Portuguese Goth/Darkwave band Aenima has certainly paid its dues. Soon after the release of their first full length CD, and a critically acclaimed performance at Germany's M'era Luna Festival, their label folded. "Sentient," their superb sophomore effort, has yet to see the light of day thanks to various problems. To top things off, Aenima recently lost two of their founding band members. Despite all these setbacks, they have persevered, producing intelligent and tuneful music. Their latest EP, "Never Fragile," gives us a good picture of where Aenima has been -- and where they are going.
Carmen's voice remains as impressive as ever. She opens "At The Edge of a Cliff" by showing off the throaty, sexy low end of her vocal range. As she climbs the scale, the backing instrumentation climbs behind her, until we're once again hearing the breathtaking trills which graced their earlier releases. If you're dying to hear "Sentient" (and you should be), you can whet your appetite with "The Light" and "Lilith," two tracks from those recording sessions. "Lilith" again treats us to Carmen's low range, and to swooping high notes as piercing and beautiful as starlight in winter. "The Light" is equally impressive, full of sadness and longing and melancholy grandeur. This is classic Aenima, and classic Gothic/Darkwave.
Impressive as Carmen's vocals are, they are matched by Aenima's instrumental work. The opening track, "Intro to End All Intros," gives us the bleeps and blips of EBM, rising out of a classic Goth symphonic wash of sound. "Forlorn" features Rune at his tasteful best, with a soft, melancholy guitar line that supports the singer rather than overwhelming her. The percussion is also consistently good; the driving bass drum which powers "At the Edge of a Cliff" and the tight, razor-sharp drumming on "The Light" is unobtrusive, yet keeps things from sinking into Ethereal sludge. (Alas, Hugo, the drummer on these tracks, is no longer with the band: let us hope that his replacement can measure up to this high standard).
The final track, "Rapture," is a departure from Aenima's previous sound. It ipens with a whooshing synthesizer, which then becomes a Goth/dance track ala Afro-Celt Soundsystem. I might pump up the mix a bit to show off Carmen's lilting soprano, but that's a minor quibble. "Rapture" is really promising: it proves Aenima isn't resting on their laurels, and that their music continues to mature. This great example of a song which is more "commercially friendly" and "modern" than previous material without selling out. Combined with the opening, it suggests that Aenima is developing despite all the obstacles which fate has thrown in their path. Let's hope that 2003 is the year when Aenima becomes a five-year overnight success story.
1) Intro to End All Intros
3) At the Edge of a Cliff
4) The Light
Official Aenima Webpage
~reviewed by Brian Riggs
Ms. Shikhee and co. have been taken off my Christmas Card list. At first listen, the New Android Lust release reminds one immediately of quality early 90’s EBM post-industrial along the lines of NIN’s Broken and some Thrill Kill Kult, with a bit of Eric Serra (!) chucked in (think “The Fifth Element” soundtrack. Ok, ok, I’m sorry) This would be acceptable if the early 90’s never happened. Oh dear.
It doesn’t necessarily fall into all the obvious traps of current drum machine-based electro. Some of the drum lines are a bit “big and in-your-face,” if you catch my drift, there isn’t a lot of range to her vocal delivery and the lyrics are your fairly standard tortured gawth silliness. This is nothing new; nothing original or refreshing is presented here, and the overt references I have read about in other reviews citing Android Lust as merely one in a whole cadre that ‘credit’ Skinny Puppy with influence is just depressing. And yet, somehow, utterly unsuprising. This reminds me of the post-Carcass death metal acts that crawled out of the woodwork with names taken directly from Carcass song titles. Who will save us from fandom.
The vocals are enjoyable I suppose, as is the rhythm, but I am given the sense that the shiny and crystal clear production form part of a device to disguise the lack of any real singing or songwriting ability. It actually sounds sort of doodling, almost improvisational; there are brief flashes of pleasant harmony amid the boom boom thump thump, but those looking for a genuine artistic statement should sniff elsewhere.
In all honesty, my first thought was that it sounded like a remastered Too Dark Park with Shikhee taking over as ‘lead raspy whisperer.’ I’m being a jerk, though. There’s nothing not to like about this music if you are the average LA Gawth Club Denizen that this kind of music is obviously geared for. Once again, I find myself being overly critical with something that clearly was not designed to withstand serious musical criticism. It’s competent dance music targeted towards modern Gawths, period. If you are an ethereal/darkwave/gothic/EBM DJ, you might as well throw this in your bag with the latest Apoptygma Beserk or VNV release. It’s full of nice, simple melodies that are sure not to put anyone off who might be frightened or confused when confronted with refreshing, energizing music. D’oh. I’m not the only guy that reviewed this, you know. A bit of Googling will lead you to much more relevant and in-depth reviews from people who actually like this kind of music and think it’s, uh… music.
The ultra-modern presentation and packaging is not misleading. It is along the lines (and drawing from the same basic color palette, I see) of A Perfect Circle’s Mer de Noms, though the bands share little outside this and the obviously rather tasty production values. We’re living in the Atomic Age of the Dollar, Billy, so you better get tough and fly right like those Japanese ‘cause it’s a rough and tumble world out there.
It’s not total poop, but it just reminds me of all spooky electronic euro-pop. It would probably fit in quite comfortably on european MTV rotation. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; european MTV is at least a little more varied in presentation, but they still suck my ass, to a degree.
The more I hear, the more it sounds like the second coming of Too Dark Park. They use a lot of the same vocal distortions and time signatures, and it’s hard not to think about Ohgr and co. when she’s screaming about sex and mutilation on track 10 (which is titled, curiously, “Sex and Mutilation.” I guess I shall have to solve that one another day). It just sounds derivative and boring, reminding you of that band you used to listen to when EBM was The Brand New Thing, like practically all of today’s dark electro-rock bands popping up like whack-a-moles out of their whack-a-mole holes. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: This is the unfortunate end product of capitalism, Billy. The spirit of the musician has been inexplicably wedded to the business man, and now both realms will suffer.
Android Lust is Shikhee
2. Kingdom of One
3. Panic Wrought
5. The Want
8. Another Void
9. Fall to Fragments
10. Sex and Mutilation
The Blood Divine
Rise Pantheon Dreams
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
The woeful, forlorn vocals of Darren White were what immediately appealed to most fans of Anathema’s early work (“Serenades,” “Crestfallen,” and “Pentecost III”). Whether it was his dejected spoken word parts or the anguished suffering that animated his growls, his voice was the perfect crown to Anathema’s depressive majesty. When Darren parted ways with the band, he formed The Blood Divine, and Anathema progressively moved away from their bleakly romantic Doom metal roots into sedate Floydian and Radiohead influenced pastures. To many it was a marked improvement, but to most it was a most unfortunate loss. Anathema was never the same without Darren White, and for whatever small minority of Doom fans there are across the globe, we had our sights set high for The Blood Divine to fill the void that Anathema’s change in direction was to leave.
The band’s best tracks and some studio outtakes have been conveniently compiled on this collection by Peaceville Records late last year. Sadly, only shades of Darren’s former glory can be heard in the music of The Blood Divine. While I hate to do dwell on the past, I can’t help but compare The Blood Divine with Darren’s work with Anathema. There are several similarities, and even the title of the album could be a suggestion that The Blood Divine was a continuation of what Darren started in Anathema.
(In the liner notes of “Pentecost III,” the final Anathema release Darren appeared on, fans were informed that a follow up entitled “Rise Pantheon Dreams” was coming soon. That album was never released, or perhaps more likely, it was released under the title “The Silent Enigma” with Vincent Cavanagh’s debut vocal appearance? This, is just miscellaneous trivia for the discerning Anathema fan…but I digress)
Darren’s voice is much more rough around the edges, and lacks the ghostly vulnerability and painful grandeur that existed in Anathema. But primarily, his musical backdrop is not nearly as poignant or as colourful. The Blood Divine is a decidedly though perhaps not so successfully ‘rockin’ band, as exemplified on the clumsy Cathedral-esque “Visions In Blue” and on the brief confusing forays into metallic punk on unreleased tracks like “Revolt” and “Forever Belongs.” The Blood Divine do however have their moments of convincing gloom, as on the moody magnificence of “As Rapture Fades,” the melodic ballad “Wilderness” and on the nine minute epic “So Serene.” While all of those aforementioned songs are interesting and descent slabs of Gothic Metal, “The Passion Reigns” succeeds even more where other tracks do not in that the band sounds disciplined, reserved, and much more focused. Darren’s vocals are moving yet suitably restrained, and the song’s complex arrangement of haunting pianos, lulling bass lines, and dreary guitar harmonies atop its shuffling rhythm is quite impressive.
But the main problem with The Blood Divine was that their music was too fragmented and they were all over the map, and they never seemed to settle on any specific direction to take the band. This compilation is interesting and noteworthy to fans that would like to investigate Darren’s career after Anathema. While not one hundred percent fulfilling, it definitely has its moments as a good third of the songs possess a great deal more substance than other Goth Metal bands currently available for public consumption. Ultimately, this release is a tragic testament to what could have been. But perhaps it may also represent what could be, if The Blood Divine decides to reapproach their sound with a greater sense of focus and a more concrete goal. Whatever the case, it was a treat to hear Darren’s voice again and I am sure several fans of his work with Anathema will find something of value in this disc.
