It's another Remix job, but unlike the harmonious and safe Goteki experiment, this album goes to almost unparralled dimensions of dementia in twisting and corrupting sounds in new and challenging ways. Right from the initial 'Tool' you're presented with something which would have made anyone from traditionally accepted masters of the both underground and commercial ends, from Test Dept to Prodigy, take a double-take, then run screaming from it. The modern day sounds are a testament to testing one's mettle.
The noise spews forth with almost vile intensity in 'Breaker', whoever (man)handles it, and the ranting messes can seem suffocating, but the muted, often mutant thrombosis coming through keeps you in your place, worried what might be coming next. It's a diverting collection, with grotesque complexion, from hyperspeed electro thrash to people having fun smashing tech-tonic plates, and creating ugly, brisk dance music from a form of Morse code only usually understood by renegade satellites.
The Dark Half are total bastards, suddenly introducing piano into the equation, but mostly these are depraved professors of sound, giving us a twilight world where Crass goes Techno, Industry goes OI, and you go and have a lie down afterwards, which is no bad thing.
It's absolutely fucking horrible, and a genuine work of art, if you're brave enough to let them seduce you with their come-hither scythes.
TOOL - NOISE PUNISHMENT
BREAKER - AMBASSADOR 21
SECTION 13 - NEEDLEYE
KNUCKLEHATE - SCHIZOID
BREAKER - APHASIC
CARDINAL - MATT GREEN
TOOL - TARANTELLA SERPENTINE
FEDRILL - TOM MILLS
CARDINAL - EXITBOY
BREAKER - UNIFORM
SOLID STATE/FEDRILL - NOISE CREATOR
KINCAID - HYDRA
CARDINAL - THE DARK HALF
TOOL - MENTAL OUTPUT
BREAKER - HIDEOUS WHEEL INVENTION
SOLID STATE - TOTAL OUTPUT
CARDINAL - ADVANCED IDEA MECHANICS
KINCAID - GERMSEED
On Sectional Pad/Try To Be Still (promo single)
~recieved by Uncle Nemesis
A two-track promo from the band with the interestingly-punctuated name, and a taste of what is to come - eventually - from Leisur::Hive's next album. Leisur::Hive are a band permanently stationed on the fringes of everything, ploughing their own furrow, following their own wayward muse. They've produced some splendidly quirky-but-cool music in their time, but the current incarnation of the band - featuring Mark Bishop, also of Living With Eating Disorders, on bass, and Bob Leith, sometime (currently?) of the Cardiacs on drums - packs an especially hefty wallop. Leisur::Hive may be fully paid up members of the Awkward And Arty squad, but they also know how to brew up a good old gritty rock noise, and here's where they prove it.
'On Sectional Pad' (nope, I don't have the faintest idea what that title means, either) opens up with some low-slung, fuzzed-out bass and a pounding beat, then, with a insouciant flourish on the snare it all cranks up into a full-throttle rattletrap of an avant-rock anthem. The sound is very 'live'; the drums in particular sound like they're right there in the room with you. The chorus is a mighty thing in itself, the song suddenly kicking up into a higher gear as the guitars thrash and writhe. And then, pow. It's over. The song is only two minutes and thirteen seconds long. It simply crunches to a halt, and you can almost imagine the band standing there, wearing trenchant 'What are you going to do about *that*, then?' expressions, as if daring you to demand more. 'Try To Be Still' is a slowie by comparison. A spooky, shivering thing, shot through with Maria's shuddering violin, the bass and drums having a kickabout at the back, the whole thing winding up to a peak of tension, with Dan tying himself in knots over '...a concentrate of love'.
This is oddly exhilarating music, while at the same time being just...odd music. There's real individuality here, but there's also an effortless grasp of the dynamics and sheer physical feel of ye olde electrical rock n' roll. Art-punks of the world, here are your theme songs.
On Sectional Pad
Try To Be Still
Daniel Knowler: Vocals, guitar
Maria Vellanz: Guitar, violin
Mark Bishop: Bass
Bob Leith: Drums
The website: http://www.leisur-hive.co.uk
Free Leisur::Hive music downloads: http://www.ic-musicmedia.com/leisurhive
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
The Shadowline (Libation Records)
~reviewed by Steph Quinlan
Goth has splintered in so many directions of late that old fogeys like myself sometimes have a hard time remembering just what “goth music” sounded like back in the day. Guitars, I remember those, and drums too. Vocals even! The recent deathrock resurgence has brought some of those sorely missed elements back to the musical landscape, and for those of us who like our goth rock with a touch of drama and balls, Libitina fits the bill quite nicely.
All the bases are covered here; the soaring vocal harmonies on “Mea Culpa”, the plangent into to “A Higher Unity”. So many of these tracks are ready-made for the dance floor; “Colours Revealed”, “Mutual Faith” and “Diomedean Exchange” are particular standouts. The vocals veer from growled imprecations to new-waveish dark pop, and the latter style definitely works best. The darker, harsher vocals are too generic, and threaten to sink the band into the realm of cliche, which would be a shame for a group as talented as this.
Shadowline is Libitina’s third full-length release, and despite the fact that the trad-goth sound of this album is at distinct odds with the EBM/cyber/electroclash/whatever-the-hell-the-rage-is-these=days, Shadowline sounds fresh and vital.
As with so many goth bands, the lyrics do tend to be rather melodramatic and overdone, but when it’s 2 AM, and you’re swirling on the dancefloor after having drunk too much cider, does it really matter?
2. Dirt I Cannot Wash
3. Mea Culpa
5. Colours Revealed
6. All That I Have Ever Lost
7. Mutual Faith
8. A Higher Unity
9. Diomedean Exchange
10. Lux Fiat
Little Match Girl
S/T (Planet Ghost Records)
~reviewed by Steph Quinlan
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a case of musical Attention Deficit Disorder. Little Match Girl, who are from Leeds, UK, and signed to Planet Ghost Records, have released a debut album that reminds us that you can’t please all the people all the time, and if you try, you end up pleasing no one.
Little Match Girl can’t seem to decide if they want to be old-school industrial or heavy metal. They try to do both, and succeed only in aping both genres badly. The album opens with the “computerized voice” that’s been used countless times and I can only assume it’s supposed to sound menacing. Sadly, my first thought was “Wow, this sounds so 80’s, and not in a good way.”
The first couple of tracks have a passable industrial feel to them, but after that, the album degenerates into badly executed heavy metal that bears more than a passing resemblance to Marilyn Manson.
Bad 80’s metal seems to all the rage these days, with hordes of people wetting themselves with insipid glee over The Darkness and their ilk, and I have no doubt that this album will find a comfortable home with that audience.
Towards the end of the album, Little Match Girl trys to swing back towards that good old industrial sound, but as before, they borrow heavily from already-overused sounds and effects without adding anything new.
I have nothing against borrowing
sounds and styles from other genres and artists, but I do expect a bit
of originality in the mix. That’s not too much to ask for is it?
1. The North/Crash Intro
5. My Queen
6. Space Witch
8. Black Days
9. Burn Me Up
10. On That Road/Some Noise
11. Version X
12. Galaxy Nation
13. Endless Madness
Live Not On Evil
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
It's a bit word receiving an album first released in 2002 for review, but when the press release compares it to 'a trainwreck in a bikini' (my kind of comparison!) and the names Bloody Dead And Sexy and Murder in The Registry crop up, as do review excerpts highlighting both rock and deathrock compatibility then I'm interested. Furthermore, it excels itself in each area, and delivers a semi-lethal punch during most of its ten tension-flooded tracks.
It's also a bit odd, for reasons we'll get too, but the main appeal has to be the way the guitars and drums kick in, because that just gets you every time. Synths lack clout. Guitar, plus drums = some weird commotion in your heart, and that's just the way it is. In fact Live Not Evil In Evil do that thing where the drums and guitar keep such time with each other that it whips up the energy even more into a meringue fit for demons with manners, and ensures the songs aren't cluttered, just sizzling. The bass fills the softer veins and the vocals are most excellent, helped by a superb production which allows them to dominate without even needing to go over the top.
It does seem like tough rock initially, but when you're singing about "an empire of scum" and there's fine shifts in jerky power, you could easily place them midway between Fugazi and Danzig. Not too sludge-driven, not too prosaic, just straight down the middle, and on fire. There's an original Death Metal feel to the drag-back riff of 'The Machine' which is a slow, grizzled spurty thing, while 'The Scary Polka' is well named, with gripping lyrics, lighter nimble guitar and a classy stompy chorus.
The oddity starts to creep in when you notice how they do cross boundaries and styles through not being showy in any way and 'Sweet' definitely reminded me of early UK Decay, circa 'Unexpected Guest', but with more full-on power. 'Fly Catcher' also brought through more of the punkier feel and that's when I thought of a suitable comparison, which I hope they can grow to emulate, as they're not quite there yet. Naked Raygun. One of the finest bands the world has ever seen, and the deftest exponents of drum power wedded to audacious guitar energy, plus fabulous invisible bass stealth and massive vocals.
They don't have the vocal punch yet, or the utter sharpness of delivery, but they have the intensity and ideas to become a truly impressive band. Yes, the vocals could have been much better on 'Fly Catcher', but then 'Lullaby For A Lost Soul' shows they can take you through the dank ditch of a slow song, and leave you happy in your own filth, and if 'Porcelain Face' has a hackneyed guitar intro, which is certainly does, it still lurches forward overall with a sense of foreboding. 'Smoked' revisits Wacko Waco with gristle and atmosphere, and 'Outside' is fluffier and open in the rockier side, making for an excellent feel to the finale, leaving you wanting a ton more of the same, or better.
It is a fantastic debut, their website is complete crap, and when's their next record due?
THE SCARY POLKA
LULLABY FOR A LOST SOUL
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
For part of my review of Melechesh's Sphynx-an instrument of sonic torture if ever there was one- I will present an unedited, stream-of-consciousness chat log that transpired as I listened to the album. To wit:
(4:50 AM) :
this is like mercyful fate on steroids and amphetamines after a glass or two of really strong coffee.
(4:55 AM) :
I want to slap this song and tell it to shut up and just sit still for a minute.
(4:58 AM) :
aaaaaaaaagh. this album is 11 minutes in and its still on track 2 of... 11 ... and its nonstop intenseness is KILLING ME!!!!
(4:59 AM) :
(4:59 AM) :
oh god it just got even faster
(5:00 AM) :
why won't the guitarist's tendons just rupture and spare the rest of us the misery?!?
(5:00 AM) :
it's giving me carpal tunnel syndrome just thinking about him playing this fast
Don't ask what I was doing awake at 5am listening to such things. What a man does while he drains his victims of bodily fluids is his own business! um. As I was saying, this is an extremely EXTREME album full of such intenseness as men were not built to withstand. It's really pretty good, in a painfully intolerable way. Guitarists Moloch and Ashmedi must have had their ligaments fortified with steel cable. There is no other way their wrists could survive such rapid oscillation intact. Or they may be robots. Cyborgs, perhaps.
It is worth noting that Melechesh is from Israel, and Sphynx is full of characteristically middle-eastern melodies and percussion... set within an extreme metal context, of course. The guitar playing is technically impressive for the endurance it must have required as much as for it's precision and pure speed. The drums, too, are precise and pound merrily away behind the relentless fusilade of other noises, though the production renders them a bit thin and less potent than they may have been with more of a low end kick. I am thankful for that. Any more intensity and I may have had a heart attack. Some respite from the beatdown is found at track seven in the form of a very effective and moody ambient piece featuring creepy atmosphere and ghostly drums... but it comes over thirty minutes into the album, long after most weakhearted men will have perished.
Though there is quite a lot going on in each of the absurdly long songs (most run 5-7 min.), my mind tended to shut down after about the third track to preserve my cognitive reasoning faculties and my ability to think... stuff. Maybe it didn't act soon enough. Over an hour of this is too much for me to take. I am old, and feeble, and there are wolves after me. If you are hyperactive, enjoy vibrating, or live in a dimension that perceives time at a rate several orders of magnitude faster than I do, this is for you. I guess fans of extreme metal would dig it, too. Melechesh has a mostly unique sound, which may cause you bodily harm. Be warned.
01.) Of Mercury And Mercury
02.) Secrets Of Sumerian Sphynxology
03.) Annunaki's Golden Thrones
04.) Apkallu Councel
05.) Tablets Of Fate
06.) Triangular Tattvic Fire
07.) The Arrival Ritual (Instrumental)
08.) Incendium Between Mirage And Time
09.) Purifier Of The Stars
10.) Caravans To Ur (Instrumental)
11.) Babylon Fell (Bonus)
Ashmedi - Vocals/Guitar
Moloch - Guitar
Al’Hazred - Bass
Proscriptor - Drums
Melechesh Official Site:
The End Records (US):
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
This two-track single has been out for a while now, but I just recently received a copy of it to review from the Fossil Dungeon, and figured I’d give it a go. I have been a longtime fan of Mephisto Walz, all the way back to the time when they had an angrier male vocalist before Christianna joined the band. Barry Galvin (along with Valor Kand) cemented the standard guitar sound of Gothic Rock, and I have always felt that Mephisto Walz deserved a lot more attention and credit than they usually receive from the scene. At any rate, I was glad to receive word that the band was still active and that new material was being issued.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as impressed with the two songs that appear here. While the title track is a sweeping, epic number complete with Christiana’s soft phantasmal vocals, lulling bass lines, and Barry’s signature washes of flange and chorused guitars, the song sort of lumbers on a bit too long (even for an ‘extended version’). The biggest distracter is not so much the song itself, but the production is far too thin and tinny, and the drum machine doesn’t quite propel the song along as earnestly as a live drummer could. “Nightingale” is basically a great song that sounds, at this point, as if it is still in the demo status and could stand to cut a verse or two. The drum machine is a much more apparent issue in the single’s B-side, “Witches Gold.” I immediately just felt that song was all wrong. It’s an upbeat track, with an odd punkish rhythm to it, easily a song that once you are used to and find its groove, it will make perfect sense (it bears a slight resemblance to the band’s classic track “Kokoro”). The guitars are, as expected majestic, and Christiana is as enchanting as ever, but the drum programs fail to properly emphasize the song’s distinctive rhythm and again, too much treble and not enough warmth and punch.
I sit here uncomfortable and anxious with the thought “who the hell are you to tell Mephisto Walz how to write a song” but my advice is this: consider assembling a full band. Record these tracks (and whatever other new material is in the works) with a full line up. Do not at all sacrifice the distinctive sound of the band, don’t pull a Faith & The Muse and try to get all edgy and contemporary on us, but find a way for these songs to reach their most powerful potential. Sure, Mephisto Walz has utilized a drum machine for many years, but the sound of the drum machine dates the music quite a bit and to these critical ears, I just hear wasted potential. Assembling a band of likeminded and dependable musicians is much easier said than done these days, but I can’t help but ask: where is David Glass and what’s he been up to?
In the meantime, these songs are wonderful blueprints of what could be and I am sure other fans will not be so distracted by the production flaws I have sited. I hope that it is not long before Mephisto Walz come pounding back into the forefront again with a loud, shimmering powerful record and reaffirm their status as forerunners of Gothic Rock as we know it. With the appreciation of the old school slowly on the upswing, there could be no better time for the band to re-emerge with all the right ammunition. For those of you that still don’t have “Terra-Regina” “Thalia” and the compilation of early recordings in your collection, rectify these omissions post haste.
2.) Witches Gold
Mephisto Walz is:
Barry Galvin – guitars, drum programs, synths, bass
Christianna - vocals
Mephisto Walz – Official
The Fossil Dungeon:
John Collins’ Mephisto Walz
Beneath The Real
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
When is the best time to stage an intervention for someone you care about? Probably before they go out and do something awful to hurt themselves or have a negative impact on the lives of innocent people. Someone should definitely have intervened before Tasos Iliopoulos laid down the vocal tracks for Morning After's new album Beneath The Real. His singing (and growling) couldn't be more comically horrifying even if he specifically set out to mockingly imitate a metal singer. Guitarist/everything-else-but-drums guy Melios Iliopoulos is Tasos's brother. Causing discord between family members is never desirable, but really man - smack your sibling around a bit and knock some sense into him! He's ruining your chances at finding an audience.
It's quite difficult to ignore the vocals and hear the music beneath, but my highly trained ear is up to the task. Morning After plays a mostly pedestrian combination of American nu-metal (think: Linkin Park) and 'classic' metal (think: hair band from the 80's. Warrant, maybe. Great White, even). Mr. Melios handles the instruments with aplomb, professionally executing his duties on all fronts. The production is fine, rendering a clear sound. If the compositions were more atful or interesting, I'd have enjoyed Beneath The Real more, but they are more workmanlike than they are enthralling.
The vocals, though... the vocals. Maybe I can find something nice to say. Mr. Tasos stays on key, occasionally. He could be mistaken for a dog during some of his high notes. Wait... that wasn't nice. I'll try again. He theatrically over-emotes every single lyric. Augh! I can't seem to come up with anything else nice to say. Even his growly monster vocals are funny rather than scary or powerful. At least he doesn't have a high pitched screech. His mid-range vocal tone is not ear shattering. That is the best I can do for positive comments.
I can't recommend this album to anyone. Maybe people in Greece like this sort of thing, I don't know. I do know that when judging Beneath The Real against any number of genres of metal to which it is similar, it falls flat. The hideous singing totally overshadows any positive merits the music exhibits. Melios Iliopoulos is, at least, a skilled musician. I hate to pit brother against brother, but Melios should run away from home and join a real band. He's doing himself no favors by keeping things all in the family.
01.) Free to Heal
02.) Day of the Moon
03.) Heavy Waves
05.) Hell in Heaven
06.) Beneath the Real
07.) Trains in Dust
08.) Burning Time
09.) Let Myself Flow
11.) Outro (Answers)
Morning After is:
Tasos Iliopoulos - vocals
Melios Iliopoulos - bass / guitars / synths
Fotis Giannakopoylos - drums
Black Lotus Records:
The End Records (US):
My Dying Bride
Songs of Darkness, Words of Light
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Aaron Stainthorpe, infamous vocalist of My Dying Bride (MBD), switches smoothly between depressed crooning, menacing rasps, and a very dramatic clean voice that sounds remarkably like the narrator in Disneyland's The Haunted House ride. I mention this, because listening to Songs of Darkness, Words of Light is rather like going on Disney's famed ride. At least, if the ride lulled you into a false sense of security, opened an abyss to the underworld, and dumped you headlong into a bleak surrealistic nightmare of longing and loss.
Maybe it's not so much like the ride after all. But if you're in the right frame of mind, MDB immerses you into a deep and moving soundscape that captures human suffering like no other. The doomy guitar riffs set the tone and pacing (often mid-tempo or slower, but with some more epic and slightly faster numbers), and the deliberate, purposeful drumbeats hail impending doom at every turn. The keyboards fill out the sound with sweeping orchestras, creepy organs, and soft piano, and act as a cushioning backdrop for all of the painful emotion.
The vocals, however, are the real draw to MDB's patented sound. Although Stainthorpe tends to travel into lugubrious, melodramatic territory, I never get the feeling that he does so to lead the listener into feeling a particular way - he's just really, really upset. It's easy to pass off MDB's music as being somewhat silly, if you aren't in a receptive frame of mind. This style of doom metal is very mood based, and will in no way appeal to people who are perfectly content with their current situations and life in general.
