Sent to me by Cyndee this demo, recorded last year, apparently under the auspices of Bari Bari, starts off in such a way that I am not exactly nonplussed, but my reaction made me realise something. Have been reviewing so many different styles of music in the past twelve months and occasionally bemoaning the lack of urgency, that when everything you could want comes booming out in an instant it throws you!
‘Justify’ is the best Goth song I have heard in years, it’s that simple. With a little wheeeeee of feedback, the bass just jumps on you and this fresh, springy music surges along on a trim, raw course to the end, with the vocals initially obscured to the point were you fear an instrumental.
After the stunning introduction to their sound, they don’t quite achieve this height again, with four songs (and three remixes) but they’ve come up with something that you want to hear endlessly, and they are easily the best new band I’ve been lucky enough to hear, certainly this millennium. Most of the quality CDs coming my way in recent memory have tended to be the work of an individual, or bands who have albums with a lot of quality showing through but a few duff tracks or, in the case of The Brides, so much material coming that you know the impact of those records could have been even better if certain tracks had been shifted from one disc to another. With 13th Sky you’re only looking at four tracks, but they’re superb.
‘Justify’ is bracing, ‘What The Silence Brings’ is them operating as Stealth Goth, with the keyboards acting as a hammock beneath suspiciously sweet vocals, ‘Your Perfect Thing’ glides with gluey bass and knowing vocal guile (a female-led Danse Society for the 21st Century, that sort of thing) and ‘In Blue’ is a mix of delicacy and poison. These songs have just the right mix of brevity and repetition. Almost commercially wholesome, but still underground.
The remixes provide slight changes. The Razor Skyline treatment of ‘Justify’ comes at you with clear and enchanting vocals but a lesser bass impact, ‘What The Silence Brings’ in its Control Theory remix has a lava lamp cadence and electro coating, while ‘En Azul’ is a straight Spanish cover of ‘In Blue’.
If they have anything else on CD I’d love to review it.
ACID ICE FLOWS
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Good grief! I open up the sleeve and there’s a bloke with that long, lank curly hair, with the big back upper arm tattoos and I’m thinking I’m in for a bad metal encounter. Then I see he’s called Gollum and I’m aware it’s either going to far worse than anything I could imagine or he has to have a sense of humour and I’ll be in for a treat.
It’s the latter, so rejoice with me!!!!! Strange he may be, but his talent is frequently audacious. There’s very little orchestral sophistication in electronics, so some of the keyboard work is a bit plinky, and atonal, emotionless vocals can be a bit of a problem but you have to see past the opening effect and go for what he’s doing. He deadens and flattens the voice out, and then the chorus erupts like a flagon of fleas in your face, as fluted electronics seethe brightly. It’s as good as any dark electro, but it’s very dark. Very.
He’ll use frisky synth as an agile counterpoint to his vocal stew and while he may sound irritating, mystifying us with his lack of verbal clarity, he’s good plenty of little surprises in most tracks ensuring it isn’t just a slow start and then a constant pace until the end. That’s what 90% of experimental Industrial offshoots give us, and that’s boring, but Gollum is a weird man. He has a beautiful austere cinematic glow to “Deception” which is seriously impressive, ushering in normal vocals, which are instantly preferable. These aren’t that great, being somewhat nasal and reedy, but the song achieves a still feel, with a sense of longing.
He can get chillier and moodier with “Final Scream” and adventurous for “Deliver The Disease” with a shuffling, jerking experiment which further demonstrates his range and when he goes for the very quiet music let’s be polite and say I’m sure if The Terminator ever retired and opened a stamp shop he too would create something close to ‘Stop The Feeling’ in his spare time.
There’s gloopy grandeur coming out of “The Abyss”, an utterly fantastic emotionally proactive experience called ‘Interlude’ which is just that, and annoyingly short, “Cold” might be Babylon Zoo with its cheeky drawl and spacey jokes, and then some weirdness to end. “Stop The Feeling” gets a wiggly remix and goes for popper moves, with ‘One Hundred Years’ being a more interesting dance attempt because it isn’t trying to impress, but the snarling and sick remix of “Formations” takes us too far into a dull torment, and shows Gollum’s creepier work is best when pretty lively. Intense and claustrophobic - bad, intense and agitated angst-ridden - good. Very good indeed.
My album of the month! Who’d have thought it?
DELIVER THE DISEASE
STOP THE FEELING
FORMATIONS (SINKING MIX)
STOP THE FEELING (RED LIGHT MIX)
ONE HUNDRED YEARS
Acid Ice Flows "Angbad" is now available through Projekt Records distribution for $11.98. Click here to purchase.
OKTOBER / COMPATRIOT GAMES (Oktober Productions)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I’ll say again, I like what I hear of these chaps, but I also see problems. ‘Oktober’ has some ominous synth speculation and a martial beat gone squidgy, with grazed Eurobeat sneering, and it’s a fine thing. The Synthetik remix then takes into consideration its obvious flaws. First it gives us the added bass, which creates a warmer pull, and it tries to widen the impact of the vocals which simply aren’t clear in the original mix. With ‘Compatriot Games’ (yes, love that title) it’s an ungainly, blobby, thrusting entity where the roaring vocal style surely defeats the purpose of having lyrics that are clever and convey a point?
It’s not like they’re singing mystical Goth-metal bollocks where doomy-echoey-treated garbage sounds complicit and acceptable. They have a reason behind what they’re doing, so let’s fucking hear it! The remix again makes things better, but there’s a basic point here. In the Yellow Pages you don’t have to embarrass yourself by looking for Singing Lessons, thinking you’ll be sitting in a waiting room among naturally gifted eight year olds who’ll all be giggling and nudging each other about the red-faced man in the corner. Look for a Vocal Coach, and get someone to advise you seriously about breathing and intonation. It will work wonders.
COMPATRIOT GAMES (K-Nitrate)
Order Of The Illuminati
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
If thrash is your thing, you need to buy Agent Steel's Order of the Illuminati as soon as you can. I haven't heard thrash metal this pure, this unadulterated, this unsullied by modern times since... well, since that Overkill live DVD from last year, but that was the exception to the rule. You know, Rule 1A. The rule that states "This kind of music died a long time ago, when a meteor hit the earth and covered all that lived in suffocating ash. None shall make it again, lest they face eternal doom". Overkill is the only other band I know of to survive the Great Thrash Cataclysm of the '90s without pulling a 'Black Album'. Nowdays, Agent Steel and Overkill are the last pair of aces left in old-school metal's dwindling hand.
Agent Steel was founded in 1985 (explaining their archaic sound), but disappeared from the metal landscape for a decade or better while thrash grew, thrived, withered, and died. Apparently, they were recently unfrozen -like Captain America- from an icy glacier, and once thawed, resumed making music as if no time at all had passed. If Order Of The Illuminati had come out in 1988, it would have been bigger than big. Huger than huge. Its blistering guitar leads and anthemic shouted choruses would have reverberated in headbangers skulls until they dropped unconscious. Parents would have sneered in contempt at the mere mention of their name. My friend BJ would have silkscreened T-shirts with Agent Steel's logo on them in his spare time. These days, I doubt it will even get radio airplay here in the US. How times have changed.
Though lacking some of the sticky hooks of Master of Puppets era Metallica (and sounding a bit slicker), Order... is easily on par with Overkill's Horrorscope or pre-Practice What You Preach Testament. It's superior to any of Exodus or Anthrax's output from that hallowed age. It's less technically impressive than Megadeth's insane early albums, but is arguably more enjoyable since Dave Mustaine's shrill whine is nowhere to be found... and don't let me mislead you (try though I may). Agent Steel is full of fine musicians. They fit with the best of that long faded era, which is what makes this such a strange release to come out today, as nu-metal befouls the ears of an unknowing generation.
What a beautiful anachronism Order... is. I admit, I regularly blast current powermetal bands for doing exactly what Agent Steel has done - taking an old genre and playing the style note for note like the masters did. Maybe I just tolerate thrash metal better since there's less of it around, or maybe I'm just a fickle bastard. I think the difference, though, is that Agent Steel's Order Of The Illuminati truly stands up to the best examples of thrash. You'd be a fool not to buy this album if you fondly remember the days when ass-kicking metal towered over the American music scene in defiant scorn. These are no pretenders. They are for real, and they shred.
02.) Ten Fists Of Nations
03.) Earth Under Lucifer
06.) Apocalypse (World Without Windows)
07.) Forever Black
08.) Dance Of St.Vitus (Bass Solo)
09.) Dead Eyes
10.) Kontrol (instrumental)
11.) Human Bullet
Agent Steel is:
Juan Garcia - Guitars
Bernie Versailles - Guitars
Karlos Medina - Bass
Bruce Hall - Vocals
Rigo Amezcua - Drums
Agent Steel Official Site:
The End Records (US):
Distorted DJ 2 CD set
~reviewed by Goat
Disc two of this set is one of the most inconsistent and irritating discs I've encountered for a while. Disc 2 contains remixes of Asche's work, by other DJs, and most of it is nauseatingly repetitive and uninspiring. Where the original works challenged the listener, the remixes take the wild beasts Asche created, and mount them nicely on the wall in the den, rendering them lifeless, harmless, and without motion or meaning. Needless to say, I won't be playing Disc 2.
Disc one, however, keeps all the teeth and all the fur that make dark drones feel armed and dangerous. A wonderful disc for late nights up doing whatever assails you. You'll be looking out the window, wondering if maybe Lovecraft was on to something. Varying between careful creeping drones and fast-paced attacks, Disc 1 is a beauty to behold. Toss Disc 2 in the bin; wear Disc 1 out!
Asche website: http://www.ant-zen.com/asche
Distributed in the U.S. via: http://www.soleilmoon.com
DES PAROLES BLANCHES (Arkadyss)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
It’s magic. Again. But that is their speciality, so it’s hardly unexpected, although an EP is a trifle out of the ordinary.
Three curious encounters with their distinctive style finds you first patiently observing a gentle trickle of typically autumnal acoustic, as the simple lines start to overlay, and the background swelling of the keyboards build up the depth over which the lyrics in English are draped in a somewhat stark, pained manner.
The mystery I normally get from their work, with lyrics in French or Italian, is still preserved, because I can’t follow what they’re on about. Something to do with the sea.
‘Veules Les Roses’ is more of the same but the twin cortex of the two voices; one light, one dark, but neither soft, shows you the only thing you need to know. They have that special edge, because the vocals have edge, when they should seem simply polite.
‘Hovering’ sees the synth rise to prominence, evoking a settle spirit to this, with surging waves included. They’re almost the masters of Ethereal here, but with rays of divine sunlight instead of wispy mist. Their equally fabulous soaring high-pitched vocal style emerge, to lift you skyward, at which point the piece becomes weirder, surging itself, dreamlike and smoky.
Miss it and you’re an arse.
VEULES LES ROSES
Mon Seul Desir (Cruel Moon)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
More beauty, with less of the grand constructs of some of their earlier works, because as they get ever better at weaving rich concoctions from the simplest of ingredients, the mystery is intensified when it appears to be in such a conventional setting. Although the synth can provide certain teasing sounds, we’re mainly talking about vocals and acoustic guitars, with the old bodhran filling in the percussive density. Yet out of these basic elements they make the most extraordinary moods come alive, far more arresting and enveloping than your typical Ethereal, Ambient or Industrial bands with a full arsenal at their disposal. It’s crazy!
There’s only two traditional pieces of music updated here, the rest being modern, but all very quiet and enigmatic.
What is most noticeable here is the richly warm, aromatic acoustics. Yesterday I pointed out how the vocals can seem to dance around the guitar, but on this album it’s like they’re serenading it, and swimming around it. In ‘Aliscon’ the simple sounds even drops down to a sparser feel where they sing about things with a sense of absolute wonder in the voice, and when they coast into the traditional ‘Jarem Gitti’ which doesn’t put over a stereotypical Eastern promise, the tiny ululations scamper through like naughty shrill ghosts.
It’s Vittorio Vandelli’s acoustic on ‘Sendero En Lago Verde’ which is the stunning musical star here, being chunkier, steadier, and more beautiful than ever! just as he uncoils elegantly throughout ‘Eaudelamer’, and there’s another thing. How come they do this so much better than others? Think what a boring thing acoustic and vocals can be and dredge up whatever hoary old Hippy Goth memories you may have. Ataraxia are nothing like that. They make it all seem intoxicating. I remain mystified.
On the final two tracks they have more modern moves, but still keep it under control. Where previously they’ve shown some wilder racketeering, here they are warm and cosy, with a hint of the sour and sinister. The final track actually starts as a medieval thing, with severe cooing and chirping, but then a gap appears, whereupon it seeps back in with synth and percussion stirring up the mix and guiding us out on the same tone but in a wholly different way, which is a clever idea.
More hugely captivating material. You have to love them.
SENDERO EN LAGO VERDE
MUNDUS EST JOCUNDUM
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
It’s not a common practice for me to review a CD single, which consists of eight different versions of one song. Not to mention the fact that the style of the song in question is part of a genre that has basically overshadowed everything I love about dark organic music. As most know, ‘the thud’ drives the bats right out of the belfry. However, what follows will indeed be a favourable review of a highly catchy synth pop single! Simply because an honest music critic can recognize what is good, and when something possesses genuine quality, regardless of their own subjective musical preferences, you gotta give it props. I like to think that I am one of those critics that possess that ability.
The Azoic were once one of the scariest bands in existence. And at that time, it seemed like only a select group of scary individuals relished their first two discs of unsettling doom and gloom. But over the past few years, the band has morphed into a futuristic synth pop project that has received overwhelmingly positive interest in the dark club scene across the globe. And rightfully so. The Azoic is without question following the conventional dance club formulas of heavyweights like VNV Nation, Assemblage 23 and the like, and I don’t think they are at all attempting to disguise that fact. But their music stands out because of its memorable hooks, its consistently hard hitting and upbeat programming, and its melodic sensibility. Not to mention the confident alto vocals of Kristy Venrick. But perhaps the key to the band’s success is that they never entirely abandoned the darker atmospherics of their formative years. However often these bobbing rhythms lure the feet of black clad youths on to their local club’s dance floors, the chilling choir or string samples and vocal melodies still retain the ability to send shivers down the listener’s spine. And that is what sets them apart from most electronic dance acts. The Azoic is just simply good at what they do, and seem to be getting better at their craft as they settle into the current phase of their seven-year existence and prepare for their forthcoming album, Illuminate, due later this year.
Conflict serves as a teaser of what is to come with the aforementioned full-length, and also to prevent the momentum initiated by last year’s Forward release from slowing down. I can’t honestly pinpoint a single thing that the average fan of this genre would not enjoy about this new single. It’s got all the right ingredients to be a contemporary club smash and the song is already well on its way to anthem status it seems. It’s immediately catchy, moody as well as energetic, with an enveloping pristine production and glossy rhythmic punch. And if the album version isn’t enough to strike your fancy or (for DJs) doesn’t quite fit your style of spinning, there are seven alternatives.
I personally enjoyed the first three mixes the most. The Turmoil version is rougher around the edges when compared to the original, and has a slightly more trance-inducing vibe. The wonderfully dark CombiChrist mix is a more gristled deconstruction and hits much harder both physically and atmospherically. Kristy’s melodic vocals are scrapped and replaced with stark spoken bits and creates a much more sinister and hypnotic effect. The Iris remix left me cold. Though this mix employs a slower more intricate and lite trip hop vibe to the song, it meanders along lazily and totally forsakes the energy of the original track. The raw and relatively dynamic Massiv In Mench mix is a good return to form. The notoriously angst-ridden Germans looped one of Kristy’s breathier vocal lines and slightly pitch shifted the rest a bit higher. Musically, it volleys between a steady thud and more rhythmic break beats for a few of the verses. The Negative Format mix is basically an extended version of the song with additional techno flair. Didn’t quite grab me as much as the other tracks did, but it’s still cool and I am sure DJs will find a use for it. By this point, I think you get the idea. Each of the tracks provides a noticeable reinterpretation of the song, while never straying too far from the original ideas.
In addition to the remixes, a multimedia video clip of the track is included. I am a sucker for videos. I am addicted to MTV2 and VH1 Classic, and I have always felt that music video was an enthralling art form. So I always love it when bands include video tracks on their releases, because where the hell else will we see this stuff? At any rate, the “Conflict” video features live clips of the band performing the track interspersed with footage of speeding trains and dizzying shots of steel beams and the like, and the band miming the song in a concrete tunnel. There is some nice clashing of full-colour shots with blue and sepia tinted passages, which balance cold and warm tones. Not to mention a curvaceous gothy gal (probably a close friend of the band that said “I wanna be in your video, dammit!”) that wanders about seemingly lost and stood up by a foolish boy. At any rate, it’s not a work of sublime cinematic art, but its still quite fly and for those of you that dig the band and haven’t had the privilege to have seen them live, you can see the band in action and see who is behind some of these songs you have been groovin’ to.
At any rate, all I can really say here is I can’t write a short review no matter how hard I try. I mean, this is a single for chrissakes. If you dig electro, EBM, synth pop, or whatever the hell they are calling this stuff nowadays, this is not only one of the next anthems, but it is one of the few with any atmospheric substance. So check it out and be on the lookout for “Illuminate” later this year.
1.) Conflict (Album Version)
2.) Conflict (Turmoil Mix)
3.) Conflict (CombiChrist Mix)
4.) Conflict (Alpha Conspiracy Mix by Iris)
5.) Conflict (Massiv In Mensch mix)
6.) Conflict (Phaze Mix by Negative Format)
7.) Conflict (Mechanical Asphyxia Mix by System Syn)
8.) Conflict (Imperative Reaction mix)
· Bonus Video Track
The Azoic is:
Kristy Venrick and Steve Laskarides
The Azoic – Official Site:
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
It seems like only yesterday that I was tasked with enduring Battlelore's debut album, Where The Shadows Lie. It was, in fact, last year (still far too close for comfort)... but the memory of their first album left me with a gnawing dread for the day their followup would arrive. That day has come. Sword's Song is reputedly a fantasy metal album inspired by and based on J.R.R. Tolkien's fabulously popular 'Lord Of The Rings' books. In actuality, though, Battlelore has produced a fantasy metal album where the only fantasy is thinking that this album evokes the spirit of Tolkien's books.
In my review of Where The Shadows Lie, I wrote:
"For every moment that effectively recalls lands far away where epic adventures take place, there are three moments that effectively recall a cut-rate Dream Theater cover band that's fronted by a death metal singer."Well, now the ratio is more like 6:1 in favor of 'prog-ish gothy metal' over 'anything remotely fantasy related'. The songs are genrally upbeat rockers filled with sweeping synth pads and blippy electronic arpeggios. Every now and then, a Nightwish-esque power fantasy mood creeps in or the band churns out a viking-like riff or two, but it's rare. Only the brief instrumental "The Horns Of Gondor" and the opening track "Sons Of Riddermark" capture a true fantasy mood. That said, the music's not necessarily hard to listen to (apart from the 'raging' male vocals), but it isn't anything remarkable or interesting... and it certainly has no real business calling itself fantasy metal, sounding as modern as it does.
The vocals are what turn Sword's Song from a misguided but pleasant album into an exercise in (im)patience. Patrik Mennander's deathmetal-ish 'raging' vocals are wholly intolerable, nearly as bad as Tomi Hovi's from their debut album. Mennander's comical ranting is more muppet-like than orcish. If I wanted to listen to Cookie Monster, I'd turn on Sesame Street. Hovi is, however, listed as a guest 'musician' on Sword's Song... so perhaps it's he who deserves the blame for ruining most of this album. Probably not, though, as nearly all the male vocals sound similar enough that they should receive equal credit.
Whoever decided to let Kaisa Jouhki take a more prominent vocal role on this album than the last was right on the money. She's a fine singer, with a soft, smooth voice. Applied to the right backing music (which sporadically happened on Where The Shadows Lie) her voice is perfect for creating an air of mystic fantasy. On this album, she sounds more like a 'The Gathering' wannabe, through little fault of her own. If Battlelore dropped the vastly overused 'Beauty & The Beast' clean female/growly male vocal arrangement and just let Kaisa sing... and ditched their synthesizers in favor of a lute or something, they might manage to create some memorable fantasy metal. Until then, I'll fantasize about reaching the end of this review so I won't have to listen to Sword's Song again.
01.) Sons Of Riddermark
02.) Sword's Song
03.) The Mark Of The Bear
04.) Buccaneers Inn
05.) Attack Of The Orcs
07.) Chazad-Dum Pt. 2 (Silent Caverns)
08.) Horns Of Gondor
09.) The War Of Wrath
10.) Forked Height
11.) Starlight Kingdom
12.) Bonus Track: The Curse Of The Kings
Jyri Vahvanen- Guitar
Miika Kokkola- Bass
Henri Vahvanen- Drums
Jussi Rautio- Guitar
Patrik Mennander- Clean male and raging vocals
Kaisa Jouhki- Female vocals
Eric Zacharias- Additional synthesizer
Tommi Havo- Background raging vocals
Miitri Aaltonen- Background vocals
Battlelore Official Website:
¥003 + ¥024 + 2X = ¥727
~reviewed by Goat
These guys are so cool. I love how they take this ooey-gooey trip-out "soundscape" type stuff, and then bash the fuck out of it with stab wounds and night sticks. This shit is horrifying, and I love it.
Don't ever feel you can trust a Beefcake track. Even at their most "safe" to the timid ear, they break into some bizarre percussive rant, like dropping an A-bomb on a sunset. Freakin' beautiful.
I very much encourage the adventurous listener to purchase not only this sort of "overview" album, but the full length works from which it is culled. Previous converts to Beefcakeism will not be disappointed, as this collection includes tracks not previously released on the aforementioned full-lengths. This isn't some "best of" collection or anything like that, but more of a high-quality Whitman's Sampler to give you an idea of what Beefcake have been up to for the last while. The nice thing is, none of the candies suck. Sonorous dichotomy rocks. Seriously, if you find music like the symphonic/demonic point/counterpoint of black metal, you might just find yourself digging Beefcake.
Beefcake do not lower themselves to such things.
You want a tracklisting, make it up yo bad self.
On Hymen records, distributed
in the U.S. by:
THE BOXING LESSON
THE BOXING LESSON EP (Send Me Your Head Records)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Now here’s an unusual band, who claim to b chasing “the spirits of Sergio Leone’s dreams through the black holes of the heavens” but they end of up base camp below Twin Peaks, like Mercury Rev’s studious nephews. And that’s no bad thing because while these songs have very little of the night about them, other than the sleeve photography, they’re quietly gorgeous indie things.
‘Mexican Disguise’ is a real delight. Think of some tremulous Chris Isaak guitar and a singing style rarely heard outside of Robert Wyatt albums and you’ll have a fair idea of the finely balance gentility on offer. It’s melodies of this shimmering beauty which you’ll find throughout and the commanding vocal performance during ‘Motorola’ indicates how much they can offer because to do this in a slow song without sounding like a wobbling dunce is really difficult, especially given the bland lyrics.
They go for big flourishes in ‘Every Bite Tastes The Same’ with angelic vocal syrup poured over a wobbling guitar jelly and in the knowing, twitching ‘Hard To Fake’ they dwindle rather flatly, being too undemanding, and maybe that’s the serious flaw. They’re a little too pleasant, with the lyrics faintly reflective, not searing; the music inventive and often arresting, but never exhibiting power.
But as a taster it’s enchanting, and they can only grow even better from here.
EVERY BITE TASTES THE SAME
HARD TO FAKE
Darker Than Black
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Modern interpretations of classic metal styles often suck (see: bands like, oh, 90% of the AFM Records catalogue). Sometimes, though, when the stars align in celestial concordance, a rare beast is born that captures the essence of the olden days while infusing it with new life. Cage's Darker Than Black is one such animal, roaring loudly into the night. It takes a rollickingly fun sprint through familiar territories... merging a healthy dose of metal cheese, unbridled gusto, big riffs, and a reverence for what has been played before.
Above all else, Cage strikes me as a dumbed down Mercyful Fate. That probably sounds harsh, and perhaps it is, but if you were to make the legendary black metal originators' sound simpler, goofier, and perhaps heavier... much of Darker Than Black is what you'd arrive at. Perhaps because they also incorporate Man-O-War-ish powermetal into their musical DNA, Cage's lyrics often come off as funny when they strive to be gravely serious. Their earnest nature is regrettable, if good spirited, as it takes what could be quite aggressively dark metal into more lighthearted territory.