2.) Visions In Blue
3.) As Rapture Fades
6.) Sensual Ecstasy
7.) Enhanced By Your Touch
8.) I Will Bleed
9.) The Passion Reigns
10.) Leaving Me Helpless
11.) Forever Belongs
12.) So Serene
13.) Crazy Horses
The Blood Divine is:
Darren White – vocals
Paul Ryan - guitar
Benjamin Ryan - keyboards
Steve Maloney – bass guitar
W A Sarginson – drums
The Blood Divine – Official
People Of The Dark
~reviewed by Blu
If you were lucky enough to attend one of their shows on the West Coast of the U.S.A. you probably got your hands on this new CD and will have had a chance to hear what most people won't for a few more months yet (it's slated for a mid-April release in the UK and later for the rest of the world). Lucky, lucky people you. San Francisco DJ Rick A Mortis just named People of the Dark one of his top CDs of the year alongside work such as Cinema Strange, Penis Flytrap, Peter Murphy and David Bowie. Greg Fasolino, noted alternative music journalist and guitarist for The Naked And The Dead, has said it's a "damn good" CD and named their track, "The Fall Of The Evergreen," as his favorite off the StarVox Trinity Compilation. You see, it's not just me.
So what's all the excitement about you ask? Buzzing around subjects as diverse as UFOs, ghosts and paranormal activity, matters of the heart and rebellion against unfair practices of organized religion and government, is a complex, well produced, textured and musically powerful CD. At times it's a seething ball of fury and criticism on political fronts; at other times it has all the abandon and fun of bouncy, riotous punk and every once in a while, there are moments of pure blissful beauty and heart-felt soul. If I had to make references for familiarity's sake, I'd say mix up a bowl of one part Sex Pistols (for the angry energy) and one part New Model Army (for the politics) and toss in a bit of Killing Joke, Led Zepplin and The Damned for musical flavor. It's not a perfect CD, I don't know any that are, but it is highly superior on many levels and will undoubtedly make my "Best Of' list at the end of the year.
What I first noticed is how crystal clear the production is. The sound is really top notch. Candy to the ears -- it's as crisp and brilliant as any CD done by a big name label. What makes this even more incredible is that this CD was engineered by Belisha's very own guitarist - Byder. Talk about a DIY band!
Track one, "Tribal Gathering," is a lush instrumental introduction that sets the theme for later songs. Mixing Christian commentary with samples of Middle Eastern religious music, it's exotic and disturbing at the same time especially in our current political climate. And while the absolute horror of misguided religious paths hangs in the air, they launch into their first song, "Agnostic Jihad" where no religion is spared criticism with the hope that we may someday as human beings, get beyond those differences and stop using them as means of murder and hate. The chorus opens up the song against the backdrop of Indian music for a worldly flavor helping to drive home the point that this is not about any one religion but all of them when used as excuses for racism and genocide. Big and bold and in your face they yell: "Your gods are dead." Hitting upon perceived hypocrisy they sing, "Holy leaders, All religions, Love thy neighbour, Embracing murder, The truth now, Your gods are dead" all to the tune of pounding, guitar-heavy anthems. Highly energetic, angry and powerful, this song may well be their first single.
Track 3 is one that many may have downloaded off Belisha's website earlier this year. They wrote "People of the Dark" for the goth scene in appreciation for our support of their music (an unusual bit of thanks that we don't normally get from a non-goth bands). If you've read any of the interviews done with this band you know that one of their goals is to crush the way the mainstream music industry works and they're more than happy to take us along for the ride: "Dark ones, Take hold, People of the dark will meet -- the realm is turning, People of the dark will set the land a burning..." Musically it's a mid-tempo song with a catchy melody that I've no doubt had running through my head many times since I first heard it.
Getting into more personal territory, "Pain" is a bleak and dramatic song centered around heartache and loss. It's driving tempo and guitar melodies echo the desperation and emotional turmoil of a broken heart searching for a reason to continue on. Vocalist Dan spits out the word "pain" on the chorus as if on the verge of complete frustration and breakdown. On the flipside of this emotional roller coaster they've taken us on, is lusty track "Want." Built around a staccato, bouncing bass line that lends itself to punk inclinations, it's lyrically romantic: "I held you I felt you I want you I need you I see you I breathe you I want you I need you." There's a nice bridge here that slows it down and changes the feel of the song for a bit before rousing back into the main chorus.
Track 6 does not have a title but a symbol. Upon first listen it appears to be a scratchy radio transmission of some kind and if you know Belisha and one of their favorite past times, it's not too hard to surmise that this is a recording of a UFO encounter. What makes this terribly interesting is that it's the actual transmission from one of the UK's top UFO controversies that happened in 1980 near RAF Woodbridge in eastern England. It's been dubbed the "Rendlesham File" and ironically, only recently has this information been made public. In press releases that hit the news on Nov. 29th, the complete government files have been made accessible to the public for the first time. It's completely fascinating to be able to hear this recording especially in light of the recent news. See more info on this case on CNN here and stay tuned to StarVox for a new interview with Belisha and more about this subject.
"Negative" is one of my favorite tracks because it's massively heavy and hard hitting. We've all had those people in our lives who insist in wallowing in their own pain for illogical reasons, who don't listen to reason, who refuse to help themselves, who seem to do nothing but bring everyone around them down. That's the theme behind this song. With guitars that are almost metal in nature and lyrics that are nearly shouted and always fueled with anger; I daresay they'd attract a few headbangers with this one.
"Eyes That Blacken" is a great example of how keyboardist Pit uses samples and keyboards in just the right places to accent a piece rather than over loading a song with them as many modern bands tend to do. It starts with vocals over synthetic percussive elements so low you almost don't hear them and then a siren comes in blaring before giving way to bell tolls all to highlight yet another song about heartbreak. It develops into a fairly fast tempo propelled by a nice bouncy bass line.
Track 9 is a 43 second track titled "Lizzard" and if you've got the capability to play it backwards you will unlock the mysteries of the universe. Otherwise, it's a bit harsh on the ears. Don't get me wrong, I find these odd interludes (tracks 6 and 13 included) completely fascinating and they often aid in understanding what motivates this band; however, when you're listening to the CD over and over again in the car for the pure joy of hearing good music, this track gets to be a thorn in your side and I'm now automatically reaching for the "skip" button when it comes up. So perhaps, the idea was good and the sentiment important but the placement of it is bothersome when listening to this CD for purely musical reasons.
Next up is the jewel of the pile for many people. "Shroud of King" has been the surprise favorite with those who picked up the CD on their recent West Coast tour. It continues a theme first explored on their CD, The Hounded, in the track "Into the Casparian Sea." Exotic and mysterious sounding, textured with more Middle Eastern melodies, it's got a good beat and great allure with it's adventuresome tale of kings and battles. Sexy and serpent-like it winds and slithers and begs your body to move to its rhythm.
Then we have track 11. To be completely objective I have to admit that "Hero" does not work for me. While the lyrics are obviously fueled by some strong emotion, the music itself seems much too pop-ish for its own good and to me, the lyrics lose their affect in the seemingly carefree tone. Even though it starts out a bit more down beat with a great bass led melody, by the chorus it's sing-songy and light and just too happy sounding for what the subject matter is. Could just be me. It's not a bad song mind you - it has plenty of personality and I do catch myself sometimes bopping along to it; but something just does not click with me even as they whisper "I hate you I hate you I hate you" in the background. Maybe I'm missing the irony?
"The Fall Of The Evergreen" almost needs no introduction here as this was the first song released prior to this CD on a teaser EP and then again on the StarVox Trinity Compilation. It has been the song they've gotten most club play with and certainly a favorite for fans. This CD has a different version from the one on the EP, a bit more uptempo and more textured. It's been perfected and is seamless in production. This is a perfect example of the kind of tight rock n roll Belisha is capable of. The guitar here is especially good and varied - classically jangly in all the right places, screeching and ripping in some instances and distorted and dirty in others. The chorus is very addictive and the uptempo beats are hard to resist. I predict this is the song that will get them the most comparisons as a modern version of bands like The Cult.
If you're not paying attention track 13 will buzz by and you won't notice it. Or perhaps you'll only think, "odd, that's a bit of a long silence between tracks." But it's not silence. No no, it's another odd little treat Belisha has stuck in there for us called "Altered Ones". If you turn it up and listen to it with headphones on it should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and chills run up your arms. At least it does to me every time I play it. Even though there is nothing to give away the subject matter per se; it is sufficiently spooky all on its own. I had a suspicion of what it was and later asked them about it and they confirmed it for me. What you'll hear here is some EVP recordings - or Electronic Voice Phenomena - which is supposedly the low-audio sounds of paranormal activity caught on tape and only audible by intense magnification. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... creepy. Not recommended when all alone in a dark house.