I have heard enough MDB to assert that Songs of Darkness, Words of Light is a very worthwhile addition to the MDB catalogue, and is no doubt a must have for fans. I can't say to what extent the band is retreading their old territory or breaking new ground, but as a relative newcomer to MDB, I can tell you that metal fans who've put off listening to the band should quit lollygagging around and get to it. Songs of Darkness, Words of Light won't depress the happy, but its darkly beautiful yet sepulchral tone will provide great comfort to the downcast.
1) The Wreckage of My Flesh
2) The Scarlet Garden
3) Catherine Blake
4) My Wine in Silence
5) The Prize of Beauty
6) The Blue Lotus
7) And My Fury Stands Ready
8) A Doomed Lover
My Dying Bride is:
Aaron Stainthorpe - vocals
Ade Jackson - bass
Andrew Craighan - guitar
Hamish Glencross - guitar
Shaun Taylor-Steels - drums
Sarah Stanton - keyboards
My Dying Bride - Official
My Dying Bride
Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
It’s quite difficult to be critically objective about your all-time favourite band. As I have said before in reviews of My Dying Bride, I can count on this band to produce exactly what it is that I as a fan have come to expect and what I have yearned to hear. My Dying Bride perfected and defined the elements that make up dark Gothic Metal, and while many imitators have come and gone, they still remain secured upon their seemingly indestructible thrones, as the reigning kings of Romantic misery. It must be stressed however that My Dying Bride has not just repeatedly rehashed the same formulaic material. They were fated to work within the parameters of an expressive style of music that elicits a variety of approaches and delivery. They are one of the most focused bands that continually develop and thoroughly explore their potential. The themes they dwell upon deal with the innate truths that most questioning humans face: the joyous as well as disastrous effects of love and the mysteries of religion and death. As long as the members of this band continue to suffer through these uncertainties, they can find ways to invoke fear, sadness, longing, and hope with their guitar melodies, vocal expressions, and flourishes of tasteful synthetic orchestration. As long as the poetic man feels pain, and as long as he yearns to transcend his existential obstacles, My Dying Bride will have ample material to produce. It all sounds so ridiculously overdramatic and exaggerated, but it is the stark simple truth. They found their niche and the well is far from having dried.
Longtime fans of this band will understand what I am driving at. MDB has never been everyone’s cup of tea. A lot of dark metal fans have raised a great many valid critical points about the band, but for whatever reason, as I grow wearier with the dark metal scene and what it has to offer, My Dying Bride has never disappointed me and the few shortcomings they do have in terms of the way they chose to perform their music or its common sound have never succeeded in turning me away. I can’t help but respond with transfixed awe at whatever they do. Their work never fails to resonate within me. They are the only band I can listen to in any mood, at any given moment. I inevitably fall under their spell even at my most resistant.
Whenever a band that has been active for many years releases a new album, it is difficult not to compare it to past albums. But when My Dying Bride releases an album, I see it merely as an extension to their legacy, an additional chapter to a tale that will hopefully never reach its end. So it is with Christian Death, Current 93, the Legendary Pink Dots, and other prolific dark bands. Perhaps people could have applied this phenomenon to Pink Floyd, or Led Zeppelin and The Beatles at one time too. Whatever the case, with Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light, there is another masterful addition to My Dying Bride’s artistic legacy. And that is really all that matters.
This time around, the band seems to be wallowing in darker, more confrontational realms. Though they are not altogether absent, the band’s trademark use of evocative twin guitar harmonies is utilized sporadically throughout this release. In their place appear more massive, dense, and nightmarish guitar chords. There is a greater focus on what can be accomplished through rhythm as opposed to melody alone. To say directly, most of this album is heavy as fuck! MDB is a band in the strictest sense, in that all of the players work in unison, the instrumentation being very concise and all encompassing. Though the guitars are at the forefront, everything comes together to create a coherent impenetrable wall of sound. There are a lot of unexpected shifts in dynamics, weird guitar effects (including what sounds like an ebow, which I never really noticed before in their material) and some discordant feedback modulations. Sarah’s keyboard contributions do not distract from the songs’ organic structures, but instead succeed in fleshing out the decayed atmosphere with subtlety. Her accompaniment consists of chilling pianos, subtle strings, and droning pipe organs and other tasteful orchestral offerings that help fully realize the band’s timeless sound. The drums pound away with precision and finesse, anchoring most of the album at a dirge-like, Doom-laden pace. As always, there are those climactic, energized gallops that crackle and cut through the atmosphere of dreary contemplation to reach an epic explosion of rage, yearning, or frantic passion. The pinnacle of which reveals the band’s Death Metal roots, but these aggressive excursions always remain tempered with the refined grace that only this band is capable of.
Vocally, Aaron also has a few new tricks up his sleeve. He experiments with more layering effects, pairing icy shrieks and guttural growls for the more frenzied moments, yet he also perfects more cerebral conceits consisting of whispers and ‘clean’ vocals. He sings with a soaring pinch on a few tracks, treading the fine line between major and minor keys for a rather refreshing effect, that ultimately makes the other passages sound ever darker. Some narrative recitations appear, a device rarely used by Aaron, and the effect is similar to what Iron Maiden did with Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner.” Something about the English, Romantic poetry, and Heavy Metal indeed. Aaron’s passionate and effective nasally tenor is as riddled with unrest and defeat as it ever was. He pleads to God with an astonishingly powerful need in one unforgettable passage on the track “The Prize Of Beauty.” It invokes an image of a man on his knees, in desperation and in dire need of emotional rescue, pleading for the mercy of a God he has no doubt is well-attuned to his cries, but persists on ignoring them. I happened to buy this CD right before I had seen Mel Gibson’s controversial film, and I couldn’t help but notice the artistic parallels between Jim Caveziel’s anguished private prayers to God and Aaron’s theatrical performances / cathartic expressions in this band. Listening to this disc on the way home from the theatre was one of those rare moments where all your hobbies and artistic distractions somehow manage to synthesize, and the feeling was one of fullness and understanding. However lame it may sound!
While tracks like “The Prize of Beauty” and “The Wreckage Of My Flesh” seem to delve deeper into Aaron’s own personal religious uncertainties, there are other more fantastical lyrical elements as well. Though no less genuine, Aaron’s storytelling reaches its zenith in both “Catherine Blake” and “The Blue Lotus.” The first of these two songs is unique in that it appears to be about a woman on her deathbed (the characterization summons the image of the invalid, consumptive Victorian female archetype) who is tormented with apocalyptic visions. The first half of the song is steeped in funereal erotic mystery, the guitars and vocals entwining together as if in grief or sexual ecstasy, before the song charges into more nihilistic pastures, detaching from the isolated disintegration of one particular woman to reflect the disintegration of the entire world as we know it.
“The Blue Lotus” on the other hand, bravely ignores the inevitable cries of purist pretension and recounts a tale of vampirism, steeped in a folkloric and literary Gothic style. In effect, the track sort of picks up where Dani Filth left off on “Dusk & Her Embrace” when he exchanged his knack for graveyard poetry and embraced shock tactics instead. Aaron narrates the propulsive track with Filthish sepulchral tones, as the character stumbles through a moonlit sylvan setting to reach an ominous castle, which houses a seductive horror only rumoured to exist. Lust and curiosity spur the man onward to a sanguine oblivion. The poem is rendered beautifully; the music accompanying it is suitably diabolical and decadent, evoking a masterful balance between horror and romance, metallic crunch and Gothic elegance.
“A Doomed Lover” also stands out in that it is perhaps one of My Dying Bride’s purest Doom Metal songs. Though always referred to as a Doom Metal band, My Dying Bride more regularly utilize a variety of tempos and atmospheres to create a more momentous Gothic Metal sound, not limiting itself to the uncompromising density and slowness associated with Doom Metal. They have moments of pure Doom, but haven’t often produced a song so concentrated to be referred to as such. This track however is pitch black and seething with cacophonic darkness, and is quite focused all the way to its finale. “A Doomed Lover” is perhaps the band at their rawest in many years, stripped to stark simplicity and all the more powerful in its lumbering, minimalist crunch.
I am still absorbing much of this album, and each time I listen to it I find more to enjoy. Longtime fans I trust will be anything but disappointed, and new fans could be hooked just as easily with this release as they could by any of the other masterpieces in this band’s discography. After all these years, this is still Gothic music at its absolute finest.
“Catherine Blake slept fitfully
summer night, in the heat.
She murmured gently and moved smoothly,
this way and that. Oh, the beauty!
Her luscious eyes, delicate fingers,
clawed at her sodden bed.
Catherine smiled. Took a fabulous breath
of summer air and tasted death.”
1.) The Wreckage Of My Flesh
2.) The Scarlet Garden
3.) Catherine Blake
4.) My Wine In Silence
5.) The Prize Of Beauty
6.) The Blue Lotus
7.) And My Fury Stands Ready
8.) A Doomed Lover
My Dying Bride is:
Aaron – vocals, lyricist
Andrew – guitar
Hamish – guitar
Adrian – bass
Shaun – drums
Sarah – keyboard
My Dying Bride – Official
II: The Chronovisor
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Apparently, Mistress practices a genre of metal called 'sludge' by some. The goal, I guess, is to be as filthy and debased and wretched as possible. Mission accomplished! II: The Chronovisor is grimy and disgusting and without much in the way of redeeming qualities... socially or musically. It is brutal, which some people like, but brutality for the sake of brutality has never appealed to me. I like music that has, well, music in it. This doesn't.
Churning riffs, gravel-throated shouts, and belching death vocals abound throughout the length of Chronovisor. The aforementioned riffs, though, aren't much more than repeated powerchords, making them anything but interesting. 'How low can you go' seems to be the question Mistress asked when crafting the guitar tone for the album. The answer, it seems, is 'pretty low'. Since they went to the trouble to get down there, they rarely leave for higher ground. The death vocal blurts stay in a similarly subterranean frequency range, unintelligibly proclaiming doom. The grating gravel rasps are so abrasive they could be used for sandpaper.
I recognize that there are people who like to listen to this sort of thing. Why? What about it is at all appealing? I know that many people who have more mainstream tastes would ask the same of much of what I like, but I can usually point out some redeeming musical merit in the bands I enjoy. Many bands feature technically amazing musicians. Mistress doesn't. Others have a talented singer. None of those on Chronovisor. Some bands excel at songwriting, crafting interesting compositions that engage the mind and emotions. Mistress? Well, they inspire one emotion in me. Revulsion. There is nothing worth listening to here for anyone whose tastes are similar to mine. Or for a lot of people with tastes dissimilar to mine.
If you like to listen to people idiotically scream obscenities in grating tones while banging out artless noise on their instruments, you'll love Mistress and their sludge. Where I'm from, we have a synonym for 'sludge' that has worked its way into the vulgar tongue. It seems appropriate for use when describing this album. What's the word I'm referring to? "Crap".
01.) Rats Piss
02.) Psychic one inch punch
03.) Hell is Other People
04.) Wanker Colony
05.) The Chronovisor
06.) Hit Bottom
07.) No Memory
08.) Piss for Blood, Shit for Brains
a bunch of foul losers.
Rage Of Achilles Records:
The End Records (US):
WAR/LOVE BLUES (Furnace Songs)
~review by Mick Mercer
nidus (n) a nest or breeding-place: a place where anything is originated, harboured, developed or fostered: a place of lodgement or deposit: a point of infection: a nerve-centre
So, greatness then. Here it is. Cast in the form of a Dark Country hybrid, of which I know little, but the tainted resonance of other bands come swimming back into my mind. In fact during the late 80’s/early 90’s one of my all time favourite bands, The Galley Slaves merged country with Irish folk and created something similar to the glories here, as did someone else we’ll mention later. The Galleys took the ironic love song route, but Myssouri have death on their palette, and paint with intricacy over a disquieting wash.
I am truly indebted to Blu for her interview with them in Starvox which alerted me to this mighty band and during a year when I have already lost count of the number of great albums which have arrowed in through my ears and given my brain a fearful kicking, this one stands prouder than the rest, for here is a band - and don’t laugh – who make the kind of music, rich in lyrical power and cool in downplayed musical expertise, that U2 fool themselves into believing they’re either capable of, or actually producing. This is modern rock which spreads like spilled ink over a template of traditions. No-one need be put off by the term Dark Country, as it isn’t a constant theme, and what is country at its best but the most supreme form of music for story-telling? And if those stories just happen to be dark, then all the better. And I don’t see anyone doing it better than this.
As with all stunning bands it only takes one song, ‘Road Boy Blues’ in this case, and will give your first glimpse of the lyrics;
”Your body figures in my future with a boa’s tender tether,
I’ve got a love to shelter us like a flesh and bones umbrella”
The blues motif disintegrates into a country chug around which Goth vocals style entwine, then rasp in explosive ferment, showering dust and rust over a glorious commercial potential. For all their diligence in not shying away from a hugely literate enterprise there is no pomposity here, not when they have such musical power to unload. Strongly delineated, regardless of the surging noise, they nail you time and time again.
‘Terrible Love’ then droops down and patters by with low, mashed steel guitar, then spurts off in a super-fast dash, a scratchy delay and a swift drop into a worrying hole, where lyrical ideas beset your head, like disturbing terrified bats in a cave.
Michael Bradley is the host, and a lugubrious storyteller who has a manner and selfless authority in displaying bruised romanticism in a way Nick Cave will simply never master, and you’re submerged quickly in the musical liquid of ‘March To The Sea’, drowning in its curious depths, often buffeted by the exultant drums of Chris Reeves, and guided by the miraculously invisible bass of Cade Lewis. Honestly, you know he’s there and you can concentrate on it, but the glow he provides inside these songs is quite something, as Mark Rogers wafts the attention this way and that with his guitars.
With ‘The Floorless Jig’ we embark on quite a stirring song of a murderer thrilled, a la Turpin, with his own reputation, and here we have suitable sleaze grind, which scatters the bones of The Cramps to the four winds, and everything feels filthy beneath the scabrous vocals.
By total contrast, ‘Orphan Song’ is beautifully moving, and made captivating by the constantly revolving repetition of words that creates the melody and rhythm, and when we descend into the madness of ‘My Only Love’ the truest comparison I can give is back to The Folk Devils and the Ian Lowery Group, both of which had Ian’s take on an American seamy underbelly. Myssouri naturally do it better, because they’re steeped in it themselves, and this particular song really lets loose with some upright vocal drama into a tormented whirlpool of emotion, from which we are led out by a swampy guitar waltz.
There isn’t a single song here that you don’t welcome on return visits, excited by the prospect once more. In fact the only problem with the record at all is some rather drab artwork, and I have finally initiated a once in a life time star rating for an album in this journal.
‘Down In Flames’ is gorgeous
and jaunty. I’m surprised Bradley isn’t whistling over the Kinks-like walking
bass opener, or the keyboard trill near the end, as he jiggles around sensational
wordplay about a mad couple, in a union which seemed doomed from the start:
”She dressed in red, on the day that we wed”
‘Rictus’ also shows they can strike hard and low, with a brisk rock growl, before opening up, saturated in heavenly sighing, and ‘The Eyes Of Others’ sees the traditional lone guitar weeping which seems fitting for a song seemingly awash in self-pity until the final line surreally spins everything on its head. It’s maybe ‘I Got It All’ that signals the real modern impact this band could have. True, there is more than a whiff of Fleetwood Mac about it (circa 1975), possibly because it’s chirpy, but as the sly, weighted delivery trots out I think you’ll soon be agreeing with me that this is the finest song Cobain never got to include on Nevermind.
Absorbing and challenging
throughout, I love this album. It is quite magnificent.
”I’ve looted my life
to the very walls
to find the nidus of my discontent
I do recall
That I had
to give up church
ROAD BOY BLUES
MACH TO THE SEA
THE FLOORLESS JIG
THE OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY STOMP
MY ONLY LOVE
DOWN IN FLAMES
THE EYES OF OTHERS
I GOT IT ALL
TEASER STALLION BLUES (EXCERPT)
Tones of Hate
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
I should like Tones of Hate more than I do. I mean, Necrodeath plays a very tight, technically adept thrash/black metal hybrid style. The album is very well produced. Every song is packed with brutal riffs. They even vary the pace from track to track, and within tracks, for that matter... what's not to like, then? I really can't put my finger on it.
The excellent songwriting is certainly not diminishing my enjoyment of the album. Necrodeath vary the tempo from 'blistering assault' to 'fast and serious, but not quite ripping your face off'. They often transition into and out of warp-drive multiple times in a song, which keeps things from becoming predictable. The propulsive periods of acceleration and slam-the-brakes slowdowns are handled adroitly by Peso's considerable skill pounding the skins. He crafts a more interesting percussive soundscape than one typically finds on a metal album by adding in an assortment of ringing dingers and toms that sound like they're from deep in the jungle. Coupled with the punch-in-the-gut clarity of the drum recordings, Peso's performance is a real treat.
There's nothing to find fault with regarding the guitars, either. While these riffs have doubtlessly been heard before (what riff hasn't?), they range from 'intense and brutal' to 'brooding and dangerous'. Guitarist Claudio is locked into the groove with Peso and together their instruments deliver repeated crushing blows. Stylistically, his riffs fall squarely on the shoulders of old thrash metal, echoing Overkill more than anyone else I can come up with. Solos aren't part of Claudio's repertoire for the most part, but the few that he works in come about organically and serve the music well. Additionally, when they appear, the solos deliver yet another pacing changeup and relax the mood slightly before the next wave of aural attack begins.
Even Flegias's phlegmatic black metal rasp isn't too off-putting. I didn't care for it at first, but I got used to it as I listened to the album a few times, and now it doesn't bother me at all... except for his tendency to crescendo his blaaAAHHHHHaasss which seems like overdoing it a little. I will admit that I don't care for the Marylin Manson-ish album cover art. Can a bad album cover be claimed as a legitamate grievance against a band? Insofar as it colored my view of Necrodeath's 'Tones of Hate', I guess it can. Otherwise, it's a first rate, bonebreaking black-thrash album. So don't listen to me gripe about mysterious non-flaws. If you like metal -and the fact that you've read all this suggests that you probably didn't stumble in here looking for cookie recipes- this is an album you should own.
01.) Mealy Mouthed Hypocrisy
02.) Perseverance Pays
03.) The Mark of Dr. Z
04.) The Flag
05.) Queen of Desire
06.) Petition for Mercy
07.) Last Tones of Hate
08.) Evidence from Beyond
09.) Bloodstain Pattern
Flegias - vocals
Claudio - guitars
John - bass
Peso - drums
Necrodeath Official Site:
The End Records (US):
On Thorns I Lay
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Depressing metal does not excite me. That should come as no surprise, given its nature. It is hard to muster any enthusiasm for an album like 'Egocentric' from On Thorns I Lay. Fifty minutes of mid-paced mope-metal is a good way to bore anyone into a coma, particularly if you don't have exceptional compositions or performances to give the album shape and depth. 'Egocentric' doesn't have either. The album is hardly unlistenable, and in fact is pleasant sonic wallpaper, but it certainly doesn't command listeners' attention.