Contradictory though it seems, that same earnestness is likely what makes this album as fun as it is. Vocalist Sean Peck is so over-the-top that he's achieved low orbit and threatens at any moment to break loose the sundry bonds of earth and rocket off into space. His fanatical metal zealotry will convince you that even the most ridiculous lyrics he sings are of the utmost importance. Morphing back and forth from a Halford-like shout to King Diamondy falsetto shrieks to a blackened rasp and all areas in between, Peck is a relentless Transformer- a Decepticon who's goal is to destroy you with intense vocal waves (nevermind those pesky Autobots). Peck's singing defines Cage's sound.
Metal fans could do alot worse than spending their money on Cage's oldschool-blackened power thrash. Who doesn't love an insane raving vocalist and catchy riffs, after all? While a bit lacking in technical virtuosity, Cage more than make up for it with their enthusiasm and fiery performance. If the American metal scene continues staging a resurgence, bands like Cage and Agent Steel may stamp out Nu-Metal and its spawn once and for all. It's about time that someone led the charge against such villainy, and Cage is just the band to sound the clarion call to all fans of real metal... letting them know that their hour of triumph has arrived.
01.) Darker Than Black
02.) Kill the Devil
04.) Blood of the Innocent
05.) Eyes of Obsidian
06.) Philadelphia Experiment
07.) March of the Cage
08.) White Magic
09.) Door to the Unknown
10.) Secret of Fatima
11.) Wings of Destruction
13.) Forces of Freedom
Mike Giordano - Bass
Dave Garcia - Lead / Rhythm Guitar
Sean Peck - Lead Vocals
Anthony Wayne McGuiniss - Lead / Rhythm Guitar
Mike Nielsen - Drums
Cage Official Website:
The End Records (US):
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Call me Mister Out Of Touch if you will, but I'd never heard of Chandeen before this album arrived in the review stack. And yet the band have been around for almost ten years in assorted line-ups, Echoes is their sixth album, and according to the promotional info-sheet they're 'one of the leaders of the Heavenly Voices movement'.
Hang on - the Heavenly Voices movement? What's that when it's at home? Is this a genuine musical genre, or the product of a marketing man's fertile imagination? At the risk of being my usual cynical old self, I suspect 'Heavenly Voices' is an artificially created term for use by bands who can't quite bring themselves to say 'Ethereal' - rather like bands who want to delicately tip-toe around the G-word will sometimes call themselves 'Darkwave' or other suchlike synonyms. But if you're looking for a one-word description of the music Chandeen make, here it is. They are unequivocally....ethereal. It's like, how much more ethereal could they get? And the answer is none. None more ethereal.
Echoes is a collection of smoothly-produced mood pieces, all hushed meanderings and delicate forays into filigree and shadow. The words of Oscar Wilde, William Blake, and Edgar Allen Poe crop up in the lyrics. Chandeen seem to see themselves as darkly sensitive romanticists, ever swooning o'er tragedy and beauty in some moonlit arbour - a stylistic area in which, of course, the aforementioned poets reign unchallenged. And, to be sure, their words fit the mood very well:
'A dreamy peace on either hand...writes Oscar Wilde in 'Impressions - La Fruite de la Lune', as delicate acoustic guitar spingle-spangles around his words. Ol' Oscar might have been writing to order, so neatly do his sentiments fit in with Chandeen's ethereal-goth aesthetic.
Deep silence in the shadowy land'
Chandeen's own lyrics are peppered with references to such imagery as 'tears in memories' and 'dark magic and charms' - in general, they cover their stylistic territory very effectively. Unfortunately, here and there they fall into the same trap as Deine Lakaien. Their efforts to write sensitive, poetic lyrics in their second language occasionally throws up some embarrassingly bathetic howlers. Try this, from 'Drawn By The Sea':
'As we get together, like it used to beNow, is that banal, or is that banal? If you told me that was the chorus from Kylie Minogue's latest hit, I'd believe you. On the title track, Chandeen even recycle the same clunky old calling/falling rhyme with which Deine Lakaien entertained me at the Wave Gotik Treffen:
Get together...just you and me'
'I'm calling for you, for youHo, and, indeed, hum. What is it about the calling/falling rhyme which is so attractive to lyricists? The English language is awesome in its subtlety and beauty, and yet these writers just keep on coming back to the same-old, same-old. If Chandeen don't feel themselves capable of writing lyrics which can hold their own with the works of Wilde, Blake and Poe (and let's face it, that would be a tall order even for an English-language poet) why don't they write in their native German? Why not, indeed, incorporate the words of German poets such as Goethe or Schiller into their own particular brand of sturm und drang?
And I'm falling for you, for you'
Ultimately, Echoes works well as mood music, as a collection of background atmospheres, and if ethereal-ism is your bag then I'd say buy with confidence. Just be prepared to listen to Chandeen's lyrical efforts with a selective ear.
A Dream Within A Dream
In The Forest
Drawn By The Sea
Impressions - La Fruite De La Lune
Call Of The Banshees
Red Blood, Blue Soul
Antje Schulz: Vocals, instruments
Harald Lowy: Instruments, vocals
Christiane Fischer: Cello
Antje Bucheiser: Vocals
Florian Walther: Guitar
The website: http://www.chandeen.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
CLAN OF XYMOX
~review by Mick Mercer
One of the big boys, and they certainly don’t disappoint, because this has class from top to tail. I didn’t follow the clearly serious depth which the lyrics hold, being on certain themes of regret because often the vocals are kept gently obscured by the frothy mix, which is not the best use of a good voice, but I was transfixed by the sheer translucent opulence of these songs which are grand without being pompous, and eerie without being remote.
It’s richly textured and rapacious at times, little lines streaming out a fairly secretive beat. For the most part the songs ooze quality and work as a group of tracks, without standout songs, but ‘There’s No Tomorrow’ with cool/cruel samples is a blistered item of feverish luxury, and ‘Dark Mood’ can do bleak while sleek, and be creepy yet sounding pretty, tremendously arresting with an extended otherworldly ending. This makes for a great central part of the record as it moves onto ‘One More Time’ with a guitar line I’ve heard elsewhere, on a song with deft strings and an ever-building surging feel, that then tapers off with ‘It’s Not Enough’ which is a plain rocker in the Psy Furs mould and utterly wonderful.
There’s the charming glide of ‘Losing My Head’, the clanking sharp twists of ‘Into Extremes’ and the addictive neon neural deodorant that is the clean, dry ‘Courageous’. True, the opening vocals are a bit Eldritchy, but it picks up nicely afterwards.
You can’t go wrong with this, as it fills your room without being too demanding, allowing you to fully appreciate and get to grips with exquisite emotional etchings.
COLD DAMP DAY
THERE’S NO TOMORROW
ONE MORE TIME
IT’S NOT ENOUGH
LOSING MY HEAD
Expansion 1.3.1, 1.3.2
~reviewed by Goat
Annoying at best, nausea-inspiring at worst. This is the kind of stuff that rich, liquid-acid-dropping artschool wankers fawn over. Of course add background screens playing 50s naval training movies, and you've got haute couture. Yawn. Pretentious, cumbersome, ridiculous. Highly not recommended.
1.3.1 Track list:
in accordance with utopia
1.3.2 Track list:
unreal (live remix)
U.S. Distribution via: http://www.soleilmoon.com
TEMPLE OF SECRETS EP (Corrosion)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
As this is the only second release in 2 ½ year from the ex-All Living Fear boys, it’s hard to know what they’re doing it for. (You certainly get no explanation on their website.) Maybe the album planned for early 2004 will explain things better?
I’d heard they were rocky, but despite some good ideas, the fact their ‘The Elemental’ won Meltdown’s best demo for 2001 shows what a drab year it must have been, with such regimented vocals and non-committal guitar, which is why it is good that the Dopamines remix here has happened. They recommend you go hot foot to http://www.dopamines.co.uk for more information, but the site isn’t there! Because this is so much livelier (despite highlighting how plain the synth sound is) I think they should run their ideas past him/her first in future, then follow the power plan suggested, because the ideas works well and could help them.
Their main problem is they’re a duo, and on this EP you see too much evidence of this, where the voice lacks true power and aren’t brought up enough in the mix, because the instruments are already being held back enough to give the vocals some sort of emphasis.
The songs are okay. ‘Temple Of Secrets’ is 80’s trad Goth with a bit more in the way of guitar lines, ‘Morning Dew’ is apparently some ‘classic’ Bonnie Dobson track, and never having heard the original I accept this plaintive thing is lovingly crafted, because it’s a tribute to a mate of theirs, who was involved with the original song, one Tim Rose. It’s very gentle, with occasional soaring notes. (To my amazement it has also been covered by Einsturzende, Pulp, Marc Almond and – eek! – Robert Plant.) The most imaginative Corrosion track is ‘Cold Blooded Martyr’ where the rock element seems freer, and the guitar is great throughout, then the Dopamine thing saves the day properly.
I’m not meaning to imply this is bad at all, as it has a consistently quality level, very much in the lighter end of Goth Rock. Being curiously mild, it simply isn’t exciting in any way.
If you’re buying from outside the UK order online at their site, and within the UK send a cheque for £3.50, which includes postage, payable to Corrosion, to Corrosion, Pludda House, Station Road, Bovey Tracey, Devon, TQ3 9AS. ALF fans certainly won’t notice a whole world of difference.
TEMPLE OF SECRETS
COLD BLOODED MARTYR
TEMPLE OF SECRETS (Dopamines Discomix)
www.alllivingfear.co.uk -‘Home Too Soon’ LP released Sept 2003, shortly before Whitby appearance.
Fiends Of Dope Island (Vengeance)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
I'm very envious of The Cramps. It must be so cool to be able to live your entire life like you're starring in your very own B-movie; to construct your own world of chrome and leather, high heels and tail fins. That's The Cramps' great achievement: they're trash icons, prophets from planet rock 'n' roll. We can't all live our lives like The Cramps, but once in a while they'll put out an album and invite us to their party.
I've lost count of the number of albums The Cramps have released to date, and I certainly can't remember how many different line-ups they've had over the years, so don't expect any erudite contextualising or scene-setting with this one. I'll simply predict that Fiends Of Dope Island will go down in Cramps-history as a bit of a classic. It's got more fire and energy than we have any right to expect after all this time, more wit, humour and gung-ho spirit than most bands can muster in an entire career. The Cramps fuel themselves up with all the enthusiasm and glee of a brand new band, and plunge into a set of classic Cramp-o-rama that's easily as good as anything they've ever done.
You know you're in for a rollercoaster ride when the very first song on the album is entitled 'Big Black Witchcraft Rock' - and yes, it most certainly lives up to its name, with Lux Interior hog callin' the lyrics over one of those magnificent rock 'n' roll bashabouts that The Cramps always do so well. Poison Ivy's guitar grinds and churns, unceremoniously rough 'n' ready on the big bad riff. It's a song which steps right up and dares you to suggest that The Cramps' bellies are any less full of fire than they used to be. And then there's the utterly wonderful 'Doctor Fucker', a song which I suspect exists purely to allow Lux Interior to have some fun with the rhythm of those two words.The whole thing is soaked, nay, marinated in so much reverb that 'Doctor' and 'Fucker' crash into each other like particles in an accelerator as Lux gets loose on the chorus. It's a mad and marvellous stomper with some great voodoo drums thrown in along the way. And the good Doctor's final piece of advice? 'Take two weeks' worth of drugs/And call me in the morning'. Don't try that at home, kids. Oh, all right, go on then.
'She's Got Balls' is a warped love song, a hymn of praise to 'Miss Mascara Monster' who's 'Thin as piss on a plate/And high as the sky above'. A very fine companion song to 'Big Balls' by AC/DC, if any DJ is brave enough to try it, I'd suggest. And then we meet the 'Mojo Man From Mars', inventor of a strangely addictive dance which will getcha any time of day: 'It's too early for the bars/And I done wrecked both the cars' sings Lux, helpless in the grip of the Mojo Man's compulsion and convulsions. The lyrics on this album are as gloriously funny and surreal as ever. Rather unfairly, you'll seldom see The Cramps given any credit as lyricists, but they've always had the uncanny ability to set up a weird, wired world in just a few words; they can take us to another place and have us dancing and laughing within a couple of verses and a crazed chorus. It's a rare skill, and there are plenty of instances of that skill at work here.
But if I was to name one song as my favourite, it would be 'Elvis Fuckin' Christ'. Now, there's something about that title that kind of clues you in to the fact that this isn't a nice little ballad, right? It's a dangerously insane romp, a grand proclamation of undiluted rock 'n' roll attitude, with Lux roaring and railing against the 'Big rock awards' on TV, which have apparently 'Crowned a brand new king'. And, of course, it should've been him, because he's 'Chicken pluckin', go-goo muckin', Elvis fuckin' Christ!' The entire song is an insane, assertive anthem, a steaming, fire-breathing theme song, a statement of intent, The Cramps unceremoniously planting their black flag right in the front yard of anyone who thinks Nickelback is as good as it gets. All this and a harmonica blasting away like a train. What what more could you want?
So, it's time to get a little attitude in your life. It's time to fire up the hot rod and get down to The Cramps' virtual drive-in. Neck those funny green pills, turn it up loud, and spend a while with the Fiends Of Dope Island. I'll guarantee the party will be a blast.
Oh, and a postscript. Just
in case you were still in any doubt about The Cramps' warped, genius wit,
I note with great delight that Lux Interior and Poison Ivy's songs are
published by 'Hiss And Hearse Publishing'. Now tell me you don't
Big Black Witchcraft Rock
Papa Satan Sang Louie
Fissure Of Rolando
Doctor Fucker M.D.
Elvis Fucking Christ
She's Got Balls
Mojo Man From Mars
Color Me Black
Wrong Way Ticket
Lux Interior: Vocals, harmonica,
Poison Ivy: Guitar, theremin
Chopper Franklin: Bass, rhythm guitar
Harry Drumdini: Drums
The Cramps don't have an official website, but these fan sites contain the essential stuff:
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Light Streaming Down
~reviewed by Jezebel
I am torn already. Just looking at the CD in its very unique casing, I am torn. I love the unique casing. Something too polished to be home-done, but just enough “homedonedness” to it to be charming. You open it up like a present and that is cool. But…BUT. I like my CD display in my living room. People come in and say “ooh” because of my CDs…this wouldn’t sit in it very well. So. 10 on design. 2 on practicality.
But this is about music. Right?
And what music it is. This is my first Australian band that I have reviewed (I just don’t count Nick Cave – sorry he’s English, in my head anyway) so I am quite ready and intrigued. I don’t know what I expected or why I expected something different because it was from Aussies, but I did. And ya know what, I was not disappointed.
A mixture of Rhea’s Obsession with Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Cranes, Faith and Disease and Shroud with an Aussie flavour is the way to describe this. Atmospheric and soft and elevating, it dances into your ears and just softly floats around your brain like a ghost in a haunted house.
The second track, “Light Streaming Down,” i.e. the title track is so interesting in that there are different production values here, it’s about mesmerizing you and pulling you into something. And they do that somehow through the production AND the music. I think because we have such unique instruments (Appalachian dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, lute, bowed psaltery) coupled with a culture that gives such a unique insight into percussion, we get something exciting and rare. Well, at least to this American ear.
As the title track sings, hums, at times, bounces along, you walk along with them on their journey, and it’s pleasant and relaxing and kind. It’s a tad overdrawn and done… ending earlier than I think it does.
“Les Parapluies Qui Ont Mange Les Paris.” Yup – say that five times fast. I can’t say it once as my French is restricted to ballet terms and bad tourist French. Okay – off to google.com. “The Umbrellas Which Have Eats Paris” – now that is NOT what they intended, is it? Oh who cares, this sultry, sometimes surprising music is lovely and the perfect partner to a night in a club as you are discussing the meaning of life. It sits in the background, and sometimes offers some little jewel of a thought. The production is a little sketchy here though, as the percussion is over done and is scratchy and a bit harsh on the ears. Without it – the song is more lovely.
“To Dream is to Follow” sounded like a Disney song to me when I first saw it. Come on you can see Cinderella singing that, can’t you? So when the soft sound of Naomi’s voice comes out, you are wondering when Cinderella took all those drugs. No…I am not saying that Naomi does take drugs! Please don’t read that and take it that way. I was just wondering when Cinderella lost that blue dress and the tiara and found herself some free floating dresses, let her hair out and ran barefoot through the meadow. This is folksy in a grown-up way which is very pretty, although I don’t know if Naomi’s voice fills the song enough. I like it, I could grow to love, but I would love to hear a fuller voice try it. Attempt to contrast the softness of the music itself. The very fairy like sound. Sorry…that is what I think of. What I see when I hear this song. Strung out fairies. Hope that makes sense to you – because it barely does to me.
“Cella’s Movement” starts with the softest of flourishes and the strangest of sounds. A gorgeous beginning. Intriguing and beguiling. As I believe it is ethereal’s job to do, this takes you on a softly coated journey into dreams and visions and landscapes within one’s mind. You are never really pulled or pushed anywhere, but slightly guided, being given enough freedom to travel, yet not enough rope to hang oneself. There is something magickal in a band that can do that. Yes this is bathtub music. Even when it “kicks in” (we are talking an ethereal kick by the way), it never is jarring and is still supportive of your dreamscapes.
“Begin Journey (Rejiggered)” is a remix of the first song which I had not mentioned. I thought I would do them together. I really like the original version. It’s soft, welcomes you into the album, sets the stage for the rest of listening. So…why “rejigger” it. Damn, they did it. Shit…let’s have the possible dance track. Something that perhaps the DJ will play early in the evening, right after Dead Can Dance. Something all the swirly girly girls will come out to…well, to swirl their skirts to. I am not saying that is not well done, but when the remix is almost twice as long as the original, there is something a little odd here. And I just have a problem with the gratuitous; let’s put the remix there so we can get some DJ play. But that is just me.
I am having trouble writing the last paragraph for this. The conclusion. AHA. The last song ended, my brain is free again. I personally like this album quite a bit. I think it’s interesting and unique ethereal music. There is a great introducing of unique instruments.
I like Dandelion Wine. They were a tasty drink.
Dandelion Wine are:
Naomi Henderson: vocals, flute
Nicholas Albanis: guitars, Appalachian dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, electronics, bass, doumbek
Steve Wheeler – bass
1) Begin Journey
2) Light Streaming Down
3) Les Parapluies Qui Ont Mange Les Paris
4) To Dream is to Follow
5) Cella’s Movement
6) Begin Journey (Rejiggered)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I was enthusiastic about their previous single and I’m equally impressed this, for what I imagine will mainly be a mood-inspired band and one you might care for, as albums which enrich the tone of an evening’s listening in a subtle manner are always ones which grow in our affections.
This four track demo CD gives a hint of the album they plan to release later this year and there are three out of four which are great “Higher Ground” gives us an impressively big drum sound, with beautifully swelling keyboards from Stuart Meadows, and gently obscured vocals which soar unexpectedly at the end, seeming deceptively sluggish but with its own sense of space and, therefore, life. “Time” has a crisp rhythm track and Michael’s Clayton’s most attractive vocals, which weave neatly between softly bulging musical shapes as the keyboards inflate and subside, and the guitars seem to hum. It’s a nicely full sound but allows you to loll, contemplatively. Then “End Of Forever” turns out to give a sleek synth buzz, where only backing vocals build, then end unexpectedly, creating an impressively pretty thing.
The only duff aspect comes with “Horizons” which seems listless, being too similar to the first two in tone and Michael almost flops around with vocals, sounding impassioned and dreamy but actually not stamping his presence in the track, which is a shame because there’s some inventive work here, particularly with Andy Meadows and his weird guitar noise.
Overall though, this is quality work and as these are still just demos the album should be very interesting. See their website for further clues.
ASTRAL ADVENTURES (Massacre)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I’m not a great Goth Metal fan but after weeks of Industrial-lite and Electro sounds it’s always a relief, and usually refreshing, to hear the purring power of guitars and drums pushing songs along with genuine subtlety, and these instruments are the stars of Darkseed’s show. It can remind you of why this music works in such spectacular fashion. Sometimes. In the case of Darkseed, I think they’ve got trouble.
I like the artistic splashes which enliven ‘Where Will I Go’ so we don’t notice the song drifting fruitlessly, and the chiming bells suggest a mordant feel to ‘Can’t Explain’ only for the manic voice to dwindle until just the munching riffs remain in your mind. This guitar hits out bravely throughout ‘Life’ and the vocals adopt a natural approach which sounds good, but also sweep back into a tough stance and come over as drab, so this must be that ‘difficult a sixth album’, because there are problems scattered throughout any appreciation of this. It seems to have no real direction. Every track is good because of the guitar and drums, and there’s no taking away from their power to see a song clip along sounding crisp, but it’s veering on light metal because of the prosaic studio stuffiness.
A touch of folky roots show through in ‘Rain Of Revival’ and they have a truly beautiful number in ‘Forever Stay’ where the sound opens up and even the clever studio touches work, but overall this is worrying because nothing else sounds authentic. Despite an existence apparently known for a heavy sound and a sense of melancholia, this is a studio-dominated album where everything seems to have been mixed to have be curiously sedate. Whoever plays - or suggested - the milky synth (unaccredited on the press release or promo sleeve) during ‘Souls Unite’ probably shoulders most of the blame. It’s a perfect example of a song that should have exploded into life, slashing and grim-faced, having its fluidity totally dampened down. It’s like they just mustn’t be seen as <i>too</i> lively!
Firstly, the male and female vocal approach is a total waste of time. The male voice is usually enclosed and treated with the grazed effect and is down low, the occasional female voice is bright and up high, clear as can be. She can sing, he’s all pretend power. One of them has to shut up. There’s no point her being there, because her sudden appearances (usually kept fairly brief) are almost a silly distraction, and they hardy help his work when highlighting his obvious deficiencies.
The male voice of Stefan Hertrich will stay, but he has to brought to the foreground and made to compete with the guitars, which are always being held back to accommodate the levels the producers have set to bring out supposed vocal nuances. The fact none exist is worrying. You need vocals to grab a hold of you, but through this album every single song is powered and dominated by guitars, which aren’t even allowed free reign and the vocals have no impact whatsoever.
FLY INTO THE NIGHT
WHERE WILL I GO
TRAIN OF REVIVAL
IT SHALL END
MUSIC TO CRASH CARS TO (Wasp Factory)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
“There’s an angel fucking a dead man, over the way”
I don’t blame Wasp Factory being overjoyed at releasing this album, because it is truly scintillating, verging on a sensation, and one of the few must-have albums of the year.
With his drum and bass, drizzled techno and programmed awareness, Deathboy (the man) and Deathboy (the band) create a different throbbing pustule on the scabby face of the Industrial scene, because there is part of the brain poking through the sores. It isn’t ever as loud as you might anticipate, it doesn’t really repeat, it hardly falters, and the crucial component is the lyrics. Even when a song is noticeable weaker than a predecessor the words still act like a scalpel on your wariness.
This really connects, and sears, and then steers.
From the start the music lashes out, and the coolly melodic vocals reside like a rascally rodeo cowboy atop a fucking bronco, then switches round in ‘Computer #1’ to be sweet and poppy, immediately showing what vast crossover film potential there must be here, because the feathered Industrial style means crystalline sounds and sensitive vocals. There’s plenty to hear, and plenty to react to.
It isn’t pretty but in its gore there are pleasantries, even with the vile, menacing lyrics of ‘Decimate’ an Antish charm parades, and the lighter sounds, as with ‘Parasite’, scoop you up, then bobble away with you, until you realise that while they may well be the bastard offspring of NIN and Aphex Twin, so the vocals border on a psychotic EMF, having commercial common sense.
“There’s politicians French-kissing babies, over the way.”
It chomps, it stabs, it wraps the razored guitar sound round your head and sets you walking across barbed-wire tightrope, keeping you guessing, and thrilled. The curse of such talent is that some songs which most bands would sell their secret stash of Kylie memorabilia for, seem positively dull by comparison to the rest of their material. ‘Killer’ is either feudal or primal, and basically just nicely weird, ‘Change’ so soppy it’s virtually Electro din, and ‘I Know You Know’ has a jaundiced jackhammer beat but still slurps slowly. That’s a ludicrously wide variety, which still all sounds like them. ‘Lost Again’, ‘Sick World’ and ‘Heat Death’ have brilliant words creeping out from the froth and dank, sour surprises, as the beat goes on, and your speakers whip up their petticoats and run from the room screaming.
I expected a beach landing of demon spawn, but ended up with bleached musical porn, so I’m happy. Play repeatedly, until dead.
WE WILL DESTROY
HELL IS ON THE WAY
I KNOW YOU KNOW
MUSIC TO CRASH CARS TO
The Burning Passion
~reviewed by Goat
Hmmm. I'm thinkin' "No".