Next is my favorite track on the CD if I had to pick just one and strangely, it's the most un-Belisha song of the bunch. It's an unlikely favorite to be sure but perhaps it's because they are usually so energetic and so boisterous and loud and angry that I appreciate the quiet beauty of this acoustic track all the more. Yes, I said acoustic. Belisha does indeed have a soft tender side though lord knows they don't let it out to play too often (and we wouldn't have it any other way). The music is utterly beautiful - delicate acoustic guitar with wonderful harmonized vocals and hand beat percussion. The lyrics are mystical and magical and the sentiment soars with emotion and wonder. I've yet to unravel the mystery of this story but I'm working on it: "Silence for the approaching king, Sexless mighty and meek, Viper in a tarmac bind, Dances slow with each of, Maria and her western girls, Swirl with stealth and reach, Lies they say and fires they make, The lone ghosts gently weep." Keyboard lines hint at heart-pulling string melodies and I can only imagine how much more dramatic this song would be backed with a real set of string players. There is a section right before the final verse where the acoustic guitar really gears up and the notes are picked bright and fast and it almost brings me to tears. I have literally set this song on repeat in order to listen to it over and over again and haven't got tired of it yet.
Speaking of ghosts and paranormal things, "Old Barbed Wire" is another unusual track - a spoken word part set in a creepy dreamscape that seems to portray a vision of a battled and beat army. I like it because the subject matter is pretty morbid and being a silly American, I find the British accent completely delightful. I do have one small complaint though. Despite the superb production on all the other tracks, the beginning of this one seems entirely too loud. For some reason that first rush of harp is just overpowering and I find myself turning it down for a few seconds only to have to turn it up again to hear the vocal part. I'm unsure if this was done on purpose -- as a way of whisking the listener down into this dream world -- but it's loud enough to make me adjust the volume every time and that's a tad annoying. Beyond that little bit of criticism, I think it's a fairly effective as a descriptive soundscape on the horrors of war and the mis-guided evil that humans are capable of.
"Rising" continues their anti-religious theme but in a less aggressive way than "Agnostic Jihad" did. The lyrics are a bit more cryptic, almost riddlelike: "Buried in the certain veil, Balance form soul to sail, Suffer with the Holy Ghost, Every man needs it most." This music is laid back but still heavy in a kind of dramatic stadium-band way and it's really grown on me the more I listen to this CD. It's deceptively more complex than you think upon first listen. Myself and others have found odd comparisons between Belihsa and bands like Led Zepplin and I find that most apparent here although I think it was entirely unintentional. It starts out with keyboard lines that are both regal and a bit psychedelic in tone with long, drawn out guitars and rumbling low bass lines. The drums are heavy and accented. The chorus is strong and clear and very catchy. The keys are the real stars of this one because this song suddenly changes and builds to a feverish dirge of sorts, each instrument, one by one chiming in on a the same melody line until a whole orchestra is let loose and it's pounding very heavily altogether completing a dramatic climax with accompanying break beats in the percussion (and this is where it's most like Zepplin). It never fails to make me head bang like a highschool boy. I love it.
And finally, my second favorite song and by far my favorite in their live show is "Illuminati." Accessible in a good way, aggressive and another great example of that kind of excitement I can only tag as "Belisha Energy." It's angry and alive. It's especially fun in headphones or in a good surround sound system on the chorus because you get Dan whispering in your ear and then you get pierced on all sides by the group chorus. I'm almost obsessive about this chorus - it literally just RIPS out of the speakers. It's like a good roller coaster ride. Musically they just go insane on this one. There's a guitar solo in it that's off the hook and the drumming get maniacal. Subject wise it's their "love song" to world governments and just the kind of tongue-n-cheek cynicism that I like best in this band. On CD and especially live, Dan goes completely mad and we get the full extent of his anger as no one is left out of this political reaming: "Fuck G8, Fuck Rockefeller, Fuck Rothschild, Ruck UN, Fuck Nato, Fuck Bilderberg!"
I think Johnny Rotten would be proud.
1. Tribal Gathering
2. Agnostic Jihad
3. People Of The Dark
8. Eyes That Blacken
10. Shroud of King
12. The Fall Of The Evergreen
13. Altered Ones
14. The Lone Ghost
15. Old Barbed Wire
Dan - Vocals
Byder - Guitar
Elrik - Bass
Pit - Keys
Hawl - Drums
Management and label:
Filthy Sonnix Records
~reviewed by Basim. [Rhymes w/ Possum]
Gosh, for a scene that prides itself in being creative, Goth sure seems to ride trends often. Yesterday’s Nosferatu, Rosetta Stone and The Wake are today’s VNV, Apop and Covenant. Whether it be Sister clones, or by-the-numbers EBM, what succeeds in our scene is almost always formulaic. For this very reason, Virginia’s Bella Morte sticks out like a sore thumb among the current heap of bands today. While fellow Americans Cruxshadows seem to have taken up a decidedly Eurocentric sound drawn from a fairly limited -cynics would say reserved- list of influences (VNV, Apop), Bella Morte has done the exact opposite. There is no doubt this is an American band whose sound takes cues from a wide range of influences – many of which, I’m happy to report, have no association with the Goth/Industrial scene whatsoever!
The opener, "Regret", turned out to be my favorite song in their set at the Boston gig they played last June. It had this killer energy to it that can only be described as ROCK. Opening with a simple synth part, it’s pretty hard to imagine how intense the music gets. Alongside, Andy rants:
Where has the warmth within your voice gone?And before you can come up with an answer, some growling bass begins to bubble under that seemingly simple synth part, creating the substance of what will be a colossal juggernaut poised to plow through anything that comes in its way.
It seems your care has died away
I wander through a thousand questions,
Never knowing what to say.
Lift your palms – your hands are soiled,
And the guilt now lights your eyes,
‘Will I know or will I wander?’
The voice of severed ties.
Years will pass and you’ll remember,The first thing you notice about the lyrics is that they’re a lot more personal than Bella Morte’s previous material. This is totally a break up song, and along with it is this dormant resentment that’s just seconds from having to explode! In a move demonstrating good song craftsmanship, the Bella Bois have written the chorus with this airy faerie ambience to it: The vocals are drenched with lush reverb, and the guitar wails in the background with the warmth of a humpback whale. This lack of grounding adds to the tinderbox of suppressed negativity, and before you can say ‘resolution’, this sharp snare pierces through the atmosphere and the vocals get a hell of a lot angrier:
All that died within your grasp.
And I’ll be gone – you’ll sleep uneasy,
Upon a bed built of regret.
You won’t forget the loss of passion
As the past sleeps in your mind,
Years will pass and you’ll be searching
For things you’ll never find.
Beneath the days there lies indifference,Well close one sad eye folks, this guys pissed! The lyrics are some of the best I’ve read by Andy, and the music seems to get grittier and grittier. It’s a showstopper live, and if it’s pushed right (by fans, DJs) it’ll realize it’s own cross over potential.
Your smile can’t retract lies,
And my nights will find their comfort,
In the knowledge that I tried.
Were your words always so empty?
Have I been blinded by your light?
My doubts were real from the beginning
Unlike the final tears you cried.
Next up is "Logic", which seems to be the antithesis of "Regret" in terms of tone and depth. "Regret"s brooding burned us from the inside, while Logic has no gripes standing up and standing out as just a fun, silly zombie song! It’s got these big arena rock drums and HUGE guitars. I’ve reached a conclusion; this is the song that should have been in Reanimator. There’s nothing I’d like to see more than Herbert West killing and reanimating crippled kittens to the sound of this track. The music has got this horror industrial feel to it, and the vocal melody really carries the sentiments well. I urge you to download it from their mp3.com site and make opinions of your own.
Moving on, here comes the lyrical prequal to "Regret" (notice how everything ties into that song?), "Whispers". To me, this is one of the most interesting tracks on the whole album. It centers on Andy’s vocal part and Gopal’s descending bass line. Like any song that has a descending bass line as its focal point, this could really shine as an acoustic ballad. Not that it doesn’t shine as is, because the song is gorgeous, and with lyrics like "Sleep another hour, dear just close your eyes // For time is fading quickly from outside", it succeeds making the girls blush. Gee, thanks for keeping every girl I ever dated distracted – Jerks! What I find really endearing about the song is that more then any other on the album, this piece reminds of material from Remains. It’s romantic, the song showcases great dynamics and interaction between real instruments (the synths are only there to add intonated fuzz), and the overall feel has the story-by-the-fire-side warmth to it that permeates their best work.
By the next track, it’s clear to me that I’m going to remember this album for times to come. While on previous releases BM kept all bases covered by having songs that fit into established caricatures of subgenres (goth rock song, synthpop song, death rock song), on The Quiet it’s clear that they’ve kept all bases covered by having songs of varying tone and meaning. This is a far more respectable and mature approach to song writing, and it serves for something more interesting to listen to. "First Light" is as fickle as it is decisive. The drum programming really shines, and I love the way it complements the quirky synth perfectly: the beat is constant to the point of redundancy, and layered over it are these synth lines that never seem to settle on a phrase for too long. It’s a sonic contradiction that fits together like puzzle pieces. Then crunchy guitars add a sort of polish and ‘swing’ to the song. It swings like a solid jazz standard, but instead of being fluid and human, we have something that operates in quick thrusts and sudden jerks. I wonder whether they planned the song to come out this way, or whether some wandered by mistake and the song found them.