The band wavers between a number of stylistic approaches over the course of the album, but generally lands somewhere around 'prog-ish gothy quasi-metal'. It's Rock'n'lull, if you will. For each heavy rocker, there's a dingy sleeper. While listening to 'Egocentric', I was reminded at various times of Alice in Chains, Korn, REM, Katatonia, Morrissey, and the early 90's alternative sound. Nothing on this album, though, would be anything more than filler from any of those artists.
No new ground is broken with the band's reliance on formulaic instrumentation, mostly featuring only guitar, bass, and drums. An occasional viola line or keyboard effect will creep into and slink out of a song now and then, but it hardly makes a dent in the drudgery. I can't say that the individual performances are bad, as such. They're fine, really, and nicely recorded... just run of the mill. Musicians such as these who are clearly proficient at playing their given instruments should be able to come up with something a little more creative than they have, though... and that's the main problem I have with 'Egocentric'.
If the song structures, riffs, vocals, and melodies weren't so generically bland, On Thorns I Lay may have had a worthwhile album on their hands. Lead singer Minos's monotonous clean speak-singing doesn't help matters, either. Like everything else on the album, his vocals are generally inoffensive but lack the spark of artistic inspiration that is present in all great music. If you are looking for a sleep aid, or really enjoy music that has no discernable character of its own, check this album out. I, however, hope the bandmates check their egos at the door on their next trip to the recording studio and take this advice: try writing creative music!
01.) Life can Be
02.) Poster on a Wall
03.) Afraid to Believe
04.) Unsung Songs
05.) Lack in Resorts
06.) Gallant Nights
07.) When I'm Gone
08.) Rampant of K-ism
09.) Dawn of Loss
10.) Quotation for Listening
On Thorns I Lay is:
Chris - guitars
Stefanos - bass
Minas - guitars/vocals
Fotis - drums
On Thorns I Lay Official
Black Lotus Records:
The End Records (US):
Ordeal by Fire
Roots and the Dust
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
To say it's been a good year so far for CDs would be something of an understatement. Hot on the heels of yesterday's great album comes a feisty EP from some Italian greats in a new band. Michele Piccolo (Burning Gates) and bassist Fabrizio (Wasteland), along with 'xxx' on drums and Riccardo Perugini on guitar bring us Goth Rock, as in GOTH Rock, if you get my meaning? It's a killer release.
Let's side-slip and discuss their idea of including 'New Dark Age', an old Sound song. Adrian Borland was/is one of the greatest songwriters of modern times, and sadly killed himself due to mental problems, just when it seemed he may have conquered his worst demons. The Outsiders were an unusual band during the Punk era, The Sound were totally magnificent and really twice the band, artistically, than Joy Division were, but them's the breaks. Now, not only do Ordeal By Fire cover the song well, they successfully tread the hot coals between grim intensity and double-edged celebration.
Not only that, but their own songs sound just as good, both in confident delivery and composition. 'Re-Creation' is so hungry it just eats your face off with a fierce guitar that romps across sturdy drums, as gruffly noble vocals (in English) blurt out. It has a wonderfully chunky production, and the song turns on the stamping drums. This is Eighties power (think 'Preacher Man' crossed with the more direct attack of Play Dead), given a new sense of perspective. They take the best elements of the past, then kick into modern attack, to produce an epic opener, followed by a more jittery tune, with cool drum into, and bass so deep it twangs, still tucking pretty moments into the shadowy bulk. 'Obsession' is a Baudelaire poem, not that I'd know, so it flows like Goth wine, as the music pitches and tosses, carrying our roaring sailors forward in their homemade vessel. Bon voyage!
New Model Tsunami
RIVER IN FLOOD
NEW DARK AGE
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Although there are many lyrics in English on this album, the fact that much of the deeper spoken/sung male offerings is in German means something deep and meaningful is lost on me, which is a shame. Evidently, it's been three years since their last album and it took them a year to record this one. They use synths and electronics in what they see as a classical method, with no Industrial or Electro intrusion, setting you up for a moody encounter.
Steffi Hensel offers dreamy female vocals, offsetting the dark, intellectualised male approach, and the album starts with a powerful but serene flow, and rarely lets up. The distinct instrumentation throughout the album is always dominated by the vocals, and you're not getting any ethereal lightness here, because they have a full sound, which is sensibly never cluttered. These do have a modern classical composition feel about them, so if that's what makes you tingle I'd advise a visit to their site. Think a younger Goethes Erben and you're more than halfway there.
'Armenia' finds a different whirling rhythm, and sees them whoosh upwards halfway, suggesting they do understand volume and it isn't all a pleasant drift through pain and loneliness (their main lyrical concerns). Musically, they have their interesting touches, 'An Uns Vorbel' being layered drones, and 'Hauchendes Zart' so perkily classical you know they recorded in tutus, for all their intense facial expressions. Their occasional slide into 80's synth rock signatures is unwelcome but brief, as is the lovey-dovey sweetness of their most optimistic track, 'Natales', but they end the experience with a track of modern news samples to put things in a bewildering context.
A beautiful record then, but a knowledge of German would make the experience twice as good.
AN UNS VORBEL
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
For those that aren’t already aware, Penis Flytrap was lead by Dinah Cancer, the scream queen vocalist of LA Death Rock legends 45 Grave. Her latest project has been releasing material and touring for quite a few years now, and if I am not mistaken, I believe this is the first full-length release by PFT.
“Dismemberment” is a tight, blistering album of thrash punk anthems, characterized by highly charged drumming, razor sharp guitar riffs, and rumbling metallic bass lines. Dinah’s rhythmic vocal chants punctuate the frantic music with seething venom and nefarious grandeur, and her vocal power and convincing delivery reaffirms her place alongside female punk pioneers like Becky Bondage (Vice Squad) and Poly Styrene (Xray Spex). PFT’s sound is altogether fresh, edgy and familiar, and certainly energized with enough attitude to bulldoze its way right through all the whiney mall pop music that passes for punk in these sad, sad times.
It is not until about the halfway point of the album that PFT offers a respite from the relentless formula for tracks like “Scream My Darling” and “Burn Witch Burn.” Though these songs succeed in disrupting the consistently fast tempos a bit for more developed, slower songs, they do not pack as great a punch even with a darker more ‘spooky’ atmosphere at the forefront. Instead, they somewhat highlight the band’s lyrical shortcomings and without the intense punk fueled accompaniment, the bottom basically falls right out. “Burn Witch Burn” does however build to a memorable climax of cacophonic guitar wails, banging drums, and Dinah’s bewitching demand, “Release me!” After these few tracks (including the short bass led instrumental tease, “Caves Of Cassandra” that perhaps could have developed into a rather good song?) the band return to the same blazing formulas. Dinah, however, takes a few steps back from the mic to allow the rest of the band to contribute vocals for the blistering B-Movie blasphemy of “Say You Love Satan.”
While I could complain and say there really isn’t enough variety on the disc, it seems kind of apparent that the few attempts to deviate from what the band does best were bad moves. The slower songs don’t work quite as well and the male vocals pale in comparison to Dinah’s imposing chants. My only real critique of this disc is more or less a personal one, and that is that I am just not really into the whole ‘horror punk thing.’ This is merely a matter of preference and I kinda thought the reason most Goths dismiss Metal were for the very thematic and lyrical elements celebrated by Penis Flytrap. Though I suppose the difference between PFT and most contemporary Black Metal bands is that PFT are admittedly having fun and expressing their macabre sense of humour and love of bad horror films, and PFT thankfully lack any kind of ominous, grandiose pose as evil incarnate.
I will be the first to admit I am an uptight traditionalist bastard that prefers the subtle repressed chills of a film like “The Others” to the comedic gross out excess of “Return Of The Living Dead.” The same holds true for me musically. Though I completely understand where PFT are coming from, their manner of championing darkness is from a completely different mode of thought than my own and I can’t help but prefer the more ‘serious’ bands out there that explore these themes from a more subversive and psychological angle. Humour merely numbs the impact of horror, whether it be intentional or not. Indeed a whole new breed of entertainment has been fostered by the marriage of black humour and horrific excess, but nonetheless, there is little to fear. So little is left to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. No relentless nightmares, no unknown terrors shrieking in vengeful despair from beyond. I suppose when I think of Death Rock, this is just far too much ‘fun’ for me to feel comfortable applying that term (*Death Rock to me being embodied by early Christian Death, Skeletal Family, Spiritual Bats, and Cinema Strange at their absolute darkest). But I seem to be a minority there. It’s all rhetoric and what not, but I think the term ‘ghoul punk’ or ‘horror punk’ is much better suited to bands like PFT, 45 Grave, Frankenstein, Bella Morte, etc. This, however, is all incidental and straying from the matter at hand.
Ultimately, regardless of my personal tastes or whatever the hell genre PFT fall into, the musical attack demonstrated here is well worth a thousand praises. Producer William Faith did an excellent job capturing the band’s raw intensity in a way that it practically reaches out from the CD player and shakes you senseless. Dinah as well deserves credit for sticking to her guns and not allowing herself to fade into mere myth alone. The music is fantastic for what it is and though the lyrics and imagery are adolescent at their best, I won’t just write this off as a bad release just because I don’t suspect I will listen to it much. The appeal of this disc is glaringly clear for those that rejoice in the more mischievous aspects of evil and hopefully, PFT will inevitably find its way into the collections of those appropriate music fans the world over, roaming the local cemeteries in worn leather and tattered fishnet, in search of fresh brains.
1.) The Dead Hate The Living
2.) Fucked By The Devil
3.) Tears Of Blood
4.) Cemetery Girl
6.) Scream My Darling
7.) Burn Witch Burn
8.) Caves Of Cassandra
9.) Dark One
10.) Girl In The Basement
11.) Say You Love Satan
13.) The Living Hate The Dead
Penis Flytrap is:
Dinah Cancer – vocals
Lucifer Fulci – bass/vocals
Elvorian Von Spivey – guitar/vocals
Hal Satan – drums/vocals
Penis Flytrap – Official
Pride and Fall
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Reviewing electronica has led me to ponder the question: why does EBM typically suck? Pride and Fall plays EBM, and does not suck at all. In fact, they're quite good, and they've inadvertently answered my question. Most EBM sucks because it lacks any sort of vision or creativity, the two elements that can imbue otherwise lifeless techno beats with depth and vitality. Pride and Fall has mixed goth, metal, and trance into one of the best EBM CDs I've ever heard. However, they manage to do so with the typical array of EBM noises - string swells, fast techno beats, catchy melodies, depressed singing. Pride and Fall uses the standard ingredients, they just manipulate them to incorporate the aesthetics and feelings of other genres.
I often joke that EBM is made by sad robots, because only sad robots could devise such inhuman, precise, and ultimately boring depressed dreck. Pride and Fall's members are clearly not robots. They work a very human vibe into their soundscapes. This is partly done through the rhythm, thanks to little percussion fills and tempo changes (which are rare in EBM). Mostly, however, Sigve Monsen's depressed gothy vocals and occasional rasps make the music more interesting than the standard filler. He sounds like a cross between recent Mortiis and Icon of Coil, and he successfully communicates gloom despite the rather nonsensical lyrics he sings.
Nephesh features a pulse, in a way that many CDs do not. This pulse is not defined merely by tempo. Rather, it's more of a heartbeat just under the surface of the music - a hard to quantify quality that brings the music to life and gives it some purpose. You can definitely pick out the measurable elements that separate Pride and Fall from generic EBM acts: varied vocals, tempo changes, different keys and distinct melodies, breaks in the beat, etc. But for the most part, Pride and Fall simply has that extra something that makes their music work, and fans of EBM and gothy electronica should definitely check it out. These Norwegians are on their way towards breaking out of the EBM boundaries and making more transcendental art, but for now they've made a fine entry in their genre of choice.
01. The Approach
09. Serenade of Dreams
10. Extinction Means Forever
Pride and Fall is:
Sigve Monsen - vocals
Per Waagen - synths
Svein Joar A. Johnsen - guitar/live
Pride and Fall - Official
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
I received this CD as a promo this past summer, and shamefully, it has taken me this long to finally review this astounding release. Time has enabled me to fully appreciate and absorb what this band has to offer and I can fully attest to this band’s greatness and the satisfying durability of their music. I have been busily enjoying Love Zero since July and I’ve yet to tire of the richly textured melodies and driving rhythms presented here. It continues to be as refreshing as when I first heard it months ago and The Prids are among the dozen or so newer acts that have completely restored my faith in the future of dark music.
The Prids originally formed in Nebraska, but relocated to Portland and released two EPs before this one, which is their debut full-length. They are indeed a band who’s many influences are hardly difficult to detect, but like most of the current crop of ‘post punk revivalist’ bands that I have been drooling over, The Prids put their own polished spin on things and arrive at their own distinctive sound. Of all the bands that I have been digging on The Prids’ are the most reinvigorating, melodic and emotionally uplifting. Admittedly, they lack the frantic angst and dark confrontational theatricality I chiefly admire in other bands, but the moods they craft are no less affective. The entire CD elicits an intoxicating melancholy, though not of the passive ethereal kind that such a description might suggest. Instead the music is fully charged and vividly energetic. The Prids manage to tap into the same musical generator that inspired the sincere, momentous, sap-free power pop styles of bands like The Smiths or New Model Army at their best.
The album kicks off splendidly with “The Problem,” a breathtaking track barely exceeding two minutes but manages to seize the listener, immediately securing their rapt attention. A rapid snare drum fires suddenly after hitting ‘play’ and the listener is awash in dense cascades of smooth power chords fluidly strumming atop a tight propulsive rhythm. A few measures pass and the soft, feathered vocal harmonies of both Mistina Keith and David Frederickson make their debut, phantasmagoric and in perfect synch. The melodic power of both vocalists is wonderfully utilized, each voice seamlessly entwining with the other to create a uniform collision of choral hypnotism. An additional layer of spectral lead guitar and cloudy synths sweep through the mix, dividing the verses before swelling and intensifying, streamlining the track toward a powerful rhythmic break, and then spinning to an abrupt but unquestionably satisfying close. Two and a half minutes, and I guarantee you’ll be hooked, ears and hair standing on end in voluptuous anticipation.
Things briefly sink down a notch as sparse echo guitar reverberates delicately over a light drum beat, iced by Mistina’s distant vocals, and then “All Apart And No Fall” explodes into a fuzz laden and impeccably tight groove, transcendent and engrossing, playfully flirting between sparse and sonic (youth) dynamics. This sets the stage for one of the coolest instrumentals I have heard set on a disc yet – the aptly titled “Panic Like Moths.” Drummer Lee Zeman plows to the forefront, tearing things up with forceful tribal cascades (indeed culling to mind the dusty flapping wings of moths as they fly to their flickering doom), as sharp angular guitars jangle in unison with a prominent bass line. After six months, my mind still screams: Southern Death Cult! I can almost hear Ian Astbury’s shamanistic wail in the track’s opening sections. But alas, the song stands fine on its own without vocals, as instrumentals should, slicing through a pensive arpeggio break and then into a thrashing crescendo. The Prids have produced the instrumental upon which to judge further instrumentals! “You As The Colorant” and “LLORAR” keep the pace moving full-steam ahead, the former slightly more playful and mischievous while the latter puts David’s serene Thurston Moore-ings into the forefront, the song swerving from a thick bouncing groove toward a swirling melodicism. Dynamics are again the key to success, the soft moments lush and glorious, the climaxes powerful, punchy and engrossing.
A brief untitled interlude prefaces the second half of the album, the title track appears blanketed in warmth and bittersweet tenderness, serving as the album’s most accessible moment. The first half of the addictive track “Contact” kicks back to a stark shifty pace, fast and driving, with heavy circular bass strums rumbling beneath tremolo picked echo guitar before segueing into a mesmerizing dream-pop interlude, the guitars and bass tumbling into each other brilliantly. The Prids partially unplug for “Artificial Heart Designer,” a stripped down acoustic bit comprised of David’s slightly delayed vocal yearnings and quaint hollow-body guitar doodling. “Not Even Sometimes” draws this great opus to a close, a moody, rhythmic, and lite lovelorn dirge that has Slowdive written all over it.
The Prids’ Love Zero possesses the effect of a pleasant, deeply romantic dream; a dream that you have the luxury to revisit repeatedly, simply by pressing play a second or third time. Months can pass, but the album never fails to have the same calming, revitalizing effect. Though these ten tracks together just barely clock in at one half hour, the album as a whole musically captures some of the most comforting and tranquil emotions one is capable of experiencing through music. Regardless of how others react to this disc, this is one of those rare, magical CDs that I am utterly thankful to have in my collection. Absolutely essential.
The Prids are:
Mistina Keith – bass, vocals
David Frederickson – guitar, vocals
Jairus Smith – keyboards
Lee Zeman - drums
1.) The Problem
2.) All Apart And No Fall
3.) Panic Like Moths
4.) You As The Colorant
7.) Love Zero
9.) Artificial Heart Designer
10.) Not Even Sometimes
The Prids – Official Site:
Pushing Up Daisies
Pushing Up Daisies
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
I have come to the conclusion that I don't like hardcore. At all. Screamy, tuneless discord is not my thing. Unfortunately for me, that's mostly what Pushing Up Daisies has to offer on their eponymously titled debut. I guess, though, that this is about as good as unlistenable noise is likely to get. The Daisies manage to craft an epic and somewhat interesting variety of intolerably grating sounds. Their avant-garde approach -prog-core, I'll call it- is artistically superior to the stripped down sound I tend to associate with hardcore as a genre. I can appreciate this as an example of ugly, vile art, if nothing else.
Gary Mclaren's vocals come in the form of a frightfully intense blackmetalish rasp-scream. They form a close fit with the typically dissonant and often painful distorted guitars. Fitful bursts of drumming puncture the wall of noise at irregular rates, giving the whole enterprise some forward motion. Things get a bit more interesting when the band injects strange synth textures and unexpected sounds into the mix. Even more surprising is when a bass or guitar melody peeks through the crashing haze of noise and lends at least some musicality to the madness. There are short interludes of relatively calm, sedate music every so often, and a few meandering ambient passages, but the majority of the album is spent saturating the listener with violent disharmony.
Shockingly, the lengthy songs (the shortest is 5:44, the longest 9:00) don't stagnate, moving with regularity from one grim idea to the next. The compositions are complex and dense with noisy elements and surprising shifts in tone. The overall atmosphere is nightmarish and hard to listen to, but at least the album isn't boring. It almost feels like a lengthy stream-of-evil-consicousness jam session at times. The production is clear and crisp, as well, allowing each gut-churning noise to hit the listener with maximum effect.
On one hand, I don't really want to listen to this ever again. On the other hand, I can't dismiss it as worthless, since there is artistic merit to Pushing Up Daisies' efforts. If you like headache inducing, brain-bending atmospheric prog-core violence, keep your eyes out for these guys. The album reviewed here was self-published and is apparently meant to be the precursor to a wider release of a full album in 2004. This may well be the best album I've reviewed that's full of sounds which I thoroughly despise.