I didn't like this CD the first time I put it on. So, I listened to it again a few hours later in the car, and still didn't like it. So, I waited a week and put it on and I still didn't like it; I think it's safe to say I'm giving this one a hearty thumbs down.
The question of "why" the thumbs down happened is a little harder to describe. Divine Rapture have all the right ingredients, but somehow I just don't dig the way they're mixed. Well, no, I'm not even so sure about all the ingredients. It's like this:
The death metal drumming and guitar work blaze. Wonderfully done. The Biohazard sounding nu-metal rappy stuff mixed in is probably an interesting addition, but not one I care for, even remotely. Throwing in the Graveland-type "kindling and screaming" audio scenes is getting the soup pretty full of ingredients, but then that dash of Rush prog-rock kind of stuff just makes for _way_ too many textures working against each other.
If Divine Rapture would just focus on the straight updeath metal, I'd dig 'em. This album would be great without all the hokey "let's throw this in" stuff. Let hip hop be hip hop. Death metal ain't broken. Don't fix it!
1. The Kindling
2. Your Time Has Come
4. My Demon Your Dove
5. The Defying, The Sorrow, The Awakening
6. Funeral Mist
7. Affliction Of Faith
8. Black Moon Harvest
9. Spirit Storm Serenade
10. No Future, No Past
11. The Smothering
On Listenable Records
Divine Rapture is:
J.J. and Mike Hrubovcak, Babak Davodian, and Ryan Moll.
DREAMS OF SANITY
THE GAME (Hall Of Sermon)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Do you remember my weird review of a proposed musical my girlfriend Lynda got roped into singing for? You might have thought that was slightly off the radar for a journal like this, but this album is not that different in many ways, featuring as it does The Return Of The Concept Album.
It is the story of a creature, and his life. The concept is of him being a living metaphor for the cruelties of fate and chance: in short, highlighting the Game Of Life.
They hint in the press release that it is almost ‘progressive’, as in Prog Rock, but I think it’s often closer to Pomp Rock. During ’The Beginning’ it’s Jennifer Rush in a hurry, while ‘The Creature That You Came To See’ finds engineers detecting the voice of Carol Decker from T’Pau trapped several alternative realities down in the mix.
This is 80’s Rock. This is Rawk where, coming from a fine European tradition, you expect any song with a flossy keyboards opening to suddenly break out into ‘The Final Countdown’.
‘The Empress’, amazingly, has a female singer and acoustic in close proximity, which some might see as a cliché, which most tracks here could be accused of. The guitars have some good riffs when the songs are sparse, there are decent keyboard moments of charm, and closing ‘Finity’ is nearly poppy.
And, you will be interested to hear, the press release patiently explains, that the listener, through empathising with the protagonist, is forced to examine their own life as though exposed on the stage. To play out their life. And the creature, in a dreadful irony, is forced to re-visit his life each and every time you play the CD again.
Except that this will not happen, because only a complete fucking imbecile would put up with this shite more than once.
THE CREATURE THAT YOU CAME TO SEE
THE BEGINNING THAT LIES
AND SO (I WALK ON)
THE CREATURE (REPRISE)
stay off your heels
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
earlymay is a band ten years after their time. Cleaner than grunge, but alternately more sincere and less adventurous than “Alternative,” they would have fit in well on post-Nirvana AOR radio. Alas, post-Nirvana has become post-post Nirvana… and the “nostalgia” market is still stuck in the 80s. I’m not sure where earlymay will find a home today; as I listen to stay off your heels I keep thinking of South Park’s “Man from 1996.” (Perhaps they can tour Des Moines… ). This is unfortunate: stay off your heels is a tuneful, thoughtful piece of work, which deserves a larger audience.
Unlike most of today’s alternative rock bands, earlymay does not pay homage to rap-metal or hip hop. stay off your heels could have been recorded in some parallel universe where Eminem still lives with his Mom in the trailer park and Korn and Slipknot are still asking “Do you want fries with that?” In this parallel universe, musicians actually know how to play their instruments, and the rhythm is provided by real drummers, not machines. (Robby Vansaders is to be commended for his tasteful percussion, which runs the gamut from the driving beat of “come around” to the slow tapping that underpins “plummet.”)
The guitar work from Vis Crockett and lead singer Brad Peterson is melodic, hook-laden and hummable. The acoustic openings of “what you wanted” and "stay off your heels” set a melancholy mood which continues throughout the songs. The melodies are strengthened by piano and keyboard work from Charles Newman, as well as contributions from Sinead Hollis on violin and Ariane Lallemand on cello. The musicianship is generally excellent… although Peterson’s vocals could stand some improvement. At present he is a competent singer, who gets his point across, but his voice is not particularly strong. This is not a fatal flaw so much as an area for improvement: Peterson would definitely benefit from some voice lessons. If he learned to project his voice a bit more, and mastered some breathing lessons and gained some confidence he could easily go from competent to superb. The raw material is definitely there: all he needs is a bit of refinement.
Most pop is a guilty pleasure: you don’t need to feel guilty about liking earlymay. They are working in a well-mined vein, even one which most would call “overmined.” And yet they still manage to find a few gems here. Some will tell you that tuneful, guitar-driven rock music has gone the way of the dinosaur: if that’s the case, earlymay is here to take you on a tour of Jurassic Park.
2. what you wanted
3. digital green
4. come around
6. the commuter
8. stay off your heels
Brad Peterson: lead vocal,
Vis Crockett: guitars, optigan,, e-bow
Scott Peterson: bass, backing vocals
Robby Vansaders: drums
Ariane Lallemand, Cello: Sinead Hollis, Violin:
Charles Newman, Piano, Keyboards & Xylophone.
Winds Devouring Men
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Elend is a dark and eloquent French ensemble comprised of elaborately trained classical musicians. They made their debut in the underground with their 1994 opus Leçons De Tenebres which was followed by Les Tenebres Du Dehors in 1996, Weeping Nights in 1997, and the bombastic masterpiece The Umbersun in 1998. All of these releases were thematically inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost and taking a cue from the interpretations of 19th Century Romantic poets like Blake and Shelley, Elend’s portrayal of Milton’s epic offered a sympathetic glorification of Lucifer as an unsung hero-villain.
Musically speaking, Elend set the standard for Neo-Classical and Ethereal bands like Autumn Tears and the hosts of other experimental bands that have emerged over the past decade. Their compositions were shaded by early Dead Can Dance, and also revealed influences from composers such as Purcell, Bach, and Wagner. As the band progressed, their influences veered toward later and less orthodox 20th Century composers like Mahler, Pärt, Gorecki, and Penderecki. Their use of synthesizers was always one of the most impressive aspects of the group, because even though their music was synthesized, it truly resembled an authentic classical orchestra – it was loud, dynamic, complex, and overwhelming. What further set the band apart was the somewhat unlikely use of Death Metal vocals to represent the figure of Lucifer. Many of the lyrics came directly from Paradise Lost and perfectly suited the thunderous despair and jealous rage of the fallen angel. Alongside the growls were clean male vocals that bore a startling resemblance to Dead Can Dance’s Brendan Perry, as well as confident soprano vocals and otherworldly choirs. With The Umbersun, the band’s final release before slipping into a five-year obscurity, was a sonic triumph, consisting primarily of chilling symphonic carnage. Wagnerian in scope, the band unleashed whirlwinds of intensity, well-tempered by moments of lugubrious eeriness and stark melancholic beauty. With that album, their music seemed to reach its grand finale and Lucifer’s songs seemed to have been sung.
The Umbersun was in fact an end of an era for Elend. Most of their fans never thought they would have released another album, as all was quiet regarding them. The reason I am giving such a lengthy intro to this review, is that at this point, the band is still relatively shrouded in mystery and obscurity. Several bands have ventured off into Neo-Classical directions. But few projects exhibit the power or present the quality of music that Elend is capable of. More confrontational than Sopor Aeternus and nightmares beyond Black Tape For A Blue Girl, they deserve just as much recognition, if not more so, for their unparalleled compositions.
To my pleasant surprise, and for the legions of Elend’s scattered sect of devoted fans, Elend has returned with their most mature, powerful, and well-orchestrated release to date. Winds Devouring Men is an absolute masterpiece of darkness. The spectrum of emotions runs from tender yet seductively depressing serenades to sublime moments of sheer terror and jarring evil. Technically, the band has advanced several stages beyond their prior material, the result being as powerfully emotional as it is progressive and dynamic.
Thematically speaking, the band seems to have left the direct references to Milton and Lucifer behind, embarking on more personal and esoteric lyrical explorations. Additionally, the Death Metal growls have been entirely abandoned, leaving more room for the moody vocal croons to blossom. The strong resemblance to Brendan Perry remains, though his voice is not at all plagiarized, but comes across a fitting tribute. In many ways, Elend fills the void Dead Can Dance left when they abandoned the Classical structures of their Within The Realm Of The Dying Sun and Serpent’s Egg albums to produce more New Age/World music inspired releases. So for those of you that enjoyed that era of Dead Can Dance, Elend will surely be a welcomed addition to your music collection.
At any rate, the Luciferian roaring, which less literary minded listeners might have found disruptive, has been left behind. But there is a remarkable growth in the arrangements of these tracks, featuring an even more organic sound that results from the predominant use of live violins and brass instruments instead of keyboards. Synths are still used for harpsichord, harps, pizzicato strings, and warm drones and strings to fill out the sound, but all of their synth voices still possess professional tones that are true to life and awe-inspiring in their authenticity.
Even still, Elend had a few more tricks up their sleeve for this release. They have also unexpectedly introduced perfectly suitable elements of noise and traditional Industrial sounds into their work. And I don’t mean dancey electronic blippity beep bullshit – I mean REAL Industrial. Clangs, bangs, feedback, scrapes, rhythmic noise! The Test Dept / Throbbing Gristle / Neubauten kind of Industrial. Inspired equally by composers such as Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass and their prepared pianos and clanging tubular bell compositions, Elend crafts their most sinister and oppressive moments with the use of unsettling feedback and shrill noises, juxtaposed against polyphonic swells of strings or disharmonic choirs with the occasional rhythmic rumbling pulsing at the music’s core. The band does an excellent job placing these sounds, and pairing them with the more lush and buoyant passages of traditional classical elements.
Winds Devouring Men is an epic piece of music, painstakingly woven together from start to finish. This is a transcendent record, that takes the listener on a journey, at first presenting an inviting sense of comfort with the gorgeous adagios of “Worn Out With Dreams” and “Charis” before the subtle cacophony of “Under War-Broken Trees” begins to unleash a sense of foreboding doom. The album then plunges into a deep and dark abyss, and it is here where the Industrial and noise elements begin to creep in on “Away From Barren Stars” and reach their suffocating peak at the album’s title track. “Vision Is All That Matters” marks the point where the Industrial elements and the lush classical ideas seamlessly coalesce. The band uses a tasteful amount of restraint, fusing these elements together delicately and carefully, so as to create a unique and complimentary union of sound. The album then begins to crescendo and reach a grandiose climax, swinging like a pendulum from frigid greys to mercurial reds, and back again, leaving the listener breathless at the album’s fulfilling and mournful finale.
Elend is a band that is long overdue for recognition as one of the leading Neo-Classical bands in existence. This is a faultless, intelligent, satisfying, and landmark album that should be devoured by fans of dark music. Fans of Dead Can Dance, Cold Meat Industries, Projekt, Classical, and Experimental music will surely find a treasure in this release, as well within the rest of the band’s discography. Highly recommended and available from The End Records!
1.) The Poisonous Eye
2.) Worn Out With Dreams
4.) Under War-Broken Trees
5.) Away From Barren Stars
6.) Winds Devouring Men
7.) Vision Is All That Matters
8.) The Newborn Sailor
9.) The Plain Masks Of Daylight
10.) A Staggering Moon
11.) Silent Slumber: A God That Breeds Pestilence
Elend is the vision of:
(All arrangements, instruments and vocals, sound design and programming)
Klaus Amann – trumpet, horn, trombone
Natalie Barbary – soprano
Shinji Chihara – violin, viola
David Kempf – violin, solo violin
Esteri Rémond – soprano
Simon Eberl – industrial soundscapes and noises
Elend – Official Websites
(* both were listed as is in the CDs booklet, but neither page seems to
be up at present time)
The End Records:
Winds Devouring Men
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Reviewers often use hyperbole when praising an album they particularly like. In the case of Elend's brilliant Winds Devouring Men, it would be impossible to use hyperbole since no matter how effusive my praises, they would not be exaggerations. This album is an artistic triumph of the highest magnitude. Elend has created a masterpiece of dark neo-classical music, a landmark by which other releases will be judged. Winds Devouring Men melds orchestral, synthetic, and industrial elements into an intense and powerful symphonic soundscape that that is both avante-garde and gothic in nature.
Winds... is a difficult album to discuss because it bears so little resemblance to most of the music reviewed in these pages. It is in fact more akin to a filmscore than an album of songs, and is best listened to in its entirety. It isn't totally devoid of traditional song structures either, though they're most often submerged in vast soundscapes that bleed into one another. Lengthy passages of the album are devoid of melody and are largely textural, blending traditional orchestration and thundering industrial percussion to startling ends. Sound design is one of Elend's greatest strengths, crafting eerie atmospheres and massive, disquieting industrial nosie. Paired with the exceptional production standards, Elend's knack for sound design pushes the intensity through the roof in the louder passages and allows for unnerving washes of sound in quieter times.
Mixed into the dense layers of audio are beautiful, smooth male vocals brimming with pathos. Though the album's cedits don't specify who does the bulk of the singing, whoever it was has a powerful and expressive voice that perfectly meshes with the music. His mid-pitched delivery is silky and crisp, and carries the same resonance as the instrumentation surrounding his vocals. Hauntingly ethereal female voices also surface from time to time, but in a choral role ('ahhh's and 'ooh's) rather than a lyric one. All of the acoustic instrumentalists deliver as poignant a performance as the vocalists, particularly the violinists, who are used to great effect. Every musician involved in creating Elend's 'Winds Devouring Men' is worthy of praise for their superb efforts.
If you're a fan of dark, atmospheric music and appreciate artistic expression at its highest level, you owe it to yourself to purchase Winds Devouring Men. Elend's style may be foreign to many listeners, but if you allow yourself to descend into the sonic world they craft, you'll be swept up into the music in no time. Fans of moody, dark filmscores or classical music should also find much to appreciate here. Since I review metal albums most of the time, I'm contractually obligated to make a horrible pun at the end of all my reviews. With that in mind, I'll just say that if you fit into any of the categories I mentioned above, Winds... will blow you away.
01.) the poisonous eye
02.) worn out with dreams
04.) under war-broken trees
05.) away from barren stars
06.) winds devouring men
07.) vision is all that matters
08.) the newborn sailor
09.) the plain masks of daylight
10.) a staggering moon
Vocals, programming, all other instruments, industrial landscapes and noise
Klaus Amman: Trumpet, Horn, Trombone
Nathalie Barbary: Soprano
Shinji Chihara: Violin, viola
David Kempf: Violin, solo violin
Esteri Rémond: Soprano
Elend Official Website:
Faith and the Muse
The Burning Season
~reviewed by Jezebel
Tee hee. And they thought they were giving my partner a birthday gift. He didn’t stand a chance of even hearing the new Faith and the Muse CD after he opened it. HA! Like he would have first crack at listening to the long awaited follow-up album to Evidence of Heaven, released way back in 2000. (yes, I have Vera Causa…not the same) Yeah right. Who the hell was he kidding.
So – I took it and I put it into my CD player and ya know what? I ROCKED!!!!!!!
From the first moment of “Bait & Switch” you know that something is up, something is possibly wrong, something is positively being unleashed here. And it’s Monica. Yes, that mistress of song is there – strong and powerful, hitting that note as only Monica can, but ebbing and tiding through a rock, dare I say metal, rich song…and what is this? “Sredni Vashtar”? What the hell is this? Has William accidentally given Monica one of his hard rocking songs? Or has Monica stolen it? I have no idea, I don’t freaking care. I am too busy dancing. This will get everyone who is anyone off their arses and dancing. But as I dance my little heart away (okay I am bouncing at my desk), I take a look at the lyrics. I have always been a fan of the lyrics from Monica because they are always written with such intelligence and with such an insight into the topics she covers whether they are mythology, religion or the paranormal. But there is something else here. These lyrics are different. These are a departure (big word) from the past. And I can’t just put my finger on it. I did try to. I took the odd title of the song and went webbing. An interesting, albeit a little sick, story of a little boy who hates his mean, horrible guardian. She takes away all that is lovely in his life (which is going to end in five years the doctor tells the 10-year old). All he has is a hen and a ferret in a shed. She sells the hen. And when she goes to take the ferret…it kills her. But the interesting this is that this child had created his own little religion around the ferret. He did rituals for it. And when the guardian went to get the ferret, he fervently prayed for it to do something. And it did. But what is FatM trying to tell us. Damned if I know.
So I finished rocking and bouncing and am put back into my swirly girly Faith and the Muse sound. The beautiful melody that softly whispers complimenting the whisper purr of Monica’s voice. The acoustic guitar is, as always a perfect pairing to her. It opens up with a typical FatM flourish, the overture of a hand which invites you in and helps you sit. But again, I look at the lyrics of “Boudiccea.” The story of the legendary Celtic leader is amazing and one that I have always been enthralled with because of the strength of that woman in a man’s world. And as usual, the essence of the story of Boudiccea is there. But…there is something else. This is, to me, a call to arms of today’s women. Monica has seen something about today’s women and she is saddened, and yes, even angered by it. Women are special, amazing, and different. Their strength, their passion is that of legend with the ability to further that legend. And yet, “little sisters you seem so estranged. Some may dress and act the glamoured part but they’ll never have a woman’s heart.” Is this Monica reminding women of their amazingness and how they are not embracing it?
I think I am seeing something here. Something different here aside from the musical departure. Yes…this is not your typical FatM album. Nope. Not by any stretch of the imagination. This, as I will explain in more depth later, is an amazing exploration of different genres of music and bringing them into the hearts, minds and souls of William and Monica and be given a treatment that they could only do. Like we would expect anything less from them.
I have read the interview on their website…and they talk along their normal lines, about how they write their lyrics from mythology and etc….but there is something more personal here. I think they both turned a corner. Looked at where they were and decided that they alone had the power to decide on the perception of who and what they are. And when doing that – their lyrics became more personal than ever before. There is a rawness that is almost palatable. I heard it even before I started to read the lyrics. But as always, and as only FatM can, that rawness is polished.
And so – to the title track, “The Burning Season.” This song is so wonderfully personal and questioning. And as it slowly percusivizes (yes I made that word up) into your head and heart, you are being directed and lured into their world. Monica’s whisper is a gentle caress but the issue she is singing of is the strangeness of what is about her. She is questioning, wondering. She is exploring and she is answering questions. And the music travels with her through this journey. I must say I gave a little chuckle as one of the lines speaks of “burning down your effigies” and Monica will be working on some tracks with Steve Carey of This Burning Effigy for a release early next year.
“Whispered in Your Ear” begins as a definitive FatM track…light and airy and lovely and all that FatM is…then something happens and I have to say it’s my first unhappiness. This sounds more like it’s the remix of something. Like we didn’t get the original track, but William did a remix and put it on the album. Like it belonged on Vera Causa. Yes, it works as a song on it’s own right, but when, even with these new departures musically, it’s played…it’s empty. There is more voice than music and it’s unbalanced. Even as a remix it’s unbalanced. I want the original. It would rock biscuits. Still, I can see people liking this track and dancing to it.
“Gone to Ground” is bluesy, jazzy and damn well one of the sexiest and saddest songs ever created by the duo. It’s lazy and rich in subtlety and sensuality. Monica’s voice takes on this tortured whisper which sits so well as it marries and divorces the music. As she cries about the agony and the music echoes her…it’s heart pulling, wrenching.
And then, yeah – we are back to old Monica…and I mean Washington DC Monica…and she and William are fucking pissed I am telling you and get the hell out of their way. “Relic Song” has got an 80’s punk/electronic/metal sound (really it’s possible). And yeah – take all those “corporate punk manufactured bands” and they should all go to hell. It’s an anthem to all of the artists who have been slaving away for years and all of a sudden, some corporate hot shot says “hey that is a great sound” and instead of taking the ones that he heard it from, he makes a version of his own, using talentless young, pretty kids who will appeal in a marketing way, but wouldn’t know punk or goth or any good music if it came up and bit them on their little trendy arses. Justifiably angry, that they won’t be remembered for their “crimes,” the only complaint I have is that the song is way too freaking short…although by the amount of bouncing I will have to do it with it at a club, I might end up being grateful.
But another little complaint here…I am taken away from perhaps a raw club of the 90’s to a smoking, misty pond of beauty. Too big of a transition. But on its own, “In the Amber Room” is absolutely beautiful. So gorgeously Cocteau Twins that I think they do it even better than the original. The atmospheric sense you get fills your ears and heart and room. But the lyrics. They are poignant. They are a good-bye. They are the last to be done before someone moves on. And again…this is where I believe this is something very personal for both Monica and William. They have had so many changes, so many shifts in their lives. I think this is something they need to say. They needed to do. And lucky for them, they can do it so beautifully.
OOOOOOHHHHHH, “Failure to Thrive” did start out a little bit X-Files to me…sorry. But it does sound like that. And then this is where it starts getting really weird. William is whispering to us. He’s soft, seductive but still, and perhaps more so, he’s scary. It’s kind of like when my dad used to yell, I wasn’t scared. But when he sat me down and spoke quietly – shit I knew I was in big trouble. So William has a scary, soft side (no big surprise there), but what is he doing singing one of Monica’s songs? I guess it was an exchange. She got “Sredni Vashtar” and he got this. Okay. Cool. I just have one complaint. It doesn’t really ~go~ anywhere. It kind of ambles along and gets slightly “larger” at one point, but then kind of just goes back to ambling along.
Okay –wait a second. I am a bit confused. All my own fault. Completely. But I thought the beauty that was coming from Monica in “In the Amber Room” were lyrics. No – the track listing with lyrics are in the wrong order! An unusual occurrence for the normally absolutely meticulous pair. Which means I sort of have to go back and review “In the Amber Room” again. Okay. Back to lyrics. This is a beautiful love song which will probably be used in quite a number of gothic weddings and will become “our” song for many a young gothic couples.
But that means the lyrics from “Failure to Thrive” are coming from William, wow. As I said, this song is about losing (the lyrics which I thought were “In the Amber Room”), about moving on and saying good-bye. I wonder, who was that “dear brother” who evidently hurt him so badly? Who had the vanity that pushed William away? For some odd reason, it makes the song more poignant coming from William. We expect the fragileness from Monica, not William. Which makes it all the more of what it is.
“Visions” has Monica doing what she does after a William song in concert, comes on with a beautiful voice and bringing a fresh air back onto the stage. That is NOT a poke at William. They have incredibly different presences on stage. Although I am interested into seeing what this will be like when they play London and Whitby later this year (yes I have tickets to both shows, don’t be silly). This returns us to a typical, but evolved FatM sound, which is gorgeous and of course so well sung by Monica and played by William, that hey – nothing to report here.
But we get “Prodigal” as their next offering to us. And we are rocking again. And this is great FatM again, evolved now and more exciting and challenging to their audience. And from the lyrics, this is their statement. “This is my way and I may or may not change.” Right now, this is FatM, but perhaps the next album, they won’t be. Perhaps the next album there will be something even more exciting and challenging.
And then they leave us with pixie dust. Really. That is what I thought of when I heard it. Don’t ask me why. This Cranes-like song with an ickle bit of Swans thrown in. Just magickally dances over to us. Fairy-like (grown-up fairies, okay?). It’s a lullaby. No lyrics for me to look at. Just the wonderful musings of Monica with her gentle, caressing voice which breezes in and out.
Look, you have read the review, you can pretty much assume that I am a fan of the duo. I am and I am not going to deny it. But I was wary of this album. Before I had a chance to actually listen to it, I was told it was quite different. And I liked my FatM as they are, thank you very much. What do you mean that they have changed? They need to be mine and give me all the girly swirly stuff that makes me feel girl-ish. I don’t know…I needed my FatM. So I did approach this cynically and a bit warily.
I shouldn’t have. I should have had enough confidence and belief in William and Monica that what they would produce, although travelling different musical journeys through different genres and bringing them in to influence their sound, would be amazing. Few can beat William Faith for his production. Few can turn an acoustic music phrase. (just way too many pick up an acoustic guitar and immediately start playing “Tower of Strength”). Monica’s vocals are distinctive, yet have the flexibility and variance which is both comforting and, to be honest, disturbing (in a good way).
