To many people the great names of the early UK Goth scene naturally constitute Bauhaus, Danse Society, Sex Gang, Specimen and similar suspects, but to those getting into things slightly later All About Eve would have been a natural favourite. A gritty live band; dark at the bottom, with a murky sense of energy, topped by Julianne’s soaring vocals, they were hinting at great things before the Big Time hit when their mutual admiration society with The Mission bore fruit. Then it all went pear-shaped with self-immolation, but the funny thing was that even when they were shite there was something charming about their oafishness, and when the final albums returned to a dignified stance, as things fell apart, they’d gone full circle and never shamed themselves overall. A nice collection of pictures fill the booklet, and it’s good to see both a credit for Jake, and bridge rebuilding as Tim Bricheno writes stirring sleeve notes, referring to “the sound of 3 people who dared to dream, just before they woke up to find the reality.”
The best known song, ‘Martha’s Whorehouse’ is a notable, blessed, omission on this compilation, (they could have included it as an extra, totally silent, track?) leaving you free to enjoy yourselves, and you’ll notice how, compared to the rest of the 80’s Goth fraternity, none had such commercial clout, or basic understanding of how good textures and straightforward song writing techniques could be wedded together. The songs are class.
It starts sublimely, all sparkly, rough and tough with the crouching ‘D For Desire’, before lolloping sideways in the slack ‘Don’t Follow Me’. ‘Suppertime’ remains my favourite, because it’s actually hard as fuck, imaginative and almost slickly constructed. ‘End Of The Day’ manages to do in a richly romantic fashion what ‘Don’t Follow Me’ doesn’t, in swooping down and lifting you up, involving you with the intriguing lyrics, as an agile bass creates friction with the radiant pick-up guitar styling. ‘Love Leads Nowhere’ is chirpy and impatient, dominated by the vocals as they all bustle happily along. Trios always have serious power when they get it right and these tracks show a truly energised beast, building up a head of steam, which begins boiling over during ‘In The Clouds’, complete with baby noise, and a warm melodic allure, and some big brave lashing of guitar syrup.
Then you follow them in their descent into madness and the sleeve gives away that ‘Appletree Man’ is a demo which means it can’t just have been a foolhardy error in the studio. The resection rest, m’lud! Hippy bastards that they’d become, they couldn’t shake off the energy or ability that they had deep inside, and ‘Shelter From The Rain’ is a fine construct where Tim even gets to overshadow Paul Kossoff with a truly epic display of emotional grandeur on guitar, as the song transfixes with the beauty of its mood, and lovely balance. ‘Every Angel’ sees the efficient machine rolling forward like a tank decked out in paisley camouflage nets, with some irritating percussion, as the slow ‘In The Meadow’ sidles by, waiting to be shot.
‘Our Summer’ is as boppy as it was soppy, with a divine sense of pop madness, set on cruise control and coming from total confidence. There’s also a thuddier extended version. ‘Lady Moonlight’ sounds like coy, tremulous nonsense, but makes for a pretty ballad before ‘Flowers In Our Hair’ arrives and no amount of faux Pistolian riffing is going to save them here, I’m afraid! “Where,” implores Julianne, “have the flowers gone, Sun Children?” (Sun Children: “Naff orf, missus!”) And what can you say? It’s funny, actually, because this perfectly emphasises just how daft they got at a certain point. The song bolts along quite nimbly, and you shriek with dementia as Julianne proudly claims, “we earn the flowers in our hair, my friend!”
‘Paradise’ was clearly something I’d erased from my memory banks on initial contact as I don’t recall this twittering hippy nirvana at all. It’s elegant, like a Kate Bush reject. Then the strangest cut of all, the inclusion of their cover of ‘Devil Woman’ but in truth the lyrics involved (“when you visit a new sweet lady”) exactly mirror some of the tripe Julianne came up with then. They still fill it with pretend vigour, and make it almost sound like ‘Eye Of The Tiger’.
An extended ‘Flowers In Our Hair’ and we’re done, and for all the small faults with looking back and seeing some mistakes they made, the fact they do lay them bare here, and we’ve all come to terms with them anyway, simply leaves you looking at a massive set of quality songs.
Even when they did some pukey things they would fit happily into a safe, harmonious Ethereal scene of today, even though they were Hippy-Folk back then. It’s the strength of the compositions which stop them becoming unwelcome guests on a album containing so many other striking songs, and even ‘Flowers’ and ‘Devil’ sound like tongue-in-cheek Punk entities now.
If you haven’t got many of their earlier records you need this, and if you’ve never really encountered them you’ll love it, because current bands move at such a slow pace. Back then the Eves came up with more good material in just a few years than most bands would love to achieve in a decade nowadays, and some of what is here you will find incredibly inspiring even though it’s twenty years old.
Now would you Adam ‘n’ Eve it?
D FOR DESIRE
DON’T FOLLOW ME (MARCH HARE)
END OF THE DAY
LOVE LEADS NOWHERE
IN THE CLOUDS (FIRST VERSION)
APPLETREE MAN (DEMO)
SHELTER FROM THE RAIN (B-SIDE)
EVERY ANGEL (DEMO)
IN THE MEADOW (DEMO)
OUR SUMMER (SINGLE)
LAD MOONLIGHT (B-SIDE)
OUR SUMMER (EXTENDED MIX)
FLOWERS IN OUR HAIR (SINGLE)
DEVIL WOMAN (BOLLOCKSY B-SIDE)
FLOWERS IN OUR HAIR (EXTENDED MIX)
ALL ABOUT EVE
CINEMASONIC (DVD) - Filmed Live And Electric
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Compared to the Return To Eden CD here you find the modern Eves, shorter haired and lean of thought, putting on a compelling performance, although lacking outright oomph too often.
It’s mainly mood, and ‘Let Me Go Home’ gets that going with small exultant pushes, ‘In The Clouds’ raises up a touch higher, and ‘Somebody Said’ provides real poise, which ‘Blue Sonic Boy’ and ‘Daisychains’ then dissipate. ‘I Don’t Know’ picks it up, and ‘Phased’ is magnificent. ‘Ctrl - Alt - Delete’ and ‘Sodium’ then continue to glow darkly and that’s the main meat of the set. You wonder if the new guitarist is a ZZ Top fan during ‘Make It Bleed’, and you’ll be cheered by the prettily maudlin cover of ‘Life On Mars’ because they do it with an easy grace with somebody like Suede couldn’t do if they’d tried for years. (Oh, they did!) ‘Our Summer’ lumbers lightly, and ‘Touched By Jesus’ drags on, but the gig overall is quality and quantity, so you’ll not feel disappointed.
The extras are a largely pointless gallery, the ‘Access All Areas’ soundcheck and gig footage which isn’t remotely enlightening, and there’s details of the website, magazine and other releases.
Neat enough, with some great material.
A Candytree Film Production
ALL LIVING FEAR
HOME TOO SOON (Fear Productions)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
So Andy Racher returns, and ALF roll onwards, but while that might seem a fairly standard option for bands, there is something peculiar here. During his six year absence things have changed. Not rhythmically, as been noticed elsewhere, or the duo’s reliance of always keeping the songs full/busy, when some space would clearly benefit what are very well thought out songs, but somewhere along the lines, ALF have discovered maturity.
They must have, because this is a mature album. Despite lyrics from two sources, here we see a restrained but fulsome Racher delivery, and the music coalesces superbly. It's a mature All Living Fear, which is a scary thought. If they can upgrade the production standards and the programming, we could be finding something positively noble next time round.
The result of all this is the ease with which it comes across. ‘The Nearly Man’ could be rubbish, as a theme, like a finger-pointy ditty for some local character they didn’t like, but it almost becomes the dreaded fear some bands must feel, and there are many occasions here when they lyrics actually prick the musical surface and leave you queasy, alarmed or amused. And that is different. Something about ALF lyrics seemed flat before.
A similarly retrospective feels seeps through ‘Queen Of Delusion’, which turns out to be an amiable amble, musically, because there’s no out and out guitar attack, for all the standard UK Goth stylings. With the more Assured ideas comes far greater overall poise. Racher is able to focus sharply on melodic delivery and the old nasal characteristics have been smoothed out. The words really are shaper in intensity, and ‘Tug Of Love’ has an acidic sharpness, behind which the guitar sticks to sensible cyclical activity. Added to this is an off-kilter jauntiness which ensures you keep listening, if only to work out what they’re on about. Despite the drum machine the rhythms are subtler throughout, and enhance the mood Racher can now convey, and the build up, out of nowhere, of ‘Excuses’ is cleverly done; just disruptive enough, quietly loopy.
‘L’Enfant De Mort’ is a fairly standard offering and that doesn’t assist the lyrics in achieving impact, and ‘Insomnia’ all but sees the vocals trailing off, with slow Goth guitar splashes and a dampened bass keeping the mood going, but neither are in the same class as ‘D> D> N> X>’ with its cunningly conceived bizarre chorus, grimy tale and dual possibilities to the ending. Equally pretty but unsettling is the title track, which is a stately stroll, where the guitar saws sweetly, as the words get nasty again.
