Apocryphal Voice
the sickening
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

A peculiar Finnish duo known as Apocryphal Voice have raised their banners to march head-on into the realm of metal. Heralding their arrival is a quirky little mcd titled the sickening. Although the name might lead you to believe the group plays some kind of rehashed nu-metal, or angry Swedish melodic death metal, or even, perhaps, hardcore... they in fact play wacky metal - my name for any unusually weird metal. the sickening is one part Dødheimsgard, two parts Ved Buens Ende, and a whole lot of psychotropic drugs.

I can't rightly say that I 'enjoy' Apocryphal Voice's music. In fact, I sort of dislike it in almost precisely the same way I disliked Ved Buens Ende. the sickening is full of reverberating guitar riffs that dance and saunter with the casual ease of a razor-sharp pendulum hacking its way through a crowded urban street. The pendulum keeps getting thrown off balance (presumably as it slices through unwary street-goers), but never loses its momentum.

The vocals come courtesy of Mr. Jokisalo, who sounds rather like an evil cartoon overlord gone wacky metal. His shouts warble and spit and slobber as he vomits his way through the mcd. You really can't get much more over the top than, say, Bal-Sagoth, but Apocryphal Voice's resident anime villain did. The saying 'over the top' rather directly states that the top has been climbed. Music fans have a definite threshold for topness, and it has been exceeded.

I do like the creepy and dissonant piano intro on "sleeping in tar" (it reminds me of Dødheimsgard's "wrapped in plastic"), and some of the riffs are frightening in a surprisingly cool way. However, I just can't bring myself to regularly listen to this offshoot of wacky metal. I infinitely prefer Dødheimsgard's later work. Apocryphal Voice sounds like a band well-equipped to follow in a similar direction, but for now they're mostly repeating Ved Buens Ende. Nevertheless, if you like bizarrely echoing riffs that rock and sway with a madman's swagger, or you appreciated Ved Buens Ende's exorbitant vocal stylings, you'll enjoy Apocryphal Voice.

Track List:
1) a sickening sight
2) choose your side
3) sleeping in tar

Apocryphal Voice is:
V.Salonen - battery
J.Anton Jokisalo - guitars, bass, synths, and vocals

Rage of Achilles Records:

The End Records:

At Vance
The Evil In You
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

YAPMA.  That's my clever and catchy acronym for "Yet Another Power Metal Album", meant as a derogatory punch at bands and record labels who regurgitate the ancient and apparently unalterable formula established by classic bands from days of yore.  Adding nothing new to the genre, and advancing the art of music not in the slightest, a YAPMA is only redeemable if it is so well executed that it becomes an enjoyable foray into an utterly stale genre.   At Vance's The Evil In You almost makes it.  Almost.

As is customary on the modern YAPMA, the musicians are top class and the production is glossy and polished.  Sonic excellence is the norm, but sadly the sounds which are so exquisitely captured are mostly unworthy of the effort taken to preserve them.  Even when excellent musicians and a capable singer get together, if the songs they write have been heard a thousand times before, it's hardly worth celebrating.  Mats Lenk, former singer for Yngwie Malmsteen (another dinosaur relic of a bygone age), capably belts out each tune... sounding like Michael Kiske with a sore throat, mostly... but the tunes are pedestrian affairs that waste his vocals and Olaf Lenk's technically proficient but seldom inspired guitar playing.

Bands like Thy Majestie and Manticora have proven that powermetal isn't dead, and it is possible to breathe new life into a tired old warhorse.  If only more bands followed their lead.  The members of Dionysus are clearly talented musicians.  I hope someday they outgrow the hero-worship that led them to make yet another minute variation on Helloween et al.

... oops.  It seems that I've inadvertently copied a paragraph from a review I did of a similar release from Dionysus, also on AFM records.  What luck that my point still applies in full!  Ironic, too, that I can regurgitate old reviews in similar fashion to how AFM spits up bands that play the same tired, formulaic brand of metal.  I will admit that as far as the attack of the clones goes, At Vance is more listenable than the rest of their ilk.  They'll probably sell out a bunch of stadium shows in Germany with this junk, but they seem capable of better things, and I sure won't spend a penny to support their continued rehashing of a genre that saw its best days almost twenty years ago.

Track List:
01.) Fallen Angel
02.) Broken Vow
03.) Evil In You
04.) Stronger Than You Think
05.) The Curtain Will Fall
06.) One Million Miles Away
07.) Right Or Wrong
08.) Shining Star
09.) Streets Of My Dreams
10.) Caprice No. 16
11.) Princess Of Ice

At Vance is:
Olaf Lenk - guitars
Mats Leven - vocals
Rainald König - guitars
Sascha Feldmann - bass
Jürgen Lucas - drums

At Vance Official Website:

AFM records:

The End Records (US):

~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

StarVox isn't the kind of site that rates CDs with little stars, or headbanging leather-armored metalheads, or even animated flame gifs. We also don't include little informative boxes to sum up CDs in terms of "good songs", "bad songs", or "bottom line". I'm glad we don't, because that's often a flashy approach that fails to properly present a CD. But I was listening to Bullethole, and thinking - we've heard this heavy nu-metalish crap often enough to know that the guitars are downtuned, the riffs interchangeable, and the singing senseless screams about pain and suffering, or how we're gonna get our asses kicked. So with that in mind, let's shake up the format to spare you some reading time.

1) Various Scales of Rating
First, out of 5 stars, Bullethole gets none. They also get no headbanging leather-armored metalheads. But they do get some animated flame gifs. I'll let you speculate as to why.

2) Informative Non-Box-Like Box of Information
The good: There's an instrumental at the end - I appreciate the lack of aimless screaming.
The bad: Everything else.
Saving grace: the CD is 32 minutes. That makes it relatively quick and painles--...er, quick.

Retail price: $12
Eric's suggested price: I got the CD for free. And I'm still complaining.

3) Qualifying Remarks of Ass-Saving
Some of you are going to think I'm not giving the band a chance. So just to cover myself, let's be clear. If you really do like nu-metalish music with chugging riffs and nigh-hardcore screams of Irascible Raging, you should take the time listen to Bullethole samples. But even within its context of not-quite-nu-metal heavy thrashy grindy hardcoreish... stuff, there's little doubt that Incarceration is an unoriginal CD that does not live up to similarly heavy quality bands (think: The Haunted or Strapping Young Lad). Bullethole manages an occasional groove or headbanging riff, but for every decent bit of almost good metal, we face an army of unmemorable thumps and screeches.

4) Bottom Line
I'll be the first to admit that I'm biased against this style of music, especially when it's unoriginal. I think we've got enough already. The most positive thing I can say about the CD is 'Give it a chance if you like the style.' ...but avoid it if you like songs with variation, melodies, or any other sort of creativity.

Track List:
1) Twist The Knife
2) Incarceration
3) Nothing Will Remain
4) Broken Lies, Shattered Alibies
5) Thorn In Their Back
6) Drowned
7) Liar
8) Now I Know
9) Moment Of Hate
10) Molestias

Bullethole is:
Costas - vocals
Andreas - guitar
Kiriakos - bass
Leyteris - drums

Black Lotus Records:

The End Records:

Circle II Circle
Watching In Silence
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Circle II Circle is a bad name for a metal band.  It conjures images of bland-as-dishwater boy-bands ala Boyz 2 Men standing in moodily lit alleys crooning about puppy love.  Thankfully, the band's inane moniker belies the high quality that permeates their debut album.  This is not a group of teen heartthrobs, but instead is Zak Stevens' new band, which he formed after leaving Savatage.  My favorite Savatage albums (which are some of my favorite music, period) came with Zak on vocals.  I did not want to witness him lending his talents to a project unworthy of his skills.  Luckily, Zak's new band is up to the task of providing compelling music to accompany his vocals.

Zak Stevens may have the perfect voice for progressive hard rock music.  His delivery is smooth and articulate, yet powerful and full bodied.  His voice is expressive and nary hits a false note, but never sounds processed and retains a warm humanity that seperates him from a legion of cardboard cutout melodic metal singers.  He's equally adept at fast rockers, slow tender ballads, and all things in between.  Yeah, I like his singing... alot!  He's as good on Watching In Silence as he ever was with Savatage.  'Zak sounding great' is as close as it comes in the music biz to a 'sure thing', and his performance on its own would make this album well worth buying.  It's simply an example of a master craftsman plying his trade with great artistry and skill.