01.) Bus Ride
02.) Clipping Cupid's Wings A
03.) Clipping Cupid's Wings B
04.) The Perfect Love
05.) Cupid 35
Pushing Up Daisies is:
Gary Mclaren- vocals
Tim - guitar
Kel Prime - drums
Ian Peterson - guitar
Mike Morgan - guitar
Mick - drums
Daryl Mclaren - bass
Scott Whitaker- keyboard
The Quantum Dots
Inventing Reality(SINister Records)
~reviewed by Steph Quinlan
The Quantum Dots, like another esoteric band that may or may not be a partial namesake, are most interesting when they’re least structured. Like The Legendary Pink Dots, their songs lose a certain integrity when they adhere too strongly to conventional verse-chorus structure, but when the centre no longer holds and musical anarchy is loosed upon the world, they are entrancing.
Hailing from Portland, OR, The Quantum Dots have been compared to everyone from Tool to Dave Gahan, and given the grandiose nature of the music, these comparisons are not unwarranted. However, the sense of musical adventure that the Dots seem to revel in is best displayed on lengthier, more meandering tracks, where band members Eric Sterling and Dean Blair have room to experiment at will.
The spacey, almost Floyd-esque “System of Belief” is night-sky listening music, complete with soaring wordless vocals. “Serotonin” clocks in at over twelve minutes, and has a trance-like quality that is saved from monotony by the judicious application of guitar chords and vocal samples. In contrast, the short and sharp track “The Auction” delivers a perfect, tight aggro vocal.
Inventing Reality is the debut release by The Quantum Dots, and it showcased a level of musical sophistication and inventiveness that is not often found in virgin offerings. I’ll definitely be watching The Quantum Dots to see what they invent next.
1. Center of Gravity
3. Where I am Nothing
4. The Common Thread
5. System of Belief
8. A New Progression
9. The Auction
10. Fall Hard
11. In the walls
14. Programmed for Symmetry
THE RAZOR SKYLINE
THE BITTER WELL (COP International)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Karen Kardell has a very unusual voice, (a little bit Lene Lovich) and this band knows how to pack a song with shuffling ideas which complement each other lovingly, with some very thorny edges. ‘American Tragedy’ mixes dizzily busy guitars with a nursery rhyme segment, and silly witch vocals, yet it’s almost trad rock, and the fact it’s almost is what seems to be the key, as they wend in and out of genres as though dancing an intentionally devious waltz.
‘Corporation’ sees Karen lost in Greta Garbo huskiness while the guitar nibbles at her ankles, but she remains a glowering, twitching statue, even when male vocals intrude and I get 2 Unlimited flashbacks, but maybe that’s just me? ‘After The Flood’ is rather cosy and drifts by, with Karen oozing confusion, The synths swell like flowerbeds, and her voice is a chorus of moles emerging among pansies. (You’ll just have to trust me on that one.)
Howling and vinegary from the off, Karen takes ‘Rebellion Lost ‘ off on a different tack, because it’s a mild tune but quite speedy, before the risqué instrumental ‘Run’, with tricky percussion and synths forming a screen over which the guitars wee frothily. With tighter vocals they complete the effectively pop ‘Dream,’ then fracture delightfully through a bippety ‘When I Knew Everything’ with its brilliant guitar flecks incising a synth heartbeat.
‘King Street’ tumbles downhill happily but the vocals are stale, the tune too ordinary for them, so we banish it from our minds due to the cautious pop of ‘Cast’ and the beautiful control evident in ‘Freak’, with a big, slow voice and sighing synth, even though it doesn’t seem demanding enough.
They will do far better albums than this, because they seem somewhat tiny at times, although they’re handling big musical ideas. In the meantime, this is fine.
AFTER THE FLOOD
WHEN I KNEW EVERYTHING
Non-specific Ghost Stories
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I am not often astonished, but the fact no UK label has bowled in to release this strikes me as genuinely disturbing, and if there's a good US or German label who fancy signing one of the few genuinely remarkable Goth entities in our tiny, but highly becoming, scene then so be it. (Projekt should lap them up.) For if their demos last year were rawly invigorating and charming, this record takes on a more soothing glow, dazzling you with restraint and the best lyrics the UK Goth scene has actually witnessed since just before The Horatii climbed inside an old sock and rotted away to nothing.
It really is that simple. And it truly has to be immediately obvious, because the title track and opener is so hushed and vocally spiky, with double-edged lyrics, of memories as threat, you'll be hooked by a classic, or laughed at by fate. Think of Manuskript having audacious cousins, or The Psychedelic Furs being turned over by urchins. That's where they're coming from, and on the more synthy tracks the fact that a chorus might spout musical gold could, logically, draw PSB comparisons, but whereas Electro bands copy them slavishly, Rome Burns just have a singer with a sharply nasal voice, which is well controlled. Just as well, because you wouldn't want to miss the lyrics.
'ZD-576' isn't some muso industrial workout as you might fear, but a creepy fable, fleshed out through its flickering mood. 'Empty Samsara' is a tough little bugger with frisky guitar and they handle pace well, which is also only of only two faults with this record. Daevid (programming guru) or Nevla's guitar could be louder at times to compete with the vocals, and in turn draw more passion from Simon's voice rather than studied, observational coolness, and a couple more tracks which had took us on ferocious journeys would have made for a more satisfying whole. (I can't think what possessed them to leave off 'Red Riding', but that's band for you!) The other thing is 'The Nexus'. A simple tune with the steerage by vocals, it has some bracing guitar but drifts overall, and although it ends beautifully, it simply takes too long in doing so. That aside, it's class all the way.
'Seeking Mr Hyde' sees the musical swords unsheathed, and we're talking the balance of a samurai, with the guitar stirring, the vocals bitter and a chorus which is utterly gorgeous. This is as big as the title track and proof that labels need this band, just as anyone with a serious interest in the UK scene needs this album. There hasn't been a better UK Goth release in living memory, and that's simply a fact. Consider the great records I've reviewed from scenes which overlap with Goth (And Also The Trees, Unto Ashes) and this is up there with those. It has a mighty allure, and is one which will reveal more and more with each play while becoming increasingly essential to you.
'Waterbabes Drowning' may or may not be all religious metaphor, but it's something of a deceptively pleasant epic, bubbling steadily, and gently withdrawn, yet horribly poetic, beautifully dreamlike. I didn't understand 'Stonegarden' which follows very well, but there's probably more religious in there somewhere, so I wouldn't, and it's a stranger track, milder still, almost abstract at times, and far more emotive. Those two songs make for a fantastic middle gap, as they then creep in watchful mood through the extraordinary tale within 'Apocatastasis' with alarming imagery and great suspense, before deceiving with a sudden end.
'War Of The Pygmies' is standard Goth in many ways, assuming standards have been raised, and there's good, rolling foreboding mixed into the chatter and swing, before they close on the bright and bouncy 'Blue Boy' with it's tale of strangling, which pauses, chops around, becomes thicker and then ends demurely.
What more could anyone need to know that if you bypass this you're only letting yourself down? It is a work of magnificent inspiration, and I pity anyone who can't get a copy, for while it would have benefited from some more vigour, it's so head and shoulders above the rest I think they've also been designing stilts.
NON-SPECIFIC GHOST STORY
SEEKING MY HYDE
WAR OF THE PYGMIES
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Scarve plays a highly refined form of metal in the vein of Strapping Young Lad, Death, Cynic, and Predator's Portrait-era Soilwork. The band members display the utmost technical prowess, while... holy shit this is cool music. Screw the fancy talk - Scarve kicks ass, and fans of technical extreme metal better go buy this CD now. Scarve deftly meshes punishing rhythms, jarring time changes, crazy solos (including one by Fredrik Thordendal), badass technical drumming, smooth melodic breaks, ambient weirdness with whispery vocals, headbanging bass and guitar riffs, angry rasps and screams and shouted anthemic choruses, and all with an expertly-produced sound by Daniel Bergstrand at the famed Dug-Out Studios in Sweden (a studio that has housed such metal luminaries as SYL, Meshuggah, and Darkane).
That was one hell of a run-on sentence I just wrote, but it's impossible to talk about Scarve in any heightened form of dictation for long. The music is of the "grab you by the throat and throttle" metal variety, but with a lot of technicality and truly impressive, varied songwriting. Irradiant is the one-of-a-kind CD that makes it worth reviewing the piles and piles of crap metal that I get sent, and it's the kind of CD I'm going to repeat long into the future. Metal fans really can't go wrong with this one.
Although the music gets me goin' in the way that only extreme metal can, it's really not metal of the straightforward ass-kicking variety, ala Grimfist. Scarve manage to make a sort of cinematic metal, full of wild imagery and bizarre soundscapes. If I directed music videos, I'd be hard-pressed to find cooler music to work with. Irradiant would go great with any kind of space exploration or underground adventuring, particularly something involving mad scientists and radioactive isotopes and genetic mutations and skin frying plasma cannons.
I know, I know... again with the run-ons. It's hard to write in any other manner when this music is playing. My ears are currently being bombarded by too many cool and interesting sounds to keep track of, and my thought process is suffering because of it. If you're into metal, though, that's precisely what you're looking for. Head on over to www.scarve.net to check out the free MP3, and waste no time grabbing your copy of Irradiant.
1) Mirthless Perspectives
2) An Emptier Void
6) The Perfect Disaster
7) Molten Scars
9) Boiling Calm
Pierrick Valence - raw vocals
Guillaume Bideau - raw and polished vocals
Patrick Martin - rhythm guitar
Sylvain Coudret - rhythm and lead guitar
Loïc Colin - bass
Dirk Verbeuren - drums and battering sticks
Scarve - Official Site:
The End Records (US):
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
And so, from Leeches to Screeches.
While most indie bands nowadays talk tough but look they wish to actually become their parents, it's nice when there are bands like this, who sound like they'll kill anyone for a hundred quid. A little less ferocious than last time in the way it grips overall, this sees Kate taking over on vocals, but she isn't strictly new, having worked with Andy before. However, she brings the same level of distinctive vocal strength to their sounds, where nobody mimsy would survive. Lizzi excelled in cheek and mischief, while Kate is laconic Black Widow.
As with The Leeches' 'Suck' album, brevity and punchy impact remains the order of the day, as most songs weigh in at just under three minutes, so the rough, bloated swagger of Alice is an epic at 4:38, the dementia of 'Fruitfly' at 1.21 is them at their briskest. Caught in their most normal state, if that's an appropriate turn, they have a clear, clean direction, with filthy introspection. They gleam in their manner, and the songs have an airy feel, without ever being downbeat. Arch rock'n'roll riffs uncurl behind equally delinquent vocals, but they jabber in a truly modern sense. 'Only Joking' has a crisp sound, but ashen features, with vocals commanding from the off. 'Rohypnol' has a murky tone, which is hardly surprising, and is typical of the songs here in that it's a wiry thing, covered in hi-octane, poisonous melodic gunk.
They can be lighter, as in 'Getaway', but finish raw and tingly, and while you might want 'Nothing' to go faster it actually goes up in flames in its own time, thank you. Two guitars to follow there, one having a friendly fit, and a lovely complete ending. Several things on this record I don't like, or I do, but there isn't enough of them. 'Waterbgun' is wet. They don't go fast enough at times, as though the vocal won't demean themselves, and the bass sound and presence in 'Misfit' gives such depth and balance, it would be nice to experience that elsewhere too.
Also, it is a mistake to call a song 'Crash' while sounding too close to The Primitives for comfort, but 'Do Gooder' is so pop it actually has a chorus (which is extravagant in such short songs), and sounds positively sweet. 'Back To The Wall' purrs, having the vocals given extra clarity to begin with, and maintains a healthy stealthy course, with some sharp guitar intrusions, before the psycho swansong, 'Tarantino' flits joyously by, hotly pursued by 'Under Your Skin', stuffed full of droll vocal snappiness and plenty of choppy guitar zest.
They don't actually screech, you understand. These songs wink at you, then run off when you least expect it. They stick to melodic rules, but bristle and jar as much as they can, without ruining themselves in the name of pointless excess. 'Dangling Man' is very odd (which is good), having a far plainer approach: more a jaunty walk than a stroll, with pointless backing vocals, so it's almost pleasant, which might not be the right intention, but to exhibit their contrasts, the album ends, in 'Fruitfly' with a total git of a song.
They're in your face, do everything with immediacy, and for readers in America they're in your neck of the woods soon! You're alone in the woods, and they have designs on your neck. Check their website for tour dates.
BACK TO THE WALL
UNDER YOUR SKIN
~reviewed by Goat
There’s something in the water in Loveland Colorado.
Whatever it is, it’s got these boys sick.
Watch for Skinned when they come to your town. I didn’t get to see them live the night they came to mine, because as per usual in B.F.E., someone at the club skrewed something up. But they were kind enough to leave a CD with me, and thus the review.
The songs on this CD span back from 1996 all the way up through 2003. The sound stays brutal throughout even though the players change over time.
Death metal. The musical equivalent of a very large, extremely painful bowel movement? From deep within the guts, the putrescence moves; terrible, beau-tiful (?), a welcome relief to the addled body and mind. Especially the raw stuff that hasn’t been all polished up by some studio in Austin or NYC or South Florida.
This is that death metal. The kind that cleanses. The kind that maligns in a way that leaves one’s ears somehow more holy for the indignation.
I will say that to the band’s credit, I prefer the most recent incarnation with Dan Adams on main vocals, only because I am more partial to the really low death-metal vocals a la Incantation over the higher-end black-metallish type vocals. I also prefer the more straight-up death metal style of the most recent work whereas the older work still shows moments of hardcore-ness which just ain’t my thang. I want my death metal like a f***ing saw to my skull and I don’t want it to let up. Ever. The early stuff approaches that intensity, but the more recent material from ‘99-‘03 reaches it wholly. I’m looking forward to a Skinning in person sometime this summer. Wherever you are guys, horns up and head West!
Hard In The Boneyard
Slurping The Sour Juices
Rape And Pillage The Village
Massacre The Weak
Meet My Mulcher
Army Of The Dead
Ripped To Shreds
On Dead World Syndicate Records
Skinned website: http://www.skinnedweb.com/main.htm
P.O. Box 2945
Loveland, CO 80539
The Early Chapters
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
The cryptic cover for The Early Chapters reminds me of Indiana Jones. I'd say this is mainly due to the miner's pickaxe placed against the cobweb-covered tomes, but it has a lot to do with the one Soilwork concert I went to. I'll never forget that the band came on stage with the Indiana Jones theme blasting triumphantly behind them. In any case, with a pricetag of $9 (via The End Records), a title like The Early Chapters, and a cover image full of recently uncovered artifacts, you can reasonably and accurately conclude that this is a mini-CD with unreleased and rare Soilwork material.
"Burn" is a Deep Purple cover, played with a good deal of aplomb, some jammin' rock solos, and an uncredited female guest vocalist who joins Speed's rasping during the chorus. "Disintegrated skies" is generi-Soilwork - good, but it's not hard to guess why it didn't make it onto their CDs as a regular track. The group provides a very Soilworkian take on Mercyful Fate's classic "Egypt", giving the song enough of the band's own personality to raise it beyond "crappy imitation" or "eerie, unnecessary clone." Owners of A Predator's Portrait will recognize the track "Shadow Child", represented here in a raw, early stage of development. And digging way back into the Soilwork catalogue, we're treated to a poorly recorded, but otherwise decent live version of "Aardvark Trail" (from the band's debut, Steelbath Suicide).
You might have noticed that this review is weighed down with frequent comparisons to the rest of Soilwork's music, and that's because the only people in their right minds who would buy this CD are Soilwork fans. The songs are good - don't get me wrong - but they're rare collectables for the hardcore fan with $9 to blow. I can't shake the feeling that Listenable Records solely wishes to capitalize on their ownership of old Soilwork material (now that Soilwork has moved on to Nuclear Blast), but then, the hardcore fans really do dig this stuff... just make sure you're one of them before laying down your cash.
1) Burn (Deep Purple Cover)
2) Disintegrated skies
3) Egypt (Mercyful Fate cover)
4) Shadow Child
5) Aardvark trail (live)
Soilwork - Official Site:
The End Records (US):
Soul Whirling Somewhere
The Great Barrier
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
At first it seems a pleasant enough diversion. We have some man (shown on the cover as a long-haired, wistful nouveau-hippy type), wafting his big breathy voice over a piano, which is slow without being mournful. It's when he starts admitting he was kissing her kitchen floor goodbye that the alarm bells start ringing. There's a slow beat to add to the tune of regret, and in 'Not Breathing' there's floaty synth, which isn't eerie, and acoustic guitar sags with the vocals, as slow motion emoting carries on; the music just oozing over his losing.
He gets a little chirpier on the title track, and the drummer sounds alert and whisks it up a bit, but when you hit the brilliantly titled 'Every Female Werewolf Ever, Listed Alphabetically By Crime' it's just self-pity coming at us so relentlessly, that we must run, run for our self-respect! He doesn't once get angry, or sing about how he might change, or that he might be right, so you're left in total agreement with an apparent long line of people who have left him.
For bedsit fans who like to wallow, this will probably bring perfect empathic solace, being harmonious and artistic, but for any of us capable of dealing with emotional ups and downs it's an embarrassment. I could really have given up after three songs, as there isn't a single melody of note, not that it's that kind of music, but five of the later tracks are adequate instrumentals. These seem like fairly slack, ambient exercises, but maybe he just nodded off during the recording?
It's hard to tell. He doesn't even have an expressive voice, which hardly helps, and doesn't so much crash and burn, as crash then smoulder, at which point a passing squirrel sneers and pisses the fire out, half-heartedly.
If REM's grandparents made music it would be like this. Only more exciting.
THE LAST TIME I LEFT
I WILL NEVER LET GO
THE GREAT BARRIER
I SHOULD THROW MYSELF UNDER A TRAIN
EVERY FEMALE WEREWOLF EVER, LISTED ALPHABETICALLY BY CRIME
FORGET IT, I GIVE UP, GOODBYE, I LOVE YOU
OPENING THE TEN-END
NOTHING IS DIFFERENT/ARKANSAS
THE RAINING WELT/COPPER EYES
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Some bands are so great that you do feel proud to have seen them at their best, and some flickered and flared through a short lifespan during busy times that you only got to see them a few times. The Sound were once such band. Having been interested in the earlier band, The Outsiders, considered by many as too middle class to be Punk, and by those with ears and common sense as invigorating and sometimes weird, I was ready for The Sound. I saw them at places like the Moonlight, ICA and Marquee a few times, and they would never disappoint.
Having lost all my Sound stuff along with just everything else when I had stuff stolen from my flat in the 90’s it is pure delight to be encountering these records again now that Renascent are re-releasing everything, and uncovering rare material too. For anyone who doesn’t yet know The Sound, or wonder how this ties in with anything Punk, Post-Punk and Goth-related that I usually review, just remember they were there at the right time, and anybody with half a brain would agree they can be compared to Joy Division On Steroids, but this wasn’t copying, as The Sound were already established.
It’s a wonderfully abrasive but also emotional album, bulked out by the inclusion of their Live Instinct EP which was originally a promo item in Holland where the band became huge, and within a few lines of ‘I Can’t Escape Myself’ you’d have one reaction: oh, fuck!