For fans who are strict about what FatM is, they were probably lost with Vera Cause anyway, but for those who did stay along, this might put the nail in the coffin of their association with FatM. But for those who love the partnership for what they have done and know that as fans, they would always be taken on a musical journey that was well laid out, well mastered and well planned and actually encouraged this, this album will be a delight and a treat.
Faith and the Muse are William Faith and Monica Richards.
Track Listing: (as per the
1) Bait & Switch
2) Srendi Vashtar
4) The Burning Season
5) Whispered in Your Ear
6) Gone to Ground
7) Relic Song
8) In the Amber Room
9) Failure to Thrive
12) Willow’s Song
SONGS FROM THE SHINING TEMPLE
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
We’re definitely out on a limb here, and I’m note sure it’s human. A group whose press release throws out some wildly disparate names is bound to make you twitchy, but when it starts it flings so many wild innards out in an eruption of joy you’re quite taken aback.
It’s a bit of a wayward entity because the fabulously cool girl chipping her words out the sloping, fuzzy sound collage that is ‘The Way You Kill Me’; won’t be our constant companion throughout, and I could see the Devo references making sense, just as Deelite strikes me as an apt comparison. They are, for the most part, punky, slinky and handling a form of cut-up commercial variable with brutal modernity. Pretty much like The Sugarcubes might have done if they’d been real fun and not art-wank.
They can yelp through their own form of grindcore, or do some quite horrible things. ‘Kill The Right People’ sounds like Appalachian alcoholics killing a B-52’s number, and then they redeem themselves instantly with a scary lounge love song, ‘Your Love Belongs To Me’ which is delightfully loopy. It may start with “If you were a house I would stay there, if you were a church I would pray there” but it gets scarier after that.
‘Goddess Of war’ and ‘Foreign car’ are totally traditional, and Christ are they dull, so the world of mania and mischief is their true realm, which they managed with as scatterbrained ease. They can almost follow a rhythm, but often veer off on individual courses as though constraint is illegal in their world. ‘Centralia’ could have been awesome, only to end up almost as bad as Huggy Bear, but when it works it’s magnificent. ‘Gun through A Razor’ is a mix of bubblegum go-go mondo ranting samurai punk, and ‘Onward Forever’ a ravishing torrent of pop vomit, with some over-excitable also-rans in-between, including ‘Cut The Reaper which is the Good the Bad and the Utterly Fucking Hideous, as though someone unearthed an early recording of Patti Smith throwing a tantrum a kindergarten.
I guess it takes all sorts, and these people have definitely taken all sorts.
THE WAY YOU KILL ME
FORE OF LOVE
KILL THE RIGHT PEOPLE
YOUR LOVE BELONGS TO ME
GODDESS OF WAR
GUN THROUGH A RAZOR
CUT THE REAPER
THERE IS A SKY
HOUR OF THE SERPENT (Gorgons)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
The titles suggests we have Tolkien fans at a loose end, and the sounds don’t do much to alter that position. It’s all very otherworldly, and while I had high hopes this might be another Curse in the offing, it’s somewhat more laid-back and disjointed than that. They have a thing about sound, and a thing about something akin to lucid dreaming turning into nightmares, but always with a softly reassuring sigh. Alice In Wonderland meets little dextrous Ambient and Ethereal touches.
If that sounds goof to you, and just the thing to fill your room with sleepy overtures and a touch f invention to lift the sagging spirits then I don’t blame you, because while hardly exceptional, this shows they have an introspected sense of instrumentals, and some fairly overwrought and poorly selected vocals, which left me wondering how it came to this. When you’re slowly assembling an album which should always be a labour of love, you expect three evidently sensible people to have a sense of what works and what does not. Somehow they have a blind spot about the ‘singing’.
Their real strength is in the music which is nicely filmic (think ‘Company Of Wolves’) , but that doesn’t give any sense of a band. You need vocal character and diverting lyrical themes or stories to provide that, which they simply don’t have. So the logical answer is that to create an identity you need a thematic sound, something in which people can truly sink, and they don’t quite have that either, yet, showing too much variety to ensure a central focus.
There’s plenty of twitchy fizz about it all, with mature, mouldering synth gloom, and there’s always a good clear buoyancy about their compositions. They work very well when tracks (let’s not call them songs) tick slowly by with any vocal trickery suspended high above the misty sounds, and it’s hardly ever hideous when they invite us to suffer the disturbed warbling as they give as slippery musical ditch to survive.
While not particularly effective at bringing us the darkest moods, their lighter moments are often beguiling, but they must either stop the vocal rot (most of which is spoken anyway) and get a singer in to lift their work, which will help emphasise the subtle twists of the music more, and then the future could produce a lot of twilight marshes we could be happily sinking into to.
I’m more than a little impressed.
NYX (EDGE OF DARKNESS)
HOUR OF THE SERPENT
NEMESIS (THE INESCAPABLE)
GARDEN OF THE HESPERIDES
THE MAGIC CIRCLE
TREE OF FORGIVENESS
EIDOLON (THE ARRIVAL)
THE GODHEA FIRES
EOS (FIRST LIGHT)
THE GRAY FIELD RECORDINGS
Sing 99 and 90
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
Sing 99 and 90, the latest release from Oklahomaartist R. Loftiss (The Gray Field Recordings), comes in a lovely package, sealed with red string and black sealing wax. I was almost reluctant to open it. Now I’m glad that I did; pretty as the package was, it’s not nearly so beautiful as the lyrics and music.
Or perhaps I should say, “some of the music.” The opening number, “Every Earthly Pendulum” begins with some speaker-shredding feedback that meanders through various permutations without really going anywhere. “Destroyed” is similarly harsh, containing all the dissonance of industrial music with no danceable beat; it reminded me of late-period Coil. More impressive was “ColdSpace,” a slow dissonant jam punctuated by clarinet squeaks and other less definable sounds. If Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth played in a jazz band they might have created something which sounded like this.
Still, I prefer GFR’s more melodic efforts. (The medieval-sounding snippets of “Vls Od Q Cocasb” and the breathtaking violin/viola interplay of “Inexhaustible Caricatures of Beauty” were particular high points). Far too much ethereal music descends into the realm of the merely pretty: sickly-sweet Muzak in Black. GFR gives us beauty with a twist of bitterness. Percussive industrial sounds vie with strings in “Green-Going” and scraped acoustic guitar strings compete with a music box in “Swan’s Lake.”
Loftiss is also a creative lyricist, who counts surrealist Leonora Carrington and German mystic Jakob Boehme among her influences. The lyrics of “Destroyed,” “Songs Unsung” and “Wait in Silence” are both lovely and unsettling. The arrangements highlight this dichotomy, combining beautiful flute lines with dissonant electronic sounds in a style reminiscent of Current 93’s Earth Covers Earth. (Loftiss’s vocals even evoke Rose McDowell’s eerie woman-child stylings). For their next release, GFR may want to consider including a lyric sheet (the lyrics to several of their songs are available on their website); Loftiss’ poetry certainly deserves the attention.
Overall, Sing 99 and 90 is an impressive production, which remains interesting even in the places where it doesn’t completely succeed. Instead of giving us The Same Old Thing, Loftiss has tried for Something Completely Different. Drawing inspiration from Alchemical texts and Thomas Aquinas instead of Andrew Eldritch and old Bauhaus LPs, she has produced that rarest of birds – something which is genuinely Creative, rather than merely derivative. Keep an eye on R. Loftiss; I suspect her future projects will be equally creative and interesting.
1. Every Earthly Pendulum
2. Vls Od Q Cocasb
4. Inexhaustible Caricatures of Beauty
7. Songs Unsung
8. Wait in Silence
9. Swan’s Lake
The Gray Field Recordings
Ghouls of Grandeur
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Grimfist is the coolest death
metal band name ever. Hailing from the frozen forests of Norway: GRIMFIST!
Charging with the ferocity of a frightened elephant: GRIMFIST! Ok, maybe
that last image didn't work so well. I'm not sure an insane Norwegian death
metal group wants to be compared to a frightened elephant. Then again...
Norwegian death metal groups have never quite fit the expected genre mold.
They seem to have a
lot more fun, and a lot more energy, and maybe that's why they're so damn good. Point in case: GRIMFIST!
Ghouls of Grandeur is their exceptionally well-produced debut album, and you can actually hear every instrument clearly. It's hard to explain what is "so damn good" about this CD. If hard-pressed for an answer, I'd say it's the energy. Blazing riffs strike and lash out ceaselessly like an angry giant squid with a rocket pack. Er, maybe that image doesn't work so well either. But I'm new at trying to construct viable press quotes for CD stickers. Here we go - Grimfist takes all the fun out of metal's past, and puts it on their CD. Hm, that one might be taken the wrong way, too.
I'll speak more plainly. Grimfist's music is as heavy and groovin' and rockin' and ass kickin' as any death metal ever was (see: Morbid Angel, Kaamos, Vader, et al). It's energetic, hyper, and full of conviction - but the band never forgets that they're playing to have a good time. "A World of Wrath" and a couple of other songs call to mind old-school heavy metal influences (almost as far back as Judas Priest, perhaps closer to Mercyful Fate) and even feature wild solos of the 70's or 80's metal sort. Most of the tracks stick to blast-beat driven death metal madness, and the guitar/bass riffs craft memorable rhythms - one moment it's DUN DUN DUN, then each DUN is three fast muted picks, all the better for moshin'.
The vocals are pure death metal fury, at least when they aren't heavy metal. There are angry roars, strained rasps and every other sort of adjective that implies a powerfully mad voice wrapping about your neck and choking vigorously (like a giant squid's tentacle!). Grimfist excites me. Maybe it's because Immortal drummer Horgh adds his brilliantly Yeti-like touch to the mix, or maybe it's just because these guys know what makes good death metal. Either way, you can't beat Grimfist for death metal craziness and giant squids or frightened elephants that take the fun out of metal (and put it into Grimfist! You know what I mean...). Highly recommended to any fan of hard hitting extreme music.
1) Primal Aggression
2) Outlined in Black
3) A World of Wrath
4) From Hell & Back
5) No Compromise
7) Lesser of Two Evils
8) Ghouls of Grandeur
9) Mosh-Pit Underground
10) Christ Denied
Horgh - drums
Ole Walaunet - guitars/bass
Frediablo - vocals
Grimfist - Official Site:
Heavy Metal: The Music
And Its Culture
by Deena Weinstein (DeCapo Press)
~reviewed by Goat
An excellent book about metal music, written with the same scholarly care and seriousness as Moynihan's "Lords Of Chaos". Weinstein includes a wealth of information about metal history, both distant and recent, including her own memories, anecdotes and commentaries. She doesn't cover the dark outskirts of metal like black metal, but we've got Lords Of Chaos for that anyway.
Even for someone who's been listening to metal for years and years and years, there is much in this book to be considered; much to learn and ponder. It's not one of those sensationalist books written about how evil and satanic metal is, by someone who knows crap about the music. Weinstein writes thoughtfully and in a most scholarly manner upon the subject, and yet, keeps the book from being too dry by her own dedication to and appreciation of the music.
Weinstein also has another book out called "Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology", but unless you're doing some kind of academic research, I recommend "The Music And Its Culture" instead. "A Cultural Sociology" seems more broad in its statements, and gloms too many bands together into psuedo-genres where there really aren't any genres. Maybe in "A Cultural Sociology" she was trying to make statements and observations that would be more palatable or accesible to mainstream scholars or to parents worrying what their kids are getting into, I'm not sure. That's not to say that "A Cultural Sociology" is a bad book. It's not. However, I just think you can get the same information with more attention given to it, in "The Music And Its Culture".
I WOKE UP DEAD (Pandaimonium Records)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
When you flip the booklet open and there’s a child happily drinking from a bottle of holy water through a coloured stripy straw it at least grabs your interest. So the work of the coyly named Reverend Damon Fries, guitarist with Boudoir, and Xymox soundman, is what exactly? Electro-Industrial, did I hear you cry? You’re right.
It’s a very good album. Although I have to return shortly to one major quibble, which I often find in this area, the main thing is that the songs work, yet with little in the way of massive diversions in tone. It’s all fairly tensile and aggravated, it’s all decidedly grim, and doesn’t have shattering turns of speed. It shies well away from the predictable end, being maybe more Ind than Elec, but the songs are full bodied and full blooded, where each track teems with life and repeated plays make you happier with this diseased wreck for company.
Stand-out tracks are very few, as it’s the body of work which entices. You know you can rely on it to buoy your mood, or to tape off your angst. It has a purpose, it isn’t mere decoration. Nor is the profoundly apocryphal or apocalyptic epic the press release announces. Apoplectic perhaps, but that’s down to the vocals. It’s apparently fuelled by anger, vengeance and such like, stirred with vindictive passions, but it sounds like a load of pretentious twaddle to me, because the vocals are delivered in that hushed whispery way, and often treated, which is supposed to represent something to someone. Okay, I found this all fairly diverting when Midnight Configuration did a nuclear version all those years ago but it’s something you soon tire of, and when half the bands around are still doing it I regard it as amusing more than anything. Talk, or sing, depending on your ability but when opting for shadowy ominous presence you’re more than likely to fall on your face. Nothing sounds believable if the voice isn’t.
Right, that gripe over, the rest is praise. I loved the way that not one song was dominated either by a crunching, stolid beat, or a repetitive synth pattern. There’s always something else to soften the blow, or sweeten the mix, and the gradual swirl of ingredients see the songs coalesce between sound and spirit. So ‘End Of The Lie’ is low on excitement, being slow and bubbling, but the subtlety involved keeps you hooked, and ‘Blind Faith’ with its wheezy church organ could be a cliché but nothing is deadened, all is lively. Drum ’n’ Baseless accusations almost take ‘Build Them Up’ into saucy Moby territory but then the murky mood moves in, and ‘Lost In Sleep’ which is almost poppy has a languid, maudlin air of detachment to keep it credible. When they do hit a commercial accident, with club dancey ‘Vital Signs’ it all seems perfectly natural, and any hint of trying to be populist is comprehensively ruined by fatuous vocal dramatics.
It’s a delightfully grubby little bugger, and if you play it backwards I’ll warrant it’d sound ever bit as good.
NO HOPE NO DESIRE
END OF THE LIE
NOTHING CAN HURT YOU
BUILD THEM UP LET THEM FALL
FIELDS OF LIGHT
LOST IN SLEEP
YOU MUST DIE
Kill 2 This
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Ah, there's nothing like a creative and unexpected band title. 'Kill 2 This' is certainly unexpected, at any rate, though the issue of creativity is much more subjective. I'd expect that a band with such a name would not fall into the range of my normal listening. It would, in fact, fall so far out of the range that it wouldn't be anywhere on the map at all, and the sheer unlikeliness of me listening to it would render it virtually invisible to my sight. Thankfully, I'm a dutiful reviewer, and if I could brave Filth and Raunchy, I can definitely give Kill 2 This a chance. After one listen, I was hooked.
Kill 2 This play a forgotten form of metal that used to get played on the radio. Think Fear Factory, or perhaps even Testament and Machine Head, and you're starting to get the idea. Mass Down Sin Drone features a plethora of catchy heavy riffs ("The Truth... and Other Lies"), exotic guitar leads ("Winter Green"), and off-kilter strumming rhythms ("Circles"). The bass shapes the undercurrent suitably with its heavy, though largely difficult to place sound, and the talented drumming further enhances the rhythm. The keyboards pop in to add a modern feel where necessary, or sometimes to define the melody via beautiful orchestral movements.
Now that we have nailed down the essential instruments, we should have a little chat about the vocals. I assure you, it is necessary. I think Kill 2 This should be on the radio. I think people in the US would even listen to them. Although Phil Bretnall's approach is nowhere near nu-metal, it is clean enough so as not to frighten the mainstream metal masses. He shouts angrily, laments cleanly, and even occasionally uses some layering to create a nicely harmonized sound.
The eminently enjoyable and catchy choruses ensure that each song will keep playing in your head long after you've listened, and even if the instrumentalists weren't doing their job (don't worry, they are), then the vocals would be enough to make the songs distinct. Kill 2 This's debut US release surprised me a good deal: it's emotional, varied, hard-hitting, and every other metal adjective you could think of (except, perhaps, for throat-wrenching, which is debatably not a metal adjective to begin with). If you enjoy the catchier and more listenable metal acts, it just doesn't get much better than This. Kill 2 This, to be specific. Be sure to give the band a listen.
1) The Truth... and Other Lies
2) Frame by Frame
3) The Universe in a Nutshell
5) Gender Re-assignment
6) Winter Green
7) Suburbanality (how to hang yourself from an urban structure)
9) Telephone Call to God
10) Confused in the Computer Age [Plan B]
11) Typhoid and Swans
12) Drowning Syndrome
Kill 2 This is:
Mark Mynett - guitars
Phil Bretnall - vocals
Pete Stone - bass
Steve Rooney - drummer
Kill 2 This - Official Site:
Killing Joke (Zuma)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
If the neighbours chance to glance across right now, they'll be in for a laugh. I'm sitting here playing air drums, pretending to be Dave Grohl laying into his kit on 'The Death And Resurrection Show', the first track on the new Killing Joke album. Yep, Dave Grohl, him out of Nirvana. Believe it or not, he's Killing Joke's new drummer. Now there's a turn-up.
Come to that, the release of a new Killing Joke album is a bit of a surprise in itself. It's been seven years since the band's last outing, seven years in which all the various Jokers scattered to the four winds, immersed themselves in assorted side-projects, and generally got on with their separate lives. And yet, here they all are, back again with another collection of typically apocalyptic riffs and rhythms - and a superstar drummer to boot. Whoda thunk it?
As a matter of fact, the exact line-up on this album is a little fuzzy. Jaz and Geordie - the two core members of Killing Joke, the only members of the band who've been there right the way through from 1978 - are namechecked, as you'd expect. So is Dave Grohl, the superstar drummer. Andy Gill, ex-Gang Of Four, the producer of the album, is mentioned as providing 'additional guitar feedback'. And both the band's bass players - Youth, their original four-string funkmeister, and Paul Raven, his latter-day rock-bloke replacement - get their names in the credits. Youth is even credited as a co-writer. However, there's no indication as to which bassist actually plays on which tracks, and frankly I'm inclined to believe that Youth isn't featured at all. The loose, funky, dance-influenced basslines which are Youth's trademark, and which gave Killing Joke their trademark punk rock disco sound, are conspicuous by their absence on this album. This is Killing Joke, Rock Band. Big riffs, big rhythms - and great drumming. Definitely worth an air-drums session, neighbours or no neighbours. But the bass always knows its place. It never cuts loose and *grooves*. Fans of old-skool Killing Joke who were hoping for more mad-bastard dance anthems along the lines of 'Follow The Leaders' or 'Change' will depart disappointed. This album might make you bang your head, but you'd be hard pressed to shake your booty.
All of which doesn't mean that this is a bad album - in fact, compared to Killing Joke's woefully lame mid-eighties offerings, this collection is encouragingly full of fire and brimstone, bile and wormwood, blood and custard. Jaz, in his familiar guise as an all-purpose prophet of doom, delivers a succession of bug-eyed rants on such subjects as war for oil ('Total Invasion'), planet Earth's likely destruction by hurtling outer-space objects ('Asteroid'), the dominance of global corporations and their indifference to the environment ('Blood On Your Hands'), and religion as a rationale for conflict ('Dark Forces').
This kind of subject matter, of course, has always been grist to Jaz's lyrical mill, and it's easy to mock him as an all-purpose doom-monger, routinely able to predict six different disasters before breakfast. But the uncomfortable fact is that many of Jaz's most melodramatic lyrics have had a tendency to come true over the years. Check out 'Are You Receiving?', a track on the very first Killing Joke EP, with its lyric 'We have received orders from the New Government...' and compare the scenario Jaz sketches out in that song with the deceit, spin, authoritarianism and right-wing drift of our very own present day New Labour government. All of a sudden, it's not so easy to laugh.
Twenty-five years on, Jaz is still railing and roaring against the injustices of the world. 'Twenty-four million people in Mexico City/Half a litre of water a day' he hollers on 'Total Invasion'. 'The economy's failed/Start a war machine' he declaims on 'Dark Forces'. Jaz, it must be said, doesn't deal in subtlety. His modus operandi is simple. He extrapolates the future from the present, and yells all the bad stuff into our faces. But maybe that's the only way to make us listen. Maybe we *should* listen. Old Mister Ranty-Crackers has been right before. If he's right this time, we're all in trouble.
So, in the Killing Joke charts, this album probably comes in somewhere around mid-table. It's not a patch on the band's first album (which was also entitled 'Killing Joke' - after all these years, you'd think they'd be able to think up a proper title for the new one!) or indeed their second, 'What's This For...!'. It's not quite as good as 'Pandamonium' but it's probably a bit better - certainly, it's far more fired up - than 'Revelations'. And, of course, it's way ahead of all those blandly indifferent albums the band released in the 80s. But it's very much a *rock* album, and while it's good to hear rock music bashed and spat out with this kind of inflammable intensity, those of us who are still holding out for Killing Joke to return to their old-skool gritty, gutsy, funky form will, it seems, just have to wait a while longer.
The Death And Resurrection Show
Blood On Your Hands
You'll Never Get To Me
The House That Pain Built
Jaz Coleman: vocals, keyboards
Geordie Walker: Guitar
Paul Raven: Bass
Dave Grohl: Drums
The new Killing Joke website
(based around the new album and tour):
A Killing Joke fan site (best place to go for archive information, discography, etc): http://www.killing-joke.com
A very detailed Killing Joke
biography, including an album-by-album rundown of the band's career, and
an impressive digest of the many different line-ups. Takes the story up
to the 'Pandemonium' album. Does not cover the latest line-up or release.
Another Killing Joke biography,
short on early detail (and with some infuriating spelling mistakes - 'Metalica',
for heaven's sake!) but with some interesting info regarding the band's
90s incarnation with Youth on bass. Does not cover the latest line-up or
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Tour de France Soundtracks (Kling Klang)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
These days, when everyone and his brother seems to be making electronic music with nothing more than a bit of software and a home computer, it's almost impossible to understand just how jaw-droppingly astonishing, how other-worldly, how just plain weird, Kraftwerk were when they first emerged in the 1970s. When they released their first album, punk hadn't even happened. Music was sliding hopelessly into a trough of soft rock boredom. In this context, Kraftwerk sounded like they'd arrived from another planet. Their coldly distant vocals struck a jarring note in a world where every rock singer tried to sound like a laid-back Californian. The Euro-centric subject matter of their songs seemed odd and awkward, when so many bands were writing about freeways and T-birds, high schools and luuurve. And - the biggest shock of all - there were no guitars. Back then, that seemed like the stuff of science fiction.
But now it's 2003, and the world has caught up - and, in some respects, overtaken - Kraftwerk's early explorations into electronic music. Nowadays, you don't have to spend silly money on some esoteric piece of hardware that's as big as a sideboard and can only make monophonic indigestion noises. You don't have to painstakingly solder together your own circuit boards. Vastly higher technology than Kraftwerk used is readily available, in neat little black boxes, from any high street electronics store. In fact, you don't even need to go shopping. Download a few soft synths off the web and do it all on the computer in your bedroom. Today, anyone can be Kraftwerk.
So, do we really need a new Kraftwerk album? Do the pioneers of electronica have anything relevant to say to the cyberkids of the 21st century? Well, there's no escaping the fact that the release of a Kraftwerk album doesn't stop the world in its tracks like it used to. The band are just faces in the crowd now, rather than way out in front. But they still have a unique sound, and a unique style. That's how they maintain their niche these days: the professors have become a pop group, and they'll stand or fall on their music, like anyone else.
'Tour de France Soundtracks' is an extension of an idea Kraftwerk first had in 1983, when they released their original 'Tour de France' single. They've constructed an entire album around the concept of the famous French bicycle race, but in true Kraftwerk style that sense of detatchment, that eerie feeling that they're looking in from another planet at the strange activities of these odd little human creatures, runs through everything here.
Much of the music is based around pulses and shudders, the rumbling heartbeat of an electronic monster. There are no dance beats - well, certainly not as the glowstick-wielding cyberkids at the Slimelight would understand them. It's music for the head, rather than the dance floor. 'Elektro Kardiogramm' actually is based around a human heartbeat - it's a track which sounds like it exists in some internal world, as if Kraftwerk have attatched crocodile clips to your ventricles and recorded the pulses which come through the wires. 'La Forme' sounds like the theme song to a TV sports show, and I'm sure that's not unintentional. There is, in fact, much stuff here which sounds...well, very soundtracky. It's as if you need the visuals to complete the experience. The only vocals are odd snatches of exposition and commentary, mostly in French, and always deadpan, as if the words are being read out of a sports training manual.
