One of the toughest things Metropolis Records may have had to accomplish was that of going through the entire discography of Juno Reactor. Odyssey is a sampling and representation of work from mastermind Ben Watkins as well as his many collaborators over a ten year span. In spite of the many changes and fluctuations within the underground music scene, Watkins managed to capture the attention of fans as well as the music industry insiders. The list below may read like a resume, however in light of the achievements of this artist, it is important to emphasize how one of the children of the undergrounds has managed to succeed and come into his own. What follows is information gleaned from the artist and label website.
The forthcoming Summer film
“The Matrix Reloaded” will feature 3 new Juno Reactor tracks on the soundtrack
Mona Lisa Overdrive - Juno Reactor
Teahouse - Juno Reactor feat. Gocoo
Burly Brawl - Juno Reactor v. Don Davis
Other Juno Reactor tracks will be featured on the forthcoming The Animatrix, which contains nine original animated short films by the makers of The Matrix. This will be released on VHS and DVD on June 3rd.
If this wasn’t enough to sing about, the track Pistolero will be featured this summer on the trailer for the new Robert Rodrigez film "Once Upon A Time In Mexico." Pistolero also appears in the final film in the Mariachi trilogy, starring Johnny Depp, Salma Hayak, Antonio Banderas & William Defoe.
Previously, in addition to creating music, Watkins has remixed work for such artists as DEVO, FATIMA MANSIONS, SIOUXIE & THE BANSHEES and KILLING JOKE as well as composing and producing four tracks for TRACI LORDS' debut album '1000 Fires'. Watkins’ instrumental work have also appeared on film soundtracks for movies such as 'MORTAL KOMBAT', 'VIRTUOSITY' as well as the trailer for 'ROMEO & JULIET.” The track “Guilty” was utilized in the US during clips for baseball, basketball and grid iron football. The track “Samurai” was featured during the Japanese Grand Prix coverage. Watkins has also recently composed the score for the forthcoming movie 'BEOWULF' starring Christopher Lambert and provided three new tracks to Playstation's Jet Moto 2 game while "Hule Lam" was included on the TV series "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"
Since electronic music isn’t my particular forte, admittedly, this release is a new endeavor and experience. In light of the above accomplishments, one has to sit up and take notice. Watkins, a.k.a. Juno Reactor, is clearly demonstrating how one can remain true to the underground fan base while simultaneously creating enough noise that even the mainstream cannot ignore the work.
Considering some of the past achievements, one would most likely expect this collection to burn with electronic heat that is tailor made for the dance floor. While the tracks are conducive for club playing, the work isn’t geared for mere “oontz” factor as we have come to associate some of the club music as of late. Instead, we are given tracks that are clearly electronic, yet organic at the same time. We must also keep in mind that this is also a body of work spanning ten years. Upon their initial release, the music was markedly different than what was available at the time.
“High Energy Protons” opens with an electronic note and bends it in prismatic fashion. A soundbyte is added and then we are thrust into a pulsing hook. This track is similar to that found in the Mortal Combat soundtrack where kinetic energy is communicated via sound.
“Laughing Gas” plays a bit with electro-synthpop type of hybrids with dashes of trance and goa for good measure. The beat of this song could have easily been substituted as the opening song during the nightclub scene in the film Blade.
“Rotorblade” slows things down after luring us in with two heavy dance tracks. There is an essence of the morose woven between the electronic effects and soundbytes. However, just when you think you can kick back and relax, deep pulsing notes rise to the surface. This track delineates movement during the darkness of night. Ironically, we are left with an impression of the here and now in this dark world. Elements of American Indian intonations blend with the sounds. This track doesn’t provide a sense of closure and chances are that is its intent. Essentially, it is the soundtrack to our past memories which haunt us during our late night, sleepless hours.
“Feel The Universe” has an introduction that would lead one to think it would be a sedate track. This opening marries a bit of the orchestral with electronic sounds. The pulses pick up rather expansively and weave in-between the essence heard at the opening with the cataclysms of intergalactic chaos.
“God Is God” opens as a cross between world beat, new age and a hint of a dirge for a few breaths. The world-beat is assembled between interesting percussion which is also fused brilliantly with the Middle Eastern vocals. Calling this particular track hypnotic is a gross understatement. It is rather intriguing to hear how this particular track manages to combine elements that are intrinsically Middle Eastern, switch up and sound almost Mediterranean and then, without missing a beat, go back to the world beat essence.
“Conga Fury” initially takes an ethereal style female voice and layers it underneath a heavy percussion. This percussion continues to build, expand, contract, release and become tribal. While the percussive elements take center stage, other notes coalesce in the background. Some of these notes indicate a modern electronic rapidity while others are sedate punctuations. As the name implies, this track delivers the feeling of being something from out of the deepest regions of a jungle.
“Komit” is yet another track that provides an introduction with a nighttime sensibility. Sounds bubble and fulminate in the background while other sounds give a feeling of surveying a city from atop a skyscraper. Once the beat kicks in, the element of darkness is maintained while other elements denote a sense of mobility. Interestingly, there is an odd inclusion of what can best be described as a futuristic harpsichord which heralds the next layer of heavy movement and energy.
“Pistolero” embarks on a Spanish flavoring which managed to go from the context of its initial origins and then just kept building upon itself. Portions of the original styling of this traditional sound careen around modern day interpretations.
“Hule Lam” once again embarked upon a tribal and world beat flavoring that was fused between modern day electronic tones. It would be near impossible not to envision an Amazonian jungle while listening to this particular track.
“Masters Of The Universe” is one of those tracks that you can’t get out of your head. It is darkly seductive while also being dance friendly. In between heavy dance beats, we are enthralled with a female voice singing from beyond the mists, luring us inward.
“Hotaka” completely flips the script by providing an introduction that borders on Gregorian. Underneath, the percussive elements build and froth, teasing the listener that it will overtake the vocals. Instead, both fluctuate together, mutated downwards and recombine for a four on the floor thrusting rhythm.
Odyssey is an intriguing collection of work that will change the way many people view the lifespan of electronic music. Essentially, this retrospective of Juno Reactor’s best music over the years demonstrates how it is possible to incorporate more life into what is conceivably a cold genre to some. While many other electronic contemporaries are utilizing every “oontz” factor programmed into their keyboards, Watkins goes beyond the scope of mere dance music. The work takes on a life of its own through varied samplings of a number of genres and styles. The remarkable accomplishment is that this music is able to combine so many elements yet remain club friendly at the same time.
For those new to Juno Reactor, this is a wonderful introduction to the amassed body of work from Watkins and company. Long time fans will undoubtedly want to include this work into their collection, particularly since “Hotaka” is a new track that is unavailable elsewhere.
1. High Energy Protons
2. Laughing Gas
4. Feel The Universe
5. God Is God
6. Conga Fury
9. Hule Lam
10. Masters Of The Universe
Collaborators and people
Juno Reactor have worked with:
Stefan Holweck (Total Eclipse)
Mike Maguire (Cube Records)
Paul Jackson (Genetic/Voodoo People)
Fletcher, Alex Paterson (The Orb)
Mabi Thobejane (Amampondo)
Steve Stevens (Billy Idol's guitarist).
Band Website: http://www.reactorleak.com
Available from Metropolis Records at www.metropolis-records.com
~review by Mick Mercer
If you like throwing the odd rune, have a taste for sags and even fancy hearing the language revitalised why not go to the Norse’s mouth (honestly, I amaze myself sometimes) one Spencer Harrison, he of Son Of William. Its all here, and my bad for thinking I was doing another SOW review, because this is one of his other projects. Given that he has some degree in Teutonics, and makes his own mead, here is a man for whom the boundaries of time blur, and anything is possible.
It isn’t something I feel particularly drawn towards, although the difference between this and much traditional music revisited by any of the Fossil Dungeon people, Ataraxia or Unto Ashes is quite clear. While they do a reverential take on much early and medieval music, Spencer goes for the pagan side with a bleak sound, but without any quasi-profound smearing of creepiness that some ambient urchins lurch about in. It’s just straightforward music, and but highly limited in tone.
No vocals as such, apart from the opening and closing dramatics, just mainly acoustics and percussion, though musicians are credited with such things as an ocean drum, finger cymbals and rainstick! It’s organic, but never orgasmic, and what any of the titles may refer to I haven’t the foggiest really. (Erulians, the sleeve says, were teutonic runemasters.)
You have to be seriously into this stuff to like it, because without the chirpy charm of the more normal madrigal side, what you have here is a charcoal acoustic delivery, with some modern intonations allowed in occasionally, but the instrumentals all follow a pretty direct and rather uneventful path. Maybe he’s even cheating a little with the modern acoustic guitar in ‘The Routing’, which gives the piece greater form that it would have had centuries ago, or the US folk sound of ‘When All is Reshaped’, but by keeping everything simple and very precise during ‘Key Flower’ he also manages to make this music seem more alive somehow than many exponents of the historical art.
Personally , I was only drawn to two pieces, ‘Snowdonia’ and ‘Sylph’, which were exquisitely pleasing, with warmth and emotional moods. The rest tended to be a lot of clattering drums and plonky guitar, which I don’t find delightful, but somehow I’m sure the many people who positively froth with feverish excitement over such plain entities, will find this approach quite heartening. There is definitely something stirring in there, and it isn’t like what I have encountered before.
THE ROUTING (UT)
WHEN ALL IS RESHAPED
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
There are bands that depress, and bands that sing about being depressed. Katatonia is a combination of the two, writing solid music that any crestfallen individual can surely relate to and appreciate. But Viva Emptiness is also compelling enough to induce depression - mainly thanks to vocalist Jonas Renkse. His semi-alternative rock approach to goth metal is depressing as hell, even if his lyrics sometimes suffer from silliness. As far as I'm concerned, he could sing the etymology of words beginning with 'Q' and I'd be just as captivated. There's a certain honesty to his smoothly flowing vocals, and I have to wonder if he often breaks down during recording or simply doesn't get out of bed most days.
Katatonia established a solid sound on Discouraged Ones, and pretty much kept at it until this newest effort. Viva Emptiness is a much needed change of pace. Katatonia's previous composition style consisted of neatly phrased riffs with Renkse on vocals... and that was about it. Now the guitars creep in the background with haunting, reverberating arpeggios, they rage at the meaninglessness of it all with hard-edged metal grooves, and they even provide compelling lead melodies or off kilter Tool-ish riffs. Although Renkse hasn't changed his vocal approach to any great degree, he adapts well to the band's improved songwriting, and his emotionally laden crooning takes on faster rhythms or bitterly venemous shouts as necessary.
The drums and bass complete the rhythm section and add another welcome aspect to the troubled Katatonia feel. The keyboards are used more for background ambience than lead melodies or solos, but they're always tastefully played and provide another cushioned layer of sound for the listener to sink into. On Tonight's Decision and Last Fair Deal Gone Down, I enjoyed the music greatly, but rarely forgot about the fact that I was listening to songs by a band. Viva Emptiness approaches a deeper form of music with vividly painted soundscapes that you can lose yourself in.
As always, Travis Smith's artwork in the liner notes enhances the overall feel of the CD. His terrifying and barren cityscapes convey a sense of desolation and the trace lingering of violence and death. It's rare that an album has artwork so appropriate to the music, except in the case of other Travis Smith projects, but Katatonia's choice in image gives insight into the feel they're going for. If you like the depressing alternative rock side of goth metal, listen to Katatonia. And if you have yet to hear the band, you're missing out on one of goth/doom metal's most honestly dark and worthwhile acts.
1) Ghost of the Sun
4) A Premonition
5) Will I Arrive
6) Burn the Remembrance
8) One Year From Now
9) Walking by a Wire
13) Inside the City of Glass
Jonas Renkse - vocals, guitars, programming
Anders Nystrom - guitars, keyboards, programming
Fred Norrman - guitars
Mattias Norrman - bass
Daniel Liljekvist - drums and percussion
Katatonia - Official Site:
STURM & DRANG TOUR 2002 DVD
~reviewed by Sonya Brown
Well the crazy lady next door certainly got an ear full this Tuesday night. On the same evening that I received the new KMFDM DVD, 2002 Sturm & Drang Tour, popped it into the DVD player, and turned up the volume, "Old Lady Looney Tunes" decided to scrub the outside walls of the apartment complex directly under my open kitchen window. Well, she must have liked what she heard. Either that, or she's now even more convinced that her neighbors are black-draped evil-doers; because she lingered outside the front window, scrubbing the same spot, for almost the entirety of the DVD. And, with nearly 2 full hours of film, featuring 31 shows filmed over 34 days of KMFDM on tour... well that must have been one DIRTY little spot that needed scrubbing!
Now, had she actually been eavesdropping (no?! really?!) the sounds she might have heard coming from inside our darkened lair would have been mostly "oooohs" and "ahhhhs", amid the thundering music of KMFDM LIVE.
Perhaps it wasn't JUST the music that made the eavesdropping so intriguing! Perhaps it was the more than 35 minutes of outtakes from the road and back stage. This was certainly one of MY favorite parts of the DVD. About a third of this DVD features the interaction of Sascha Konietzko, Lucia Cifarelli, Raymond Watts, Bill Rieflin, and the rest of the KMFDM gang, interacting with fans. Something that I was fortunate enough to experience first-hand when KMFDM made their way to Portland during this tour. Just ask anyone. Every time I wear my KMFDM tour t-shirt, and every time somebody NOTICES that I'm wearing my KMFDM tour t-shirt, they will get a nice little lecture from me about how WONDERFUL Sascha is, and how I went SHOPPING with Sascha in downtown Portland, and how Sascha gave me a VIP pass to the show (and I never once asked), and... Well, you get the picture. My friends now all tease me and insist that instead of just WEARING the t-shirt, I should also wear a sign that reads "I WENT SHOPPING W/ SASCHA @ SPARTACUS!!" It's the interaction that KMFDM has with their fans that impresses me even as much as their legendary music. And, by watching the KMFDM 2002 TOUR DVD, you get to see a glimpse of this interaction in process.
OK, you want to know about the LIVE performances? You could probably power a sizeable city on the energy levels exuded by these performances. My only gripe would be that I wanted to know exactly WHERE they were at all times! "Is that The Roseland?" "Oh, is that The CatWalk?" I spent most of the time straining my eyes, trying and figure out which city they were performing in.
"I remember when Lucia did THAT" I yelled, as she stomps across the stage during "Boots". "I remember THOSE pants that Sascha was wearing!" "Remember, Raymond was wearing a PIG shirt!" Don't worry, there is enough live footage to make out YOUR town in there somewhere.
Sharp quality, excellent editing, the ATTAK/RELOAD music video, KMFDM interview snippets, in-store appearance antics, various downtown adventures... all this, and much more, awaits you inside this most excellent DVD.
Either purchase your own copy through METROPOLIS - Metropolis-Records.com, or I'll leave the front window open. There's a nasty little stain on the outside of my wall that still needs scrubbing.
TRACK LIST: KMFDM "STURM
& DRANG" TOUR 2002 DVD:
08. Find It Fuck It Forget It
09. Sturm & Drang
14. Spit Sperm
Exact link for this dvd: http://www.metropolis-records.com/artists/?artist=kmfdm
Metropolis Records | P.O.
Box 54307 | Philadelphia, PA 19105
610.595.9940 tel | 610.595.9944 fax
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
Some time ago, Ashkelon Sain of Trance To The Sun fame, assisted this Austrian band with the concept and artwork for this release. In turn, he introduced their work to this reviewer. From the outset, they win the honor for being one of the most intriguing avant garde artists heard to date. Admittedly, upon first listening to this CD, it was a daunting task trying to discern a way to review it, particularly since they broke all the rules to create hybrids that haven't been conceived as of yet.
The songs combine elements of medieval, tribal, Celtic, industrial, Germanic Folk, Gothic, ethereal and everything else in the kitchen sink, often within the space of the same song! Now add to this the essence of a haunted carnival, a kaleidoscopic element of childhood toy pianos, dashes of nightmares, touches of psychotic surrealism, dank dungeons, cemeteries, the darkest reaches of space, and doses of classical compositions. The best summation for this work is to equate it as the musical embodiment of a Salvador Dali painting come to life.
Sadly, I still feel a bit inadequate at attempting to describe this work and can only hope that some of the imagery above will provide some semblance of the sound.
One might think that all of those combined musical elements would create nothing but sheer noise. On the contrary, it is sound that is way ahead of its time. This is the kind of music one would have anticipated as part of the soundtrack to the Bruce Willis film, The Fifth Element. Overall, it manages to be disconcerting while paradoxically also being soothing. It is playful as well as spooky. It defies categorization basically and it is something you will just have to hear for yourself. One may be able to find a few tracks on Mp3.com or on their website. If you like sound that completely colors outside the lines and is unlike anything you have ever heard before, check out Kosmolith.
Dark Age Swank
Cruelty of the Ancients/ Grilled Judas
My Love, My Love
My Lines (A New Perspective)
Cameron Bobro: instruments and vocals
Bernarda Zemljic: female vox
Mitja "Millenium" Mithans: Electric guitar on Cruel Miracles
The Last Days Of Jesus
Songs From The Psycho TV (Monitor/EMI)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Notice anything about this band's record label? Yep, it's part of the EMI empire. The Last Days Of Jesus are a major label band. Or at least, that's the status they enjoy in their home country of Slovakia, where the music scene is obviously very different to the way it is around here. The prospect of a band like The Last Days Of Jesus grabbing a major deal in the UK is so remote as to be laughable. It's an impossible dream for any band operating in any branch of the underground. In Slovakia, however, it seems the underground is the overground - or at least, it has enough above-the-parapet profile to make the big bad corporate music biz sit up and take notice.
So, what has the mighty EMI machine got on its hands here? A manic, crazy-eyed, metal-punk-weirdness outfit with a nice line in songs about...well, Christianity, mostly, or so it seems from the lyrics. Christianity, and how it's a Bad Thing. 'I'm a soldier, I'm a big boy/Jesus is my lovely toy', Psycho Mary 'O', the vocalist, informs us in 'Army Of God'. In 'Corrupted', he remarks: 'Here is no place for God's son anymore/The second coming is just a joke, I know/Now I can feel the pain in your heart/...I can sell all this a-a-art' - a piece of songwriting which perhaps cynically reveals the band's agenda. They're anti-religion - but they know that anti-religion *sells*. And so, it would appear, does EMI!
