage of religious import or even a song dedicated to one’s fetish.

“Waiting For You” is an unrequited love song that is not lacking in melancholy and morbid atmospherics.

Paralysed Age made the wait worthwhile. For those longing for old school Goth rock with influences of the early bands of the scene, such as The Killing Joke, then this is the CD for you. Many of these tracks were designed for club rotation, so there is no limit to the longevity that this particular CD will have.

Some may contend that there isn’t anything “new” here in terms of Goth styling because of all the influential band sounds incorporated into the work. However there remains a large body of fans that long for the earlier sounds that we grew to love from some of the forebears within the scene. Granted there is a nod to such bands as Sisters of Mercy et. al, but that doesn’t preclude this release from being bad in any sense. Instead, they worked with the styles that were classic, added interesting lyrics and pumped the arteries of the Goth world with new blood that has been slowly drained due to the large influx of “disco goth” that abounds these days.

The work isn’t as heavy as the death metal music making its way back into the underground, it isn’t synthpoppy enough to be commercial, isn’t new wavish enough to classify them as MTV clones, so essentially, Paralysed  Age got it “just right!”

1. Berenice
2. Into The Ice
3. My Sweetest Return
4. Your Coldest Smile
5. Ocean
6. Self Control
7. Darkened Skies
8. Dawn of Life
9. Dunes
10. Get Faster, Reach Devil
11. Sacrifice
12. Waiting For You

Available at

Paralysed Age
Into The Ice
~reviewed by Blu

There always has to be a dissenter doesn't there? Well, in this case it's me. Obviously I might be in the minority in regards to this CD as my colleagues all like it, but I do not. Not one bit. And I *wanted* to like it. I *wanted* another good solid goth rock band to put on a pedestal... but alas, this will not be the one. First off, and although this has NOTHING to do with the music; I hated the cover picture. Its cartoonish depiction of a disproportionate woman reminded me of the cheesy metal bands I hate. There's so many good artists out there in our scene, surely something better could have been done? That's minor though - so moving along...

The opening track "Bernice" is sickly poppish and as cartoonish as the cover. The guitar riffs are your standard rock guitar work with nothing exciting or intricate about it. Its simplicity reminds of hair metal bands like Motely Crue (ug). And while I'm usually such a sucker for non-American accents, his heavily accented "singing" comes off well  -- cheesy. Its like all the worst Dracula jokes rolled into one. And perhaps its not the accent per se, but the *way* its delivered. It's not sung, but rather casually spoken instead. Infact, there's not an awful lot of real singing in this CD. All the lyrics are delivered rather unemotionally in a straight speaking voice that at most gets sing songy in places. By god if you're going to give us goth rock, I want it wrenched from your gut. I want heart ache or longing or pain or in the very least some sex appeal. The 69 Eyes are a great contrasting example whose singer croons and ooo's and ahh's and puts some feeling into it.

Track 2,  "Into the Ice," seems like such a S.O.M. rip off that I cannot take it seriously right down to the backing female vocals. During the chorus you can actually start singing "Temple of Love" and it works and as much as I hate S.O.M. because of Andrew's attitude, S.O.M. IS better. It at least had teeth and Andrew's voice was gritty and attached... this is just... not.

"My Sweetest Return" is a perfect example of how a drum machine simply cannot replace a real live drummer. No matter how intricate you try to make those beats sound - they come off plastic and fake. Although I get the feeling they tried to be dramatic with this song  - there's no soul in it, no life. Rachel McDonnell of The Cruxshadows makes a guest appearance on this track but even her excellent violin playing cannot save it from mediocrity.

Vocalist/guitarist Michael tries to sing a bit more on the chorus of "Your Coldest Smile" and it just does not work. He cannot push those phrases out forcefully enough to be convincing. It sounds like he's really straining to hit the notes on the chorus.  Lyrically, its standard goth clichés that do not seem sincere but rather used for effect and imagery alone:

I feel you but the days are nights
like in mysterious dreams
with landscapes of cold
and what ever I do
darkness lies around
like a shadow at my side
a devil in my soul

The rest of the CD is more of the same with the slight exception of "Dawn of Life" which seems to take a bit of a departure from their usual guitar stylings (the singing though is weak almost as if he's out of his range). The rest is more simplistic Sister-ish guitar lines, more unemotional singing, more trivial goth lyrics. Their cover of "Self Control" isn't innovative or different. If you're going to do a cover of a popular song, especially an 80's pop song, at least make something new of it... don't just re-hash the same thing over again with the same tempo, melody and feel. What's the point?  "Dune" seems as though its trying to do a Fields of Nephilim thing but the spoken vocals just do not work. They build you up and go no where.  I've listened to this CD several times hoping that something would strike me favorably along the way but truth is, I have a hard time letting it play to the end. I get bored or annoyed.  I come away knowing nothing about Paralysed Age - nothing about them personally nor do I have any idea what they're into as a band. I guess I want something more personal.  It seems insincere and contrived. It seems like they're trying too hard to live up to some goth ideal. They need to stop thinking about what goth bands sound like and decided what THEY shound like.  I think they have potential if they'd drop all that silliness and I'd challenge them to dig deeper and to get more personal. Don't write about the ice age and fill it with cliched goth poetry; write from what you know. Give us some gritty real-life guts and honestly. It probably wouldn't hurt rounding up a full band too... no matter how you slice it, two musicians cannot compete with a full band sound.

Track List:
1.) Berenice
2.) Into The Ice
3.) My Sweetest Return
4.) Your Coldest Smile
5.) Ocean
6.) Self Control
7.) Darkened Skies
8.) Dawn Of Life
9.) Dunes
10.) Get Faster, Reach Devil
11.) Sacrifice
12.) Waiting For You

Paralysed Age is:
Michael – vocals, guitars, bass, keys, programming
Andrea – bass, keys, vocals

Paralysed Age – Official Site:

Dancing Ferret Discs:

Pissing Razors
Live in the Devil's Triangle
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

If I'm going to listen to unoriginal metal, it better kick some ass. I get all too many non ass-kicking promos that offer no originality, but more importantly, they lack vigor and conviction. Pissing Razors is full of intense energy, and if I ever see the rowdy Texans live I'm going to steer clear of the pit. Pissing Razors play the kind of music that's designed to stir up some violent moshing.

The band attacks their listeners with very aggressive and harsh rhythmic assaults. Eddy Garcia's drumming is the highlight of the live performance, as his tight rhythms and well-placed timing changes are the backbone of the music. Cesar Soto fills out the sound with some really harsh and choppy guitar, throwing in some excellent grooves and metal rhythms guaranteed to get a crowd rockin'. The combination of Rick Valles' bass playing and Garcia's drumming more than compensate for the absence of a rhythm guitarist when Soto decides to break out with a solo.

Andre Acosta completes the four piece with some genuinely pissed off vocals. He doesn't go out of his way to do anything too varied or exciting for the most part, but he's got a good metal voice and knows when to throw in a (fairly) clean singing line to add some spice. I'd say he's in a bit of a rough spot to begin with though, as he's Pissing Razor's brand new vocalist and was stuck debuting live with the band's old material. His performance is convincing enough that I can see him adding his own touches on further releases and really expanding the band's sound.

It's worth pointing out that I actually knew nothing about Pissing Razors before hearing this live performance, and I haven't heard any of their studio releases. Based on the song selection I think it'd be fairly safe to say that they aren't going to be heralded as metal's kings of variation, but they know how to throw in enough changes and grooves to stay entertaining for the whole performance. It's a fair estimate that if you like this style, their studio albums are at least equally worthwhile.

I'm particularly impressed with the production on the album, as it strikes a near perfect balance between a raw live feel and a clearer studio approach. I'm always irked by the lack of attention drums are given on live releases, and I'd probably be slamming Live in the Devil's Triangle if Garcia's awesome drumming received the usual treatment. As it turns out, the only instrument obscured in the production is the bass. It isn't entirely buried, but it mostly fills out the sound instead of taking a real presence.

Pissing Razors reminds me a good deal of really aggressive thrash in the Slayer style, but more modern and powerful sounding. The almost hardcore influence on the sound gives the songs fairly stylish rhythms and dynamics, in a way that is similar to God Forbid. At the end of the day, you may ask, is Pissing Razors really necessary? In one regard, the answer is no. They aren't a groundbreaking band and it's hard to tell now whether or not Live in the Devil's Triangle will have the same lasting appeal of a record like God Forbid's Determination. But on the other hand, I can foresee making an effort to pull this CD out of my massive promo pile even a year or two from now. What Pissing Razors lack in originality they fully compensate for with earnest conviction, well crafted songs, and heaps of metal energy. If you get into this kind of thrashy and energy driven metal, you really ought to give Pissing Razors a listen.

Track List:
1) Between Heaven & Hell
2) Burning Bridges
3) Fork Tongue
4) Three
5) Vengeance is Mine
6) Justice Denied
7) Cursed
8) Survival of Time
9) Cast Down The Plague
10) Desperado
11) Season to Die
12) Tortured
13) Dodging Bullets
14) Forever
15) Mass Corruption
16) World of Deceit

Pissing Razors is:
Eddy Garcia - drums
Rick Valles - bass
Cesar Soto - guitar
Andre Acosta - vocals

Pissing Razors - Official Site:

Spitfire Records:

Storm Before Calm
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

I fell in love with this band the moment I first heard them almost two years ago.  However, betraying whatever coolness I may have amassed in the past few years, I completely suck because I never got up off my lazy ass to fork over the cash for any of the band’s releases.  A friend invited me over to chill and drink tea, and he played their record “Spirit The Earth Aflame” for me and I was blown away.  But lo and behold, it wasn’t until the kind folks at Manic Music serviced me a copy of their latest release, that I could thoroughly immerse myself in the band’s sublime dark metal excellence. Over and over again I listened to this release, and I do not suspect my obsession will be dwindling in the foreseeable future.

“Storm Before Calm” is an astounding release that emits an almost blinding aura of quality.  The music of Primordial is frighteningly powerful, grandiose, and utterly transcendent.  Hailing from Ireland, their lyrics and conceptual imagery is rich with Celtic mythology, enthralling mysticism, and convincing references to the noble codes of the mediaeval warrior.  Their music can charge along to invoke a storm of breathtaking assault but also calms to present deeply affecting, pensive passages that highlight the fear and despair that encompasses the moments before and after battle.

Primordial’s contribution to the world of melodic Black Metal is one that I stress should not be overlooked.  They make it all seem exciting and novel again.  Their approach is mature, progressive, enthusiastic, and intensely emotional.  Even the fastest and most aggressive parts are infused with a hypnotic beauty that not only tugs at the strings of the heart but also quickens the pulse into throbbing, euphoric overdrive.  The listener is hard pressed to resist the band’s majesty and not be carried along into their misty gray world.   Nemtheanga’s voice provides the final pinch of pain and suffering to the near overwhelming grandeur of the driving anthematic music.   From a soaring venomous rasp to his frequently employed near guttural groans make for an honest, genuine expression of primal passion.  Some vocal purists might wince at  Nemtheanga’s regular tendency to slip out of key, but for whatever reason, it works and has the same profoundly distressed effect that worked so well for the early Anathema releases (both the Darren White period and when Vince Cavanagh first approached the mic on “The Silent Enigma”)  The emotion is raw and riddled with a convincing anguish, rather than the blind manufactured rage that seems to fuel most aggressive metal vocalists. There is vulnerability here, as opposed to inflated machismo.

Though Primordial is by no means a simple band, they do not bother with virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake.  Their music is genuine, precise, progressive, and terrifying in its grandeur.  It is the importance and coherence of atmosphere that shapes how the music is structured and what is necessary to make the songs strong and memorable, and what brings them to life.   The Black Metal aspects come straight from the early old school days of the genre’s infancy, but are filtered and cleaned up to present a crisp, clear production (I might suggest a comparison to the guitar stylings Opeth and Katatonia in a frenzied, manic state or perhaps Burzum with melody). Basically, they make Black Metal listenable, while remaining faithful to the necessary aggression and confrontational elements that are part and parcel to the purest examples of the genre.

I cannot say enough good things about this release.  I decided to avoid highlighting the strengths of individual tracks, simply because “Storm Before Calm” is comprised of seven tightly structured songs that work in unison to present a complete continuous work. It is best to be absorbed as a whole and I hope that fans of elite, high quality dark metal music of all kinds do not wait as long as I did to begin a relationship with this indisputably talented band.   Metal fans would be wise to purchase this release immediately!

Track List:
1.) The Heretic’s Age
2.) Fallen To Ruin
3.) Cast To The Pyre
4.) Suns First Rays
5.) What Sleeps Within
6.) Sons Of The Morrigan
7.) Hosting Of The Sidhe

Primordial is:
A.A. Nemtheanga – vocals
Ciardrin MacUillian – guitars, bodhrain
Simon O’Laoghaire – drums
Pol MacAmlaigh – bass

Primordial – Official Site:

Hammerheart Records:

Dissonance is Bliss
~reviewed by Brian Riggs

A modestly composed CD-R in a white sleeve accompanied by an equally modest press release heralds the arrival of Proteus to my desk, a revolving door of electronic musicians based out of ‘the high desert of southern california’ (hmm), but typically comprised of the duo Jason McCormack and Joe Pagano.