The title track is next up, and with the exception of ‘living dead’, is the first of a long string of gothic dirges that are bound to perk up your day! It opens with ambience, and a funereal bass thump every measure. There’s some really pretty mandolin-like guitar strumming in the back ground, and in the foreground Andy paints, in delightful Bella Morte fashion, a tale of Love and Loss:
And this silence is her life,Pretty soon the music picks up, and the bass begins to anchor everything in place. It’s as rhythmic as it is melodic, and the way it acts like a bridge between the warmth in Andy’s voice and the frosty electronics is a testament to that. You can almost see the spoken words smolder as gray mist before you in the cold. It’s a powerful song, though it does noticeably loose a lot of punch in its recorded state. It’s not three dimensional enough. Maybe raising the volumes at the end of each guitar phrase with some sort of volume pedal like effect would breath more life into it. Something to vary up the dynamics is in order and it wont come from layering, which is what they’ve already done. They need to add more room between the peaks and divots in the sound: something to give the illusion of sound dissipating in a concert hall. Really tactful reverb on staccato sounds, not unlike what they did in the beginning with the mandolin – style strumming on guitar would really help. More sounds in that vein. I hope the band finds that helpful J
Falling back into the dark November sky,
Over voices she shall cry,
Soundless screams are felt before the sun can rise.
Hear a voice as strong as stale,
Speaking long dead names to keep the evening still
In her heart rests all the time
Trapped for now in faith that death is still a lie.
Armed to shred up all the atmosphere created by The Quiet is the death rock’n Living Dead. The lyrics are camp and the music is hard. Some of the guitar phrasing behind the vocals sounds really ‘metal.’
It’s the way they’re arpegiated, I’ve realized, and it sounds strikingly similar to ‘Number of the beast’ era Maiden. It’s also got a Maiden-esque upbeat vibe to it, minus the dramatic vocals. It’s a tune that’ll definitely appeal to those of you into harder death rock, like fans of 45Grave. Feeding off the energy created by "Living Dead" is "Echoes", which has one of the most well crafted choruses on the album. It’s a fast paced synth number with some guitar bite to it: there’s actually shredding going on behind everything. It’s like the bastard child of new wave and shred metal; it’s cross genre 80s nostalgia – if there is such a thing! Well, there is now, and I’d like to hear more.
The next song is yet another ballad, and it stands out as the most depressing track on the album. This is as dirge like as they come. It also shows off Andy’s crooning and vocal talents. The guitars start off as smooth and Cure-like until the end, where it beings to writhe and scrape against its surroundings with its really rough, distortion edges. The song is called "Hope Again", and its my suspicion that Bella Morte was commissioned by Prozac to produce it, in hopes to get more people prescribed. They seem to have succeeded, as Andy bellows at the end:
And his words are the rain,The song seems to be about over coming apathy when logic and reason have killed your heart. Uh... Yea. Eeyore must have been one of Andy’s early role models. All things considered, this is a strong track, sounding like My Dying Bride’s "The Angel and The Dark River" remixed by Trent Reznor.
Which fall into my life,
Through the years as tears are left behind.
To the end of time, we’re holding on to faith,
This day will carry on,
No matter what shall come.
‘I want to feel’.
Speaking of interesting mixes, "I Follow" sounds like two parts vintage Bella Morte mixed with one part Run DMC! It’s easily my favorite track on the album, as it has the most infectious drum loop out all thirteen tracks. There’s this great groove established by drums, bass and guitar that makes way for a distorted industrial part every now and then. Also, while the song is the most experimental, it happens to have the most memorable break on the entire album! A little more than three minutes into it everything goes silent save for the guitar and a few electronics. Then it all EXPLODES: Loud synth, huge drums, colossal electronics and the best vocal line in the whole album:
Watch the grayLike a character in a Walpole story, it succeeds in being both triumphant and morose. It’s completely different sounding but distinctly Bella Morte. The song’s a success, and must be heard in order to succeed.
While the world is standing still
I reach for memories of Hope
See our fate leave just faith
To last the bitter day
Into such deadened times ahead!
Always is the last ballad on the disc, and it’s somber but also 80s. It’s lavender, and hot pink. It’s Eeyore in legwarmers. The lyrics and vocals really propel the song:
Careless words were spent,By the end of the song, the bass is playing these really odd figures in a high register, and the vocals begin to get really dramatic. The electronics are layered nicely, the voice is strong and the bass adds this nice ‘gallop’ to the music.
Careless songs once help you near,
Have I always known,
This would be our end?
Snow obscures the Earth,
Just as time obscures the past.
Details fade away,
Visions fill the sky with ash.
Next up is the punk rocker, "Christina"! It’s got roots in the bouncy Angelic Upstarts/Cockney Rejects side of things with lyrics about seizing the day and living life moment to moment. It’s really pogo worthy, and requires much bouncing to fully appreciate it. When I listen to it, I have to make an effort not to punch a wall! It’s lively pothick gunk, and it deserves to be on play lists on College radio across America. This is spring time/dressing up music. It’s good to listen to while putting your hair up. The lyrics are a real treat, as they’re one of the few stories on the album that are clear enough to understand on the first listen. It’s a great light-hearted romp that will energize the weariest of hearts.
The next two songs compliment each other: Ember is much like the Xymox-y stuff on Remains/Where Shadows Lie with an updated, harder edge to it. There’s not much to explain, really. The thirteenth track is called "Wires", and it’s an orchestrated symphony of sampled sounds that all bear relevance to death. It’s really morbid, but romantic at the same time. It really sums up what Beautiful Death is all about, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to end the album.
My eyes are sunken; My skin is cold.
Bella Morte is
Andy Deane – Vocals + Programming
Gopal Metro – Bass + Programming
Bn Withlow – Guitar
Tony Lechmanski – Guitar
Metropolis Records: http://www.metropolis-records.com/
Wow, listening to this brings back memories of the first time I saw Bella Morte live. I was 18, sick of girls, sick of parents, and really sick of being told what to do by everyone. To make it to the show, I trekked all the way from Cambridge to New York by way of the super shady Chinatown bus circuit... little knowing that the Bella Bois would unveil what was to take its place along side Kommunity FK’s Close One Sad Eye as the soundtrack of my angst for times to come. Their set consisted mostly of death rock tracks, much to the entertainment of the mohawk-ed legions up front. The band was energetic and people began to mosh (where else can you see goths mosh besides a Morte show?).
I had a crackily mp3 bootleg then, and though the bit rate could have been better, listening to it succeeded in conjuring up fuzzy memories of Andy’s Bollywood-meets-Return of the Living Dead onstage "movements." You see, the first time this was released it was vinyl only. It’s taken them a while, but what I have in my disc player today is their CD reissue complete with two killer bonus tracks! I loved it then and I love it now, I urge you to all get your paws on it ASAP. It’s not to be missed and for those of you unconvinced, here’s the rest of my review:
"Demons" starts off the album with these really 70s guitars: each chord drenches everything in Sabbath-esque sludge that exudes the type of warmth only possible through analogue recording. I really caught myself doing double checks because the only thing missing here is Geezer’s tubby bass! About twenty seconds into it Andy’s voice pierces the gooey guitars with this vocal melody that seems lifted straight out of the violin passages of Nosferatu:
In their eyes we see the dawn fall to the dayPreviously submerged, this punk rock beast rises out of the sewage of guitars and begins to kick your ass! The drums pick up; the bass locks in and soon everything comes together to create this uncompromising ‘bouncing’ machine: You know when you’re listening to your Discman and you can’t help but synchronize your steps with the beat? Soon those beats get more jagged, and your steps begin to get jerky. Only moments from then you’ve begun ‘galloping’ and you must surrender your physical self to the bouncing machine. It’s that type of bouncing machine: as tyrannical as it is ‘bubbly.’ There’ll come a day when this sort of thing gets played at clubs, but until then life goes on. I guess I just can’t be happy today.
Whispered fears cast light against the
In their minds our time is lost and ever still
They will see where horror lies.
In contrast, the next song on the EP deals with much graver subject matter. Between 1923 and 1954 there was a legendary cult magazine called Weird Tales which was known for publishing all sorts of deliciously lurid short stories. Among those was a political anti-war ghost story, in which the ghost of the Unknown Soldier haunts two Senators, who had been arguing about starting a war to protect American ‘interests’! It was Henry Kuttner’s "We Are The Dead", and it remains my favorite ghost story of all time. Bella Morte’s song, "The Dead", touches on similar themes: The dead have come back to reclaim what was taken from them.