Well, that's the big idea behind the racket. The racket itself is an engaging mish-mash of metallic-buzzsaw guitars and relaxed-yet-driving drums. Psycho Vajco (every member of the band is Psycho-something-or-other) is one of those drummers who can slap down a full-on rhythm while contriving to make it all sound effortless and economical. Add some samples, squiggles, and keyboard atmospherics, and those dry, deadpan, mittel-Europe accented vocals, and there you have The Last Days Of Jesus.
The band only drop their agenda for the obligatory wacky cover, which in this case is a version of Visage's 'Fade To Grey'. Now, I've heard so many 'ironic' versions of golden chart smasheroonies from the 80s in my time that I tend to groan inwardly when yet another crops up. However, The Last days Of Jesus treat the song with an affectionate disrespect which works surprisingly well - as if Marilyn Manson suddenly had a sense of humour surgically implanted into his soul.
The Last Days Of Jesus really come into their own on stage, where they come across as rather more punk rock than they do on this metal- oriented album. But they're following their own cracked vision, and they've convinced a major record label to bankroll their antics, so for their individuality and audacity we should praise them. Yea, e'en as we praise the Lord. Amen.
Nurses Psycho Jesus Nerve
Arrest The Angels
Army Of God
Comedy With The Devil
Verdict Of Modern Age
Too Weak For Suicide
Red Light...Good Night
Fade To Grey
Psycho Mary 'O': Vocals
Psycho Fessy: Guitars
Psycho Vajco: Drums
Psycho Anjou: Keyboards & programming
The website: http://www.lastdays.host.sk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I have in past Goth books made much of Cleopatra and labelled them the label, from an American perspective, but that wasn’t as an artistic force, merely in recognition of how they facilitated the sustained spread of 90’s Goth sounds in the States. From an artistic viewpoint there isn’t a label to touch Projekt in the world. I’ve been devouring music since the independent scene first waved tentative arms around and there has never been a label like Projekt, and if some of their artists are trendy to the nth degree, like this album and this ‘project’ well, so what? That’s all part and parcel of their appeal.
Look at the pretentious titles, and realise they opt intentionally for post-indie splendour, on this, their fourth, and mail-order only, album. It’s a cathedral of sound right enough, with the roof slice off. It’s bleepy and seeping from one track to another, it’s fragrant and unsettling, or so airy as to not even be there.
Think of the aftermath of an agitated windchimes union meeting, or dejected refrigerator components falling out on an arid plain. The tipsy pitter-patter of electronic patterns with feedback for paernts, angel dropping splattering over your windscreen on the slow-motion motorway of life.
Or whatever. Call it ambient, as long as its in the way that experimental music before Punk was always termed post-Stockhausen.
Can’t afford a flotation tank session? This makes a perfect replacement.
Also received a copy of Beneath The Icy Floe, Issue 1 - the free Projekt magazine, which has a lovely visual allure, quietly dowdy, while including plenty of reviews tied in with this label and the like-minded Middle Pillar, including interviews with Claire Voyant, Steve Roach, The Brides, Human Drama, Sloa, Mors Syphilitica, Black tape, Voltaire and The Changelings.
You know what’s weird? I
never like to feel superior, but you have to feel genuinely sorry for people
who aren’t into this. You really, really do.
~review by Mick Mercer
I get a little worried when CDs arrive hinting at the promise of synthpop because I’m a big, brutal adventurer at heart. I’m not that fussed by Industrialisation and mechanisation, as I prefer orthodox excitement, peppered with new ideas, and synthy stuff tends to malnourished, milky fare. Luckily it also exists in a timeframe all its own, so when Memo also add that there are elements of modern electronica and British guitar rock, you know there’s something else going on here, most noticeably an almost discernible lack of British Guitar Rock!
It isn’t big, but it is clever, and it keeps nagging at me that I could be giving you almost scandalously accurate comparisons if it wasn’t for the fact that I never paid much heed to the lighter of bands from the Indie arena, which is where you would naturally find Memo lurking.
You see, it ‘s a curious thing, Ten years on and Memo have an empathic similarity to some Shoegazing bands, but they also fit in comfortably with some of the early 80’s indie scene from the UK, most noticeably early Postcard and Factory recordings. I’m thinking specifically of a hybrid somewhere between Young Marble Giants and Section 25, with a hint of more populist acts thrown in. The reason this is possible is that the song are small, fleshed out by the fact the songs work. You can be as slender as you like, musically, if the vocals can create a vocal melody, or enchant a rhythm with subtle touches, and Memo do this.
Just a duo, with William Moore handling vocals, keyboards and bass, with Steve Tomlinson doing guitars and backing vocals, and trying to get hisfluteb into action, they create some delightfully attrractive work here which only gains in statute with repeated plays.
In Embrace. That’s another band!
Instantly you see their appeal with ‘The Only Way’ because despite the wavering vocal control they have the adventurous spirit necessary to get stuck straight in, making the light surrounds fit the big bones of the overall idea. The vocals have established presence by ‘Quiet Days’ and the guitar is busy with a spacious drizzle of notes. There’s often little bursts, then drop downs to silence, and a steady build up. The more it grows, the more insistent they become, and ‘Away’, a song anticipating loss, is exquisitely delicate, and quite creepily pretty.
When they get bouncier something
odd happens. ‘A Thousand Times’ and ‘A World Undone’ are OMD-Lite, as it
were, adopting more conventional form, but somehow not as convincing. In
‘Blue View’ they’re more synthy than pop, with a frisky setting which is
modern and blustery, but the ghost-ridden sleepy stroll of ‘Hours Stolen’
gets my vote, as does the achingly beautiful ‘Shades Of Gray’, complete
with guitar guile mostly seen in the very early 80’s Goth daze.
Funny thing about bands like this is they seem to be the sort who might best benefit from the Net’s ability to help boost their profile, but the idea of using a machine to find people who use machines always tends to dwarf their achievements, by technological association, if you see what I mean?
Avoiding this band would be a very great shame, as I think they could come up with something very special, and this short album (35 mins) is a fantastic opener.
THE ONLY WAY
A THOUSAND TIMES
SHADES OF GRAY
A WORLD UNDONE
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Ministry’s latest and eighth full-length studio release was unleashed upon the music world this past February. Many readers probably already have this album and some of you may have caught them on tour this past spring. Besides being dramatically behind on reviews, my main excuse for delaying this review is that I was hoping after a few months of listening to this disc, I would have had more to say about it. And to be honest, I still don’t really know what to say. That does not mean however that it isn’t any good. It just doesn’t really inspire that many words. It does however make me want to smash things and light people on fire, which I think should testify, at least in some respects, to the album’s success.
The rumours around ‘the scene’ since this album’s release have been along the lines of “Dude, its like Psalm 69 part 2!” Which is really not true. But I have heard this from a number of different sources, even before the disc hit the shelves. Granted, Animosity is the most aggressive album since the band’s most popular 1991 release. It’s a cold and very noisy album, the shrill guitars buzzing along with a piercing fuzz-box distortion while mechanical drumming is occasionally fused with live organic percussion. Jourgensen’s vocal spectrum on the album ranges from his familiar gruff yet intelligible growls, to hollow processed screams and a few reverberating ‘melodic’ parts (a la Godflesh) – all of which are very effective.
As a fan of Ministry, I was satisfied with the release. It’s something I can listen to and enjoy while stuck in rush hour traffic and it does recall their earlier work, but truthfully, I don’t think it resembles anything they have ever done before. It definitely sounds like them, but it is also a very contemporary, fresh sounding record. But from a critical standpoint, a release’s success cannot be obtained by aggression alone and the album seems to be fueled by frustration and anger alone. Hooks are just as important for heavy bands as they are for melodic ones. And “Animosity” begins to run out of steam toward the end of the album. There are a few points on the disc where you can’t help but say, “Well, its fabulous to hear from you again and that you are pissed off, Mr. Jourgensen. But now what?”
There are quite a few highlights, such as the hostile attack of a title track and Al’s vocal performances on “Unsung” especially. “The Light Pours Out of Me” features an interesting arrangement of snappy upbeat drumming, percussive bass, and an almost ‘happy’ guitar riff that pushes the song forward into more accessible territory. The epic nine-minute closing track “Leper” has a somewhat eerie, sprawling vibe to it that caught my attention but the song never really goes anywhere or adds another potential “Scarecrow” or “Cannibal Song” to the band’s repertoire. The remaining tracks all have their moments, be it a striking guitar screech, frantic drumming, or a cool vocal part – but otherwise, there are just as many creative valleys as there are peaks.
The album was much heavier than I expected it to be, so much so that I was initially somewhat worried that weekend club kids who claim to Ministry fans would have been put off by it. But then again, “N.W.O.” and “Just One Fix” were pretty heavy and I still am surprised that those songs did so well with club kids that seem to have an aversion to heavy guitars and guttural vocals. Perhaps in a few years, a few of these songs will reveal the same kind of longevity. I doubt that most Ministry fans would be disappointed in this release.
6.) The Light Pours Out Of Me
New Official Website:
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Satan seems to be vacationing in Sweden these days, and he appears to have taken up a pastime: provoking Swedes to abandon their melodic deathmetal leanings in favor of visceral black metal. Misteltein have happily fallen into the fold and 'ol Scratch is likely quite pleased. The band's brand of ferocious devil worship is indeed fast, furious, and frightening in its intensity. All the relentless riffing, blistering blast beats, and guttural growling could drive a reviewer to spontaneously alliterate if they aren't careful.
Divine.Desecrate.Complete bludgeons listeners with forty seven minutes of high speed guitar crunch and relentless rapid fire drumming. Occasional waves of synthy church organ sweep over the din to add an appropriately blasphemous texture to the proceedings, and once in a while an angelic lead synth line will counter the ungodly terror... but neither diminish the breakneck assault led by the non-keyboardist bandmembers. I often wonder how musicians playing this fast avoid injuring themselves or others. If someone lost their grip on a guitar pick or drumstick, someone could easily put out an eye.
Misteltein doesn't altogether eschew their country's traditional death metal roots. The vocals alternate between a lacerated-throat black metal rasp and subterranean incoherent death grunts. Also present are Satan's favorite kind of guitar solos, those of the squiggly and randomly chromatic variety. Like some kind of unholy Reeses Peanut-Butter Cup, Misteltein mix the great tastes of black and death metal then douse the result in enough keyboardy-atmospheric pressure that a warm front will surely be raising temperatures to unbearable levels wherever this album is played.
Interesting riffs and pounding rhythms keep Divine.Desecrate.Complete consistently engaging and aggressive. A Dimmu Borgir-ish 'wall of sound' production style gives the music high density, but the mix still allows each instrument to be clearly heard in all its underworldly glory. The only aspect of this album that demonstrates a lack of creativity is the trite and truly worn out Satan worship theme... but the incomprehensibility of the lyric content keeps that irksome factor to a minimum while listening. Though neither groundbreaking or evolutionary, Divine.Desecrate.Complete is a hard hitting kick in the teeth of an album that fans of atmospheric black metal will surely enjoy.
01.) Bloodline desires
02.) Thy kingdom cum
03.) Where angels no more roam...
05.) Forsaken emperor
06.) Excruciate the virgin dream
07.) Eye of the shadowden
09.) Ascending through descending
Seron - Vocals
Nagrinn - Guitars
Mishrack - Guitars
Hel - Keyboards
Karagat - Bass
Nirag - Battery, Keyboards
Misteltein Official Website:
World War III Music:
Morthem Vlade Art
Photography In Things
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
Morthem Vlade Art’s latest work, Photography In Things, challenges and attempts to changed the notion about electronic music and introspection. Although there is a definite beat and rhythm interwoven throughout this disc, it isn’t your average heavy BPM oontz-groove to insert during the midnight hour in a club setting.
On the whole, the music is down tempo electronic, incorporating lyrics which combine pensive reflection with subtle stream of consciousness touches. The thematic approach was to depict a desire for freedom while understanding the imprisonment of the material. While that may be a bit too cerebral for some to grasp, like all art, listeners will come away with a variety of interpretations.
The cover of the CD shows the artists sitting near at the edge of an empty beach. Their backs are facing the camera, yet they are close enough for us to realize the essence of a close knit bond which exists between them. The day is gray and overcast, as though a chilly day in the Fall season. Two fishing poles are standing upright in the sand, cast into the gentle ocean tide. For those who have ever gone walking on an empty beach during the Fall season, it is understandable how such an experience can provide an amazing bit of insight, introspection and clarity during even the most emotionally troubling time. The cover gives us the essence that the contents will also ask the listener to reflect just a bit more than some may be accustomed to doing.
In the same vein of obtaining
introspection after a long, lone walk on the beach during off-season, so
too does this CD provide a bit of comfort and clarity in the confusion.
We are prompted to notice that there is an essence of something photographic in all things, no matter how mundane or simplistic it may first appear to our rational mind. The artists request that we not read the lyrics while listening to music, which arer written more like bits of prosaic poetry as opposed to the typical measures of lyric writing. Throughout the booklet, photographs accompany the tracks, though the small size of some may negate comprehension of the intent.
“Extension” brings us to that point some would call the “great a-ha!” The place and time in one’s life where realization creeps into our psyche to make us aware that change is inevitable and unstoppable. Even more, we are faced with the understanding that we must desire more in order to avoid personal stagnation.
“My Ear At Night” is an odd love song. Here, the ear is depicted with sonic clarity that can hear skin stretching and the heartbeat of the beloved at night . There is acceptance to travel to the good and bad places of someone just so long as even the simplest parts of them are never lost. There are quite a number of electronic squeaks and blips providing a mechanized “photograph” of the ear embracing everything from this special person.
“Tireless Summer” borders on Zen sensibility coupled with traces of existentialism . The lyrical protagonist is depicted as “a veil between tomorrow and yesterday, a changing image” that does not exist. While thoughts are conveyed about foreseeing the things lost or never obtained, it is seen that in the passing of time, we carry death with us from the moment of our birth. This track has a bit of 80’s new wave sentiment to it which could cross over with clubs that start their nights off with a bit of slower synthpop.
“The Slope” opens with subtle elements of a funereal type dirge with gentle percussion percolating around the bass notes with bits of surrealistic lyrics. On one level, it explores the sentiment that our life will bring us to a point where we cannot stand, and it may not only be due to old age. At the same time, words will “glide over smooth bodies,” incomprehensible to the generation behind us. Ultimately, we find ourselves less inclined to immerse ourselves in crowds who are lost in modernism. Nothing will effect us, neither beauty nor love, because the ability to love will have been lost.
“Print IV” is an electronic instrumental track that starts off with elements that are modern, yet provincial and Mediterranean. It provides such a decidedly French feeling, that it is uncanny. This impression then gives way to an even more modern twist of electronic pulsations that strip away all essences of regional feeling.
“Rooms For Tourists” could be called the great grandchild of Kraftwerk. The intro resorts to blips and electronic effects and then segues in flowing notes during the chorus. The song may have some thinking of a divorce lawyers office or a funeral parlor. Basically this is “a neutral place, without shared memories….the floor is polished, the curtains flowing. The question is put forth which asks “how many stories have finished this way?”
“On The Bank” has lyrics that prod us to just let go and drift into a sea of tranquility. The old self is meant to die while the new life ahead will come back refreshed from respite at the waters edge.
“Transcontinental” takes a personal inventory of the self. One cannot forget what they are and must embark upon a transitional journey during the dream state. This particular track has a bit more of an uptempo beat that may find some rotation in a few clubs. A couple of remixes as an EP would be ideal! The vocals are delivered with a bit more intensity and conviction while the electronics pulsate like blood cells through the veins.
“Echo” once again provides the imagery of surrealism along with being and nothingness. A love that was lost is once again there upon waking, yet nothing is really there. The intro weaves a child’s crib chime with distant spoken voices, whispers and sounds of moving objects. The “waking” moment draws the sounds together in a culmination of beats and bittersweet somber notes.
“Traces” veers into electronic
and noise effects that seem to take sound and create it into random shapes.
There is a need presented that wants to feel “that all is not lost.”
It explores the desire to experience something good from the past while
not having to relive it again. Ultimately there are no answers.
“A Dish Of Malicious Gossip” is another instrumental track. Electronic sounds fuse together as though being welded and crafted from various forms of colored metal. There is an odd sense of texture that seems to expand, inflate, reduce and bend in a myriad of components.
“Against The Current” brings about a pop sensibility that was once evident during the 80’s. The lyrics explore the need for motivation, yet also intrinsically understand that everything is fleeting. Yesterday’s triumphs can and often will lead to tomorrows feeling of failure during those moments of our solitude.
Photography In Things is a testament to modern day electronic music fused as art. Rather than being artistically condescending, it simply exists as a creative statement of being a cog in a very large wheel that can never be fully viewed. Sentiments of a bittersweet nature weave between the verses, hoping to bring the listener towards a sense of inner knowing of the finiteness of all things. Overall, this work is best for solitary listening on a headset when one needs a bit of escape from the world for a bit of time.
2. My Ear At Night
3. Tireless Summer
4. The Slope
5. Print IV
6. Rooms For Tourists
7. On The Bank
11. A Dish Of Malicious Gossip
12. Against The Current
Morthem Vlade Art are:
Emmanuelle D and Gregg Anthe
My Sullen Sulcus
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
One thing that is really comforting for fans of Doom Metal – nearly every band that sincerely makes a conscientious effort to contribute to this genre of music is successful. That is not to say that there aren’t some disappointing bands out there masquerading as Doom, but truthfully, there are basically either the serious bands or the wannabes, and the distinction between the two is immediately recognizable. Nearly every serious Doom band I have ever heard I have liked and would recommend to any music fan that seeks to be overwhelmed by emotion in music. I admit my bias – I can’t help but respond to the density, macabre romanticism, and misery apparent in this music. Very little else dares to plunder such artistic depths of human discontent. And that is why out of all current music being released today, I am excited and moved the most by Doom bands. With all that said, allow me to introduce our readers to Mourning Beloveth, the latest band to join the ranks of other elite Doom masters that continue to make dark music history.