Circle II Circle is a band with close ties to Savatage... perhaps too close for their own good.  Zak brought in some former bandmates to help get the ball rolling on his new project.  The sonic fingerprints of Jon Olivia and Chris Caffery are all over 'Watching In Silence'.  Several songs sound like amalgams of tracks plucked out of Savatage's discorgraphy.  Hallmarks like harmonized vocal medleys, piano interludes, and somewhat prog-ish heavy riffs are peppered throughout 'Waiting In Silence' like seasonings on a well done steak.  The side dishes to this platter of pseudo-Savatage are a few songs that branch out in different styles- sometimes feeling like (oddly enough) Alice In Chains' more melodic moments, sometimes a bit like 80's hair rock.  Nonetheless, a Savatage album by any other name is still a Savatage album... and that's really what this is at heart.

Though Circle II Circle lacks a distinct identity seperate from their forebears, I can't fault them for producing an album of this caliber.  If you have liked the last decade of Savatage music, you'll like this album.  Circle II Circle may be the only worthwhile band in AFM Records' stable, and is far superior in all respects to the faceless powermetal they dole out with alarming regularity.  Despite my contempt for AFM (in both the artists they promote and the way they go about their business) I can't help but recommend 'Waiting In Silence' for purchase.  It's a prime cut of grade-A hard progressive rock that will leave you full and satisfied... but wanting to make room for seconds.

Track List:
01.) Out Of Reach
02.) Sea Of White
03.) Into The Wind
04.) Watching In Silence
05.) Forgiven
06.) Lies
07.) Face To Face
08.) Walls
09.) The Circle
10.) F.O.S.

Circle II Circle is:
John Zahner  - keyboards
Christopher Kinder - drums
Zak Stevens - vocals
Matt La Porte - guitar
Kevin Rothney - bass
Shane French - guitar

Circle II Circle Official Website:

AFM records:

The End Records (US):

A Big One
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

San Francisco’s Condor is trio of Post Punk revivalists that I can’t help but wax ecstatic about.  I discovered the band purely on a whim, when a local promoter passed along a flyer to me at one of his previous shows.  There in bold faced type, centered above a plain black and white photo of the band and their unassuming logo, were the words: “Dance madly in the Post Punk ashes of Joy Division, Wire, and Gang Of Four” and a secondary description of the band: No Wave Death Rock from San Francisco.  Pretty heavy references, those were.  However, these descriptions were in no way misleading.  I went to the show and was immediately impressed with what Condor had to offer.

As a trio without a guitarist, I was skeptical as to how noisy and ‘Post Punk’ they would sound.  But I needn’t have worried because these three sonic architects made MORE than enough noise without the use of guitar.  In fact, Kurt Keppeler’s synthesized assaults were three times as dynamic and spacious than a guitar ever could have been.

The band’s live performance packed a multi-sensory wallop, but the band’s intensity and raw energy is perfectly captured on their debut CD, which I of course bought immediately after their set drew to a close. Condor’s music can be described as an angular collage of sound, with Josh Richardson’s thunderous jabs of distorted bass (which at times resemble detuned fuzzbox guitars – but infinitely more intriguing to the ears) and Wendy Farina’s intricate tribal percussion pounding with an equal blend of progressive finesse and primal ferocity at the music’s core.  The pummeling and unpredictable rhythms rumble beneath layers of piercing synths, which sometimes utilize various ‘spacey’ voices that I suppose have an Electroclash vibe to them (but I am admittedly clueless when it comes to Electroclash so don’t quote me on that).  More often than naught, hypnotic moody drones, brief climactic modulations of earsplitting feedback and other clever processed effects characterize the synths that appear on the CD.  All three of the band members contribute vocals, though Wendy’s well-placed percussive chants appear only occasionally.  Josh provides the darker, more introspective moments while Kurt’s vocals are more playful and animated.  Both gentlemen are responsible for some fantastic screams, however, and all the vocal styles are enjoyable and complimentary to the band’s vast and dynamic sound.

“Pokerface” kicks the album off in high gear, introducing Condor’s trademark taut rhythmic structures that shuffles with a manic yet discernable groove beneath the seemingly impenetrable wall of grinding bass and synth fuzz.  Kurt’s agitated tremolo vocals (think if Jello Biafra gave the guy from Devo vocal coaching) add the perfect surreal and frantic touch.  The claustrophobic title track begins with a rigid robotic synth loop, which is soon joined by sharp distorted bass riffs and disorienting drumming.  It’s enough to at first drive one to nausea, feeling as if you are trapped in some barely navigatable maze in a deadly old-school Nintendo game.  But yet, you also want to dance to it.  I had never really heard anything remotely like this before (that I enjoyed anyway) and that uniqueness alone is commendable, but despite how foreign and bizarre the band’s sound can be at times, it is also grows upon you like a menacing mold.

The band allots a few lighter, quirkier moments, such as the  “Gleaming The Cube” that celebrates the pleasures of driving vs. public transportation users (or losers, rather).   Condor’s New Wave roots (however frayed and disassembled they become in this band’s distinctive translation) shine through on this track especially and also in the two-minute Sonic Youthish cyclone of “Remote Control,” which is as abrasive as it is catchy.  The band frequently demonstrates its distinctive sense of challenging grooves, but their unorthodox arrangements are tempered and easier to digest as a result of an equally strong fidelity to mood and atmosphere.  Despite how meticulous and cold the music sounds, Condor is hardly devoid of emotion, and the overall feel of their music is suffused with an encompassing sense of warmth.

There are moments of dense seething heaviness, as best exemplified in the swelling trance-like gloom of “Song Of Mystery” and the ominous march from doom to an explosive, dizzying angst transpires throughout the song “Delay.”    The darker vibe carries through to the album’s closing track “Suntan” which begins with a stuttering hurricane of feedback driven muscle and jagged drum punches.  The song sounds like a sick twisted convulsion of Soundgarden’s “Jesus Christ Pose” – but with an intensified and more sharpened attack. Soon it segues into a disquieting New Wavish groove, where Kurt’s overdriven vocals add the final nervous ingredient.  The track still courses with a seething sense of doom that eventually returns full scale at the album’s climactic finale.

I highly recommend this disc to fans of the avant garde, as well as fans of classic progressive punk and alternative noise.  Condor is another band that gives me hope for the future growth of underground music, by embellishing upon what was extraordinarily good and powerful in the past.  Seek this out and purchase a copy!

Track List:
1.) Pokerface
2.) A Big One
3.) Metrognome
4.) Gleaming The Cube
5.) Delay
6.) Song Of Mystery
7.) Remote Control
8.) Suntan

Condor is:
Joshua Richardson – bass and vocals
Kurt Keppeler – synths and vocals
Wendy Farina – drums and vocal

Condor – Official Website:

Narnack Records:

Temple of Secrets
~reviewed by Jezebel

This CD was given to me in February – and yes, it took me this long to review it. Firstly, let me apologize. The only reason/excuse that I can offer up is that the spending of most of my time working four jobs while looking for full time employment plus getting married interfered with the timeliness of my reviews. This band is not the only one who has been waiting for a review. But with a new job, I hope to catch up on reviews…And this is the first.

I actually really liked the first Corrosion CD that I was given, The Elemental. It was well produced, and the music was an evolution of a trademark gothic sound. The band has the review on their website and I believe, uses a quote from my review as part of a header for their pages. And for this I am grateful

So, I was ready for something great from this album and from the band. I am sorry to say that I was disappointed.

The production quality of this CD is of a very low standard. The CD would only work on my boom box; not my CD walkman, not my home stereo. And when I did finally get it working, it cracked and skipped. I do not know if this is across the board of the pressing, but if it is, the band has a problem, as this is not up to industry standard.

Corrosion opens up with the title track, "Temple of Secrets". Now…unfortunately, this is where it begins to fall apart and that is not a good sign. Yes, most (I might be daring and say all) bands are influenced by Sisters of Mercy, but the chanting in the beginning of the track is so reminiscent of SoM that any validity the song may have had is lost. The guitar line, although very well played, sounds like its from "Snake Dance" by March Violets. And whereas on the first album, the vocals were powerful on the first two tracks (and as per my previous review lost and possibly out of Paul’s range on another), the vocals here seem to be, well, amateur-ish. Paul’s voice has lost its power, any kind of range and tone.

"Morning Dew" is a departure, if ever so slightly. Paul’s vocals work better here, but there is a distinctive 80’s sound to it and although thoughtfully played, this is still not a new twist on something old. Unfortunately, there is a Bryan Adams, "Summer of ’69" quality to it that really doesn’t work. And unfortunately, again, it sounds formula – guitar over a drum machine. The last album actually somehow overcome the lack of musicians actually playing on the album. This does sound like two guys. The programming on the drum machine was either skipping, out of time or just badly mixed with the rest of the tune, as it just didn’t work. The brief loud interlude of the drum machine was overwhelming, took over the beauty that was in the song and was unnecessary. Make a soft song soft. Let it be pretty.