Described as defying categorization, I am forced to disagree. This is quite obviously another entry in the long list of bands who share a sound popularized in the late eighties by Skinny Puppy, Front 242, and their romantically challenged American equivalent and labelmate (in the WaxTrax! years, at least *sniffle*) Trent Reznor, and his accompanying Nine Inch Nails.  The genre would come to be coined as EBM, today a term used both derisively and favourably in equal measure. The latter half of the 90’s saw an incredible rise in the popularity of this kind of dissonant, distorted, highly rhythmic and almost entirely computerized MO, which naturally led to a rash of soundalikes receiving major label attention.

This is a decidedly raw recording entirely in keeping with the tradition of latter-day EBM groups, at times even shamefully stepping on the toes of Ohgr and co. with an near identical vocal delivery and a similar palette of bleeps and boops.  I have nothing against this band, a look at their website reveals that it is a group of emotionally distraught young gentlemen who sing songs about tumultuous relationships in the vein of early 90’s gothic/industrial.  If that’s your thing, wonderful. Visit their website, it’s very informative and has lots of nice pictures. Actually, they are at times successful in attaining a truly ominous and transporting mood, as in track 7, but the beat and melody are far too simple for 5:51 of repetition. Ironically, it is this statement which serves to sum up the album; the band does have a degree of talent and they do come up with some interesting soundscapes, but the songs drag on and give the listener the unmistakable feeling he’s heard the tune and voice before.  The production does not stand up well to scrutiny either, the whole experience has sort of a tinny, 8-bit quality to it (although doubtless they will take this as a compliment, they claim to be influenced by video game noises), and the rhythms never really compel the listener to any kind of motion.

What else can I say about this band? The press release proudly states that they have opened for the likes of Hate Dept. and Thrill Kill Kult in the past; but unfortunately that’s pretty much what they sound like: The band that opens for Thrill Kill Kult and Hate Dept. Perhaps in a few years when they’ve managed to ferment a sound of their own or realized that they weren’t really intent on making serious music to begin with will I be interesting in hearing another Proteus recording, but probably not before then.

1. Set Me Free
2. God Tonight
3. The One
4. I Will Find You
5. Dreams
6. Perfect Whore
7. Disillusioned
8. The Journey
9. Q.D.L.E.M.
10. Way of the Proteus
11. I Will Find You (303)

Joe Pagano
Bruce Miller
Jason Smith
Jason McCormack


Random Touch
hammering on moonlight
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

If you'd like to skip to the bottom of the page momentarily, you'll notice a rather long instrument list accompanying the names of Random Touch's members. In fact, I'm certain it's the longest listing of instruments I've ever typed out for a review. This ambitious set of instruments shows that Random Touch means business. The nice thing about experimental bands, such as Random Touch, is that they're able to think up all kinds of noises and set out to create them - with virtually no inhibitions. The downside to listening to the sounds they generate is that when Random Touch wants you to feel discomfort, they don't allude to discomfort or sing about the terrible torment they've endured. Instead, they make you physically uncomfortable with unusual dissonance, and particularly with the odd and nigh-unenjoyable vocal performances.

As you can imagine, this creates a bit of a dilemma for a reviewer such as myself. If you're faced with the option of listening to a man sing about his pain, or allowing him to tie you to a chair and poke you with pointy sticks, which are you going to find most pleasant? For all but the most masochistic among us, listening to someone sing is the best choice. But admittedly, the man with the pointy sticks can more fully get his point across (no pun intended).

Now before you run away in fear, let's take a closer look at Random Touch's unusually expressive and alternately demanding work: hammering on moonlight. "Wall to Wall Shadows" is a most bizarre composition centered around the ramblings of a quite possibly high or insane individual. The man is talking about how he wished to fly a dynamite-filled plane into a water tower. On the surface, the suicidal monologue is a bit childish and silly. Further lyrical analysis doesn't reveal any kind of poetic depth - but I'm thinking that's not the point. Listening to the song, lyrics included, gives you a good sense of just how the narrator feels. Listen to the song long enough and you won't have to get high before you'll soon start having your own psychotic thoughts. In no time you'll be contemplating the meaning of cheese.

Similarly, "The Deepness of Things" has a lethargic deep-voiced man proclaiming "People say I'm slow / Like I ain't smart." His monologue becomes a bit tiresome to listen to, but is another instance of Random Touch's focus on form in content - the way they present the message becomes the message itself.

However, the odd monologues don't dominate hammering on moonlight. Quite to the contrary, there are several interesting forays into ambient jazz that set distressing and uneasy moods. Listening to the more jazz-influenced Random Touch songs inspired me to imagine a little scenario. I'm running around a field at night, staying clear of water towers and maniacs with Cessna planes, and I stumble across a steel hatch in the middle of the field. Since my interest in deer and dried weeds had begun to wane, I step in and find an underground jazz club with Random Touch on stage and several demented jazz fans occupying the rest of the room. Whether they were demented before they went in is naturally arguable - but in any case, a change in musical outlook is necessary to really enjoy Random Touch's warped adaptation of jazz. To put it as best I can, Random Touch creates the night-club atmosphere with rapid cymbal hits and fast moving bass lines, but then adds various dissonant and unexpected sounds on top.

...maybe it's best to leave things at "experimental." Experimental fans, and fans of augmented forms of jazz, take heed, because Random Touch's hammering on moonlight is a release you need to check out. I have a hard time recommending this to general music fans because of the listening difficulty. However, if you want to be drawn into the minds of some potentially deranged individuals, and if you want to really *feel* their reality, then don't hesitate to listen to Random Touch. They are a creative group, and if it weren't for the anxiety they instigate in me, I'd give their work a heartier recommendation. Nevertheless, if you dig experimental and challenging music, visit Random Touch at their ultra-swank web page:

Track List:
1) Crazy in Blue
2) Drunken Parade
3) Metallic Atoms in a Cloud of Gas
4) Wall to Wall Shadows
5) Getting Your Way
6) The Deepness of Things
7) Hammering on Moonlight
8) Sounds Like Fun
9) Moonlight in My Veins
10) What Do You Mean When You Wonder?
11) Fat Daddy-O

Random Touch is:
Christopher Brown - DW drumset, vocals, Zendrum/Kurzweil K2500rs,
miscellaneous percussion and processors, Pro Tools 24 Mix Plus and
"ready-made" instruments
James Day - Alesis QS8, K2500rs, Kurzweil K2500 and "ready-made" instruments
Joe Zymonas - Chapman Stick, Kurzweil K2000, Zeta Electric Upright Bass,
Roland V-drums

Random Touch - Official Site:

Velvet Noise
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

And the winner for worst new band name of 2002 is... Raunchy! Yes, there's no escaping the fact that Raunchy is one awful name for a group. The press release even implores listeners to "Tear down the boundaries of names..." Also on the press release was a comparison to popular nu-metal act Linkin Park. The name Raunchy and the nu-metal comparison was almost enough make me detest this CD on the basis of aesthetic alone. Further listens haven't captivated me to any great extent, but Raunchy is a decent debut that's getting a lot of good attention right now.

I think the first question on wary metal listener's minds might be whether or not Raunchy is metal in ye olde tradition, or metal in the nu fashion. The answer is slightly mixed. Although Lars Vognstrup sometimes veers into the realm of "I'm so crazy" ranting (without nu-metal's lyrics, though), and despite the fact that some of the catchy choruses feel very nu-metal in spirit... I wouldn't label Raunchy nu-metal. They have more in common with older Machinehead, Fear Factory, and even Strapping Young Lad.

The music is based on fairly choppy, repetitive rhythms that gives Velvet Noise a mechanical edge. The vocals aptly cover extreme metal, nu-metal, and even pop rock-ish clean singing. The instrumentation is what mostly earns Raunchy the label of metal. The drums and riffing give the music a kind of thrashy edge in spots, and also provide the framework for a modern sound.

That being said, I still can't get too into Raunchy. Debuts tend to inspire mixed feelings, and Velvet Noise is one such debut. I could see Raunchy getting really creative and exceptional on their next release, or taking the easy route and heading for the MTV rock sound of the moment. For the time being, they've given us a release that does have a distinct sound is being quite well received by metal listeners. I'd encourage fans of older Fear Factory to give Raunchy a listen.

I'm not sure if the Strapping Young Lad comparison holds up quite so well. Devin Townsend has got two things going for him that Raunchy don't - immense creativity, and actual psychosis. When Devin Townsend gets pissed off, it's impossible not to be moved by the torrents of anger swirling around him as he rages painfully into his microphone. I don't think that Raunchy have nearly the same compulsion to pour their feeling onto a recording, and indeed, the press release even says they started out with "no higher goal than to combat boredom."

If you're more open to certain elements of nu-metal than I am or you just enjoy hip and fun metal CDs that shouldn't be taken too seriously, then it's worth your time to check out Raunchy. I think that for the rest of us, they lack thatspecial spark that elevated bands like Strapping Young Lad to new artistic heights. But hey, maybe I'm just jaded.

Track List:
1) Twelve Feet Tall
2) Bleeding
3) Drive
4) Tonight
5) Leech
6) My Game
7) Crack of Dawn
8) Out of Sight
9) This is Not an Exit
10) Never Be

Raunchy is:
Lars Vognstrup - vocals
Lars Christensen - guitar
Jesper Tilsted - guitar
Jesper Kvist - bass
Morten Toft Hansen - drums

Raunchy - Official Website:

Nuclear Blast Records:

Remora, Pale Horse and Rider, Rivulets
~reviewed by Kevin Filan

Rock and alcohol have gone hand in hand since before Joe Cocker vomited on his first audience.  With The Alcohol EPs, Silbermedia artists Remora, Pale Horse and Rider, and Rivulets have taken this connection to its logical conclusion: they've made a CD dedicated to alcohol, with songs celebrating, composed, and performed under the influence of Demon Rum.  It's an interesting concept, but, alas, one which calls to mind William Shakespeare's comment that alcohol "provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance."

Our first performer, Remora, gives us droning minimalist antifolk.   "I Told Jesus Christ How Much I Love Her" and "Built" evoke a sense of longing... but the out-of-tune guitar evokes the dull ache of a Sunday morning hangover.  (He may call it "Open Tuning" ... but one shouldn't break musical rules before knowing and understanding them).  "Joy Division" and "Oblivion" rely more on effects and less on acoustic strumming, and are marginally more successful.  Still, these left me flat; bands like Low and Vehemence Realized have done the mumbled song-speak more effectively, while Michael Gira has delved into the darkness with far more disturbing and satisfying results.

Pale Horse and Rider's "Bruises Like Badges" and "Open Letter to an Empty Bar" have acoustic guitar lines which reminded me of early Neil Young, but they lack Young's pithy sense of story.  "You've Been Keepin' Secrets Again" goes on for seven minutes and never tells you as much about the narrator as one stanza of "After the Gold Rush" or "Mr. Soul."  The lyrics of "Pincushion Hands" are more interesting but here the melody falls short.    A creative writing class, combined with an extensive study of Southern Gothic literature and the Complete Hank Williams (Senior) Boxed CD Collection, is in order here; for extra credit, they should also examine the work of Messrs. Young and Dylan, along with Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska."

There's a fine line between an extended shoegazer jam and self-indulgent whining.  With their 12'25" song "Anaconda," Rivulets crosses that line.  "Gimme Excess" and "Shakes" suffer yet again from  untuned guitars.  I know that acoustic guitars regularly go out of  tune, but fercryinoutloud, guys, you're in the STUDIO!!! If you hear that your E string is flat, you can always correct it and do another take... and if you can't hear the difference between in-tune and out-of-tune, then take up painting and quit making reviewers suffer.   "Your Light and How it Shined" features a drummer and a country-influenced beat, and is better than what came before it if only because it is mostly on key.

Tom Waits and Bob Dylan have unconventional voices (to put it charitably); Ray Davies regularly sings a half-step flat, and Leonard Cohen has written dozens of memorable songs using the four notes he can sing.   Each of these men are also brilliant poets.   There is precious little brilliance here, just lots of lazy self-indulgence.   This collection is in dire need of a cup of black coffee and a 12-step program.  Recommended only for the masochistic.

1.  I told Jesus Christ How Much I Love Her
2.  First Call
3.  Built
4.  Joy Division
5.  Oblivion
6.  Hope is Gone
7.  Bruises Like Badges
8.  You've Been Keepin' Secrets Again
9.  Open Letter to an Empty Bar
10. Pincushion Hands
11. Anaconda
12. Gimme Excess
13. Shakes
14. Your Light & How it Shined

Silber Records*

R n R/Dismal Absymal
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Corey Gorey from those wonderful Brides sent this, suggesting I “pay it little mind”, being a Glam/Bowie rock joke, meant intentionally, which has managed to infect enough people for there to be sufficient demands made upon them to produce gigs shortly.

I’m not surprised. Although Corey says it’s Ziggyesque/T Rexy, and Kiss, I think you can also say it’s done with the same mixture of double-edged irony but musical worth as The Dictators. How can you forget Handsome Dick Manitoba? Well, you missed nothing, basically, although in Punk days they seemed a reasonable enough laugh. Visually, these chaps look more Kiss than anything but even more like Hello, one of the most neglected glam greats. (Remember ‘Tell Him,’ and ‘New York Groove’?)