Mourning Beloveth hail from Ireland, and My Sullen Sulcus is the second full-length release by the band, which continues to explore the same somber themes of their critically acclaimed debut Dust from 2001. Initially plagued with comparisons to My Dying Bride, the band has attempted to carve their own niche in the scene, and with this release, I believe they definitely have succeeded in setting themselves apart from other bands. On this release at least, the only real similarity to MDB that I picked up on was the mix of the album, which can be expected since Mourning Beloveth entered Academy studios and recruited longtime MBD producer Mags to engineer the album. The guitars possess the same signature warmth and are mixed in the forefront, much like some of MDB’s classic releases.
While Mourning Beloveth boasts the expectant characteristics of Doom, the effect of the music presented on this disc is a bit less immediate than most bands. I usually have an instant reaction to this kind of music. While my reaction to their music was certainly positive, it took several successive listens for me to fully grasp what they’re doing and come to love them as much as some of my other favourite Doom bands. Mourning Beloveth does not simply wear their black hearts on their sleeves. The melancholy vulnerability is certainly there, however, their music is more dense, perhaps more depressive in its stark uniformity. They do not use any keyboards, but rather rely solely upon the guitars, vocals, and rhythmic structures to create atmosphere. They seem to attempt to distract from the usual romantic elements, even in lyrical content. Their song titles hint of more horrific content than most, steeped more so in torment and damnation than the accustomed lovelorn subjects of bands like My Dying Bride or early Anathema. The guitar melodies are colder and more detached than most. The guttural vocals are perhaps the band’s one weakness, in that they are somewhat inexpressive and flat. They suit the music well, but if guttural vocals of this kind were the only style that the band were to offer, a great bit of this album’s charm would be lost.
It is without question the clean vocals that really set Mourning Beloveth apart, most especially on the third and fourth tracks of the album. Though a few passages appear early in the album, they are not as remarkable as the ones that appear later. In fact, truthfully, the band only really begins to shine on “The Insolent Caul.” The primary twin guitar harmonies are stronger, more melodic, darker, and much more poignant in tone and expressiveness. Equally as enchanting is the songs climax, where an epic, galloping dose of stronger rhythms appear, rumbling hypnotically beneath pensive and delightfully gloomy lead guitar passages. But it is the moment when the clean vocals are introduced about three minutes into the song that one can truly comprehend Mourning Beloveth’s unique authority. I just stopped dead in awe and listened to the buoyant ebb and swell of these heartfelt vocals. Not only is the singing itself magnificent on a technical level, but the melody is exceptionally evocative, moving, and deeply depressive. His voice rises to hopeful heights and sinks to disenchanted lows, an entire spectrum of emotion in one single vocal line. It’s truly that amazing. While the contrast of clean and guttural vocals is surely nothing new, I am not sure I have ever heard such colourful, impassioned clean vocals in a band like this before. And of course, Mourning Beloveth is wise enough not to exhaust such a wonderful thing, for there is only a few other similar vocal arrangements on the album about halfway through the brooding march of “Narcissistic Funeral” and toward the middle of the title track. But I can’t help but wonder if perhaps they could have been a bit more liberal with this style, since these few parts are the album’s most distinctive highlights that will surely strike fans.
The vocals though are not the only thing will bring joy (or welcomed misery) to Doom fans. Once Mourning Beloveth warms up and the listener warms up to them, the album begins to unfold and yields an inexhaustible amount of rhythmic and harmonic highlights. The title track lurches along, as the hefty guitar chords climb higher and higher, threatening to burst into a new perhaps faster explosion of bleak melody, but instead they plunge back into an abyss of restless yearning. You get lost in the veritable maze of chords winding through this song. At last, the track segues into a murky arrangement of chiming arpeggios and a poignant duet between soaring clean vocals and tortured growls of defeat and rage.
Though it takes a few tracks to really get to the core of Mourning Beloveth’s genius, I can’t imagine Doom fans being disappointed with any aspect of this release. It will be interesting to see what this outfit’s next release contributes to the genre, for I sense greater things to come from this Irish quintet. In the meantime, fans of dreary Doom should not hesitate to add My Sullen Sulcus to their record collection.
“There is something painful in the first spring bud of life;
It tears at the insides and claws at the doors of tenderness
That riseth in black forms from an obsolete graveyard.”
1.) The Words That Crawled
2.) It Almost Looked Human
3.) The Insolent Caul
4.) Narcissistic Funeral
5.) My Sullen Sulcus
6.) Anger’s Streaming Arrows
Mourning Beloveth is:
Frank – guitars and vocals
Darren – vocals
Brian – guitars
Adrian – bass
Tim – drums
Paul McCarrol (Artwork):
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Teutonic minstrels Mysterium have a winner on their hands with the new album Soulwards. They've deftly mixed aggressive crunch, lively melodies, and varied instrumentation into a fine example of modern metal. Soulwards reminds me of what a more baroque, symphonic Soilwork album might sound like... at once aggressive and atmospheric, melodic yet harsh and gripping. Stylistically, Mysterium falls somewhere in between melodic deathmetal and symphonic black metal, with a touch of gothic romanticism and a slight progressive edge thrown in for good measure. The band has staked a claim to this land-between-genres and appears ready to defend it with their arsenal of finely crafted songs.
Clearly, Mysterium understands the principle of keeping music interesting by varying tempo and dynamics. The songs on Soulwards range from bruisingly aggressive guitar-fueled assaults to relaxed, introspective ethereal melodies... and they never overstay their welcome in one particular configuration. Several vocal approaches are deployed over the length of the album, often changing multiple times within each song. Harsh, crazed male rasps (again reminiscent of older Soliwork), strained whispers, clean male singing, and one track with ghostly female vocals round out the choir of vocal stylings, adding to the album's emotional and tonal diversity.
The instrumentation used across Soulwards is as varied and emotive as the singing. In addition to the standard guitars (played using both a meaty blast and dreamy clean settings), several tracks feature piano backing, and nearly all sport a dense bed of synth electronics. The synths always serve the song rather than force their way to the front, giving the music a lush atmosphere and substantial depth. Similarly, the piano is mainly used as another layer in the mix, but occasionally carries the melody. In all cases, the choice of instrument and its place in the sonic field feels entirely appropriate. Strong production values and clear mixing keep everything distinct and full of life, imbuing the music with a full, dense, vibrant sound.
Well crafted albums of interesting music are always welcome in my library, and thus by extension so is Soulwards. Mysterium has discovered a niche in the nether-lands between genres that isn't so oversaturated that even good material becomes trite... which is a real danger in metal these days. They execute their chosen sound with style and conviction, and thus will surely please fans of the more creative side of metal.
02.) Within Tempted Moon
04.) Awaiting Thy Pentacle Aeon
05.) theSe Mirrored 1s
06.) Dreams Unfold
07.) Spiral Mystery
Sagron - vocals, guitars
Gwydion - electronics
Ciikh - guitars
Ferrak - bass
Orpheus - drums
Mysterium Official Website:
~reviewed by chris parasyte
Negative Format is Alex Matheau. Following a split from Gashed! Records (who released the band’s albums Result of a New Culture and Distant Pules), Negative Format founded Sector 9 Studios. Cipher Method is Negative Format’s first full-length effort under the Sector 9 banner, following last year’s Static EP. Cipher Method sees Negative Format traveling further down the road to trance. A handful of tracks on last year’s U-Turn: An Exploration in Trance (the first in a series of CDs from Canada’s Art of Fact Records) saw Negative Format dive headlong into the trance deep end. While Cipher Method doesn’t get quite as deep into the area of trance as the tracks on U-Turn did, there’s still no mistaking the growing influence of trance and goa on Alex Matheau’s music. Still, no one will likely mistake this for the likes of Infected Mushroom or Cosmosis.
Negative Format has fully embraced many of the conventions of techno music, and with some success. Many of the dance beats backing the music here will be familiar to anyone who’s ever been to a dance club or a rave. Most of the tracks have pretty predictable sequences in them that will make them easy for people who have never heard them before to dance along without missing a beat. This is the kind of CD that club and rave DJs will love to have in their gig bags, and won’t draw any complaints from kids who are looking to have a good booty-shakin’ night (with or without E).
It is hard to single out any song or handful of songs on this CD for either praise or damnation - most of them blend together and sound pretty much alike. The vocals and lyrics aren’t really distinctive enough on any given track to make them stand apart, and most of the music is a case of ‘variations on a theme’ leaving a bit of a taste of carbon paper in their wake. I can’t fault the production or composition on Cipher Method one bit - it’s tighter than a lot of what comes along - but for the most part each track sounds the same as the one that came before it, with little more than a slight tweaking of a keyboard line or sample or some other detail to differentiate them. In a way it is kind of a shame because what is here is good, solid stuff, but listening to track after track of it starts to get a bit stale. Negative Format was once one of the more interesting, experimental artists working in what I refer to as ‘structured’ electronic music, but Cipher Method seems to be falling prey to musical pattern.
While Trance and techno dominate the sound of Cipher Method, there is also a good deal of ambient-inspired sound working its way into this album. Many of the songs have intricate keyboard lines that catch the interest of the listener and momentarily distract from the driving dance beats. The closer on the CD is ‘Packet Filter’, which is more of a cool down track than anything else, and offers a welcome change from the light switch rave that precedes it. Still clocking in at 146 beats per minute, the song has a subdued feel to it that ends the CD on a down note.
Cipher Method is, overall, a good record, if a bit repetitive. Most of the songs have a similar feel to them, and for the most part the tracks hit between 130 and 140 BPM. Matheau’s vocals - which could have given each track its own individual character - are placed rather low in the mix, and ran through distortion on top of that. The result is that you have to strain your ear a bit to hear them, and they often end up getting lost in the sound. It’s easy to get lost while listening to this album - more than once I found myself checking the readout on my CD player to figure out what song I was listening to. Unfortunately, the lack of experimentation is more of a hindrance to this album than anything else.
More or less a full-on techno record, Cipher Method is not quite as interesting a CD to listen to as previous Negative Format albums like Distant Pulses or Result of a New Culture. I have to admit I’m a big fan of musical diversity on a CD (translation: I have a short attention span), and a full length album of club dancefloor techno isn’t really my idea of home listening. While previous Negative Format CDs found heavy rotation in my 5-Disc at home, this one is more recommended for listening to on headphones while biking or jogging than anything else.
10. Downfall (Atmosphere)
11. Packet Filter
Negative Format is:
Official Website: www.negativeformat.com
Sector 9 Studios:
Sector 9 Studios
P.O. Box 784355
Winter Garden, FL
Navicon Torture Technologies
Power Romance ( 2002/Cranial Fracture Recordings)
~review by Kristina Rogers
Navicon Torture Technologies is the primary project of a staggeringly ambitious New York City artist known as "Leech" who, aside from releasing several NTT recordings a year, is apparently also a writer, photographer, DJ and owner of his own record label. Having not heard any of NTTs other 16 or so CD releases, I'm not sure I'm in the best position to write a thoroughly-informed review of Power Romance – but I'm taking a wild stab at it anyway – because I found it gripping and viscerally disturbing, if not much else, and just because I can.
Power Romance is clearly a work of self-absorption. It's doesn't have a terribly approachable sound at first-listen unless you're a die-hard noise/experimental aficionado, yet at the same time, it's pretty hard to turn off. From the insistent pulse of the opening track ("My Angel With Hook in Her Eyes"), the listener is drawn in through a journey of insurgent, compulsive and unrelenting mechanical hell that I can only assume is some manifestation of a tortured soul.
The second track, "I Want to Commit a Crime of Passion," is definitely a departure from the first, incorporating more of a "traditional" music sound that opens with an almost soothing melody, and then slowly introduces an interesting 2-cycle engine sort of effect over the top. While I enjoyed the groove, I kept expecting it to break out into some kind of beat or the introduction of some new sounds - but it never did - apart from the very end where the song was sharply cut into by an emotional explosion of snarling vocals which were a pretty welcome change (although I nearly drove off the road).
I'm going to gloss over a couple of songs, including Track 3 in which a single note droned on for upwards of 6 minutes without much redemption, and talk about those that really stand out. "Spiritvs Capax" boasts an interesting ¾ beat (not so often utilized in electronic genres) and comes off as sort of a menacing industrial waltz one might expect to find someone dancing to in a mental institution with a decapitated babydoll (and that's pretty high praise from me – don't be fooled). I liked it.
Track 5, the shortest on the album, is somewhat of a reprieve from the longer, more drawn-out, repetitive tracks with some cool yet haunting vocal effects that I assume were intended to blend with the instrumentation rather than stand-alone as a vocal track (and don't expect to understand them!). Track 7, an unrecognizable cover of Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" off Purple Rain, is in my opinion definitely the stand-out song on this CD. I really loved the Middle-Eastern edge to the vocals, which again blended into the mix almost as though just another instrument or synth effect. The album closes with "Blood Splatter Evidence" which struck me as perhaps a depiction of a rabid, frenetic, mechanical rape – from the opening line "what it would feel like to have a strange penis inside you, pumping away…" to the relentless grinding, churning, electronic pulse that follows and simply doesn't cease until the listener is left feeling weary and a bit disgusted.
Leech has commented in interviews that "I regard NTT as a catharsis, and it's some thing that I need to do" and that "my music is a projection of my hatred for everyone on earth and myself." So… as a self-absorbed sort of purgative self-expression, Power Romance is definitely a success in that it grips the listener and doesn't let go until they pretty much feel the artist's pain. Cranial Fracture, the label that released this, went so far as to call NTT "a new form of music" – and as powernoise goes, I'll almost give them that. It isn't "music" in the traditional sense of the word, and it clearly breaks all "it's got a good beat and you can dance to it" barriers. I like that there is no sense of contrivance here – Power Romance is simply art born of pain – brought to life by someone who's been in the scene a long time and is good at what he does. So I guess my only big complaint here is that this album hints at something it never quite fulfills. And while I'm the last person who'd want to stifle or mess with someone's artistic expression, it is sometimes wise to keep the casual listener in mind if your art isn't strictly for you and you're planning to sell it. While I was pleased about the fact that no 2 tracks on the album sound the same and that there's variety from track-to-track, variety WITHIN each track is severely lacking. With someone as obviously talented and driven as Leech, I would think he could mix things up a bit more – the looping and relentless repetition just gets a bit old.
Although my voyeuristic nature might drive me to pick up copies of some of Navicon Torture Technologies' provocatively-titled later works (such as "The Church of Dead Girls" and "Fuck You, You Never Loved Me"), my suspicion is that, as with Power Romance, they wouldn't sit in my CD player much longer than a few listens – and my hunch is the artist wouldn't lose much sleep over that. He's obviously got bigger shit on his mind.
1. My Angel With Hooks in Her Eyes
2. I Want to Commit a Crime of Passion
3. When you Walk Past Me
4. Spiritvs Capax
5. Today is the Day
6. A Need to Be Desired
7. The Beautiful Ones
8. Scumbag Passion
10. Blood Splatter Evidence
Artist Website: http://leechnest.net/ntt
Omnium Gatherum (Finland)
Spirits and August Light
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Joy fills my dark, withered soul when a band who I've never heard of smacks me upside the head with an album that reaffirms my love of metal. Such was the case with Omnium Gatherum's spectacular Spirits and August Light. Amazingly, this album is their full-length debut... but they sound like they've been playing for many years and are at the peak of their art. The album is a masterpiece of progressive blackened power thrash, which is a new genre I have invented for just this occasion. The raw propulsive energy, intricate songwriting, and uplifting riffs mark Spirits... as an instant classic, an album that metal fans should not ignore.
Nothing is missing in this tour-de-force of high octane metal. The guitars are virtuosically handled by Markus Vanhala and Harri Pikka, who rip off dancing melodic leads and thundering rhythms with equal aplomb. Jarmo Pikka never misses a beat as he pounds the skins through dozens of tempo changes that come flying in from all angles with no warning. Anti Filppu's manic, frenzied rasping fills each track with a desperate urgency and provides a darker counterpoint to the melodic and often beautiful guitar passages. The keyboards and bass serve as seasonings in the dense sonic stew, providing depth and fullness to the band's sound. Taken all together, the individal contributions gel into a sumptuous meal fit for conniseurs of fine, vintage metal.
Spirits... never has a chance to become uninteresting or stale as a seemingly endless fusillade of riffs careens off the CD and into the stimulus cortex of your brain. The album's brisk pace slackens occasionally, but only to let you catch your breath before the pedal hits the metal again. Pacing is definitely one of the strong points of the songwriting, as the band knows just when to lay off the accelerator in order to make it even more dramatic when they floor it again. The clear, lush production also does its part in keeping the interest level high by giving the album a meaty, thick crunch but allowing for all the vibrancy and life of the performers to shine through.
Fans of Children of Bodom will be especially at home listening to Omnium Gatherum, but that comparison doesn't fully describe their sound. I instantly felt a connection to latter-day Carcass (from their Heartwork and Swan Song era), in both bands' ability to merge a relentless rhythmic assault with catchy riffs and blistering leads. Echoes of classic Death also peek through, but really it doesn't matter where Omnium Gatherum's sound came from. What does matter is that Spirits and August Light is superbly crafted metal that transcends genre and scorches a blazing path into the metal landscape.
03.) The Perfumed Garden
04.) Amor Tonight
05.) Cure A Wound
06.) The Emptiness Of Spirit
08.) Son`s Thoughts
09.) It Shines
Omnium Gatherum is:
Antti Filppu - vocals
Markus Vanhala - lead guitar
Harri Pikka - guitar
Janne Markkanen - bass
Mikko Pennanen - keyboards
Jarmo Pikka - drums
Omnium Gatherum Official
Rage Of Achilles Records:
PITCH BLACK DREAM
NEVER GONE HOME (PBD)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
There comes a time when you can admire something for its sugary, winsome curves, but also remain virtually allergic to its intent. Given that this is music which has no real audience to aim at, that isn’t too much of a surprise.
It’s like backing music from an advert, or a throwback to 80’s winebar nitelife sounds. Think Julia Fordham, if you ever heard her. Think Eighth Wonder, where Petshop Boys music was almost filed behind cutesy girly indie vocals, and that’s what’s here.
It’s a delight when it comes to background music, being lush and bleepy and sleepy and harmonious with fluffy vocals, but there’s a stylistic sticking point. The songs start, roves slowly along for the most part, empties out at the two-thirds stage, then reinstates the layers, the vocals join in again and it gently shudders and fades to an end. Then repeat, ad nauseum.