It ends peculiarly, as I feel it ought to, with what must be an old song, ‘Eternal Sin; the one song which suffers most from the production available to them, as this should have been gorgeous, but chokes slightly, and the guitar’s a bit squeaky. Then, ‘Forgive And Forget’ is plain Goth with a purpose, which you recognise from the past: and that’s what we have here - what they have become. They’re doing an older form, which no-one else in the UK does, without rockier bombast, and they have this experienced allure, which I’ll be honest about: I didn’t expect them to achieve. So as well as good songs to encounter, there’s trace elements of what they once were, meaning you can easily enjoy the best album they’ve ever done, but also find this the perfect starting point to delve backwards through their catalogue, to see how they got here.
It’s a winner.
THE NEARLY MAN
QUEEN OF DELUSION
TUG OF LOVE
L’ENFANT DE MORT
D> D> N>X>
HOME TOO SOON
FORGIVE AND FORGET
http://www.alllivingfear.co.uk (includes some good, cheap CD-R items)
After the End
Making a Monster
~reviewed by Jezebel
I review packaging before I review music. Maybe because I am in advertising and marketing. Maybe because I like well put together packages (stop your smirking please). Maybe I believe that the cover of a book does say something about what is one the inside. I have found this to be about 65% to be true. And considering that is about five times more than the intelligence that the US gathers, I am going with it.
So – looking through the packaging, it does come up short. Just a card inside. Well done artwork though. Hmm….shoestring budget but with good talent for packaging. That is my summation on the CD.
The promo piece (that piece which is supposed to tell us about the band, etc) is just a postcard, if that, and tells me very little about the band. Except that it is not a “band,” but a one-man outfit. I am not against this concept. Hey – my dream date of Trent Reznor started out this way….and continues for the most part to do so…so although a little hesitant, I remind myself that it can be done and it can be done well.
The problem that I find with one-man band outfits is that there always seems to be something missing. I don’t know, may be the interaction with other people brings a different, unique and much needed depth and complexity to the music.
The card continues with the normal promo drivel (I manage a band and own a record label…I know it’s drivel. It says really nothing about the band, is just a thesaurus filled ranting and pushing of the band) but I find one thing interesting. Mark Bomhoff would like “honest reviews of the new CD.” Hey – this man is right up my alley, as I give nothing but honest ones.
Tracks 1 and 2, "Making a Monster" and "Cukoo Clock" are sweet melodic landscapes/atmospheric pieces that somehow combine sounds from Thriller by Michael Jackson, Backstreet’s Back by the Backstreet Boys, Nine Inch Nails and the Brickbats. Yeah, I really wrote that sentence. It’s not a band mix though, if not odd. But there is one very fundamental problem with both songs. They don’t “go” anywhere. They have gorgeous orchestral swirls, the raspy industrial voice, the spooky monster sound in the beginning and a bit of the electronica traipsing throughout…but it just doesn’t go anywhere for me. It is all on one level which is okay….but not how you want to open an album. From the title, this album is going to be about monsters, whether from a Freddie Kruger movie or from inside our souls…and I am not sure that these were the best two songs to open up and set up the album. I am NOT saying they are bad songs, but perhaps the wrong choices for the opening. Yes, they have what seems to be the pre-requisite Vincent Price organ playing, but again….oh you know…they don’t go anywhere.
Track 3, "Better Than Alone," starts with such an X-File sound at the very beginning that I am starting to think that Mark bought “1001 Spooky and Eerie Samples!” But that is okay, because as quickly as you hear it, it’s gone and it is replaced by a varied and lovely piano (okay keyboard made to sound like piano) melody interspersed by some great hard NIN sounding industrial sounds. This could actually get me out on the dance floor believe it or not. This may be something that combines the electronica which at one time was done with respect for musicality and musicianship, and industrial when that meant NIN. (yes, I am partial, shoot me…love NIN). Unlike the first two tracks, this has peaks and valleys, the voice although not as varied, actually gives the song more substance. I find that this, without being re-mixed, may just fill a floor in a club. It may be a little predictable, but that can sometimes be a good thing. Songs for filling floors are not supposed to challenge a person choreographically, but give them something that that a punter can dance to and enjoy without having to think too much.
"Killing Yourself" is an interesting piece as once again (this must have been why I requested to review this one), it has a NIN feel. I think the difference to this is there is a less hard edge to this sound that with my beloved Trent. This has more orchestration and, for lack of a better word, swirls. Its atmosphere is different. The lyrics may be just as angry and hate filled, but there is a slightly less resentful, dare I say, psychotic, feel to this. I believe that Mark is trying to tell us a story, not just with the lyrics, but with the sound that he creates. The haunted house which may be up the hill in the Vincent Price story or within the dark recesses of our minds.
Note to Mark: The sound bite from goodness knows where of the girl being killed or what have you, with her screaming, was unnecessary. You had/have a good song here, don’t screw it up with what seems like some kind of gimmick to take us back to the horror theme going through the album.
"Invention of Flesh"…..wow….play that keyboard boy!!!! Strong use here of the percussion machine and not badly done. It’s not the most innovative use, but it’s better than average. This comes right at you and demands you to listen and when you do, it sits back and explains the situation. I like that.
"Open Arms Empty" is the required love song on every hate album. Should have known it was to be that when I saw the title. Well done and it makes me wonder if Mark’s first instrument was piano. Simple, but complex…it gives a first base and support. But, saying that, I would have preferred that on the production side, more emphasis was given to Mark’s voice and to the cashmere of it. It, I believe, has the capacity to be more than what he showcases it as…and if perhaps (and this goes back to the whole theory of the pitfalls of one-man bands) someone else had been there, they would have perhaps suggested that the orchestration, etc be taken down and his voice carry the music instead of vice versa. I think it would have made an even better break in the flow of the album.
"Someone Else" unfortunately is a bit too generic to make me care more about it than, yep, it’s okay. Won’t fill a floor, good for me folding clothes with a bounce in my step. But nothing more. There is a bit more playing with the voice (was that an attempt an industrial rapping?) If personified, it’s one of those kids in my dance classes that can do it all average. The turns are landed, the leaps have pointed toes, but there is nothing special and although great if I am doing a chorus large number because of dependability, the large roles would go somewhere else.
"This is How It Ends" is the second love/hate/death/goodbye song on the album. But this has got the beat for the dance floor and for the glow sticks. Unfortunately, this may have crossed the line over to the glowstick range. That…well…I don’t know. I am torn. There is a great feel of old OMD there, and NIN, but there is some really crap overtones of EBM which turns me off. I understand the inclination of artists to throw a little EBM into their sounds these days in order to try to get a larger audience. I don’t agree with it, but I do understand it. Just a little hint to Mark and to other artists…it actually demeans the rest of the work that you do, at least in my eyes. And another thing…Cyber Dog here in London is closing. The largest place to get cyber clothing is closing (and I will dance a jig of glee)…cyber/EBM is dying…don’t get dragged down into the coffin. Stay true to the sound you love and feel.
I generally don’t review the remixes on an album, but as I had a little time and my wine glass was still half full, I decided to give a listen.
Why do I not give them a listen? Because, in my opinion, 8 times out of 10, they are horrible. My opinion is, especially if the artist themselves do the remix, is if the song would have sounded better with the remix, why was it not done that way in the first place? My all-time favourite song is Sin. Mid-conversation, I have run off to the dance floor to dance to it. I turn into a dance maniac. But then, it is the remix. And I walk off dejected. The original rocked. The remix makes more of the nothing part of the song. It stinks.
I listened to the first two and shrugged and drank some wine. And then I heard the remix of "Open Arms Empty" and I almost spit my wine across the room. Why? Why the hell do you take a really good song and turn it upside down and make it from something that expressed pain and sorry and hurt and make it to a “throw your glowsticks in the air” piece of trite. If it had done by someone that had not made the album, had not written and poured themselves into the lyrics of the song, I would have been angry…but this makes me irate. What Mark has done is demean the actual heart and soul of that piece and made it into some kind of floor filler. It makes it comical, silly and really ridiculous. I (forgive me, I am an old woman with old ideas) thought that the words from musicians came, for the most part, from their heart, their soul. I find it hard to believe that Mark was bouncing around as he realised the hell of pain he was in. Hey – maybe it’s me. Haven’t had a break-up in ages…maybe it’s the new way of dealing with it. Write a beautiful from the heart song and then fuck it up by giving it a great back beat.
Must say…I turned the CD off then. Only one track left, so I don’t think I have gypped you out of much. It was/is a remix anyway.
Wait….one second….what is this…track 13…it’s "This Is How It Ends"…and it’s the way that it should have been done. Beautiful vocals leading gorgeous orchestration. Even the little whispers give the sinister tone that I think was desired. Oddly, it reminds me of some Erasure tunes. Sometimes…and a couple of others. There is a reliance on the vocal, the lyric. This is what should have been included in the first place. This is beauty.
My assessment? My summation? I am pushing the annoyance of that track 12 aside.
Mark has a good talent, a good sound and a generally good feel for his music and sound (see, I am diplomatic!). What he needs is someone to come in and work with him. Some one who can help him see different dimensions in his music. Someone to remind him he has a lovely voice. And someone to tell him when to leave a bloody good song alone!!!!!