From the glam metal perspective it has just the right manky guitar sound, where the riffs are light but quick, and versatile guitarist Monochromeo can also offer ‘sensual vocal stylings’. The bass seems almost obese, and truculent, and you’re only into ‘Suck Up Into My Mind’ (three songs in) when you can see why people want to experience it live, because they’re perfectly ridiculous. Cheap and cheerful, ‘Brothers And Sisters’ is like a rock greeting card, and ‘Blaster Blaster’ lets the façade slip a little with some outré pop sensitivity.

I suppose I was looking forward most to ‘Oh When The Droids Came Marching In The New Machine’ which does indeed reward you well, tickling relentlessly, but there’s also the lovely guitar in the slow ballad ‘Crashing Through’, which asks the all-important question, “and what’s the point of being alive, when you have a interstellar overdrive?” ‘Protostar’ is extra-jaunty but the hand jiving gets irritating fast, and ‘Rock and Roll Raygun’ features possibly the worst, and ugliest, chorus ever recorded. And that’s not easy!

It ends horribly well with ‘Keep Your Eyes on The Skies’ and ‘Subatomic’ isn’t a bad chunky pop brat. If you have the chance to see them live I’d say you’d have to be a complete twat not to bowl along. Don’t forget to get drunk. It will help ease the pain.


Try: or buy it here:

Collective Demise
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

If there is any advantage to becoming jaded and pessimistic (and trust me - there is very little to recommend about holding such attitudes), that advantage would be feeling an extra big jolt of shock and delight when something exceeds my low expectations.  When I received this month's stack of promos I took one look at the booklet art for Salem's new album 'Collective Demise', noticed their stereotypically deathy looking logo and figured 'great, another generic deathmetal record.  Better go get my earplugs.'  My glib presumptions proved to be far off target.  When I actually listened to the album I was treated to forty eight minutes of surprisingly inventive, tuneful, and yet still brutal music that is as exotic as the land from which it comes.  Israel isn't the first place I think of when someone hands me a new metal release, but at least on this occasion there is no doubt that Israelis are as capable as their foreign peers at crafting the heaviest of metal.

On 'Collective Demise', the band's fifth album (and first to reach wide distribution), Salem provides listeners with a diverse array of sounds that loosely fall into a deathmetal context.  The variety in the band's approach to each song keeps the album quite interesting over its full length.  Instead of sticking to a forumlaic and uniform assault on the ears as many deathmetal albums do, Salem integrates many different sounds into the mix while still keeping an aggressive posture.  In addition to the all-too-familiar guitar/bass/drum/growly-vocal combo, listeners will encounter middle eastern ethnic percussion and melodies, sparse use of synth-distorted drumbeats and keyboards, and beautiful clean vocals supplied by Kristin E. Wallace.  Salem also avoids another trap many deathmetal bands seem to fall into by varying the tempo of their songs.  Many slower paced moments are mixed in with the faster numbers, which is a welcome relief to my ears and in no way lessens the impact of the album.

'Collective Demise' seems to bring together influences from all walks of metal, but in particular feels like a spiritual descendent of Sepultura's work in the early to mid 90's.  Sepultura's albums 'Arise', 'Chaos A.D.', and 'Roots' showed a progression from thrashy deathmetal to a hybrid death/thrash/industrial/ethnic sound, to finally a heavily ethnic/tribal death sound.  Salem packs all those elements into 'Collective Demise', and amazingly it works very well on all levels... perhaps even better than it did for Sepultura (though Sepultura were superior at writing catchy choruses and memorable riffs).  Even that comparison, though, fails to describe Salem's sound in full.  As I listen to several of the songs on this album, I am also reminded of the rhythm riffs from many a King Diamond / Mercyful Fate album, carrying a tuneful but macabre tone with driving force.  The clean female vocals which are interpsersed liberally throughout the twelve tracks add a tinge of nordic melodic deathmetal flavor to an already dense stew of sound.   One element curiously absent from Salem's melting pot is any kind of prominent guitar soloing.  Normally I would lament such an omission, but in the context of the sound Salem crafts, guitar solos would seem gratuitous and tacked on.

Avoiding inconsistency and incompatibility while employing such a diverse array of styles is almost impossible, and yet Salem manage to do so in seemingly effortless fashion. Despite 'Collective Demise' being the first release that will reach many metal fans outside of Israel, Salem has been around for quite some time.  According to the press material given to me, they have exsited in one form or another since 1985 and have been recording music since 1992.  This longevity explains how the band has achieved such a mature sound and has been able to weave together so many intriguing bits from various styles of metal into their own unique patchwork quilt of raw, aggressive dark music.  In this age of 'flavor of the month' clone bands copying any successful formula and pandering to particular audience demographics,  'Collective Demise' is a bold and impressive statement from a band who has found their own voice.

Fans of creative, powerful, unique music that spans genres ranging from thrash to death to black metal without falling squarely into any of their pigeonholes will not regret seeking out Salem's 'Collective Demise'.  This album will particularly appeal to those whose metal fandom is rooted in the harsher thrash stylings of the late 80's/early 90's... but fans from all eras will appreciate the rich tapestry of sound and raw propulsive energy Salem incorporates into their music.  This album is not to be missed.

Track List:
01.)  Broken yet united
02.)  Coming end of reason
03.)  Slave
04.)  Act of terror
05.)  Act of war
06.)  Collective demise
07.)  Dead Eyes
08.)  Feed on your grief
09.)  Decadence in solitude
10.)  Recall
11.)  Al taster
12.)  Inhuman greed
Salem is:
Ze'ev Tananboim - Vocals
Lior Mizrahi - Guitar
Michael Goldstein - Bass
Nir Nakav - Drums
Nir Gutraiman - Guitar

Salem Official Website:

KMG / System Shock Records:

The End Records (US distribution):

Sift Recordings
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Apparently they’ve been around a while, but have had delays in the release of this, their album. I know nothing, other than people respect them, and there is much in their music to explain that. They have mainly traditional elements shot through the violet haze, as it’s slow, it builds, circling female vocals with a weird approach, and that always works.

You can take this approach two ways normally. Opt for a sub-Project ethos, where the songs are gutted and stripped back, usually with winsome vocals, or you go for the yelping/whelping skipping dancepop moves, without ever truly going over the edge. Sift are somewhere between the two, lacking any rhythmic prowess, and staying quite bold in their slower mood. What they do have is SG’s weird vocal charisma which at times gives the impression their music is a cliff face and she is clawing her way up on shattered nails.

Unfortunately it isn’t a long album. The downbeat feel sounds nice for evening listening, but I wanted to see them explore some frenzy to offset the sedate pace. Tracks like ‘Morphea’ and ‘Hook’ stand out, rippling gently, with great charm, while the rest settles down and does its business quietly, with the one real exception being ‘Part Of You’ that has guitar fizz, but it never really goes anywhere. The same thing happened with ‘Helicopters’ that follows from it’s own build up in ‘Rain Colonnades’ but never escalates boldly enough.

I just wanted a bit more spark. The only time I felt they were going for a more interesting sour take, in ‘Water’ SG spoiled it by sounding like Suzanne Vega, but overall it’s impressive and I’d like to hear more. What you have here is harmonious, semi-lush music, kept tidy, and easily enjoyable. That’s no bad thing.


Silent Voices
Chapters of Tragedy
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Please, if you will, bear with me for a moment as I make an extrememly labored point.  I think it's probably safe to assume that at some time in your life, you've been to a zoo...  or failing that, you at least have seen a zoo on TV.  Zoos, as we all know, are filled with myriad animals.  Giraffes, peacocks, rhinoceroses, lions, tigers, bears... oh my.  The diversity of wildlife in a zoo is staggering, and creatures of all shapes, sizes, and colors can easily be found.

Generally speaking, it's simple to tell one kind of animal at the zoo apart from another just by looking at them.  The differences between all the various animals are what make them fun to observe.  More fun, say, than a zoo full of ducks.  Sure, the Duck Zoo might have mallards, black ducks, shovelers, wood ducks and pintails... but they're all just ducks at heart.  This strained and all-too-lengthy analogy is my way of pointing out that while a scientific dissection of Silent Voices may indeed prove that they are not Dream Theater or Rush... they're still just a progressive metal band, virtually indistinguishable from their bretheren.     

I hate labelling Finland's prog-metal playin' sons as a 'generic' act since the term has such a negative connotation, and listening to Silent Voices debut album 'Chapters of Tragedy' really isn't too unpleasant.  The band displays a great deal of technical skill and adroitly handles complex musical arrangements... but such craftsmanship unfortunately does not equate to originality or artistry.  The seven tracks on the album are textbook progressive metal.  All the hallmarks are there: spacey keyboards, crazy guitar leads, off kilter rhythms, and a rockin' vibe carried along by the pulsing bass and pounding drums.  If one set out to assemble a prog-metal band out of its component parts, Silent Voices is what would likely result.

My biggest problem with the album is that Silent Voices, appropriately enough, have failed to find their own voice and instead speak exclusively in the tongue of their antecedents.  The language of progressive metal as defined by Rush, Dream Theater, and similar acts fills 'Chapters of Tragedy' from beginning to end.  If you know and enjoy that sound, you will find much to like on this album... but if you're looking for music that pushes boundaries or at least injects a dose of personality into an otherwise by-the-book record, this isn't the place to search.

Given that this is the band's debut album, I can forgive the derivative nature of the music and hope that in time they'll add more of themselves to the mix instead of relying on the templates established by those that have gone before them.  They certainly have the technical chops to carry out any inventive ideas they come up with.  They might want to hire a better producer, though, as the sound on 'Chapters of Tragedy' is marred by poor handling of the louder drum parts.  They have the same over-compressed feel that you get out of a badly encoded mp3 file, sounding splashy and distorted at times.  The rest of the instruments and vocals seem to have avoided this pitfall, though, and are seperated enough that even the more complex layered parts don't get muddy.

All in all, Silent Voices' debut album 'Chapters of Tragedy' is a promising if uninventive record.   Fans of progressive metal will enjoy it unless they're looking for something that breaks out of the formulaic mold.  This is straight-up 100% proof prog on the rocks.  I hope that the band builds on their impressive mastery of instrumental technique and knowledge of the language of prog-metal and brings something new to the table on their next offering.

Track List:
1.) Beyond Shadows
2.) HumanCradleGrave
3.) Tragedy
4.) Cross My Path
5.) Falling From Grace
6.) Glassheart
7.) The Last Sunset

Silent Voices is:
Timo Kauppinen - guitar
Michael Henneken - vocals
Henrik Klinberg - keyboards
Pasi Kauppinen - bass
Jukka Pekka Koivisto - drums

Silent Voices Official Website:

Low Frequency Records:

The End Records:

The Sins
The Beginning
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

It is quite laughable whenever someone retorts that there aren’t any good Goth bands around. Obviously they aren’t looking hard enough or are simply seeking out yet another excuse to water down the Goth world with more glitter dance music.

Having been privy to the early development of this band from their inception to the final product which sits in my CD player, it is amazing how much The Sins have grown in style and sound in the span of a little over a year. It is redeeming to see this hard working band receive the accolades and top spots at sites such as Ampcast and, demonstrating that the market is still craving for this style and sound with a vengeances.

The Sins hail from Seattle, Washington, however their soul is entrenched in the magical macabre reverie from the legendary underground forbearers. The music is served up without resorting to nor sounding like a clone-band in the least. Here, we are given a traditional Goth rock style with the added touches of live drums and an electric violin. Clearly, this helps to enhance the vocal rendition of lead singer Nightmare Boy, who has at long last seen his dream band come to life. ( See the interview at )

“Ecstasy In Oblivion” transcends some of the more renowned Goth gloom by also inserting a sense of the erotic with the Middle Eastern tones and midnight decadence.

“Rivers” became a runaway hit for the band on Ampcast and with good reason. It has the darkness fully enveloped but still touches upon some of the elements that made New Wave approachable. Beyond the fact that this is a sure fire club pleaser, we have Nightmare Boy who simply digs deep down to give a passionately fiery vocal treatment.

“Demons Ever After” slows things down a bit with a more shoe-gazer styling. The magic of this track is in the underlying notes and gentle build up that finally evokes the heavy laden guitar licks. It won’t play in too many dance clubs, but you can bet it will be on repeat with folks doing the horizontal lambada!

“The Fallen” whips the guitar licks in and blends them flawlessly with the electric violin. The ears are then seduced with a romping quarter beat that ably gives each band member their due as the sum of the whole. This is yet another Goth rock club friendly track that is given a slight snarling vocal from Nightmare Boy who clearly dares you not to be pulled into his sonic paradise. This track also begs to be in an updated vampire film soundtrack at some point!

“Angels” was one of the tracks that the band initially finished first. It crunches right into the foray of rousing guitars and then pulls back in tantric fashion, daring the listener to ride the waves.

“Little Girl Lost” is a mid-tempo cadence that has a nod towards some of the slower rock tracks from The Empire Hideous, making it delicious without being a rip-off. Nightmare Boy simply gets into full character of one who is simply in the throes of agony while pleading for the return of his “little girl lost.”

“Burn” is a decidedly different track that starts with simple drumming that segues into some kick ass guitar licks. Here, Nightmare Boy delves into the essence of sonic seducer that simply leaks pheromones from every note.