Forget the individual songs. Some of arty, some warm and inviting, and once I almost nodded off, but the vocal delivery over such suggestive but soulless music carries no emotion or believable moments of personality. It’s all just a sound.
It’s an Ikea soundtrack.
I WILL WAIT
NEVER GOING HOME AGAIN
THAT’S THE WAY IT GOES
JUST ANOTHER NIGHT
TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT
~reviewed by Blu
(live shots by Uncle Nemesis)
I've owed the fellas in Pro Jekt a review for quite a while now so this first observation is going to sound utterly ungrateful: your press blurb sucks. But hear me out before you start cussing me. I've had the CD for a few months and LOVE it. I can't tell you how many times I've cranked it up in my car while driving to work trying to get motivated for the day ahead or how many times I've subjected my passengers to it while driving out to clubs. But I've never read the press blurbs until this evening. In it I find sentences like "Pro Jekt firmly bridge the gap in the market with the commercial Gothic scene and the large Nu-Metal fan base of today." Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Please tell me you guys aren't using the word "Nu-metal" to market this CD! Oh the travesty. Goths and metal fans alike shun that moniker. No one likes or respects that word. And I do realize that from a business sense, some of this is an attempt to corral the kiddies who are buying up shit like the Murder Dolls and such, but those love affairs never last that long. No no. Fellas, forget the "in" words. If I had read the press blurb before I listened to the CD I might have been scared off. Encryption is hardly what comes to mind when I hear the term "Nu-Metal." Its so much more. Give yourselves a break. If anything I'd say it could be a modern version of goth rock greats.
What's that? Get off my podium already and get on with the review? You're right. The music is the thing...
First off the production on this CD is just pristine. Its clean and clear and all the levels are in check. Best listen to this LOUD in a very good stereo system to get the full effect. That always helps doesn't it? Especially when people like Trev Bamford (Midnight Configuration) and Mark Tansley (Suspiria) are involved behind the scenes. That might give you the first hint of what this CD is like.
Encryption has teeth. It's a beast tearing down a jungle-mired path to eat you. Its bold and in your face. It also grooves and moves. It slithers and flirts and teases. The first track "The Next World" comes barreling at you and you're hit upfront with the powerful variety in their sound -- a smart hybrid of syths (Al Middleton), dance beats and extremely masculine guitar crunching goodness (Phil May) propelled by grumbling, thumping bass (Kev Rice). It helps that Shaun Travis' vocals are just as powerful and menacing and yet clear and strong. His voice is hypnotizing - dangerous and intriguing. Just the type of thing to keep the girls swooning. As the bass thunders in your head he teases, "Tell me do you feel this?"
"Alien Reflection" starts out with sirens and leads into a pretty basic four/four dance beat that I might have easily dismissed except that soon after those wonderful crunchy guitars come blaring in and save me from EBM nightmares. They also manage to change things up enough with their rhythms that this song doesn't succumb to the repetitive nature of synth bands. Could it be that Pro Jekt has found the secret to using synth and programmed beats without being stale and repetitive? A task that didn't seem to bother bands of old like Fad Gadget or hell, even Sisters of Mercy but has totally eluded today's' wannabe superstar bands until they ALL sound like VNV Nation. I still maintain that having a live drummer is the absolute best way to go but if you're set on using programming, for whatever reason, you have to keep it interesting.
"Split Emotion" is next with its Egyptian flavored guitar riffs and some female vocals in the intro that add a bit of feminine sexuality to contrast Shaun's performance. This is a solid song and yet it doesn't seem to have the punch or melody hooks that the others do.
Onward to one of my favorites - "I Know You Hate Me." You will first note a slithering hiss opening up this track and unless I'm wrong, it's saying "Yesssssssssssssssss" and for some reason that's the single most sexy word I've heard in ages. Play, repeat, play, repeat. (Now if only I could get someone to buzz around my ear and whisper that as positive encouragement as I go through my day... ) It's followed by a very interesting fluttering guitar sound that helps the song build up to its chorus which of course, comes crashing in heavy as hell. Beautiful. The breaks in the middle are highlighted by that ongoing Egyptian theme which just accentuates the sensuality in these songs. And listen carefully, at the very end he'll whisper "I love the pain you give to me." (Or at least that's what my perverted mind hears)
And well, if I wasn't drooling enough from that song they follow it up with "Dead Valentine." Much slower than any of the others, its set into motion by soaring, atmospheric guitars and synth chords that give it a feeling of vastness. The vocals are delicious: "I'm your vampire, and I'm a loose wire, and I know what it takes..." Goths eat your hearts out. It doesn't get any darker or sexier than this. Oh my...
"Demons" starts out sounding like it might be a cinematic track (a nice transition from the previous song) and then quickly migrates its way into dance beat territory again. The song is great for the most part but I find the synth accents in the chorus when he sings "Face your fears" a big let down. They're so anti-climatic. It feels like it needs something heavier there than those tin-sounding synth punches. Just my opinion ...
"Dream Without a Tear" I find similar to "Alien Reflection" in that it started out with such a heavy club beat I almost winced but they surprised me yet again and mixed up the beats and dynamics enough to keep it very interesting. I particularly like the driving bass lines in this one and the ending is a spectacular surprise.
Another favorite of mine is "A Peace Inside" which is more atmospheric like "Dead Valentine" was but with a more sinister overtone. Its heavy ... ever so heavy. It writhes and twists and coils.
"Regenerate" starts with a sample (from a movie I assume but I've yet to figure out exactly which one) and moves full throttle into their trademark aggressive sound climaxing with big waves of guitar punctuated by dance break beats. Odd thinking of those two elements together but it work so well here.
"I didn't know how empty was my soul until it was filled" are the words that open "Salvation." Don't let the title deceive you. There's one word to describe this song: brutal. Forget the synth and the dance beats. This one is all about guitar. Its massive.
And finally they round out the CD with a re-mix of the opener - "The Next World."
All in all, its a gutsy CD with punch, heard best turned up loud. It should do well even in our fragmented scene with club DJs picking it up for the danceable beats and old schoolers digging the guitar work and lyrical content.
THE NEXT WORLD
I KNOW YOU HATE ME
DREAM WITHOUT A TEAR
A PEACE INSIDE
THE NEXT WORLD ( VERSION )
Pro Jekt: http://www.steamhead.com/projekt
Nightbreed Recordings (www.nightbreedmusic.co.uk)
Price £10.99 all UK orders. European orders please add .50p per CD for the extra postage. ROW please add £1.50 per CD. All cheques / PO's made payable to "Nightbreed Recordings LTD".Online credit card orders please contact - email@example.com additional info please contact - firstname.lastname@example.org Wholesale orders always welcome!!!!
Nightbreed Recordings LTD
PO Box 6242
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
England must be one damned depressing place. It seems to spawn doom metal bands like the cold cold forests of Norway breed black metal warriors. Like fellow Brits Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, The Prophecy are kind of blue. Life has them down, they're upset, and they want you to know about it... thus they have produced Ashes, forty eight minutes of melancholic metal missives that occasionally burst into a thundering angry rant. While normally I loathe listening to others vent their frustrations, I'll make an exception if they set their complaints to a catchy metal crunch.
On Ashes, The Prophecy don't imitate their countrymen, but they do borrow many stylistic trappings from Paradise Lost's maudlin manifestos. Matt Lawson's vocals resemble Nick Holmes' bellowing before he decided to drop his larynx-shredding rasp after Shades Of God. The songwriting on Ashes recalls the doomy thrash epics of Paradise Lost's Draconian Times without becoming derivative. Ashes and Draconian Times also share a thick, sumptuous sound thanks to their production that allows each track to cover a vast sonic expanse. Thankfully, this doesn't drown the life out of the performance. The many guitar leads are fraught with pathos, the vocals are impassioned, and the emotion behind the music is real and readily apparent.
The Prophecy avoid the pitfalls of sticking too tightly to genre conventions by tinting their sound with flourishes of fiery death metal... otherwise, Ashes generally lumbers along at slow-to-mid tempo, lethargically hammering its morose melodies into the listener's subconscious. Every now and then, though, the band musters the energy to really cut loose. Several tracks are in fact full-fledged death metal screeds which balance out the less energetic, more woefully doom-laden side of the scales. Thanks to the varying tempos presented across the album, monotony never sets in, and the mood seamlessly drifts between regretful sorrow and outright anger.
If you were one of the people who freaked out when Paradise Lost went all 'Sisters of Mercy' upon releasing One Second and beyond, you will surely adore this direct spiritual descendent to their earlier, heavier, grimly fatalistic-er sound. If you have no idea who I'm talking about and just want to know if you'll like The Prophecy and their engaging new album Ashes... well, thats easy to answer. If you like heavy, lugubrious doom metal that sometimes lapses into fits of deathy attack, you will enjoy Ashes. I can safely prophesy that this Prophecy is one that fans of the genre will heed for years to come.
02.) The Killing Fields
03.) The Prophecy
05.) Blackened Desire
06.) Till Light Enshrouds
The Prophecy is:
Greg O'Shea: Guitar
Matt Lawson: Vocals
John Bennett: Drums
Christian Moore-Wainwright: Guitar
Katie Colbrook: Keyboards
The Prophecy Official Website:
The Daughter of Dr. Neumann (Tyrrell Morgue)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
The first thing I notice about this six-track mini-album is that it contains Psydoll's incomprehensible anthem, 'Machinery Lemmings', a title which I don't doubt has a distinct and particular meaning. It only *looks* like random word association. But then, Psydoll are a crazily conceptual Japanese cyberpunk band: they're allowed to be incomprehensible. And personally, I wouldn't have them any other way.
'Faraway' starts with an ever-circulating harpsichord riff, which is a bit of a surprise in itself. Then the guitar takes over and before we know it the song resolves itself into a neat little new-wavey pop number, with the band's vocalist, Nekoi, warbling a sweet little ditty about God knows what. Then it all goes percussive, with a clatter of metallic noise as if someone's trying to pull a lawnmower up a flight of stairs, the guitar comes back, and round we go again. It's utterly baffling, and yet I'm sitting here with a stupid grin on my face because it's baffling in a highly enjoyable way. Special mention, incidentally, should go to the electronic beeps which crop up in the song: I guarantee they'll have you nervously checking your mobile phone, or the smoke alarm in your kitchen.
'Sleeping Beauty' is a breakneck wake-up call...literally. This one's in English. Apparently it's a surreal take on the traditional tale, with some rather odd, dark, imagery thrown in: 'Nothing I can do/In the white room, white wall/Black tubes everywhere/In the forest, surrounding her.' It speeds up to a crescendo and then the brakes slam on. Next, we have the aforementioned Machinery Lemmings, which has a monster metal riff, and, it seems, a lyric about everyday technofear: 'Our last chance before the dawn/Is under maintenance...' Ah, the number of times I've felt like that...usually soon after the third bottle...
'A ka i Tu ki' sounds like an extrapolation on the theme of Fad Gadget's 'The Box', all bulldozer synths and tidal-wave guitar. Then we have a reprise, of sorts, of 'Faraway', this time rendered as if a string quartet has become trapped in Psydoll's spider-web. And the CD wraps up with 'Theme For Psydoll', a march-of-the-robots anthem with a heavy heavy heavy low-down bassline, as if someone had filled Skinny Puppy up with hallucinogenics and then asked them to lead the Easter parade. It's the sound of a peculiar genius at work.
The CD is lavishly packaged in a full-colour inlay, beautifully printed on lightweight glossy paper, and even includes a lyric sheet and a metallic sticker. It's a bit of a surprise, then, to discover that the CD itself is actually a CD-R. It's not obvious, because the disc features a full-colour on-body print, and the entire package looks far more professional than the rather clunky bedroom-standard stuff typically put out by UK bands who use this manufacturing option. In fact, I would never have guessed that the disc is a CD-R had it not been for the warning note enclosed:
'This is a music CD made by CD-R...if there's a weird noise coming out, there's a chance that the CD is not suitable for your stereo. Please try with a different stereo with better equipment.'
But there *is* a weird noise coming out of my stereo - and it's Psydoll!
A ka i Tu ki
The End Of Faraway
Theme For Psydoll
Nekoi: Vocals, keyboards
Ucchi: Guitars, programming
Uenoyama: Digital percussion & drums
The website: http://www.psydoll.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
A War In The Box (Tyrrell Morgue)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
If Psydoll happen to be a new band to you, I can think of no better introduction than to quote the band's own description of their music:
'Psydoll is a music unit basing in the city of Tokyo. Its basic sound program is constructed with the member Ucchi's self-remodeling computer. Every tune has hard & breakless beats, indecent bass and harmony of dischord. These overlapped with Ucchi's persistent heavy guitar, Loveless' crushing digital percussion and Nekoi's expressionless vocal like animation characters compose PSYDOLL sound.'Ah, the self-remodelling computer. Yes, I think I've had one of those. But how, I ask you, can you fail to love a band which features 'Indecent bass'? This CD, one of several the band have released on their own Tyrell Morgue label, is a further showcase of their random, quirky, out-of-their-own-heads music. You could call Psydoll an industrial band. You could tie yourself up in knots trying to place them on some sort of J-pop continuum. But in truth, there's no way to approach Psydoll exept on their own terms. Just listen...
'In The Fog' has a circling acoustic guitar motif and a lovely lilting little vocal, which is unceremoniously interrupted by an outburst of distorted noise at intervals, and stripped down to tumbling drum beats at others. It's as if a pleasant folk song had fallen into the hands of boisterous kids who've decided to play football with it. 'No.7' seems to be a war song, of sorts: at any rate, it literally explodes into our ears with a barrage of battlefield effects from which a mad-bastard guitar riff eventually emerges. It's the sort of thing Cubanate would do if Marc Heal had strapped himself, wide-eyed and cackling, to the nose cone of a bullet train at full speed. 'Sonic weapon No. 7 is complete/My precious musical program/Has taken my favourite band back to its origin', the translated lyrics in the inlay leaflet tell me. And haven't we all longed to turn just such a sonic weapon on some of our favourite bands!
'His Melody' is a thrashy guitar thing...or, at least, you think that's how it's going to go. The sudden stops, where it all goes quiet apart from that mysterious electro noise, like someone torturing Depeche Mode at 78rpm in the next room, trip up the innocent listener. 'The Song For Hunter' is a piano, a heartbeat, and Nekoi's voice slinking through the musical undergrowth. The guitar, when it appears, is as surprising as a tiger leaping in for the kill. 'Spell' is all bangin' beats, effects, guitar-mangling and vocals *just* the other side of distortion. The bass, by the way, is definitely indecent on this one.
I have no idea why 'The Ship of Steel/The Screw of Glass Work' has such a lengthy, two-part title, but then that's half the fun of Psydoll. You don't necessarily know what they're on about lyrically, because typically it seems only one or two songs are translated in their inlay leaflets. You certainly *never* know where they're going to go next, musically. 'The Ship...' is a glorious ballad, the sort of thing that would have got Ryuichi Sakamoto hailed as a genius if he'd done it with the Yellow Magic Orchestra. There's obviously a story being told here, but unless I wake up one morning with themysterious ability to understand Japanese, I fear I'll never know it.
'Theme For Psydoll No. 2' Is a complete reworking of the previous version of this tune, as featured on 'The Daughter Of Dr. Neumann'. This recording has a ludicrously catchy vocal melody superimposed on the march-of-the-robots rhythm. It's as if Madonna had suddenly experienced a moment of madness (no, make that sanity) and recruited Laibach to make her next album for her.
It's hard to believe that Psydoll are entirely a DIY operation: their releases are all CD-Rs, but presented in such a professional manner you'd never guess. The inlays are works of art in themselves, and a great tribute to the designer, Senno Knife (whoever or whatever that might be). The quality of the production is top-notch: the sound is clear, the music leaps out at you - sometimes an alarming experience when the band drops great slabs of noise on otherwise winsome little songs, a favourite Psydoll trick. And this, on a self-remodelling computer! Frankly, I can think of quite a few DIY-bands who should look and listen to what Psydoll have achieved, and ask themselves why they're nowhere near as good.
In The Fog
The Song For Hunter
The Ship of Steel/The Screw of Glass Work
Theme For Psydoll 2
Nekoi: Vocals, keyboards
Ucchi: Guitars, programming
Uenoyama: Digital percussion & drums
The website: http://www.psydoll.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
Transition (Wasp Factory)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Here's a paradox. Psychophile have been around in various incarnations since the early 90s. The line-up has changed umpteen times, to the point where if you go to a Psychophile gig today, none of the people on stage are original members of the band. Over the years, Psychophile have released a bewildering number of cassettes, CD-Rs and suchlike self-produced material - and yet, this is their debut album. Or, at any rate, it's the band's debut release on a label, the first piece of Psychophile product that *isn't* the result of DIY efforts. It's possible, of course, to go a long way on the back of the DIY philosophy, but it's hard to build up the kind of critical mass of attention which a label can (hopefully) generate. Now that Psychophile are Wasp Factory recording artists, with a bit of luck and a following wind things could really take off for the band from this point.
The songs here will be familiar to anyone who might have encountered Psychophile's previous DIY releases, but these are fresh recordings which mash together founder-member (and current behind-the-scenes technology controller) Mat Hook's programming with all-new guitar and vocal parts from Smogo and Lucy Pointycat. The result is a powerful, immediate, sound, much of which has a no-messing one-take feel to it. In fact, this album is probably as close as you can get to having Psychophile play a gig in your living room...but without all the flailing hair extensions and spilt cider.
All Psychophile's in-another-universe hits are here: the sparkly pop gem that is 'Mirrors', the raucous romp of 'Invocation', the rock-versus-technology stand-off of 'Surplus', and, of course, the gleefully manic 100mph dash that is 'Darklight'. Of course, it's fairly common these days to find bands who mix programming and electronics with big bad rock guitar - the barrier between 'bleepy' music and, for want of a better expression, 'guitary' music was always rather artificial, and for many musicians never existed in the first place. To that extent, what Psychophile do sits bang in the middle of the modern music continuum. But, of course, nobody does it quite like Psychophile.