After the End is Mark Bomoff
1. Making a Monster
2. Cukoo Clock
3. Better Than Alone
4. Killing Yourself
5. Invention of Flesh
6. Open Arms Empty
7. Someone Else
8. This is How It Ends
9. Cukoo Clock (groove asylum remix)
10. Making a Monster (high voltage remix)
11. Open Arms Empty (pressure sequence remix)
12. Someone Else (symphony of horror remix)
13. This Is How It Ends (tears in the sand remix)
Distributed by Dekonstruktion
After The End
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Akercocke singularly embodies the side of metal that I despise, and yet I cannot stop listening to their new CD. Is my will subverted by the band's ritual magic? Has my taste become so thoroughly jaded that, like the wanton alcoholic who eventually gets drunk on smaller qualities of drink, I now require less to interest me? Akercocke falls prey to the usual metal trappings. Their liner notes offer an abundance of scantily dressed women, their album covers pair Satanic imagery with women's breasts and butts, and their "evil" lyrics are delivered by a combination of belching and rasping.
Under normal circumstances I would find each of these qualities offensive, or at least mildly irritating. Yet Akercocke presents them not without a sense of self-parody, or at least self-awareness. Their singer may attempt to sound evil by vocalizing an inhumanly low belch, but it is used as an effect, not a convention. The band's image and lyrics at first appear typically "metal" in the way that gives metal a bad name, although the band members wear suits and ride horses or hang out around fancy cars. Akercocke writes heavily Satanic lyrics and is openly Satanist (that is, they do not in fact believe in Satan), yet the band members are, reportedly, very upright, proper gentlemen.
Akercocke's compelling atmospheres are crafted with the usual elements: blast beat drumming with catchy fills, heavy distorted riffs, squiggly solos, moody ambient power chords, black metal rasps, death metal growls, dramatic clean singing, etc. The songs can be divided into "short and mood setting," or "long and diverse." The shorter songs break up any possible monotony, and add in some ambience and dramatic flair to fill in the blank spaces between the heavier epic tracks. Akercocke's real brilliance, however, becomes clear in their longer songs, which derogate from generi-metal by progressing through a variety of moods.
These songs build and fall, showing the band in top form as every member contributes some aspect to the overall sound. In "Scapegoat", the driving intro riff hits full force with the growling vocals and blast beat drums, but when the song segues into catchy beats that sound almost electronic, the guitar slows down and feels bouncier, while the vocals are sung cleanly but distorted electronically. If you're a fan of extreme music, you absolutely have to check out Choronzon. And if you're in the camp of self-proclaimed "intelligent" metal listeners that typically avoid CDs with nude women on the covers, or cheesily Satanic song names and lyrics, you might just be surprised by Akercocke's special brand of virtuosity.
1) Praise the Name of Satan
2) Prince of the North
4) Enraptured by Evil
6) Valley of the Crucified
7) Bathykolpian Avatar
8) Upon Coriaceous Wings
10) Son of the Morning
11) Becoming the Adversary
12) Goddess Flesh
Akercocke - Official Site:
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Hey, look! It's totally derivative symphonic black metal with bad production and not a shred of originality! You don't see that every day... unless you're a music reviewer. Like me. Ah well. I'm really being a bit too harsh on Apostasy. Their debut album, Cell 666, covers a familiar style with a very slight twist. Doesn't almost every band do that these days, though? I guess it puts food on the table and buys kindling for the churches.
Since every other reviewer on the web has said Apostasy sounds like a mix of Dimmu Borgir and Arcturus, I'll bow to peer pressure and do the same. It helps that the statement is mostly true. Apostasy has a long way to go to surmount the artistic peaks Arcturus has scaled, but familiar trappings are in place. Evil circus keyboards and eerie atmospheres abound. Piano interludes pepper the album, which otherwise relies on Dimmu-esque bombastic guitar'n'rasp to fill time. This would all be well and good (or at least perhaps minorly interesting) if the guy who mixed the damn thing hadn't been waaaaay too fond of the low end of the frequency spectrum. Virtually every musical moment worth listening to has been drowned in an omnipresent wash of bass.
Apostasy's vocalist sounds like he was locked out of the recording booth and is rasping out in the hall while the drummer, bassist, and rhythm guitarist pound out thick, relentless 16th notes. Sadly, the lead guitarist must have been having a smoke with the rasper when they lost the key, since he's barely audible as well. In case I'm being unclear, the production is dull and muddy and utterly overwhelmed by bass. It's almost as if the band was embarrassed and didn't want anyone to realize they're actually pretty good musicians. With better mixing, this album would have been much more enjoyable. When all your best riffs, neatest keyboard passages, and craziest solos are drowned by the bass/drum/rhythm guitars going DUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUN, you know it's time to find someone who knows what they're doing to produce your albums.
I think these guys can do better... but it is their debut, after all. They show several times on Cell 666 that they are capable of writing kickass riffs, and even pull off some interesting keyboard / guitar solo gymnastics. The production, though, ruins the whole experience for me - to the point that I really can't give this too strong a recommendation. Topped off with the general lack of originality, it makes Apostasy a band to look for in the future, but set aside for now until they mature.
01.) Crowned In Thorns
02.) Infernal Majesty
03.) Cell 666
05.) 7th Throne
06.) Beneath the Lies of Prophecy
07.) Reign of Chaos
08.) Beauty of Death
I hate it when record labels don't care enough about their artists to provide even rudimentary information about a band on their website... information like -who is in the band-! Black Mark Records gets a black mark from me for their crappy website and lack of artist info. Hire a real web-designer, Black Mark. They practically grow on trees these days. For now, Apostasy shall have to remain unnamed, as they also do not appear to have a website of their own with a band list.
Black Mark Records:
The End Records (US Distribution):
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
My primary fear before reviewing Primary Fear was that I had been saddled with another in a long line of YAPMAs. If you don't know what a YAPMA is, you haven't read many of my reviews. For the unenlightened, it's a nice timesaving acronym for Yet Another Power Metal Album. Which is sort of odd since I have to explain it every single time I use it and therefore have defeated the purpose of creating it in the first place. Wait - wasn't I supposed to be reviewing something? Yes! Arachnes's Primary Fear, in fact. Well, it's not a YAPMA after all. What it IS, is an album that is generic, exciting, derivative, propulsive, and other perplexing things. Oh - and it's good, too. Really good, in fact.
Enzo Caruso, Arachnes's lead vocalist, wins the annual 'Michael Kiske Soundalike' award for 2004. Even so early in the year, it is clear he's the man to beat. He sounds almost exactly like the Helloween-y legend, but with a slight Italian accent. He has a all the patented vocal mannerisms down- the warble, the bouncy pitch shifts, the ebullience. Slapping that voice over musical arrangements that also hearken back to the glory days of Helloween makes about half of Primary Fear sound like a vintage blast out of a wrinkle in time. Sadly, the production also sounds as if it was from the days of yore, giving the whole album a muffled quality that often obscures some fine powermetal. I'll overlook that, though, since this album brings back good memories of better days and manages to break the chains of derivation enough to secure Arachnes their own identity... sort of.
This could have been an old Helloween album, but for some important differences. The first, and least consequential, are the prog-ish keyboards liberally slathered all over the music. I don't think they even -had- keyboards back in the last century when Helloween reigned supreme. Arachnes also lacks some of the more rockin' drive that pervaded ancient Hell-o-tracks like 'Judas' or 'Savage' and tend more toward modern symphonic excess... which turns out to be their greatest strength. Primary Fear features quite a few lengthy instrumentals, including one monumentally cool extended church-organ solo. The instrumental passages are very engaging, and are quite well performed, adding a neoclassical contrast to the happy Helloweeny songs that make up the rest of the album.
None of this (other than the church organ) sounds particularly new, or original, or innovative. It did hold my attention, though, and captured my imagination far more completely than the typical power-poseurs that clog up my mailbox every month. If the production had been clearer, letting the vocals and leads shine through like they deserved to, I'd probably be hailing this album as a grand display of all the conventions of modern powermetal. As it stands, the music will still enthrall you even if you're burned out on the standard symphonic powermetal approach. The excellent instrumental passages alone will make it worth your while to pick up this disc. And if you're -not- burned out on powermetal, and actively enjoy the genre, you have nothing to be afraid of: Arachnes's Primary Fear will not disappoint.
02.) Battle To The Victory
03.) Primary Fear
04.) The Warning
05.) Still Waters
07.) To Escape Death
08.) Not Fair (Prelude)
09.) Not Fair
10.) Tota Pulchra
11.) My Old Refuge
12.) My Son and I
13.) Running In The Labyrinth
15.) Scherzo in E Mino
Franco Caruso - Guitars, bass guitar, backing vocals
Enzo Caruso - Lead vocals, keyboards, Hammond, Korg synthesizer, piano, harpsichord, backing vocals
Paolo Giani - Bass and backing vocals
Jaco - Drums and timpani
Arachnes Official Website:
The End Records (US Distribution):
The Mute Sessions
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Autumnblaze's press materials describe their music as 'melancholic trip rock', which seems fitting enough. I'd never heard them before listening to The Mute Sessions, which is a set of acoustic recordings of songs from their previous plugged-in albums. I'm a bit ill equipped to discuss this style of music in much detail, since I'm typically bombarding my senses with ear shredding extreme metal of one variety or another, but hey, I'll give it my best shot here. I'm a professional. Kind of.