“So Many Ways” is a throw back from the early days of goth/punk during its development stages. The vocals are perfectly channeled on this track to make one realize that if some of the early bands had utilized this vocal placement, the scene would have gone a lot further than it has.

“Painting Pictures” segues with a more shoe-gazer style with some rather interesting sound layers underneath the main body of the music that veers towards death rock and industrial.

“Pain” has a decided mid-tempo Goth rock fusion that incorporates interesting electronic hooks and effects.

“Again” is the slowest track on the CD that simply exudes midnight moodiness and sensuality. Vocally, Nightmare Boy could have utilized less power from his voice to convey the effect in an understated way.

Those who have been fortunate to see The Sins play have reported how vocalist Nightmare Boy simply exudes a sensuality with a lion like fervor. Listeners to their music will find some of this element seeping off the CD , particularly with the heavy uptempo tracks where he reaches down into the gut to really pull out the song. Some of the slower tracks would have done a little better with some backing harmonies and a few more touches of the electric violin in the mix, but overall, it is a worthy premier outing.

Despite the ability to play many of these tracks in a club setting, it would be at home for the more intimate moments of one’s life. Considering there are so few underground CD’s conducive for the more amorous moments, one can be appreciative that the band consciously or subconsciously sequenced the Cd for just such times in our often frantic lives.

If you need a little more decadence in your life, reach out and grab The Sins!

1. Ecstasy In Oblivion
2. Rivers
3. Demons Ever After
4. The Fallen
5. Angels
6. Little Girl Lost
7. Burn
8. So Many Ways
9. Painting Pictures
10. Pain
11. Again

Sound samples at:

Band Lineup (on this recording):
Nightmare Boy: Lead vocals, guitar
Dexter Fauxe: Bass, guitar, and backup vocals
Kris Killian: Drums and percussion
Lee Tillman: lead guitar
Jyri Glynn: electric violin, bass



~reviewed by Kevin Filan

Here in the upper half of the world we haven't heard enough of Elenor Raynor.  Rivetheads may know her as the live keyboard player for David Thrussell's Snog ... but she does even more interesting work on her own as Sobriquet.  Her first CD-length release, "July," combines the edginess and tension of her Industrial roots with a tuneful pop sensibility and thoughtful, intelligent lyrics.  It isn't just a promising debut, or even the best thing to come out of Australia this year; it's a major accomplishment by an artist who deserves a worldwide audience.

This is one of the most spiritual CDs I've heard in some time -- not in the wiftysparkly Newage sense, but in the lie-awake-at-night-and-wonder-why-we-are-here sense.  "In the Beginning" takes the Glory Be and turns it into a rocking industrial track ("In the beginning, as it is now, as it always will be"): what was once a celebration of the Eternal Spirit becomes a hymn to the inner darkness and, ultimately, a final surrender, as she proclaims "We can't fight this... Yeah, even love dies."  It's an unnerving moment. "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" receives an electronic remake and becomes the background for the Ten Commandments in "XLS," intertwined with repetitions of "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and "Where will you run if your world stops turning?"

These issues recur throughout the CD like nagging questions, met with unsettling answers.  In her retelling of the Garden of Eden myth ("Eve"), Eve turns away from the apple, agreeing with Adam when he says "I believe ignorance is bliss."  The final track, "Broken Angels," declares "God isn't on our side anymore."  Many death metal artists are content with simple (minded) blasphemy: Elenor's approach is far more thought-provoking, and more disturbing.  Her songs aren't about rejecting God... they are about unsuccessfully seeking Hir.  Someone once called Leonard Cohen "a true believer who wishes he'd already found the damn Grail:" the same could be said of Elenor Rayner.

Elenor's songs about love and relationships are equally nuanced and complex.  "July" shows an acquaintance with heartbreak which would do Sinead O'Connor proud, while "Sarah" gives us an up-close-and-personal view of codependency ("Well she's living in danger/but I'm the one who's going out of my mind").  She knows that hate is only love that hasn't quite died yet: in "Ego" she can spit out "You sold us out for silver, sold us all for gold," yet end the song with "You're so beautiful baby."

This all may sound like difficult listening, but thankfully "July" is tuneful as it is thoughtful.  The purring vocal of "Dreams Burn Down" joins with a driving beat to produce what should be a major club hit if there is any justice in the world.  The songs run the gamut from anger ("The Prophecy") to longing ("July") and finally a defiant despair ("Broken Angels")... but never slide into maudlin self-pity or self-indulgence, thanks largely to Elenor's keyboard and programming skills.  This release has something for dance DJs, synth-kiddies, and the intellectual old farts like yrs. truly alike.  Highly recommended.

Track listing
01. XLS
02. Sarah
03. In The Beginning
04. July
05. Eve
06. Some Elation
07. Skyline
08. The Prophecy
09. One Life
10. Ego
11. Inbetween Lies
12. Dreams Burn Down
13. Not Everything I Believe Is True
14. Dreams Burn Down [Harmonic 33 Remix]
15. Broken Angels

Sobriquet Website

Ground Under Productions

The Dying Man
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

Soren indicates that he is not a professional writer, producer, performer or engineer. So, you may ask yourself, how did he manage to come into the realm of creating music? It seems that his vision of a world gone mad which is rapidly self destructing has finally roused him to fight back at least musically. He questions how mankind can ignore the finite time each person has. He also points out that man and God are both dying simultaneously.

Soren lives and works in a pyramid the he personally built. It is hidden deep within the Rocky Mountains and this entire recording of his “personal exorcism” was recorded within the confines of that pyramid.

The music is a bevy of philosophical sentiments, anger, frustration, disappointment, despair with little hope for a peaceful resolution.

“The Dying Man” takes us on a journey between a relationship that though full of love, is cresting a tide of spiritual burnout.

“Beautiful For You” takes us to the interesting pathos that despite working towards mind and body conditioning, it is all for naught in a world gone awry. You can bet this won’t become the theme song for any of the gyms any time soon!

“Cipher” indicates that the Soren reached into his own psyche to pull out music as an escapist mechanism from some of the things he sees and feels are hopeless.

“Atro City” takes the anger out on religion, government, and society in general.

“Vicious Circle” puts the leaders of Christianity, Islam and Judaism on a moral trial and urges all of them to repent for their ways.

“The Devil’s Fault” sardonically points to the Christians who blame the devil for all the ills of the world, but elucidates how it is they who have created these same ills.

“Ritual Surrender” revamps the spiritual pathos to re-encounter the Gods and Goddesses of the old ways after finding no solace in the world of organized religion.

“Sacrifice” sheds light on the reality about the world that is created of those who are compassionate, selfless and those who wallow in personal sorrow.

“The End” is just what it says. He takes his lover and they disappear forever.

As a concept album, Soren speaks volumes for those who have also felt the same frustration, but have not been able to so poignantly verbalize it. The music styles are varied and keep the listener interested.

The only drawback is with the vocals. As much as Soren poured so much of his heart and soul into this work, his vocal range is limited, which lead to monotony rather quickly.  Much of this would have worked if he also incorporated some type of self harmony while tinkering within the confines of his pyramid.

This is a powerful body of work, so hopefully, some type of remix will be forthcoming to give it a new breath that it currently lacks in vocal department.

The Dying Man
Beautiful For You
Atro City
Vicious Circle
The Devil’s Fault
Ritual Surrender
The End


Star of Ash
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

I'm getting rather jaded as to what sort of albums are worthy of the label "dark." So-called "evil" bands are a dime a dozen, and it's no harder to find bands from several genres that are content noodling away in the minor keys to sound creepy. These days, it takes an album that is much more emotionally deep to rekindle my fascination with darker forms of communication - and Star of Ash is a perfect example of pushing dark artistic bounds in new and remarkable ways.

Star of Ash is the project of Heidi S. Tveitan, aka Ihriel of Peccatum. It's hard to label the music in any meaningful way, but Jester refers to it as "avant-rock/neo-classical/gothic." In our interview with Heidi this month she described her music in part by saying Iter.Viator is a visual album in brutal images, and I sometimes like to think of it as a journey in the crime noir fashion." I would say that the album has a strong inclination towards an orchestrated and occasionally electronic soundtrack feel, with some rock elements.

Now to get down to specifics: Iter.Viator opens with a relatively laid back and haunting piece titled "Chasm Blue." This song segues smoothly into "Sanies," and combined the two tracks really set the mood of the album. "Sanies" opens with some quiet backing strings and emotive piano, eventually building up to an exciting and rather oddly phrased vocal section. Heidi S. Tveitan is easily one of the most unique singers I have heard. If you've ever listened to Peccatum you'll have a very good idea how far out there her vocals can be. She effortlessly mixes more traditional vocal styles with very uniquely phrased and often high pitched vocal lines that lend the music an indescribably articulate feel.

She also knows when to stick to a more palatable and softer style. Beware, however, because even her sweetest crooning is usually tainted with graphic subject matter. In one of the albums most easy going songs, "The Nudity of Light," the track opens with the venomous lyrics: "I yearn to vomit my heart / all over you / pierce it through your skin / penetrate your spine / left behind / on pavement black / left behind." This is an example of just how dark the themes can get. Many of the lyrics are expressive in a loosely abstract way. There are parts that inspire strong feelings or reactions, despite the lack of any concrete tale of woe or cheesy invocation of satan for the listener to latch onto.

"Odi Et Amo" is another favorite song of mine, as it rises and falls with intense passion. There is a surprisingly powerful guitar riff that drives the song and fluidly weaves together with the fairly heavy percussion. Because "Iter.Viator." generally stays away from traditional rock sounds, Odi Et Amo builds to a more epic climax than it could in any other context. As I stress in many of my reviews, variety in tempo can be key for really bringing out the intensity of certain sounds. I'm sure some metal fans may scoff at the non-heaviness of Star of Ash, but to me, their infrequent use of harder elements gives the music more emotional intensity when they are used. "In The Throws of Guilt" finishes the album off with some very outstanding orchestral themes, but I would regret giving away much more about the song. Cheesy as this'll sound, it needs to be experienced.

If you've heard anything about the musicians contributing to Star of Ash you might be expecting another Peccatum, and I hope this review has dispelled any such notion. Ihsahn of Emperor and Peccatum fame does drop in to contribute some vocals and guitars, and Garm/Trickster G. of Ulver adds some of his vocal touch. Normally I'd be disappointed to hear Garm given the "Simen Treatment" (a term I've just decided to coin based on Dimmu Borgir giving the amazing Simen Hestnaes about 6 seconds to sing on their records). However, Star of Ash is very clearly Heidi's work, and I'm not at all disappointed about Garm and Ihsahn playing relatively  minor supporting roles.

Iter.Viator. seems like it may go unnoticed among metal crowds, but as  bands like Ulver continue to move in more off-beat directions, we're finding that many metal fans are fully willing to go along for the ride. If you're one such music listener or you enjoy rather dark and expressive music, give Star of Ash a listen.

Track List:
1) Chasm Blue
2) Sanies
3) Beautiful as Torment
4) Death Salutes Atropos
5) The Nudity of Light
6) Odi Et Amo
7) In the Throws of Guilt

Star of Ash is:
Heidi S. Tveitan - music, words, arrangements

Jester Records:

The End Records (US):

Live in Midgard
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

If you're not ready to set sail and conquer distant lands after listening to Therion, then you aren't listening hard enough. Therion plays a very epic mix of speed/power/thrash metal with classical influences. Possibly the biggest strength of this live recording is the addition of a live choir, headed by metal's infamous Sarah Jezebel Deva. The resulting formula is epic, melodic, and very engaging. least, for the most part. Therion's back catalogue is full of hits and misses. Indeed, it would seem that headman Christofer Johnsson operates almost entirely on intuition. When inspiration hits, you can feel it. When it doesn't, the lack of refinement and detail tweaking in the songs becomes apparent. I will say that overall, this live album works remarkably well and is worth the time and attention of metal fans. However, I think Therion is close to making a very powerful album, one destined to become a classic... and it's disappointing to see them fall just short time and time again.

Nevertheless, even the dullest moments on Live in Midgard can be musically rewarding. Therion has a fairly extensive discography, and if you've yet to check the band out, this is the best starting place I can recommend. Judging by the CDs, Therion puts on one invigorating live show. Heavy rockin' riffs mesh well with beautiful choral arrangements, and the classical influences on the guitar melodies work quite well. I think that Therion is at their best when they set their speed threshold to "face-rearranging" and blast forth with their patented style of speed metal and epic choir arrangements. Therion spans a range of slow, fast, beautiful and harsh songs to stamp out any potential redundancy. It's a testament to Therion's creativity that they can keep songs sufficiently interesting across 2 discs.

Strangely, Live in Midgard most reminds me of Slayer's Live Decade of Aggression. Both CDs contain a plethora of thrash riffs, but more noticeably, the first CD is superior to the second. In both cases the bands could have very easily discarded the couple of feeble songs from the first disc and replaced them with the most compelling songs off of the second - then ditch the second CD entirely and give listeners something much more absorbable and to the point. Although Therion does maintain a pretty consistent quality on both CDs, the first is definitely the most powerful and rewarding of the two, while the second feels partly unnecessary.