We stand We fight We moveYou can literally see a sea of undead Palestinian children, once killed in crossfire, rise up from the rubble of ruined courtyards and graves ready to lay siege on what once belonged to them. You can see an army of Kurdish children, malformed from Sadam’s chemical testing, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue just itching to remind the plump Republicans in office what was promised to them during the Gulf War. Under two minutes, "The Dead" is not only the most concise song on the album, but also the richest in form and substance. It starts with a loud and sharp sounding snare that doesn’t let up until the end of the song. The guitars are jagged like buzz saws and the bass adds this depth to the sound and really shines through during the shouted chorus. The vocal delivery reminds me of Specimen’s "Sharp Teeth, Pretty Teeth" in the sense that both singer’s really stress their consonant sounds as to keep the words clear even though they’re being fired off a mile-a-minute.
Into the night
We are the death of legends
We stand so black in grief
Of what has passed
We owe the world no debt
Living ends with shattered bones
across the cemetery roam
into the grey-lit twilight
and from the soil another cries
to pierce the dark against the lies
and never see them falter
"The Fallen" is up next, and with it’s classic B movie sound byte (I won’t reveal anything!) it remains the most Misfits-y song on the disc. It’s bouncy and really wears the bands Southern roots on its sleeve: Andy really sings in drawl, y’all! If Leatherface were in a punk rock band I’d fancy it would sound like this. It has the type of Zombiefied lyrics ("We wander from the grave", "all I see is hunger" "The end is drawing near, the light of day wont save you now") and frequent "woah-oh-ohs" that Danzig would be proud of. It’s a fun track, but as fun as it is there really isn’t much to write about it. It’s great fun live.
Now the next track is an epic -often melodramatic- tale of love, betrayal and retribution. Yes folks, this is just like Bollywood. Infact, if Bella Morte ever hold a make-your-own-video contest let it be known that it was my idea to turn this into a tacky/grandiose spectacle of dancing Zombie bois and choreographed ghoulish girls (wearing form fitting midriff shirts – in true South Asian style)! I thought of it, I’m entitled to it. "The Fallen" was Southern in delivery and "The Coffin don’t want me and She don’t either" takes this one step further. This is Southern in content. The vocals are accented, the syntax is a ‘lil off ("Though I’ve been dead but three weeks") and the song is about killing your ex-lover! Ok, so maybe killing your ex-lover isn’t distinctly Southern (even I have a dead hooker in my trunk!), but the rest of it is.
This song stands as one of the few new songs that are both pure camp and also inventive at the same time. Some groups like The Serpenteens and Mr. Monster may be fun, but they never really write anything that we haven’t heard the Misfits do before. It’s bands like Zombina and The Skeletones along with Bella Morte that know how to take a classic formula and make it their own. They’re smart and know how to keep the spirit alive and not get over obsessed with the icons. Isn’t that what punk was about? It’s about time the whole scene took the hint and matured into something respectable.
Ah, time for the bonus tracks. "Eyes of the Ghost" begins with this infectious, sugary guitar melody that makes way for this bass and drum gallop that reminds me of the kings of galloping rhythms: Iron Maiden! I’m seeing a pattern in all of their new Death Rock styled music... It all reminds me of Maiden. I’m pretty sure Dickenson roadied for the Clash, which would explain the punkish element in I.M’s early material – so here’s my request to the band: I love the music you’re writing now, but don’t you think it’s about time you went ahead and just covered an Iron Maiden song? Both bands have dramatic vocals, camp lyrics, talented guitar players and galloping rhythms. Any shmuck can tell you Bella Morte takes cues from Xymox on their material off Where Shadows Lie, and I’d venture to say they take just as many from Maiden during their punk moments. "Eyes of the Ghost" is a wonderful tune, with a great guitar hook and touching lyrics. It stands up there with "The Dead" as the best songs on this EP in my opinion.
The next song is somewhat of a three chord punk song with some really stunning trimmings. It’s called "A Light In The Window" and opens up with these really pretty guitar harmonics. There’s some foreshadowing going on here as midway through the song the guitar drops out and leaves the bass as the only sonic anchor for song’s chord changes. Then the guitar sweeps back in to sprinkle more chirping harmonics over everything. The lyrics are also lush, and more akin to the morose style that appears on The Quiet. The concluding passage is especially powerful:
An ending falls,
so quiet now,
The words we spoke cannot be found.
The moments lost,
Still carry on,
In unseen worlds before the dawn!
And children say,
‘That through the night,
That one can see a ghostly light’!
This is "just a punk song" like ‘We Are The Dead’ was "just a ghost story." This is something much richer. This is a story that uses punk as a medium to weave a captivating and impressive yarn. Making art that can stand on its own when viewed from multiple angles (lyrical wealth, musical value) is something that the boys in Bella Morte have done since their Remains release. Listening to the Death Rock EP, I’ve witnessed Bella Morte expand upon what they were able to do before by including songs that were political ("The Dead") and bombastic ("The Coffin..."). This is a release well worthy of purchase and I strongly advise all of you to see them play these songs live. It’s really wonderful.
The Death Rock E.P Tracks:
The Coffin don’t want me and She don’t either
Eyes of a Ghost
A Light In The Window
Bella Morte is
Andy Deane – Vocals + Programming
Gopal Metro – Bass + Programming
Bn Withlow – Guitar
Tony Lechmanski – Guitar
BLACK TAPE FOR A BLUE
THE SCAVENGER BRIDE
~review by Mick Mercer
I have mentioned several times I was about to put this review up, but then changed my mind, because I felt I might get closer to what this was really about. I have read what Sam has written about it, on their superb press release site, and have tried really hard to get to grips with its reality, but in the end, after endless listens, have decided it hasn’t clicked with me, which is a shame. I am only talking about the story aspect of the CD, not the music. It is by and far and away their mightiest work, and exceptionally inviting, so I recommend it to anyone. If you’ve never heard them before, and possibly been put off by the idea it may all be a bit delicate and twee, fear not. It is a beautifully artistic record, full of warmth, intrigue, and positively wetting the bed with its ideas.
We’ll get back to the failure aspect shortly, but first there’s the scope and names, because while you know Sam Rosenthal is there, and the main vocals come in fine style from Elysabeth Grant, there are a host of names to conjure with. Strings play a major part here, provided by Elsyabeth now and then, but mainly Vicki Richards and Julia Kent (Rasputina). All manner of musical oddities are infused with spirit by Michael Laird from Unto Ashes, Lisa Feuer plays a special role with her flute, and there’s even Christopher David from non-Gothsters Judith. You have major vocal contributions from Bret Helm, the lugubrious one from Audra, Athan Maroulis from Spahn Ranch and Martin Bowes.
It’s an extravaganza, wonderfully underplayed, packed with talent, and bewitchingly beautiful as a package, complete with subtly ornate artwork, and we should expect no less when you consider we’re being pitched into a concept album. That is enough to make me shudder. Having come of age with the volcanic experience of Punk, concept albums were The Devil, and that still holds today, so I was hugely sceptical about this. Fortunately, there isn’t anything pompous here, which was always the problem with concept albums. It used to be a band or individual pretending to be clever and showing off, and inevitably getting hopelessly lost up their own backside. This is more of a picturesque way to handle the usual lovelorn despair you might expect.
It’s basically a story of a bride, and the men who failed to tie her down. In theory. The booklet starts the story, in a very exciting manner. A man is telling the story, apparently mysterious enough to draw the listeners in. Through the booklet extra touches and revelations are added which don’t feature in the songs, and that held my attention. It also works well with the music, once you have the idea fixed in your mind, but ultimately falls apart.
Musically this is a dream. Not as in ‘dreamy’, because that’s an ethereal stereotype. This is a fabulous record, filled with moments of true beauty, and some which could clearly have been better, and that flawed aspect only helps it grow in stature, because it pulls on you.
It begins almost like a sunrise through the mist, and keeps light until the fabulous ‘All My Lovers’ which is the Middle Eastern thread given a touch of bounce, then you’ll be thrown by the odd drama of ‘Shadow Of a Doubt’, or a fleeting ‘The Doorkeeper’. With Athan on vocals, Elysabeth contributing ‘slight viola’ and Lisa on the flute, ‘Floats In The Updrafts’ is another enchanting encounter, and you are definitely swept up in everything, but still as a mystery. The lyrics seem a touch too modern and not placed in context with ‘The Lie Which Refuses To Die’ and for ’The Scavenger’s Daughter’, with Bowes and Grant singing, it is getting almost too weird towards the end. These songs all have a shadowy touch, and then the colour can burst through, dappled, like early hand-tinted postcards. Bret stumbles his way through what is supposed to be an ‘epic, tortured’ song, in ‘Like A Dog/Letter To Brod’ and the phrasing seems clumsy compared to Elsyabeth’s exquisite handling of a similar approach in the closing track. Then it ends.
So where does it go wrong? Well, it concerns a woman and her hopes, and doubts, and of certain men, and of herself, starting in Prague 1913, and ending in 1961, which is fine, except these are fragments, and the story doesn’t hang together. There simply isn’t enough clarity about who she doesn’t hook up with , or just why she regrets not being with someone, or why the men themselves either failed or passed her by. We aren’t given sufficient details, which we could then imagine might be facts. We get the feelings of some who are affected, but no substance. The main story of her life simply isn’t there at all! And when there is a strong vocal male presence that isn’t backed up by any sold lyrical twists.