Inevitably, the overall sound is somewhat retro - almost quainty old-skool at times. Kraftwerk haven't tried to update themselves by bolting on breakbeats or including contemporary dance-culture samples, and that's a wise move. They're sussed enough to realise that their status as the grandfathers of electronic music has bequeathed them a unique comportment, and they quite deliberately play up to it.
Kraftwerk used to sound like this because this was what the technology sounded like, when pushed to its limits: now, Kraftwerk sound like this because...well, this is The Kraftwerk Sound. No longer cutting edge - but still uncannily cool.
Tour de France étape 1
Tour de France étape 2
Tour de France étape 3
Tour de France (original single)
The official Kraftwerk website: http://www.kraftwerk.com
A Kraftwerk discography,
from 1970 to 2003:
Desperately seeking Kraftwerk
- an amusing article from The Guardian, in
which their music correspondent tries (and fails) to find the band in their
home town of Dusseldorf:
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
The Last Show
~reviewed by Goat
There are a lot of bands touring the world at any given time, who are talented, tight, and have a lot going for them. Few of them have enough to eat well and not worry about how to pay the rent back home. All of this is tragic, considering the putzes who generally populate EmptyVee and eat repulsively well in their Cribs. The Last Show fall into the former category, I'm sure.
When I read the press sheet, I had to roll my eyes. Listing Jimi Hendrix as an influence, and the drummer claiming to derive knowledge from "Slayer, Fugazi, and Black Sabbath". Yawn. Same indierock crap, different year.
I'm not even remotely fond of this type of music. Smashing Pumpkins kinda thrashy squishy happy whiney stuff. However. These three people do what they do incredibly well. It's probably too bad they couldn't have pulled this EP together about 10 years ago. The world could choke on should have beens. As much as I hate this kind of music, I get the feeling seeing this band live would be interesting. There's some shimmering quality to the whole thing that radiates a heartfelt presence of the people making the music. So, inspite of the fact that I have no desire whatsoever to listen to this EP again, I gotta give it a thumbs up, because they do what they do well, and it doesn't sound like flailing about in the name of landing a recording contract so as to avoid hard labor. It sounds like people making music because it's like breathing to them, and they don't know how to NOT make music.
1. painted Blue
3. Big Jet thrust
4. a Lover's gaze
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
In my brief run-ins with folk music, and for that matter, anti-folk, I've mostly concluded that I will probably never understand genres of that type. But that doesn't mean I can't review them! So with that indirect warning out on the table, let's get started. Jenn Lindsay plays folk, or anti-folk, depending on who you talk to. You'd think a distinction like that would be pretty obvious... that one would be the antithesis of the other. Instead, the fact that they both have 'folk' in the title seems to tie them together. Strange genre, as Jenn Lindsay shows us: she is marketing her CD to the jobless.
Hey, at least she'll find no competition from major record labels. I don't think I have ever seen anyone market to out of work people before. Jenn Lindsay's sound is mostly vocal, and her soft cooing and sardonically bitter spoken word styles will almost make you glad you're out of work and jobless (or sad that you're not, as the case may be). It'll make everything seem all right. Backing her singing is a guitar (which is also played by Jenn Lindsay, not working of its own volition as my sentence may lead you to believe), and the focus is on strumming and percussive rhythms.
Except for the unhinging "Tick Tock", a creative bass-filled montage with abstract aural images of hive-like office buildings and busy-bee humans with barcodes stamped into their necks, most of the songs are actually quite pleasant, and should appeal to anyone who appreciates the folksinger sound. The lyrics are virtually inseparable from the larger musical work, and each song regales the listener of lost jobs, pointless degrees, and other themes that remind us of all the out of work Americans (while trying to offer a supportive voice).
For my tastes, Jenn Lindsay's music is just a bit too soft and subdued. But then, I say that about some black metal. If you like artists such as Cathy-Ann, then you might just like Jenn Lindsay - her music is slightly less angry or slickly produced, but it evokes a more singular feeling about her perception of the current job market. So, if you've recently found yourself fired, or otherwise unable to conform to college or a desk job, you'd do well to try Jenn Lindsay's latest six song EP. Similarly, if you're into easy-going folk with a message, be sure to stop by www.jennlindsay.com.
2) Shoo Fly Shoo
3) Not a Good Fit
4) You Not Me
5) Tick Tock
Jenn Lindsay - vocals, guitars
Jenn Lindsay - Official Site:
Lords Of Chaos: The Bloody
Rise Of The Satanic Metal Underground
by Michael Moynihan/Didrik Soderlind (Feral House)
~reviewed by Goat
This book's been out for quite a while now, but I still do run into people just getting into black metal who've never heard of it and it's still the best book out there on the subject, so I figured it needs to go into the Starvox archives.
Granted, the information is arranged haphazardly at times and the volume of information is daunting, but it still reads like a well-written book inspite of all that.
If you're looking for a dictionary type thing, Lords Of Chaos isn't what you're looking for. Lords is full of all kinds of background information and social commentary about the people who were and are the black metal scene in Norway, and how it began to spread to other countries. There are chapters on the murders and mayhem connected with the music, and also some information on the diffe(rent variations of black metal from heathen metal to national socialist metal.
Michael Moynihan culled most
of this information firsthand, as it was happening, which makes the book
a solid read, and not full of all kinds of poser wanking where the author
is just trying to prove he knows who
was in which band first and where and all that malarky. Moynihan wasn't jumping on the bandwagon to be hardcore and cool; he was there before anyone ever even thought of a bandwagon. This is an absolutely necessary book for anyone thinking about buying more than just a few black metal albums.
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Before we begin, let's establish one thing. The band really do render their name as Loveliescrushing. I just mention this so you don't think I'm making a typing error. It's not a new idea, of course: both Rosetta Stone and the Dream Disciples turned their band names into virtual domain names, and became rosettastone and dreamdisciples respectively.
In the case of Loveliescrushing, there's a certain ambiguity in their home-made portmanteau word of a name - just how are we supposed to pronounce the second syllable? To rhyme with eyes, or with peas? The meaning of the name changes according to which pronunciation you choose, and I wonder if that's a deliberate ploy. Because Loveliescrushing do seem to like ambiguity, a certain fuzziness. They step back, and back, and back...and allow the listeners to add their own interpretations. Even their song titles - 'Ckaif', 'Sovfx' - seem to be in the band's own language. What does it all mean? Loveliescrushing offer no explanations. It's all down to you, the listener - and what's inside your head.
Voirshn is an album for after dark. It's a collage of ambiences, an assemblage of sounds rather than any kind of structured music. It will slot very neatly into your collection just between the ambient works of Brian Eno and Aphex Twin. Weirdly, the promo-info sheet which came with the CD instructs retailers to 'file under Pop Rock' which makes me wonder if Projekt really know what they've got on their hands here. Surely 'file under Ambient/Chill-out' would result in Voirshn finding its natural audience? Because this really is 'out there' music. Pop kids and rockers beware. Loveliescrushing are here to take you to some very different places.
To an extent, Loveliescrushing's ingredients are familiar. They employ snatches of backwards music which remind me of the more experimental tracks on the 'Fourth Wall' album by the Flying Lizards - and that was well over 20 years ago. Frequently, they just let the music unwind, slowly allowingit to seep into our consciousness on long, long, long strings of sound - like Holger Czukay's album 'La Luna', a CD upon which one long track of music unfurls like a flag in slow motion. I'd be interested to know if that particular album is in Loveliescrushing's collection. Odd little beats, way down in the mix like half-heard machinery, punctuate the sounds here and there; voices drift in and out. Clicks and drones and hums come and go. It is, in fact, a very effective layer-cake of ambient effects, and the fact that there's quite a lot of this sort of stuff about these days does not detract at all from Loveliescrushing's skill in laying down their multi-ply sound.
This is cool, detatched, chilled-out music for those times when your head just feels too full - and an album which, I think, could really make the ambient scene (yep, there is one) sit up and take notice. All Loveliescrushing have to do is persuade their record label to drop the frankly absurd 'pop rock' thing, and take out some advertising in The Wire magazine, and all sorts of interesting doors might open for them. This is superior ambient music from a slightly unusual quarter: late-night music which will fuel your dreams.
Scott Cortez: Guitar tones, deconstruction, processing, tampering
Melissa Arpin-Henry: Voices
(not necessarily reliable or up to date: the discography seems to stop
Loveliescrushing on the Projekt
Ambience For The Masses -
a comprehensive ambient music fan site which might shine a little light
on Loveliescrushing's musical area:
The Wire magazine - who would
probably dig Loveliescrushing:
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Luciferion played a form of death/black metal back in 1996... unfortunately, I missed that first outing. Nevertheless, the press materials assured me that it was indeed quite well received and adored, and obsessive fans have been on the verge of suicide after years with no more Luciferion. The Apostate is their second release, and it actually features quite a potent blend of death and black metal. The riffs and drumming and vocals are almost always death metal, but the heavy riffs are even occasionally melded with symphonic bouncy keyboards that call to mind black metal acts such as Emperor and... er... any black metal band with keyboards.
Amazingly, Luciferion does not sound redundant. Every aspect of their music has been heard before, but the pieces have never been assembled in this manner. The songs also feature a running progression of Dark City samples, calling to mind corpse-like psychic beings and Kiefer Sutherland. I kind of wonder why no one thought to mix Kiefer Sutherland with metal earlier. If ever there was a way to attract more female listeners... The Apostate even has a presumably naked man on the CD cover, so none of that "naked women in barbed wire" nonsense that bands like Dimmu Borgir deploy.
At this point in the review
you're probably wondering why I have yet to give an actual opinion. Luciferion's
latest effort features some good gritty sci-fi in a very extreme context.
The epic title track (which has seven movements) is very intense. More
varied than your average full-length Cannibal Corpse CD, The Apostate
heaviness, blackness, deathyness, and some neat solos (like the one on "New World to See"). I like The Apostate, and I think it's a pretty good CD. Fans of sci-fi death/black metal are hereby charged to seek out the free mp3s on Listenable Records (www.listenable.net).
My only real complaint about the work is that much of its 58 minute duration is taken up by a Celtic Frost cover of dubious quality and an outdated demo that is good by demo standards, but hardly mandatory listening. Whenever I listen to this CD, I find myself sticking to the first five songs with the Dark City samples. There are countless death metal releases that bore me to tears, and only the most diverse releases for the style get my attention. Luciferion did just that. Death metal fans are assured a top-notch listen, and general metal listeners might just find a lot to like on The Apostate - give it a chance.
2) The Apostate
I. Under the Eyes of Serpents
II. Transcendental Fusion
III. Gods Bring You Away From Yourself
IV. A Strain From Depths (Inst.)
V. The Force Dwells Within
VI. And All The Waste Will Fade
3) Become or Be Gone
4) Destroying by Will
5) New World to See
Celtic Frost cover
6) Circle of the Tyrants
The Demon of 1994
7) Rebel Souls
8) The Voyager
9) Satan's Gift (the Crown of Thorns)
10) Graced by Fire
11) Hymns of Immortals
Wojtek Lisicki - guitar
Michael Nicklasson - guiar
Martin Furangen - bass
Hans Nilsson - drums
The End Records (US):
THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL/MAYHEM
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Me, listening to Black Metal, has the world gone mad? No, not at all, it’s just that Max from History Of Guns finds this sort of music interesting, and because he’d been involved with one of the Meads tracks, and is also working on their second album, he felt it wise to send this my way. Plucky chap!
Jihad isn’t the Muslim equivalent of ‘yeehaw!’ but where a dictator or religious leader makes a call among their followers to launch Holy War, and 99% of those think ‘don’t be such a nutter!’ and it couldn’t be more topical. It was all done well nearly fifteen years ago by Disneyland After Dark with the whole ‘No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims’ idea, and to be honest some garbled metal mutants groaning away with lyrics which suggests the sixth form was never attained doesn’t convey much in the way of lyrical intensity.
Choppers, bullets and thematic samples open this album, which was originally a 10” split picture disc single, limited to only 666 copies. Then it’s all slouching choppy riffs on copyist songs, with little hint of originality anywhere, and while Gollum accidentally seems to singing in ‘Paradise’ and there’s some nice effects, the ‘Tank’s’ bonus track is just a cold sample collation, with ‘Assassins’ the only bouncy number, and both Mayhem tracks (weren’t they the band who had a fan threaten to sue when he was injured by a sheep’s head they threw offstage?), sound like a motorbike rally going on inside an old trash gig. Mayhem’s vocals do have a charismas all their own, as though a giant slug had found a voice, and at times the bass drum pedal moves at such a speed it sounds like the beating of a thousand leathery wings, but at other times the drumming is like that used to build up to the climax of an old circus trick (hoopla!), which isn’t what you expect.
In fact the most disappointing thing is that while Metal pre-90’s was the preserve of the thick, Black Metal has opened up impressively and can be arresting, despite many fans still being the sort who don’t know many l’s to put in Hell, but both bands here lack power, volume and any sign of tenacity. They’re Big Girl’s Blouses, on which someone has drawn Satan’s face in red felt tip pen.
JIHAD (THE GRISLY DIN OF KILLING STEEL
ANOTHER GOD IN ANOTHER PLACE
TANKS IN THE HOLY LAND (BONUS TRACK)
ASSASSINS OF ALLAH (BONUS TRACK)
~reviewed by Goat
Rather than delve in to a long and probably unnecessary diatribe upon the short-lived brilliance that is and was Bryn Jones, I shall instead direct the curious peruser here: http://www.pretentious.net/Muslimgauze/
In the meantime, let's talk about Arabbox. Muslimgauze covered a lot of ground stylistically. Some of the albums were dub sounding. Drum 'n' bass sorta stuff. Others were flowing, organic, emotional as hell. Arabbox falls into the latter category, with dashes and pinches of the former thrown in, for taste. Of course, if you've listened to much of Muslimgauze at all, you're rolling your eyes right now. To categorize anything Bryn Jones did in columns so simple is an insult to his work. If this review is causing even the vaguest interest in Muslimgauze, I encourage you to start saving up some money. The man left behind the most prolific legacy of a sound a person probably can, and it's best to just plan on spending lots of clams getting lost in what he created. It's impossible to say "buy this one, it's the best." There just isn't one like that. They're all feckin' mindblowing.
Lastly, I will add that the premise, or, platform, or dark sky behind the stars of Muslimgauze, was a concern for the challenges that constantly face Palestinian people, and Muslim people the world over. One must be impressed that Bryn's first cassette was released in 1982, and here, all these years later, the world is, well, same as it ever was.
Veil Of Tear Gas
Mozaik Of Lies
~reviewed by Goat
Okay, well, one, if you've no idea who Nigel Ayers (Nocturnal Emissions) is and yet find yourself wanting to know, go here: http://www.earthlydelights.co.uk/ . You'll quickly find that Nigel's been a busy man in his lifetime. If you're new to his discography, god help you and start buying lottery. Nevertheless, starting at Collateral Salvage is as good a place as any, 'cause you gotta start somewhere mate, and this one is candy.
The incorporated electronic and organic elements of Morocco in the dipsy funk and trip of the typical Emissions thoughtsound is exquisite. Granted, the subtext, undercurrent, etc. of Emissions is generally postmodern deconstruction of this, that, and the other thing or post-post modern political rage, it doesn't matter if you're on the bandwagon or even the believe in the bandwagon to be seriously grooved and carried along by the Emissions sound.
The overall feeling of this is serendipitous and tenaciously lighthearted. Don't get the idea that everything Ayers does is as such, 'cause it ain't, but if you're curious about this guy, throw your expectations out the window anyway. Just delve. So, this one shimmers; other works, such as those with Mick Harris or Randy Grief, are completely different. Some bounce, some screech, some wail. If you're curious, spend some time with Nigel Ayers and his catalogue. It's not exceptionally expensive to find his recordings with Emissions (and others) on Ebay and in other places, and then you'll better be able to place the newer recordings in context to the previous work. Plan on thinking a lot about how packaging relates to content, or sound relates to subtext. Or not. The invitation is always there, to explore with Nigel some back alleyways of thought and action, or, to just turn off the old noggin' and follow along with your eyes closed.
This one's beautiful, textural, pleasant; unless you read the song titles and wonder. Wonder, wander, do what you will, these songs are bliss. Even if you don't think you're interested in the music, if you see an Emissions CD in a music store, it's worth checking into Nigel's penchant for cut at paste art and his graphic sensibility. This one's a corker, art-wise.
1. Jesus' Twin Brother
2. Burn, Bush, Burn
3. Groovin' With Mr. Slow
7. Going To The Edge
8. I See You're With Eeyore
9. Bunker Buster
10. Resistance Is Fertile
11. Listen, Little Man
12. Running Water
13. As If Vietnam Never Happened
14. Sag Alu
15. Lah De La De Saki Ya
On Earthly Delights/Soleilmoon
Emissions/Ayers website: http://www.earthlydelights.co.uk/
ON THE FLOOR
UNDER A HEART-SHAPED SUN (Panaimonium)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
If you go for that post-Depeche euro-rock Goth styling, where the entrails of light Industrial and Electro shape up sweetly behind some rocky filaments, then this is a band who have much to offer. It’s safe, straight, and immaculately delivered.True it’s also a bit too Major Label, which hints at essential dullness, but it fills the room easily and keeps you pretty happy with the nippiness of everything which happens.
One good point is that the keyboard plays an integral part in many of the arrangements, which encourages the vocal to stay the course rather than being mindlessly overblown, and the guitar doesn’t get to be bombastic, ever. “I come from a lonely place,” the singer informs us, “I come from outer space”, so you know it’s concise, and commercial. It really does have a roughened pop sensibility to it, but not enough direct energy and pace to keep songs short, so think of a more orthodox 69 Eyes.
‘Ocean Drive’ is a sumptuous opener, and the chirpier Eurobeat of ‘Black Door Boys’ sees the vocals and guitar unite well to accentuate the mood, because they follow perfectly mainstream melodic manoeuvres, along with somewhat dogmatic programming, with more than enough instrumental fluency to keep you hooked, while at the same time leaving you well aware it isn’t that imaginative. Nothing here will blow you away, but you will be highly content.
Being commendably consistent it’s like this all the way through until the final track. The vocals are very proud, without being mysterious or coy, although by having emphasis on keyboards and not guitar we are rather left noticing the lyrics aren’t that deep. We also shiver nervously during ‘Gone Away’ in case the Bowie vibrations develop too strongly, but they fade and pass, and ’Starman’ is not a cover, thank God!
It’s bouncy, it’s noisy, it’s utterly conventional and really enjoyable. What surprised and saddened me, was that they hadn’t left more spaces and highlighted the emotional aspects, because in the closing ‘Turn Down The Light’ it is a somewhat egregious ballad but genuinely moving, a bit like ‘Floodlands’ material minus any pomposity.
A fine CD.
BLACK DOOR BOYS
IN HER EYES
NOTHING WILL SAVE US (BUT LOVE)
TURN DOWN THE LIGHT
Nick Parkin, Tom Gillieron
~reviewed by Goat
A beautifully executed collection of work; sparse and skittering break beats, tempered with nocturnal splatters and groans. Definitely good stuff to chill to after a night out or a day working; not mellow or sleepy, but constantly hinting and joy or some exotic madness. Like Goldilocks, I find this one just right.
DEMO - POPOI SDIOH (Nerves Prod)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
A teasing little demo CD with two stupid noisefests (the audiocrashtests) would normally be the sort of thing I’d lob happily into the bin, but this has something. Being ex-Land Of Passions you’d expect quality and you get it.
‘The Horror Show’ is crazed and inventive, with teeming guitar behind twisting, twirling thrilling vocals. I have always loved short clipped vocals going in tandem with brisk jerky guitar, as it always leads to urgency and on this showing they’re like a hyperactive Bauhaus.
The other track, which also works divinely is ‘Wanawana’, with a throbbing guitar lime having its own heart attack, while nastily screwed up vocals spit and brawl. It’s like being held in a stinking dungeon full of smirking, sinister clowns.
Drama seems guaranteed, but without being forced or embarrassing.
THE HORROR SHOW
Haven’t found an url. Sorry!
Project: Failing Flesh
A Beautiful Sickness
~reviewed by Goat
Fuck yeah. Death metal mixed with all kinds of putrid leftovers from the back of the refrigerator, and blended to a froth. Weird piano bits. Echoey interludes and orchestral fertilizer, all growing the black orchid of "A Beautiful Sickness" in the dark. Project: Failing Flesh (PFF) are like Prong and Voivod on crack and worshipping Satan. Or, how 'bout this one. PFF are like a Sepultura tick on the rotting flesh of Skinny Puppy.
Usually when I review a CD, I listen to it as much as I can before I write the review. If I don't like the thing, I try changing mediums, 'take it to my car, put it on the stereo loud instead of headphones or whatever. Most of the time, when a review is done, I put the CD on the shelf for future reference and to help collect up the swirling dust that plagues me so. My challenge with this CD is that I don't want to stop listening to it to do other reviews. In the two days I've been listening to it, I've moved the artwork and CD to my car wallet, and filed the empty jewel case away. Hey guys, tour soon, mmmkay?
1. A Beautiful Sickness
2. Planet Dead
3. 9mm Movie
4. Scene Of The Crime
5. Entrance Wound
6. Long Silent Voices
7. Dementia Pugilistica
8. Taste Of The Lie
9. Highwire Act
Definitely check out their
website and read the liner notes of the CD artwork:
The CD is $13 from the PFF
website, including shipping. They accept PayPal, and PayPal now accepts
credit card payments from non-members, so you have no excuses!
TRANSITION (Wasp Factory)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Another good one, so this is getting simply absurd! However, for all the fabulous charm of Psychophile, for the abundance of good songs, they do have clear limitations which are thrust outwards in a manner that nobody can fail to notice.
Musically they aren’t that diverse, so by ‘Sciagraphy’ you are willing the guitar to do something different, and although the music becomes suitably stark in ‘For Her’ to highlight the vocal strength, Lucy’s style becomes wearying. Most people sing with the same inflection exhibited by their speaking voice, but Lucy clearly doesn’t, because this is an artistically affected style, where you line your throat with steel and modulate the shape of your mouth to have the same acoustics as a modern cathedral. Sometimes, employing several styles within a song, she loses such power in her voice towards the end of a line, which is clear even in ‘Visions Images And Dreams’, that at the risk of sounding insulting I’ll repeat what I’ve said before about some bands: get a good vocal coach to drum breathing control tricks into your head. When she goes for higher notes, while also doing the normal deeper delivery, in ‘Mirrors’ you can’t understand half of what she’s on about.
However, these are minor quibbles. Yes, Yazoo are rotating underground during ‘Never Had A Face’, but they’re also winking playfully, andfor the most part this album has more thrills than spills. When songs repeat passages they never do so drably. ‘Invocation is a delightfully stampy thing with Lucy in the role of Lady Macbeth waving a gin bottle around, ‘Intense’ is a wonderfully filleted mechanoid vigilante hybrid, scrabbling along, and the torment of ‘Sciagraphy’ gets highly dramatic, either sweet or seething.
It’s ‘Vice Girl’ I actually think stinks, lacking the sophistication of the others, with a naff opening, but then it kicks on well and moves sharply, ‘Surplus’ is a total delight, ‘Illumination’ gets weirdly droopy, ‘Horrorshow’ is harsh and strange, and ‘Darklight’ quite seriously is the best thing The Banshees never wrote. (Also got to love the sleeve liner notes version of lyrics.) Then it’s a perky cover of ‘The Mercy Seat’ (Ultra Vivid Scene, not Bad Seeds) and we’re done.
They’re a really good band, but not brilliant yet as it’s flawed, clearly. Somehow the potential hasn’t been fully teased out, and I get a strong impression that there isn’t enough light bursting out of what sounds like a purplish fog.
VISION IMAGES AND DREAMS
NEVER HAD A FACE
Hail to the Thief
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Radiohead is one of my favorite bands. I've bought all of their studio albums. I like them. Honest. But their last three studio CDs have been directionless partially-failed forays into electronic experimentation (which they still haven't mastered), and as far as I can tell, the band isn't even attempting to communicate something with their new style. If anything, they're just bored. Bored, and lazy besides, because many of their songs now consist of repetitive electronics, repetitive beats, and vocal lines repeated so many times as to take 'obnoxious' to hitherto unseen levels of annoyance.