The arrangements on The Mute Sessions are romantically expressive, filled with longing and, yes, melancholy... but Markus B.'s vocals are too energetic to seem especially depressed or gloomy. Instead, they have a passionately wistful quality, if you can imagine that. The guitar work captures the same mood. Minor key progressions dominate the album, but the brisk tempo throughout evokes a sort of restless determination to overcome all the things that would sadden lesser bands into a gothic doomfest. The compositions themselves have a darkly progressive flair to them... all these damn hybrid bands. I run out of descriptive adjectives by the second paragraph these days just from trying to peg down what they sound like.
Since they're featured so prominently, it's only right to discuss the guitarists and their contribution to the album. The guitars sound fantastic- resonant, clear, deep, full and bright. The sound quality matches the typically lofty standard I've come to expect from Prophecy releases. Markus B. and Joey Siedl may not be Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia, but they are capable guitarists. Their arrangements aren't especially daunting in a technical sense, but they are emotionally played and never bog down in repetition. The terrific production values and lyrically expressive guitar playing make The Mute Sessions a very pleasant listen.
I can't say how the renditions of the songs on The Mute Sessions stack up to their electrified predecessors, but I imagine that they went over quite well with audiences that heard them in intimate clubs on the band's last tour. Similarly, they should please anyone who likes passionate, driving acoustic rock with a tinge of darkness. It's hard to be full of vigor and melancholy at the same time, but Autumnblaze manage to do just that. If this kind of music is what lights your fire, break out some scented candles, dim the lights, and let Autumnblaze sweep you into their dark embrace.
01.) kiss my fear away
02.) i shiver
03.) the nature of music
05.) it never felt like this before
06.) the wind and the broken girl
07.) can't save anyone
09.) so close yet so far
Markus B. - vocals & guitar
Joey Siedl - guitar
Mike M. - drums
Carsten Pinkle - bass
Autumnblaze Official Website:
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
As both a critic and a music fan, I personally have never been very impressed by Synth Pop or EBM. It is not that I dislike the sound of this music - quite the contrary. There are actually a number of EBM projects that I am very fond of and in certain moods, I want to listen to nothing but electro or early Industrial dance music. Regardless of how passé it may be, I still think that the initial releases by Covenant, A23, and VNV Nation were genius and at the time, extremely monumental. The problem I have always had with this style is that so many projects unashamedly rode the coattails of the aforementioned bands’ successes, plagiarized the basic elements of their sounds, unforgivably diluted the power and potential of the style with trite songwriting and arrangements, and most of all, many mistakenly brought their synthetic music to the stage under the pretense of a live performance. I could go on, but then it would seem as though I am still bitter about the way the scene has changed so drastically over the years. I willingly detached myself from it all, and I continue to find music that is more suited to my interests and tastes. And I feel all the better for it. And for those that enjoy these things, more power to them – I honestly try not to be condescending about it. I am the minority, and I am fine with that. I just don’t want to be a part of it. If I never purchased another new future pop or electro record, I don’t feel my music collection would be lacking anything significant.
I preface this review with perhaps an unnecessary glimpse into my own personal tastes only so that the reader can better understand the ‘impact’ of my praise for this album. As with all things, there are exceptions. Butterfly Messiah has been one of those exceptions for me for a number of years now. They have developed from a murky Darkwave project that achieved great success on Mp3.com into a full-fledged dark Synth Pop act in the vein of Die Form and Attrition. Since the first time I heard them, I recognized the band’s sincerity. Like any band, they hoped for success and to a certain degree, I suspect that they wanted to be embraced by the thriving dark music community and therefore they began to accentuate the dance-driven elements of their material. But above all things, Butterfly Messiah demonstrated an unfaltering allegiance to dark atmospherics and somber moods, and lyrically explored themes dealing with the occult, magick, and mythology – topics that from my observations are usually far too ‘clichéd’ and ‘pretentious’ to be immediately accepted into the glow-stick illuminated weekend underworld of ‘sophisticated’ Cybergoths. Nonetheless, I believe that Butterfly Messiah’s latest material has come closer to perfecting a formula of music that appeals to purist fucks like myself but I suspect that it will also impress neo-Goth audiences the world over. Success, I believe, should be inevitable.
Eternal is this Florida band’s second full-length release, and compared to the preceding EP Synthesis and the full-length Priestess, there is a greater emphasis on the band’s rhythmic and melodic strengths. Considering the primarily organic elements of the music I have enjoyed so enthusiastically lately, I wasn’t exactly primed for this release. I expected to have to listen to it a few times, to ease into it and get used to the absence of jagged guitars and frantic drum passages. But immediately after “For Today” began, the disc’s opening cut, I was captivated. I could feel myself melting into the song, wading out into the music blindly and openly, without the slightest bit of resistance. It’s a cold sweetly melancholic song, with lush layers of swelling synths buoying along ghost-like atop understated Electronica. Shannon’s fragile voice appears, delicate and laden with emotion; her expressive talents are instantly showcased in the song’s poignant vocal melodies, carrying through the verses and the chorus. What’s funny I suppose to me is that I am still on my PJ Harvey / Jarboe / Diamanda Galas kick and I haven’t had much patience for softer female vocals these days. Too many misguided Goth Metal bands have ruined my love of feminine soprano grace. But whatever once stirred my emotions before Liv Kristeen unwittingly inspired a horde of whiney off-key sirens has been stirred yet again here. It sounds so ridiculously sentimental but this song honestly made me feel deeply reflective, beautifully saddened, and happy to be alive.
And that seems to be the primary theme running through this new release, which the band suggests is best experienced while reading the lyrics and listened to “in the company of loved ones” whom they stress we must “cherish.” There seems to be a sincere ‘carpe diem’ message throughout this disc, stressing the importance of living each day with a sense of determination, appreciating the simple things and attempting to better your circumstances through your own intuitive abilities, so that when the inevitable occurs, when the grave yawns to enfold you and bring your days to an end, your last thought could be confident vow that your “days were never ever left unlived.” We are in charge of our own destinies; we make or break ourselves, we have only ourselves to blame for our successes and our failures. Rather than wallowing in self-pity and misanthropic disdain, Butterfly Messiah seeks to show the light to be found in darkness. “And today, I died to find myself quite alive / And today there’s nothing like the bliss I feel inside.” This way of perceiving the world we live in, is very much in line with the personal thoughts that have preoccupied my mind quite a bit lately as I prepare for graduate school, lament the loss of past loves and look forward to the life I could have, yet goddamn am I afraid of failing. This disc speaks to me on a level few discs have as of late. It was as much a surprise to me as it will probably be to you.
So yes. Anyway. The rest of the CD. “The Circle” appears second on the disc and we wade out further into aural darkness, less sweet and more menacing, the song is seasoned with striking bits of buzzing cacophonic synths, colder, more ghostly vocals and a harder rhythm. I can’t help but think of Die Form, simply because there are like, half a dozen other bands that sound like this it seems. Next up is “It’s Time,” the track that succeeded in bringing attention to the band in clubs around the States (and a song that I was always very eager and excited to include in my DJ sets). The version that appears on this disc is the original version. Some of you hopefully will have had the pleasure of hearing the harder “Post Kronos Dance” mix of the track. I suppose my first criticism here is the band should have opted to include that mix instead since it hits much harder. Regardless, it’s still a powerful driving track, the verses blackened by a stark harshness while the uplifting chorus rises to a more ethereal yet climactic pitch. Honestly, one of the most satisfying Darkwave/Electro club hits out there.
The title track is faintly graced with a retro feel, but it’s Shannon’s pleading and slightly more throaty vocal performance that elevates the track to excellence. “With Roses” features Robert Davis’ vocals, which volley between a dark spoken monotone and a soft singing voice. A similar retro feel can be detected here as well, a ballad slightly in the (Depeche) Mode of things. Though far from awful, it just doesn’t stand out as gracefully as other tracks. “Virtual” is also kind of a low point in my opinion – the song bounces along, a little too formulaic and without any real strong melodies to set it apart from other acts. I don’t care much for the staccato synth blips that hop on top of the track. Overall, it just pales in comparison to the other offerings on “Eternal.”
“Grey” breaks the slight lull in excitement. Also sporting a kind of retro feel, it is another slower track with some nice piano passages, the drum patterns sounding like something from DM, 242 or even the Pet Shop Boys. It works very well whatever the case. Shannon sounds suitably moody, not quite as commanding as on other tracks, but still her voice ices the song wonderfully. A fuller more intensified track follows in the way of “Ascension,” a driving beat propels the song beneath Shannon’s disembodied chants and a swirling synthetic orchestra of icy strings and choir samples. Creeping into a chilling operatic pre-chorus, the song breaks down somewhat unexpectedly for a more shuffling swayable rhythm for its chorus, where the listener is treated by ominous spoken word harmonies between both Shannon and Robert. Definitely one of the album’s dynamic highlights.
I have never been one for lighter, mostly instrumental or ethereal interludes. However, “Believe” is a rare exception when synths and a female voice are adequate enough to really drive a message home. The song is a bit on the soft and rosy side, but it still conveys a strong sense of emotion, with yet another great vocal melody, and a good pairing of understated electro synth voices and organic orchestral string passages. The band continues to tread on ‘dangerous’ ground with “Falling Stars,” a song which features a chorus urging it’s protagonist to “look into my heart and you’ll see staa—arrs…falling staarrrs.” It sounds like it would be a bad Switchblade Symphony song. And even somewhat reminds me of that band. But somehow, some way, Butterfly Messiah has managed to make something that more than likely would have ended up sounding unforgivably sappy in the hands of a lesser band – and made it perhaps my favourite song on the disc. Go figure. Musically, it’s a big song, sweeping and majestic, with a jagged rhythm that slithers between more fluid, driving yet achingly moody passages. The song is an atmospheric triumph.