Inspired by Kafka and Duchamp it may be, but they weren’t noticeably wispy. A narrative flow accompanied by a semblance of development would have helped, but it remains steadfastly oblique. Some of the images are certainly very strong, some of them mildly disturbing, and yet somewhere along the line what should have brought all of this vividly to life simply isn’t there. This is skin, minus skeleton.
I expected to find out what was so interesting about The Bride, to learn the reason for the use of Scavenger, but in the end the best you can really say is that The Bride could be anyone, as could the Bachelors. But in the end, while that is a disappointment, it doesn’t matter. I gave up searching for the story and went with the mood and transplanted my own thoughts.
Musically, you can’t fault this. It caresses you throughout the short story, and peaks with some of the vocal moods, until you finish with the realisation you have been immensely touched by it.
It genuinely is a work of art.
The Scavenger Bride
All My Lovers
Shadow Of A Doubt
Floats In The Updrafts
A Livery Of Bachelors
The Lie Which Refuses To Die
The Scavenger’s Daughter
Like A Dog/Letter To Brod
Bastille Day, 1961
- press site with masses of detail
It’s Time (Single)
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
I still maintain that Butterfly Messiah is one of the most interesting and promising new dark music acts active today. The band’s name is starting to become more familiar to those within the scene. Their tracks are starting to pop up on various DJ playlists, as well as on club request sheets. And rightfully so. This Floridian trio provides a seamless and impressive fusion of chilling Gothic atmosphere with pulsating synth pop/electro elements. Though my interests in organic Goth Rock will reveal my bias, I am not indifferent to the current crop of electro pop pervading dark music clubs. I just rarely hear anything that stands out in my memory or stirs my emotions. Ultimately, it’s just a matter of taste, and as they say, to each their own.
But this single, the band’s first release since “Priestess,” their debut full length for Fossil Dungeon early last year, contains what very well may be the first truly great potential club anthem of 2003. “It’s Time” is a very well arranged track, with a meticulous balance of spectral ambience and hard-edged dance appeal. The song’s deliciously spooky aura will immediately appeal to most Goths, yet this up-tempo track possesses undeniable club accessibility. An encompassing sound comprised of ominous wire synths and flanged synths pan back and forth and swell atop the pulsating (but not overbearing) obligatory thud. The song builds to a memorable, climactic chorus accented by chimes and Shannon’s soaring vocal performance, which ascends to reach an icy soprano peak from the stark alto range she employs for the verses. A brilliant and successful combination of what seems to be rival elements in today’s dark club scene.
While “It’s Time” is built upon a traditional and predictable pop structure, the rich layers of instrumentation captivate the listener while the song’s rhythmic consistency assures that by spinning this track, there is no risk to the dance floor. The song does not fall prey to any sense of repetitiveness, which in my humble opinion, I feel is the primary problem with most contemporary ready for club play synth pop acts. It’s a fun and wonderfully moody track that I think DJs will love spinning and patrons will love dancing to.
The “Post Kronos Mix” of the song is practically identical to the original version, however it is a bit harder edged with punchier programming. It sounds as though the vocal and synth tracks are the same mix. Both tracks are equally good, and perfect for club play, while the latter is the ideal choice for DJs. The ‘B side,’ if you will, “Monument” is a slinky, undulating track with a good solid groove but is a bit more introspective (no pun intended) than the title track. A much improved and intensified version of “Machines” appears as well, which is an earlier track from the band’s demo EP that also has an unmistakable club appeal. For this track, the morose monotone of Robert Davis dominates the mic while Shannon supplies ethereal background accompaniment. Lastly, an instrumental version of “It’s Time” appears, which is cool but somewhat unnecessary honestly.
All in all, Butterfly Messiah’s latest single is a risk free necessity and one of the most exciting new releases in this genre I have heard in quite awhile. What sets Butterfly Messiah apart from other electro and synth pop bands is their atmosphere. My only fear is that Butterfly Messiah might get too caught up in making their music harder and club friendly, at the expense of the haunting atmospherics that make their music stand out so honourably. With “It’s Time,” they have achieved magick and I only hope they continue to stay faithful to this enchanting and refreshing formula.
* The single is available for $6 from Fossil Dungeon and Middle Pillar distribution, and samples of the songs can be heard at the band’s Mp3 site.
1.) It’s Time
2.) It’s Time (Post Kronos Dance Mix)
5.) It’s Time (Instrumental Demo)
Butterfly Messiah is:
Shannon Garson: vocals, keyboards
Robert Davis: vocals, percussion, and programming
Josh Harrington: percussion, programming
Butterfly Messiah – Official
Butterfly Messiah – Mp3 Site:
The Fossil Dungeon:
Distributed by Middle Pillar:
IT’S TIME (The Fossil Dungeon)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Highly creative combination of light Industrial EBM with an ethereal slant, which gives you three mixes of the title song and two other tracks. ‘It’s Time’ is, in essence, seething synth and martial drumming, where the layered noise fills the air but allows the vocals to whisk it into intoxicating stuff, and intermittent percussive bursts colour it nicely, for this isn’t the fullest of sounds. They haven’t gone for anything flowery, but keep to basics and that makes it pretty tough. Although Shannon has her ethereal vocals on top form on their album, here it’s a little more orthodox, and that helps keep them direct and thrusting. The second mix makes them sterner still, which lets the vocals flood out elegantly, but the weirdest thing is that the simple instrumental mix is the one which shows what a brilliantly vivid piece of utilitarian music this is. You also get the strange uprising they call ‘Monument’ where Robert does his spoken, meaningful bit, and ‘Machines’ that flaps around aimlessly.
It was good to see them taking on some harder angles, and bringing the vocals through to make them a really cohesive unit because the 2001 debut album which The Fossil Dungeon were also kind enough to send, is a distinctly ambitious project which doesn’t always hit the heights. This trio have real strengths. Shannon Garsons sings and does some keyboards, Robert Nightshade does vocals, perc and prog, while Josh Harrington is keyboards again, and they have a very sharp sense of musical style. It’s either build up, and highlight the central charm of a song, or start slow with odd noises. Now and again they get almost balmly with their synthpop side. That’s fine for variety but doesn’t give you a real feel for the band. There’s also a problem with Robert.
For a man who allegedly brings together ritualistic chants and poetry, he really doesn’t need to have the mechanoid effect on his vocals because if the lyrics are meant to mean something, why do it in a way that immediately renders them lacking in humanity? It doesn’t make sense. Luckily Shannon is mostly in vocal charge, and even when their weirder noises drag against the beat, or when they get frisky but then don’t seem to know how to create an accelerated sense of rhythm to bring a song to life, it still sounds interesting.
At times it reminded me of early Human League crossed with a brittle early New Order, but at others it’s Ethereal with knobs on, and you know what I mean by that. Bare, pulsing cutely, with some mystical wailing.
The album makes for a good start but you couldn’t really call it exceptional in any way, but ‘It’s Time’ shows them moving a few steps up the ladder, very quickly, and they’re going to get very good indeed.
http://erols.com/ tsbb/ fdungeon
Bikes & Pyramids
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
According to the press release Chandeen are leading lights in the Heavenly Voices movement, which you’ll be relieved to find is positioned squarely between the lands of Space Pop and New Wave. In other words, like the Cocteaus minus the frothy hippy bollocks. They have stunning vocals and light music of a subtle but intricate nature billowing sweetly behind them.
So yes, these are electronic soundscapes, sure enough, and compellingly simple, which seems to be their real forte. A slight rhythm, a succulent vocal melody, and moving slower than your heartbeat they bring with them a restful mood and it’s heady stuff once you start to give it respect. Initially it’s so quiet and undemanding you can rather ignore it, but when you start to concentrate you notice it getting stronger with every play.
Light trip hop bands have a similar approach, without the clear pop savvy Chandeen have developed, but they’re also in there with Eurodance chillout merchants. When it goes wrong (‘Smooth Man’s Melody’) they’re as bad as St Etienne, and when they try to approach a more forthright sense of structure it’s a bit Nena’s second album, which isn’t as bad as you might expect, just less bewitching that their true glories.
They don’t do noise, put it that way. No DIY on a Sunday morning for this lot. Those shelf units can wait, while their heads loll in the clouds, and love songs need writing, in an inviting manner. You’ll find cute Western themes nagging at you with the elongated echoey guitar strains, or some Mediterranean guitar warmth propping up the restful, often hazy vocals. What marks them out as very special indeed starts from the very first song, where musically they have you gripped with tendrils of the lightest vocal silk, and then a second, stronger, vocal refrain comes in and bathes you in pure aural luxury.
‘A Silent Love’ is shuffling whispers over nagging musical nuances, as the vocals get perkier and put and preen coquettishly across the percussive tincture of ‘Walking’ but it avoids getting doof-like. They abstain from unruliness. They are stately, they are idle. And it works, beautifully. Occasionally it’s just dull, as in the shitty ‘One Way Love’, or modern yet pointless, as their cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Apples And Oranges’ demonstrates, but then again it can be whimsical and softly saucy, as with ‘Heute Nacht’ which sounds like the best song Cibo Matto never wrote.