Ok, those of you who are fighting back blinding rage can start the flaming now, but hopefully the rest of you will stick around to at least consider the justifications for my argument. Early Radiohead had a neat British-invasion-rock-meets-alternative feel, and I like that. Easy to understand, full of good melodies and riffs and rhythms - everything I like in rock. Then Radiohead made their opus: OK Computer, a sprawling, ambitious release that successfully captured depression, anguish, and ambivalence with plangent guitar, tortured singing, and occasionally clinical sterility (as with the robotic voice on "fitter happier").
To be clear, I didn't expect Radiohead to continue the OK Computer direction... I don't think that CD could be bested. Kid A nevertheless surprised me, as it was borderline IDM and (at least in part) influenced by Aphex Twin. Amnesiac continued Radiohead's new electronic experimentation, but with a slight return of the rock elements. Hail to the Thief is to Amnesiac what Amnesiac was to Kid A. I'm glad to see the band returning to more familiar territory, but many of their songs are still repetitive, uninspired electronic-driven drivel. Radiohead no longer cares about communicating ideas or making art. They've grown lazy, and their songs reflect that: they have no coherent themes, no memorable riffs or chord progressions or melodies or beats or atmospheres, and in general, they simply have nothing new to offer that they haven't done before.
You might say Radiohead created exactly what they intended. If they were trying to capture bored, lazy atmospheres, I'd say you're right. Hail to the Thief definitely has some good songs on it, but it has just as many that are totally uninteresting or entirely useless. These days, I prefer only to buy CDs that are consistently good through all of their tracks - there are enough out there to make purchasing Hail to the Thief a very low priority. If you've been disappointed in recent Radiohead, don't get this CD. If you haven't and you're a fan, you already have it. As for non-Radiohead fans - do listen to OK Computer or Radiohead's earlier albums, but don't bother with the more recent dreck. Any Radiohead fans that think I'm full of it can hear experimental rock/electronica done right with Ulver, recent The Gathering, and many other inspired groups.
2) Sit down. Stand up.
3) Sail to the Moon.
5) Go to Sleep.
6) Where I End and You Begin.
7) We suck Young Blood.
8) The Gloaming.
9) There there.
10) I will.
11) A Punchup at a Wedding.
14) A Wolf at the Door.
Radiohead - Official Website:
Such Is Life (Late Great Records)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
The Redresser is a side-project of Anthony Griffiths, who is otherwise known as the guitarist with Ikon. In this band he creates a sound to suit his hairstyle. Because what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a slice of no-shit glam rock, all cuban heels and attitude, and some good old thrashy guitar riffs. In other words, everything you need for an authentic rockin' party.
The sound on this album is very live - to the point where I suspect these songs were recorded by simply suspending a microphone over the band as they hammered through some songs in their rehearsal room. If you want polished production and studio gloss, look elsewhere. This is rock 'n' roll in the raw - but then, isn't that how rock 'n' roll is supposed to be?
Let's lend an ear to the songs. 'Survival' seems to be an environmental anthem - the first time I've ever encountered this subject matter addressed by a bunch of glam rockers, but it's good to know that there's more in these guys' heads than cars and girls. In fact, Anthony Griffiths (who writes all The Redresser's songs) seems to specialise in slightly oblique lyrics which hint at everything from political concerns to mystical thoughts. There's not a single 'yeah yeah baby' lyric on the entire album. 'Damage Control' might be an accusatory finger pointed at his least favourite politician; 'Human Reduction' could be a dissertation on the subject of overpopulation. I say 'might be' and 'could be' because there are no simple slogans here - the lyrics are left open to interpretation. Ironically, it's the band's cover of Echo And The Bunnymen's 'Do It Clean' which comes closest to the kind of lyrical romp which you'd expect from a band in this musical area.
But the music is always rockin'. A good old brew of two guitars, bass and drums, and a vocal style somewhere between Richard Butler and Stiv Bators. In fact, if you're a fan of the Psychedelic Furs (their abrasive stuff only, mind, not the slop they produced when they went all AOR) and vintage Lords Of The New Church, I reckon The Redresser will be right up your alley. 'The Lord Impaler' wins the prize for the best guitar riff, while 'Pleasure' unexpectedly introduces some electronic percussion to the rock 'n' roll mash-up, and the resulting hybrid sound works surprisingly well. Nice grumbling bass on this one, too, as it happens.
So there you have it: ten tracks of authentically noisy and unrepentant glam rock, with a surprisingly cerebral lyrical approach. Crack open a few beers, turn it up loud, stomp your cuban heels on the living room floor, and it'll almost be like the band are right there with you.
We Need You
Do It Clean
The Lord Impaler
Anthony Griffiths: Vocals, guitar, bass
David Parkin: Guitar
James Tiller: Bass
David Burns: Drums
The website: http://www.redresser.live.com.au
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I am glad I don’t run a record label, because I’m not most organised person you’ve ever met, but there are times when you hear a band and know immediately that you’re dealing with quality, which simplifies certain things, such as doubt, the curse of any label when approaching new singings. It would amaze me if Rome Burns don’t start getting UK interest for what they are now creating. This little six song demo CD is a robo-treat, being Goth with character, and Goth with a difference, which we’ll come to shortly.
There are plenty of good bands in the UK now, and you want others to rise to this level. Rome Burns have done exactly that – good previously, brilliant now – and simply needing the organisational support of a label, because here’s the thing. You hear one song, and crave the next, because of the difference. There is a story-telling ability to the lyrics, and a certain idea of stories even evident in the titles. There is intelligence, and energy, depth of musical variety, and you just know it would also be translated live with an extra degree of impact.
The demo is rough, but effervesces with life. Bass notes sound like they’ve been ripped out, and occasionally there are vocal disappearances, where the recording isn’t quite how they’d like, but you take that into account and still love the feeling overall.
‘Waterbabes Drowning’ manages some great shifts down in emphasis, to create a superb prickly aura that keeps you hooked, on what isn’t pleasant imagery, and the remix makes it swirlier, and darker. They have vocals that are cool, and guitars which sidle up and push. ‘Empty Samsara’ is frisky with chirpy vocals, and really races. It’s a potent mixture, being demanding and satisfying.
‘Red Riding’ canters and stalls, with a rich vein of lyrical delight with a Sleepy Hollow core and mad energetic bursts, ‘Non-Specific Ghost Stories’ is unnerving at times, because you can’t get a grip on whether the protagonist is simply haunted by a lost love, as there is a fear element expressed, but it’s still a nice perspective. Then in ‘Seeking Mr Hyde’ you get the only song where the lyrics of a troubled soul don’t really grab you, but the delivery finally made me realise what I’d been thinking.
I often dismiss duff electro bands as being redundant because they sound like pisspoor Pet Shop Boys, who at their best were a superbly subversive pop band. Now with a guitar-thrusting set of madmen, Rome Burns have a singer in Simon Hendley who sounds like Neil Tennant’s evil twin. That same light upturn, with the constancy of presence in the song, and also the precision. It means he steers sternly through the song, but the lyrics just aren’t as fulfilling as other songs. I could also add that for the length of track ‘Non-Specific’ could have done with a little less straight repetition of certain lines, because just a word changed here or there in the lines would have heightened the mood enormously.
And there you have it, a superb taster for a forthcoming release. Brilliant in virtually every way and reminding me in many ways of the potential The Horatii always showed before a bad fairy kissed them and send them into eternal sleep.
Rome Burns should be enticed and captured by a label pronto, to get cracking on these songs and whatever else they have burrowing into their fertile brains, because if you catch a band at the right time and encourage them they automatically move up to yet another level of activity, creating even greater songs.
I just hope I’m not talking to myself.
THE MEMORY OF DEAD ROMANCES (Own Label)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I like getting records like this, because it represents the spirit of artistry, being one man’s work and living creation, but at the same time I never seem to enjoy them, when it’s one mind trying to sound like a band. I know there’s plenty who do, as there always has been since the DIY ethos of the Punk era onwards mushroomed, so I imagine a few will be intrigued by this man. Umberto Marconi seems to have had a hankering for Punk, then the Birthday Party and Sisters, and so presents here a cross-section from the mid-90’s onward.
Picking out the highlights is simple enough, in one element, but it’s mainly the thorny question of advice that nags guiltily over my head. So much home-produced material, especially pc-software efforts, just sounds under-produced, almost weightless, and that’s an affliction that makes itself quite apparent here. Too often what might have been a good song, with power adding natural emphasis to an arrangement, is left rather listless and directionless.
So, let’s do the bad first and point out that while the fiddly ‘Space Trip’ could have been quite a powerful instrumental but the keyboards are too light, and that while ‘Endless Time’ escalated into a pained melodrama it was muddled because the vocal were too airy to compete with the moody riffing, and the needle-thin guitar style really didn’t suit the swirly ‘Krime 3’. Similarly, ‘Autumn Waltz’ seemed horribly out of place, being amiable indie, just as ‘Giovedi 17’ is fruity folk, and ‘Changes’ made absolutely no impact whatsoever.
Good points are the pleasing nature of the vocals, and the way what might be dour concerns are given an emotive lift, and the drum machine work although pretty dodgy at times, often adheres to a brutal snap, with an evil glint, and the cover of Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’ is one of the moodier I’ve heard. ‘In A Dark Place’ is pretty yet bold, with tinkling keyboard work, and while I could have done without the Neff-style vocals in ‘Prayers’ the song had some good mood swings. ‘Bella’ could have been a particularly fine song, with better production.
And that’s the thing. The advice I’m so anxious to give is that you simply can’t do it yourself. It clearly isn’t working, but there are ideas here which could be enriched by production from someone who can handle technical matters better. Find someone. Link up, and if anything try for a guitarist who can add another layer to what you’re doing.
Or just forget the Goth side completely, because there are three mad tracks here that make a far more instant connection with me as a listener, and have much more power, seeming wholly natural. ‘A.M.I.P.’ is doof-mania gone absolutely mental, with a garbled vocal fracas pitched in, followed by ‘Samurai;’ which is even madder, and richly imaginative (despite the slapdash drums), and the CD ends with some sneering, drawling rocky punk in ‘Jody Played Guitar’, that creates a strange picture overall.
The Goth stuff may be closer to your heart, but the demented dance and guitar strut at the end seem far more intriguing if you insist on going it alone. Otherwise finds some mates and beef it up. You’re a fool to yourself if you just settle for tackling it all, with varying styles, because you water your impact down.
BELLA COME NON MAI
IN A DARK PLACE
SAMURAI (VERSION II)
JODY PLAYED GUITAR
IN VIVO TESTS (SC)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
A lot of people might regard a band in 2003 doing things which slow a clear allegiance to the sounds of some 80’s greats as being precisely the kind of things which killed Goth’s potential in certain countries (especially the UK) during the early 90’s. When people stopped looking forward and retreated back in a cowardly fashion, it meant everyone who might have given the scene a chance wrote it off a purely copyist. Taking anything directly from the past is never a good thing, because it has to be handled so delicately.
Sleeping Children, a French Goth band have a vocal style hurled in your face by MurMur which is easy to describe. Think of Peter Murphy doing ‘Spy In a Cab’; and mix that with bits of Andi Sex Gang during ‘Mauritia Mayer’. It’s that melodrama, with a yelp and sharp turn of phrase. They don’t have big powerful blasts of guitar, they don’t have layers of synth. They even sound like they’ve recorded in a tiny, basic studio which smells, and not straight into someone’s PC.
And it works. It works because they have songs of character, meaning tunes which are often quite spacious, and distinctively weird in many ways, plus vocals that have character. They are precise and somehow encourage listening instead of making you turn away. The more you hear, the more curious you become, not suspicious.
"Poppies Screen The Light" might as well be about anything, for all the sense I could get from it, but it doesn’t matter because this is Goth music, and couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. The vocals dominate, but not harshly, as the guitars and synth trot along very neatly, and it is beautifully smooth and clever. "Dreams Of Whispers" has a very sleepy synth but an urgent drum pattern, which is a crazy mixture, with heavy Bauhaus-slanted warbling. They have the 80’s energy down exactly, in that the songs have ideas so it seems as lively as you could want while being actually very small. "Coure Bien Les Cris" is truly peculiar with more synth and drum capers, which work because Sap~hire does both and understands why they work together. ThomS’ five string bass needs more clout, but Crepescule (love that name) gives us some common musical sense, as MurMur employs some funny vocals, and for all its strangeness it is wonderful. "Lili’s Dead" is grander, with some more traditional, slippery vocals, but with the distinctively brittle synth sound and some skidding guitar.
An unexpected joy.
POPPIES SCREEN THE LIGHT
DREAMS OF WHISPERS
COUVE BIEN LES CRIS
~reviewed by Goat
Ah, Setherial; forgotten by most in the shuffle and clamor of more business savvy and less sincere black metal bands making so much noise selling out and throwing away their makeup. The end of summer finds me often craving that old driving Norwegian sound, as I wait for the leaves to fall, and the days to turn prison-cold. Setherial deliver on Endtime Divine. No pussyfooting here. No pretending that anything about what ever made black metal great needs to be changed. Drumming to bash your head in, and screaming to pull your brains out through your ears. Buzzsaw harmonies, and the echo of hell. Endtime Divine is absolutely lovely, and perfect for the season. If you're still enjoying a simple, brutal, straightforward blackmetal sound, I think you'll love this one and play it to death. Worth every damned penny. Pun intended.
1. Crimson Manifestation
2. The Underworld
4. ...Of Suicide
5. Entity Of Night
6. The Night Of All Nights
7. Endtime Divine
On Regain Records, Sweden
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Siegfried's Eisenwinter is a cold gust of germanic neoclassical metal that blasts listeners into an ancient time full of epic events and high drama. Unfortunately, I don't know what those events are since I don't understand a lick of German... but it doesn't diminish the drive and emotion behind them, nor the power of the tales Siegfried tells. A seething brew of diverse vocal styles, deft songwriting, and gritty production coalesce into a potent potion that many will enjoy.
Eisenwinter is dominated by three strong vocal performances. Leading the choral assault is Hagen (also known as Bruder Cle to those who favor calling people by two names). Hagen's strained, gravel-throated shouting at first reminded me of a cartoon viking (like that cute little Asterix guy), but as I listened more, his delivery grew on me. His raspy yells are filled with yearning, rage, and... rage. So, a tortured teutonic cartoon viking, then, if such a thing could exist. In stark contrast, Sandra Schleret provides operatic female vocals that are more 'strong and forceful' than 'pretty'. Her mid-range delivery is clear and evocative... and sometimes a little frighteningly crazed, too. Rounding out the vocal trio, Werner Bialek provides suitably epic clean male singing. The disparate styles work together surprisingly well and give the music an edgy presence and moving intensity.
Though the vocals command the lion's share of attention, the instrumental arrangements on Eisenwinter are similarly compelling. The music is grounded on a solid base of thrashy riffs with somber, epic overtones. Their raw, sharp guitar sound is complimented by equally earthy keyboard arrangements. Unlike many bands these days, Siegfried do not drench their tracks in syrupy studio gloss... and the album is far better for it. Focused and clear, the production transforms the passion behind the band's performance into an energetic and gripping album.
Somewhere, in a feasting hall where mortal men are taken when they die, a troop of valkyries is probably listening to Eisenwinter as they take a break from escorting fallen heroes to their eternal reward. I have a feeling that Richard Wagner would also approve of the combination of ferocity and musicianship Siegfried brings to the table. Beauty and brutality clash in epic battle on this excellent album that will fuel the fires of metal fandom and keep the halls of Valhalla warm on those cold winter nights.
04.) Die Treuewacht
05.) Am Isenstein
09.) Hagen von Troje
10.) Du und Ich (bonus track)
Ortwin - guitars, keyboards
Hagen - vocals
Sandra Schleret - vocals
Werner Bialek - vocals
Roland Wurzer - bass guitar
Moritz Neuner - drums
Siegfried Official Website:
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Hmmmm. I can see why Ronny from Xymox was interested and why he mentions comparison with Faith And The Muse, Sundays and Curve but mainly I’d agree with his Cocteaus suggestion. A Darkwave version, slightly cold and more direct, creating the sort of music which fills the night air pleasantly without being prim, and dark without being threatening in any way.
My problem with music like this, and it certainly holds true here is that these are really pieces of music, rather than songs, which always tend to wander along in a straight line, and that cannot always create a fascinating end result. From ‘Never Again’ onwards the vocals are arrowing towards us with an intriguing way, but usually the most urgent instrument, strangely, is the bass, and the songs tend to merge into one. It’s attractive but it isn’t distinctive. If, round about ‘Blossom’, with it’s tempting piano opening they’d gone starker and more energetic, they’d have taken us up a gear, and then could have dropped down, and continued twirling us about throughout, but that didn’t happen. The serene and lightly oppressive stance was maintained continually.
So that’s the problem, or the pleasure, depending on how you view music like this. If you want to be accosted, then cosseted, by some warm background music it’s fine, but me, I want more. The main problem is the vocals, which seem almost crouched in the mix, and because they evidently choose not to utilise space by dropping instruments in and out, we never hear the voice highlighted, and cannot therefore gauge how special the quality might be. They just fill everything with sounds once a song has started, which makes it fairly predictable, apart from the male vocals which are a bad mistake, being seriously limp by comparison.
Right at the end they almost morph into The Cardigans, when finally going for a bracing closing track, but it’s a bit bloody late by then! Those of us who want momentous moments as much as magnificent mood have lost interest.
THE DREAM 1
WINTER SIGNS (DREAM 2)
THE GAMES THEY PLAY
GOD MADE THE MAN
Sound of the Beast : The
Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal
by Ian Christe (Harper Entertainment)
~reviewed by Goat
On the opposite side of the teeter-totter from Moynihan and Weinstein's scholarly sociological observations about metal, sits Ian Christe. May the metal gods love him. If you don't believe he's not the most maniacal and prolific metal writer alive, (or who's ever lived,) just try putting his name into a search engine sometime and see what you get. Jesus, when does he even sleep? I confess to being a bit of an Ian Christe fan as well as a metal fan. He's kind of cute and doofy in his writing sometimes, because he's such a huge metal fan and a softie, and well, when you read what he wrote about Cliff Burton dying, you'll see what I mean. He does get kinda out there and Proust-y sometimes, going on and on about things, but I always forgive him because I know it's 'cause he loves the music so.
The book is arranged nicely, in that it covers metal in a sort of "you sit over here and you sit over there" kind of way that doesn't create false genres, but does help clarify one's understanding of why certain bands are "sitting together" under some headings and not others. He doesn't wank around waxing poetic when it comes to helping you sort what makes something Nu-metal and what makes something else Death metal. I'm not sure I agree with every last one of his assertions, but you've gotta start somewhere when you're trying to categorize things that defy categorization.
Two things you have to be aware of though, with Christe, is that he gets rather carried away with describing the bands and he starts sounding like Mary Poppins From Hell, (supercalirockin'listic...) and the other thing is that the sweeping statements like he is _the_ voice of metal or writer of metal or whatever that're on the book cover, just forget those and enjoy the book. Sound of the Beast is an engaging read; informative and warm; a loving look at metal from a metalhead who's spent a lot of time in front of a typewriter.
SPIT LIKE THIS
ANARCHY FOR TWO (Megabucks)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I’m reviewing this because it’s the most recent of two fine EPs sent by these mental cases. Their promo package is cuter, with an illustrated biog entitled ‘Spit Like This and the jizz-filled fantasies of a thousand perverts’ with the entertaining tale of how the band earned enough cash to accumulate sufficient gear to become fully workable by Vikki selling her used knickers on e-bay.
Don’t be frightened by the suggestion they make that we envisage them, before actual listening, as Motley Crue meets Rocky Horror Show, as only the last part of that pairing is vaguely accurate. They have a sort of glam bop on offer in their opening track which reminds me of a certain Antish ability to mix cool, funny lyrics with a guitar/drums assault, and then they go for a stark musical layer effect with ‘Vindicated’ where it gets barbarically tense and toxic, only for the introduction of vocals to lessen the impact, and definitely sound metally in tone, before the song ends back with the gritty guitars. The ‘Bitter’ song is disappointingly twee, and does have the ring of a Musical about it, and then there is brutishly metal pop in ‘Not Dead Yet’ with a scary big rock showstopping finale, unless you count the bonus track which is a chintzy burst of nothing.
The first EP has this same overall feel in that three songs are brilliant, and one sounds like it’s rock opera fare (‘I Need A Fix’) which is at odds with the fiercely modern rock they have created with reeks of character.
In fact it was the wonderful way they have a rhythm to the playful vocals in ‘Asshole’ which immediately impresses. The lyrics are clever in themselves, but the way they ride atop the guitars is superb, as is the frantic stomp. They also gives us dawdling electric blues in ‘Beaten Road’ and imagine a Fetish version of prime time Human League and that’s ‘Hooked On You’. The only feeble song is ‘Fix’ because it is so obvious by comparison.
Three fantastic songs per EP is a consistently high rate of exchange. You really will want to hear more.
ANARCHY FOR TWO:
TRUIST YOUR INSTINTCS
I FEEL SO VINDICATED
TO THE BITTER END
NOT DEAD YET
THE POP SHOT:
HOOKED ON YOU
I NEED A FIX
Squaremeter (aka m^2)
War of Sound
~reviewed by Goat
To quote the artist: "I wanted this record to be truly dark, cuz I'm sometimes fascinated with all that dark ambient and satanic music crap that's out there that's merely a joke! I wanted to make the ultimate satanic record."
Well. He falls aeons short of that goal, and War of Sound isn't even all that dark. Granted, it's interesting to hear readings from Tolkien's "Silmarillion", but other than that, there's nothing distinguishing or exciting about these recordings. If I wanted to hear electronic darkness, I guess I'd stick with the "satanic music crap" like Lustmord, Merzbow, Lull, and so on. Keep tryin', Mootz.
Cry of Morgoth
Discord (War of Sound)
The Music Seized
The Scourges of Fire
Thus Began Also...
In Ages Forgotten
Squaremeter is Mathis Mootz.
SPARKLE FADE (Stykfaktor)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
When two people tackle the warped arena that is Electro Goth Synth Pop (etc) if they haven’t got oodles of equipment it doesn’t usually spare their DIY blushes, yet the suitably deprived Stykfactor carry most of this off with confidence, even though there aren’t memorable moments.
Doop doop, tssh, tssh goes the opener and you patiently watch it travel a straight line and end, which is what most of the bands do. There isn’t the inventive peaks and troughs of Industrial which is why it’s a fairly tame experience. The maintain a steady rhythm, with jerky decoration but the first time I listened I’d already reach the end of ‘Twitch:Embrace’ before I cottoned on it was two separate songs, because I was easily distracted.
The problem is they’re too stately. They need to pick the pace up and have fun rather than coming over rather frowny. ‘All That Is Man’ is a good example, because the beat takes ages to come in when it should smasck us within seconds, then keep up the impact throughput. Synthesised energy often causes problems, and they run into a wall here, as the interesting lyrics should have lifted the song but the vocals hold back, and in their deepest song, ‘Beautiful One’ which is far fuller musically, and their most complete song, the vocals are almost expressionless which I would say seems pointless, were it not for the fact their try a capricious cover of ‘Ring Of Fire’ which is truly hideous.
I’m not saying there aren’t good ideas here, because there was a time (before they fell asleep) when the Human League would gladly have nicked the ideas from ‘Beautiful One’ but until they speed it up, which will provide natural urgency, it’s jolly, but far too undemanding.
ALL THAT IS MAN
RING OF FIRE
~reviewed by Goat
In a word, dazzling. Totally beyond genrefication. The music is exactly as the title says; electric opium. This makes a perfect chill out and get lost album, except for the vocal parts. I'm sort of like the Anti-Vocal when it comes to "gettin' outta my head" music. I don't like the direct presence of human beings unless it's indiscernible as such. So, that's the only complaint I have about this collection of otherwise excellent pieces.
Substanz-T have made a name for themselves by making trippy, lazy, ambient funk type sounds. This collection continues that work, and with the guest appearance of "f.m. einhiet" on percussion, the fuzzy oozy trippin', melts over some tight, beautifully crisp beats.
Standouts of the collection
are the first song, "peyote sol of halls" which features some of the most
lysergic organ work ever, the song "the bullet in your hand" which propels
for seven shimmering minutes like a demon locomotive, right into the last
and perhaps most truthful song regarding the opiate element of the music,
called "ubique". Ubique is creepy and crawling and very like the
glow and the itch, if you know what I mean.
Sci-fi B-movies and opiates. Believe.
Look for a hidden track of euphoric benediction. This one comes extremely highly recommended. Caution: may have narcotic effect.