“Aeon” is also quite cool, being a strongly rhythmic track that retains a graceful hypnotism, a nice entrancing electro vibe that builds from a tighter restrained groove into a freer, calculated march. As the album reaches its close on “Counterstrike,” the band has definitely not run out of creative steam. A sampled siren rings out eerily and charges into a high-energy thud, webbed by choppy operatic vocals (think “Carmina Burana”) pausing for a bit of energized spookiness. Truthfully the song is somewhat fragmented, the potential drive and dance floor rioting is partially interrupted by these breaks. But in the privacy of your own home or your car or wherever else you should be listening to music, it works wonderfully and may be one of the album’s most urgent tracks. Shannon’s vocals are layered very well, but mixed with a slight detachment, creating a more distanced and wonderfully haunting effect. “Eternal” definitely winds down on a very high and pleasing note.
Ultimately, this is a fantastic sophomore release from Butterfly Messiah. I could not have expected more, and they in no way failed to meet my lofty expectations for their continued development as a force to be reckoned with in the dark music world. My only real critique of this disc is a technical one, as I felt that the mix was a tad bit thin and the album’s power could have achieved a greater, more direct impact if the drum sequences were mixed with a bit more depth and punch. Many songs could have hit harder. But in terms of their orchestration and the songs themselves, they are top notch. Shannon’s vocals do seem thin as well at times, but it does not seem to be her voice that is flawed. She hits the notes, but at times, she seems a little restrained. I wouldn’t doubt that the band would correct these small shortcomings with their next release if they continue to develop in a similar direction. Overall the disc is very satisfying and will hopefully make its way into the dark music collections of DJs and music fans around the globe. Like all Fossil Dungeon releases, Eternal is exquisitely packaged, with great care and proper Gothic elegance displayed on the album’s lugubrious cover art as well as with the stark black and white photography inserted throughout the booklet. I highly recommend this disc, and though I am still very much enjoying this new material, I am excited to see what the band will achieve with future releases. Do not delay in your purchase of this fine release.
1.) For Today
2.) The Circle
3.) It’s Time
5.) With Roses
10.) Falling Stars
Butterfly Messiah is:
Shannon Lyn Garson – vocals, keys
Robert Davis – backing vocals, synths, sequencing, percussion
Joshua Harrington – keys/synths, sequencing, percussion
Butterfly Messiah – Official
The Fossil Dungeon:
CURRENCY OF THE SOUL (Pandaimonium)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Something about this appealed to me from the word go, and although it was mainly the name and that one track was called ‘Disfigured And Forgotten’, there was also the lovely red sleeve to consider, and the prospect of finding the press release was accurate and that here would be a beautiful voice decorating hypnotic works of lust, sorrow, longing and beauty. The usual lush ethereal sounds, put to a more cohesive melodic form, in other words.
The Cocteaus started all this, and Deadcandance raised it to a noticeable artform by making it more comprehensible, at which point virtually anybody who didn’t want a noisy band then created ‘artistic’ ones instead. This had led to the lows of the Shoegazing movement which was inescapably dreary, and the Ethereal/Heavenly Voices approach which often fails to connect lyrically, on any level, but provides precisely the right kind of musical fragrance for even the grubbiest of surroundings. Boudoir come into that lithe category and acquit themselves really very well, because so many of these bands leave no traces, in that you can’t recall too much no matter how many times you listen, but just sink back into their warm musical bath again when it’s on. Boudoir may not be onto the giddy heights of Black Tape For A Blue Girl, but they do have a sense of power about them.
The tracks don’t need much introduction, being elegant and very precise, with the vocals all floaty and emotive. They have drums bashing away with great vigour, and synths flooding all exits. It’s quite overpowering, and frequently cuts back to lighter moments, ensuring you’re pulled slightly this way or that. Then they get rousing again. Repeat, and dwindle….
Introduce a bit of Middle-Eastern mystery early on, without it having any real point, and you’re into the modern moves. What lyrics there are convey precisely zero because they’re trapped in the exquisite ether, and I doubt they’d mean much anyway because the vocals suggest no great urgency: this is sensurround cotton wool. During the final phase of ‘Maybe Yesterday’ some guitar prepares to become quite unruly, but somehow forgets its direction and all is harmoniously sculptured, but the way they raise the volume and the stakes makes for a spectacular success.
With ‘Last Try’ they remind you of a fruity Sundays, which is a noble comparison. Very chirpy, mordant and bobbling along with chilly splendour. ‘Sweet Storm’ is perfectly named, but Disfigured’ is cyclical, phased, twittering mush. ‘Close Your Eyes’ is a stop-gap dreamy thing, and ‘Sleepyhead’ a bit more urgent with solemn, purposeful bass, and guitar shivers. It’s just like an old Photos song, ‘For Beauties Sake’ but no-one‘ll remember that. So it’s mid-paced, with guitar fractures, and a nasal delivery that keeps the vocals keenly stalking straight ahead.
‘Floating’ has unsettling samples, and a very tough centre but I didn’t find it easy to get a connection to why they were doing it, which carries on into the rough and sweeping ‘Space Jam’ which could be Curve the way it attracts but fails to draw you totally in. This is a sound spectacle and we can observe without feeling. It’s impressive the way it builds and billows, becoming an edifice of sparkling sound, although as this is the musicianship and know-how of Clan Of Xymox engineer Damon Fries maybe it isn’t surprising.
And then a total shock, which you certainly wouldn’t be expecting, as they cover ‘What Do I Get?’!!! For those who don’t know the original, by The Buzzcocks, a frantic and desperate tune is rendered flat and shallow, with the energy scooped out. And yes, it’s a bit like hearing Mike Love’s fabulous ‘Wonderwall’, but this is serious, and it does work, creating a sense of watery regret of its own, which is no mean achievement, and to mention The Sundays again, think of a moodier ‘Wild Horses’.
Afantastically strong album, of opulent stealth. Stormy, yes, but a haven, somehow.
DISFIGURED AND FORGOTTEN
CLOSE YOUR EYES
WHAT DO I GET?
ETHERNAUT (Dancing Ferret)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Well it’s better than their last album, and that’s a relief.
It also highlights just what’s wrong with them, which I suspect they may already have learnt from, because in this land of synthpop, which can’t really help but bring back lukewarm 80’s memories (and melodies) a band like The Cruxshadows who once showed such prickly, inspiring potential have gradually lightened and lessened in power to the point where they have all but become transparent. With this album, apparently inspired by the Trojan Wars, they’ve stopped trying for the choruses, for the soppy melodic attention-grabbing, and the music gets a chance to breathe clearly.
The wild vocal joy which intermingles on certain tracks does sound either Japanese or from the Middle East rather than conjuring up Hellenic majesty, but I like the way the synths and violins replicate old horns, and whether lightly whisked or made of sterner beats, they start well, but the Pet Shop Boys tag is impossible to ignore during the first half, and the one thing they need to learn is this. You aim for two hit tracks, and make sure the rest has depth, otherwise you’re not artists you’re business-orientated, and so you may as well go the whole hog and drop artistry in favour of artifice.
Here I think they stand midway and some of the deeper elements are certainly impressive. Even the milky ‘Love And Hatred has real verve, ‘Flame’ has some pomp and romp, and ‘The Sentiment Inside’ is an unexpected joy, being a quieter, fractured piece, emotive and honest rather than lumbered with the copyist vocal stance.
The 80’s rhythmic undertow lets ‘Winter Born’ down badly, ‘Untrue’ trips along nicely and brightly, its corny lyrics too exposed, followed by the slow and artistically oozing ‘A Stranger Moment’ which redeems their weaker, facile moments, which unfortunately crop up too frequently until the end of the album (apart from the extra track) and you’re left feeling curious rather than annoyed.
None of the songs are bad, at all, you can just see how ultra-lite the constructions are and how easily they could have acquired more than bravura and a somewhat sterile quality. For an album inspired by wars there’s very little passion in the delivery, and little in any excesses of sound, whether bleakness or full-on action, so I guess the inspiration was fairly obtuse. However, it does sound more adventurous than their last woeful effort, and has songs which don’t try so hard to be loved, and that’s a heartening sign.
Personally I think they’re doing too much with their schedule, never stopping and never getting time to concentrate on what they’re writing and what it’s actually like. “Where are the artists and the prophets,” Rogue sings. Where indeed? “Lost below the wheels of this machine.”
Precisely. Take some time off. Have a rest.
INTO THE ETHER
LOVE AND HATRED
THE SENTIMENT INSIDE
WINTER BORN (THIS SACRIFICE)
A STRANGER MOMENT
WAITING TO LEAVE
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
This remastered reissue of Darkane's Rusted Angel is a blunt object smashing devestating riffs into your skull. I missed it when it initially came out in 1999, but Rusted Angel doesn't feel rusty at all. In fact, it is superior to any of the watered down pablum being harvested from the Swedish melodic deathmetal farms these days. The twisting song structures, squiggly solos, and brutal thrashy rhythms make for a varied and interesting album that also happens to be as intense as a high voltage death-ray.