This isn’t a great album by any means, but it’s seriously good. I’ve played the bastard every week for over a month and there’s not many that inspire that much dedication.
MY WORLD DEPENDS ON YOU
DAYS IN TIME
A SILENT LOVE
YOU LOVE HIM
ONE WAY LOVE
APPLES AND ORANGES
SMOOTH MAN’S MELODY
THE SPACERIDER LEGEND
Electric Bitch (Artizone)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
A debut EP from a new band based in the English midlands. Conspiracy are an electronic outfit who, the info-sheet tells me, take their influences from 'the raw energy of early UK gothic music' filtered through 'post millennium electro beats and synth lines'. That's an intriguing description - the fact that Conspiracy don't seem to align themselves with the currently popular EBM scene, preferring instead to find a more individual way of referring to their music, immediately grabs my attention. And, in truth, Conspiracy don't sound anything like the kind of VNV-lite stuff which passes for cutting-edge electronica these days. They have their own sound and their own style, which does indeed have a certain old-skool feel.
'Electric Bitch' appears here in an original version and two remixes. It's a slinky little number, a sleazy red-light district of a song, with a jaunty, bouyant, synth-line kicking it along, and a splendidly throbbing bottom end. It recalls such 80s sleazery as 'Living On Video' by Trans-X, or first-album Soft Cell. The vocals are very dry, very English, enunciated in classic half-disdainful, half-camp tones. I'm sure the singer delivers the line 'electric cream cheese' at one point. No, surely not, he must be singing the title-line of the song. Oh, well, it'll always be 'electric cream cheese' to me. Somehow, it fits.
Sure, you can find all sorts of reference points in Conspiracy's music, and guess at influences. Aside from the usual 80s-electronica suspects, I'm willing to bet the band are fans of Nekromantik's 1999 album 'Fairy Catcher'. (If Conspiracy are looking for a cover, might I suggest Nekromantik's 'Children Go Bang'?) But it's so unusual to find a band doing this kind of music today - electronic stuff that's *not* nailed down to a boring old four-on-the-floor, that has wit and humour and a singer who can deliver more than the stereotype apocalyptic bark - that they instantly stand out from the crowd.
There's a fourth track tacked on the end here - 'Solitude' - a slow and spooky melodrama, which sounds bizarrely like an out-take from David Bowie's 'Low' crossed with Specimen. It's appropriately OTT, and has no trouble punching its musical weight. This, I suspect, is an insight into Conspiracy's dark side, and hints that there's more to this band than just the bouncy stuff. I'll look forward to hearing more.
Electric Bitch (Monosect remix)
Electric Bitch (Philtrator remix)
John Murphy: Vocals, guitar, programming
Claire D.: Synths
Mark Barker: Synths
The website: http://www.conspiracy.uk.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
~reviewed by Anthony Flores (aka BlackOrpheus)
In the year 2003, we are challenged by the obvious need fortransformation and renewal. It takes mere moments for the media to barrage us with tragedy and humanity's ugliness. Ill equipped to process the shere magnitude of the daily "bad news," we retreat into our near impregnable fortresses of emotional unavailibility.
Music is that shining beacon atop the promontory of life, when daily existence is dashing us against the rocks of our own humanity. Covenant's new album NORTHERN LIGHT is just such a beacon. On the cover a man sits frozen in his chair, in an equally frozen environment. This could be symbolic of his association, but also his disconnectedness with his environment. He awaits the thaw of his reserve, with the full brilliance of this Northern Light.
I've listened repeatedly to this beautiful, disquieting album. I can't be complacent, I have to respond. I have to come down from my fortress and offer my hand once again. The world is not so big, that we can ever truly be alone. NORTHERN LIGHT, proved that this expressive and inspired band are feeling what I'm feeling. That gives me hope.
a song worth commenting on as well. It is a song about endings. It alludes
to the awkwardness experienced when it's all coming apart, when you feel
so barren, desolate, and numb. One courageous part of you still hopes,
but you are nearly resigned to seeing fate play out for you. It is a gem
of exquisite melancholia.
"We Stand Alone" is the song that resonates most for me. It was one of the first singles, and has already become a frequent request on the dancefloor. The relentless beat punctuates lyrics that address the fear and uncertainty inherent in the time we live. And yet, it is defiant in its resolution to meet what comes, side by side, together. The writing is sublime, beautifully written.
"Winter Comes" is the last song I really need to mention. It conjures up images of stark, frozen landscapes. This imagery only serves to illustrate how we're feeling within. Winter is a metaphor for our emotional detachment, and coolness. The encroachment of Winter is unavoidable. We still live in a state of apprehension at the many changes it heralds.
NORTHERN LIGHT, the new album from Covenant, will be my album of the month. Covenant has already produced several fine albums. However, NORTHERN LIGHT is a near masterpiece of the fractured self, isolated and uncertain. The band hasn't abandoned those elements that lead them to success. Instead, they have turned what feels like a very personal experience and exploration to their advantage. They have employed the music as a kind of catharsis in conflict resolution. This album illustrates the vulnerability, anguish, fear, hope, defiance and spirit that characterize our response to loss of security and innocense.
02 Call The Ships To Port
04 Invisible & Silent
06 We Stand Alone
07 Rising Sun
08 Winter Comes
09 We Want Revolution
Covenant is: Joakim Montelius
Eskil Simonsson - Vocals
Clas Nachmanson - Keyboards
Official website: http://www.covenant.dk/
Web Site: WWW.Covenant.dk
Dance On Glass
Daydreaming (Metal Mind)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Dance On Glass are a UK-based band, but this, their debut album, comes to us via the Polish label, Metal Mind. That's not such an illogical connection when you discover that the band's lead vocalist, Ania, was previously in the Polish band Battalion D'amour, and retains many connections with her home country.
The other principal member of Dance On Glass is Dave Blomberg, who is apparently also a member of New Model Army, although I couldn't find any reference to him on the NMA website. The rest of the band, as far as I can figure it out, comprises a 'floating' line-up which at present features ex-members of the Nephilim and Blyth Power. However, this album was recorded by Ania and Dave as a duo, which means that there are programs and sequences and electronics where human musicians would otherwise be heard. That's both an advantage and a disadvantage, because the resulting music features some rather neat electro-touches - but also occasionally sounds a bit too smooth and controlled. At times, the programmed beats 'n' sequences put a restrained, respectable gloss over everything, whereas if real musicians had been involved, I suspect they would've really let rip.
Still, for all that, it's good stuff - very assured, very professional. The title track, in particular, builds from an almost-ambient intro to a slice of slick, rhythmic, danceable, electro-rock. The guitar sound is big and bold and dominating - but drops out occasionally, to allow the electronics to carry the song along. That's an effective technique, and it gives the guitar all the more impact when it crashes back in. Ania's vocal seems to have been multi-tracked - there's an entire choir of Anias singing here, and that, too, is distinctive and effective. If Metal Mind are looking to lift a single from the album, this is the one.
Elsewhere, 'Dying So Slowly' is an impressive assemblage of electronic sounds, clattering menacingly under the vocal, creating an effect akin to a bleaker, blacker, Bjork. 'Sama' is a throbbing pulse over which a big rock guitar sound crashes down. 'Last Dance' begins like an acoustic ballad, of sorts, but it quickly changes mood when a pea-souper of a guitar riff descends on the song like a thick Atlantic fog.
'Anyway' isn't quite so effective: the bop-shuffle-bop-shuffle programmed beat is a little too weedy to do the song justice. It sounds like Dance On Glass have simply set up a preset and let it run for a while - and in this case the multi-tracked vocals remove a lot of the power from Ania's voice. She's a great singer, and on this song I think it was a mistake to bury her under layers of effects. This, I suspect, is one aspect of the band's sound which will be tweaked up a bit, as it were, when the full line-up of the band - with a human rhythm section - emerges in the near future, when Dance On Glass start playing live. The studio gloss, which is at times a little *too* glossy on this album, will be replaced by some welcome rough edges.
Oh, and there's also a cover of Depeche Mode's 'Never Let Me Down Again' which is a decent enough homage to the boys from Basildon, but ends rather anti-climactically with a long fade. I wish Dance On Glass had done something a little more adventurous with the track. The album wraps up with 'Taniec Na Szkle' which is, if my ears don't deceive me, a Polish version of 'Daydreaming'. Verdict? Good stuff, but I suspect the live version of Dance On Glass will show what the band can *really* do.
Dying So Slowly
Never Let Me Down Again
Taniec Na Szkle
Ania Blomberg: Vocals, keyboards.
Dave Blomberg: Guitar, bass, programming, keyboards, backing vocals.
The website: http://www.danceonglass.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
SOUNDS FROM BEYOND THE SILVER WHEEL
(The Fossil Dungeon)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Oh, Dark Muse is Phyll, married to André, he of Nihil Communications. Theirs must be a weird record collection.