1. peyote sol of halls
2. steer the stars
3. place cells
5. lazy lo
6. tripped reality
7. burning consciousness
8. the bullet in your hand
On Hymen records: http://www.klangstabil.com/hymen/
Distributed in the U.S. by: http://www.soleilmoon.com
Substanz-T site: http://www.substanz-t.com/
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
OOOooooooh, spirals of softness with a crisp, hard dance centre is just the thing to make a writer conjure up comparisons for the unknowing. Want to know what they’re really like now? They’re the next step on from what Faithful Dawn achieved.
Right, it’s a great song, but once again a light smack across the back of the legs, this time for Liz. Even though it is a majestic song, and quite easily the best thing I have heard them do, with just a little more vocal projection and presence this is the kind of thing which would even light up a Ministry Of Sound compilation, because the appeal is so immediate. However, she hangs back and lays atop the music, forlorn, when she should be dominating both the supremely surging rhythm and gently uplifting melody. The vocals are wonderful (don’t get me wrong) but here we find them in Nationwide 1 playoffs, when they could have broached the Premiership!!!!
This musical intoxication vs Vocal Asphyxiation question is lessened somewhat by the two Weirdo remixes. The second one is darker and sharper, the third one slightly sparser with the vocal given a leetle extra emphasis. But it’s in their hands and only fabulous things should await them.
The other song, ‘Shadows’ is also tricky. It is rather Eves-ish, ‘Phases’ era, with dancey legs, and has a beguiling deportment and sense of weight, which drags you along with it. Just when you suspect it’s fluff it has a real, brooding heart.
A seriously sumptuous single.
SUBTEXT – Bold Mix by Weirdo
SUBTEXT – Italic Mix by Weirdo
Kill The Lights
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Perhaps it pays to be on a nostalgia trip. That way, you will be much more receptive to contemporary bands that release powerful and timeless music. You will be doubly impressed by something that honestly does sound new and refreshing, that pushes boundaries and goes places that few, if any, bands have ever gone before. I am still waiting for that. However, I do recognize when a band sticks to the roots of its respective genre, and selectively chooses only the most powerful elements to infuse into their own work and uniquely interpret these elements for their own music. But you have to be familiar with those elements to fully appreciate such a thing.
Over the past year, when it comes to ‘Goth’ music, I have basically forged backward without regret and I discover nearly half a dozen bands a month that are ignored, forgotten, or were never at all discovered by most of today’s active Goths and club goers. If I could keep up with my findings, I would review them more often here as Classics. That may change. But regardless, it is sad that most current Goths could care less about any of these bands, even if they were exposed to them. They want the next synth pop club smash and they will surely get it. In my aesthetic defiance, if you will, I have discovered bands that I am likely to cherish until I am merely dust and ash in my grave, when the aforementioned club smash is forgotten. Occasionally bands like Audra, The Sins, Mors Syphilitica, Cinema Strange, or Faces Of Sarah will come along and do something exciting with the Goth genre but otherwise, the music that characterizes the world of Goth today, I could care less about. There is nothing challenging, confrontational, dark, or edgy about any of it. So to each their own – I have my quest of preservation and resurrection, and others have their quests as well. It is just extremely frustrating to have a genre of music eclipsed by a growing genre of music that has absolutely nothing to do with it.
So let me get to the matter at hand. Turn Pale. I first discovered this band a little over a year ago, when they were kind enough to send me their debut singles May Last Until Winter and Chance. I have been anxiously anticipating a full-length release, and at last, the band’s debut full-length Kill The Lights will be unveiled in June. How am I to review this disc, considering the current state of the Goth scene? Quite honestly, I can’t see how any of the star DJs in the scene will condescend to care about this. And I say fuck them. Fuck them and fuck the scene. Unless of course you like the electro pop garbage that people shove down your throat weekly. That is your choice. But this band will most likely suffer because most of you will not know what to do with this CD. You couldn’t possibly dance to it because there is no pulsing 4/4 beat with tinny synths beeping and blipping above it. So therefore, is this band really doomed to fall by the wayside? That hardly seems fair, does it?
I cling to tradition, regardless of whether it’s dead or not to most of the world. Apparently, it isn’t entirely. Turn Pale’s music is a blatant, triumphant celebration of what Goth and Post Punk music was once all about. It is a raw, aggressive, and claustrophobic release. Jagged, pounding tribal rhythms, gigantic bass lines, scratchy piercing guitars, and a theatrical vocalist that is not afraid to let loose and scream, wail, and deliver an outright vocal attack. Michael Anderson is animated by a playful pomposity that recalls Rozz Williams and a frantic, manic inhibition that would make a young Nick Cave proud. The accompanying music is suitably pissed off, abrasive, discordant and bizarre when it needs to be -- yet this band never takes itself too seriously. They do not sink beneath the weight of pretense, nor are they mired in sugar-coated woe is me romanticism. There is an agitated sensuality to the music, as demonstrated in the sublime unrivaled brilliance of “In Sight,” with its tight plodding dirge of a rhythm, propulsive bass line, and chilling, dizzying guitar riffs that trickle and ooze atop with stark menace. Raspy screams punctuate the rhythmic punches, while the song lurches onward to an all out explosion of bleak Indie perfection. The shuffling surrealism of “Light Melts Away” is utterly faultlessness, a sprawling groove-oriented fusion of Bauhaus and early Sonic Youth. The funky frenetic disco-death of “Peaceable Kingdom” vocally recalls Johnny Rotten and Public Image Ltd’s early experimental work and musically revisits the shrill jangle of “Reptile House” era Sisters Of Mercy. “Beneath The Wheel” is a dark, buoyant slab of plodding gloom, which weds melodic airiness with the kind of climactic cacophony explored in the early days of bands like Wire and Gang Of Four.
These comparisons might seem tiring and a bit limiting on my part as a critic and reviewer. But I can’t help but feel that it is Turn Pale’s intention to suggest such comparisons with their music. However, what cannot be overlooked is that Turn Pale has indeed put their own creative spin on how they choose to interpret and present these classic sounds. Frankly, in the alternative music mainstream right now, bands like The White Stripes, Interpol, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are recycling elements of Post Punk and brilliantly polishing them to reach a wider audience. And critics are rightfully praising them. A Post Punk revolution very well might be the next big thing and I for one would rather listen to those aforementioned MTV2 stars than what is passing for underground music today. But Turn Pale’s place in all of this is that they do not dilute or temper the classic elements of the genre. They are as nauseous, noisy, and alienating as The Birthday Party must have appeared in 1983. But with an even greater and updated sonic abrasiveness that puts them ahead of other contemporary bands. Though Turn Pale sounds dated, they are certainly a few steps ahead of everyone else.
Turn Pale’s energy is irresistible, unmistakable and contagious. There is a fire lit beneath the collective ass of this band and the result is a collection of music that should, ideally, cause a veritable typhoon of critical praise and interest in the underground and perhaps even in the overground. They might be a little known band of average looking Indie rockers from Indiana, but they are responsible for some of the most exciting and explosive music since the classic cult bands that influenced them. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Turn Pale. I hope they get the exposure they deserve. I hope all the supposed Goth rockers out there buy this CD. I hope all the DJs that claim to be Goth, Death Rock, etc, start including this band in their club and radio playlists. What that will accomplish I have no idea, but it would be nice to walk into a Goth club and here music that evokes a strange and cerebral atmosphere, rather than a techno pop rave or corny fetish meat market.
Turn Pale could appeal to Indie rockers, Death Rockers, Goth kids, and apparently, mainstream alternative music fans as well. They could not have arrived at a better time – all they need is the exposure. It will truly be a crime if this band continues to stay beneath the radar of dark music fans. I urge you to read between the lines of my bitterness and disenchantment with the scene and pick up this excellent release. You won’t regret it.
* You can pre-order the CD through the What Else records website below, and receive the CD, a T-shirt, and a silk-screened patch for $16.
1.) Submit To Me
2.) Light Melts Away
3.) Peaceable Kingdom
4.) End Of Words
5.) In Sight
6.) The Very Center Of It All
7.) Slow To Drown
8.) Beneath The Wheel
10.) 9 by 9
Turn Pale is:
Michael Anderson – vocals
Nick Quagliara – guitars
Peter Schreiner – bass
Martin Sprowles – drums
What Else? Records:
Moon Oppose Moon (Dying Time)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I was expecting this album, released before ‘Saturn Return’, to be a lumpier thing, with a slightly harsher sound, but actually it isn’t that far removed at all. Less elegant or refined, yes, but just as varied, just as weird, in that a small group of musicians sharing an evident passion for old instruments and forms of music, which can then be used and transplanted into a modern arena, make it work.
Also they have such quality. Kit Messick has a wonderfully plaintive voice, which perches atop the lugubrious enticement of ‘Teach me How To Drown’, and later Michael Laird returns to the same lyrical theme in ‘Scourge’ with more attractive singing across this strangely pretty, cheekily lolling music. And that’s the crazy thing, because they have these old, rat-infested forms that are then ventilated in a fluent style, rather than gentrified. They touch upon the medieval 16th century with ‘Tre Fontane’, and while the Black Death probably seemed thrilling compared to the dirges offered up as entertainment if that’s all they got, here it’s compelling without being satisfying, if that makes sense. It has the taint of mystery, as a shuffling torment.
You can’t exactly sing along to anything, but ‘Estuans Interus’ is very sing-song in structure, and makes you sway, which can’t be a healthy move! ‘Viper Song’ opens on a mobile message with a difference before twee autumnal acoustic moves into music that is very filmic, but not noir, more soir. Is Film Soir a genre? If not, make it so!
They can be modern as well, no problem there, and they can step entirely to one side, beckon you into a stinking alley and confront you with hurdy-gurdy playing, just as somebody called Spider Grandmother is credited with harp playing, although I suspect this is Natalia Lincoln, who plays sparkling piano throughout ‘Sojouner’. It’s all so natural, so dextrous. I wasn’t impressed with ‘This Duration Of Emptiness’, which seems like an intellectual edifice that’s purely a construct, the way some people named their websites with Projekt-inspired titles a couple of years back: and the lyrics “our love was like a child that died” - oh, nice! Similarly, the mini-sound of ‘Swarm’ was just pointless.
Happily, it even ends fruitily. ‘Középkorbács’ (sing along y’all!) skips about like a drunken harlot shouting Fugue You, with dulcimers and percussion. ‘Sonnet Macabre’ and ‘Conjuration To Lilith’ both maintain a crisp mood by having perkier plucking with united male and female vocals covering the somewhat insalubrious nature of the lyrics, creating less harrowing, sonorous laments, so I guess the overall effect is that of going to a museum of your own volition, when teachers are but a distant memory. Also, it acts as a musical form of air freshener, allowing you to breathe deeply without trepidation.
That said, they’re probably all mental.
TEACH ME HOW TO DROWN
DER LETZTE RITTER
THIS DURATION OF EMPTINESS
CONJURATION TO LILITH
KNOWLEDGE SCARS (Unmediated Productions)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I’m not at all surprised that people might be raving about this debut by Erica Mulkey who tricked people at the university she attended, for she has a persuasive way about her. They saw her lugging her cello dutifully around and thought to themselves, isn’t it nice that young people care about the old ways, when by night she was up to her nostrils in toxic waste, chopping down hard on Strontium B discharge, and scheming for the future.
But what a difference an education can make, as she’s produced and engineered this herself, and while the press release says her talents cross Electro-Industrial territory I’m not so sure. In many ways she’s making the sort of music Garbage might if they weren’t on the commercial gravy train, and as a work of art this album is exquisitely charged with modern mannerisms and a hint of classical tradition, the sort of music which would be just the right shade of unnerving for some poncey art gallery. As a portfolio for her styles, delivery, talent and direction it’s a right old mish-mash. It works because she threatens here and there to be a serious innovator, and when it comes to arranging rhythm she knocks most Industrial programmers into a ditch where they ca lay around weeping.
You see a lot of Industrial is really just bollocks anyway, and for anyone with serious talent it’s a sonic playground. Once you have some specific beats of a cyclical rhythm pattern then it’s a collage, where you overlay everything and as there are no expectations of melodic resolutions, chorus or endings, you can pretty much throw anything into a mix and give it an artful tweak here and there. Which is what most people do, and it can be very diverting. Similarly some go for the bludgeoning end, hammering away, because they don’t know what Punk is, it’s all so long ago. Back then they would have been punks, and now they’re Industrial, with a leaning towards Ambient. Erica has her Ethereal leanings, and some pop styling, and overall this album seems more like that kind of music, with discreet trays of Industrial sweetmeats drafted in. This means you don’t get music that clogs your arteries, but you also don’t get anything in the way of ferocity.
And, more tellingly, you don’t get a real sense of character. An overriding sense of talent, yes, but that’s not the same, which means the album doesn’t satisfy on any personal level, because it’s fractured, not fractious. There are at least four or five styles competing. It’s beguiling, and wonderfully interesting in sections, so you just know you’ll be keeping an ear out for what she does next, because most bands don’t manage songs this good in their whole existence, and she’s just starting, but she’ll have to get the real route mapped out. An album feeding off the style of the title track would be extraordinary, although it sees her at her most accommodating. An album which stripped out the old and relied on the new would need a lot less of the vocal wobbling she does, as her voice flits in and out behind some arty effects. ‘Subsistence’ makes convincing dream sequence music, and ‘Lament For Peter Pan’ is like an ethereal-ambient compress, so that all works.
However, there’s no getting away from the fact that ‘Dispossessed’ sounds just like Erasure, and that can’t be good, or that ‘You’ is reminiscent of Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’ concoction, and then there’s the covers. She makes a fine fist of giving Kate Bush’s ‘Deeper Understanding’ poisonous uplift, and then wanders absent-mindedly between plonky piano pillars with The Cure’s ‘The Drowning Man’ as well as serving up ‘Sentiment’ from Joy De Vivre/Crass. I always figured Crass had applied jazz riffs to Punk energy, and speeded up, and here there’s a similar electronic sparkiness.
So, confusion. It has some cracking moments, but it’s swirling like a whirlpool of intent, incapable of ejecting any true specifics. And the funniest thing? ‘When I Touch Myself’ is pop which manages to include all of the above, with slip beats, cellos and sly, corkscrewed vocals all blending into a ravishing feast.
She’s certainly got it, but I doubt she knows what it is.
THE FUTURIST’S NIGHTMARE
WHO PROGRAMMED MY DESIRE
FREEDOM FROM RELIGION
LAMENT FOR PETER PAN
WHEN I TOUCH MYSELF
THE DROWNING MAN
VACANT SKIES REVISITED
A Quick Fix of Melancholy EP
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Ulver's EPs often mark the dawn of a new metamorphosis for the ever-evolving eccentrics. A Quick Fix of Melancholy may or may not usher in a new age of Ulver, but it does contain 23 minutes of astounding, unusual, and astoundingly unusual music that graphically represents melancholy without actively depressing. "little blue bird" shows us empty wheelchairs in decaying asylums, stationed by barred windows and glancing hopefully at even the bleakest of views. "doom sticks" feels like Aphex Twin on valium, and "vowels" is a slightly upbeat retelling of Christian Bök's poem of the same name. "eitttlane" is an oddly electronic remix of a song from Kveldssanger.
The overall feeling of Ulver's latest work is undeniably powerful, and the music is perfectly suited to nighttime brooding and ruminating. You can put the CD on when you're already feeling down and looking for company, or you can use the CD for the purpose its title suggests, and slip away into a darker mindset to balance out those days when you feel altogether too happy. Either way, you're looking at mood-affecting music made by a group that can master any style they attempt.
The general feel to Ulver's new sound is slightly new age, if new age was not so often used as pleasant background music. A Quick Fix of Melancholy can easily sink into the backdrop of your activities, but while playing, its influences on your mood will constantly pressure you. There is also a slightly orchestral/classical feel to the songs, which mixes surprisingly well with the electronic elements and operatic singing performances (one of which is by Garm himself).
Since Ulver left metal, they have explored various ambient and instrumental styles that have tried the patience of some of their listeners. Although I've enjoyed all of Ulver's work, A Quick Fix of Melancholy is a more than welcome return to solid music with singing (and Garm numbers among my favorite vocalists). This is a highly, highly recommended work to anyone who appreciates the artistic side of experimental music. To appreciate Ulver, you do not need to be a fan of any particular style, much less the styles that the group uses to present their ideas. Rather, you only have to be open and willing to explore common feelings in new ways. Be sure to listen to the new clip on www.theendrecords.com
1) little blue bird
2) doom sticks
Ulver - Official Site:
The End Records (US):
3 (Umbrella Music Company)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
We’re either living through great creative times right now or my attitude does a fine job in scaring away those too weak to be tested, because all I’m receiving recently is high quality works, which suits me. Jenn Vix, a woman who admits Numan, Siouxsie and The Cure have been inspirations, sounds more like Curve without the frenzy, and a few odd extras. Think less traumatic than Unwoman and more artistically complete, and therefore more refreshing, than Collide, and you’ve got her. Sort of.
A one woman show, because she takes her time, this album doesn’t fit obviously into the Ethereal camp, because of the bulging nature of the bass, or the Electronic arena, having too many traditional components. She is like a virgin swimmer, walking the shores of pageantry, dipping her toes fleetingly into little pools of activity. Despite an impressively eerie, bumptious start, ‘Doll Heart’ lays out her approach. There is modern noise, and a silky motion, and the noir mood is violet rather than dark. Twilight, not midnight, and her vocals glide elegantly.
This is a voice strong enough to compensate for the beats of ‘Stuck’ seeming rather splatty and amateur, and her vocal raft, surrounded by musical flying fish, is especially captivating, almost capricious, on the Goth-lite pleasantries of ‘Open Your Eyes’. This song is done again as the closer, but guitar-based, and joins ‘Sunrise Of The Mind’ as being Hippy-Goth, but she handles everything with poise.
Weirdness mainly comes with two instrumentals, in the spirited ‘Nimbus’ and piercing, temperamental ‘Electronic Tribute To Toshiro Mifune’. Other than that this is music for Projekt fans who fancy a bit of oomph now and again, and for those who like there to be a constancy, regardless of mood fluctuations. Music that can help you think, not evaporate gently in the background. It isn’t sylph-like, or doomy, it doesn’t try to sound Of The Moment, in an overt manner (like so many), it simply is. The only blemish comes when the bounciest, thudding music of ‘Broken Angels Singing’ overpowers the vocals.
OPEN YOUR EYES
BROKEN ANGELS SINGING
WIRES + A DREAM
ELECTRONIC TRIBUTE TO TOSHIRO MIFUNE
SUNRISE OF THE MIND
OPEN YOUR EYES - GTR
~reviewed by Steph
Critics of any stripe are often accused of liking nothing better than savaging the subjects they review. Personally, I don't get off on being cranky, but I do hate to see an artist I once admired descending into lazy self-parody.
I've never been a huge Wolfsheim fan, but "Once in a Lifetime" caught my attention on the dancefloor late one night, and I started listening to more of their work. I found a them more diverse and subtle than I'd expected, and I began to regard Wolfsheim as one of the better groups on the electro/EBM scene.
Then they released Casting Shadows.
Yes, "Once in a Lifetime" has been played to death in the clubs, but damn it, there was a sense of urgency about that song. No such sturm and drang informs any of the tracks on this album.
I almost got caught out. Halfway through the album, my ears perked up. "Hey," thought I, "this isn't bad. I could dance to it. It's really pretty good!" Happy to have found a track I liked, I danced around the room until it hit me that "Find You're Gone" is almost literally "Once in a Lifetime Part II", right down to the tempo, pitch and melody. I've never seen such a shameless recycling of the "big hit". There's not a trace of originality in this track, or on the entire album.
It's all perfectly pleasant, unremarkable and sickeningly safe.
And then there's the lyrics...
The title track, which opens the album, observes that "everyone who casts a shadow seems to stand in the sun". That's how light and shadow generally work, last time I checked. The words of wisdom continue with "Care for you" which opens with "and when winter comes around/you'll need your winter shoes". Wow. That's brilliant..really. Why write real lyrics when you can just recyle the ten best pieces of advice your mother gave you? There is no excuse for music as tepid as this.
1 Everyone who casts a shadoq
2 Care for you
3 I won't believe
4 Kein zuruck
5 And I..
6 Underneath the veil
7 Find you're gone
8 This is for love
10 Approaching lightspeed
11 In time
KILL THE SUN (DRAKKAR)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
There’s tons of Gothic Metal bands out there and I sometimes wonder when they gave up grubby old ways and moved into new, topical areas, or whether they once were fey and have got increasingly tougher, but here we pretty much know. An old rocker has put together something charming and inspiring, where only the riffs betray a past infatuation with late 80’s Metal (not Heavy Metal).
Similarly there are tons of bands we can best describe with a simple comparison to Inkubus Sukkubus, and then onto the biggest comparison of all, in All About Eve, and both ring true with Xandria, but coming so solidly from a Metal axis they have a power, dignity and blankness all their own. They don’t go for any hoary old tricks, and keep everything brisk, light and tight but still we see the riffs peeking through, itching to unravel into decadence.
The songs are often beautiful even though they have far more self-discipline than is good for them,. These songs deserve to ignite and burst, not burn slowly but there’s the hippyish vocal nuances and the charismatic delivery to admire, beginning from the title track, with snappy drums and a flowing chorus, which is something they’re good at, and it’s no shock this commercial enterprise has seen them access Germany’s main charts.
They’re wonderfully sharp, dragging you into their emotional parades. "Mermaids" has swift bursts of guitar emphasis, ad even when they have a very Metally opening, as with "Ginger" it’s Eves all over with guitars more elegiac and grittier than anything Tim opted for. When they shapeshift for variety you get low down riffing and tavern violin for "She’s Nirvana", plus a naff solo, and the curiously sonorous synth of a drowsy "Forever yours", but restraint is the key so non-Metal fans don’t choke in horror, and the breathy dramatic vocals in "Casablanca" are followed by big burly guitar come to rescue the maiden.
One of the best songs for musical variety away from soft rock intrigues is the mistier drama of a shimmering, echoing "So You Disappear" but it does demonstrate that we don’t often see much vocal variety. Lisa can slow down or maintain a steady pace but that’s pretty much it. A consistently orthodox presence she is their linchpin around which the musical has vivacious surges. I want more extremes to see them tested.
They get closest with "Wisdom" where she crawls in a spoken style, vaguely rolling around amid sharp old school Metal guitar splinters, and then they coast out of the album, with a classy sparkling "Isis/Osiris" with some majestic singing, and the closer is what precisely? It happens so slowly, ambling and aimless so you just know a massive riff will bludgeon in, only it never does, as the airy exercise slows and curls into flamenco then judders gently to an end. Utterly bizarre, which makes for a nice lingering mystery.
They’re a fantastic band, although the metal feel may put some off. Neither ferocious, mind-pounding or wispy ethereal, they’ve opted for the middle-ground, and they dominate it impressively.
KILL THE SUN
SO YOU DISAPPEAR
www.focusion.de - press
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
There's one very nice thing about Theodore Ziras's newest CD: it has an extremely obvious target audience. Fans of instrumental neo-classical shredding metal, rejoice! This CD is for you. Unfortunately, I'm not so sure it's for the rest of us, but we'll get to that in a second. If you like Yngwie Malmsteen or other neo-classical shredders, and perhaps never appreciated the annoying vocalists they hire (or have something against acoustic drums), then you really can't go wrong with Virtual Virtuosity. It is a fine CD for the style, with plenty of sweeping, grand neo-classical melodies and fast solo bits.
You might have guessed I'm leading up to some negative commentary. You'd be right. In addition to the one nice thing about this CD, there is one very glaringly painfully obviously bad thing about it - we have heard it before, so, so, so many times. If you have heard any Yngwie Malmsteen CD, you know exactly what to expect from Virtual Virtuosity. The only real exception is the more Metallica-ish neo-classical ballad, "Evermore..." I suppose you could also throw in the rather interestingly exotic solo from "The Edge."
Those two songs aside, you get 9 tracks of hyper shredding straight out of the mid to late 80's. If this style still excites you, Ziras's work will suit you just fine. I find it much more listenable than Malmsteen if only for the lack of vocalists (I can hardly tell a difference between their guitar playing). I'm assuming most of you have heard this style before in some form, but it mainly consists of fast scales and (mostly sweep-picked) arpeggios culminating in a classical sounding melody of some sort (usually Baroque-era), whereupon the main melody notes are often extended pompously and enhanced with a smattering of vibrato or, er, pinch harmonic...ing...