The band's full-speed-ahead-and-damn-the-torpedoes approach is faithfully captured here, with the guitar fizzing and roaring, the technology pumping, and Lucy letting rip like someone's promised her a bonus if she can bend the needles on the VU meters. The vocals are perhaps the most 'one take' element of the sound - it really does sound as if Lucy has simply stepped up to the mic and done it. Frequently, you can even hear her quickly grabbing a breath before pitching into every line, something I suspect would have been produced out of the final mix if the intention was to polish everything smooth.
Having said all that, it's perhaps a little contrary of me to note that one of my favourite moments on the album is 'Horrorshow', which is an instrumental, and only a brief one at that. But it's a very neat little vignette; pulses and glitches wrapping themselves around some spooky atmospheres. And then there's Psychophile's version of 'Mercy Seat' - not the Nick Cave song, the Ultra Vivid Scene number of that name. In Psychophile's hands it becomes a dirty epic, a cross between Underworld and Macy Gray. And there are two comparisons I bet Psychophile never expected to get!
Curiously, for a band which has so much character and visual identity, the cover of 'Transition' is a rather bland piece of computer-generated artwork: a couple of purple blobs, like amoeba mating in a glass of Ribena. I've remarked before on the strange reluctance of bands to do the simple, and obvious, thing of putting a cool photo of themselves on the front of their albums. Even bands who routinely festoon their websites and general publicity material with gurning mugshots suddenly seem to become inexplicably camera-shy when it's time to sort out the album covers. There *are* photos of Psychophile on the inlay card, including a few taken at Nemesis gigs, but these are reproduced at Sindy-doll thumbnail size, so any impact they might have had is lost. It's a missed opportunity, in my view. The chance to reflect the verve and gung-ho spirit of Psychophile in visual terms is passed up in favour of a blandly anonymous photoshop fart-about. Quite apart from anything else, it's hardly the sort of thing that would tempt a potential punter browsing in a record store. This is one band that you definitely can't judge by its cover, so blip over the amoeba and just feast your ears.
Visions Images And Dreams
Never Had A Face
Mat Hook: Programming, additional guitars, backing vocals
Smogo: Guitars, additional programming, backing vocals
Lucy Pointycat: Vocals
Vere Kevorkian: bass
The Mog: vocals
The website: http://www.clik.to/psychophile
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
BARBICAN (Dante’s Landlord)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Uh-huh. One man’s solo mission to unite various Goth-relevant forms, and create something which will sound impressive in the pulsating club dreamland, or persuasively pristine at home. Sounds typical home musician vanity, and couldn’t possibly work, but here it almost does.
Steve Mecca, from New York puts Goth, Industrial and Synthypop into a blender, and more often than not produces a believable whole, erring mainly on the camper side of clubby rules and drool. He admits to a Depeche manoeuvre here and there, and I think the backing of some of the tracks are Jonzun Crew space-dance, from a timer before Todd Terry’s Royal House era. If that means anything to you?
Our good vocal captain sounds suitably intense during the moodier tracks and perfectly vague and vacant on dancier fare. ‘Voices In My Head’ is beautifully cohesive, creating club material with a sense of character, and even the intentionally Fetish track ‘Discipline’ manages charm.
Proving he’s a soppy bugger with his medieval love ballad ‘Days Of Future Past’, or action man with hard 80’s zip through more friskiness like ‘Pleasure Seekers’ he veers into most areas, with skill, precision and a pleasing end result. It can be vigorously quirky (‘One Life’), an arty, synth mystery (‘Invincible Forces’) or dementedly poppy (‘The Garden Of Earthly Delights’), giving you plenty to consider and really enjoy, because this has big production values and the artistic ambition is fully realised. He even does a jokey role-playing nerd song as a joke buns track with Punk US cheek, which may me a something (allegedly) to people who know of Knights Of The Dinner Table and/or a game called ‘Hackmaster’ But!
There had to be a but, didn’t there? It’s something which tries hard, and succeeds, but has clearly tried to in the first place. It wants to do it, and has gathered together representative elements from all areas, which seems a contrived way of working, and that grates. When he figures out what direction he is actually going to take I think he’ll be doing something important. This is clever, but maybe a touch cynical?
THE GATHERING STORM
VOICES IN MY HEAD
THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
INVINCIBLE FORCES OF THE POWER SOURCE
WASTE ‘EM WITH MY CROSSBOW
Yol Bolsin ( 2003 Real World Records)
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
The former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan is the world's third largest producer of cotton. It is one of the two "doubly landlocked" countries in the world, surrounded entirely by countries which have no coastline. It has large reserves of natural gas and oil, and is the home of Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent, major cities on the Great Silk Road.
But that's not important: what is important is that it is also the home of Sevara Nazarkhan. Her CD Yol Bolsin fuses traditional Central Asian music with Western influences -- samples, electric guitars, keyboards -- in a mix which is truly "World Music." These are songs which wouldn't be out of place on a flat dusty steppe or in a chillout room.
But is it Goth, you ask?
Here's a sample lyric from "El Nozanin (Beautiful)", helpfully translated into English on the liner notes:
Oh beautiful one, I am going crazy with your beauty,And here is another from "Yol Bolsin (Where Are YouGoing?)"
There is no sleep at nights, I lay awake
You revealed your face like an angel and becameperfect...
Look at the flower.Some world music purists may scoff at this CD, because of its "pop touches." They forget that "World Music" doesn't exist in a glass case. Rock and pop music can be found in Uzbek markets, or heard on Russian and Uzbek-language radio stations. Hector Zazou's sampled electric guitar fits in perfectly alongside Toir Kuziyev's doutar (two-stringed lute) and his electronic beats provide a counterpoint to Shurat Mirusmanov's doira. In Uzbekistan "folk" music isn't something embalmed; it's a living tradition, which incorporates new influences as it preserves old ones.
It leans toward the water.
Look at the unfaithful sweetheart.
He is parting way before his death.
Above all this is Sevara's voice: her powerful trills, strong as the noonday sun and delicate as a mirage, have an edge of melancholy which evokes heartache, longing, and the endless lonely desert. Classically trained at the Tashkent State Conservatoire, she takes folk, peasant and Sufi melodies and makes them not timeless but immediate. It's easy to see why she's a major star in Uzbekistan... and why she could, or should be, a major star worldwide.
If you like World Music, you're almost certain to like this one. If you haven't yet been exposed to Something New, this is a great start. It's different enough to be interesting and tuneful enough to go down easy, and its melodies will slip into your subconscious like sand blown on a hot desert wind will slip past your defenses. Broaden your horizons; buy this CD. (And, if you get a chance, see Sevara Nazarkhan live when she comes to your town with Peter Gabriel).
1. Yor-Yor (Song to the Bride)
2. Soquinomai Bayot
3. Adolat Tanovari
4. Ei Nozanin
5. Yol Bolsin (Where are You Going?)
7. Moghulchai Navo (Moghul Melody)
9. Orik Gullaganda
10. Yallajonim (My Dearest Song)
11. Alla (Bahtimga Lullaby)
Sevara Nazarkhan Website
Beyond The Valley Of The Proles
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
My first introduction to the music of Snog came from one of the budget priced Metropolis compilations. The chosen song on it was “Corporate Slave,” a 1992 landmark underground hit that is as fresh today as when it was first released.
Metropolis Records has long held the reputation for releasing high caliber electronic dance/club music for the underground masses. Their very reasonably priced budget compilations are worth the few dollars because it is music that comprises some of the best tracks within their artist roster. For less than six dollars on the average, the compilations are a steal. It also helps to whet the musical appetite for artists you may not have heard as of yet. Snog was one such artist who definitely went on my list after hearing that introductory track.
Snog is the brainchild of Australian born David Thrussel, one who has built a reputation for creating electro dance hits that have circled the world over. The music of this artist is not comprised of mindless lyrics tossed about in a sea of over extended beats. Thrussel sonically crafts a personalized social commentary with elements of cynicism and dismay. Topics range from disgust with global materialism to the never ending struggle of humanity that just can’t seem to learn from past mistakes.
On the present release, Beyond The Valley of the Proles, it is clearly labeled as “21st Century ballads for the discerning and the disturbed.” One will not find any club friendly dance cuts here. The electro-beats associated with churning a sweat in the dance halls have been avoided in order to give the lyrics, cynicism and observations a front and center platform.
The twist is that while the angst is still lyrically evident, we also get a taste of his sense of humor. Some of the track titles seem to have been thought up as a way to shake us and make us really pay attention instead of being passive background listeners.
The entire project is like a soundtrack to a film or play riddled with topical social issues. Thematically, the presented ideations give a hint of a current commentary, but they never go so far over the edge to be too politically explicit where the work would be outdated in a few months time. Musically, it incorporates electronics with a folk styled pop sentiment in a rather unusual hybrid of styles.
“Bad Planet” opens the disc, touching upon a war hungry world gone mad.
“Businessman” carves an observation about the mindless corporate slaves whose entire being is wrapped around numbers, earnings, gain and ultimately the loss of personal identity through greed.
“Fill My Hole” is naturally a track title which may make a few people look twice. After the shock value, it becomes evident that Thrussel is talking about the personal void we all experience at one time or another. In spite of all the mindless possessions one may be able to acquire, it never provides the emotional or spiritual fulfillment we need to feel complete.
“The Master” takes a poke at religious hypocrisy. In spite of all the dogmatic rhetoric, civilization is hell-bent on destroying itself. Thrussel declares that “Satan is the master” because in spite of all the lip service for the good of mankind, we end up conquering everything in our path.
“Welcome To Adelaide” paints a picture of suburbia anywhere in the world. On the outside, everything appears orderly, however closer inspection demonstrates the evil lurking underneath the serenity. This town has become a virtual police state where the officials are corrupted and kept in their hierarchy from some unknown political machinery. Any dissention from within is removed and kept hushed up.
“Justified Homicide” was rather bold in light of the current global political climate. This track contains lyrical sentiments that would easily put the artist on the FBI watch list in a heartbeat.
“Citizens” grapples with the nightmarish vision of a society filled with people without souls or minds of their own. Religion is depicted as having given ego gratification without substance. Mankind is medically anesthetized to become nothing more than walking biological machines, programmed to do what they are told.
“Into The Light” emphasizes that in spite of the modern day slavery of mankind, there are some who will never relinquish the control of their souls or will.
“Playstation Blues” can be interpreted in a number of ways. The artist’s anti-materialism penchant could paint this as a diatribe against machinery replacing humanity.
“The Fruits” reminds us of a time when we had freedom. Now, we are modern day slaves, forced to work for meager wages to pay some corporate enclave just to barely survive. In the final analysis, the fruits of our labors are never truly seen or appreciated because it all a part of the ineffectual system.
“Waiting” takes the contentions of the previous tracks and wraps them up in an apocalyptic anticipation. While the rest of the world runs around in a mad dash trying to conquer, possess, own or control things, people and countries, Thrussel is sitting languidly by, knowing it will all unravel in due time.
The content of this CD does
not make for an easy listen, but it does generate thought provocation.
Snog managed to create a work that encompasses the political protestations
of the Beat generation while driving home with a Punk lyricism and angst.
The songs are simply written, avoiding glittery or pretentious prose. They were meant to be understood by everyone, regardless of their age or educational background. While these tracks connect with our current economic and sociological problems, they manage to stay just a hair under the radar in order to be just as incisive many years later.
In a couple of songs, Snog pushes the envelope quite hard. In spite of “democracy,” such sentiments have been known to be problematic for very vocal artists. Given the current social and political unrest on a global scale, we have to give Snog a lot of credit to have the balls to fearlessly tackle such topics head on.
Ultimately, Snog created a Cabaret from Hell. We are a witness to his nightmarish vision of a world that is mere seconds away from decay and collapse. These are his thoughts and it is his intention to awake our introspective dynamic. Although he paints a hopeless collage, it seems as though it is meant to anger us enough to leave our apathy behind and become an active participant to work for a better tomorrow before it really is too late.
Fill My Hole
Welcome To Adelaide
Into The Light
Released through Metropolis
Official website: http://www.worldwentdown.com/imcc/
In Harmonia Universali
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Solefald are nothing if not challenging. Their first full length was The Linear Scaffold, a trip through warped black metal that could contend with the likes of Arcturus and Dodheimsgard's bizarre leanings. Solefald's Neonism ranks among the most insane discs I own, and its follow up, Pills Against The Ageless Ills, was a seemingly straightforward metal release lined with traces of dementia and perversion. Solefald have set themselves apart from the metal world in two important ways: 1) They like to take traditional song structures and then warp the hell out of them, much to the bewilderment of unprepared listeners and 2) They call upon a larger body of philosophy and art to give their music, and especially their lyrics, an enormous amount of depth.
Ironically, many people tend to overlook both of those points, and Solefald's recent music can sound somewhat traditional on cursory listens. In Harmonia Universali isn't for those people, yet it's easily one of the best CDs I have heard this year. Every song is a superbly crafted ride through powerfully dark art, and I dare say this is Solefald's highest achievement. Their last release (Pills Against The Ageless Ills) surprised some Solefald fans with its relatively to-the-point nature and straightforward metal structures. It was beginning to look like Solefald was toning down their abstract tendencies - but further listening showed that they had just refined their approach and no longer resorted to manic genre hopping.
In Harmonia Universali displays the more openly unusual side of Solefald that older fans will recognize, but brings in enough catchy riffs and metal themes to please their newest fans. The songwriting expresses more complexity than ever, pushing and pulling the listener through multiple moods and movements, each song overflowing with feeling and depth. But much like Devin Townsend's solo projects, you can get into the music for its surface appeal and sort out the other details later. The songs are packed with warm piano and furious organ sounds, Lazare's creative progressive drumming, an otherworldly dual vocalist combination (mostly clean singing this time around), rough metal riffing, lighter guitar ambience and oddly themed leads, finger picked acoustic guitar and a dark jazz saxophone - and much, much more.
It'd be impossible to give you any real idea of what to expect from this CD, so I'll leave it at "go listen!" If you like dark and experimental metal that tears down boundaries and provides as much depth as you care to listen for, there's no reason not to check out Solefald's work immediately. Some metal makes me happy and is fun to listen to. A smaller subset of metal affects me in a more personal way. In Solefald's case, they're in the latter group, and very likely this newest work has managed to take away some of my sanity and taint me with its madness. Be that as it may, there are few new CDs this year that moved me in quite the same way, so it's very much worth your time to go listen.
1) Nutrisco et Extinguo
2) Mont Blanc Providence Crow
3) Christiania (E. Munch Commemoration)
4) Epicetetus & Irreversibility
5) Dionysify This Night of Spring
6) Red Music Diabolos (instrumental)
7) Buy My Sperm
8) Fraternité de la grande Lumière
9) The Liberation of Destiny
10) Sonnenuntergang im Weltraum
Cornelius - vocals, guitar, bass
Lazare - vocals, keyboards, drums
Solefald - Official Site:
Century Media Records:
Through Creation’s End
~reviewed by Matthew Heilma
For those metal fans out there that enjoy the more melodic side of Black Metal, Somnus is sure to please. Through Creation’s End is the sophomore release by this talented American outfit and much like they demonstrated on their debut release “Awakening The Crown,” Somnus continues to seamlessly weave aggressive black metal elements with enveloping melodic atmospherics. But unlike most bands, there sound is not fragmented and predictable because they don’t just simply have a fast metal part that suddenly gets slow and spooky, but rather, they manage to bring all of these elements together to create one dense and engrossing multi-layered sound. They are among some of the most musical metal acts around – perhaps not when it comes to technical prowess but the sound of this record is extremely rich and profoundly dynamic. It boasts a smooth and clear production, the instruments well-balanced in the mix and the vocals are audible regardless of what style they are delivered in. With the obvious exception of the live bonus track, the CD fails to capture the raw, whirlwind urgency of the band’s live performances, but if it did, perhaps fans would then complain that the sound of the CD isn’t as professional as it could be. It’s a polished production, which accentuates the band’s musicianship more so than their muscle.
Throughout the album’s seven new tracks, Somnus’ tight rhythm sections charge and gallop along, iced with Rhiannon’s cinematic orchestral synths and ghostly female vocals. The guitars are capable of full-throttle, tremolo picked assaults that fluidly segue into misty twin guitar harmonies, which entwine beautifully with buoyant keyboard passages. The ethereal synths linger while the guitars and drums pick up the pace, surging forward into dizzying blast beats – yet the aggression is nicely tempered by the presence synths. Sure, Somnus is not as sonically unrelenting as other ‘true Black Metal’ bands, nor are they quite as dark, but their music is infinitely more interesting, memorable, and emotionally affective. Somnus, in many respects, help remind folks like myself (that have long been disenchanted with the genre) that this kind of music can still be enjoyable and fulfilling.
Scott Hilberg’s vocals follow familiar formulas – gristled growls, raspy screams, and somber clean passages that merge with Rhiannon’s lucid operatic contributions. All things we have heard before, but when executed with the proper sincerity and passion, as Somnus clearly possess, these recognizable traits still manage to produce enjoyable and noteworthy effects. Occasionally the rallying spoken word parts are overdone, but this is, once again, an opus inspired by medieval fantasy and gothic mystique. And Somnus definitely succeed in spiriting their listeners to other worlds and times in a believable way.
Somnus is not your average run-of-the-mill dark metal band. They have a pleasant accessibility but an unmistakable rawness at the core of what they do. They explore the same subjects as other bands, but do so with a greater sense of imagination. They adhere to the imagery but do not hide behind it or let it eclipse their talent as musicians. And above all, their music is powerful, enjoyable, and sincere. As I have before, I highly recommend this band to fans of imaginative, melodic metal.
1.) The Gate Of Wolves
2.) Warlock’s Feast
3.) Dawn Of Spirits
4.) Tribunal Of Woe
5.) The Deceiver
6.) Lament For Winter’s Passing
7.) Creation’s End
8.) Unfulfilled Prophecy (live)
9.) CD – ROM Bonus Video Track
(* Where we see the band frolicking in the forest with torches and such!)
Scott Hilberg - Vocals & Guitar
Rhiannon - Keyboards & Vocals
Dennis Downey - Lead Guitars
Steve Rolf - Bass
Chris Stolle – Percussion
Somnus – Official Website:
Somnus – Mp3 Site:
Root Of All Evil Records:
SON OF WILLIAM
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Spencer (Spence?) Harrison, raised in the UK but confusing us all by recording his first work in St. Louis, then spent a few years trying to make a go of it here during the mid to late 90’s, and now firmly resident in the States with various projects on Berserker, and his own performance space, the Zoo Room? What is he doing, and why don’t more people know about this? (A free mag sent with these promo discs maybe explains why, as a local Goth DJ seems to show no interest at all in this work purely because it doesn’t fit into his own tastes. Very odd attitude.)