Whatever deficiencies the original release of Rusted Angel suffered from would seem to be corrected in this new version, since I can find few flaws. The production is crisp and gives the various elements their proper sonic elbow room. Each song is dense with sound, but remains both clear and powerful. The only gripes I have are that the sound occasionally clips, having been mixed too hot, and the lead guitar is sometimes a bit too buried in the mix to really cut through. They may be faults of the original recordings, though. I can't say. In any case it is inconsequential enough to hardly matter. What does matter is that Darkane spews out a torrent of blistering death-thrash on nearly every track.
Rusted Angel seems like what Fear Factory probably hoped for - and totally failed to achieve - on their 1998 release Obsolete. Where Fear Factory wound up being repetitive and dull for much of the album, Darkane is exciting and constantly introduces shifts in rhythm and engaging melodies. Otherwise, the albums are quite similar. Both feature a death/thrash hybrid with grunty deathmetal vocals and clean male singing (which echoes both Fear Factory and Soilwork). Darkane's primary vocals, though, spray out as a screamy sandpaper rasp that is surprisingly tolerable and fits well with the tone of the music. The clinical precision of the riffs, gear-shifting syncopation, and jumpy guitar soloing are evocative of a mix of Meshuggah and Morbid Angel. All of the elements come together to produce as enjoyable a 'Swedish melodic deathmetal' release as I've heard. The sheer intensity puts the most recent releases of their contemporaries to shame. Darkane occasionally takes a break from pulverizing the listener for a string quartet interlude or dramatic choral chant, but usually it's full speed ahead.
I find it hard to imagine that fans of the melodic deathmetal or thrash scenes would dislike ths album. And I have one hell of an imagination. I used to draw comic books about a monkey that wanted to get a job who was friends with a squad of dimension hopping Nicaraguan mercenaries. Anyhow, if you didn't catch Rusted Angel when it was first issued, this would be an excellent release to pick up. In addition to the remastered original music, it also includes expertly produced live recordings of 'Convicted' and 'A Wisdom's Breed'. Further, it includes 'Relief in Disguise', which previously was only available as a Japanese import. So, if you missed it the first time, buy it now! You'll like it. If you don't, what are you doing listening to this kind of music, anyway?
04.) Rape of Mankind
05.) Rusted Angel
06.) A Wisdom's Breed
07.) Chase for Existence
08.) Relief In Disguise
09.) The Arcane Darkness
10.) July 1999
11.) Frenetic Visions
12.) A Wisdom's Breed (Live)
13.) Convicted (Live)
Christofer Malmström - guitars
Peter Wildoer - drums
Jörgen Löfberg - bass
Klas Ideberg - guitars
Lawrence Mackrory - vocals
Darkane offical website:
The End Records (US Distribution):
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Do you like Covenant? Dekoy,
it seems, certainly do. Are you partial to a bit of
Wolfsheim, perhaps? If this release is anything to go by, Dekoy certainly dig ‘em. Yep, that’s the area we’re in here - seamless synthpop, smoothly danceable EBM, with those deadpan, downbeat, melancholy vocals which seem to be the standard-issue singing style in this generic area.
And that, I think, is the key word - ‘generic’. Dekoy are clearly not in the business of going out on any creative limbs. They’ve absorbed their influences like a sponge and squeezed them out onto this EP, and, frankly, there are no surprises here.
We kick off with an atmospheric instrumental, all late-night cinematics and half-heard heartbeats, and even that’s a fairly standard method of opening an otherwise uptempo electronic release these days. The first track proper is ‘Silent Space’. The beat kicks in, that ol’ four-on-the-floor whump and thump, and suspiciously familiar-sounding arpeggios spiral up and up. Then, a commonplace trick: a sampled voice is thrown in, reciting a snatch of ‘gritty’ dialogue (‘You are nothing but dirty trash’, if you’re taking notes). The melancholy vocal begins to recite the usual ‘woe is me’ lyrics: ‘The scream that no-one hears/If only you could feel my pain’ - and it all trundles along for an entirely predictable four minutes and thirty-five seconds.
‘Your Heart’ follows the same basic blueprint - yep, even down to the quick burst of a sampled voice thrown over the intro. The lead vocal sounds so dejected on this one it’s almost as if the vocalist can’t quite muster enough enthusiasm to reach the end of the track. I fully expected him to give up half way, and walk away from the mic muttering, ‘Aw, bollocks, this is boring, I’m going home.’
In an astonishing burst of creativity, the next track, ‘Submission’ does *not* feature a snatch of sampled dialogue in the intro. Given that Dekoy seem to be slavishly following the generic rule book in every other way, the absence of the industry-standard intro-sample counts as a dangerously radical move. Still, the track is otherwise a pretty archetypal slice of synthpop, complete with a jittery little synth-line and a one-note chant for a vocal. It’s all comfortingly predictable, as if the band are simply building music by following the assembly instructions they found in the packet. Ironically, the lyrics reflect the band’s follow-the-rules approach: ‘On and on we fall in line’ - well, you said it, guys.
‘Darkest Eve’ is the ballad - at any rate, Dekoy ease the BPM down to 125, a tempo which counts as a slowie in this musical area. Here, the band get very, very Wolfsheim: a lachrymose vocal glooms away over a melliflous bed of well-cushioned keyboards.
And then, to finish off the EP, we have ‘Shoot To Kill’. Yes! The intro-sample is back! We’re on familiar ground here - not that Dekoy have ever gone off the beaten musical track - with a jaunty little dancefloor number on which synth-sequences gambol around like kittens, while a lugubrious vocal laments lost love. Or something. The vocalist is certainly not a happy bunny, at any rate. Dekoy, it seems, just don’t do happy.
Oddly enough, given that Dekoy are operating in a different musical area, this EP reminds me of all those goth bands we used to have in the early 90s, who tried to sound exactly like the Sisters Of Mercy, or the Fields Of The Nephilim (or, God help us, both of them at once). None of them ever got anywhere, and the goth scene nearly died from musical stagnation at the time.
Listening to Dekoy faithfully recycle the standard synthpop/EBM moves on this release, I’m forced to the conclusion that the current electronic scene has reached that same kind of feeding-on-itself state. If Dekoy represent the new stuff that’s coming up in the electro-zone, then I think this particular musical area is about to enter a creative wilderness, if it’s not there already. If the only thing the newer bands can think of is to rehash the sounds and styles of the older bands, then I think EBM is going to eat itself. And maybe this is where it starts to chow down.
Intro (The Mechanical Heart)
Shoot To Kill
Baza: Lyrics, vocals, sequences, arpeggios
D.Barnes: Music, samples, sequencing
The website: http://www.dekoy.us
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
EP 001 (self release)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Here’s a mysterious band. Neither the EP packaging nor Desolation Radio’s website contain any hard information. Even the names of the band members are not revealed. The only real-world detail we are allowed to know is their location - and that is only by way of a PO box address in Running Springs, California, which Google tells me is a small town of about five thousand souls, six thousand-odd feet above sea level in the San Bernadino mountains. The CD artwork features photographs of (presumably) the local landscape - mountains and forests, grey and misty, with significant evidence of acid rain and/or other pollutants. The overall impression is that Desolation Radio’s worldview is bleak and downbeat, a jaundiced glance from a position of stark isolation - and they’re perfectly happy to keep it that way.
All this, and we haven’t even listened to the music yet. The EP contains five songs, one of which is billed as a ‘hidden’ track, and comes up long after the main four have finished. Helpfully, the band note the existence of the hidden track on the inlay card to make sure nobody misses it, which rather kills the idea of having a hidden track in the first place, if you ask me, but hey.
I’d more or less guessed that Desolation Radio’s music wouldn’t exactly be rumbustious good time rock ‘n’ roll, and so it proves. The band make a kind of slo-mo post-trip-hop groove, somewhat like Portishead with all the fun stuff taken out. It’s an effective, although not particularly uplifting, sound - but then, I’d guess that’s the whole point. Desolation Radio just don’t do uplifting.
The first song, ‘Down’, lives up (or, indeed, down) to its title; it’s a pean of woe featuring amorphous, barely-there female vocals which, paradoxically, give the track as a whole a lift. There’s also a male voice, which half-murmurs, half-drones, but never quite gets as far as singing. The contrast between the different voices works well, although, frustratingly, the female vocalist does not appear on all the songs. Most of Desolation Radio’s vocals are sung (well, almost) by the male vocalist. Over the course of several tracks his imitations become obvious, and somewhat annoying.
‘Devolution’ is a mash-up of squabbling guitars and distorted beats, the nearest thing to a rock song you’ll find here. I like it, but I think I would’ve liked it more if I hadn’t already heard Living With Eating Disorders do similar stuff with a touch more verve. ‘The Loosing Streak’ is a lengthy croon which, frankly, outstays its welcome: the song simply drags along without really reaching any particular destination. The radio-atmospherics are a nice touch, but they can’t compensate for the absence of any real tension or resolution, or indeed any feeling that the song is *going* somewhere. I should point out, incidentally, that the title really is spelt like that. I don’t know if this is some sort of frightfully clever pun, or if Desolation Radio simply can’t spell ‘losing’.