To continue with the complaints for a moment, I've never been too partial to Johnsson's shouting. It plays a mostly minor role throughout Live in Midgard, but when he's yellin', you'll know it, and usually not in a good way. I'm immensely thankful for the excellence of the choir and the sparing use of growly/shouty vocals for just that reason. Additionally, the drums are rather muddy. It's as if the band was so desperate to fit three guitarists and six vocalists on stage that they decided to leave the drummer elsewhere. Judging by the sound, he was more than likely misplaced somewhere backstage for the duration of the recording. Of course, this didn't stop him from pounding away, and what can be heard fits the music nicely.

Christofer Johnsson has a gift for writing memorable leads and riffs, a fact that is evident throughout most of Live in Midgard. There are also keyboard orchestrations used every so often that make the songs even more dynamic, but they tend to fulfill a supporting role on the album. Therion puts together songs that are layered, but eminently straightforward. The soundscape never gets too cluttered or messy, so the individual components are able to shine at all the right times.

If you're a longtime fan of Therion and own a number of their releases, it's debatable whether or not you should get ahold of Live in Midgard. The relatively muddy production is tolerable, but I prefer the studio tracks for their clarity. However, if you have few or no Therion albums, this is a great place to explore the band's work. The live feel does add some new dynamics to the sound, and I bet Therion would be an awesome band to see in person. For a band I didn't know a whole lot about, I'm quite impressed with Live in Midgard. If you're a fan of epic, orchestrated metal, chances are you'll be sold on Therion before the first track ends.

Track List:
Disc 1
01. Ginnungagap
02. Invocation Of Naamah
03. Birth Of Venus Illegitima
04. Enter Vril-Ya
05. Riders Of Theli
06. Symphony Of The Dead
07. A Black Rose
08. The Return
09. Baal Reginon
10. Flesh Of The Gods
11. Seawinds
12. Schwarzalbenheim
13. In The Desert Of Set

Disc 2
01. The Wings Of The Hydra
02. Asgård
03. The Secret Of The Runes
04. The Rise Of Sodom and Gomorrah
05. Summernight City
06. Beauty In Black
07. Seven Secrets Of The Sphinx
08. The Wine Of Aluqah
09. The Raven Of Dispersion
10. To Mega Therion
11. Cults Of The Shadow

Therion is:
Christofer Johnsson - lead and rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Kristian Niemann - lead and rhythm guitar
Johan Niemann - bass guitar
Sami Karppinen - drums

Sarah Jezebel Deva - soprano and lead vocals
Maria Ottoson - soprano
Johanna Marlov - alto
Anders Engberg - tenor and lead vocals
Petri Heino - baritone
Risto Hamalainen - baritone

Therion - Official Site:

Nuclear Blast Records:

Thy Majestie
Hastings 1066
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Ha HA!  Unlike many releases I've been subjected to recently, this thunderous blast of epic progressive operatic renaissance-folk power metal commands me to shake off my lethargy and leap into action!  The sheer excitement that fills every track on 'Hastings 1066' is so energizing that I'm having difficulty restraining myself from ending all my sentences in exclamation points!

The album really is that exciting, especially the first time you listen to it.  I'd even go so far as to recommend that if you intend to buy 'Hastings 1066' already, skip the rest of the review.  You'll get your money's worth if you like power metal to even the smallest degree.  The way the album opens shocked me so much upon hearing it that I almost jumped out of my chair in a crazed fervor, moved beyond coherent thought into a state where I was -this close- to running around like an idiot, my arms flailing in the air while I made little happy noises.  Knowing what to expect from the album would diminish the impact it'll have on you upon first hearing it.  Don't take that to mean that shock-value is all 'Hastings 1066' has to offer... far from it, in fact.  For me, though, it was rather like going to see a movie that I didnt expect to blow me away, only to wind up utterly discombobulated by what I actually saw.

I'm generally wary of reviews that are too positive, gushing at length about the virtues of a particular album. It's probably human nature to think 'oh yeah?  There's no way I'll be that impressed no matter how good it is!'.  Nevertheless, there is no area where Thy Majestie falls short on this monolithic concept album.  I was actually too busy being flabbergasted by the music itself to pay much attention to the 'concept', which unsurprisingly follows the events and characters surrounding the battle of Hastings (a decisive conflict in English history).  From a technical and artistic standpoint, Thy Majestie hits all the right notes and the result is a thoroughly compelling album that should have broad appeal to metal fandom.

Oddly, the band themselves aren't the real stars of 'Hastings 1066'.  That distinction belongs to the Teatro Massimo Choir, an operatic choir who steal the show as they provide stirring choral accompaniment to most of the tracks on the album.  Actually, saying they're merely 'stirring' does them a disservice. The Teatro Massimo Choir provides as powerful and driving a performance as I've ever heard in any context.  With an effort worthy of any Hollywood film score, the choir utterly rocks as they belt out Latin lyrics and infuse the music with a sweeping grandeur that otherwise would have been impossible to obtain.  Their inclusion gives the whole album the feel of an epic soundtrack that would make Conan or Gandalf proud.

It also came as something of a shock that Thy Majestie excercised enough restraint to prevent the album from veering into typical power metal excess.  You know what I mean... power metal bands sometimes just go all goofy with their happy-metal bounciness and exuberant riffing.  While 'Hastings 1066' is by no means a somber affair, it is nonetheless grounded in a certain seriousness that is largely a product of the dramatic choral vocals and singer Dario Grillo's mid-range delivery.  If, say, Kai Hansen (and anyone who knows me knows I can't get enough of 'ol Kai) were at the helm of the good ship Majestie, the album might have wound up on the silly side of things.  Dario and the Teatro Massimo Choir keep things below the stratosphere, where they rocket along on an invigorating jaunt through dangerous medeival times.

You might have got the impression by now that this album is full of surprising things... and if you did you'd be right.  Continuing that trend are the oddly progressive keyboard stylings of Giuseppe Bondi, who at times seems to be channeling Dream Theater.  You may think that sounds incongruous with the setting of the album's story (since spacey synth lines don't really evoke thoughts of castles and chainmail) but somewhow they worked for me and served to shoot yet another jolt of energy into my system as I listened.  The album is also replete with some very prog-y time signatures and bass rhythms, coupling the odd beats with power metal melodies and operatic choir.  It makes for quite a diverse, unexpected, and enjoyable listen.

The weirdness doesn't stop there, though, because just when you thought you had Thy Majestie's sound pegged... they drop in an interlude that sounds like you're at a renaissance fair.  Medevil lutes and other era-appropriate instruments carry folky tunes that serve as intermissions between the full-speed musical assault that drives the album along.

Thy Majestie has cobbled together a disparate and unusual coupling of several genres that inexplicably mesh into a greater whole than the sum of the parts would seem to suggest.  Fans of any of the non-death-obsessed schools of metal will likely find much to enjoy in the fifty-five minutes of sweeping epic melodies, grand choral performances, and crazy upbeat guitar noodling.  In short, if you like exciting music that will lift your spirits, you should seek out this album and dive headlong into the rousing soundscape Thy Majestie has created.

Track List:
01.) Rerum Memoria
02.) The King And The Warrior
03.) Echoes Of War
04.) The Sight Of Telham Hill
05.) Ancipit Bellum
06.) The Scream Of Taillefer
07.) Anger Of Fate
08.) The Pride Of a Houseearl
09.) Through The Bridge Of Spears
10.) Demons On The Crown

Thy Majestie is:
Dario Grillo - vocals
Maurizio Malta - guitars
Giovanni Santini - guitars
Dario D'Alessandro - bass
Giuseppe Bondi - keyboards
Claudio Diprima - drums

Thy Majestie Official Website:

Scarlet Records:

The End Records (US Distribution):

~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Viking metal is one genre that has always intrigued me. The distinctly Norse feeling behind the ferocious, folk-y and melodic music gives good viking metal a unique flavor. Enslaved has recently headed into uncharted territory to connect with vikings on a spiritual level. Mithotyn broke up, and it has been a while since Einherjer has released anything. Without any traditional viking metal charging from their direction, I had a strong yearning for good ol' viking metal done right. Thyrfing's last album, Urkraft, was more than worthy of Odin's approval, and it sated my need to pillage and sail the violent seas. I'm afraid I can't say the same about Vansinnesvisor.

The reason has less to do with how I feel about Thyrfing's latest CD and more to do with the decidedly non-viking theme that permeates the work. This isn't the Thyrfing we once knew. Oh, occasionally you will stumble across a folk-oriented melody played by a keyed fiddle, some clean chant-like vocals, or folk influenced viking rhythms, but by and large the music has more in common with symphonic black metal. Depending on your standpoint, this can be a good or bad thing.

Personally, I'm awfully disappointed in Vansinnesvisor. "Digerdoden" might as well be a cover song of something from Dimmu Borgir's Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. The song is filled with somewhat distorted raspy vocals, heavy riffs that bear only the most vague resemblance to a folk sound, and a dark backing melody that is frightening only for its uncanny resemblance to Dimmu Borgir. "Vansinnesvisan" has somewhat bouncy keyboards that feel like they belong in Emperor's excellent tune "Ensorcelled by Khaos," or any of Dimmu Borgir's recent output. This blackened symphonic metal track sounds out of place next to the conclusion to Vansinnesvisor, which is considerably more likely to get Odin's praise.

At first I was ready to mount my horse and ride around town yelling "Thyrfing sells out! Avoid their new CD!" But then I remembered that you can't actually buy the CD around here anyway, and that I don't have a horse. More importantly, after reading Thyrfing's comments on their website, I've decided that they probably didn't incorporate a symphonic black metal influence just to gain the popularity Dimmu Borgir has stumbled upon.

The band seems to honestly want to move in a darker and heavier direction to capture a violent battle-heavy sense of madness. I can respect that, but ultimately I think they failed in their efforts. The seemingly random mix of generic symphonic black metal moments with songs that have a viking tilt clash in a most unlistenable manner. That might be the point of the recording - just don't expect a painless encounter. Whereas Thyrfing's Urkraft provided an engaging viking experience that stayed consistent through dark and light songs, Vansinnesvisor is darker and heavier than it is "viking."

On the bright side, there are a number of good riffs on the CD, the vocals are more varied than they were in the past, and the synthesizers cover a wider range of metal styles. If you dig Dimmu Borgir or earlier ...And Oceans material and are looking for an only slightly more viking band playing that style, definitely give Vansinnesvisor a listen. You get all of the dressed up band members who look like they're about to embark on an epic voyage, and virtually none of the viking music that many people find cheesy to begin with. If you're like me, however, and you've had enough of the blackened style and were hoping for another folk-y melodic metal album from Thyrfing, you'll be sorely disappointed with what you get.

Track List:
1.) Draugs Harg
2.) Digerdoden
3.) Varldsspegeln
4.) The Voyager
5.) Angestens Hogborg
6.) The Giants Laughter
7.) Vansinnesvisan
8.) Kaos Aterkomst

Thyrfing is:
PETER LÖF - Synthesizer

Thyrfing - Official Site:

Hammerheart Records:

Thy Veils
The Diaphanous Depressions
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

The Diaphanous Depressions is the 4th release from the artist Thy Veils. This Romanian artist manages to merge World Fusion, Neo-Classical and Ambient in unique and creative ways, similar to Midnight Syndicate, Zoar or A Murder of Angels.  Much of the work falls within the parameters of night music and as such, delves into the more introspective and at times somber and morose elements popular within the underground.

Some of the tracks are a minute or less and serve as segues for the more bombastic larger pieces that follow.

The present work is a musical travelogue fit to grace the halls of a vampires lair or a sultans tent of nocturnal debauchery. In one instance, haunted vocal effects intersperse the meandering tones that are tranquil and tense at the same time. Rather than creating a cacophony from this merging of styles, one is simply left with music that is at once lush, romantic and dark without being cheesy or forbidding.

Essences of bittersweet longing can be heard in “Night Desert” that while mysterious and encapsulating of all the above mentioned emotions, still manages to tweak a bit of heart, soul and sonic seduction. Gentle elements of Middle Eastern tones are underscored throughout this piece and then brought to the forefront. It is at once a track of nomadic propensity with just enough of a macabre element to tie it all together.

“The Depths” veers into dark territory where we are confronted with the unknown tendency of our psyche. Churchlike gongs prevail in the background giving a vampiric and funereal intensity.

“As The Rain Is Clearing My Pain” utilizes gongs and keyboards in an interesting fashion. One is most certainly inclined to feel the element of rain, longing and loss through the layers of sound.

“Hunt at the Haunted Forest” delivers a body of work that is a hybrid of Celtic, Middle Eastern and delicate doses of the macabre. This is the midnight ride of the headless horseman which lurks just beyond our nightmares.

The closest we have in the US to a band or artist creating this style of work is Midnight Syndicate. Like Midnight Syndicate, Thy Veils crafts music that is rarely made by even the most macabre underground artists today. As such, it fills a niche for those with a penchant for the nighttime elements of the macabre and funereal and does so with grace, style and a lot of atmosphere.

Thy Veils is differentiated from other artists because of the free utilization of Middle Eastern tones and church gongs that punctuate the forlorn and seductive at the same time. It is as though the gypsy lore of Romania have been developed and crafted into each track. The overall impression from this recording is breathtaking as it takes us through the many layers of mystery, suspense, tension and forbidden sensuality. It is a highly recommended body of work for those who enjoy the more ethereal dark music in the underground with a full body of sound and texture.