The Son Of William story is undeniably strange, but you cannot deny the man’s dedication or imagination. I think by having set projects he maybe doesn’t have the flexibility in Son Of William’s specific sound he might otherwise create if this was his sole project, but it works, and it works well. (I didn’t find a list of his projects on his Berzerker site, but I was impressed he named one of his studio after The Greatest Person Who Ever Lived. Who wouldn’t want to record in the Josephine Baker room?)You get a big grimy, stern guitar riff, heavy with menace beneath the treated vocals, from ‘Doomsday’ onwards, and while the same kind of feel drifts through ‘Stratosfear’ and ‘City Of The Dead’ you can also find the stark beat very engaging, while finding the actual vocals as much like samples as the samples are.
‘Lunghook’ has a spookier sound, being boomier and roomier and even grindier guitar, and ‘Deathwalker’ cheekily promises "now you’ll sleep where angels fuck", and is pretty metal here and no mistake, like a giant alien turd with the vocals more Dalek than anything. ‘Where’s The Living’ is fast and ranting, ‘Your Reality Is My Insanity’ gets scratchy, and ‘Devil In Me’ almost turns punk moves into metal guitar, which did at times leave me wondering whether this sort of dark, slick sound might be a distant relative of Big Black. It doesn’t have the harshness or bleakness, but it does piss on similar graves.
A band you want to investigate, and that’s for certain.
CITY OF THE DEAD
WHERE’S THE LIVING
YOUR REALITY IS MY INSANITY
DEVIL IN ME
- stunning live galleries (don’t be put off if thumbnails look identical,
click them all)
Sopor Aeternus & The
Ensemble Of Shadows
Es Reiten Die Toten So Schnell
(Or: The Vampyre Sucking At His Own Vein)
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Earlier this year, a new release was unveiled from the ghoulish epitome of the Gothic, Germany’s infamous Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble Of Shadows. As always, fans of the morose, macabre, and the melancholy were waiting with baited breath, and once again, Anna-Varney has delivered. The release is available in three different formats, two of which are packaged to the nines. For the less casual Sopor fans (if there are any) there is a standard CD edition available with a 16-page booklet of lyrics. Additionally, there is a deluxe CD book edition, limited to 1999 copies, which is bound with black linen and embossed with silver lettering, complete with 40 pages of lyrics and morbid erotic photographs. But if that isn’t enough, there is a deluxe (and I mean DELUXE) double vinyl box, which contains two picture discs, two giant posters, a t-shirt, postcards, a consecrated host and a bag of “100% authentic graveyard soil” collected by Anna-Varney himself. The 666 copies of this addition is signed and hand-numbered.
Since my fiancée and I are insane Sopor fans, we bought all three additions. The vinyl box is very well packaged and worth every penny, but obviously the price will only appeal to rabid fans. The standard CD is fine if you just want the music, but personally, I think fans are being shortchanged with the standard edition because there are few pictures at all. If you can afford it, go with the $50 book edition if you can find it. It’s just right.
But of course you are probably wondering, “Well, how about a review of the music on the disc so I can decide if I want this damned thing already!”
Technically speaking, this is not a brand spanking new release. What “Es Reiten Die Toten So Schnell” is actually comprised of is updated reworkings of old demo and non-album Sopor tracks. It would appear now that since Anna-Varney has more experience as a composer and more musicians readily available than when the project started out, Anna-Varney has taken the liberty of re-recording these old songs as they were supposed to sound.
All of these songs first appeared on Sopor’s 1989 demo (also the title of this CD); the others originally appeared as bonus tracks on the debut’s re-release. What is interesting is that the songs still hold up very well once animated and enriched by live session musicians, rather than the limitation of the unauthentic sounding synths of their past incarnations. This is what I have always personally found to be the biggest drawback about Sopor’s earliest material – the keyboards often interfered with the potential emotional impact of the songs. Apparently, this affected Anna-Varney as well, and at last, with the production aid of John A. Rivers (Dead Can Dance, This Ascension), these songs now have more proper and effective arrangements.
The most apparent aspect of this latest release is that it is much more upbeat and edgier than past releases. “Dead Souls” is the most accessible and club friendly Sopor track thus far in their long career. For the first time, a live drummer and bassist provide the rhythmic core, which makes for a delightful and surprisingly punchy effect. The primarily melodies are still the result of string and brass musicians, with a moderate amount of chimes, bells, harpsichords, and orchestral synths to flesh things out. Like the previous Sopor release, “Songs From The Inverted Womb” this release is heavy on the brass instruments and mischievous pizzicato string plucking.
Anna-Varney’s melodic tenor is smooth and lulling, while his wails and shrieks are even more extreme than ever. There is an even greater Death Rock flair to the new version of “The Feast Of Blood” – now with more diversified and complex rhythms to propel the song along. The new vocals on this track are also much clearer than the original as they are delivered in a higher register and bellowed with a breathless urgency, This track will be remembered by fans as one of Anna-Varney’s most lively vocal performances yet.
“Beautiful Thorn” and “The Dreadful Mirror” further accentuate the new rhythmic dynamics of the band, while the haunting gloom of “Dark Delight” serves as the albums subdued and funereal ballad, if you will. Overall, it is a very intriguing release and the most diverse addition to the band’s discography. Occasionally, the lyrics fall short and come across as a bit corny. In particular, the track “Stake Of My Soul,” which appears to be a vampyric love song of sorts. But considering most of these lyrics were written in the prime of Anna-Varney’s unhappy and perhaps more impressionable youth, his awkward adolescent pen is rescued by his mature musical visions that provided the essence of what he has perfected later in his age.
For readers that are not familiar with Sopor Aeternus (shame on you!) I will say simply this: there is no band more Gothic than this. Speaking in the strictly literal sense of the word “Gothic,” there are few contenders to outshine Sopor Aeternus. The spectrum of darkness covered in the project’s music ranges from tender romantic melancholy to utterly depressive emotional breakdowns; frightening odes to decay and death to more playful, prankish mischievousness. The arrangements are shaded by Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque stylings, and Neo-Classical orchestral ambience – all crowned with the theatrical, ever-expressive vocals of Anna-Varney, at times weeping, whispering, shrieking for effect, but usually singing with a heartfelt baritone that recalls a more mature Rozz Williams or Andi Sex Gang, or a less-refined Brendan Perry.
The music is otherworldly and invokes other more mysterious and magical times. Anna-Varney himself is a mystery and an enigma, his monstrously beautiful image and boundless sexual identity either enthralls or appalls those that stumble into his strange world. But there are no other bands or musical projects quite like Sopor Aeternus, and I doubt that there ever will be. While this may not be the most emotionally intense release from the band, it may be the easiest to digest for new fans, before they embark upon the dark journey into the band’s incomparable back catalogue. If you have yet to check into this band, hurry over to Middle Pillar and check them out!
1.) Omen Sinistrum
2.) Dead Souls
3.) Stake of my Soul
4.) Beautiful Thorn
6.) The Feast of Blood
7.) Sopor Fratrem Mortis Est
8.) The Dreadful Mirror
10.) Birth-Fiendish Figuration
11.) Penance & Pain
12.) Holy Water Moonlight
14.) Über Den Fluss
15.) Dark Delight
Sopor Aeternus & The
Ensemble Of Shadows is:
Chris Wilson - Violin
Elizabeth Tollington - Cello
Marcus Cornall – Double Bass, Electric Bass
Tonia Price - Clarinet
Doreena Gor - Bassoon
Eric Santie-Laa – English Horn
Eugène de la Fontaine - Oboe
James Cunningham - Trumpet
Julian Tumer - Trombone
Joan Sweet - Tuba
Paul Brook - Drums
Middle Pillar Records: (best
place to buy Sopor releases)
Download (Black Planet)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
(photo from the band's website)
It's impossible to speak of Spares without first mentioning Children On Stun. Now, I dare say there's a whole generation of nu-goths on the scene these days for whom Children On Stun is simply a strange and seldom-mentioned name from the past. Yet, in the 90s, the Stun really made an impact. They were a goth band which didn't care too much about being gothic - they were much more concerned with being *good*. Their songs were little explosions of quirky, pop-culture brilliance for which the expression 'insanely catchy' could have been specially minted. The band used the familiar goffband line-up of guitar, bass, vocals and drum machine, but deployed those ingredients with an instinctive flair that left all those Fields Of The Mission Of Mercy soundalike-bands which cluttered up the 90s scene floundering far, far behind. The announcement, in 1998, that Children On Stun were to split caused genuine anguish - not only because the passing of a great band was something to be mourned, but also because we'd all been hoping that the Stun would be the band to make that elusive crossover leap, and take the good goth music to the indie kidz. *Someone* had to show us the way out of the goth ghetto, and we reckoned that the Stun would be the ones to do it.
Well, the crossover never happened, although it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of the Stun. The music biz did actually show a bit of interest in the band once or twice, but none of this ever amounted to anything you could put on a contract. Eventually, frustrated with bumping up against the goth ceiling, Children On Stun headed for the exit. Rumours abounded about the various band members' new projects, but very little ever saw the light of day. Neil Ash, the Stun's vocalist, supposedly formed a new band called Stripper, although to date this has only amounted to a seldom-updated website. And Simon Manning, the Stun's guitarist, formed Spares, a band which also seemed to be falling into the abyss of 'not really doing anything' - until now. All of a sudden, Spares make an appearance at the Whitby Gothic Weekend, and here's an album of their music. It seems the ball is rolling again.
This is actually the second Spares album: the first, Tired And Bizarre, was a 'project' thing featuring an assortment of guest vocalists. Download, however, introduces us to Spares as a full band, with what I assume is a permanent line-up. The Stun's bassist, Kyle Whipp, is on board, there's Alex Ash on drums, and Alison Gann on vocals. And, in the small print on the inlay, there's a perhaps significant note: 'This album is dedicated to the alternative scene worldwide.' This clues us in to the direction Spares presumably see themselves taking. No more goth ghetto. They're headed for the alternative rock highway.
Well, if Spares really do envisage themselves as accelerating down the alternative rock highway, they're going to need some high-octane musical fuel in their tank. And do they have it? Er....sort of. 'Download' contains some punchy alternorock moments, and some excursions into cool dancey areas - but it also contains a lot of stuff that sounds worryingly like lo-fi demo material. The sound is, frankly, thin and polite, where it should be a muscular monster, shouldering its way out of the speakers. The drums tick-tock away in a 'just keeping the beat, mate' manner - in fact, if I hadn't seen a drummer credited on the sleeve, I would've assumed the band had exhumed an ancient drum machine. Too much of it is all tinny snare and chink-chink hi-hat, with the bass guitar bom-bom-bom-ing along a respectful three paces behind. Much of the guitar, oddly enough, comes on like the old-skool Mission/Cult sound filtered through whatever effects pedal Vendemmian used to use. The result is a real mid-90s goth guitar sound. Check out 'Splintered' and 'Hourglass' for evidence. I'm confused. I thought the general idea was to move on from this point? Even the latter-day Stun stuff didn't feature this kind of guitar. 'Disown' and 'Vanity Cracked' ramp things up a bit with heavy-heavy rock riffs, which is much more the kind of stuff I was expecting. But what's with all the old-style goth moves?
Where Spares unequivocally part company with their past is in the vocal department. Alison Gann does a low-down grungey croon, which works well when she's being sultry but shows a bit of strain when she attempts a big rock-diva holler. Her range isn't particularly great, as she demonstrates on one of the two old Stun songs which are included here: 'Mondo Bizarre' - better known in its Stun incarnation as 'Auntie Crystal's Theives'. Neil Ash, the Stun's vocalist, soared and gambolled his way through this song, taking great delight over everyover-enunciated syllable. Alison knocks it off as if she can't wait to see the back of it, almost speaking the line 'Rolling thunder, thick as thieves' without an ounce of the cartoon drama Neil brought to the original. Mind you, the way she pronounces 'Mondo bizzario' is quite amusing. At this moment, she sounds like Clare Grogan from Altered Images! But maybe it was a mistake to include reworked Stun material here: you can't improve on the definitive, and anyway - forgive me if I've said this before, but I thought the general idea was to move away from the old stuff...?
Later in the album, Spares try a few tangents, and explore such side-alleys as trancey dance-rock, as on 'Another Time Today', a relaxed groove enlivened by an assertive bassline, although the off-beat comes around with a grimly inevitable 'chock' on the snare drum. It has to be said that the drums don't exactly swing. They're simply used to insert punctuation points in the music. 'Intermemory' has more of a groove to it: the pace picks up, and it hums along in a Garbage-remix kind of way. 'Splintered' makes a reappearance as the '007 mix' - another excursion into Garbage-territory. That may be an easy comparison, but Alison Gann does seem to have a natural flair for a somewhat Shirley Manson-esque croon, and the band as a whole sound far more accomplished on the groovy stuff than they do when they try to rock out, or indeed when they try to goth out. Maybe this suggests the area in which Spares would do best. Forget the old-style goth sound. Forget the heavy rock. Just go for the slinky grooves. Shirley Manson, not Marilyn Manson. Get a drummer who can swing (or just get the drummer drunk enough to loosen up), get a producer who can lift things out of the bedroom. There's something here, but it needs to be drawn out. 'Download' isn't a bad calling card, but after the crazed greatness of the Stun, we were all expecting something that would knock our socks off. And my footwear, I have to say, remains firmly in place.
Style Police (Nurofen mix)
Another Time Today
Splintered (007 mix)
Simon Manning: Guitar
Kyle Whipp: Bass
Alison Gann: Vocals
Alex Ash: Drums
The website: http://www.spares.tk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
Subtext (advance promo)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
A promo single from Swarf, essentially for DJs only, and available only from the band in limited quantities. With that in mind, it might seem a little contrary to review this CD here - after all, you can't buy it. However, in the near future Swarf's long-awaited album will be with us, and it's worth giving this promo-release a listen as a trailer for the main feature. The album release is now scheduled for Autumn of this year on Cryonica, the label run by Reza and Alexys of Inertia, after Swarf's original plans to go with Cubanate frontman Marc Heal's label, Punish, were scuppered by all sorts of tiresome logistical hiccups. But things are moving now. There are even plans for Swarf to support Inertia on a West Coast US tour after the album is released. It seems the Swarf-accelerator is about to get well and truly stomped on.
So, this is what you get: three mixes of 'Subtext' and the ethereal smoocher 'Shadows', all taken from Swarf's recent recording sessions with Marc Heal in the producer's chair. Now, say what you like about Mr Heal, but one thing's for sure: this is a man who can make Pro Tools sit up and beg. The quality of these recordings is exceptional. The sound is rich, it has depth and space, it rolls out of the speakers and wraps itself around your head. This is the best production Swarf have ever had. It's a world away from the hasty bedroom-standard programming I've heard far too often from too many electro-chancers with Fruityloops For Beginners on their home PC. This is in a different league. This is *class*.
But production isn't everything. You need the songs, as well. And here we discover Swarf's secret weapon: they have the uncanny ability to write a gorgeous, lilting pop song with that essential stick-in-yer-brain quality and more hooks than a fishing tackle shop. That, in itself, is a rare talent in a world where a few chanted slogans over a beat are often passed off as 'songwriting'. 'Subtext' is a gem of a song, with an oddly melancholy feel as Liz entwines her voice around the music - it's almost as if the Cocteau Twins had gone techno (and articulate). And yes, this *is* techno. Put aside any notions of 'electro-goth' or whatever, because this is seamless, chrome-smooth, slinky techno pop, where the beat never gives up...and yet there's always that uncanny otherworldly feel, that spacious, distance-between-the-planets atmosphere which seems to be a trademark feature of Swarf's songs, and which I've never heard anyone else do. That, in itself, should be a recommendation, because how many bands *really* have that kind of originality?
So, yes, we are indeed in the techno zone here. Classy, cool, techno with the kind of pop sensibility which means the music works just as well for listening as dancing. As a matter of fact, I confess I'm a bit baffled by Swarf's continuing policy to stick with the goth scene when it comes to gigs and general band-business. Sure, they may have come out of the electro end of goth, but they're headed somewhere very different now. I hope this CD isn't just being bunged around the usual goth-DJ suspects, because I think all sorts of doors could swing open for Swarf if the promo effort was nudged in certain other directions. At the very least, I'd suggest making sure that Allen TG at the Torture Garden has a copy, and while we're at it, how about the DJs at Cyberdog in Camden...? Swarf's cool production plus the shit-hot Cyberdog sound system - I'd fight my way through the hordes of cybershoppers just to hear that!
If you're a bona-fide DJ, and you can point to playlists, club websites, etc, to verify your behind-the-decks life, and you're genuinely interested in pushing new stuff (ie *not* the kind of DJ who simply trots out VNV Nation's greatest hits every time!), it might be worthcontacting Swarf via their website to see if they'll dish up a promo for you. I guarantee it will sparkle in your CD case like a diamond.
Subtext (Bold mix by Weirdo)
Subtext (Italic mix by Weirdo)
Andrew: Programming, keyboards
Chris: Programming, keyboards
Swarf website: http://www.swarf.org.uk
Cryonica website: http://www.cryonica.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Control (Unpopular Culture)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
It's astonishing to think that this is Synthetic's third album. They seem to chuck one out roughly every twelve months. Lack of material clearly isn't a problem for this band. Plus, of course, being on their own label means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, without waiting for other artists on the label-roster to have their turn, or hanging on for the green light from head office. Synthetic *are* head office. Such are the advantages of the DIY approach.
Three albums in, and the band have have pretty much established their style. Synthetic songs typically have a whumping great rhythm, stuttering electronics, odd little keyboard-melodies, and - secret weapon ahoy - about seven layers of full-on overdriven guitar. It's odd that Synthetic are often referred to (and, indeed, think of themselves) as an 'electronic band'. They often have more guitar on one song than many grizzled old rockers would deploy over an entire album.