‘Lullaby’ has that familiar scratchy-record effect as a rhythmic gimmick, and I’m afraid I’ve heard it too often to be impressed. Everyone from Johnny Cash to Cinema Strange has done the scratchy-record thing now, and I really do think it’s about time everyone had another idea. The male voice drones through the song as if it’s about to conk out from sheer ennui. And then, finally, after holding down the skip button until we reach Track 13, we come to the secret bonus track, which is another downbeat male-vocal drone - until a child’s voice crash-lands on the song with some (I hope!) intentionally tuneless ‘la-la-las’ and teeth-clenchingly untutored disharmonies.
I’m a little frustrated by Desolation Radio. They’ve got some good ideas, but they fall back too often on that droning male vocal and gimmicks which are either tiresomely over-familiar (the scratchy record effect) or just plain tiresome (the child’s voice). ‘Down’ perhaps shows the way forward: it’s certainly the nearest thing here to a fully-realised song. But then, I’m not even sure if Desolation Radio even *want* to find a way forward. It seems to me that they’re making their melancholy, introspective music almost exclusively for themselves. Finding a way to engage with the rest of the world is, it seems, very much an optional extra for this band.
The Loosing Streak
The website: http://www.desolation-radio.com
Visit Running Springs:
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Earth Loop Recall
Compulsion (Wasp Factory)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
The Wasp Factory label’s very own sound-sculptors release their much-anticipated debut album - and you know what? It’s a bit of a good ‘un.
Now, when I describe Earth Loop Recall as ‘sound sculptors’, I’m not indulging in typical reviewer-hyperbole (at least, not *this* time). This band doesn’t so much make music, as carve songs out of blocks of raw sound. Compulsion is packed with dense, intense, towering slabs of guitar-fuelled contemporary rock noise. It’s an exhilarating racket, but be warned: there’s no holding back here. Sit and listen to this album in one go, and it’ll leave you drained and breathless afterwards. Earth Loop Recall have a very simple aim: to take the listener on a wide-eyed, white knuckle ride...and someone’s disconnected the brakes.
The name of My Bloody Valentine is often dropped as a handy comparison when Earth Loop Recall are being described, and there’s certainly an element of MBV’s relentless, insistent, overwhelming rush of sound in ELR’s own music. You could, perhaps, also namecheck Sonic Youth, in their early, experimental period, before they recorded ‘Goo’ and went all bubblegum-punk on us. I’ve seen Nine Inch Nails mentioned as another point of comparison, although I’m not entirely convinced by this one. Sure, there’s certainly the odd hint of NIN-ness in the Earth Loop Recall noise (particularly ‘Reconnect’, which adventurous DJs could probably mix quite effectively with ‘Head Like A Hole’) but in truth ELR really don’t touch base with any of the usual goth/industrial influences. They’re coming from a different place: the out-there end of the post-punk scene, when to be ‘alternative’ meant something more than just recycled Beatles riffs and cartoon belligerence. Earth Loop Recall - last of the true alternative bands? Or part of a gathering tide of indie-with-attitude? Probably a bit of both.
The Earth Loop Recall sound is firmly based around The Mighty Electric Guitar. There are layers and layers and layers of guitar here, racked up and up over weirdly effective electronic atmospheres and programmed rhythms which swing along with such verve you’d hardly believe it’s all done by machinery. Check out ‘Peta Lena’ for a confident, broad-brush mash-up of programming and laminated guitars, or ‘Please Stop Hurting Me’, with its effortless command of dynamics. One minute it’s a slight little thing, a wistful ballad of lost love, then suddenly it leaps up and bites you like a dog, and the lyrics get quite venomously sardonic: ‘You don’t mix well with alcohol/You don’t mix well with chemicals...’ I would also recommend to your attention the weirdly groovy ‘Optimism Creeping In’, with that odd little guitar-jangle, like John McGeogh just happened to be strolling past the studio at the crucial moment, and then that big, bad, rev-up of a chorus, with the electronic rhythm, down in the mix, subtly but relentlessly nudging everything along. It’s all so neatly put together - this is certainly a band who know their music inside and out. Right at the end, ‘Remember Me’ trips you up, for it’s a neat little spooky-orchestral instrumental, an unexpected moment of come-down after the roaring and clamouring that preceded it.
This is a tremendously assured debut, and, with ‘nuff respect to the other acts on Wasp Factory’s roster, top quality artists all, possibly the most fully-realised, the most *complete* release the label has ever put out. In short - it’s damn fine stuff.
Now all you need to do is go out and buy it.
Please Stop Hurting Me
Slowly Going Under
Wake Up Shaking
Optimism Creeping In
Mark Waterhouse: Guitars, noises, synths, programming
Ben McLees: Vocals, guitars, bass, synths, programming
Joanna Quail: Backing vocals, synths, programming
Gareth Small: Programming, production
The website: http://www.earthlooprecall.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
for giving - for getting
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Elenium is one of those rare bands that manage to do things badly and still sound great. Whether their missteps are total flukes - beginner's luck - or an intentional bending of the rules, I can't say. But as I continue to listen to for giving - for getting, I'm inclined to trust the band's ability. You see, they play metal that is undeniably technical. The riffs and drums will kick your ass, the angry singer can shift seamlessly into evocative clean melodies, the keyboards are surprisingly moving, and the bizarre solos sometimes feature the chaotic blippiness of the death metal squiggle solo style, but with a more impressive range of notes that makes them appear melodic even when they are not.
Yet Elenium is one of the most confounding bands I've come across. For all of their technical skill, their sense of melody and phrasing is highly unusual, to the extent that it often sounds like the work of amateurs. From the incongruous melodic tinges of "up the long ladder" to the absurd barrage of random noise on "subcreator", you might wonder if Elenium has ever heard non-metal music.
Much like Ephel Duath's recent album, The Painter's Palette, Elenium manages to play melodies in a way that would be terrible in any other context. That potential dross is passed through Elenium's Crazy Metalifier and morphed into something truly innovative and gripping. The end effect will henceforth be known as chaotic absurdist metal. Or CAM, as I'm fond of generating new acronyms. The heavy riffs, frightening melodies, engaging vocals, and occasionally spectacular keyboards give for giving - for getting a most endearing quality to fans of wacky metal.
At the end of the day, I still can't decide whether or not the members of Elenium are musically inept but technically proficient, musically brilliant but risky and experimental, or simply insane. And, at the end of the day, I don't really care. for giving - for getting is one heck of a ride, and if you enjoy any of the more bizarre strains of metal, you'll no doubt appreciate Elenium's style. If nothing else, the band will certainly encourage strong reactions. They even prompted me to invent a genre name just for their benefit. The first installment in the brand new Chaotic Absurdist Metal genre is a worthy one, so give it a listen.
1) up the long ladder
2) eye for a lie
4) nameless - faceless
7) under the mug
8) for me
9) to aim and miss
jukka - voice
lemmi - distortion
johannes - keys
mikko - pulse
kasperi - distortion
tuomo - subfrequencies
Elenium - Official Site:
Rage of Achilles:
The End Records (US):
Forever, Neverafter (Cryonica)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
I’m slightly surprised to receive this album. It’s been such a long time coming - over two years since the band’s previous album, Chaotica - that I was beginning to think Fiction 8 had split up, or at the very least had ‘gone on hiatus’, or whatever bands do when they just...stop. From time to time, I’d consult the band’s website to see if any new information was forthcoming, but it remained (and still remains) resolutely out of date. Even now, as I write, the ‘Latest news on releases and band information’ was last updated in July 2003, and while the existence of this album is mentioned, there’s nothing to tell us what the band have been up to since then. Meanwhile, the biography section only takes the story up to 2000! Late last year, Fiction 8 pitched up in London for a gig (the December 2003 issue of StarVox has the review) and I was pleased to see that the band was still alive and well and making music. But I reflected that here was one bunch who were never likely to win any awards for the hardest working band in showbusiness.
Well, the website might be permanently in arrears, but the new Fiction 8 album is here at last. As I recall, Chaotica was a rather cool display of cut-the-crap-and-hit-the-chorus pop songwriting, and Forever, Neverafter showcases once again the band’s ability to write neat little songs which stick in your head. But it’s a slightly more downbeat collection this time round: there’s an air of melancholy surrounding this album, a feeling that while Chaotica captured the band on a pop high, this album documents the come-down.
I don’t know if this effect is intentional, but the songs here do tend towards the introspective. The rhythms are mid-tempo; the vocals of Michael Smith have a disconsolate, pensive quality. ‘When I wake I fear I’ll find/That I’ve lost all track of time/And now it’s all too late’ he sings on ‘Too Late’, and the feel of the song is fairly typical of the album as a whole. Although ‘Too Late’ has a nice backing vocal treatment which gives the song a lift, I can’t help wondering what’s put Michael down in the dumps. What, exactly, is ‘too late’? Maybe he’s referring to the website updates!
Elsewhere, the melancholy aura continues. On ‘Forgive Me’ Michael Smith seems to be abasing himself before a friend or lover, weirdly enough before he’s actually done anything wrong. ‘If I cannot see it through/If I ever fail you/Can you forgive me? he pleads, as if he knows with a grim inevitability that he’ll let everyone down. The song appears to be an anthem to low self-esteem, and the lyrics contrast quite oddly with the jaunty synthpop backing. ‘Save Me From Myself’ repeats the trick: a paradoxically pleasant synthpop song with woe-is-me lyrics. ‘The walls again are closing in/It’s all I can do to fight this fear’, we learn. Keyboard player Steven Hart takes the lead vocal on this one, although the singer-switch isn’t immediately obvious. At any rate, the song was written by Michael Smith in his trademark gloomcookie style, and I find myself rather unsympathetically wishing he would look beyond his own internal ennui for a lyrical subject for once.