1. Leaving
2. Through The Halfdark
3. Night Desert
4. The Depths
5. Desorien
6. As The Rain Is Clearing My Pain
7. Ensamble Theme
8. Cumulus
9. Fast Bird
10. Hunt at the Haunted Forest
11. No One’s
12. Bells and Oboe Theme
13. Sword
14. Short Piece for Flute and Guitar
15. Thoughts
16. Vacuous Spaces
17. Waiting Theme
18. Fury
19. Wind Anywhere: contemplation

Sound Samples:


Trail of Tears
A New Dimension of Might
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

A New Dimension of Might is a new compilation disc from Napalm Records containing tracks by Tristania and Nightwish, which... er ...the hell?  What, you mean this isn't Tristania and Nightwish?  It's a whole other band that sounds just like them?  Well, I'll be.  It is.  Trail of Tears apparently is indeed a seperate entity from the aforementioned bands, though it very nearly takes a team of skilled musicologists to pinpoint the difference.  That's not to say that 'A New Dimension of Might' isn't a reasonably entertaining album, because it is quite listenable.  It would be better, though, if it wasn't so derivative.

Trail of Tears mixes up a blend of Scandanavian gothic metal with a touch of power-prog to form a smooth and familiar ale.  While it tastes great going down, it's ultimately less filling than the more prominent acts offering up the same style of music.  All the requisite genre-appropriate ingredients are included.  Dramatic vocals carry the songs along while various electronic accompaniment blips and sweeps over the heavy grooves beneath.  All of the instruments are handled with skill, and the arrangements are interesting and varied enough to avoid boring the listener.  The problem remains, though, that you could pluck a handful of tracks off of Tristania's 'Beyond The Veil' and Nightwish's 'Oceanborn' or 'Wishmaster' and come up with the exact same listening experience (with slightly higher quality) as you do on 'A New Dimension of Might'.

Trail of Tears' vocalists won't do anything to dissuade most listeners from finding their overall sound derivative.  They adopt the traditional 'beauty & the beast' vocal arrangement so popular with bands in the gothic metal genre.  Ronny Thorsen growls his way through many of the tracks with a nondescript rasp that gets the job done, but doesn't do anything to distinguish him from the other cookie-monster wannabes out there.  Thorson also appeared on Tristania's latest album, 'World of Glass', so it's no surprise that there's an air of sameness about the two bands.  I'm not entirely sure if it's Mr. Thorsen or Kjetil Nordhus (who was credited for additional clean vocals on ToT's website) who is singing on the album's final track, a cover of Faith No More's 'Caffine'.  Whoever he is, nobody will ever mistake him for Mike Patton.

A case of mistaken identity could, however, easily be made regarding Catherine Paulsen's operatic singing.  Her delivery, vocal range, and overall talent level will remind many of Nightwish's Tarja Turunen.  Ms. Paulsen's talents are in the same class as Tarja's, but her voice is perhaps slightly less  powerful.  Nevertheless, she remains a formidably dynamic singer capable of some serious operatic crooning.  If her vocals were set in a less derivative context than the very Nightwish-y upbeat power-prog stylings that pepper this album, I would have been even more taken with her performance.

When it comes down to choosing whether or not to part with your money to purchase this album, the basis for your decision is clear.  Ask yourself if you need to hear what amounts to a 'A-' imitation of Tristania and Nightwish, or if your money would be better spent elsewhere.  If you're unfamiliar with the distinct sound of Scandanavian gothic metal tinged with some progressive and powermetal leanings, this could be a good album to expose you to the genre... yet I can't wholly recommend it because the sources Trail of Tears so clearly borrows from are still superior.  If you're already a fan of the genre and just want more of it, 'A New Dimension of Might' is a well produced, well executed example of the sound you enjoy.  Whether that's worth your buying dollar is your choice to make.

Track List:
01.) Ecstatic
02.) A Fate Sealed in Red
03.) Crashing Down
04.) Obedience in the Absence of Logic
05.) Liquid View
06.) Denial and Pride
07.) The Call of Lust
08.) Splendid Coma Visions
09.) Bloodred Trance
10.) Caffeine

Trail of Tears is:
Ronny Thorsen - Vocals
Cathrine Paulsen - Vocals
Runar Hansen - Lead and acoustic guitars
Terje Heiseldal - Guitars
Kjell Rune Hagen - Bass guitar
Frank Roald Hagen - Synths
Jonathan Perez - Drums

Trail of Tears Official Website:

Napalm Records:

Vast Active Living Intelligence System
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Deep grooves cut through the ponderous slab of hard rock that emanates from Valis' new album, 'Vast Active Living Intelligence System'.  Van Conner (bassist for Screaming Trees) and his current band churn out a trippy, dense, organic stream of Sabbathy tunes that rumble on and on over the album's forty seven minutes, taking the listener on a journey through endless meandering jams.

Valis will immediately remind listeners of a fuzzy Black Sabbath, with slow riffs submerged in dirty guitar noise.  Continuing with the Sabbath comparison, Connor's vocals feel downright Ozzy-ish at times, loosely wailing along to the tune of the music.  Valis could be cousins of Kyuss as well... both bands' songs conjure images of wide open roads and empty plains... a world where you can take your time getting where you're going.  On a few tracks, the band catches a tuneful vibe that would make the Beatles proud, but inevitably drowns it in a sea of distortion and heads into Cult like rocked-out rhythms.  That's not such a bad thing, though, as it just enhances the spacious, thundering tunes all the more.

The pace on 'Vast Active Living Intelligence System' rarely exceeds 'moderately energetic', which at times can bog down the album if you're doing nothing other than listening to it.  That same trait, however, can be turned into a positive thing if you allow the lazy grooves to carry you along on a road trip (or just feel like chilling out and don't mind if you nod off to sleep).  Listening to the album as I review it is almost too much to handle.  The drifting riffs are washing away my desire to work.

It's somewhat endemic to this form of music that the songs will have little in the way of variation over the course of a track, which can be a blessing or a curse.  If the groove sweeps you away, it's not much of a problem... but if you're not hooked into the mood the music is creating, it can become boring and repetitive.  I found myself thinking that things were dragging at points on the album, but you really have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate music like this... and working at the computer while my mind is cluttered by other things isn't it.

If you're looking for a laid back yet very heavy dose of classic rock music, Valis may play just the sound you're after.  'Vast Active Living Intelligence System' is a lumbering, elephantine beast of an album that will bore you silly if you don't have a long attention span.  If, however, you can alter your consciousness into a more relaxed and receptive state... you may enjoy letting yourself be dragged by the sonic undertow into an ocean of swirling guitar haze.

Track List:
01.) Indian Giver
02.) Transmuter
03.) Universe
04.) Pass Me By
05.) Mealworm
06.) Yakima Preacher
07.) Kill the Ones You Love
08.) Universe 2
09.) All Phase
10.) Paper Doll
11.) Love Loader
12.) Pilots House

Valis is:
Van Conner - Vocals/Guitar
Patrick Lee Conner - Guitar
Sean Hollister - Drums
Adrian Makins - Bass
Wes Weresch - Guitar Synthesizer

Valis Official Website:

Lunasound Recording:

Abstract Sounds:

Vampire Nation
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Vampire Nation is the infamous project of the lone misunderstood artist, and many might be inclined to say genius, Fredrik Von Hamilton.  An active yet frequently overlooked participant of Pittsburgh’s dark music scene, Fredrik keeps his chin up and continues to churn out release after release, gaining more and more positive notoriety beyond the confines of his hometown.  The prolific maestro returns this autumn with “Eternal,” the seventh proper VN release, which continues to explore conceptual ideas of race, history, and mystical spirituality.

“Eternal” pays homage to Fredrik’s homeland in Egypt.  An idea and concept that has long been at the heart of VN, but with this release these ideas rise to the surface quite eloquently.  Though a rather fragmented and rough start, “Eternal” shapes up to be one of, if not the most focused VN release to date.  Most of the songwriting is solid, with great attention to detail and tender fidelity to atmosphere.  The strong points are the brief instrumentals, which serve as transcendent ‘snapshots,’ which successfully conjure images of the desert, peoples, and culture of Egypt.  The eerie whirlwind of soft noise that makes up tracks like “Monsoon” paired with the authentic, exotic percussion used in tracks like “Oasis Near Luxor” and “Cobra” make for pleasurable ambient soundscapes that please the senses, but do not demand too much of your attention.  They are relaxing and brief, best exemplified in the pensive lush arrangements that comprise “Broken Pottery.”  The problem with many ambient artists is that they never know when to stop or move on from an idea.  Fredrik has a relatively good concept of restraint in his music, providing adequately paced flavours and then moving on to something else – as most of the best and most memorable tracks rarely exceed three minutes.

The sublimely eerie and sinister “Scorpions” is my personal favourite track, and the atmospheric highlight of the entire release – distant reverberated drumming, ghostly hisses and sinister choirs give the song a remarkably black and claustrophobic intensity.  The mind is alive with images of a musty crypt, pried open by greedy hands in search of ancient treasures.  From out of the dark, tiny hungry creatures emerge, their stingers poised, dripping with venom and in search of salty human flesh.  Indeed, I dig.  Whatever the case, as with quite a few tracks on this album, Fredrik did a fabulous job at scoring the scenes that sprang from his imagination and this one in particular was both exhilarating and terrifying.

The album is, however, framed by a few forgettable tracks.  These particular songs follow traditional pop/rock structures, and the production is a bit thin, especially in the accompanying drum tracks.  The vocals as well are a bit too quiet and do not add much to the music – rather, the vocals sort of disrupt the flow of the music.  The overall feeling is that less effort was put into these songs, while Fredrik’s finesse was rightfully spent in shaping the more atmospheric and ambient songs that make up the center of the album.  My advice is for Fred to continue exploring the ambient paths, keeping the songs brief and straightforward.  Harder rhythms would greatly improve the impact of the songs, but the synthetic voices and samples are well chosen and quite majestic.   He is well on his way to perfection.

There are moments here where Fredrik shines his brightest, and overall, “Eternal” is definitely worth checking out for fans of Enigma, Delirium, and dark ambient music.  VN has yet to unleash its masterpiece, and I speculate the time of its arrival is closer at hand than ever before.

Track List:
1.) The Universe
2.) Cairo Riders
3.) Monsoon
4.) Pyramid
5.) Oasis Near Luxor
6.) Camel
7.) Cobra
8.) Waterfall
9.) Scorpions
10.) Broken Pottery
11.) Wading In The Nile
12.) Sacred Crocodile
13.) Deadly
14.) Temple Smoke

Vampire Nation is:
Fredrik Von Hamilton

Official Website:

Mp3 Site:

Visions From The Spiral Generator
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Vintersorg is like a mad genius who's heavy on the mad and light on the genius.  On 'Visions From The Spiral Generator', Mr. V raves his way through nine tracks of bizarre Scandinavian metal that slews wildly across multiple genres and will leave you disoriented... yet strangely satisfied.  Maybe.  This is without a doubt one of the most confusing records I've listened to.  On many of the tracks, the mood and direction the song is headed in changes seemingly every few seconds.  Fast paced riffs and vocal lines dart by, leaving the listener to wonder what exactly is going on (or maybe just ducking for cover).  When Vintersorg calms down, though, the music adopts a sort of progressive folk metal quality that is oddly endearing.

No doubt about it, Vintersorg's vocals will turn some people away from this release.   He has several vocal modes that he often employs simultaneously (through the magic of overdubbing).  His first setting yields an overexcited tenor-ranged bouncy clean voice, similar to what you might get if Kai Hansen was in one of his less serious moods.  It's not really the -sound- of his voice that may cause the unprepared to pass out, but rather the delivery.  Several tracks on the album sound like Vintersorg had just polished off a full bag of sugar, several cups of coffee, and a pipe full of crack before recording them.  When he pulls in the reins a bit and modulates his approach to only 'mildly zealous', he's capable of pulling off a nice clean folksy progressive sound which I like a good bit (and is more similar to his excellent recent work in Borknagar).

If you turn the dial down low to Vintersorg's other vocal setting, you'll get his patented 'crazy rasping'.  This is similar to the traditional Nordic Black Metal Rasp, but nuttier.  Imagine a deranged muppet with sandpaper in its throat spewing out addled rants and you pretty much have the sound figured out.  It's tolerable -in small doses- but can wear on the listener over extended periods.

The instrumental arrangements are complex, move along at blazing speeds for most of the album, and are well wrtten and performed.  It's as if the songs could barely contain all the ideas Vintersorg & crew came up with, and wound up bursting at the seams with stray thoughts zipping out in every direction.  All of the instruments remain distinct from one another (almost exceptionally so) thanks to some deft and surprisingly clear production.  There is a lot going on at almost all times, including layers of vocal wailing, guitar thrashing, drum pounding, keyboard blipping, and bass throbbing...  yet the sound never becomes muddy.

It is worth noting that Steve DiGiorgio -who has been in every metal band, ever- turns in a laudable performance on bass.  Actually, it may be that Vintersorg simply bought a Steve DiGiorgiobot MkIV 3000XL  from the Norwegian Bassist Android Factory.  The only explanation for Mr. DiGiorgio's ubiquitous omnipresence in metal is that someone has used his template in making an advanced android  (or clones, perhaps).  Whatever the case, I often find that the bass performance is buried in metal releases and rarely have cause to comment on it.  This album happens to be an exception.  Good work!