But Synthetic's *other* secret weapon is their ability to write insanely catchy pop songs, often with a touch of Morrissey-style angst about the lyrics, and this album delivers eleven of the little devils. Eleven musings on life and love and death...and, erm, punk rock. At least, that's what I reckon '25 Years' could be all about: 'Twenty five years since seventy seven/You wake up dead but not in heaven/The papers print the same old lies/The same black smoke pollutes the skies' - well, it's either a pean to punk, or an environmental anthem.
One of the odd quirks of Synthetic albums is that there are usually two tracks which *really* hit the spot: two songs which lift themselves above the general tunestack and proclaim themselves something special (which means that in 2005, when Synthetic get up to their fifth album, they'll have enough material for a killer 'best of' compilation). The first of the Cool Two here is 'The Body Farm', a madcap romp of monster riffs and frantic electronics, with a drum pattern that wallops so hard you'd think the band had trapped John Bonham in a little black box. The drum tracks throughout the album, incidentally, are massive, pummelling things. I assume they're built up from samples of actual drums, because there's a real acoustic feel to the sound. Even the cymbal crashes die away naturally, instead of chopping off short, which is often the obvious giveaway that we're dealing with software, not hardware. Synthetic seem to have hit on the ultimate drum sound, regardless of how it's generated: it's certainly a world away from the traditional ticky-tocky goth-band drum machine, which I still hear far too often in too many bands' music.
The second supercool tune in this set is 'Spooky Kabuki', a wistful little thing...if a song based around such a mad-bastard squall of guitar, and a whomp-thwack, whomp-thwack beat could be described as 'wistful'. It has a lyric in the fine tradition of 'I think my girlfriend's seeing someone else', although this time it's written from what you might call a subcultural perspective: 'Tell me the reason/For turning to treason/You're changing your colours/And bleaching your hair' - all to a melody which builds up the tension in the verse and then lets everything off the leash in the chorus. I think Synthetic just came up with another classic.
But...there always has to be a but. While the production on this album is pretty much top-notch all the way (the drums, as I've hinted, are almost frightening in their leap-out-at-you-ness), for some baffling reason the vocals have been dropped back in the mix, to the point where on some songs they're almost obliterated by the churn and swirl of the music. Tim, Synthetic's singer, sometimes sounds like he's running along behind the band, struggling to keep up, when really he should be leading from the front. Just nudging the vocal fader up a notch or two at the mixing stage would've probably sorted this - and here, perhaps, we discover the disadvantage of the DIY approach. It's easy for bands to become so immersed in their own music that it's difficult to stand back from it, listen with fresh ears, and say, 'Now...does that *really* work?' In the DIY zone, where the bands are also their own record labels, producers, A&R men and managers, I suspect that it's uncommon for anybody outside the bands themselves ever to hear the music before it's pressed up and on release - and that's a high-risk strategy, because sometimes little glitches can get through. Let's make a note to do a remix for that 'best of' compilation!
Show Me The Way
The Body Farm
Tim Mathias - Vocals, programming
Sarn V - Keyboards, programming
Paul Five - Guitars, programming
The website: http://www.syntheticdomain.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
To/Die/For is yet another goth metal band, and, more than the countless others, a band that I have some trouble listening to. However, this isn't entirely a bad thing depending on your perspective. Jaded certainly stands out over most goth metal CDs, in that its melodies have a distinctly 80's flavor. The 80's influence on To/Die/For's latest output is so pervasive that I've decided to dub them Goth Bon Jovi - mainly for the chorus on track 3, "Too much ain't enough! Whooaaaahhh oooh oohhh ohhhh!" (And yes, I realize my inability to sing is noticeable even in text).
So, if you think a gothic metal Bon Jovi sounds cool, you'll feel right at home with Jaded. Oddly, although the melodies are clearly 80's, almost nothing else is. The singing is in traditional nasally goth style with occasionally hostile variations, backed by melodic keyboards and guitars that range from chugging metal riffs to subtle background harmonies. The songwriting is solid, and most every track moves through heavier sections, quiet interludes, catchy choruses, and thematic soloing.
Truthfully, I do think Jaded is a decent enough CD for goth and goth metal fans to look into. I have no obvious criticisms of the music, and only dislike much of it for its 80's nature. There's something about 80's melodies that has always bothered me. I hate when music manages to sound like an entire decade of other music. I find something fundamentally wrong with melodies that can dredge up memories of countless other groups. Yet at the same time, there's no denying that goth metal hasn't been the biggest proprietor of bouncy 80's styled vocal melodies, so there's a very specific sort of originality on Jaded.
If you're the type to slum around in classic 80's without feeling dirty afterwards, or if you simply don't mind an 80's sound, you'll find To/Die/For to be a reasonably talented goth metal band. If you strip away the specific melodies, To/Die/For are different from the host of lamenting gothic metal acts such as Tristania and every other Napalm Records band. To/Die/For is immediately more catchy and even kind of fun, and they provide a sort of 'safe' darkness that could very well appeal to many of you.
1) Dying Embers
2) (I just) Died in Your Arms
3) Too Much Ain't Enough
4) The Unknown II
6) Fall Strains
8) Anos De Dolor
9) Silence Tells More
Jape Peratalo - vocals
Tonmi Lillman - drums
Joonas Koto - guitar
Marko Kangaskolkka - bass
Mika Ahtiainen - guitar
To/Die/For - Official Site:
Nuclear Blast Records:
Ved Buens Ende
Written in Waters
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Apparently May was black metal history month, since Candlelight was kind enough to re-release two classic and out of print recordings: Fleurety's Min Tid Skal Komme, and Ved Buens Ende's Written in Waters. I want to like Ved Buens Ende. I really do. Their bassist has been in Arcturus and Ulver. Their other two members helped craft 666 International, a Dødheimsgard CD that to this day frightens me with its sheer absurdity and musical madness. It saddens me to say so, but in 1995, these guys just didn't have the skill they would later develop.
Some black metal fanatics herald Written in Waters as a cult classic. This is true in some regards, certainly, because it's without a doubt one-of-a-kind experimental black metal. The song structures wander and twist unexpectedly, and many of the bass and guitar riffs are quite cool in a brooding mid-tempo sort of way. Unfortunately, all of the experimentation and wandering is just that - the musicians do not build songs on their unorthodox ideas, they just let the music flow and meander for better and worse. It is easiest to see the flaws in their approach through the vocalist, who is full of the same pompous grandeur that Garm musters on La Masquerde Infernale. Victonik is no Garm. Victonik gives listeners all of the pompousness and grandiose singing without the talent or artistic intent.
The vocals cleanly shout and lament and generally come across as highly goofy and downright silly. The singing does not ruin the record by any means, but it makes Written in Waters that much more difficult to take seriously. Vocals aside, when Ved Buens Ende churns out a nifty riff, they do have the good sense to take advantage of it. A lot of the music on Written in Waters is cool in an off-kilter hardcore black metal sort of way. The disc only falls apart when the members stretch out riffs or ideas that should have long since faded into silence.
I can just picture a bunch of restless black metal musicians deciding to throw together the most insane CD of their time without regard for structure or meaning, and to hell with their contemporaries (er... maybe "to hell" isn't much of an insult to people who burn churches. Feel free to re-read the sentence with "to heaven" or "bless you"). If you're one of the many black metal listeners who never bought this CD, I won't blame you if you continue life without it. Neverthless, it retains a certain morbid appeal for a black metal collector such as myself, and you could do worse than explore early attempts at insane and innovative music by some of black metal's luminaries. If you're a fan of Dødheimsgard, give it a listen and see what you think, but don't get your hopes too high.
1) I sang for the swans
2) You, that may wither
3) It's magic
4) Den Saakaldte
5) Carrier of wounds
6) Coiled in wings
7) Autumn leaves
8) Remembrance of things past
9) To swarm deserted away
Ved Buens Ende is:
Carl-Michael - drums and percussion
Victonik - grim voice and gutiars
Skoll - bass
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Virgin Black's second opus could not be more appropriately titled. The liner notes are shielded by a brilliant white exterior filled with black pages and unnerving band photos. Elegant...and Dying, indeed. Unsurprisingly, the music fits precisely with the packaging and title - Virgin Black have crafted their own form of eloquent and graceful classical/opera/metal that's absolutely full of class, but never free of a depressing corruption writhing beneath the beautiful instrumentation. Virgin Black's debut, Sombre Romantic, was a similarly eloquent and crestfallen masterpiece, but it also featured moments of energetic metal and frenzied anger. On Elegant...and Dying, the music is more befitting of a funeral piece marking the end of a great emperor's death.
On a cursory listen, it appears that Virgin Black have stripped away their experimental sounds and rid their music of unexpected genre hopping. In fact, they've simply refined their style to such an extent that Elegant...and Dying displays a whole new genre of classical metal. Forget what you know about heavy or power metal with cheesy classical synths and guitar leads. Virgin Black build their sound on emotive cello pieces, dissonant piano, lamenting opera choruses and choirs... yet somehow they manage to add in heavy doom metal riffs, highly evocative and passionate lead guitar, harsh screams, venomous rasps, metal bass and modern drumming/percussion.
The warm and lucid production helps Virgin Black create their extremely dark and depressing opera or symphony written for traditional classical instruments and a modern-day rock/metal ensemble. Amazingly, all of the modern instruments are used to enhance the classical sound, and not the other way around. That is the defining factor of Virgin Black's new genre, which I will hereby dub Extremely Dark and Depressing Opera Symphony, EDADOS. Catchy, no?
It's difficult to distill my thoughts on the band into four tiny paragraphs. You will just have to go listen. Elegant...and Dying is a must listen for fans of classical/gothic/metal/insane music. It is worth mentioning that, for my tastes, the CD's 74 minute duration can get tiresome. Intentionally, of course, but you don't want to listen to it in one sitting if you aren't prepared for the depressive episode that will follow. For fans of doom and other depressing metal styles, that's all part of the fun...
1. Adorned In Ashes
2. Velvet Tongue
3. And The Kiss Of God's Mouth
4. part 2
6. The Everlasting
7. Cult Of Crucifixion
9. Our Wings Are Burning
Virgin Black is:
Rowan London - vocals, piano, keyboards
Samantha Escarbe - lead guitar, cello
Dino Cielo - drums
Craig Edis - guitar, vocals
Ian Miller - bass, vocals
Virgin Black - Official Site:
The End Records:
Sensory Division (Cryonica)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Regular readers of my outpourings within the virtual pages of StarVox will know that my pet hate is the kind of electro-industrial music in which beats 'n' programming is unceremoniously mashed up with a monotone chant through a vocal distortion effect. It's a style which can work, if it's done with a little finesse, and, most importantly, if there's something approaching a *song* in there somewhere. I maintain that Inertia and Cubanate pretty much get it right, for example. But too many artists in the industrio-zone seem to churn out a peculiarly dull take on this kind of stuff - often, I suspect, because it's *easy*. After all, it's not like you need to be a songwriter at all, or even be able to sing. A certain technical flair for stitching together sequences on your home computer, plus the ability to go 'Whaarrgh! Whaarrgh! Whaarrgh!' on one - or, if you're daring, two or three - notes, and you've got it. God Module, Jesus Complex, Aslan Faction, Saints Of Eden - they just keep on coming, as if there's a factory somewhere churning out shouty-crackers industrial bands, all designed from the same blueprint, all with bangin' dancefloor beats and identikit 'apocalyptic' samples, and all VERY VERY CROSS about something. And they'll shout at you through their distortion effect until you get the message. Or die of boredom, whichever comes first.
That, in a nutshell, is the territory occupied by Void Construct. This, their second album, shows that they have the techie stuff down to a fine art. The programming is seamless, the four-on-the-floor beats go whump-whump-whump-whump in the approved style, the sampled voices come and go. Technically, it all hangs together very well. I can't give them any originality points, mind, but within the limitations of their genre, they do all the usual stuff, and they do it decently enough. Did I just mention the limitations of the genre? Ah, yes. That brings us to the vocals. Sometimes a 'spooky' half-whisper, sometimes a more assertive bawl, but always angry, as if the vocalist has a petulant frown permanently etched upon his face, and always, always, always through that damn distortion effect.
The overall effect, I fear, is to reduce Void Construct down to the level of the characterless industrial-band crowd. There's certainly very little here which leaps out at the listener, very few sounds, rhythms or stylistic quirks which could *only* be Void Construct. You could put a Void Construct track into a beat-matched megamix with all the other artists in this uniquely underwhelming genre and I swear even the band's dearest friends would be hard pressed to pick out the joins. The only variations on the theme of Whump-and-Whaarrgh are the occasional almost-ambient cinematic intros and interludes, which demonstrate that Void Construct could probably produce a fine sci-fi movie soundtrack if they put their minds to it - and put a gaffa tape gag over the vocalist's gob. But I'm clutching at straws here. This album is heavy going.
In short, if you like this kind of stuff (and I guess someone out there does, since all these bands seem to sell tolerable quantities of their product) Void Construct give you more of it. If you really can't live without yet more distort-o-industrial in your life, here's yet another album's worth. If, however, you remain unmoved by the delights of the whumping beat and the distorted vocal, Void Construct are not the band that will convert you.
Divide By Zero
Scott Walker: Synths, samples, programming, vocals
Vicky Holliday: Live programming
Void Construct website: http://www.voidconstruct.com
Cryonica website: http://www.cryonica.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Critical Mass Volume 4 (Metropolis)
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
Fans, consumers and reviewers have to give kudos to Metropolis for consistently releasing high caliber budget compilation CD’s. This fourth installment continues to carry the torch of bringing some of the hottest underground bands to the forefront for the music buying public to sample.
Covenant opens the disc with the hypnotically sensual and club friendly "Bullet". At this point in time, is there any club that doesn’t play any of the tracks from their dance laden release Northern Lights?
Hocico’s "Forgotten Tears" veers into heavier elements with gravely vocals. Although this reviewer eschews that vocal style, one must give Hocico props for making the music good enough to want to keep listening.
Assemblage 23 is featured with "Drive", a beat driven industrial piece sculpted around splendid male vocal intonation and delivery.
Decoded Feedback’s track, "Phoenix", is taken from their latest release Shockwave. This is a band that has a very long future ahead of them. Shockwave demonstrated that they can do that “gargled with Drano” vocal effect as well as give extensively talented vocal delivery and passion. This track is from the gravel vocal school which seems to be de rigueur in most underground clubs these days.
"Prisoners of War" from Funker Vogt follows with an EBM track that is stylistically similar in the genre these days, making them one of the more popular club bands in rotation across the globe. Lyrically this track is heavy duty in spite of its infectious dance rhythm.
Croc Shop is included with a special mix of "World" from Assemblage 23. Not having heard the original version, a comparison and contrast isn’t possible at this time. This is an enjoyable track with effective percolation and harmony.
Dismantled’s exclusive track "Shift" brings a touch of dark elements that some underground revelers seek in their music. This is coupled with vocoder effects which don’t kick in with the dance factor until almost 2 minutes into the track. Nevertheless, it adds a certain spice of variety to round out the musical elements.
Pig provides "Prime Evil" for this compilation and veers even darker than the previous selection. The grooves are mid tempo and not as electronically “oontz” laden as some of the others. It does manage to dig into the backbone of electronic rock and should appeal to goths and industrial fans alike without contention.
Bella Morte are often called the hardest working band in the underground. Their reputation for being close to the fan base at all times while managing to tour all over is legendary. Here, the track "Logic" from The Quiet is included. The opening drum machine harkens to Animotion’s song "Obsession" but that is where the similarity ends. We are brought to a dark electro-rock haven that should also appeal across to fans across the genres.
Imperative Reaction brings us back to the electro dance sound with the exclusive mix of "Severed". The canvas remains delightfully dark and mid-tempo but essentially club friendly.
Project Pitchfork completes the excursion with "A Cell". Lots of vocoder effect and angst driven vocals are delivered through the bulk of the introduction. Once the track kick starts into overdrive, we can only imagine breathless dancers at the midnight hour.
Alas, due to some PC problems, the video portion of Covenant’s "Bullet" could not be reviewed.
With much of the underground reliant on club play, it isn’t a mystery that Metropolis would carry a number of highly club friendly dance style bands on their roster. While there is some chagrin with the increasing amount of copycat electronic bands surfacing as of late, Metropolis still manages to find the best of the best most of the time.
As far as compilations go, any of the Metropolis releases thus far have not failed to deliver a showcase of talent. It is inconceivable that any such compilations have not managed to drive consumers to seek out the full releases of their showcased artists. The sign of the times indicate that dark music and electronic styles can and will be created in order to appease the goth and the EBM/Industrial crowd. No one company can hope to appease everyone. However, these compilations are always mindful of the dark music fans and the detail in the sequencing consistently demonstrates this. If you like underground club music, do seek out the Metropolis compilations to sample some of the hottest music taking the globe by storm.
1. Covenant: Bullet (Taken from Northern Light)
2. Hocico: Forgotten Tears (Taken from Signos De Aberracion)
3. Assemblage 23: Drive (Taken from Defiance)
4. Decoded Feedback: Phoenix ( Taken from Shockwave)
5. Funker Vogt: Prisoners of War (Taken from Survivor)
6. Croc Shop: World (Assemblage 23 Mix) (Original version on World)
7. Dismantled: Shift (exclusive) ( Original version appears on Dismantled)
8. Pig: Prme Evil (previously unreleased in the U.S.)
9. Bella Morte: Logic ( Taken from The Quiet)
10. Imperative Reaction: Severed (excl. System Syn Mix) (Orig. vers. on Ruined)
11. Project Pitchfork: A Cell (Taken from Inferno)
Covenant: Bullet Enhanced
Compiled by B. Santillo & Shannon Ludwig
Released through Metropolis Records www.metropolis-records.com
Electro Age I: The Awakening (Latex Records)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
I'm all confused. At first glance, I thought I'd been sent the new Yes album. Or, at the very least, a compilation of Frank Zappa out-takes. I mean, look at that cover artwork: a tree, with its trunk in the form of a guitar. A portly gentleman who looks like a roadie for a dodgy metal band hangs upside down from the tree (and believe me, I've met a few roadies in my time whom I would've liked to string up in exactly that manner). On the ground, some runes lie scattered, as if our man has been surprised during a game of Scrabble (using the Tolkien edition, of course). What can it all mean? Is this an album of wiggy prog-metal?