Track three – "Cold Blooded Martyr" - suffered again from some bad mixing/engineering. The re-verb on the vocals made them sound like they were recorded in an empty bathroom. There is also a ghoulish – may I say Brickbat – quality to the tune that although is a departure, is not adequately explored to make it truly recognizable and respectable.

The final track is a remix (the disco remix) of the title track. Since I didn’t look down at the track listing when it first started, I thought they had done a remake of the "Communards Don’t Leave Me This Way". Although I understand the thought process behind it – “let’s make a dance floor fillable tune that has a techno/disco beat for the glow sticks to be shaken at” – I can only see it be liked by those at Slimelight who are too involved in partying to care about the quality of music that they are dancing to.

So – what happened? I don’t know. Perhaps Corrosion is trying something new with this album while trying to revisit their roots, that which influenced them. Perhaps there were production problems along the way. Or they are trying new production techniques. I am not sure.

What I do know is that what I liked about Corrosion, powerful guitars, great base lines, utilizing drum machines and technology in such a way that they brought in aspects of what was popular (techno/EBM) and mixing it with what is good about gothic rock is gone. There isn’t even a base line that I can speak of on this CD.

What I also don’t understand about Corrosion is the putting out of two four-track CDs in two years? Why not wait a bit and give us one gorgeous, well produced full album? I am a bit confused on the reasoning behind it.

It’s just not what the doctor ordered for overworked Jez. I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows that I ~live~ to like UK bands. I breathe wanting to support gothic bands in the UK and bring their music out to the masses. But unfortunately, this CD is just a rehashing of old sounds with a bad mixing of experimentation and techno bits. They did it right on their first album. They were unable to recapture it here.

Corrosion is:
Matthew North
Paul Roe

All music and vocals are performed by Matthew North and Paul Roe

1) Temple of Secrets
2) Morning Dew
3) Cold Bloodied Martyr
4) Temple of Secrets (Dopamines Discomix)


Disco Haine Medina
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Late last year, I was put in touch with Furia Musica, an underground record label centered in Poland.  Some readers may remember my glowing review of the angst-ridden Goth Rock band Variété.  Well, I got some more Polish Goth to share with our readers this month.  (see also my reviews for Exit and One Inch Of Shadow)

DHM is a guitar driven Gothic Rock band, betraying musical similarities with early Killing Joke, The Damned, New Model Army and Ikon – but a phenomenon all their own.  The band’s biography is in Polish, but it looks as if they have been around throughout most of the late 80s and the 90s, but with various line-ups and degrees of success. Apparently, this is their first full-length studio release, and it features ten original songs.  The band relies upon tight and groove laden rhythms (provided by a live drums and interlocking bass playing), and surprisingly intricate riff-heavy guitar playing.  DHM presents an impenetrable and organic sound, animated by an unmistakable and vigorous energy.  I suppose in Poland, you still have to be able to play instruments to start a band.  Who knew?  Seriously though, these guys make American and British Goth guitarists sound incredibly lazy and amateur.  True, the riffs don’t hold a candle to the crazy progressive metal bands out there, but the point is, DHM do a lot more with their sound, while still weaving a recognizably Goth friendly atmosphere.

DHM fuse the urgency of early post punk with warmer atmospheres and a contemporary dose of dark rock.  There are moments of snare snapping punk fueled frenzy and other more sedate passages of swirling enveloping gloom.  Lyrically, all but two songs are sung in Polish.  Ironically, I wasn’t as impressed with the vocals on the English songs, as it sounds obvious that English is not the band’s first language.  However, the sharp accented Polish vocals have a certain exotic charm to them, and add to the percussive intensity of the music.  I have no idea what the band is saying most of the time, but I like the way they are saying it.  Radovan has a smooth voice, with a spirited and passionate delivery in nearly every song.

DHM is a lively and enjoyable outfit that takes Goth to a more musically diverse and slightly more progressive level, and I can imagine the moody compositions that comprise this fine release will appeal to a broad audience of alternative music fans.  It truly would be worth your while to investigate this band if you are looking for a more intensified kind of melodic Gothic Rock.

DHM is:
Radovan Neuro Sanchez - vocals
Jenny - guitars
Sory – bass
Malina – drums
Sova – keyboards

DHM – Official Website:

Furia Music:

Burning Down The Opera (Live)
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Before we get going, I'll first point out that this review is not of Burning Down The Opera, the new 2 CD live set from Edguy, but rather is a review of the crippled promo release AFM records sent me to evaluate the album...  a promo that's missing five tracks off the final release.  So interpret that how you will.  Regarding what they did send, I will be blunt- this release is a prime example of utterly banal power metal bereft of any creativity or originality, played in a live concert setting.  It's what I like to call a YAPMA (Yet Another Power Metal Album).  It's simply another identical grain of sand in the endless beach that is power metal.

Since I have a dutybound obligation to point out this release's strong points, I must say that it is well produced.  The sound quality is above average for a concert release and in fact sounds nearly as picture-perfect as a studio album.  It's a boring concert, though, full of endless powermetal songs that are indistinguishable from each other or the work of countless other bands.  Kind of like a well photographed garbage can, really.  The between-songs-banter is especially lame.  It might get the crowd riled up at shows, but it comes across as hopelessly cheesy and pointless on album.

Bands like Thy Majestie and Manticora have proven that powermetal isn't dead, and it is possible to breathe new life into a tired old warhorse.  If only more bands followed their lead.  The members of Dionysus are clearly talented musicians.  I hope someday they outgrow the hero-worship that led them to make yet another minute variation on Helloween et al.

... oops, I seem to have inadvertently copied that paragraph out of an old review of Dionysus from a couple issues back.  Er, hm.  It also found it's way into this month's At Vance review.  How'd that happen?  Such a mystery may never be unravelled, but all is not lost!  What luck that my point still applies in full!  Ironic, too, that I can regurgitate old reviews in similar fashion to how AFM spits up bands that play the same tired, formulaic brand of metal.  Hey, wait.. I copied the last two lines out of my At Vance review as well!  Maybe I could get a job with AFM records, as I seem quite capable of endlessly repeating old material.   As for this review, I'll mercifully conclude it by saying that anyone but die-hard Edguy fans probably has no need at all for this double CD set.  I know I don't.

Track List:
1) Welcome To The Opera
2) Fallen Angels
3) Tears Of A Mandrake
4) Babylon
5) Land Of The Miracle
6) Painting On The Wall
7) Wings Of A Dream
8) The Headless Game
9) The Pharaoh

1) Vain Glory Opera
2) Solitary Bunny
3) Save Us Now
4) How Many Miles
5) Inside
6) Avantasia
7) Out Of Control

Edguy is:
Tobias Sammet - Vocals
Jens Ludwig - Guitar
Dirk Sauer - Guitar
Tobias Exxel - Bass
Felix Bohnke - Drums

Edguy Official Website:

AFM records:

The End Records (US):

Winds Devouring Men
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Elend is a dark and eloquent French ensemble comprised of elaborately trained classical musicians.  They made their debut in the underground with their 1994 opus Leçons De Tenebres which was followed by Les Tenebres Du Dehors in 1996, Weeping Nights in 1997, and the bombastic masterpiece The Umbersun in 1998.  All of these releases were thematically inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost and taking a cue from the interpretations of 19th Century Romantic poets like Blake and Shelley, Elend’s portrayal of Milton’s epic offered a sympathetic glorification of Lucifer as an unsung hero-villain.

Musically speaking, Elend set the standard for Neo-Classical and Ethereal bands like Autumn Tears and the hosts of other experimental bands that have  emerged over the past decade.  Their compositions were shaded by early Dead Can Dance, and also revealed influences from composers such as Purcell,  Bach, and Wagner.  As the band progressed, their influences veered toward  later and less orthodox 20th Century composers like Mahler, Pärt, Gorecki,  and Penderecki.   Their use of synthesizers was always one of the most  impressive aspects of the group, because even though their music was  synthesized, it truly resembled an authentic classical orchestra – it was loud, dynamic, complex, and overwhelming.  What further set the band apart was the somewhat unlikely use of Death Metal vocals to represent the figure of Lucifer.  Many of the lyrics came directly from Paradise Lost and perfectly suited the thunderous despair and jealous rage of the fallen angel.  Alongside the growls were clean male vocals that bore a startling resemblance to Dead Can Dance’s Brendan Perry, as well as confident soprano vocals and otherworldly choirs.  With The Umbersun, the band’s final release before slipping into a five-year obscurity, was a sonic triumph, consisting primarily of chilling symphonic carnage.  Wagnerian in scope, the band unleashed whirlwinds of intensity, well-tempered by moments of lugubrious eeriness and stark melancholic beauty.   With that album, their music seemed to reach its grand finale and Lucifer’s songs seemed to have been sung.