Those who first encountered Vintersorg on Borknagar's 'Empiricism' (like me) and want to see what his other work sounds like may enjoy this album.  It mostly depends on your Wackiness Threshold.  If you can tolerate and/or enjoy really insane music, you'll find no better place to spend your money than here.  If you prefer a more conservative or old-school approach to metal, you're not likely to derive much enjoyment from 'Visions From The Spiral Generator'.  This album is both nearly unlistenable and filled with visionary musical ideas.  It is ambitious, hyperactive, progressive Scandinavian folk metal (if you can imagine such a thing).   Approach with caution, and be ready for a
wild ride if you decide to listen to this confounding release.

Track List:
01.) Quotation
02.) Vem Styr Symmetrin
03.) A Metaphysical Drama
04.) Universums Dunkla Alfabet
05.) E.S.P. Mirage
06.) Spegelsfären
07.) The Explorer
08.) A Star-guarded Coronation
09.) Trance Locator

Vintersorg is:
Vintersorg - Vocals, Rhythm & Lead Guitars, Keyboard, Loop Editing
Mattias Marklund - Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Steve DiGiorgio - Fretless Bass
Asgeir Mickelson - Drums

Vintersorg Official Website:

Napalm Records:

Dusk Records
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

It’s lovely to see John Mason, vocalist and lyricist, admitting that this is Goth band, with electronic enhancements,. And I’m not surprised this band have been popular in New Zealand because why wouldn’t they be popular anywhere? His is style and content. They’re not image conscious, and despite their being some trad elements, there’ something weird going on here.

This has an immediacy to it which brings to mind a modern version of the Psy Furs, with better vocals, so forget any Neffs/Mission influences you hear other people telling you about. This isn’t the 80’s, this is very new/now sounding.

The guitars are always spot-on and crisp, the songs have choruses, and what moods there are never reach into the depths. They have poppy flair, kept tastefully restrained - nothing here is showy - and such spry singing you may be in for a shock. It’s light and clear like crystal. The lyrics have one-dimensional inconsistencies, but it pulls you along happily enough.

They have a great sense of space, with economic use of synth, and little flickers of bent guitar sounds popping up here and there. It’s individual throughout, and yet so - and I want you to sit down - conventional and commercial, like an Indie Band. It’s rock with indie grace. But it’s Goth.

There are many classic dreamy, quavery segments, and beautifully contrite vocals rather than any arrogant bluster or fake mystery. The way the frail vocals catches in the folds of the musical cloth of ‘Hanging By A Thread’ will tease you with its dramatic swirls, and the sleazily grizzled guitar and mercurial rhyming couplets of ‘Soulsearcher’ will appease indignant listeners, just as ‘Memories Of You’ is more traditional sparkly Goth.

If it instils anything it’s a ruminative mood because lyrically he seems all over the shop and never particularly cocky, just irritable. Then it bowls you over with a sensible approach to ending by going for the big finish in ‘Twilight’ with a pulverising finale, very slick with frothing guitar eddies around more spiky verbal confusion, and you have to do a double-take. It’s over? This album may seem like Goth Lite but it’s so good it zoomed by.


Various Artists
Gothic Club Classics Volume 1
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

After receiving much e-mail from younger Goth fans, it seems only appropriate to give this CD collection its due. Some of these letters wanted information about the early Goth music but they didn’t know where to look. Thankfully, with the internet medium, one can point those striving for the information in the right direction.

Here, we have 2 discs for the price of one that encompasses many of the legends of the Goth rock underground movement over the last 2 decades. Presently this is available at for around $17 as a domestic release, which is less than what I had to pay for it as an import when it first came out.

Many who have been entrenched in the scene for a while will find many familiar names in the collection. However, for those new to the scene, here is a chance to educate you that the scene did not begin and end with the soundtracks to The Crow or The Craft nor with Marilyn Manson as some had erroneously thought.

This collection may not seem important to those well-established within the scene for any period of time because the chance is we have the same recordings on the full CD versions elsewhere. However, for the budget conscious consumer who can’t buy everything they would like, it offers a glorious amount of dark music that is affordable. It also offers the chance to sample the bands that some of the “elder” goths have spoken about in the past.

Rather than give a track by track rundown, those interested can simply go to and listen to the various sound samples posted there. It will give a decided edge if this is the type of “goth” you are seeking or not. If like many teens, money is still tight, you can always put it on your holiday shopping list and request it as a gift. Considering its inexpensive price tag, it is unthinkable that anyone would pass up that request.

Disc 1
The Mission   Wasteland
Bauhaus   Bela Lugosi’s Dead
The Merry Thoughts   Goddess
Cassandra Complex  Second Shot
X-mal Deutschland  Incubus Succubus II
Clan of Xymox  Louise
Killing Joke   Love Like Blood
Girls Under Glass  Grey In Grey
Das Ich   Kain und Abel
Nick Cave   The Weeping Song
Eyes of a Nightmare Jungle Shadow Dance
Fields Of The Nephilim Moonchild
Dreadful Shadows  Burning The Shrouds
And Also The Trees  Lady D’Arbanville

Disc 2
Alien Sex Fiend  I Walk The Line
Type O Negative  Christian Woman
Diamanda Galas  Double Barrel Prayer
Moonspell   Opium
Einsturzende Neubauten Blume
Love Like Blood  Doomsday
Inkubus Sukkubus  Belladonna and Aconite
Lacrimosa   Seele In Not (Metus Mix)
Pink Turns Blue  Michelle
Children of Not Return Sheryl
Theatre Of Tragedy  Tanz der Schatten
Psychic TV   Godstar
Angina Pectoris  Still Waiting

Various Artists
The Best of Gothic Radio
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

It seems  like almost yesterday when Gothic Radio threw their hat in the ring of internet radio programs. From this also sprang the parent company Dark Future Music, which was created by a couple of DJ’s and club promoters who were simply disenchanted with all the mediocrity and poor quality music that was assaulting dark music fans. Their first task was to create the film and soundtrack to Sex, Death and Eyeliner; two must-have items for anyone even remotely interested in the scene.

Because of their drive and desire, Gothic Radio now boasts a fan base of around 2600 listeners daily with an assortment of dark music stations incorporating Goth, industrial, vampire etc. September 2002 ushered in the launch of their sophomore project, The Best of Gothic Radio, a hand picked compilation of the best of the best from 1500 submissions of the dark underground music scene.

Christopher’s “Concubine Crush Factor # 8” cascades us into a subtle reverie between dark music and Middle Eastern tones. The interesting thing about this artist is that many who have initially reviewed his solo project were simply at a loss to identify the featured female vocalist. This reviewer was stunned to discover that the vocals actually came from Christopher himself as he used very few actual vocal samples for his work. What is even more amazing is that this giant of a man has a vocal range to shame anyone in the music world today.  Having had the good fortune of meeting Christopher, he demonstrated how  his vocal range can go from the deepest bass to an unbelievable soprano, leaving this reviewer stunned and in awe at the power and majesty of his voice. Have fun listening to this track and figuring if it is Christopher or is it Memorex?

Wench’s “Ophelia” takes us from the subtle reverie of the preceding track to deliver a hybrid synthpop/industrial melody. Vocally, this may remind many of  St. Eve from the Sex, Death and Eyeliner soundtrack.

Ego Likeness’ “Drown Like You” fuses electric energy to create a dark landscape that flourishes with a trip hop/industrial groove. Elements of ethereal sounds are incorporated via background female vocals, while giving just enough of a deep male vocal that is clearly understood, hence listeners won’t need to scramble for lyric sheets to decipher it. Instead of relying on the traditional goth formula, the band maintained a dark realm while creating something new.

Anathema Device’s “Gave Up” simply slams in with this song, taking us from the reverie induced from the preceding track. The angst is up to the minute with today’s harder edged underground music, yet this track is so good that one wonders how long it will be before it is included in a soundtrack somewhere. Film score work aside, the track will create a bevy of new fans seeking out more work from the band.

Mindless Faith’s “Plaything” treats us to the down and dirty industrial fusion and rock elements that have begun to secure the band legion’s of fans. For an independent band, this group champions their gigs like consummate professionals and delivers the high octane energy in a live setting as well as on a recorded medium such as this.

Grigori 3’s “Awakening” brings it down a few notches at the intro but then pulsates with a decent percussive electronic energy that simply caresses around some rather dark and tormented background sounds. This is a decidedly delightful track that has elements of some of the more popular dark pop bands of the day such as Diorama.

Element’s “Red Meat and Beauty Queens” has been a West Coast phenomenon, that thankfully due to internet music, has been making the rounds all across the globe. This track has received quite a bit of rotation and has dark Euro cabaret fused with electronic elements and morbid effects.

Collide’s “Razor Sharp” is taken from their hit CD, Chasing The Ghost. Their work was most recently featured in this season’s television show Haunted and was a wonderful edition that added an element of reality to the script. Vocalist Karin has to be the undisputed dark sensual Goddess at the moment. This track, like the rest of their CD is enticingly seductive with a trip hop and drum and bass flavoring. Some vocal inflections are tweaked via a vocoder that brilliantly works to create a dark sensual atmosphere.

The Aversion’s “Just A Dream” steadily builds from the introduction with foot tapping electronic noise elements but did seem to take a bit before the vocals kicked in as it seems to be more of  an instrumental track with some vocals tossed in. Overall it wasn’t a bad track but would have worked with a bit more lyrical content. The vocals were quite good, so thankfully another track featuring more of the vocals was included later on. Guess this just means we need to seek out their full length CD to follow up the brilliance of their work!

Neikka-RPM’s “Turn Away” delivered a rather understated intro that seemingly hit into a pulsating groove that would be more at home in some of today’s popular nightspots. The element of electronic and sensual whispers simply made me think “Studio 54.” Despite the intention of this being a “dark music” inclusion for this CD, it may be a bit too techno for a goth audience, although some of the industrial/synthpop crowd may find it a welcome respite. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very good track, but some dark music purists may balk at its crossover appeal.

SPF-1000’s “Nocturnal Emissions” should help to expose this incredibly talented band further. They combine the best of goth, industrial and synthpop with a nod to some of the punk rock elements of yesteryear. The sound of this track is clearly much more malleable for all types of clubs, even though they kept the morose tones well placed underneath. Much of the work of this band has a more decided dark edge to it, so it was interesting that this track was chosen instead. Those interested in brilliant goth hybrid work should locate some of their available tracks on the internet.

This Morn Omina’s “One Eyed Man” is a hard-edged industrial track, that could clearly erupt a dance floor at the height of the night. It seems pretty difficult to craft sounds that are unique in today’s ever growing industrial climate, however this band managed to take loops, dialogue, electronic tweaks and bleeps and literally sculpt them with precision.

Die My Darling’s “Pain 13” brings us back to a more goth flavored industrial element that also incorporated a fetish element. B&D fans should enjoy this track quite a bit!

The Aversion’s “The End” is a second track by this band included on this compilation. As far as sequencing,, it seemed to be a bit anticlimactic due to the slower pace of the music, however the title makes it seem more appropriate as the final track on the CD. The song delivers  superb vocals once again and is destined to have goth fans screaming for more. There are all the prerequisite elements from electronic effects, guitar minor chords, trip hop percussion and a smoldering male vocalist to really make some underground fans sit up and take notice.

Dark Future music once again combined some rather unique underground elements from bands who clearly shine with talent. The cover artwork is beautifully enticing and was in fact created and selected from submissions for a cover art contest that the label held.

Although it is called the Best of Gothic Radio, those not in the know may not realize that this is a compilation of some of the more up and coming electronic/industrial artists as the station itself isn’t limited to just goth. The electronic elements clearly had the selection advantage over the more traditional gothic music. The cover art might also be misconstrued to lead some into thinking there is much more goth music on here than anything else. The tracks did the best to maintain elements of the macabre in the work, so it isn’t a decided departure from goth too heavily. In fact, this is the current “type” of goth presently rearing its head in the European nations who seem to have risen beyond our traditional quarter beat Sisters style goth passions. This updated style of underground music is slowly making its way towards our US shores, which may or may not appease some of the old school goth purists.

Purchasing this Cd will also allow the listener to go to their site to download some special remixes with a “code” located on the cover itself.  However, the Dark Future folks politely ask that you not give out the code nor pass the music around on CD-R’s.

Overall it isn’t a bad compilation if you like more industrial work than the traditional Goth music. Like their last release, there isn’t a dud in the bunch. This compilation simply elevates the cream of the crop from the available glut that is on the market at present to deliver songs that aren’t overplayed on a million playlists across the continent.. The CD will most decidedly work well for those with a penchant for dancing among the ghouls of the night at their favorite darkly clad haunted establishment. No matter how one slices it, the folks at Dark Future music know their music. They can pick the hits without blinking and can deliver them to a yearning fanbase who have become disenchanted with many clone hybrids that currently assault us. Since their station boasts so many listeners, it may be time for other DJ’s to take a page from their book and combine their playlists in order to drive the patrons back to the clubs.