‘So many feelingsYou’ll also be asking yourself how can a song seem so empty but be so driven? The drumming is nicely bumpy, there are tinny guitar chippings everywhere and weird alien keyboard sounds, but this was The Sound way as often as not, because this was the time directly after Punk we’re talking about when mere anger gave way to investigation. In Goth that meant mystery and romantic abstraction, but within what was to become Indie circles it meant introverts looking deep, deep inside, and often reflecting back a bleak torment. Singer/guitarist Adrian Borland knew his bleakness all too well. Guitar flashes briefly ignite a torpid chorus, and you’re hooked, then swallowed up by the trim epic that is ‘Heartland’
Pent up in here,
Left alone, I’m with
The one I most fear’
Reading a Chris Roberts posthumous article on The Sound following Adrian Borland’s suicide, I didn’t realise Borland credited U2 with nicking ‘his stuff’ (you don’t suppose it was them who had my record collection?) and you think pfft, some people and their delusions of grandeur, except there’s a few weird facts to consider. If you had the misfortune to catch early U2 performances around ’79 you’d know how dire they were, and ‘Heartland ‘ (plus Dreaming’) are virtual blueprints, but with a hard, vital feel! So, who can say? (It appears U2 admitted to being fans too.) Live, this song would literally whisk the Audience, with its beautifully chiselled guitar where Raynes Park met Detroit, as they gave us molten indie.
‘Hour Of Need’; where bass is the prominent instrument also does vouch for the soul element in the work (evident even on The Outsiders’ albums), just as ‘Words Fail Me’ is one of their weakest tracks ever, being weirdly fast and twisting, with basic lyrics and groaning sax, but where songs are duller than the majority they’re certainly over quickly, with energy.
‘Missiles’ is another classic, from a time when we really didn’t give a toss, because we sensed the end might be nigh at any day, and live I can still remember Borland’s weird stamping actions as he thudded into his guitar, straining as he sung like a guard dog on the full extent of its chain; as if his whole body was angry and revolted and his organs wanted out. There’s brilliant introductory lyrics, which paint the picture, and then a question, making it direct but never predictable. And then ‘Heyday’ which is a stunning, indignant explosion, with guitar and bass pumping us up for a gigantic chorus.
The title track sees knobbly guitar and firm bass strolling, and maybe Fine Young Cannibals nicked this jerky guitar sound! ’Night Versus Day’ is plainly lugubrious, with a weird clomping passage, ‘Resistance’ is generic mush with skipping keyboards and scatty Punk lyrics, ‘Dreaming’ is a swoon, and ‘Desire’ a very odd closer, with a very sparse feel and untimely finish. The live bonuses then include a jollier ‘Jeopardy’, glowering ‘Brute Force’ so-so ‘Heartland’ and punkish glee in the roughly hewn ‘Coldbeat’, making for a fabulous album over all.
This week is Sound week on the Mercer journal and by the end of it you’ll be queuing up to but the albums or you have no heart, no feel for truly great music, and no lust for appreciating true masters, and I guarantee that if you’re in a band you’ll listen to this and wish that you had written these songs.
I CAN’T ESCAPE MYSELF
HOUR OF NEED
WORDS FAIL ME
NIGHT VERSUS DAY
BRUTE FORCE (LIVE)
(all Sound albums available for only £9.99!)
FROM THE LIONS MOUTH (Renascent)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
From its delicate Daniel In The Lions Den cover art, to the replacement of the jagged keyboard sound with a milder froth, this was a more sensitive album than ‘Jeopardy’; the short fuse replaced by a longer one.
‘Winning’ suggests the chill has gone, with an optimistic tune and tensile guitar friction, then the bass goes right through the middle of ‘Sense Of Purpose’ with the sort of plaintive delivery which might give more ringing testament to their influence on U2, in showing them how to do things in a less bombastic manner. The lyrics gets sharper and the mood less flowery in ‘Contact The Fact’, with fabulous vocal control and hold, which moves on into gloomy raises bumps throughout ‘Skeletons’ and overall we’re getting subtle shades here, and becoming embroiled in character.
‘Judgement’ is a beautiful worry, bit with weedy guitar and irritating keyboards hat won’t settle down. ‘Fatal Flaw’ has a fuller, lower sound, as guitars splinter and a sense of emotional doom gathers, while the raw, pained ‘Possession’ sounds like an improved INXS, and ‘The Fire’ has a definite sense of the flaming jitters with bass bounce and skittish drums.
‘Silent Air’ is wonderfully touching, with a superb emotional drag to the haunting vocal performance, and then ‘New Dark Age; is the big send-off, which doesn’t sound as powerful these days, but at the time was a prickly rash of crushed venom. The live recordings of this seem better because more angst exists outside the studio, and if you hang on long enough you get a soppily chirpy ‘Hothouse’.
This is the album which should have pushed them stage centre in the UK but they still found themselves in the wings, and it proved, sadly, that people take little real notice of serious musical journalism because the reviews were extremely positive and the reaction less than immediate, or long-lasting. This was a call to brains which went largely unheeded because with The Sound - horror or horrors! - you might have to work at something, work out various things, whereas you could see aimless bands getting further, which continues to this day. The less on is therefore that if it’s crap but sounds clever it’ll hit hard with the dense majority, but if it has depth the shallow will always be magnetically repulsed.
SENSE OF PURPOSE
CONTACT THE FACT
NEW DARK AGE
THE BBC RECORDINGS (Renascent)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Radio sessions are usually a hit and mix affair but feed the fan in you, recapturing the past when least expected. During the Peel era of Punk, and immediately thereafter, you’d do what you could to make reasonable recordings, and they usually turned out be rubbish, but there was healthy market for tape sellers down Portobello and outside gigs, so you’d always have that extra chance to catch up. That seemed to die out mid-80’s, and the releasing of BBC session by Strange Fruit was always such a disastrously patchy affair you never thought you’d find anything good in your perceptive net again. It’s only recently, now that everyone and their pet flea is into licensing and ferreting and discovering lost gold, we’re being reintroduced to material, so it’s logical that among all the Sounds’ re-releases an album of BBC material comes to light.
The earliest radio sessions are brittle, with the Mike Read session sporting a jabbing, sparky ‘Heartland, strikingly smooth ‘Unwritten Law’ where the powerful vocals glide above the keyboard drone, and a pleasantly lopsided twang rises through ‘Jeopardy’ but, what the fuck?!!! I mean, the Mike Read show and ‘I Can’t Escape Myself’? That’s like Des O’Connor inviting Hole onto his show. But there we have it, History is a minx. The Peel session is typically sober, solid and as grim as ‘Fatal Flaw’ is. ‘Skeletons’ darts and chimes, ‘Hothouse’ is one step removed from insipid indie twinkling but the brackish ‘New Dark Age’ makes up for it despite the florid keyboard sound.
In Concert naturally brings out the best in them, because there’s a live audience, and I’d forgotten how silly the show sounded, with a small BBC theatre full of friends egging their mates on. Usually you’d be off to gig, as I seem to recall it went out at something like 7.30 on a weekend, so I certainly never heard thee before. The sound does ricochet around a bit and there are some lapses where Borland’s voice wafts backwards, but these are bristling tunes still, with ‘Unwritten Law’, ‘Skeletons’ and ‘Fatal Flaw’ immediately harder than the earlier sessions, and Borland sounds in great voice. ‘Winning’ envelops you, as the voice really starts to grip and the bass turns metallic. ’Sense Of Purpose’ starts by jarring, and the guitar gets buried, ‘Heartland’ is impatient and snappy, while ‘New Dark Age’ is remorselessly taut.
Fast-forward four years and they’ve got their problems, because while the astringent Borland delivery is rampant, and dour, with musical pleasantries tacked on, including acrobatic sax. ‘Golden Soldiers’ sounds like waffle, close to sour pop, and ‘Under You’ seems over-arty, but as ‘Total Recall’ uncoils Borland’s performance is amazing, only to be let down by identikit watchful fare with ‘Burning Part Of Me’ which simply doesn’t click like the two wonderful songs which follow straight on. ‘Whirlpool’ is almost mad, despite the vocals getting a bit lost, and then ‘Missiles’ is scalding.
What else would you expect? Radio is radio and everything veers and soars and drowns and blisters, but the real joy is just hearing it and noting how vigorous and bold it is; a snapshot of former glories and new memories to treasure.
MIKE READ - OCT 1980
I CAN’T ESCAPE MYSELF
JOHN PEEL SHOW - NOV 1981
NEW DARK AGE
IN CONCERT - NOV 1981
SENSE OF PURPOSE
NEW DARK AGE
IN CONCERT - JUNE 1985
BURNING PART OF ME
ALL FALL DOWN (Renascent)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
One of the good things about this series of releases is that there are explanatory sleeve notes which tie in with a historical assessment of their career, by drummer Michael Dudley. With this instalment, recorded during 1982, he acknowledges that ‘Lion’s Mouth’ didn’t sell anywhere near as well as their label expected and the pressure was on to come up with Corporate Commercial Rock Classics. “Well,” he remembers, “the going was getting weird, and so were we.” Cue disappointed record execs which is pretty much how it should be.
What emerged on this record must rank as their flattest creations, because it seems entirely unfocussed, lacking any great passion or excitement, preferring instead to tinker with musical ideas which are fragments that are stretched beyond natural redemption, because there’s no emotional base here, merely ambivalent stories,.
It starts badly like someone let Pink Floyd out to bore us with more ‘Walls’-type mush, ‘Party Of The Mind’ is a twittery New Wave bauble, ‘Monument’ is fine, and genuinely aching, ‘Where The Love Is’ seems far too restrained and builds no power, ‘We Could Go Far’ is attractive (apart from the irritating bass sound), but sums up the problem: they’re not going far enough. ‘Song And Dance’ gets ruined midway by posturing excess, and if they’re not being almost farcically busy (‘Red Paint’ has a promising guitar intro, then chokes itself) they’re bordering on stream of unconsciousness (‘Glass And Smoke’), so there’s no helping them. It hasn’t the grit of the earlier albums, and the muso disease seems to be infiltrating, with the drum dementia of the bonus track ‘The One And A Half Minute Song’ showing the album could have been even deadlier. One of the extra tracks which never made the finished work is far superior to most of what’s here, because ‘Sorry’ carries a vigorous guitar threat, but ‘As Feeling Dies’ also slurs into drivel.
Luckily they’d get their momentum back, but this marks something of a turning point, turning some people off in the process.
ALL FALL DOWN
PARTY OF THE MIND
WHERE THE LOVE IS
SONG AND DANCE
CALLING THE NEW TUNE
GLASS AND SMOKE
WE COULD GO FAR
THE ONE AND A HALF MINUTE SONG
AS FEELING DIES
IN THE HOTHOUSE (Renascent)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Finally we see them off, with a live recording in 1985 from the Marquee, which was always the perfect place to see any band, and hasn’t been reproduced in London since it was closed and made an abortive attempt to relocate to that useless venue on Charing Cross.
The band are up for it, but loose, giving all manner of their styles enough space to come through. There’s the forlorn angst of ‘Winning’ to get you started, a succulently upbeat ‘Total Recall’, a febrile ‘Skeletons’, and while ‘Prove Me Wrong’ seems dull but they vibrate lustily, even if it takes you into ‘Wildest Dreams’ which is pure U2 (or vice versa, naturally). There’s serious atmosphere with ’Burning Part Of Me’ which doesn’t then escalate with ‘Heartland’, which is disappointingly pale, with a squashed guitar sound. ‘Hothouse’ is suitably bland, but ‘Judgement’ is gorgeous and there were very few bands during the Eighties who handled slow material so well. ‘Counting The Days’ is bubbly, ‘Red Paint’ nervier and much improved on the recorded version, and ‘Silent Sir’ is an epic husk. ‘Sense Of Purpose’ finds guitar cheekily tickling the crowd, before ‘Missiles’ savages them. Add to that a nicely matured ‘Monument’ and a euphoric ‘Fire’ and you’ve got a fantastic reminder, if you can ignore the woman squealing at the start of certain numbers.
PROVE ME WRONG
BURNING PART OF ME
COUNTING THE DAYS
SENSE OF PURPOSE
SHOCK OF DAYLIGHT and HEADS AND HEARTS (Renascent)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
And so after their experimental phase went awry, The Sound bounced back with more controlled recordings during 1984, and it works. Through the ‘Shock Of Daylight’ EP we find bright indie rock, full of toppy guitar and artful contrast, where the grim lyrics return with more finesse but the tunes are well crafted. ‘A New Way Of Life’ is a bit mimsy, with bland lyrics, but the mild butting ‘Dreams Then Plans’ sways well, and the real winner is the one dark, forbiddingly cold ‘Winter’ with light synth frosting being the only element added to twangy guitar and Borland’s slow, clear vocals.
Through ‘Head And Heart’s the variety is cool, the ideas neatly framed and you have a natural balance between some burnt-in blandishments about relationship downers, and more heart-wrenchings, which work with slower fuses. It’s all rather graceful, even though the grip is back, with ‘Whirlpool’ seeing power built cautiously, ‘Total Recall’ allows the vocals to shape its direction, and angst flares up in ‘Burning Part Of Me’. At their simplest, in ‘Mining For Heart’, they’re also at their most adventurous, and those songs alone make the album worthwhile. The rest of the songs, including the bonus tracks, all come from an arena of soft-boiled rock, where the lyrics are intelligent but feel flattened through experience, and the jumbled attempts at jagged moods don’t quite work, and there’s one good reason for that.
As the song ‘Love is Not A Ghost’ amply illustrates, The Sound had simply been caught up by too many other bands. This song reminds me of the early recordings of Furniture, and it would be bands like that who used keyboards better, and an army of bands were lining up who hadn’t lost the capacity to really create a storm on vinyl. Which The Sound clearly had. Their rampant energy had gone, but they couldn’t find it in themselves to endlessly go for the blackest route into lyrical torment with music to match, and who, frankly, can blame them? This leaves them tinkering at the periphery with limited sound resources. A lot of the other tracks sound like weak 80’s rock music, with the quality of Borland’s voice, and its familiairty, being the thing holding the vessel together.
The Sound were nearing the end, but on this record there are still enough quality moments for you to take it very seriously.
SHOCK OF DAYLIGHT
COUNTING THE DAYS
A NEW WAY OF LIFE
DREAMS THEN PLANS
HEADS AND HEARTS
BURNING PART OF ME
LOVE IS NOT A GHOST
ONE THOUSAND REASONS
MINING FOR HEART
WORLD AS IT IS
BLOOD AND POISON
STEEL YOUR AIR
ALL CDs available at: http://www.renascent./co.uk
A SPECTRE IS HAUNTING
ASTONISHING TAKES OF THE SEA (Simulacre)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
“Watching from a bucket like a cat keeping quiet and cold, coldly staring at the flowers on your dress.”
If Goth be thy nature these are very weird times indeed, and verging on celebratory if you ask me. All but the tiniest traces exist of the drab dull nineties, when most bands were poor. Old names have recently resurfaced who can actually bring forth new quality, and the fresh bands emerging want nothing to do with slack, perfumed romantic waffle. Instead we are surrounded by excellent stories, and a tangled skein of poisoned music, where brains are pumping and muscles are clenched. The pot-bellied Goth sound has been replaced by escaping prisoners who are fleeing dungeons from the Castle Of Stupidity.
A Spectre Is Haunting Europe are from Canada, boasting brilliant lyrics and an upright, urgent sound of a linear disposition. They start and don’t let up until there’s no more to be said, whereupon it always ends smartly. The guitar is clipped and seething, the bass has a denseness and bounce, the drums sound like drums because they actually are drums, and flash with a leering detachment. Vocally they exude guile.
Bass can be as prominent as the guitar, as with ‘See You Inside’, where you notice the subtle melodic vocal strolling, with the lyrical punctuation providing the actual rise in intensity. It’s remarkable in its own way, and whips away from you at the finish. ‘Anarchid’ comes clunking forward, then pirouettes, as the strange unity between starved vocal delivery and guitar angst develops. It’s full of life but, as with the classic glass, it’s a half-empty life, where dissatisfaction reigns.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ausgang recently, and there’s a similar musical mastery in ‘Rifles’ and cunning little vixen vocals, the picture painted with mental precision, turning ugliness into succulence, and here we see why they call it partly post-Punk, and when you start looking for influences you will accept theirs and then see others. When the guitar starts lunging at you in ‘Fearless Vampire Killers’ and the vocal start to lurch along merrily it’s almost like they’ve taken the kinks out of ‘Terror Couple Killed Colonel’ (Bauhaus) and given it new suspension. The way the word ‘echoes’ comes out is like Mark E. Smith, and during the oddly conventional ‘Against The Animals’ the drums have that cocky lilt you always found in Gen X.
The one track where you aren’t smacked in the face by instant excellence is ‘Eye Thieves’, possibly because it seems warmer, even when the lyrics revolve to suggest it’s far more complicated than you think. Here they are a chunky, buttery band; Indie with guts, but nothing else. Then they rasp back and start bristling coolly in ‘War Towers’ letting the music rumble over, and hack up, the verbal harvest, with a wonderfully punchy end.
It’s a bleeding little marvel, that’s what it is, but hang on, why would a cat want to keep cold?
SEE YOU INSIDE
FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS
AGAINST THE ANIMALS
ABANDON IN THE AMBER (EDM)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
It’s a severe case of mistake identity here, and the reason I was interested in the first place, because there stands the band’s musicians, all self-consciously mean and cool, and there is the more deranged singer, angularly bent against a walking stick. That meant to me that it might be different.
Well, it is, initially. ‘Slip Your Mind’ is an absolutely stunning song, like Pulp playing ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ and that pretty much justifies the whole thing. It’s also the best thing they do by a mile, as the rest of time they slip into a rock rest home, with a jagged riff done in slow-mo (you know that juddering grindey sound guitarists do), which becomes tiresome after a while.
When they’re flowing the best thing is that the guitars and bass are thrusting together, which gives their songs a massive central push, over which the singer can cavort merrily, and together they’re creating something which is more tainted pop in melodic terms, as though Placebo’s testicles had dropped. Too often however there’s no disguising the fact that what lays beneath the diverting vocals is rock with noises added (hence the Industrial tag, I guess) and that rock is actually fairly hoary stuff. Doleful riffing with a distinct metal motif ruins quite a few of the songs and it’s not until the lightly eerie closing track where positively lumpen and ludicrous vocals finally outstay their welcome that it begins to snort afresh like its opening glory.
An interesting band but this is a classic single somewhat over-extended.
SLIP YOUR MIND
QUARTER LIFE CRISIS
WHISTLE WHEN YOU’RE LOW
THE BIRDS THAT SING
CHRISTMAS FALLS ON THURSDAY
ASK ME ON MONDAY
THE SPACE BETWEEN
LOST IN SPACE
ABANDON IN THE AMBER
http://www.hollowinstincts.com - ‘official’ fan site
Axis of Evil
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
This CD reminds me of Hitler. I'm not saying Johan Van Roy, the man behind Suicide Commando, is any kind of nazi. But Hitler used to start his speeches silently and reel in the applause - he'd just stand and enjoy the public's admiration for him before deigning to speak. Similarly, Axis of Evil takes a good two minutes before a beat even kicks in. The CD starts with a repetitive sample: "Each year approximately one million people die from suicide", and slowly... so slowly... builds up to a typically angry German electronic song where a raspy guy's distorted voice inundates the listener with silly lyrics, backed by thumps and beeps and screeches.