The Umbersun was in fact an end of an era for Elend.  Most of their fans never thought they would have released another album, as all was quiet regarding them.  The reason I am giving such a lengthy intro to this review, is that at this point, the band is still relatively shrouded in mystery and obscurity.  Several bands have ventured off into Neo-Classical directions.  But few projects exhibit the power or present the quality of music that Elend is capable of.  More confrontational than Sopor Aeternus and nightmares beyond Black Tape For A Blue Girl, they deserve just as much recognition, if not more so, for their unparalleled compositions.

To my pleasant surprise, and for the legions of Elend’s scattered sect of devoted fans, Elend has returned with their most mature, powerful, and well-orchestrated release to date.  Winds Devouring Men is an absolute masterpiece of darkness.  The spectrum of emotions runs from tender yet seductively depressing serenades to sublime moments of sheer terror and jarring evil.  Technically, the band has advanced several stages beyond their prior material, the result being as powerfully emotional as it is progressive and dynamic.

Thematically speaking, the band seems to have left the direct references to Milton and Lucifer behind, embarking on more personal and esoteric lyrical explorations.  Additionally, the Death Metal growls have been entirely abandoned, leaving more room for the moody vocal croons to blossom.  The strong resemblance to Brendan Perry remains, though his voice is not at all plagiarized, but comes across a fitting tribute.  In many ways, Elend fills the void Dead Can Dance left when they abandoned the Classical structures of their Within The Realm Of The Dying Sun and Serpent’s Egg albums to produce more New Age/World music inspired releases.   So for those of you that enjoyed that era of Dead Can Dance, Elend will surely be a welcomed addition to your music collection.

At any rate, the Luciferian roaring, which less literary minded listeners might have found disruptive, has been left behind.  But there is a remarkable growth in the arrangements of these tracks, featuring an even more organic sound that results from the predominant use of live violins and brass instruments instead of keyboards.  Synths are still used for harpsichord, harps, pizzicato strings, and warm drones and strings to fill out the sound, but all of their synth voices still possess professional tones that are true to life and awe-inspiring in their authenticity.

Even still, Elend had a few more tricks up their sleeve for this release.  They have also unexpectedly introduced perfectly suitable elements of noise and traditional Industrial sounds into their work.  And I don’t mean dancey electronic blippity beep bullshit – I mean REAL Industrial.  Clangs, bangs, feedback, scrapes, rhythmic noise!  The Test Dept / Throbbing Gristle / Neubauten kind of Industrial.  Inspired equally by composers such as Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass and their prepared pianos and clanging tubular bell compositions, Elend crafts their most sinister and oppressive moments with the use of unsettling feedback and shrill noises, juxtaposed against polyphonic swells of strings or disharmonic choirs with the occasional rhythmic rumbling pulsing at the music’s core.  The band does an excellent job placing these sounds, and pairing them with the more lush and buoyant passages of traditional classical elements.

Winds Devouring Men is an epic piece of music, painstakingly woven together from start to finish.  This is a transcendent record, that takes the listener on a journey, at first presenting an inviting sense of comfort with the gorgeous adagios of  “Worn Out With Dreams” and “Charis” before the subtle cacophony of “Under War-Broken Trees” begins to unleash a sense of foreboding doom.  The album then plunges into a deep and dark abyss, and it is here where the Industrial and noise elements begin to creep in on “Away From Barren Stars” and reach their suffocating peak at the album’s title track.  “Vision Is All That Matters” marks the point where the Industrial elements and the lush classical ideas seamlessly coalesce.  The band uses a tasteful amount of restraint, fusing these elements together delicately and carefully, so as to create a unique and complimentary union of sound.  The album then begins to crescendo and reach a grandiose climax, swinging like a pendulum from frigid greys to mercurial reds, and back again, leaving the listener breathless at the album’s fulfilling and mournful finale.

Elend is a band that is long overdue for recognition as one of the leading Neo-Classical bands in existence.  This is a faultless, intelligent, satisfying, and landmark album that should be devoured by fans of dark music.  Fans of Dead Can Dance, Cold Meat Industries, Projekt, Classical, and Experimental music will surely find a treasure in this release, as well within the rest of the band’s discography.  Highly recommended and available from The End Records!

Track List:
1.) The Poisonous Eye
2.) Worn Out With Dreams
3.) Charis
4.) Under War-Broken Trees
5.) Away From Barren Stars
6.) Winds Devouring Men
7.) Vision Is All That Matters
8.) The Newborn Sailor
9.) The Plain Masks Of Daylight
10.) A Staggering Moon
11.) Silent Slumber: A God That Breeds Pestilence

Elend is the vision of:
Iskandar Hasnawi
Sébastien Roland
Renaud Tschirner
(All arrangements, instruments and vocals, sound design and programming)

Klaus Amann – trumpet, horn, trombone
Natalie Barbary – soprano
Shinji Chihara – violin, viola
David Kempf – violin, solo violin
Esteri Rémond – soprano
Simon Eberl – industrial soundscapes and noises

Elend – Official Websites (* both were listed as is in the CDs booklet, but neither page seems to be up at present time)

Prophecy Records:

The End Records:

~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

And the award for "most unoriginal metal title of 2003" goes to... Enshadowed, with their utterly predictable and unnecessary CD title: Intensity. Yet, the track list is quite complicated. There's a song with three separate movements (notated by Roman numerals, no less!) and the CD is broken into two distinct chapters - each of which is more creatively titled than the actual CD. So before we get to the music, let's sum up Enshadowed's lyrical ambition. They're definitely trying to go beyond the typical confines of death and black metal, but I feel they're just a tad misguided, and their lyrics are about as pedestrian as you can get for blasphemous violence and heretical tales of woe.

The music on Intensity follows much the same theme. Anyone who has enjoyed recent death/black metal hybrids should like Enshadowed. Heck, I even like them, and I'm usually the first one to complain about unoriginal music. But I didn't have to buy the CD, so now would be a good time to figure out if you should. First off, if you're the kind of metal fan that likes to hear heavy music constantly, this is a good CD to add to your playlist. It features a ton of cool death and black metal riffs, occasional atmospherics via keyboards, competent growls, reasonably technical drumming, and rumbling bass with neat fills.

Taken as a whole, Intensity is quite a good CD for the style. Unfortunately, none of the songs particularly standout, and sooner or later the listening experience breaks down and you find yourself pleasantly nodding along to heavy background music. My grandparents like a little Sinatra to add to the rockin' party feel of a dinner get-together. I could just as easily use Enshadowed. I don't want to hurt the band's reputation too much - their music is at times very intense and powerful - but the lack of distinct songs causes a blurring of heaviness.

So far, I haven't heard any other groups occupying the exact niche that Enshadowed does. Enshadowed manages a very strong black metal style that incorporates the heavy riffs and melodies of certain death metal strains. Intensity is certainly worth listening to if you get into this style, just don't expect any of the songs to jump out at you. In the future I'd like to see the band explore their atmospheric leanings even further... for now, Intensity suits me just fine. And if you're not convinced, well, the vocalist is named Snegodron. That's pretty cool, right? Can't pass up someone with a name like Snegodron. SNEGODRON - Lord Protectorate of Hell's Third Circle. Yeah. That's good stuff.

Track List:
Chapter One: Into The Sanctuary of Death
1) The Fire Burns ...(intro)
2) Sunya -Bindu
3) Mental Irruption
4) Obvious Inexistence
Chapter Two: Enshadowed Souls Overflow
5) Purity's Failure
6) Horrenda Nox
7) Requiem of Hatred (Jesus Christ Cage Part II)
   I. Waiting's Reward
   II. Cryptic Paranoia (instrumental)
   III. Thy Downfall
8) The Fire Goes Out ...(outro)

Enshadowed is:
Necro - guitar
Psychaos - guitar
Snegodron - vocals
Diastropheus - bass
VitastNemesis - drums

Black Lotus Records:

The End Records:

Envy Is Blind
The Eyes of Time's Conception
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

While there is no limit to the amount of electronic artists floating around these days, some are working towards expanding that niche further. Envy is Blind is such an outfit where music and art coalesce into a realm of EBM modernist artwork. This Cd takes a slant on philosophy, which ranges from Taoism to nihilism, but delivers their dark message in highly extensive dance beats.

"Synthetic Evolution" utilizes sound bytes from various newscasts and films, filtering it through a number of massively pumping tracks. We are given a taste of our random thoughts, observing the realm of hopelessness striving to grow and develop. There is a poignant nod towards the theme that man has progressed to the point of falsifying reality and accepting mediocrity as a way of life.