Bizarrely, it's not. This is a compilation of predominately *electronic* music. The incongruous guitar on the cover is, I assume, an attempt to mess with our minds. Either that, or the artist couldn't find a picture of a vintage Moog to copy, so he had to make do with a Stratocaster. But the general style of the artwork clues us in to the theme of this album. Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to enter the Mystical Zone. Please assume the obligatory glassy-eyed expression, and follow me. Mind your aura on the door, there. All you punks at the back, no spitting, please.
It seems the idea for this compilation originally came from TG Mondalf, who is not, as I first assumed, a minor character in The Silmarillion. He is the webmaster of the RhythmUS Network site, which, as far as I can make out, is a website offering reviews, discussion, features and contacts on the subjects of music, art, literature, and all manner of mystical stuff. In short, it's like a StarVox for hippies. A word of warning: if this inspires you to visit the site, be prepared to wade through some bafflingly dense prose on the theme of rhythm as an agent of spirituality, and suchlike perorations. TG Mondalf doesn't hold himself back when he gets on his favourite hobby-horse (or perhaps I should more appropriately say, his favourite mystical wingéd stallion). Fortunately, not all of the RhythmUS Network site is given over to lengthy extrapolations of the arcane. There are some pithy music reviews in there, too. And, while one or two of the site's contributors have alarmingly class-of-67 names, I was reassured to find that one of the writers is the splendidly prosaic Chris Boring.
Latex Records, the label upon which this compilation is released, is apparently yet another of TG Mondalf's myriad projects, and was formed specially to give this album a proper, hard-copy release (the original idea had been simply to stick the tunes on the web). So, here we are: fifteen tracks, some by relatively well known names, some by artists previously unknown to me. But all the music has been selected with a view to creating some sort of spiritual theme. Well, let's give it a listen, and see if enlightenment dawns.
New Mind open the album with 'Undercity 2000'. A few years back, I promoted New Mind. The band is one of Jonathan Sharp's assorted musical ventures, and the stuff they did for me was a heavy-duty guitar-industrial thing. However, here they deliver a chunky electronic instrumental. It's like opening-title music for a cyberpunk movie, a quality which doubtless won New Mind the intro slot on the album. It's not a bad track, but it's a bit throwaway. Jonathan Sharp can churn out this kind of stuff by the yard, and here I suspect he's doing just that.
'Narcotic' by System der Dinge follows on: a spooky soundscape of electronic growls and wails eventually resolves to a slice of instrumental euro-trance. It's mid-tempo, and never quite kicks off into the club anthem you think is going to erupt any minute. It noodles along inoffensively enough, but I'm disappointed. After all the high falutin' concepts, I expected something more than 'inoffensive'.
Next, Conscientia Peccatti give us 'Tentatio Ardua 2', which is the kind of otherworldly mantra Transglobal Underground used to do so well - it's certainly the first track here which seems to have anything to do with spirituality. And then we meet some old friends: Glis, who I saw play live in London only recently, arrive with 'Nightvision', and all of a sudden we're giving it loads on the EBM dancefloor. Trouble is, this track sounds uncannily like Glis heard some Apoptygma Berzerk, and little lightbulbs went on above their heads. The spiralling synth sound, the deadpan vocal - all the familiar ingredients of Apop's sound are here. If I were Stefan Groth, I'd sue.
A little theme seems to be happening here: after 'Nightvision', the next track is 'Vision' by Lysa Nalin. It's a jittering beat with some restrained synth over the top, and the vocals are low-key and hypnotic. As with the Narcotic track, the problem is that having set up the rhythm and the melody, the track doesn't really *go* anywhere. It jitters along quite nicely...until it slows to a halt. And I'm left thinking, oh. Is that it? Nuada then give us 'Mage Sun', which has an early-80s 'bedroom' feel to it - not a bad thing in itself, and actually quite trendy in electro-circles these days. The vocals are treated, slowed down to a growl. I'm sure the lyrics are extremely meaningful, but I used to do this as a child: put my finger on the turntable of my Dad's old record player, and slow down his soundtrack albums until the voices went amusingly deep. I never thought I'd hear this technique presented to me in 2003 by a band as a cool vocal effect! C'mon, Nuada, you've got to do more than *this*!
And now here's Noxious Emotion, with what sounds like a cautionary tale. 'Nobelium' is spoken-word thing, over some competently assembled beats. Oh, hang on, he's singing the chorus in a style which sounds like Robin Williams doing one of his funny voices. What *is* it with these bands and their comedy vocal effects and mannerisms? Do we have any real *singers* in the house? Maybe TVKill will redeem things with their song, 'Trust'. Um....nope. It's a slow-burn exercise in angst; droned vocals speaking of blame, and anger, and rage, and...oh, you know. All that. Sounds like an angst-ridden teenager sticking beats together on his home computer as some sort of therapy. I fully expected to hear his Mum shouting up the stairs, 'Nigel! Tea's ready, dear!'
Frankly, we're not doing well so far. I really had expected more from this album. The big build-up simply isn't being justified. I thought I was going to be transported to another plane, not left floundering among bedroom-beats and hopelessly generic non-singing vocalists. However, we will continue. Never let it be said that Uncle Nemesis gives up half way!
Takashaka provide 'Gaia', which is, to be blunt, a go-nowhere almost-instrumental. A grab-bag of effects looking for some music. Then we have 'Under The Moon' by KAJ, which starts off rather well. A warm, relaxed, drift through some electro-pulses and atmospheres leads into a laid-back beat...and another deadpan male vocalist. There's a female backing voice which seems far more accomplished: why doesn't *she* handle the lead vocals? The Moors are up next, with 'The Hunter, Cernunnos' - aha, will this be a pell-mell evocation of the chase? Um...actually, it sounds like an atmospheric eastern-influenced rock ballad, the sort of conceptual piece metal bands tend to do on their third album to prove that they're 'deep'. There's a female singer, who can, praise whichever god happens to be passing, actually *sing*! And there are also guitars. Well, the cover artwork is justified at last. Hmmmm. In truth, this is pretty good, if you're into organic atmospherics. Of all the bands here, this is the one I'd be interested in checking out further.
We're into the final straight now, so let's push on. Apocrypho supply 'Connect' which chops up some fragments of old House piano with sampled voices and a burbling bass sound. Quite fun, but ultimately it sounds like a bedroom-programmer amusing himself. ThouShaltNot bring 'Nothing' to the party: all bangin' beats, slinky electro-rhythms and ambient-ish vocodered vocal treatments. It sounds like three different songs fighting it out for one coherent style. Diverje throw 'Shivering Skies' into the pot. And the music itself is indeed one big shiver, shards of electronics quivering away. It's quite an effective 'mood' piece, an exercise in art rather than a tune. But, being a sucker for gratuitously arty stuff, I like it.
And finally, Music For The Goddess wrap things up with 'Round And Round' - and it's a MOR folk ballad! There's a woman cheerfully singing away as the minstrels merrily play. In the context of this album, this track stands out like a horned god in the Vatican. If you told me this band did a version of Spinal Tap's 'Stonehenge', I'd believe you. Here's a possibly pertinent fact: back in the mid-90s, Mark, constructor of the Nemesis website, attempted to put together a compilation of Pagan music. The album never got off the ground, for tedious administrative reasons, but he's still got the tapes. And so much of it sounds exactly like this, it's uncanny. Is this the soundtrack to the Pagan scene, then? MOR folk ballads? Come back, Inkubus Sukkubus, all is forgiven!
And that's yer lot. Final verdict? A few shafts of light in the darkness, but not, I have to say, an album that really grabbed me. The spiritual theme, which supposedly unites all the music here, frequently isn't even discernable. Too often, tracks appear as if they've been included simply because nothing better was available. If you really want a useful window into the contemporary electro scene, then I'd suggest grabbing the 'Cryonica Tanz V.2' compilation (reviewed in the January 2003 edition of StarVox). Meanwhile, if it's spiritual electronic music you want, track down a copy of 'Knees Up Mother Earth' by the Knights Of The Occasional Table. Cool 90s electronica that hasn't dated, and a gleeful wit to boot.
If, on the other hand, you just want some MOR folkie-ballads....well. There, I fear, I cannot help you. I strongly suspect that nobody can.
New Mind - Undercity 2000
System der Dinge - Narcotic
Conscientia Peccatti - Tentatio Ardua 2 (edit)
Glis - Nightvision
Lysa Nalin - Vision
Nuada - Mage Sun
Noxious Emotion - Nobelium (Air-Fire-Water-Earth mix)
TVKill - Trust
Takshaka - Gaia
KAJ - Under The Moon
The Moors - The Hunter, Cernunnos (edit)
Apocrypho - Connect (DJ Vex mix)
ThouShaltNot - Without Faith (Nothing mix)
Diverje - Shivering Skies
Music For The Goddess - Round and Round
Latex Records website:
RhythmUS Network website: http://www.rhythmus.net
Reviewed by a very long-suffering Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Thee Vampire Guild: The Best of "What Sweet Music They Make"
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
For those of you who recall the trilogy of What Sweet Music They Make, from Thee Vampire Guild, it is with a heavy heart to inform you that they are all out of print. Fortunately, I was able to secure volumes 2 and 3 after an exhaustive global search, however, volume 1 still eludes me.
Nevertheless, the good folks at Nightbreed Recordings secured the rights to this work and provided us with the best of the 3 discs on a double CD set. The thing of note with this compilation is that the original Depeche Mode track "One Caress" wasn't included due to contractual costs. London After Midnight also declined to reappear on this set for whatever reason.
Now before some of you start cringing at the "vampire" theme, it is essential to note that had it not been for the illustrious Bela Lugosi, much of what we have come to know as goth might not have ever been created. That may be a lame argument, so I will come clean. I am, if you pardon the pun, a sucker for things within the vampire genre. Although I don't participate in the vampire scene per se, the realm of music and fiction of the genre is something that I do enjoy. As an outsider, there are a lot of so-called vampire CD's and books on the market that are cheesy and not worthy of our time or money. When something of merit comes along, it is essential to give it the kudos it deserves. That being said, it is with great pride to announce that this compilation has been receiving a lot of extra rotation at home and at work. Out of the many similar themed CD's that have crossed my desk, this compilation remains among this reviewers top five listing.
Many of the bands you may well recognize. Some are now sadly defunct while others are still going strong. Overall, this double set is full of moody atmospherics long since missing in many of the goth clubs as of late. One won't find a glittery synthpoppy type of song in the bunch. You will find some gems from the goth rock world poised to delight newcomers as well as the old school goth rockers. Additionally, the Dream Disciples are here twice, and admittedly, the wondrous vocal strength of lead singer Col will continue to astound me for the rest of my days. Let's face it, Col has the vocal ability to knock down the Biblical walls of Jericho without losing a note or a breath, but I digress.
A playful touch is the utilization of interestingly dark soundbytes and dialogue between some of the tracks, demonstrating the humorous side to the vampire genre. Since it has often been reported that folks in the vampire scene take themselves far too seriously, this bit of playfulness helps to quell a bit of that bad press. However, if a fang wearing person/vampire takes themselves seriously, far be it for me to dictate how one should live. It doesn't detract from the beauty of the genre in my opinion and one can only thank them for being visible enough to allow compilations such as this to be made in the first place!
Since it would be daunting to go through a track by track review and it would be a disservice to highlight my personal favorites, I will eschew doing so. However, do not let that deter you from seeking out this collection if you are even remotely interested. Whether you like old school goth rock or are fascinated by the vampire genre, this set is a dark blessing to your music collection. Clearly, this wasn't just slapped together for the sake of making a quick buck off of the scene fans. The work here is a labor of love, carefully reselected and sequenced by Nightbreed in a fitting tribute to the way the original set was created. Rest assured that purchasing this is money well spent and will provide many years of musical enjoyment.
In the USthrough Middle Pillar
In Europe available through Nightbreed Recordings at http://www.nightbreedmusic.co.uk/
2. Element: Red Meat & Beauty Queens
3. Manuskript: Rapscallion (Coldheart Mix)
4. The Dark Theater: At Love With The Gods (Movement III)
5. Dream Disciples: Crimson White
6. Nosferatu: The Keeper's Call
7. Lestat: Realm
8. Inkubus Sukkubus: Intercourse With The Vampire
9. Bed and Breakfast
10. Sopor Aeternus: This Profany Finality
11. Faithful Dawn: Enchant Me (Temperance Version)
12. 13 Candles: Siren (The Vampire in White Mix)
13. A Design for Life
14. Emma Conquest: Such Pretty Things
15. The House of Usher: The Irreal Light of the Sun (Under Your Wings)
16. Vlad Janecek: For Eternity
17. Stone 588: Ruination
18. The Marionettes: Play Dead
1. "I Want Some More"
2. The Horatii: Island of the Zombie Women
3. The Whores of Babylon: Never or Forever
4. Morticia: The Blood Club
5. Witching Hour: Kissed By Death
6. Corpus Delicti: Dancing Ghost
7. Astro Vamps: Vampira
8. Paralysed Age: Bloodsucker
9. Inkubus Sukkubus: Vampire Erotica
10. Brotherhood of Pagans: Sinner Comes To Bits (The Offering To Akasha)
11. The Dark Theater: Crimson (is the Color of the Vampire Circus)
12. Man's Best Friend
13. Dream Disciples: Resting Place
14. All Living Fear: Crimson 1998 (demo)
15. Sneaky Bat Machine: Boneshaker
16. Silent Night, Unholy Night
17. Suspiria: Night Time (Stripped)
18. Sopor Aeternus: The Feast of Blood
19. The House of Usher: Wrecked In Faith (Version)
20. Scarlet Harbour: The Screams of Nezach
Venusa XX : An Electronic Collection of Femina Vox Part II
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
Volume II of the Venusa XX series once again delves into the female voice from the electronic realm. Initially, some grumbled that a few of the bands featured here are male bands who utilized a guest female vocalist for the CD inclusion. Others were miffed that it somehow appeared to be condescending towards female artists. On what grounds this condescension was evident is still a mystery, but I digress. Whatever side of the fence one is sitting on, there is no mistaking that this is a rather mighty fine collection of female focused electronic work. It is easy for many to complain about any number of releases for a plethora of reasons. Experience has demonstrated that those who make the loudest complaints buy the least amount of music in the first place. Those who want to change things need to put their hat in the ring and do so. Otherwise they can forevermore shut the hell up while those that are willing to DO something constructive in the music world can continue to do so. With that in mind, kudos is given to Alfa Matrix for continuing with a series that gives homage to the many hard working women in the electronic genre.
In light of the fact that the electronic realm has been decidedly more male dominated, this compilation highlights the contributions of some of the women within the genre working towards creating a new niche. Coming off the mini-soapbox, what we have here is a collection of 32 female dominated electronic club hits. 75% of the featured material is either new or unreleased mixes that were unavailable before now.
With so many songs featured, it would be cumbersome to read a mini-review of each track and probably have my editor running after me with a machete for creating such a long review. Suffice to say, the work represented here crosses many roads from the club friendly to the more sedate electronica that is within the realm of the trancey/goa style that is becoming increasingly popular in some locales. Some of the tracks veer into a more synth-pop style as well, so don’t expect this to be a collection of growling females full of angst. In fact, the emphasis is on clear, talented vocals that enhance the music. The voice from the feminine perspective remains the primary focus and everything else falls in line right behind it. This in itself is a treat since so many male electronic artists feel the need to scream and growl like caterwauling banshees. While that Drano-vocal may appeal to some, it simply leaves this reviewer unenthused for the work.
Admittedly, I am a major fan and consumer of very few electronic artists, such as The Azoic, The Razor Skyline, Backlash, Regenerator, Magenta, L’ame Immortelle, and Bel Canto. As stated above, many of the male vocals that snarl and screech may be popular with the hormonally defective, but around here, their guttural growling angst is far from entertaining. For those who find electronic music distasteful for the same reasons, take heart. This compilation beautifully focuses on talent in the purest sense. The electronics are well done and the vocals are sublime as well as seductive. The collection has the ability to make you want to dance, make love and chill out, all at the same time.
The majority of the artists presented on this compilation have continuously created a stir with DJ’s and underground music fans all across the globe. Most of these bands should be familiar to underground music consumers and club patrons at this stage because their presence has become rather large in many circles. Readers who belong to any number of e-lists where the dj’s present their playlists will also note the growing popularity of some of these bands as well as the growing phenomenon and status of some others. While some e-groups have presented the notion that some of these bands merely utilized a female guest vocalist, I cannot say with utmost certainty. Outside of the groups listed above where the female voice is almost exclusively utilized, one has to take the word of the fans within the genre. Whatever the case may be, guest vocalists or not, the project works well. Those who did utilize a guest female singer may want to consider doing so with a bit more frequency because each track is, without question, a labor of love.
In the final analysis, there is a little of something here for everyone. Heavy “oontz” dance beats along with trancey and spacey effects and dark electronic fusions can all be found within this 2 CD set. If your taste runs along the lines of electro-dance music, it is worth your while to seek out this gem of remixes and unreleased tracks.
Client: Client (original mix)
Pzycho Bitch: Big Lover
Niowt: Loverboy (dance mix)
Spray: Heatwavers (7” mix)
Chandeen: My World Depends On You (Neikka RPM Mix)
Mnemonic: A Day On My Own (feat. Tekita)
Hungry Lucy: Storm
Bel Canto: Iadonia
Frogpad: Lessons of Faith (Bifrost Mix)
Male or Female: $in$
Magenta: All Over (Epsilon Minus Mix)
L’ame Immortelle: Judgement (Epsilon Minus Mix)
Lunascape: Second Skin (Hungry Lucy Mix)
Theatre of Tragedy: Envision (Conetik Remix)
Transmutator feat. Chris G: The Lover 2 (radio mix)
System 22: Illuminate (radio edit)
Sabotage?: Who Am I (at all mix)
Nebula-H: Twilight Zone (feat. Eaven)
The Azoic: Conflict
Aiboforcen: Give Me These Wings (Flight Mix)
Massiv In Mensch: Offensivshock (Epsilon Minus Mix)
In Strict Confidence: Engelsstaub (Implant Mix)
Infrastructure: Alpha Plus
Krometekk: I Adore U
Neikka RPM: Closing In
Plastic Noise Experience: Gar Nichts
Epsilon Minus: Ocean Floor
the website is www.alfa-matrix.com
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