Track list:
1. Christopher: Concubine Crush Factor #8
2. Wench: Ophelia
3. Ego Likeness:  Drown Like You
4. Anathema Device: Gave Up
5. Mindless Faith: Plaything
6. Grigori 3: Awakening
7. Element: Red Meat And Beauty Queens
8. Collide: Razor Sharp
9. The Aversion: Just A Dream
10. Neikka-RPM: Turn Away
11. SPF-1000: Nocturnal Emissions
12. This Morn Omina: One Eyed Man
13. Die My Darling:   Pain 13
14. The Aversion: The End

Released by Dark Future Music

Wreckage Productions
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

The sleeve notes try to make a point about the purpose of this compilation, because so many people think of such releases as very easy and safe these days but I’m not interested in that.  Sure, Love makes a good subject, but it’s a lyrical constant you find everywhere, so putting together something around that seems fairly oblique as a strategy. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, it’s just an emotional collision of styles, and only the quality of the songs will make it a good record.

There’s mature, efficient dance from Ex-Voto, which is a touch detached for my liking. It’s a well worked song, but the vocals don’t seem involved. Stun Gun have a demure, complex tune with periodic outbursts, and I have no idea what Purr Machine are on about, but I like the funnelled vocals, and sedate pace, as it’s the songs which enchant that you want. Sex With Lurch certainly throw a highly beguiling soiree, Human Drama have never been the burliest of tunesmiths so this fits in sweetly, even if it’s a bit tepid, and Wreckage are attractively mild, if overlong. It all fills the room nicely, without being harrowing. Nice afternoon music. Of course the expected mopey beauty from Audra and soft-focus angst of Element were just dandy, and although I couldn’t initially see how the camp dramatics of Fear Cult fitted in, regarding it as Rozz Williams with a hangover, the skewed effects do make it naggingly familiar.

The real highlights? Well for me Channel are musically minxy and I love it. No heartache there, just sublime slinky grooves and empty-headed vocals, Antiworld get the best direct energy pumping, with wiry guitar creating a dour feel in a sharp song, and Second Skin also survive through ambition. The song sounds like a hamfisted Manuskript, but despite their messy vocals it remains the most romantic song here, while emerging tuneful, perky and strange. Best of all has to be Stone 588, who have horribly manky keyboards, but the vocal display, while somewhat over the top, is a real delight and if verging on histrionics, their tone is glorious.

Hardly a qualified success as a concept, for its lofty aims, but seen as an introduction to a variety of talent, if you’re unfamiliar with these artists, it’s a serious contender.

Human Drama – About Michelle
Purr Machine  - Over Here
Wreckage  - Dancing With Katrina
Channel – Love
Antiworld – Nek Romance
Fear Cult  - She Loves Me Not
Sex With Lurch – So Many Questions
Stone 588 – The Enclosed Garden
Stun Gun – Pretty Pictures
Second Skin – Still My Love
Ex-Voto - My Sin
Element – Gestapo Tactics
Audra – Don’t End This Time

Various Artists
Square Matrix 001: An Alfa-Matrix label sampler
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

This sampler for the Belgian label, Alfa-matrix, is actually a compilation of four single releases by four of the label's bands. This means the track listing is padded out with B-side material: many of the songs appear several times over, in the form of assorted remixes. Therefore the album isn't quite the big-value package it first appears - although I suppose if you're a diehard remix-fiend, this might seem like a splendid bargain. Personally, I'd prefer to hear more of the bands' original material, rather the same few tunes endlessly revisited via this mix or that.  Still, let's jump in and see what they've given us.

Aiboforcen crash-land on the album with a bangin' hardcore trance-dance experience, but the thumping beats of 'Testing New Waters' are set off by a sweetly pure female vocal which sounds naggingly familiar. Hmm. Sounds a bit like Regenerator...and yep, a glance at the small print reveals that Patrice Synthea of Regenerator does indeed sing on this one. 'Give Me These Wings' is more of a trancey experience, electronics bubbling away, the beat a little muted. Trouble is, this, too, sounds so much like Regenerator - even down to the occasional appearance of a gutteral male vocal, just like Wrex Mock does on Regenerator material - that frankly it might as well *be* Regenerator. Maybe I'm twigging something here, because Wrex Mock himself gets credited in the small print as both a songwriter and producer. I can't help wondering if  Aiboforcen have any real identity of their own - or are they a thinly-disguised Regenerator side-project? 'Lobotomie Matricelle' hints that there *is* a genuine band with an independent existence in here somewhere. It's a cool slice-o-trance, which in all honesty doesn't overturn any genre-applecarts - but at least it doesn't immediately make me think of someone else! Fourth track is a mix of 'Testing New Waters' which brings us back to Regenerator-territory. Nice, but...c'mon. If Regenerator want to release a new single or whatever, let 'em go ahead and release it. Meanwhile, if Aiboforcen genuinely have their own musical identity, let's hear it!

Epsilon Minus introduce themselves with 'Through' which appears in the form of the 'All your synthpop are belong to us' mix. That's enough to make my face crack a smile, but curiously the track isn't particularly synthpoppy. It's all nailed down to the traditional dancefloor doofbeat, and although there's a catchy female vocal and some jaunty synth-work bouncing away in the mix, it sounds more like a slice of EBM-lite to my ears. 'Freedom', the second track, is remixed by Angels and Agony, and although the relentless beat is still present, it's been backed off a bit, and soft, warm, chunks of synth carry the song. The vocal is a bit too far back here - there are plenty of lyrics, but they're crowded out by the music.If I was Jennifer Parkin (the band's singer and lyricist) I'd have something to say about that! There's a good song here, but the mix isn't entirely successful, I fear. 'Power Down (Massiv in Mensch mix)' sounds like it's been stripped down from a more complete version. It's a minimalist, mid-90s old-skool techno groove with a neat interlude of what sounds like Spanish guitar (and those frantic 100mph drum rolls which *nobody* does any more!), but I'm sure there's more to this song that we aren't hearing on this mix. Final track of the four is an 'Album mix' of 'Through', which is annoyingly fast. This is actually a good song, but here Epsilon Minus have racked up the tempo so much it sounds like they don't actually like the song very much, so they're rushing to finish it. Weird. I'm intrigued by Epsilon Minus: they're good songwriters, but they seem oddly unsure of what sort of outfit they want to be - synthopop? Retro-techno? EBM? - and I have the nagging impression that some of the versions here are merely remixes for the sake of remixes, rather than genuine attempts to bring new ideas to a song.

Plastic Noise Experience is the one-man project of Claus Kruse, who seems to be a cadet in the Suicide Commando strike force. 'Clean Head' is all harsh synth-noises and a vocal that never rises above an agonised, distorted, whisper. It's effective enough, in that generic electro-industrial-noise kind of way, but in all honesty I can't get excited about this sort of stuff, because...well, not only is it hardly out-on-a-limb original in musical terms these days, but it also frequently seems to be an excuse for some faintly ridiculous angst-bunny posturing. The lyrics here seem to be some sort of sub/dom fantasy: 'Tie me up, kick me down, punish me for my sin...' rasps Claus. Ho hum. This sort of thing isn't shocking, or radical, or dangerous any more - frankly, it's dull. Fortunately, the second track, 'Mechanical Beatz', turns out to be rather good. It's a complete change of style: a knowingly(?) camp romp through a rollicking, kitsch, dance tune, with a female vocal by some sort of synthpop Grace Jones. An unexpected and witty interlude. Then there are two further mixes of 'Clean Head', of which the 'Implant mix' is the best, basically because it dumps most of Claus's noises and whispers, and brings in a load of heavily-reverbed beats, creating a virtual dub effect. This is a case where the remix is a distinct improvement on the original.

And finally, four tracks by Hungry Lucy. 'Her Song' is a gorgeous pop number, a warm pool of pulsating keyboards, submerged bass, and a wistful vocal. 'Fearful' appears twice, once in a remix by Abioforcen (in which they basically 'do a Regenerator' on Hungry Lucy - what *is* it with these people?), and again as mixed by Implant (who trance it all out and dub it all up quite effectively). 'Storm (No Comment mix)', the fourth track, is all syncopated shuffle-beats and synthesised strings, like a 70s disco number. There's a crooning vocal plonked down on top of all this, and oddly enough the vocal doesn't seem to quite fit the music. Surely an assertive, sassy, Yes-Sir-I-Can-Boogie singing style would sit better with the rhythmic elements of the track? Again, without hearing the original version of the song (which I suspect was much more of a ballad), it's hard to figure out how much of what I'm hearing is the band's original idea, and how much the remixers brought to the party. But there's enough here to make me enter Hungry Lucy in my personal 'Must find out more about 'em' file, so we'll chalk this one up as a result.

I'm not entirely convinced by Alfa-Matrix's concept of a label sampler album that comprises mainly remix material. If the intention is to showcase the music of the bands on the label's roster, then why not simply allow us to hear that music? It's hard to gain any real insight into what the bands are all about when you're hearing their songs filtered through someone else's ideas. As a result of this compilation, I'm interested in hearing more of Epsilon Minus and Hungry Lucy, so to that extent I suppose the album has done its job. But at the same time I'm frustrated that I wasn't allowed to hear *more* of Epsilon Minus and Hungry Lucy, because the remixes kept getting in the way. A point to consider for future compilations, perhaps.

The tunestack:
Testing New Waters
Give Me These Wings
Lobotomie Matricielle (Vox mix)
Testing New Waters (Headscan mix)

Epsilon Minus:
Through (All your synthpop are belong to us)
Freedom (Shungater mix by Angels & Agony)
Power Down (Massiv in mensch mix)
Through (Album mix)

Plastic Noise Experience:
Clean Head
Mechanical Beatz
Clean Head (Implant mix)
Clean Head (Pzycho bitch mix)

Hungry Lucy:
Her Song (Radio mix)
Fearful (Aiboforcen mix)
Fearful (Implant mix)
Storm (No Comment mix)

Alfa-Matrix label site:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Str8line 2
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I’m betting not many of you got up this morning thinking, ‘I could really do with a compilation of French underground bands!’, but if your day hasn’t gone well, you’d find it would have ended better if you’d got this, which just shows you want to be a lot more thoughtful in future.

We never get that many French bands popping up in the UK and yet their scene is probably just as scattered and small as the UK one. It still survives, it still develops brilliant bands, as this compilation shows only too well, and at the very least I have always expected the bands to maybe do well in Canada, although whenever I mention this to people who are French, or Canadian, they seem perplexed.

Anyway, it’s a mix of styles, which you’d expect, concentrating on noir matters, and there’s no rubbish. Vincent who sent it is in No Tears and part of the Rat Mort crew, so you wouldn’t expect anything here which wasn’t quality, plus an open-minded approach to inclusion is clear, ensuring you have no chance to get bored.

High quality vocals appear to be top of the agenda and, to be brisk, crisp music. There’s prancing synthpop from Feelings Of Nowhere, delightfully willowy songs from No Tears, with male and female vocals, involving a slow build, dragging you in tightly. Ex Nihilo are stunning when it comes to catching you unawares with their vulgar electronic sculptures, and seething vocals. Flexible Response are charismatic oddities, with stark vocal nonsense over knobbly dance seductions. Strikingly weird.

The worst named band in the world must be Shed, who actually have traditional beauty to offer (a sleepier Waterglass). Avoid Catoblepone are a richly adventurous band, playing with layers and going for the more atmospheric side, but when they got clankier it sounded prettier still. Psychotique? have less elegance and more guts, and despite being quite different musically reminded me of Dr Mix, if anyone remembers back that far in French history? Tough, snotty, intelligent music.

I wasn’t particularly blown away by Dr Mad because it’s actually sonorous soundtrack material, but the lot I expected to hate, Basarsonik, are actually the most imaginative and audacious of the lot. ‘Punky Brazil party’ conjures up an inventivel and delightful rhythm out of the strangest components. Obviously mad, but quite brilliant.

So, 18 songs which will entrance, no question.

FEELING OF NOWHERE – Lemon Lime, Just Be Yourself
NO TEARS – Hole In Time, Brightness
EX NIHILO – Reconstruire, Spleen
SHED – Heal Me, Tales Of A Fool
PSYCHOTIQUE – Petite Chanson Nulle, Internement
BASARSONIK – Punky Brazil Party, Le Grand Basarsonik
DR MAD/bloodlust – Plains Of Snow, She’s Gone (which didn’t work for me!)

(Wasp Factory)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Proof if proof was needed that there is real quality and variety in the UK, and Wasp Factory have cornered the mini-market in modern marvels. There’s not a bad track here at all, and it’s a wonderful guide to their succulent sounds, with the emphasis on modern, but with a keen intelligence, which means no going for any lowest common denominator.

The sultry sparseness or richly interwoven strengths of Swarf give you the modern variables straight off, with oddly mature pop inside it all. There’s some gritty Dust capers, wonkier murk from Katscan, who have a wildness about them, but with less instant impact, sneaky moments from Pyschophile, and attitude problems gladly shared from Freudstein. Spray show Cruxshadows how it can be done, with tongues piercing their own cheeks, and Interlock throw an enormous grimy spanner in the works, as their vocals need work, and the sound on ‘Birdman’ isn’t big enough, then after their wrath, you have the supposedly demure Seventh Harmonic soundly well uppity.

No dodgy old join-the-dots Goth moods, no time wasted. Just what you want.

SWARF - Drown, Sorrow
DUST  - Mind, Wraith
KATSCAN - Stutter-Cut, 008 Biology
PSYCHOPHILE - Vice Girl, Illumination
SPRAY - I Am Gothic, Child Of The 80s
INTERLOCK - Birdman, The Hold