"Requiem" opens the disc, utilizing news type soundbytes. In particular is that byte from Pres. Bush sounding like a petulant child where he declares, "we will rid the world of evil doer's." The impact of the track about the meaninglessness of our world gone mad is underscored and punctuated with the intense delivery of the lyrics. It is made more chilling by the number of news byte inclusions, providing a prognostication of our finite world as it descends into a hellish nightmare. It launches us towards the reality of a life lived in fear and control, not due to real threats, but from our own political machines which seek to annihilate us. We are fed political rhetoric while our democratic freedoms are eaten away by an apathetic society.

"Co-Existence" takes us on a journey to look at the balance of life. It simply is the way of the cosmos, and nothing can really change that evolutionary truth. The track opens with a peaceful tranquility, similarly to floating on a dark river. This is a mid-tempo groove that also utilizes soundbytes to further punctuate the crux of the songs deeper meaning. Oddly, we are taken back through time, through past wars and past deeds of mankind's destruction against others.

"Sea of Flames" opens with a trance like percussion joined with deep yoga like breathing. It is at once meditative and erotic. Lyrically, it asks us to accept the moment of our most precious point in our lives. We seldom have many such moments to cherish, nor do many such moments touch us to the depth of our soul. Ideally, everything is plunged into the "sea of flames" at the end. It is essential to demarcate such beauty when we find it, tuck it away into our heart, and take it out when we need it again.

"Fallen" trades the heavy percussive dance EBM elements for a more sedate realm during the intro. This particular tweaks an essence of classic medieval tones and wraps it into a modern trance-like essence. It is as though one is floating in space observing intergalactic icicles as they melt in a cavernous abyss.

 "Covenant" takes us a bit further on our journey from that last track. It segues into this one, going a bit deeper and darker with the space-like ethereal essences. The beauty here is the wondrous way that a funeral type of dirge was given a new modernistic slant. For those who thought it wasn't possible to envelope a goth atmosphere via the electronic medium, "Covenant" disproves this quite diligently.

Envy Is Blind is one of the up and coming stars within the electronic music medium. The concept of creating club friendly songs with a potent meaning has also been seen with another contemporary artist, VNV Nation. Part of the redeeming factor about such music is that it offers a snapshot of time within our lives that has been overrun with information overload. Such artists help to make the listener step back and review the events that are happening within our world as well as around the globe. Often we get bogged down in the myriad of rapidly changing events that we don't stop long enough to calculate where certain events will eventually lead us.

While the majority of tracks on this disc can be played during the height of a club night, there are a couple of slower tracks for simply kicking back to. Whether one chooses to dance or listen, Envy Is Blind created songs on this EP which present a timely mindset of a younger generation. The first 4 tracks grab our attention with addictive and dynamic dance tones with their poignant lyrics. After we have been pumped up and placed on an adrenaline high, we are brought towards a level of cooling down, helping to punctuate the lyrical themes of the preceding tracks. These selections are quite enjoyable and it won't be too long before many of them are featured in clubs across the globe.

1. Synthetic Evolution
2. Requiem
3. Co-Existence
4. Sea of Flames
5. Fallen
6. Covenant

"Live" Band Line Up
Mike Poggenburg: vocals, synthesizers
Eric Fossum: Synthesizers

Website: www.envyisblind.com
Sound samples available at: www.mp3.com/envyisblind
Email: envyisblind@hotmail.com

Ephel Duath
The Painter's Palette
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Ephel Duath has the fine distinction of being the only band I've heard with three members named Davide. If that doesn't convince you to buy The Painter's Palette, I daresay I don't know what will. But for those of you who require more of that "information" and whatnot before running out to buy CDs on my recommendation - let's get down to business. Ephel Duath is an Italian band playing crazy hardcore jazz metal. Not surprisingly, I had to invent the description 'hardcore jazz metal' just for this review. I can safely say you've never heard anything like The Painter's Palette (at least, short of actually hearing The Painter's Palette), and if you're a fan of technical wacky metal, you absolutely need to hear Ephel Duath.

We should probably start with the guitars. Davide Tiso is an incredibly original guitarist. Sure, he can write hardcore and extreme metal riffs with the best of 'em, but his creativity really shines when he expresses his jazz leanings. He's developed a very dark sort of jazz melody style like nothing I've ever heard. It combines clean guitar, quirky sliding, understated offbeat leads, and other expressive nuances that give the songs a personal feeling. Instead of grabbing you by the neck and throttling you viciously, demanding your attention, Davide is best at letting his fingers subtly lead you around the musical soundscape.

You can tell I'm a bit biased towards the guitars in Ephel Duath, but that's not to discount any of the other musicians. Davide Piovesan contributes highly technical live-feel jazz drumming that fits the jazz parts perfectly, and somehow or another he's managed to take that sound and speed it up, as well as heavy it up (if one can do such a thing), in order to enhance the music's extreme moments. Fabio Fecchio's bass playing keeps the rhythm going, and while staying mostly under my attention radar because of its weak production, still manages to throw in neat fills and generally add to the overall feel.

Singing duty is split between a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde duo. Davide Tolomei has an excellent clean voice for the music's softer moments, and he can even channel Maynard James Keenan when he's needed during rougher spots. Luciano Lorusso George screams like a total maniac and in general scares the hell out of me. Oh, and there's a guest trumpet player who clearly enjoys caffeine and/or crack with amphetamines. Few bands so skillfully mix varied emotion and pacing with a painfully extreme sound, so go visit the multimedia section on http://www.ephelduath.net/ to hear "The Passage".  Anyone into the creative and totally whacked-out side of metal must give Ephel Duath a listen.

Track List:
1) The Passage (pearl grey)
2) The Unpoetic Circle (bottle green)
3) Labyrinthine (crimson)
4) Praha (ancient gold)
5) The Picture (bordeaux)
6) Ruins (deep blue and violet)
7) Ironical Communion (amber)
8) My Glassy Shelter (dirty white)
9) The Other's Touch (amaranth)

Ephel Duath is:
Davide Tiso - guitars
Fabio Fecchio - bass
Davide Piovesan - acoustic drums
Luciano Lorusso George - screams
Davide Tolomei - skimming vocals

Ephel Duath - Official Site:

Earache Records (US):

Elitist Records:

Tonacy Brzytwy Sie Chwyta
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Superficially speaking, Exit must be Poland’s answer to the Swans.  This is apparently the band’s second release for the Furia Musica label, and it is a masterful blend of dirge-paced acoustics and dreary angular electric guitars.  Their sound could primarily be considered to be a strain of apocalyptic folk, with the foreboding acoustic and electric guitar interactions, and the presence of accordion, and murky male vocals.  There is an absence of percussion, though the songs are tightly arranged and are carried by the dense guitar and bass work alone.  There are some creepy synths employed about halfway through the album, on the track “Ecce Ego” which is both chilling and trance inducive. Among the ten outstanding tracks that appear on this release, there is a mischievous rendition of William Blake’s “Sick Rose” as well as what appears to be a passage from a Biblical work entitled “Ecce Ego” (I could be mistaken here, but I can’t read Polish).

Exit is one of those beautifully depressing bands, similar in spirit to the “White Light” era of the Swans as well as Death In June and Current 93.  There is a droning, hypnotic aspect to the music, somewhat psychedelic yet unquestionably mysterious and sinister.  The vocals can be soft and pensive, yet every once in awhile they acquire a sudden burst of confrontational angst – if only I knew what the hell they were saying.  Again though, as with other European bands, I really dig the exotic and feeling of alienation and displacement that I get when listening to foreign vocalists.  Those of you that place a greater emphasis on lyrics might find yourself at a bit of a loss with Exit (unless of course, you know Polish).  The music therefore takes center stage, and the music on this disc is wholly engrossing, mature, strange, and very dark.  I highly recommend Exit to fans of obscure and avant garde oriented music.  I am not sure how easily obtained this release will be, but the label’s website is below.  It is definitely worth checking out!

Exit is:
Piotr Gedlek – guitar, vocals
Jakub Meus – guitar, vocals, synths, effects
Anna Psuty – akordeon
Patryk Wladyka – bass

Furia Musica:

Larry Gaab
Fugue States
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

Larry Gaab continues to craft music that can best be described as epic and cinematic. In this present, he takes us into the inner meanderings within the dark recesses of our own subconscious existence.

"Amnesia Dream" contains the drifting elements one would expect from anything dreamlike. However, with subtle tweaks and twists, this track unwraps layers of sound textures giving sway towards a nightmarish realm. One can almost feel the confusion, fear and frustration of someone waking to find that they have no recollection of their life at all.