It’s an immaculate little work, in an equally supreme package from those reliable Fossil Dungeon people, and it fills your room with sounds that creep about at the halfway point between eerie and weary. It’s background music, which you can imagine your flat putting on to listen to when you go out, as it’s a bit delicate and all my crashing about in an ungainly fashion seems somewhat at odds with the grace of the skeletal music.
Phyll’s words, generally lost in the languid spread, are good, but it’s hard to see how you she imagines we actually follow their wispy travels. When I say languid, I don’t mean dreamlike. With her poetic intentions, the Muse in the name is obviously relevant but you’d never call this ethereal, or I wouldn’t, because of its stark simplicity. It’s a foggy form of modern classical, where orchestral resonances have been gutted.
Picking tracks is fairly pointless although ‘Certain Angst’ introduces us to the concept, of twittering percussion which slowly builds throughout the track and odd piped sounds of synth coming back to us, like whale song in sepulchral surrounds. The vocal input, such as it is, sounds like giggling ghosts if you fast-forward. In ‘Luna Flow’ imagine you’re walking alongside the sea when from the nearest large house the sound of a melancholic pianist is carried stoutly on the breeze. Or just think pastels on canvas and replace the visual with musical smears on CD. Muted, subtle shadows.
Are there any drawbacks to this puzzled beauty? It’s all so slow that you don’t feel drawn to investigate, you just let it move around you. I jotted down, ‘musical grey clouds shimmer above swaying black trees without leaves’ for ‘Once Amid A Dream’ and then checked some of her lyrics, and found shimmering and action above treetops included in the very next song! My psychic powers are evidently increasing. Be careful people, I’m dangerous! Therefore I can confidently state that were you to shrink yourself, then design a suit of armour inside a carriage clock, that is what ‘Silver Wheel Flow’ sounds like, and that if amoeba ever dance they could do so delightfully to ‘Disorder’, once the ugly bass note 23 seconds in is forgotten.
I hope that helps.
LUNA FLOW (THE DEEP)
ONCE AMID A DREAM
SILVER WHEEL FLOW
Info – http://www.eyescreamjewelry.com
already reviewed in my book, this is a cool jewellery site with a lovely
gallery featuring superb artefacts – not just the usual subjects either,
plus details of all the Dark Muse CDs – (eight in all, since 2000!!!!!!!)
Music – http://www.mp3.com/thedarkmuse
Label – http://www.erols.com/tsbb/fdungeon
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Elusive is a new project that was formed by Tommy Olsson (ex-Theatre Of Tragedy) and Jan K. Barkved, once a member of Tristania. While their metallic influences are not entirely abandoned, Elusive is a pretty direct attempt at guitar-driven Gothic Rock. With buzz suggesting similarities to The Mission, Sisters, and the Nephilim, not to mention the fact that these two guys did spring from two of the better and trend setting bands of Gothic Metal, I had high hopes for this disc.
Though the catchy verses and shimmering guitar work encompassing the opening track “Last Night” does pay homage to The Mission, my personal opinion is that other press comparisons to such Goth Rock giants is unjustified. There really isn’t anything ‘elusive’ about these guys – at their best, their sound can be described as nostalgic moody alternative and at their dullest, straightforward dark rock that unabashedly lifts most of its tricks straight from the Sisters’ “Vision Thing” CD.
The band’s press release boasts: “At a time when rock (and Goth rock in particular) has been pronounced dead several times, these guys are far from out of ammunition!” Truthfully, I think they need to reload. I am somewhat puzzled as to what Elusive and other current bands jumping the same train are doing to ‘help’ Goth Rock. Most of this is far too slick, and seems built more upon a foundation of commercial 80s pop or early 90s hard rock rather than the anxious rawness of post-punk. Why so many bands chose to try and recreate Andrew Eldritch’s peppy swansong, is beyond me. At the time, “Vision Thing” was good for what it was – but it is not a sound that properly characterizes Goth Rock. It was a driving hard rock sound that mysteriously worked for the Sisters (depending upon whom you ask), but imitation is not the surest form of flattery. Though nostalgia for the 80s is quite the rage in many circles, this kind of music is not necessarily what we’re missing.
But only about half of this CD would I readily dismiss. There are some rather sneakily impressive qualities that will keep the CD from being pawned at my next trip to CD Warehouse. What are present on this disc are memorable hooks, impressive melodies, some decent guitar riffing, punchy drum programs, and a pretty good vocalist whose voice shares a close resemblance to Rosetta Stone’s Porl King.
What could be improved is the lyrical content (though it is not nearly as dreadful as some other recent examples that spring to mind). The intensity and depth of mood could stand to be taken up a notch or two, and I would like to just see the band go a little bit…deeper. What is just outright missing here is originality and variety. But the biggest flaw in Elusive’s technique is that though a handful of the songs contain some interesting and noteworthy arrangements for the verses (especially “Tomorrow Gone” and “The Circle Never Ends”), the overstated pop choruses are taxing and disruptive to whatever engrossing atmosphere that might have had the potential to flourish.
Elusive is best when they give in to their melancholy, even if the pathos is as exaggerated as it is in the hidden track “Susannah,” (which sounds oddly familiar, but if it is a cover, I have no idea who originally did it). They will improve if they allow themselves to further explore their darker and more sedate sides, and perhaps instead of trying to rock out with attitude, they might need to smash things up and try to scare us a bit. Scary bands are much more admirable than bands that try to strike a ‘cool’ pose. While a few of these tracks do not immediately offer anything striking, I noticed after a few listens, you do warm to some of them.
Nothing spectacular, but a lukewarm effort that is not without its merits. At this stage of the game, Elusive lack the edge they need to really succeed as a convincing Goth Rock act. But who knows what the future holds…
1.) Last Night
2.) System Breakdown
3.) The Circle Never Ends
4.) Tomorrow Gone
6.) Lonely Satellite
9.) Shadow Dance
Jan K. Barkved – vocals
Tommy Olsson – guitars, programming
Morten Veland – additional guitars
K. Olsson – additional drums
J.E. Steinsto – additional keyboards
Elusive – Official Site:
The Sabbat Comes Softly
(The Fossil Dungeon - limited edition of 500 – vinyl)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
It’s so long since I have listened to some vinyl that I first had to crack open the lid to the record player, as there was candle wax all down the front, which can serve as a lesson to us all. When I did then take out the single it’s on that seriously heavyweight vinyl which is close in density of acetates. Scary!
Hexetanz is a collaboration between members of The Soil Bleeds Black and Psychonaut 75 combine to bring you what they believe to be an expression of mythic sorcerous and witchcraft-related images steeped in true medieval mystery and creepiness, so you probably already have a basic idea of what this is going to sound like. Bleak, windblown atmospherics are enlivened by less than melodic singing, and an atmosphere designed to curdle the stomach lining settles everywhere.
Funnily enough, I’d just finished watching an appallingly cheap film about some Welsh pagan lunatic who wanted to re-take the country and instil in it once again the original culture. This necessitated human sacrifice and lots of unconvincing people done up in body paint looking like Burning Man participants. Stranger still, they got away with their murders and continued on their merry way of siring special children to eventually meet their doom in rites of degradation. Ah well, win some, lose some.
‘The Sabbath’ is echoes, shadows, impressively vocal rasping about spirits and going along splendidly when a funny kink in the vinyl kicked in and became unintentionally extra-dramatic, until I realised the stylus needed moving. They stick to a basic pattern rather than any actual rhythm, and it isn’t harsh like ear-pounding ambient, but selective and illustrative. It also isn’t pleasant.
Forget Burning Man and think Wicker Man, as ‘Charivari’ has that queasiness shot through it, producing a cross between a madrigal of menace and nightmares over playing the recorder in music lessons at junior school.
On the second side they opt for basic samples and curiously swelling mood music, after which they relent and introduce more conventional rhythm, plus fairly winsome vocals, but the overall impression remains one of tough, sparse sounds. It’s a fairly barren experience and wholly convincing, but it’s definitely an acquired taste.
THE SABBATH COMES SOFTLY
The Soil Bleeds Black
Psyconaut 75 – http://www.infernalhorde.com/psychonaut
The Fossil Dungeon http://www.erols.com/tsbb/fdungeon
Operation Tough Guy!
~reviewed by Saint Petrol
This ain't no disco. This ain't no rich white kids with turntables, throwing out terms they read in a magazine somewhere, and calling themselves names that boil down to the equivalent of DJ Hardcore Trevor or DJ Molokai Dakota Love. Those people annoy the waste product out of me; Hypnoskull is not those people.
Those of you who already know about this sort of thing will yawn at this part of the review, but for those of you who don't know, Northern Europe has a long tradition of very aggressive, very mind-blowing electronic music. The beats per minute on some of it is really enough to make your ears bleed and your brain explode. It's unbelievable. Hypnoskull comes from this tradition. If you think you're gonna throw this on and drop some acid and dance around happily, well, see you in hell.
There is nothing quite so satisfying to me as to hear all the pretention that has taken over jungle, break beats, industrial, and techno, be blown all to gore with deconstruction,