Each song that follows presents precisely the same elements. And in a move I find amusing to no end, Mr. Van Roy included a list of the song tempos, measured in beats per minute. The breakdown is thus: 150, 150, 130, 120, 120, 120, 120, 120, 70, and 130 bpm. So, except for the slower (70 bpm) "Plastik Christ", listeners are treated to a series of songs that feature the same repetitive vocals, the same style of stupid lyrics and pointless repeated samples, the same unoriginal electronic noises, and all at roughly the same tempo.
If you happen to hear something off this CD and like it, as a surprising number of people do, do yourself a favor and buy the single. You won't miss out - just set it to repeat for 57 minutes, and you'll hear essentially the same thing I'm listening to right now. Suicide Commando does get a good angry German sound going, much in the vein of say, Funker Vogt, and Johan Van Roy has been doing this long enough that he's no newcomer or one of those guys that jumps on the bandwagon (an analogy that would be much more fun if it were literal, and the musically inept who cash in on other's sounds had to actually jump on a bandwagon to make their crappy music. Preferably a bandwagon aimed straight off a high cliff).
In any case, if angry German EBM is your thing, you'll probably like this. But if you've heard it before, and aren't one for pointless, indulgent repetition, steer clear of Suicide Commando. You'll only find a lot of unoriginal electronica with lyrics about how America and God are evil. Johan Van Roy revels in the very evil image that his lyrics condemn. For instance, he sings about TV addiction and (paraphrasing wildly) the brainwashed masses that can't get their fill of violent media content, and then he goes on to include samples about murder and repeated phrases like, "death is the end of pain." Suicide Commando hasn't broken my will to live, but I'm definitely not going to listen to this CD again.
01 Cause Of Death: Suicide
02 Consume Your Vengeance
03 Face Of Death (Blind Rage Mix)
04 The Reformation
05 One Nation Under God (Anti US Mix)
09 Plastik Christ
10 Neuro Suspension
Suicide Commando is:
Johan Van Roy - music and lyrics
Suicide Commando - Official
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
The first thing I thought when Swan Christy's Julian began to play over my sound system was 'Now, this isn't metal at all'. The second thing, and, in fact, the third... and probably all the way up to the hundredth or so things I thought were alternately 'what the hell?' and 'wow'. If, based on the band's prior output, you were expecting metal of any sort at all: don't get your hopes up. If you expected brilliant music from several non-metal genres intertwined into one cohesive yet diverse whole, then hope all you like! Your wish is about to come true.
Every now and then, a band will sort of freak out and totally switch genres in one decisive stroke, thoroughly abandoning their old sound for something completely different. That's what happened here, near as I can tell. Mild mannered, Clark Kent-like metal band Swan Christy stepped into the phone booth and out came SuperChristy, or Swanman, or someone else entirely. Actually, I'll tell you who came out: Grulver. Grulver? Am I on crack? No! Swan Christy, like Norway's Ulver, has abandoned metal and arrived at a sound combining emotional clean singing, ambient electronica, and other elements (though Ulver had a few other stops along the way). Since Swan Christy is the Greek Ulver, by royal decree I henceforth dub them Grulver. Amazingly, Swan Christy is really exceptionally good at crafting the kind of music found on Julian (pronounced in the song lyrics confusingly like the feminine Julie-ann, and not the male name Julian).
What kind of music is this, then? Well, there's a lounge song (complete with restaurant chatter); several dark electronica numbers; a weird theatrical sort of track that feels vaguely like something Trans-Siberian Orchestra might write; a sad piano based ballad out of the Savatage playbook, but minus the rock elements. There are, in fact, no heavy guitars at all on 'Julian'. The aforementioned electronics are trippy, propulsive, lively, and full of character. They never become so ambient that they lose direction, nor do they overwhelm the other elements at play in each song. Frequent piano parts invest considerable emotional depth into the music, especially when combined with Kostas Makris's exceptional vocals, which brim over with pathos and soul. He even sounds a little like Ulver's Garm, posessing a mid-range, smooth as silk delivery that will gently coax you into the strange world Swan Christy inhabits and trap you there once you've been hopelessly ensnared.
Strange is the operative word when discussing Julian. This is an album that can be pegged down into no specific genre, defying broad categorization. It has dark moments, light moments, and moments where you will wonder what exactly is happening... but despite the album's perplexing nature it remains a very engaging listen that is beautifully recorded and movingly performed. I will go out on a limb and say that fans of Ulver, The Gathering (especially their most recent output), and maybe even the Cure should seek this oddity out and explore its murky depths. Swan Christy is no fish-out-of-water when it comes to exploring uncharted realms of electronica-laced experimental music, though be forewarned: listening to Julian may make your head swim.
02.) Second Opinion
03.) But...That Was Before
04.) Great Day, Great Day
05.) Pure Inspiration
06.) Old Man's Ego
07.) Julien Just Died
08.) Sense And Possibilities
09.) The Audition
Swan Christy is:
Iraklis Gialantsides – piano, synth
Kostas Makris – vocals
Spiros Pagiatakis - programming
Dimitris Georgiou - programming
Black Lotus records:
The End Records (US):
Electric Hellfire Kiss
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Although the promo case for Electric Hellfire Kiss features a very lame cover, its back is considerably more interesting. It displays the five band members peering eerily at me, and I can't shake the feeling they're watching me even when the case is sitting facedown in my "pile of things I really ought to review, then." But while I can appreciate the mood-setting effects of such a downright creepy photograph, I certainly don't enjoy looking at it. Likewise, I don't enjoy listening to this CD.
Tenebre plays a sort of hard-rockin' slightly metally goth rock that is competently executed, but lacking memorable or otherwise engaging music. After hearing the first couple of songs, you could likely compose your own version of the riffs and drum fills and rock solos that follow, without deviating significantly from Tenebre's final product. This music is so mind-numbingly generic that, in a bizarre backwards sort of way, you really can't even place its genre. It's an amalgam of several styles put together in a new way - Tenebre is not a clone of anyone - but the result is so similar to so much other music that you'll swear you've heard it before.
Aside from the generi-riffs and drumming, Tenebre's sound is largely defined by the vocals, which range from "Slightly Ticked-off Yeller" to "Brooding Goth Guy" to "Let's Drink Beer and Rock Out... Man Thing." The vocals are technically fine, at least as far as this style requires, although the Slightly Ticked-off Yeller is really quite hilarious at times. Imagine someone doing a silly monster voice to entertain at parties. Kid's parties. Maybe the someone is a clown who does balloon animal poodles. And then imagine the clown breaking out in mildly angry song with the monster voice, and over-emphasizing all of his lines with a ridiculous amount of drama. That's about what you get from Tenebre's growly vocals.
I don't want to be too hard on Tenebre, because they do play their music reasonably well (minus the growls), and Electric Hellfire Kiss is a very solid release that should appeal to leather-wearing club-going drugged-up rockers, who have just a bit of a punk and/or goth leaning. But if you aren't specifically a fan of this style, as I am not, you'll find nothing of any significance here - just a bunch of predictable, occasionally silly, more often than not boring, generic hybrid rock songs.
1) Electric Hellfire Kiss
3) Descend from Heaven
4) Nocturnal Rhapsody
5) Beauty Destroyed
6) She Darks the Sun
7) Scarlet Wolverine
8) Death Becomes You
9) At the Mountain
I couldn't access their website. Their troubleshooting tips offered the single stupidest suggestion I have ever seen:
"Shut down your browser and open up Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or better and re-enter the site."
Tenebre - Official Site:
The End Records (US):
The Third & The Mortal
EPs & Rarities
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
This month, I have had the pleasure to review a few monumental re-releases. EPs & Rarities collects two of the Third & The Mortal’s esteemed out of print discs, 1993’s Sorrow and 1995’s Nightswans. Both EPs appeared before and between the band’s legendary full-lengths Tears Laid In Earth and Painting On Glass and while each EP is very closely linked to the atmospheres explored on the LPs, the material comprising the EPs was exclusive and unavailable anywhere else. Something of a cult act to most, this Norwegian band has influenced scores of latter day Doom and dark metal bands. Though still active (with a new album entitled Project Bluebook – A Decade Of Endeavour slated for release soon), the band’s sound has veered down a more polished, trip hop avenue that still retains a certain shade of the band’s original darkness, but the band’s newfound preoccupation with electronics is worlds away from the organic atmospherics of their classic material.
Today, the idea of a female fronted dark metal band is far less adventurous than it was in the early 1990s. But the Third and the Mortal were one of the very first (and best) to concentrate on the technique and their early releases haven’t had much of a challenge and still reign supreme in the history of Doom. Above all, the Third and the Mortal’s music was elegantly DARK, often hypnotic, and unafraid to tread into unorthodox and more experimental territory. The overall sound of the band was very thick, with deep monolithic guitars chords and lush echoing riffs interspersed with murky clean chords or exotic acoustic passages, crisp and slinky drumming, and an understated use of synthesizers. The band’s rhythms range from tight, dirge-paced lullabies to disorienting sound collages, and even a few very well placed thrashy gallops (as best exemplified in “From The Depth Of Memories,” where a stark, forceful thrash riff is iced by ghostly operatic vocals to create a brilliantly spine chilling effect). The vocals were obviously what drastically set the band apart from their predominantly male vocalled contemporaries. On the heavier material from “Sorrow,” Kari Rueslåtten contributes a high ethereal soprano, however, there is a detached, spectral rawness to her voice that imitators failed to catch. The bleak musical backdrops add a subtle unease to the vocals, and the combination is as unique today as it was when the EP first appeared. Her pinched lamentations echo brilliantly on the dynamic and multi-tempoed “Ring Of Fire” and she owns the doomy epic “Silently I Surrender” with her icy pleadings and wraithlike seductions.
Nightswans is the more experimental of the two EPs. The music reaches a grandiose level in arrangement, frequently employing sudden and unexpected changes from soft, folky madrigals to crunching cacophony to keep the listener on their toes. It also introduced Ann-Mari Edvardsen, who replaced Kari as the band’s vocalist. Ann-Mari is a stronger and more commanding singer, and she demonstrates a greater control over her voice. All the same, she is a bit more theatrical in her delivery. There are a couple tracks that eventually disintegrate into an off the wall mire of psychedelic jazz elements. Throughout these passages, she elicits phantom like wails and mournful groans that are right at home with the music, fostering some very unusual but unforgettable sequences. Perhaps it sounds a bit contrived or exaggerated, but that is due to my inability to put such sounds into words. You just have to hear it to understand and comprehend it. The more traditionally structured moments highlight Ann-Mari’s voice as a stable, powerful, evocative crown to the majestic and engrossing musical accompaniment. The aforementioned “From The Depth Of Memories” is a splendid example of the transcendent and mature art that is possible from the marriage of dark metal music and the female voice. Obviously, The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, Rain Fell Within, and at one time Theatre Of Tragedy have produced melodic metal as magnificent as this, but other than perhaps Ashes You Leave, no other female fronted dark metal band has been quite this DARK. On the other side of the coin, the sparse shadowy minimalism of “The Meadow” relies entirely on quiet droning synths and the metallic elements are completely absent. The vocals float in a vast emptiness, with the odd brief accents of piano or acoustic guitar strums. Somewhat dull compared to the explosive rhythmic guitars throughout the cuts from “Sorrow,” it still makes for interesting listening due to its inherent strangeness. It’s not the wistful, run of the mill interlude, but something altogether more sinister.
This new collection tacks on two rare and previously unavailable tracks, including a remix of the song “Horizons” which appeared in its original form on “Painting On Glass.” The song is basically a very light trancey techno reinterpretation, slow and somewhat monotonous. Though it’s neat to have, it is ultimately not that extraordinary. The better of the two bonus tracks is “Elephantine Waltz” which was leftover from the sessions for the band’s third album, “In This Room.” It’s an interesting fusion of live trip hop influenced drumming behind surprising sonic climaxes of swelling Shoegaze styled guitars and female vocals that recall My Bloody Valentine and Lush.
All in all, this is an important document in the history of dark metal, and its cool that Voices Of Wonder has finally had enough wisdom to make this material available again. However, the packaging is somewhat lackluster, with barely any liner notes, and no lyrics or pictures. Hell, there is even a glaring type-o on the tray insert! But despite the unceremonious and hastily put together product, the music is what is most important and these songs are essential for fans of Gothic Metal and Doom. Those of you in the know have probably been looking for this stuff for years (those of you that know more already had these albums!). But to readers that have yet to navigate the band’s turbulent waters, this disc is a must, as are the band’s first two classic full-lengths. (Check the End Records and Century Media Records if you are interested in ordering any of the band’s material). It’s absolutely wonderful to hear this stuff again, and I hope that others will enjoy it as much as I have, whether it is for the first time or the first time in many years.
1.) Grevinnes Bonn
3.) Ring Of Fire
4.) Silently I Surrender
6.) Depth Of Memories
7.) The Meadow
9.) Horizon / Remix
10.) Elephantine Waltz
The Third & The Mortal
Kari Rueslåtten – vocals (1-4)
Ann-Mari Edvardsen – vocals (5-10)
Finn Olav Holte – guitars
Trond Engum – guitars
Bernt Rundberget – bass
Rune Hoemsnes – drums
Third & The Mortal –
Voices Of Wonder Records:
LAMENT (Frozen Empire Media)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
There’s a little café in Chichester where I often like to sit and do some reviews, and it was there that I was grappling with this record, thinking that it was the Twin Peaks soundtrack with a hangover (no small compliment, considering Badalamenti’s stirring work there), when I notice this weird noise. The lights in the café had their own sound, being u/v, and seemed affected by the generator in the ceiling panels, so there was a rhythm building up that was clearly discernible and, whether accidental or not, was conducting an ambient orchestra all of its own. Now was that accident art in itself? As it hummed and vibrated, giving off a higher frequency from the glass itself being affected, with some piercing oscillation, there almost seemed a touch of reverb introduced. It was certainly weirdly enjoyable, and gave me a breath from this short album.
I had barely noticed when ‘Etude’ took over form ‘Imperial’ because this solid ambient material manages a fairly hushed atmosphere, with a terse percussive beat and you can easily fade in and out of the creepy world, and ‘Dirge’ was three minutes in before I noticed the change again, as some grumpier sounds came through, which makes me wonder about these modern composers.
They do these arty offerings which can be effortlessly enjoyable, as this is, but scarcely makes you blink or think, and then they include some remixes which finally invest the tunes with more actual life, which seems something of a copout to me. ‘Lament is the best track, in the remixes, because it starts a thumping, with friction in the rhythm, where everything else had been music to bathe in when feeling slightly jaded.
Now what’s the point of that?
LAMENT (IMMINENT MIX)
LAMENT (KLANGSTABLE MIX)
I COVER YOU WITH BLOOD (Projekt)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Some bands make records you can listen to at any time, adapting your mood to their sounds, as they then change yours. Funnily enough, I’d just reviewed their Empty Into White album for Blu and then this! A little maxi CD, or somesuch. I call them EPs, but I’m ancient. And wise. (Don’t forget that bit!) So harken to my advice, because I know some people turn their noses up when reviews mention Olde Music, and Unto Ashes do that style as much as Ataraxia do, but think not of this as antiquities or obtuse artistry. This is totally modern, but drawing in all influences and then rearranging. It fills your room with something other than melancholy, something deeper than Industrial/Ambient tangents. And for any old Gawfs out there who haven’t considered this sort of material it is here you find both a dignity and an eye-scraping possibility of your sensibilities being enhanced. Just try this one record and you’ll see why you should be open to such developments, as it’s a good cross-section.
'Cover You With Blood’ in its natural form is a pretty normal song for them, but in the opening remix it’s blood simple and minxy with warm, fluted grooves, mixing twilight serenity with some sneaky prickles. Think of an academic Kate Bush circa ‘Hounds’ and you’re close.
The revisited ‘Serve Me’ is magnificently catchy, crawling vocals accompanied by chilly synth draughts emerging as wonderfully creepy, then we tilt sideways and fall into their other side, where Queen Mary’s funeral march (by Henry Purcell) is suitably grand but with a big heavy boot up its arse, ‘Palestinalied’ seems pretty traditional for a medieval lament (hey, what would I know?) except they make it sound genuinely attractive rather than finger-in-ear folky wassailing drivel, and then they slide out on what the promo info informs me is a stirring war anthem but sounded surprisingly cute and Scottish to these warmongering ears.
It’s a little treat, this, and you deserve to treat yourself. Start the year in imaginative fashion. (No, I didn’t</I<> mean flares!)
COVER YOU WITH BLOOD (WOUNDS
SERVE ME (OCHUN MIX)
I COVER YOU WITH BLOOD
FUNERAL MARCH FOR QUEEN MARY
Empty Into White
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
After the fantastic quality of their Moon Oppose Moon and Saturn Return albums I guess it's no great shock to report that this too is a work of great beauty, but if, like me, you're something of a stranger to Old Forms of music fret not, for although it's only now I'm getting to grips with the styles, I know I love it. Ataraxia have an ancient slant to some of what they do, but the harshly curving vocals accommodate those influences and not the other way round. With a band like Unto Ashes the ancient flavours are very deliberate and you'd easily consider this a reverential act, which makes it hard to have an actual connection with.
When I received some material from the Fossil Dungeon label last year I was intrigued and applauded the artistry but found that they had such a stark approach to style and content, that I only listen to them (and I have) when I want something confrontational snapping at my head. With Unto Ashes, who unravel some Persian influences here, apparently, I find they really work on the emotional side. There are sly, imaginative Goth themes and atmospheres, but there are also stirring cinema epics flitting through the imagery, and where else are you going to get 'original Plague dances'?
So, don't be put off by what you many have seen of them before, or their use of dulcimers and tamboura. Laugh, even, at the press release giving them the full Other Worldy build up, and then notice its classification advice ('file under Pop Rock'), because Unto Ashes actually specialise in songs. Songs of the heart and the mind, with a wiggling spine of mystery
'I Cover You With Blood;' is a truly addictive number, you probably won't recognise the Tori Amos song unless a true fan, and you'll be amazed to discover you are already familiar with a traditional Texan folk song! And what odds on hearing an interesting cover of a Blue Oyster Cult song?
If this doesn't sound like an intriguing mixture to you, or an impossible mess, then you're simply not adventurous enough for this journal and should leave now.
I hope I wasn't the 'typically verbose critic' quoted in the press release as there's nothing typical about my verbosity. It's just my way of covering up the swearing. You bastards! And here I sit, a man who loves his noise and attitude, captivated by every minute of this demented record, which will probably be the most beautiful new thing you sample all year if you're not au fait with music from off the beaten track.
The vocals mainly, Plaugue dances aside, deal with relationships, in obscure enough a manner to let you implant your own thoughts after a few listens. 'The Witches' Runes' is just one of many songs which take on a brittle dreaminess all their own, and if Pullman needs any music for the soundtrack of his books, when they reach the cinema, he should contact Unto Ashes first.