"Synesthesia" is a psychological condition where some are able to feel sound through an alternate sense. Intrinsically, people with this condition are able to see colors, taste
textures or smells fragrance upon hearing sounds of various types. Gaab embarks to make this phenomenon more comprehensive by starkly taking music to avant garde extremes. The sounds are bent and curved in such a way that one can almost see and feel what it is like to have this condition.

"Apparitions of Apricots" doesn't provide much figurative understanding via the title. The track however contains droning essences that expand and contract at rather interesting angles. Overall, this is the type of music one would hear during a tense moment in a horror film. It isn't overtly scary or dark, but has just enough deep notes to add an element of tension, transition, apprehension and movement.

"Lingering Lapse" takes classical music to new heights. It is as though we have been brought into the nightmare and inner mind of an eminent composer from the 1800's. Instead of delving into traditional classical style, the tones are bent like hot tubes of metal.

"Dream Cycle" decides against being a sweet lullaby in the least. Instead, it gives rise to the impression of the mini-death we experience nightly as our bodies turn off from the stresses of the day. Once our subconscious is free to roam, we are thrust against surrealist colors and fleeting images. These sounds depict this in such a way to be a soundtrack to one's dream state.

"Bright Light Unseen" has shades of Danny Elfman to it without being an actual rip-off in the least. The track takes dark music and distributes it all around in a somewhat whimsical fashion. There is a central feeling of the normalcy of the macabre at play here that simply works rather well.

"Glint and Glimmer" once again bends sounds to make it feel as though they are colors of a modern artists palette. The colors that we are exposed to are that from our inner mind. The darker tones fulminate and gently cascade these impressions upwards so that the music, the listener and the artist are all on the same synchronized wavelength.

Larry Gaab has a number of incredible instrumental releases available. Instead of falling sway to the "new age" movement or falling into the commercial trappings of "world beat," he plays and dances to his own drummer.

Stylistically, his instrumental tracks are on a higher level of cerebral involvement. The work doesn't just focus on delivering background sounds, it encourages the listener to participate. Sometimes the listener has no option but to allow the subconscious a free reign, because ultimately that is where this speaks and resides within us. In particular, Fugue is one of his most compelling releases yet.

While Fugue States clearly maintains a dark focus, it also creates odd hybrids from tones and genres that are diametrically opposed. That in itself is the benchmark of Gaab's originality. Gaab takes psychological and philosophical concepts and creates a sound around the various schools of thought.

The work flows along in an odd cadence that lures the listener in to another world; one we are able to glimpse via the hearing of this music in the dark. It unleashes the realm of dark avant-garde to another dimension without patronizing the intelligence of the listener in the least. While it is more cerebral than most work currently available, it isn't so far off the bell curve that others wouldn't also appreciate its formation of space and color through sound.

1. Amnesia Dream
2. Synesthesia
3. Apparitions of Apricots
4. Lingering Lapse
5. Dream Cycle
6. Bright Light Unseen
7. Glint and Glimmer

Email: garbanzo@shocking.com

Website: www.shocking.com/~garbanzo

Larry Gaab
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

Larry Gaab ventured forth with yet another psychological instrumental work entitled Bliss. At first one might assume that it would be full of traditional notions of physical pleasures. Instead, Gaab takes tones to create an environment that draws in the listener into a peaceful reverie. It is as though certain tones were incorporated to decrease bodily stress and sensations.

"Ecstatic Motion" is a long track that initially lulls us, relaxes us, and then takes us through exotic percussion and oddly shaped and colored sound spectrums. Gaab feels that bliss should not have any boundaries and he expounds upon this by taking sounds and feelings into new hybrids.

"Auspicious Convergence" can best be described as a Middle Eastern song done via the space/time continuum. The elements of earth and space are profoundly brought to life and then taken from our own solar system into a time and place far ahead into the future of mankind.

"Free" comes across like another science fiction soundtrack piece. The freedom that is made evident is that of awaking from physical and emotional shackles that have rooted us too long in one place.

"Parting Trouble" is one of the most bittersweet tracks from this artist yet. Without using cliché, Gaab hints and coaxes feeling from us through the proper counterpoint hybridization that he is the master of.

"Sensibility" interestingly bubbles like elements and visions from the conscious mind. Metal-like tones are brought to the forefront to give solidity and structure from the abstract.

"Far & Wide" also veers into a subtle hint of bittersweet element. However, there is also an added tension of space and distance. At once we are provided with the feeling of relief, regret and remorse all rolled into one ball of sound.

Larry Gaab continues to craft music and master the ability to make avant-garde sound something for the mental cinema. While the tracks may come across disjointed to the uninitiated, he somehow takes all these variegated pieces of sound and has them embark into a corner of our mind. From there, these sounds tweak an essence of feeling and color that is highly astute and unlike what any artist has been able to do before or since.

Gaab's music is like being brought through a time machine and hearing what is popular centuries ahead of us. The encompassing work is a science fiction tour to give us a respite from the worries and cares of the day. Gaab's work will undoubtedly be hailed as one of the greatest compositions within the field of avant-garde, however it will take the world a bit of time to catch up to his musical genius.

Ecstatic Motion
Auspicious Convergence
Parting Trouble
Far & Wide

Email: garbanzo@shocking.com

Website: www.shocking.com/~garbanzo

Hortus Animae
Waltzing Mephisto
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Nimbly darting between genres like a devilish waterbug, Hortus Animae has crafted an album of beguiling yet catchy dark metal on their debut Waltzing Mephisto.  Their influences are legion, and other bands' styles constantly drift in and out of phase... but Hortus Animae are clearly well versed in making kickass verses.  Choruses too.  And all the bits in between.  As far as largely unoriginal sounding blackish gothy symphonic metal goes, it doesn't get alot better than this.

Waltzing Mephisto plays like a combo-sampler-platter of dark metal tidbits.  Ever been to Red Lobster (or your seafood eatery of choice) and couldn't decide if you wanted the shrimp or scallops or orange roughy, but knew you wanted some clams and hush puppies for sure?  Well, like their magical combo plates that give all you could ever want and more, this album will satisfy indecisive consumers.  You get a big helping of Dimmu Borgir, a smattering of Paradise Lost, a dollop of finely aged Sepultura, a side of Arcturus, and a thick, steamy broth of Hortus Animae to hold it all together.  Come to think of it, that sounds more like a stew than a combo platter.  So much for that analogy.

In case that last paragraph made no sense to you, allow me to clarify.  Waltzing Mephisto is chock full of ferociously speedy riffing... but said riffs waver between black metal chaos and thrashy crunch.  Amidst some Arcturus-ish craziness (recalling 'La Masquerade Infernale'), you'll find a familiar 'wall of sound' approach right off Page 1 of the Dimmu Borgir playbook.  Luckily, Satan gave the Hortusites the good sense to vary the pace here and there...  and that they do, often with stunning success.  The outstanding track "Springtime Deaths" seamlessly transitions from doom metal to black metal to thrash and back, and includes some totally unexpected thrash soloing and a piano interlude and outro.  Every instrument but the bass shines at one time or another, and all performances are quite good- occasionally verging on excellent.  Even Martyr Lucifer's monster rasp is strangely invigorating, perhaps because of the fervor with which it hisses out of his leathery air bladders.

Fervor, actually, is what makes Waltzing Mephisto less of a rote repetition of numerous genres and more a rollicking jaunt across pleasingly familiar territory.  Not even the trite, cartoonish Satanic overtones can keep me from sporting an evil grin and enjoying this album quite a lot.  The strong songwriting, varied instrumentation, and constant flow of brutal riffs keep the album interesting the whole way through.  Heck, they even manage to work in Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells", which is not a melody I'd expected to hear in a release like this.  Hortus Animae mixes crazy skill with just plain crazy and sets it all to the familiar strains of dark metal's greatest hits, making Waltzing Mephisto worthy of a spot on all metal fans' dance cards.

Track List:
01.) (untitled)
02.) Enter
03.) A Lifetime Obscurity Pt. 1
04.) A Lifetime Obscurity Pt. 2
05.) Springtime Deaths
06.) Souls Of The Cold Wind
07.) Welcome The Godless
08.) Freezing Moon Including Terzo Incontro And Tubular Bells
09.) A Feeble Light Of Hope

Hortus Animae is:
Martyr Lucifer: lead vocals, bass
Bless: keyboards
Shred Blast Hypnos: guitars
GroM: drums and percussions

Hortus Animae Official Website:

Black Lotus records:

The End Records (US):

In The Nursery
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

In The Nursery is a musical outfit of brothers Klive and Nigel Humberstone. Their recorded lineage spans 22 years and 24 releases. In that time, their work has also been featured in a number of films, including updated scores for silent film classics.