But there are shafts of light in the darkness - one of which, paradoxically enough, is ‘The Dark Room’. The vocals on this one are taken by the band’s bassist and violinist Mardi Salazar, who has a voice full of character and can actually *sing*. Michael Smith, as I’m sure he’d be the first to acknowledge, has distinct limitations as a vocalist: think of a more forlorn version of Rogue out of the Cruxshadows. With this in mind, it seems frankly perverse to have a singer of genuine ability in the band and then not allow her near the vocal mic on most of the songs. Mardi is only permitted two lead vocals on the album, and she transforms the sound of the band each time. ‘The Dark Room’ has an almost eastern feel, as Mardi glides effortlessly into one of Fiction 8’s classic choruses. Her second contribution, ‘Around and Around’, has a bedrock of vintage Human League-style synths and a dance floor stomp of a rhythm, over which Mardi strides with confident assertion. These are the standout tracks on the album: Mardi Salazar simply sounds so much more at home on the mic than Michael Smith, it seems crazy that she isn’t allowed to do more.
So, a slightly disappointing
album in some ways - there’s too much here which sounds like a band perversely
refusing to acknowledge their own strengths, and too many lyrics which
sound suspiciously like depression-by-numbers. Fiction 8 are still masters
of the catchy synthpop tune, and they still have an ear for a cool chorus
- but here, everything’s buried beneath layers of melancholy, and I really
think they need to break that mood.
We’ll file this one under ‘good but not great’, then. Personally, I’m just waiting for Mardi Salazar’s solo side-project...
The Dark Room
Around And Around
Save Me From Myself
Stranger In My Skin
Michael Smith: Vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming
Mardi Salazar: Bass, violin, vocals
Steven Hart: Keyboards, programming, vocals
The website: http://www.fiction8.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
If sad robots made music, they'd make EBM.
And if I had my own calendar of Daily Wisdom (now with extra lambent wit!), I'd write sentences like the above just to confuse people who don't know the score. But if you're reading this review, I'm guessing you have heard EBM - you know, it's that electronic music with reasonably sad but expressively challenged vocals, predictably ordinary techno beats, and synth string arrangements that still elicit positive responses no matter how many times they're used.
Fictional plays EBM with the best of them, but unfortunately Fiction sounds just like the best of them. You might even mistake them for Icon of Coil, if you aren't paying careful attention. Let me run you through the basic song progression:
A lone cymbal hit or percussive
noise coalesces from nothingness, signaling the beginnings of a beat
The beat continues
A metallic, quasi-melodic noise joins the beat
Robotic, monotone vocals begin to sing silly lyrics
Backing strings harmonize with the vocals
And... well, that's about it. Not as exciting as you thought, eh? That basic pattern and variations on it comprise nearly every EBM song you will ever hear. While Fictional does it as competently as any other, they do so in a way that is completely devoid of originality. I'm not personally burnt out on this style of music, so I find it pleasantly enjoyable, but I cannot in good conscience recommend it if you own any other EBM CD and do not wish to build a collection of seemingly cloned releases by sad robots.
01. the sound of the falling rain
02. the weatherman
03. dorian gray
04. burning man
06. little girl
07. hunting machine
08. genuine experience
09. private nightmare
10. perfect stranger
14. when the world is dying
THE FACES OF SARAH
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
For a band who got plenty of UK-based support and word-of-mouth excitement just because they could play gigs with melodic power, as did Belisha, the line-up problems and a short passage of time since then may not have seemed to done them any great favours, but their lack of live activity certainly hasn’t helped. You always have to wonder, after such a promising start, whether a band is off somewhere, secretly recording epics, and this 5-track promo CD maybe gives a few hints.
They have a video/dvd of ‘Misery Turns’ coming shortly, featuring Candia from Inkubus, which could be included on a Metal Hammer freebie, and they’ve a new EP planned. The Metal Hammer release may help introduce them to the widest audience they require, because here is a band, going on ‘Impurity’, who understand what made The Mission work, and The S*s*e*s too come to that, and therefore produce a sleeker, modern version, with a different guitar sound. No, I don’t mean to imply they’re copying, as that’s boring, but they’re in that rock-based tradition, minus any hippy elements, and the guitar starts to slap you repeatedly as the chorus gets underway, becoming a constant thrill as the song unfurls. It’s big, it’s very clever, and it’s probably a load of bollocks lyrically, but made to sound impassioned and quite glorious.
‘Now That’s It Over’ has the dead man’s hand rock grinding riffology, and the old slow dark vibrato of an Eldritch cloning experiment where words are made to sound perilously morbid. I never listen to the words when they come at a crawl and rely instead on the guitars which are reliably thick and strangling nicely. The vocals just sound too po-faced and consciously created as a ‘style’ to be taken seriously, but if you liked ‘The Final Countdown’ you might well enjoy this!
‘Song For Kali’ is total rock slaughter, with just enough gaps and surges to send you hurtling happily into mental oblivion as you shudder along, because it’s a compulsively barbaric thing, and obscenely catchy, even I they do seem to be singing ‘Charlene’. A secret ‘Neighbours’ tribute? (Probably not.)
The real skill opens up slowly during the quivering delight of ‘All I Want’. Twice as good as any of the others, this is remarkably soft but stuffed full of feathery ideas and an exquisitely emotive panorama. It gets noisy and wallows in its own turmoil. With these do depart from the Goth scene and into rockier waters but good luck to them, you can tell it’s perfectly natural. ‘Keep Breathing’ is Gothtastic-lite rock, and rumbles along with a comfy guitar guide and shattering vocal fury, which is neatly impressive and still ends up on the rockier side of the fence, which is no great surprise, or problem.
If they haven’t progressed noticeably in the next twelve months they’re finished, and the tiny UK Goth scene certainly can’t help them any more, so they have to help themselves. It’s still dark, it’s still moody and it looks like success.
The Fair Sex
Thin Walls - Part 1 (a best of compilation)
~reviewed by Blu
Before the scene got watered down with copy-cat-living-room-musicians fueled by creatively-stunting fancy technology there were pioneers of the electro industrial scene whose technology was still raw and gritty enough that it took some fine brain power to produce interesting songs. I can throw around names like Kfaftwerk, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy and Front 242...you all know the drill (or should). 1984 saw the addition of The Fair Sex from Rossen Germany who started out as a pure organic band but by the early 90's after the loss of their drummer, had reformed and re-emerged as one of the most popular German Electro Industrial bands out there. Nearly 20 CD releases later with a few breaks to work on side projects the band is still at it with touring plans for 2004.
Thin Walls Part 1 is the first of two "Best Of" compilations. It was released in May 2003 and features 15 songs from Bite Release Bite (1991), Spell Of Joy (1992) and Labyrinth (1995), one new track called "The Ever Unreached Aim" and two mpeg videos: "Not Now. Not Here." and "Cyberbite" which was recorded live in March 2003.
Opening with the neo-classical intro "Anne. Lyz" it plunges headlong into the floor stomping beats of "The Ever Unreached Aim" - their new single. Listen carefully kids. This is how EBM *should* sound. It's not light and fluffy. There's dark embers burning under dangerous urgency. If this is any indication of what their new CD will sound like, I think we having something to look forward to.
"Not Now. Not Here." is probably one of their biggest hits and with good reason. It has the danceable beats of the late 80's, the funky instrumentation of Nitzer Ebb (much like "Lightning Man") at the break, and just enough gristle in those German vocals to make it meaty. "Alaska" with its sampling and minimalism echoes of early Front 242 while a tad disappointing tempo-wise "What's To Be Done Now" settles down into more melodic territory.
"Soulspirit: Antifascism" is pure aggression with angry guitars laid out against rigid beats and shrieking chorus lines. "Fat Bellies' Hunger" keeps you moving right along with its psychotic beat and then throws you into Puppy-mode with their heavy "Cold Comtempt." "Cyberbite" - seemingly popular among their fans - is an ok song with some complex instrumentation but just doesn't go anywhere for me after alot of wind up. "Shelter" opens with alot of fun machinery noises but those seem to over power the vocals a bit -- perhaps just bad levels in the mix. "Eat Me" is back to the floor stomping 4/4 tempo that club kids these days would immediately gravitate to while "White Noise" with its more complex intro and electro vs guitar layering is much more interesting to me. Changing pace completely is "You Know How" with its clear vocals and urgent keyboard-driven beat and rock n' roll style guitar breaks demonstrating just how well this band merged the genres back then (and bands nowadays are claiming their so original in that task!). "Woe" is a short bit of haunting instrumentation acting as a set up for "In the Desert" with it's eerie music box lament and acoustic guitar work.
If you've been a fan of The Fair Sex this CD is a nice set of their more popular songs. If you're new to the scene and think that EBM is defined by bands like VNV and Apop, I urge you to check this out and get back to the roots of it. And finally, let it be a reminder and a warning -- they've not departed. Three more CDs are in the works: the second part of Thin Walls, a live compilation and a new studio album that will hopefully put industrial back on the right track.
1. Anne. Lyz (Spell of