'Don't Fear The Reaper' turns dolorous, becoming compassionate advice, allowing the song real dignity, the title track is the weirdest of slivers, giving their overall mix another weird tweak, and the genuinely martial 'Heralds' is quiet, committed drama. Even 'Go Tell Aunt Rhodie' is a respectful lament.
'Ah, Sunflower!' is so light it all but blows away, a touch of the sturdy-gurdy strengthens the vocals in 'De Store Smerter' so any Ataraxia fans would certainly approve, and the outdoor zoological soundscape of 'Flayed By Frost' is like a house haunted by exotic birdcalls.
The whole thing plays out on idling, attractive piano and you're going to have to trust me that this isn't like anything else, which is part of the pull, but the real thing is the depth. It seems picturesque and delicate, but there's a dangerous current which will suck you in, which s the least you deserve.
I COVER YOU WITH BLOOD
PERSEPHONE, QUEEN OF THE UNDERWORLD
HERALDS OF WAR
EMPTY INTO WHITE
DON'T FEAR THE REAPER
GO TELL AUNT RHODIE
DE STORE SMERTER
FLAYED BY FROST
(The US version loses 'Palestinalied' and 'Gate', bringing you instead the lightly mysterious, dust-ridden 'Cy Commence Le Jeu' to open. 'Bathsheba Writhing' grows patiently, and just the tiniest flickers soon become familiar. Lovely it may be, writhing it isn't. 'I Am Blind' brings murkier tangles, where an Arabian jangle offsets plaintive emotional vocal passages, and 'Exuent Omnia' is a brief wiggle.)
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Nano is a CD, I think, and it's about the most confusing CD I've ever come across. If you follow my reviews regularly, you'll know that every so often I talk about how thoroughly a given CD will confound me. My experience has given me a profound tolerance for disturbing and challenging music, and at this point in time I'm quite well-prepared for most music that comes my way. Nano, however, represents the side of music that is disturbing only because each song is really some seven or eight songs, and none of them make any sense or fit together in any meaningful way. But enough from me, this is how main man chris R.I.C.H. describes his sound:
"The intention of "how" making music is always conteminated by the will of creating something new and unique. The structures and energies of music, driving itself and the listener forward, are about to be cracked a little bit and refilled by alienating sounds digitally to keep a more organic, idealistic fueled flavor to the cold machine state. Combining what's left is the aim. Exposing its own uglyness, in a misbuilded and disfunctional system and area. Like a noise-patchwork around a song to make sure it won't collapse of is own fragility. a DIGITAL way to create certain NOISE fragments and putting them in a ROCK content."Yeah, so the CD is kind of like that. The electronic aspects of the music merge with the guitars and drum samples in a way that is very reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. The music abruptly darts between quiet ambience, painful (for the listener, that is) crooning, nigh-intolerable screaming, standard rock/metal/industrial-ish riffs, and various assorted bleeps and blips. These sounds are all tossed in some kind of blender or... no, it's not a blender, it's more of a stew, but a stew mixed with many other stews in a giant decrepit bathtub. A large, mentally-ill man nick-named The Grater mixes the stew with his broom and... wait, what was I talking about?
Oh well, it couldn't have been an important point I was trying to make. Nano has many fine moments across its 18-minute duration, but the jumble of styles manages to elude me on every listen. Thus, the CD is only really enjoyable as background chaos, which I'm sure some of you want. The merciful length likely makes me "enjoy" the music more than I would otherwise, but some of the sounds would be plenty interesting without the bothersome vocals. This is worth checking out if you like to lose all sense of... er... stuff.
1) DON'T YOU
2) BONJOUR TRISTESSE
4) THAT SCRIPT LOST (version 02)
Sebastian Greichen - bass guitar, scratches and aditional synths on "don't you"; additional sample arrangements on "don't you", "bonjour tristesse" and "eurovision"
chris R.I.C.H. - guitars, vocals, synths, programming and arrangements
Utopia:Banished - Official
DEAD CITY DIARY (Hexagon)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I was a bit confused by this, thinking if this is their tenth album how come I haven’t heard of them before, and then it turns out it’s a curious man called Fredrik von Hamilton, who does World Music fusion, incorporating funk and electronics, and is clearly something of a one-man marvel when it comes to sound, who then uses a five-piece band for live work.
This answered another question, not that you’d know it from the sleeve. After the opening track there’s no conventional vocals, and considering the concept seems to be that of music used to convey the state of a world which is breaking down, why it doesn’t follow what we might logically expect, in that it avoids decay and noise or clenched fists and dark drama, but goes instead for lighter touches is a total mystery.
It’s such a shame the vocal depart because not only is the opening track one of the finest introductory pieces of music I have heard in years, in being strangely delicate but with the determination of a mad strangler when it comes to grabbing your attention, it has such subtle backing nuances you will be haunted as you are thrilled.
He’s always confident enough to take his time and let the song fill out with magnificently drilled percussion, serene, light and acceptably weird tones. Even the acoustic ‘Crawl’ is strongly melodic with an unnecessarily abrupt ending. Then ‘Poison’ is Mexican, which obviously confused me even more. Alert, agile, with very brisk guitar it has more magical percussion and I was bewitched.
The jangling dance stance of ‘Bite’ has a patched up hiphop refrain then cuts into the stabbing synth display of ‘The Whip’ and straight on into a clomping ‘Final Curtain’, which is just about the only duff track here. You’re pulled along, marvelling at the rich array of styles, thinking what the fuck is going on?
In ‘Bury’ bass and piano gently intermingle as acoustic is added to their canoodling, with the beat crisp and charming when it’s suddenly into ‘Needle’, where piano enjoys synth underlay and it’s ridiculously pretty. By ‘The Snag’, despite still thinking they might be Goth, I had this down as almost a modern day equivalent to Soul II Soul, which is high praise for anyone, when ‘Entrapment’ brings up a similar synth line, only more twitchy, and they/he move on with livelier, lovelier purpose, dropping away, whisking it back up, and I realised that if they had a singer and were in the Goth scene they’d be the biggest band the America scene has because this could be so improved with a seriously stark vocal in the middle of it all, and so huge.
‘Dead City’ itself is dreamy ambient dance, guitar flourishes glowing with some dub stability, but the exciting bits don’t taunt us sufficiently and it ends as a disturbed cloud of noise, with ‘Wounded’ introducing an almost portly, commanding bass and slightly darker overtones, whereupon busy keyboards run in to colour the tune. ‘The Snare’ is slightly identikit but bounces nicely into the mild, sparkling ‘Entanglement’ and we end with the warped vibrations of ‘Vein’, a firmer version of earlier, wispier tracks with the hint of indecipherable blurred vocals. (An un-credited track also brings in electro-dance and spacey rock for some reason.)
Look, I don’t really know what it is, but it’s one of those delightful chance encounters which turns out to be not so brief after all. The website hardly helps. It’s a confusing thing, but maybe that’s all for the best.
Try and hear it. You should be equally enchanted.
LET THEM EAT CAKE
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
It seems that lately, everybody loves the ‘80s – not just VH1. There are hosts of new bands emerging that hearken back to new wave, post punk, and early styles, and the dilution factor is well underway. This particular Richmond based ensemble represents the quirkier side of musical nostalgia and calls to mind a more spastic and goofy Devo for a modern age. The music is rapid and consistently upbeat, light hearted, nerdy, and fueled by high doses of energy and a kind of speed-induced intensity that gives it a contemporaneous edge.
While I see what these guys are up to, and can imagine loads of fashionably bespectacled art rockers totally pogo-ing their arses off to this, I was not too terribly interested in VCR. This band is far too much fun for me, to put it directly. The vintage Atari synths bug me, and its just plainly too upbeat. While it is obviously linked to the dance-punk genre that has recently intrigued me, there is just far too much Devo and B52’s going on here and not enough Wire or Gang Of Four. I prefer the darker more angst-ridden sounds of Radio Berlin and the like. I wasn’t entirely put off however.
More angst-ridden folks like myself would more than likely have their interest peaked by some of the instrumental breaks in “King & Queen of Winter.” There is moodier undertone to it that isn’t really present in the other tracks. The chanted duo of male and female vocals work great here, the bass line rumbles along and pushes things forward, spinning on the wings of whirling cymbals and rapid-fire snare snaps. This track contains more textures and layers, and its tone is less silly and spastic. “We Are VCR” also possesses some more sincere moments, primarily as a result of Mya’s strong atmospheric alto vocals throughout the latter passages of the song. But if VCR stuck with these starker formulas, they truly wouldn’t sound any different than tons of other newer bands. The quirky obnoxious (to my doomy ears) abrasiveness is what makes them who they are and the few more earnest moments give them a necessary variety and tonal diversity.
Overall, it’s just not my thing. It did grow on me a bit but ultimately, this record was not made for the likes of me. Though I don’t at all doubt its appeal to fans of more upbeat dance punk and frenzied math rock. It’s a nerd-core riot. If this sounds like a party you wish you were invited to, check out their website below.
2.) Back In Business
3.) King And Queen Of Winter
6.) We Are VCR
VCR – Official Site:
Pop Faction Records:
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Hey, it's a straight up angry hardcore punk album! With 90% of the lyrics sung in Greek! Thereby rendering any fist-pumping choruses or poignant social commentary unintelligible to non-Greek-speaking audiences!! Freedom!!!!
Velocity keeps the riffs simple and repetitive, like all true and proper hardcore punks should. Their downfall lies in the fact that true and hardcore punks are almost wholly uninteresting. Sure, these guys are angry. That much is clear after the first minute or so. By about track four, though, it becomes obvious that the album is going in circles and you're pretty much going to hear the same exact thing another eight times. Angry Greek guys yelling set to numbingly simple riffs. Over and over. And over.
The band adds no extra dimensions to hardcore punk. In fact, their sound is pretty one-dimensional. Angry, stripped down punk songs. Guitar, bass, drums, yelling. Vocalist Giorgos sounds like a Greek version of former Sepultura frontman Max Cavalera, which is fine for angry punk music. In fact, Max himself did some tracks rather like this with Nailbomb. They weren't especially good either.
If you have ever found yourself wishing you had a Pennywise album with Max Cavalera on vocals where they sing in a language you don't understand, don't play any memorable riffs, and carry on for about six songs more than they should... this is for you! Velocity's 'Freedom' is only thirty three minutes long, but it feels more like several hours go by as the repetitious songs drag on and on. I should probably steer clear of Greece, since these guys (judging by the album photo) could -and would- kick my ass, and probably don't take kindly to people who hate their music. I like worthwhile punk music just fine. My Bad Religion collection attests to that. Velocity is no Bad Religion. At least I never have to listen to them again now that this review is done. Freedom at last!
Sorry, the song titles are listed mostly in Greek script on the booklet, and I can't find a tracklist elsewhere. I know you expect to find track numbers and names here. I have let you down. If I have ruined your day through my own ignorance of the Greek language, I sincerely offer my heartfelt apologies. Can you forgive me? I can point out that there are 12 tracks, each around 2-3 min long, if that makes up for my linguistic incompetence at all.
Giorgos (Havoc) - vocals
Giannis - bass guitar
Kostas - guitar
Nikos - drums
Black Lotus Records:
The End Records (US):
Voices of Masada
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
This is a fine debut of a fledgling London band, bringing to us three tracks of late 80's inspired trad Goth Rock, which is all fine and dandy, if you like that sort of thing. And no, obviously they don't sound that old, in tone, but they do seem far too cautious. They're in that sub-faces Faces Of Sarah vein, with plenty of quality, a little dash of style, but not as much blatant power as there should be, it's all just a little formal.
They do have all the requisite musical accomplishments, and a particularly fine singer, so there's nothing wrong on those fronts, but by three songs you do almost second-guess how things will progress, and you're not wrong. Or I'm not, but you can pay along too.
'Flight' is a classic example where a song which is just too nice could have been better because when the guitar starts getting frisky it does sound exciting, and you'll certainly believe the programming is actual drums. Instead we see them rely on the time-honoured trick of dropping the music back down to basics midway and then building pleasantly once more. 'Fragments' is similarly restrained, but the key to their future development is how the dramatic vocal story is well delineated and the long mild passage here, which would have worked better on an album, is definitely attractive.
The zigzagging guitar and serious bass (good throughout) makes 'Fallen' seem slightly wilder but when the vocals come in, you know they're coming, and they just do what you expect, which is a shame. It's too much like they have a book of Functional And Successful Goth Songwriting laid out before them.
As a debut it is more then encouraging, but they really need to let rip when they get to that album.
We Are Childhood Equals
Heart Aches For Home
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Heart Aches For Home is the second EP from Richmond’s We Are Childhood Equals. I harboured a great deal of praise for the band’s debut EP This Is What You Asked For last summer, and I was very curious to see how they would follow the release. The melodic Indie and sonic climaxes that characterized the band’s sound are still firmly intact, the Sonic Youth and Pixies influences still shine through brilliantly, and the dynamic shifts from contemplative quiet to controlled clamor are just as explosive and expansive, if not more frantic and disjointed. The major difference I have found with this new EP is that the moods are a bit more varied, and there is less concentration on the pensive melancholy and nostalgia that made the debut release so intoxicating to me personally. This album has a more hopeful vibe to it, probably best experienced in the lighter melodies adrift throughout the acoustic swirl of “Dandelion,” the EP’s addictive second track.
The band seems to be having a little more ‘fun’ on the album, as both “Fall” and the title track have tighter and punkish grooves to them, lots of jarring guitars which fuel Peter’s urgent vocals to occasionally spit out a nasally snarl that works very well. The raw emotive vibe recalls Sunny Day Real Estate at their most urgent. A lumbering bass line rumbles at the heart of “Plane,” with peaks and valleys of noisy guitar chaos and some great screams courtesy of guitarist and back up vocalist Michael Otley. “Your Head Makes It So” is another jangling offering of bitter sweetness, soft and delicate throughout most of the track, but with sudden outbursts that crescendo at the song’s close. Peter’s croon is joined by Michael’s most innovatively utilized screams, which appear somewhat distanced from the surface of the music, producing a kind of dreamlike effect where the listener is jarred and even questions if they even heard any screams at all.
Much like their debut, the opening track is what I would personally define as the EPs masterpiece. On “Simple Emancipation” the vocal melodies ache the most, the collages of guitar shimmer and overlap each other’s watery grace and overdriven fuzz in the most evocative unison. Overall, the band’s ideas seem to gel the most gracefully here. Perhaps the sobering weight of the song is what gives it it’s mature distinction, due to my personal darker tastes. It’s plain to see however that the band want to stir things up and offer more than just another depressive gray skied Interpol-type Indie band. They have a lot of great ideas and an entire palette of emotions and human experience they hope to score. Whatever the case, We Are Childhood Equals continues to be a wonderfully listenable band, with a superb inkling for melody and juxtaposition. A thoroughly worthwhile and enjoyable listening experience. Check out the links below to learn more.
1.) Simple Emancipation
4.) Your Head Makes It So
6.) Hearts Ache For Home
We Are Childhood Equals:
Michael Otley – vocals, guitar
Peter D’Alema – guitars, vocals
Melanie Barrows – bass
Phil Barbato – drums
We Are Childhood Equals –
Pop Faction Records:
Illegitimus Non Carborundum
(don't let the bastards grind you down!)
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
At the risk of turning this review into some kind of deranged acceptance speech, I'd like to thank the fine folks at MC Music for referring to Zakas as "wacky metal" in the cover letter accompanying the promo. I appreciate it, because it means that a) people read my reviews, and b) my favorite made-up genre name may yet penetrate the metal vernacular. Zakas is indeed wacky metal, and in fact, it's really about as wacky as any music could possibly be. To go further in the realm of wacky would result in circling back around towards normalcy, into some freakish hybrid of seemingly normal music that was only secretly wacky.
Or something. But Zakas remains openly bizarre, as you might guess from the song titles, and for that I thank them. Illegitimus Non Carborundum and the band's previous effort, Shunk Daddy Grind, feature an army of guest musicians that are used for all sorts of effects. This army relentlessly augments the music with a huge variety of vocal styles, saxophone, off-kilter and often exotic beats, fancy bass, rockin' guitar, surf guitar, metal guitar, guitar with mystery, and crazy bits about aliens and Lord of the Rings and slave ships ahoy, yarr.
Sadly, this means that most listeners will find Zakas intolerable. They shift randomly between genres without any sense of purpose. The songs tend not to relate to one another (other than temporal promixity), and Illegitimus Non Carborundum comes across as a set of randomly chosen, bizarre songs from Wacky Land's rich musical history. Although this allows for rampant psychosis, I miss a more concept-oriented approach that would give meaning to the madness. However, as long as you enter the music with this in mind, you'll find plenty to enjoy.
The musicians generally know what they're doing, and there are many memorable moments from the fun intro, "Monster Surf", and through the paranoid delusions of "El Cupacabra" and the cheesily bombastic "One Ring", all the way up to the reprise of the surfing theme in "Soul Surf". Excepting the majority of the vocals (which are generally sub-par at best), and the overall recording quality (below average, but not terribly flawed), Illegitimus Non Carborundum is a worthy entry in the world of wacky metal. Zakas is kind of like Maudlin of the Well but without the production value or artistic concepts to back the wackiness. Should you throw caution to the wind and give it a listen, just be ready for heaps of incoherent but well-played insanity.
1. Monster Surf
2. Water Witch
3. Terror Of The Sea
6. Washed Ashore
8. El Chupacabra
9. Micro Mechanisms
11. God's Black Space
12. War Braid
13. House Of Kang
14. World Bromination
15. One Ring
16. Dreamberry Dream
18. Soul Surf
Zakas - Official Site:
Fables of the Celestial Night
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Zentropia's new foray into ambient dub will no doubt anger the Federation of International Ambient Artists (FIAA for short, pronounced, "people who make noises and call it music"), because Zentropia actually bothers to make its ambience musical, interesting, and fully worth your time. I'm not set against ambient music as a genre or anything, but a lot of it is so unmusical and sparse that you're essentially paying to listen to the barely audible scrape of tumbleweed rolling lazily across pavement. That kind of music lacks atmosphere, or feeling, or, well... music. Zentropia have stepped in to show us how it's done, though they will have to watch out for one of the FIAA's infamous sanctions.
Fables of the Celestial Night explores a myriad of interesting soundscapes via distorted guitar and bass, subtle keyboards, well-placed and well-timed noises of all varieties, and most importantly, interesting percussion. This is not to say that Zentropia maintains a regular beat throughout the music, but there is plentiful and varied percussion present to give the listener something to hold on to.
And holdidng on is more important than you may think - the soundscapes on this CD are barren, desolate, and often frightening. You'll feel lost a million miles away from home, thrust into some kind of Lynchian non-place, or cast into space unsupplied and alone, surviving only by tracking the noise that surrounds you: ambient washes of undecipherable sound, jazz-like echoes of distant melodies, foreboding but mercifully familiar percussion, and distortions of an unexplainable nature.
I'm compelled to warn you, dear reader, that not a lot of people enjoy ambient music to begin with. And while Zentropia's ambient dub is quality enough to warrant your attention whether you're an ambient fan or not, do be aware that most people still won't want to listen to 44 minutes of what is popularly termed "just a bunch of noise." Zentropia is like the catchy side of experimental, though, which is to say, it's not catchy in the least, but it's more listenable than a sample of one water drop splashing against a tile floor in four-minute intervals. If you are into experimental or are looking to branch out, add Zentropia to your list of things to listen to. Do it quick! There's no telling when the FIAA might strike.