If, on the other hand, you enjoy guitar for actual classical playing, you'll find this style lacking greatly in complexity, tone, and emotion. If you come from the fusion camp, you'll find it lacking the insane speed via complicated licks - Ziras and his contemporaries pretty much stick to scales and arpeggios, no unusual or crazy music like you'd expect from Shawn Lane, Chris Poland, or weirder still, Bumblefoot. I'm content to leave this style behind forever, but I'd feel a little bad about being too hard on Ziras. Let's hope he tries something less obviously 'Yngwie' in the future - for now, enjoy it if it's a style can't get enough of, avoid it if it isn't.
1) Terminus ad Quem
2) Dark Valley
5) The Edge
6) Virtual Virtuosity
7) Fictitious Rhapsody
8) Your Majesty
10) The Boring Machine
Theodore Ziras is:
Theodore Ziras - guitars, programming, everything
Theodore Ziras - Official
Secret Port Records:
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Zyklon plays a very, very heavy mix of death and black metal. They learned heaviness and technicality from death metal, speed and coldness from black metal, and a slightly cinematic feel from... somewhere. I'm not sure how that snuck in there, come to think of it. Maybe the band got it from The Matrix. Which would, in fact, explain why the band members wear long black trenchcoats and sunglasses, and in general look as if they know they're badasses (also notable: the band isn't wielding guns for the press photos this time around, as they did on their debut, World ov Worms). So, we've got a bit of death metal, a bit of black metal, and The Matrix. You prepared to follow this one? Down the rabbit hole we go...
The cinematic aspect of Zyklon's music is rather obviously intentional. The CD cover is designed like a movie poster, complete with movie-styled credits at the bottom. Perhaps sadly, the actual songs don't always back up the movie-like feeling you would expect them to strive for. Most of the songs are made up of extremely heavy kick-ass metal riffing, death metal belching/growling/roaring, and Trym's always punctual and technical (if slightly repetitive) blast-beat drumming. It is only sparingly that the band sees fit to throw in an actual melodic lead, though backing themes are slightly more common.
Trym (drums) and Samoth (guitars) are best known for their starring roles in Emperor, while Destructhor (guitars) got his big break with Myrkskog. Joining the cast this time is Secthdamon (vocals, bass), also of Myrkskog. With such an all star veteran cast, you know Aeon is going to feature top-notch heavy music in the vein of Emperor and Myrkskog. And that they do - leaning heavily towards a more varied and themed Myrkskog-like sound. What I can't understand is how such talented individuals allowed their music to be compressed, crushed, and otherwise compacted into a big flat wall of sound.
On the first several listens to Aeon, you'll likely hear no more than a pounding throb. This type of production renders extreme metal rather feckless. Nevertheless, a few listens start to clear up the compressed sludge, and pretty soon you'll be picking out the instruments well enough to actually enjoy Zyklon's excellent black/death hybrid heavy sound. Much of Aeon repeats World ov Worms, but the new singer and cinematic moments give the music a fresh feel, leaving me to say the best thing one usually can about the second movie in a series: it's a good sequel. A bit like the first. Not so surprising. But a good sequel nonetheless.
1) Psyklon Aeon
2) Core Solution
3) Subtle Manipulation
4) Two Thousand Years
5) No Name Above the Names
6) The Prophetic Method
7) Specimen Eruption
8) Electric Current
9) An Eclectic Manner
Trym - drums
Samoth - guitars
Destructhor - guitars
Secthdamon - vocals, bass
Zyklon - Official Site:
DARK AWAKENING Volume 1 (Cop International)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
One of three beautiful, high quality double-compilations that Events (and compilation) organiser Dirk Neveling has sent me, where the only minor quibble would be lack of urls on liner notes and an explanation for why these tracks were chosen; crowd faves, Dirk faves, or a bit of both? The rest is gorgeous. Classy packaging, excellent variety, and not one stinker of a song!
Okay, I admit I prefer full-on dance to Electro because dance doesn’t pretend to be unnecessarily artistic, and a lot of Electro, while very spruce, actually is a new form of background music. The reason it works is because the lyrics are usually trite, so you add your own thoughts to the shifting sounds, and it suddenly acquires a personalised purpose.
Starting lightly with the winsome and poppy Angels + Agony, then whisked by Decoded Feedback you’re gently ushered into a world of gloss and well-mannered turmoil, where only the seething morass of Plastic undermines the beauty. MDFMK are playfully poisoned, with their glam stomp, Alien Skull Paint sound like Depeche Mode’s grandchildren, the best dance fluidity comes from Mastertune, which manages to both effete and stormy, and it closes with attitude, as Neurotic Fish give you gritty news imagery shot through a tingling tune, and Culture Kultur tease with charm.
The Goth side naturally has more actual character because the people dominate the music, no vice versa. Behind The Scenes are disappointingly Cult-like, but otherwise Einsturzende almost conjure up a world music nursery rhyme, the appearance of an old Alex Harvey song by Power To Dream is a total shock, as if the Gaelic drone of Corvus Corvax, and the grim patrolling Malaise carry out. Killing Miranda sound a bit cautious now, Inkubus have the liveliest bounder, Sex Gang & Marc still work beautifully with the lopsided chirping, and the engaging lyrical lunacy, which makes a good point, of Another Tale is lovely. The Wounded are morbid but agitated in a peculiar and interesting style, and both Cruelty Alliance and One Hundred Names have quite a lean, lightly strung sense of angst.
Do you think the next two compilations might be just as good? I rather suspect they will. (One has a classic Spear Of Destiny.)
ANGELS + AGONY – ONE
SHOCK OF REALITY – IN PALE WHITE LIGHT
DECODED FEEDBACK – REFLECT IN SILENCE
SOIL + ECLIPSE – EXILE
PLASTIC - EXPERIENCE
MDFMK – TORPEDOES
ALIEN SKULL PAINT - FLY WITH ME
SECOND DECAY – I HATE BERLIN
MASTERTUNE – B.A.C.K.
ABSURD MINDS - DECEPTION
NEUROTICFISH – BLACK AGAIN
CULTURE KULTUR - REVOLUTION TIME
MS GENTUR - HAUSSCHLACHTUNG
EINSTURZENDE NEUBATEN – SALMANDRINA
BEHIND THE SCENES - HUMAN
CRUELTY ALLIANCE - YOU’RE THE ONE
MALAISE - WALKING THROUGH THE WONDERLAND
KILLING MIRANDA - BURN SINISTER
CORVUS CORAX – SALTARELLO
POWER TO DREAM – THE FAITH HEALER
ONE HUNDRED NAMES - INSIDE
THE WOUND – YOUR ROSES WILL BURN
INKUBUS SUKKUBUS – UNDERWORLD
SEX GANG + MARC ALMOND – THE HUNGRY YEARS
ANOTHER TALE – IDIOT
DARK AWAKENING Volume 2 (Cop International)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
The second of the three compilations Dirk Neveling has created sees a darker edge emerging on the Electro side, with a familiar pattern on the Goth, which is what Goth tends to be about. Ah, bless! Ah, bliss.
I enjoyed a lot of the electro, which isn’t like me, and would pick the Industriepalast as the weirdest, for what sounds like an autopsy performed on an android, and Cultur Kultur as the most pumped, yet nonchalant. Between these there’s a quite horrifc Congfig.Sys, which didn’t grab me because I keep moving out of reach, and maybe Diary Of Dreams was too pain, with Diorama a bulging mess, but otherwise it’s infectious fare. Terminal Choice and Plastic Assault are commandingly ugly, Intra-Venus typically flooded and gushing, Kat-scan wonderfully crazed, Bio-Tek stickily slick and Deathline International strangely seductive. It’s full of great contrasts, track by track, but all positive, and often disgustingly noisy.
Goth-wise there’s a few surprises, not least of them being the Deep Eynde sounding a bit Missionesque, after The Mission get to try the Eastern guitar sound first, and Clan Of Xymox are disappointingly bland.
Der Fluch are a Goth punk Cramps, while The Convent offer poppy Goth swirls. 1919 sound rather shouty in this company, Brother Orchid a little distant, but Diva Destruction are crunchy, with quavering vocals flitting through a morose gas attack. Suspiria get over-busy, like a flu-ridden Bauhaus, and Phantom Vision provide dancey twitters. Faces Of Sarah prove that Goth Will Eat Itself, with lovely dramatics, as Mortiis are marvellously mad. Truly, madly, creepily.
It’s fun, and it’s fairly light, with no great depressive slant appearing. Elusive are fabulously grand, but with plenty of space in their stunning rock surrounds, so they don’t come over as pompous, just big and impressive. Morbid Poetry manage to be equally impressive, despite being pallid, passive and brittle! Go figure.
Best track ends it all, and this is the connection to Volume 1, as we once again go out with the most distinctive emotive vocal performance, this time from Irony Of Fate who are a Goth REM!
Volume 3 tomorrow. It’s going to be exciting.
TERMINAL CHOICE – DER SCSHWARZE MANN
DIARY OF DREAMS - BUTTERFLY:DANCE
BIO-TEK – SHIELD
CULTURE KULTUR - PROMISED LAND BLUES
RESURRECTION EVE - ZEN
DIORAMA – ADVANCE
DEATHLINE INTERNATIONAL – OUTCAST
HOCICO – UNTOLD BLASPHEMIES
PLASTIC ASSAULT – SHOTGUN BLAST
KAT-SCAN – IDIOT GENE
INDUSTRIEPALAST – KNOCHENANGST
CONFIG.SYS – CHAOZKOPF
DER FLUCH – WEREWOLF
THE CONVENT - FIRST IMPRESSION OF THE WEST
1919 – DREAM
DIVA DESTRUCTION – THE BROKEN ONES
SUSPIRIA – ALLEGEDLY, DANCEFLOOR TRAGEDY
FACES OF SARAH – ALL THAT IS DIVINE
MORBID POETRY – TRAIN
PHANTOM VISION – ARCHFIEND
THE MISSION – SLAVE (TO LUST)
MORTIIS - YOU PUT A HEX ON ME
ELUSIVE – THE CIRCLE NEVER ENDS
THE DEEP EYNDE – DEEP DARK SECRET
CLAN OF XYMOX – I WANT YOU NOW
BROTHER ORCHID – SEASON OF THE WITCH
IRONY OF FATE – WAITING DAWN
DARK AWAKENING Volume 3 (Cop International)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
So here’s the thing. No great fan of electro but always ready to like something with sparkling, breathless rhythm (rather than a staccato beat delivered at speed) I was wondering why this third volume’s electro side was instantly pleasing, without having deep impact on this fragile Mercer mind, and then I got it! It’s so devoid of adventurous ideas (apart from the hyperactive trauma of Stainless 4571) that it could all be by the same band, give or take an electronic tweak or two. It’s very much a collection of modern songs that follow a middle way. They can’t bend the rules too much or it’s portly drama, and if they get too arty it’s electronic, not electro. The cutesy sci-fi of Nebula-H made me smile, and the twatty club music of Zentriuert made me rush out of the room and blend in with the wallpaper so the speakers couldn’t find me.
Me, I like machines, but I prefer people and the Goth side has some good examples of fine modern artists. You’ll have to excuse me if I take you back in time, to the woeful Seventies, and I realise most of you are too young, but do you remember how awful Rock Follies was? Imagine if Nina Hagen was inspired by it, and that is Scary Bitches! Razor Skyline rather suffer by starting the side and being fairly close to electro, but their vocals are superb, cautious and incisive. Beautiful, really.
Cold are hot, Paralysed Age are lively, Audra surging despite being drowsy. Gorgeous moments, all. Avaraitia are cool and can only get better, New Days Delay could outrival The Brides for cheerful mania, Ghost Of Lemora do a fair impersonation of Suede not sucking a lemon, Bloody Dead & Sexy manage a fine Rozz of the ‘Only Theatre’ era, and for Repytyle, and the odd vocal phrasing, think Furs circa ‘Pretty In Pink. Oh, all kinds of weird historical paths get crossed.
And Juidith? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I thought they weren’t a Goth band anymore?
But what I like about compilations is their scope, variety and the way they can make you focus, and when I’d gone, ‘hmmm, not bad’ to The Last Dance, but found it hard to be inspired by The Cascades or The Awakening it came to me why. It’s bands like them, who have excellent music, that need to think again. Goth cannot move on until we have a bright strain, of new, young bands coming through, whose singers want to sing, not groan. It’s that historical cliché which now needs to be removed. Then things will start to happen.
And there it is, as the final track. Another emotive, acoustic-based encounter, and this time a total surprise. Not the best version of the song I’ve ever heard, but ‘Never Take Me Alive’ by Spear Of Destiny, with Kirk’s voice ringing out its heroic delivery just stops you on the spot. A class above.
MARIAN’S JOY – LAST KISS IN HEAVEN
THE RORSCHACH GARDEN – FAR AWAY FROM PARADISE
TACTICAL SEKT - COLD VICTIM
ASSEMBLAGE23 - DRIVE
NAMNAMBULU – MEMORIES
FLATLINE - VIRUS
NEBULAH-H – TWILIGHT ZONE
MINDWARE – ON EARTH
THE FAIR SEX - THE NOW AND HERE
ZENTRIERT INS ANTLITZ – GENOZID
INTERFACE – STONE MIRROR
OBJECT – RAPID DECLINE
NOISE PROCESS - BETRAYED
XOTOX – EISENKILLER
STAINLESS 4571 - ASSAULT
RAZOR SKYLINE - CORPORATION
AUDRA – MIDNIGHT MOON SWING
PARALYSED AGE - INTO THE ICE
THE GHOST OF LEMORA – DREAD THE DAY
THE CASCADES - RED STARS
THE AWAKENING – THE DARK ROMANTICS
SCARY BITCHES - LESBIAN VAMPIRES FROM OUTER SPACE
AVARITIA - PLEASURE AND PAIN
JUDITH - -PLAY OF LIGHT
COLD - SUMMERNIGHT
THE LAST DANCE - SHE’S DANCING
PRONOIAN MADE - WORLD BIZARRE
NEW DAYS DELAY – TINY MONSTERS + FURRY LITTLE CREATURES
BLOODY DEAD AND SEXY – SICK SIX MINUTES
SPEAR OF DESTINY - NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE
MOONLIGHT.CORPORATION V1.0 (Sector 19)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Me, I like people. The vast proliferation of electronic music these days no more appeals to me than when the first early experimental artists began offering wholly indecipherable cassettes during the early 80’s. It’s usually an interesting idea at best, and not a mistake you care to repeat. Push experimental towards electro and there’s a dividing line between it and dance, except studio boffins just don’t know how to make it fluid. To them a beat is the same as a rhythm, which gives them a clomping feel and no sensuality. Give an electronic edge to Industrial and if anything it dilutes the power, making it seem a curious mixture. True exponents of electronic music are few and far between, because without actual vocals, you’re pushing out something more akin to an intellectual exercise rather than music which people find exciting. Without vocals someone needs to be akin to a genius to create something distinctively different.
So I didn’t expect much of this compilation, and didn’t get it, despite a variety of styles being included. S.M.P. were okay - think an electro Killing Joke, Aiboforcen is a techno-lite Kraftwerk approach, and by the time I became reacquainted with a frantic System 81 I felt my skull had been lifted and my brain was an all-you-can-eat feast for ravenous rats. Chaos Engine make a mighty impact by having good vocals, which is refreshment par excellence in this stark, twinkling landscape.
Too much struck me as worthy but dull, or just plain baffling. Silencer sound like the grating annoyance of a neighbour doing DIY with drills, Tin.Rp are just churning out a pattern which isn’t really music, and Arkham Asylum are like a fruitier Nitzer Ebb with crappy vocals. Mouth Of Indifference at least try and do something, as though robots had an interest in jazz.
Ugliest award goes to the sluggish Six Past Seven, Mnemonic are just dance without any fun element, Mojoid are drab, Progeria secretly act as a conduit for painkiller sales, Mindflux Funeral yelp madly, squaring up to a fight, Autocad are up and optimistic but essentially just a bippety-boppety instrumental, and I keep thinking oh well, at least this isn’t a dire noisefest, only for the prettier version to be equally pointless.
The main band is clearly Jailbird, who open and close the album, and they make an instant impact. If Abba were cavemen, they would be like this: delightfully smooth, but fiendishly hairy and abrupt, it’s Industrial given a music-box spin, but then they close limply and there’s no disguising they’re a wimpy band who have deliberately heavied their sound up, rather being burly bastards embracing melodic ideas.
So what does this tell you? Nothing that you don’t already know. Electronic music is a mush and a mess, but if you want to find new names and would instantly recognise what for you represents fertile fields of the imagination then a compilation like this can be the answer. That said, I pity you.
JAILBIRD Delirium Tremens
S.M.P. Militia Love
AIBOFORCEN Twilight World
SIX PAST SEVEN Name Of God
MOUTH OF INDIFFERENCE Tense And Taut
CHAOS ENGINE Jesus Christ V2.0
SYSTEM 81 Mysterious
ARKHAM ASYLUM Crucifixion
MNEMONIC Human Fragments
TIN.RP Animal Farm
MIND FLUX FUNERAL Soul And Substance
ST JOHN’S EVE She Said
MONOID Kein Traum
AUTOCAD Dock To Dock 2001
JALBIRD Last Pray
NO HOLY ADDITIVES (British Underground Metal Compilation)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
There have been times when I have thought, enviously, how much more fun Metal fans have with the myriad of styles open to them, full of subtlety I don’t grasp, and the hidden worlds of arcane language. Then I think again and realise I’m lying, because Metal, in any form, has never meant anything to me. The closest I ever got was Disneyland After Dark, as they had great snappy songs and cool lyrics, plus they inverted the form and even looked charismatic.
This review is the fault of Max from History Of Guns who felt this would enrich my life and in many ways he was wrong, but the thing about these compilations is that if you search hard enough you will always find something that makes you say, ‘these are metal bands, and I don’t like them at all.’ I do, however, love the attitude of the editor of God Reah zine who has put this together, for his lambasting of media and fashion-following fans. That’s entirely the right combative spirit, and much to be admired. It’s just the music washes over me like the distant rumbling of a juggernaut full of snot.
Despite a vibrant bass Meads Of Asphodel don’t make for the most inspiring of openers, with their reflective posturing, and while the huge arc of a meandering guitar cast over Phantasia is certainly interesting, the vocals belong to a demented dunce, and that’s the biggest problem here. The singers. They are everywhere, with incomprehensible stylings: inconsolable, incontinent but never incandescent, probably due to restricted budgets. Sometimes they are buried, blissfully in the mix, as with Phantasia, and other times they bubble and spit like hawked-up mucus. Mind you, the bands with normal vocalists sound very light indeed. Tefra have admirably stern guitar but such naff vocals, you wonder if they use the grunting grimace style to hide lack of confidence and/or ability? Dag Mora are the ones who sound far better for being clearly heard, but Reign Of Erebus have a guard dog on the mike, until he switches and is exposed as a mumbling alkie.
Good things? Well from the plague pits of Dorset come Dying Day with riffs nicely barbaric, across the poisoned plains of Kingston, Kraken stiffly emerge with pretty keyboards then unrelenting thrash vomit. Out of Uxbridge, where darkness brings only solitude, Singuia have lumpy rhythms twisting and the vocals aren’t recorded backwards, they just sound like that. Escaping Motherwell, where even your sweetest dreams are laced with the graphic imagery of children eating the brains of their parents, you’ll enjoy Chaos;Sphere, with anguished bovine vocals but nice moody touches. Sub-Form come on with supposedly dramatic vocals and you expect a scalding torrent to follow but what you get is tiny, but busy.
Step Away From The Alberich Track! Arty noise, and nothing else, and then try to forget 7th Child where four deaf musicians respond to the signal of a lowered flag and finish, eventually. Another dose of Shrek on the toilet was too much for me, so I ignored Desecration halfway through.
I guess the most exciting track, after a sample of a rather well known German ponce, belongs to Ewigkeit, whose painful upbringing in the grim hinterland they call Brighton, creates enchantment momentarily with a nice female voice, and plenty of space as well as neat, vivid riffing, and Zeus fizzed and skipped with purpose, but the finest song of all has to be the juicily provocative noir-nerve-shredder ‘Random Death Bag’ by History Of Guns who really are a class apart.
It ends with bom bom bom, then twang of Ragnarok which, surprise surprise, includes authentic Anglo-Saxon bilge and is, it appears, ‘Blackened Folk’. That means it’s every bit as bad as normal folk, but blackened, until they get fed up with playing what is actually a proper, if stultifying boring, song, and go thrashy. ‘Narrrgh!’ etc. I bet they have beards.
Cheers Max! You bastard.
MEADS OF ASPHODEL – Watchers
Of Catal Hayuk
PHANTASTIA – Winifred’s Grave
REIGN OF EREBUS – Thy Infernal
EWIGKEIT – The Legend Of Keshara
DYING DAY – Planet Earth
DAG MORA – Something Wicked
HISTORY OF GUNS – Random Death Bag
TEFRA – The Clown
KRAKEN – Life beyond Life
SUNGUIA – Pig Fuck
SUB-FORM - Mindsai
DESECRATION – Bathroom Autopsy
7TH CHILD – Butchery Of The innocent
CHAOS:SPHERE - Drained
ZEUS - Fear
ALBERICH – From Adam To Athens
MORBID SYMPHONY – As Centuries Turn
RAGNAROK – Be Him To Hrefna God
Viscera v. Zero (Luminal Records)
~review by Steph
This impressive compilation from Atlanta-based Luminal Records is all over the map in a good way, which is a feat that most compilations cannot pull off. Collections of any type, aural, written or otherwise, all need editors, and too many comps these days seem poorly organized, contain too many tracks, or come acrosss sounding like they bit off far more than they could chew.
With 16 tracks from a diversity of artists including Attrition, Lust Murder Box, and In the Nursery, Viscera v. Zero manages to feature a wide range of musical styles without feeling too long or overambitious.
In the Nursery's cover of the classic "Love Will Tear Us Apart Again" is suitably somber and majestic, and although they do homage to the original in fine fashion, they also fail to leave their own unique stamp upon it in the manner of the best cover versions. After repeated listens, I'm reminded that Ian Curtis never meant the song to be a lament. Curtis spat the song out in a voice half strangled by lust, fear and a bitter sense of failure.
"The Wedding Guest" by No Comment is my hands-down favorite track on this compilation. The duelling male and female vocals tell a disturbing tale of possessive love and obsession, and even if the lyrics do tend towards the melodramatic, the grandiose arrangements rescue the track from parody, transforming it into a captivating swirly-goth dancefloor number.
Running a very close second is "Child of Blue Days" by Ophelia Burning. The rhythmic chants that punctuate the song give it a ritualistic flavour. The churning bassline that anchors the song grabs you by the base of the spine, and the sweet high vocal is the perfert counterpoint to the lowering mood of this completely compelling track.
"Beat Up" by Sabotage is a solid track that was done a disserve by being placed right after "The Wedding Guest". In its wake, the slow tempo of "Beat Up" ends up sounding sluggish and the vocals ring somewhat flat. All in all, an unfortunate juxtaposition.
The always strong Ikon deliver with "Heresy (Demo version)", which starts out with a strongly melodic guitar line that stays the course all the way through the track, just the way it used to be Back In My Day (TM). For some reason, I kept thinking back to Fields of the Nephilim during the track even though the styles are really not at all similar.
I'm a sucker for an electric violin, so it was no surprise that I was sucked into the swaying Latin-tinged gypsy sounds of "The Madman's Tale" by Arc Gotic, a track that sounds like a tale told around a campfire late at night. The Nick-Cave inspired vocals only add to the air of the dark troubador that this track engenders.
One of the joys of a good compilation is discovering new talent, and I thank Viscera v. Zero for leading me to the dark electronic warmth of 8kHz Mono. Harkening back to the day when EBM was more than just a meaningless acronym, this band reminds me that the goth and dark electronic scenes are not such strange bedfellows after all. Strong beats anchor "Frequency" while synthesized rhythms build, rise, swell and fade beautifully.
I'm guessing (and hoping) that Viscera v. Zero is going to give rise to future visceral incarnations. If so, and they are put together with as much care and thought as this release, they will be worth waiting for.
1 ARTISMIGHT - princess^
2 MORTHEM VLADE ART - splendor in the grass
3 SEVEN TREES - loss of breath°
4 IN THE NURSERY - love will tear us apart (again)
5 REMANENCE - now can I feel?
6 NO COMMENT - the wedding guest
7 SABOTAGE - beat up^
8 OPHELIA BURNING - child of blue days
9 IKON - heresy (demo version)^
10 ARC GOTIC - the madman's tale
11 LEISUR HIVE - flow montage^
12 DESIDERII MARGINIS - latency°
13 ATTRITION - lip sync [DOS mix]
14 8KHZ MONO - frequency^
15 LUST MURDER BOX - nothing
16 DAVE SCOTT - pompeii