Praxis is their latest release, and for those not familiar with this outfit, pay heed to what can best be described as a body of magical enchantment. This Cd has done what few have been able to achieve up to now. There is something here to satisfy the goths, the ambient and even the EBM dance music crowd. The tracks, as well as their sequencing, provide a combined effect of auditory splendor that will not be easily forgotten.

"Praxis" is the title track that has the ability to stay within your mind hours after having heard it. It opens with dark malevolent tones that find us assuming that it will be an dark ambient piece. With magical precision, the track veers into an uptempo dance track that would mix extremely well with songs from E Nomine. Here, this stellar work combines elements of neo-Renaissance, marching snare drums, woodwind instruments among others. Praxis begs for club exposure and has the makings of being the band's club hit for the summer 2003 and beyond.

"Vocopolis" provides a bit more of the ethereal darkness that is lulling at first. Vocalist Dolores Marguerite C introduces the opening lines before the gentle percussion cascades us along a mental reverie. Intensity fulminates and comes to the forefront, bringing this song to a grandiose level of beauty.

"Concept" is a mellower track that highlights the vocals of Klive Humberstone. Here, a trip-hop beat is incorporated with the orchestral tones.

"Memento" allows every instrument full range when heard via a headset. Gentle percussion reminiscent of Enigma's early work push the track along. There are also other elements and beats taken from industrial music and placed into this sedate yet highly seductive song.

"Error Theory" Once again, sounds more familiar to industrial music is given a showcase while the brothers managed to layer in darker orchestral ambience. With each passing moment, the song builds upon itself, adding tension through the ambience, friction with the collision if you will.

"Outburn" is a bittersweet opus with lyrics of empowerment. It is made evident that through loss and longing, eventually stems personal growth. Katz Kiely provides the vocals for this track and veers from tortured introspection straight through self actualization within the span of this track. Her impassioned delivery can break your heart and uplift your spirit with equal intensity.

"Ethics of Belief" features the vocals of Nigel and Klive Humberstone. This track has a more aggressive edge which incorporates marching snare drum effects with the heavy beats and percussion. The hybrid with modern music with neo-Renaissance effects that blend with a dance-like beat make this yet another track destined for club and college radio rotation.

"Amer" brings deliciously dark ambient tones and world beat effects to the forefront. The vocalist is pushed in the back initially, as though through a radio. This gives rise to the subconscious pushing sentiments up. Eventually the vocals come to the front with an exotic and seductive French delivery.

"Argent" floats as any good ambient piece should. The trip hop style percussion gently weaves the track and the French sung vocals along at an enjoyable cadence.

"Praxis (reflection)" takes us back to the opening track. The quote on this album pretty much sums up what was musically accomplished.
 "Nothing worthwhile can come out of our pens and hand unless it is by friction,
 collision with things and people" - Cesar Pavese

Praxis is certainly July's pick of the month for this reviewer. This wonderful CD can enchant, seduce and excite the listener in a myriad of ways that too few have been able to achieve thus far. Additionally, the club friendly tracks make this one for many DJ's to investigate. The wondrous combination of Renaissance style elements incorporated into a modern beat and rhythm clearly make this a body of music that won't be easily ignored and certainly make it highly memorable. For those who enjoy Enigma or E Nomine, do seek out this release as it will be a welcome addition to your musical library.

Error Theory
Ethics of Belief
Praxis (reflection)

All tracks written, arranged and produced by Klive & Nigel Humberston/ In The Nursery

Dolores Marguerite C.: vocals and words on Vocopolis, Memento, Amer & Argent
K & N Humberstone: Vocals on Ethics of Belief
Katz Keile: vocals on Outburn
Klive Humberstone: vocals on Concept
Jill Crowther: Oboe (courtesty of the Philharmonia Orchestra)
David Elektrik: Marching snare drum on Praxis
Henrik Linnerman: Flute

Website: www.inthenursery.com   

Killing Miranda
Enter The Dragon (online promo track)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
(photo credit : Tina Korhonen)

Here's a virtual single from Killing Miranda. It's available as a free download from the band's website, although there may also be a few hard-copy versions available for DJs on request from the band. There's a new album coming soon, it seems, and this promo track has been put out as an advance taster. Although perhaps it would be more accurate to use the expression 'advance warning' - on this evidence, the Killing Miranda sound has mutated and evolved and moved on quite drastically from their earlier incarnation as Brit-goth contenders. They're mixing it with a different crowd now. Like a bunch of unruly kids who don't see why they should stay on their own side of the fence, Killing Miranda have piled into the adventure playground next door, and now they're on a mission to create merry hell in the metal scene.

All of which means, if you're expecting 'Enter The Dragon' to be a stroll through some familiar goth moves, think again. Having said that, it doesn't particularly trouble itself with following the metal rules, either. It's a riff-heavy monster which occupies a sulphurous wasteland somewhere between Killing Joke and Metallica. Now there are two bands who you seldom see mentioned in the same sentence, but if you suspend your disbelief high enough you can hear both those influences churning away in the guts of this little beastie. Electronic squelches and sampled voices give way to a big, beefy bassline which goes clomping its way through the song, dodging hefty slabs guitar all the way. The  drums manage to be precise and economical (nice rimshots in the intro, BTW) while at the same time crashing down like a ton of bricks. The vocals are an apocalyptic rasp, one of those raw-as-carrots metal-hollers, and the whole caboodle sounds like it would make an ideal soundtrack for a circle-headbang (that's like a circle jerk, only not as messy).

I'm no metalhead, and this isn't my usual musical territory, but there's no escaping that big bastard rhythm, that angle-grinder guitar, and the in-yer-face bass. It's the Killing Joke-ness of the track which make it work for me. It'll be interesting to find out what the metal crowd think of it: that's probably the area where Killing Miranda's future audience will be found, but will that audience be prepared to take on a band which is equally happy to throw samples and electronics into the mix as heavy-duty guitar-riffage? We shall see...

The players:
Richard: Vocals, programming, guitar
Irish Dave: Bass, guitar
Alien Dave: Guitar
Belle: Drums

The website: http://www.killingmiranda.com (Download 'Enter The Dragon' from the Audio section)

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to

Mors Principium Est
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

I'm beginning to feel like one of those metal reviewers that arbitrarily likes or dislikes CDs. You know, the type that decide how their review will go by spinning a wheel with possible outcomes such as ecstatic gushing, thoroughly satisfied smirking, mild approval, mild disapproval, thoroughly pained retching, or bitter loathing. I, too, have such a wheel, and though I strive not to use it, I can't help myself on melodic death metal releases. Mors Principium Est (MPE) is a Finnish melodic death metal act with a lot of catchy songs that don't feel entirely redundant. Perhaps coincidentally, my wheel landed on "mild approval" for the purposes of this review.

Mors Principium Est take cues from country mates Children of Bodom and Kalmah in making technically adept metal with bouncy melodic riffs, frighteningly fast solos, and a whole lot of other things you can also find in bands like Dark Tranquillity and Soilwork. For the most part, MPE treads no new ground, and if you've heard all of the bands I just mentioned, you can make up a reasonably accurate mental image of their sound.

Yet, aside from being compelled to stick by my wheel'o'deciding, I really do like Inhumanity. Mors Principium Est don't have the flash and arrogance of Children of Bodom, nor the hyper-happy power metal feel that occasionally permeates Kalmah's dense sound. Instead, MPE focuses on thematic orchestral-sounding guitar leads with subtle Soilwork-styled keyboard themes. The easily identifiable melodic themes are sometimes quite epic, and when paired with the much more standard rhythm and vocal sections, give the music a deeper feel.

If you're a grizzled melodic death metal veteran who has long since moved on to other styles, MPE is not the band to convince you of your folly. But if you're a relatively jaded music fan like myself (or just a relatively jaded music fan), CDs like Inhumanity remind us that even the most over-played styles can still be put to good use. Mors Principium Est is a definite 'must check out' for fans of Children of Bodom, Kalmah, or Soilwork.

Track List:
1) Another Creation
2) Eternity's Child
3) In My Words
4) Inhumanity
5) D.I.B.
6) The Lust called knowledge
7) Oblivion
8) Life in Black
9) Last Apprentice
10) Into illusion

Mors Principum Est is:
Jori - guitar
Jarkko - guitar
Toni - keyboards
Mikko - drums
Ville - vocals
Teemu - bass

Mors Principum Est - Official Site:

Listenable Records:

The End Records (US):

One Inch Of Shadow
Birthday Of Angels And Mannequines
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

This is the second CD release from the Polish label Perun Records (the first being “Evensong” by The Blue Hour, which I previously reviewed for StarVox). One Inch Of Shadow is a unique and incredibly dark ambient project, utilizing hypnotic electronic samples, trance inducing loops, and light percussion.  The entire album is a minimalist exploration of languid dream-like sounds, drenched in cavernous reverb, with fleeting passages of soft male or female vocals and spoken word.  The songs are slow and spacious, occasionally utilizing muffled trumpets to invoke a kind of dark lounge or jazz vibe, while processed guitars or pianos creep in every so often.  The only thing I can possibly compare this to would be Sigur Ros or perhaps some of Radiohead’s more electronica influenced releases.  Yet this seems much slower and slightly elusive than either.  The seven tracks that appear on this release are all relatively lengthy, and intentionally repetitive in order to achieve the desired hypnotic effects.

The first track “In Chapels And In Hotels,” I liked quite a bit, as it reminded me of a more subdued Lycia or Slowdive.  But I personally am much too impatient to enjoy music that is this relaxed (however dark or unnerving parts of it may be) in any active state of consciousness.  However, this is perfect for lounging around, reading, or for meditative purposes.  One Inch Of Shadow is unquestionably successful in creating a strong and unmistakable vibe with their music - it isn’t just a bunch of hollow drones or numb electronic non-sense that repeats itself mindlessly for an hour.  There is definitely some substance here, however, it is not something that I personally can foresee myself listening to unless I want to have some seriously bizarre or depressing dreams.  And that seems to be the key in enjoying this disc.  Down a bottle of wine, light some candles, and let this CD take you to another place, on the brink of consciousness.  In this day and age, when we all lead such busy and hectic lives, discovering music like this is a challenging reminder that sometimes, its ok to just unwind and chill.  Hopefully, I will be able to do that in the near future, and this will be the disc I choose to celebrate my inactivity with! Whatever the case, though One Inch Of Shadow’s style of downtempo atmosphere may be an acquired taste, The Birthday of Angels and Mannequines is a transcendent and delicate release of high regard and subtle ethereal power.

Track List:
1.) In Chapels And In Hotels
2.) Things To Change
3.) United Artists
4.) Salt
5.) Naked Gallons
6.) Mannequin Soup
7.) The Birthday

One Inch Of Shadow – Official Site:

Perun Records:

Revolution By Night
Faithless EP ( Sonic-X)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

It's been a long time coming, but here it is: the new EP from Revolution By Night. This release has already notched up a placing in the Deutsche Alternative Chart - number 14, if I recall correctly. That's an achievement not to be sneezed at, especially given that RBN are the first UK underground scene band to break into the DAC since the likes of VNV Nation and Mesh stuck their feet in the door a few years back. Of course, it probably helps that RBN are on a German label, and the band have been promoted heavily in the Germany, but that just amounts to good strategy. These days, given the fact that our home-territory scene is relatively small and frustratingly insular, it makes a lot of sense for UK bands to point themselves in the direction of the real action.

You get nine tracks. Five mixes of 'Faithless', a couple of newies, and two 'archive tracks' - reworked versions of a couple of old songs from RBN's murky past. It's the title track which grabs the attention, though: a slinky synth number which, although it certainly has dance floor potential, is clearly a *song* first and foremost, rather than simply club track. The vocals, surrounded by a lush rainforest of layered synth lines, drawl lazily against the beat in an almost world-weary tone: 'You know there's always something...unexpected'. The rhythm itself is subtly danceable, rather than a forceful four-on-the-floor club beat, and the whole thing has an individuality which is less common than it should be in these troubled times.

And so to the remixes. Tom Shear of Assemblage 23 remakes the track in a somewhat more conventional hands-in-the-air club-anthem style, bringing in a solidly dance-oriented bom-thwack-bom-thwack beat and generally EBM-ing the whole thing up. To my ears, it's not entirely successful - the  vocals sit rather uneasily with the bangin' beat. But it's the  VNV Nation remix which, somewhat to my surprise, takes the prize. It pushes the song in a different direction from the original - and sounds nothing like VNV Nation! I was half expecting the song to be remodelled into a virtual VNV-track, as has happened before with other VNV remixes (Das Ich's 'Destillat' being the classic example). In fact, Ronan Harris (for it is he) has constructed a cinemascope showstopper in which the beat remains subtly in the background, but the synths build and build, creating an uplifting, almost orchestral music which stands in complete opposition to the downbeat vocals. As a result, the track gains a kind of taking-on-the-world feel which really does work. Well, I never thought I'd find myself paying compliments to Mister Glowsticks himself, but in this instance Ronan Harris has come up with a good 'un.

The new RBN album should be along later this year, and if this EP is any guide it'll be worth waiting for. It's about time we had an electronic band which can touch base with the club crowd and the dance floors, while at the same time avoiding all the stomp-and-chant, wave-your-hands-in-the-air cliches of the genre. Could RBN be that band? Let's hope so.

Incidentally - technical query: when I play this CD on my computer, why does the info flung up on my monitor by Windows Media player give me the track listing of 'Breathe', the old-skool goth album released by an early incarnation of RBN some years back? Heads are going to roll at the pressing plant when the band discover that!

The tunestack:
Faithless (Radio edit)
Faithless (Pandora) (Remix by Tom Shear/Assemblage 23)
Higher Ground (Voxless)
Faithless (Remix by Ronan Harris/VNV Nation)
Faithless (Full length)
Faithless (Edit) (Remix by Ronan Harris/VNV Nation)
Selling Heaven (HRH135 mix)
Condition One (V2.0)

The players:
Steve Weeks: Programming, keyboards, vocals
Bryon Adamson-Woods: Programming, keyboards, guitars
Kevin King: Live keyboards

The website: http://www.revolutionbynight.com

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to

Twelfth Of Never
Things That Were
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Twelfth Of Never is a quintet of Massachusetts based musicians, and their latest CD “Things That Were,” is their second release for Dark Symphonies records. Generally speaking, this is a good record, with a lot going on both musically and lyrically.  But the consistency of this CD is somewhat of a mixed bag.  The overall quality of the music is for the most part, pretty solid from beginning to end.  However, as with most CDs, some songs are much stronger and more mature than others.  To some extent, it seems as though Twelfth Of Never are still struggling to find their own sound – or at least, which path to follow.  I hope that my review will help not only our readers to decide if they would be interested in checking this CD out, but I also hope to give the band some things to digest before they enter the studio for their third release.

First things first: there is without question a great deal of genuine personal grief at the heart of this release.  The album is dedicated to the memory of Tara Harding Lee, a long time fan of the band who passed away last year.  From what I can gather from the liner notes, principal songwriter Matthew Davis had become very close to Tara and when she passed away, this had an expectedly painful effect on him and the direction of his music.  Apparently, she was an instrumental force for him to carry on his music and this entire opus is drenched with an existential sense of regret, longing, and pain. On a number of these tracks, Twelfth Of Never do a fantastic job lyrically exploring the conflicted emotions that we as humans are forced to face when it comes to our own fragile mortality.   They do so in a very direct manner, without any elevated metaphors or clichés.  “Open eyes / roll out of bed again / and go through the motions / awake and unconscious / look in the mirror / there I am again / feeling so empty / the grayest shade of sick.”

Musically speaking, Twelfth Of Never do a magnificent job blending deeply reverberated Darkwave and fluid guitar-centered Shoegaze styles, with well-placed excursions into darker riff-heavy Gothic Metal structures.  Roger Lavallee, of Curtain Society fame, produced the album and perhaps he had a hand in directing the band into more Indie/Shoegaze type pastures.  Robin Tinker performs the majority of the vocals, and her radiant angelic soprano provides a fragile and delicate beauty to the band’s starker musical backdrop.  The dynamic between her soft lilting voice and the cavernous music will instantly strike listeners by its similarities to the latter years of Lycia, once Tara Van Flower began working with the band.

And my critique for Twelfth Of Never is similar to my light critiques of latter-day Lycia – often times, the female vocals are a bit too soft and, for a lack of a kinder word, whiney.   Especially with the somewhat adolescent lyrics for “Bratty Girl.”  “Oh poor dolly / lying on its back / the cold rain gently drizzles outside / the bags are ready, lunch is being packed.”  The song is about a young girl struggling with feelings of abandonment and alienation I can only guess, and I understand that the lyrics were meant to capture a younger child’s melancholic spirit.  But when all is said and done, it’s a bit too cutesy for my taste, and is a prime example of Twelfth Of Never’s occasionally dangerous flirtation with melodrama and sugarcoated Switchblade Symphony-esque fluff.  Musically however, the song is profoundly moving.  With its dramatic climax of dense power chords and weighty percussion, dizzying key shifts and swirling ambience, I literary get chills every time the song reaches its chorus.  But when you read the lyrics with the music, the effect is somewhat diluted.

The bottom line here for this track and a handful of others is that musically, the band is very gifted and spot on when it comes to their delivery and the atmosphere they weave is truly convincing.  B