2) Kali Mist
3) Eos Blushing
7) Dream Destroyer
Mark Bray - guitar, bass, keyboards, drum programming
Darcy Rowley - bass, guitar, percussion
Additional percussion and flute by Chris Fernald (tracks 4, 7)
Zentropia - Official Website:
The Bells Shall Sound Forever: A Tribute To Current 93
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
As with nearly every tribute CD that I have ever encountered, this one also means well, but is ultimately, wholly unnecessary. The legacy of material associated with a project as prolific and as complex as David Tibet’s Current 93 is best left in the hands of its original executor, and other interpretations only cheapen and distract from the achievements of the original author. Perhaps the most fitting ‘tribute’ a band can receive is for their fans to enjoy their music, understand it, appreciate it, and champion it to others; rather than attempt to reproduce it with their own skill (or lack there of). In this case, as with other recent ‘Goth’ oriented tributes to The Doors, Cocteau Twins, and Tool – it makes me wonder why the folks in charge of compiling these compilations do not enforce more ‘quality control.’ Does this new interpretation honestly hold a candle to the quality or impact of the original song? More often than naught, the answer would be a glaring NO. But yet these releases continue to pile up, and rather than waiting for a few YEARS if need be, before an adequate amount of material stacks up, the CD is released anyway, and one has to wade through so much amateur muck before they stumble upon one or two memorable interpretations.
So it is with The Bells Shall Sound Forever. There are indeed, a few striking contributions, but most of it, I am afraid, just smacks of the amateur basement project ethos that is currently accepted as underground ‘gothic/industrial’ music: poor recordings, sour musicianship, adolescent atmosphere, and a limited comprehension of the ideas that have been a central focus for Current 93 for many years.
The few memorable moments appear very early, and it’s a wonder I even got far enough to hear the two gems that appear toward the end of the disc. Sonne Hagal’s “The Death Of The Corn” is musically quite solid, but the mechanical vocals are a major distraction. Imagine Tony Wakeford monotonously singing for Funker Vogt and you can adequately discern the style of vocals used here. It sounds like an unintended parody. O Paradis’ “Calling For Vanished Faces” is one of the gems to appear here. An hypnotic number, with a slow slinky drum loop at its core, comprised of delicate acoustic guitar plucking overlaid with what sounds like Spanish, French, and Italian vocals. All this fuses in unison to create a very exotic and classy interpretation of the song. Of all the songs here, I believe that this one might be closest in spirit to Current 93.
Dorien Campbell (of Sumerland) contributes a fantastic and faithful version of “A Sadness Song,” led by his lugubrious baritone vocals (almost too stereotypically Gothic here but forgivable because of his flawless and fluid execution) and echoing acoustic guitar strums, culminating in a powerful rendition of this dramatic ballad. Vequinox’s rendering of “Earth Covers Earth” beautifully captures the volatile existentialism of the original; the dramatic melodies still weep with the same demanding density but have been given a more exotic flair with the use of traditional instruments (bowed psaltry and hammered dulcimer). The female vocalist (Lisa Smith) illustrates the same degree of charming fragility as Rose McDowell, and the male vocals (performed by Chad Porch) reverberate with an aching passion, characterized by an exquisitely vulnerable delivery. The overall effect is undeniably arresting, with both vocal performances coming across as unwaveringly strong despite the pinch of anxiety and subtle despair. Vequinox has deviated very little from the original track, but have put their own creative spin on in with their wholly organic and exotic instrumentation. This appears to have been exactly what Sweet Farewell had in mind when compiling this tribute it seems. The devastatingly melancholic atmosphere of the original is left firmly intact, and is perhaps even more accessible because of the uncharacteristically strong male vocals.
Engelsstaub’s offering on the other hand is just an outright mess. The vocals all across the board are weak, and the decision to incorporate an electronic ‘thud’ to substitute for the militant drive of the rowdy folk rock original is in very poor and confused taste. It’s simply an awful interpretation of the song. Cawatana’s primarily synthetic take on “A Song For Douglas After He’s Dead” is marred by garbled ‘vampyric’ vocals and what sounds like a computerized or MIDI generated accompaniment. Storm Of Capricorn’s pointless rendering of “Crowleymass” is just a collage of samples and minimalist experimental effects, while Der Feuerkreiner’s “Soft Black Stars” consists of a distanced female voice reciting the lyrics over top repetitive droning militant symphonic minimalism that makes Mortiis’ early work sound like the most exciting symphony since the days of Hector Berlioz.
The Well Of Sadness continues this exercise in futility, with more meaningless minimalist droning, the result, like the previous four tracks, is a complete waste of time. Then suddenly, Pancreatic Aardvarks appear. Still as minimalist, even more so, being that the music here consists of nothing more than a soft, muttering male vocalist and very delicate, quiet guitar, touched with deep, surreal and hushed reverbs and delays, echoing like a wine-drenched nightmare on the eve of a suicide. The song is gorgeously evocative, true to the original, and beautifully depressive. The sheer weight of this song is produced by its yawning, abysmal emptiness. Never has minimalist music made as much sense than in the hands of this obscure solo artist.
“Immortal Bird” as conceived by Leisur Hive is a fine effort, but ultimately a bit awkward, with strange electronic based arrangements that very well might have had a more effective impact had they been produced by more adequate, fleshy hands. Not as much of an abomination as the other tracks on this release, but not worthy of Current 93. Lisa Toulouse mistakenly takes what she claims is “Christ & The Pale Queens” into the realms of trance-techno and I have yet to see the relevance.
Weihan reinterprets the lullaby “All The Pretty Little Horses” with grace and spooky charm, the result being altogether faithful to the original. It deviates very little from the original, other than its synthetic shortcomings. It’s cool…but so what? It sounds like a demo of the original, not quite at the peak of its eventual perfection. Exit’s version of “Blue Gates Of Death” translates the songs into its Polish tongue (I think) and basically recreates the strange little ditty verbatim. Its cool, but I never really liked the original and the same qualities I disliked originally are here. It’s just a kind of light and odd repetitive piece that stirs nothing but impatience within me. A poor track choice for a band that is capable of more, if the review of their own release I did a few months back can attest to. There is not much decadence as there is beauty in Decadence’s version of “Ach Golgotha” – the final track here serves as a neo-classical epilogue and is well-arranged and draws the entire disc to at least, a favourable close.
Ultimately, this disc was not, in my humble opinion, a very worthwhile tribute to an EXTREMELY important dark music artist. The Sweet Farewell folks that compiled this disc offer this word of caution in their press release: “please keep in mind that every artist has tried to interpret their chosen tracks by keeping the essence of their own project, because hearing replicas of the tracks will have been pretty pointless.” This is fair. But my critique is this – exactly 2/3 of this disc is compiled by projects that must have barely ANY essence whatsoever to their sound. Its not so much a matter of my opinion, but more so that there is not much to musically digest on most of these songs, they are merely poor synthetic tinkerings that cling to the artistic freedom associated with the ‘experimental’ tag which ultimately translates as a mere excuse to pass off a lack of organic musicianship. It’s crap. Don’t buy into it and don’t encourage these artists to continue passing off their art as having any long-lasting merit or perceivable value.
My final words on this tribute are this: Buy as many Current 93 albums as you possibly can afford. Research the info about the albums by reading the websites, reviews, etc in order to determine which ones will be to your taste. Email me, I would be more than willing to help you. Then, investigate O Paradis, Sumerland, Vequinox, Pancreatic Aardvarks, and Exit to learn more about the few bands that appeared on this disc that DO appear to have a discernible “essence” to their project. Links are below.
1.) Sonne Hagal – Death Of The Corn
2.) O Paradis – Calling For Vanished Faces I
3.) Dorien Campbell – A Sadness Song
4.) Vequinox – Earth Covers Earth
5.) Engelsstaub – Happy Birthday Pigface Christus
6.) Cawatana – A Song For Douglas After He’s Dead
7.) Storm Of Capricorn – Crowleymass
8.) Der Feuerkreiner – Soft Black Stars
9.) The Well Of Sadness – Dogun
10.) Pancreatic Aardvarks – Judas As Black Moth
11.) Leisur Hive – Immortal Bird
12.) Lisa Toulouse – Christ And The Pale Queens
13.) Weihan – All The Pretty Little Horses
14.) Exit – The Blue Gates Of Death
15.) Decadence – Ach Golgotha
Sweet Farewell Records:
Current 93 – Official Site:
Current 93 – Brainwashed
O Paradis – Official Site:
Sumerland – Middle Pillar
Vequinox – Official Site:
Pancreatic Aardvarks – Official
Exit – via FURIA Music (Poland):
Buy this and other great
Middle Pillar Distribution:
Strange Fortune (for the
best prices on Current 93 CDs!)
Colorado Dark Arts Festival
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Well it's a bright thing and no mistake with a double CD celebrating the event from May of last year, with two sides, Onyx and Rock Island, whatever that means, and a bulging bag of mixed styles. You can work out from the track listing whether this is for you, because I am restricting to myself to tracks which I found interesting.
Soren caught me with their Voltaire-like precocious ballad, Solitary Sinners do good guitar techno in a Utah Saints vein, Space Ape Experiment use samples beautifully to create a funny, skimpy dance track, Emergen do great things with pounding ebm and Throe Vein are inventive rock-dominated Industrial.
Machinegun Symphony were a nice, almost a stiff version of The Last Dance with a nice hard edge to it, and Caustic Soul are classy, showing a chattering epic, of sorts, Project 12:01 have a saucy minx on vocals and wield great electronic depth charges, and Dark Orchid are like a damp, dank version of All About Eve crossed with Hole and an early 70's drum sound.
The only thing which got me was it doesn't particularly strike me as very dark.
INDIGO REACTION - COMPROMISE
SOREN - SHE DANCES WITH FIRE
SOLITARY SINNERS - FEAR
THE RED CHURCH - DEATH MARCH
SPACE APE EXPERIMENT - TRIANGLES
EROTIC - FOREVER
EMERGENCE - SCARRED
DEVIANT - ANGELS DISAPPEAR
THROE VEIN - NO MORE
TENEBRIOUS - FOLLOW
PORCELAIN DOLLS - FIEND
MACHINEGUN SYMPHONY - VERDICT
THE SIREN PROJECT - JUSTIFY
CAUSTIC SOUL - FORGIVE
THE FRAIL - RISE
DARK ORCHID - THESE DAYS
RAZOR SHARP RIBBONS - YOU BROUGHT ME PAIN
PROJECT 12:01 - JUST AS SOUND
http://www.grimworks.com - design
Cryotank Volume One (Cryonica)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Herewith a handy compilation from the UK electronic label Cryonica, to introduce some of their acts to the world. Five bands and fourteen tracks, all for a bargain price. Let’s jump in and see what delights await us.
Mono Chrome open things up with two tunes from their recent album ‘Collapse And Sever’. The immediate attention-grabber is Victoria Lloyd’s voice, which sails effortlessly over the music. She sounds so at ease that the music itself, by comparison, comes across as a little too cluttered, a bit too busy-busy-busy. ‘This Life’, in particular, has a jittery synthpop backing courtesy of electronics-wizard Clint Sand, which sounds incongruously nervy and fidgety behind the assured vocal. ‘Solutions’ is a remix, in which Victoria has been relegated to a supporting role, way back in the mix, while synth-sequences judder in the foreground. I dare say the original version of the track had the vocal more to the fore, since it seems bizarre to have such a good singer on hand, and then mix her so low. I confess I’m not entirely convinced by these tracks: there seems to be a rather awkward mismatch between the slinky, graceful, vocals and the jump-all-over-the-place synthpoppy backing music. Maybe that’s the whole point, of course - maybe there’s *supposed* to be a style-collision here - but nevertheless I find myself wishing the two disparate elements of Mono Chrome’s sound dovetailed together a little more neatly.
Inertia - who also run the Cryonica label and thus are the proprietors of this whole shebang - give us three new tracks. Two of these - ‘Blank Stare’ and ‘Hypno-Suck’ - occupy that familiar Inertia territory of staccato beats, stabbing synth-sequences, and half-rapped, half-chanted vocals. It’s all heavily rhythmic stuff, a relentless dancefloor pulse, to the point where it seems frankly irrational to listen to these tracks while sitting comfortably in a chair at home. This, I suppose, is intended to be functional music. It’s precision-engineered to get amphetamine-fuelled club kids freaking out under the strobes, and I dare say it’ll do that job admirably. But I have to say that Inertia have been here before. They’re not breaking any new ground on these tracks, not pushing any envelopes. This is exactly what we expect Inertia to sound like, and while I readily acknowledge the band’s expertise in creating hammering industrial dance tracks, I do think it’s about time they struck out in a new direction or two. Fortunately, the third Inertia track here does just that. It’s ‘Shakalaka Baby!’, a song from Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Bollywood ‘n’ bhangra musical Bombay Dreams - and it’s a little gem, an unpredictable cover which shows Inertia demonstrating an unexpectedly light touch and a witty pop sensibility. While I’m sure this particular song is a one-off - I doubt if Inertia are planning to feature selections from ‘Joseph And His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ on their next album - I’d like to hear the band try a few more odd tangents like this.
Swarf’s long-awaited debut album is scheduled to touch down any minute now, but while we await its arrival, here are three tasters. ‘Supine’ is Swarf in full-on uplifting trance mode. This is probably the most instantly accessible song they’ve done to date, at least from the point of view of the clubland massive. The band sound so confident here, the production is so warm and full, you’d think they were veterans of years of PAs down at the Ministry Of Sound. And if you think that reference is dangerously mainstream - well, yes, of course it is. Swarf are not some dodgy bedroom-electrogoth act, sticking sequences together with virtual Sellotape in a bid to get a few plays at the Slimelight. They’re a class act who could easily hold their own with the best of the big boys, and I for one hope they get their chance to mix it in those circles. ‘Grey (Version)’ rolls along on an insistent, upfront, bassline, with Liz giving it some expression on the vocal - although I have to say the halleluiah chorus of surging synths which break out like a rash on every chorus is perhaps a little OTT. It’s the musical equivalent of shouting ‘Put your hands in the air!’, and Swarf are far too cool for any of that nonsense. Then there’s the ‘Bold’ remix by Weirdo of ‘Subtext’, which is, I think, more Weirdo than Swarf - but it’s still a careering space rocket of a club tune. Taken together, these three tracks sound significantly more professional than anything else here, all due respect to the other artists - and if there’s more stuff of this quality in the can, then the Swarf album looks like it’s going to be a bit of a corker.
Hum. Did I utter the words ‘dodgy bedroom-electrogoth act’ up there? Yes, I think I did. And, as if summoned by a mystical incantation, the very next band on this compilation is Void Construct. I must admit I feel rather embarrassed about the way I always seem to find myself reviewing Void Construct, and inevitably giving them the bum’s rush. They just don’t connect with me; I think they’re one-dimensional and dull, and they stand in desperate need of a half-decent vocalist. But their stuff always seems to end up on my review-plate. If any other StarVox contributors would like to take Void Construct off my hands next time one of their releases comes along - please do! That would be slightly more fair to the band, and frankly I’d welcome the break. Here, the band give us three tracks. ‘Myriad’ and ‘Glitch’ are curiously smooth synth-anthems, over which main man Scott Walker half-chants, half-whispers his apocalyptic lyrics in a distorted monotone. So far, so-so. However, the third track, ‘Construct (Android Mix)’, has been reconstructed by someone called Cycloon, and he/she has made an intriguing almost-instrumental tune (most of the vocals are intertwined movie-dialogue samples) which doesn’t seem to include much of Void Construct themselves. For me, this is the best track of the three, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I. Ah, well. Uncle Nemesis and Void Construct: some things are just not meant to be.
The album wraps up with three tracks from Fiction 8, which demonstrate their melodic, but oddly melancholy, brand of synthpop. ‘Too Late’ is a wistful little thing with a downbeat male vocal - imagine New Order on a rainy day. The real treat, however, is ‘The Dark Room’, which has some nifty violin and an even better vocal courtesy of Mardi Salazar. It’s a lilting, atmospheric piece, and one of the best things on Fiction 8’s recent album, ‘Forever, Neverafter’. Then there’s ‘Silent’, which shows Fiction 8 getting all ambient on us - and again, the band demonstrate their command of atmosphere, and ease us gently out of the compilation while doing so.
Like many compilations, ‘Cyrotank Volume One’ is a bit of a patchy affair. There’s outstandingly good stuff here, and also a few slightly class-average efforts. But for all that I’d say this is an album worth getting: the fact that it’s a cheap-price item makes it worth taking the plunge. I’d recommend it especially for ‘Shakalaka Baby!’, ‘Supine’, and ‘The Dark Room’, and then investigate further as the fancy takes you.
Mono Chrome: This Life, Solutions (Torrent Vaccine mix)
Inertia: Blank Stare, Hypno-Suck, Shakalaka Baby!
Swarf: Supine, Grey (Version), Subtext (Bold mix by Weirdo)
Void Construct: Myriad, Glitch, Construct (Android mix by Cycloon)
Fiction 8: Too Late, The Dark Room, Silent
The Cryonica label site: http://www.cryonica.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
ETHIOPIQUES, VOL. 2:
Tetchawet - Urban Azmaris Of The 90's
ETHIOPIQUES, VOL. 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, 1969-1974
ETHIOPIQUES, VOL. 10: Tezeta: Ethiopian Blues and Ballads
~reviews by Kevin Filan
Too much of today’s “world music” is sanitized, sterilized, and “dumbed down” for a “Western audience.” Much of what remains is treated to a “scholarly approach.” Preserved “in the wild” and treated with reverent respect, it resembles a tagged and chloroformed butterfly—pretty enough, but dead as a doornail.
French label Budamusique has taken a wiser approach to Ethiopian pop ... they’ve let the music do the talking. Their Ethiopiques series (currently up to 18 CDs and growing) presents Ethiopian popular music from the 1960s to the present. There are no samples here, no glossy production... just Ethiopian music in all its funky glory.
And it’s nothing if not glorious. Ethiopia’s musicians are as creative and as vibrant as those on the more famous Senegalese and South African scenes. In the 60s and early 70s, Addis Ababa was one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan and swinging cities. Ethiopian popular musicians had ready access to the best of American and European music, and were happy to include “Western” instrumentation and scales alongside more traditional instruments and musical modes. A 1975 coup and twenty years of brutal dictatorship drove most of Ethiopia’s artists underground or into exile, leaving only a few recordings and a lot of memories.
Most of the tracks on Ethiopiques 4 come from Ethiopian composer and arranger Mulatu Astatqe. Astatqe studied music in Britain, and graduated from Boston’s Berklee School of Music in the early sixties before returning to Ethiopia. He has played with numerous jazz legends, including Duke Ellington, and his “Yegelle tezeta” (My Own Memory) was one of the first Ethiopian songs to receive attention outside the country. Astatqe’s music occaionally evokes Miles Davis or Dizzie Gilespie... but with a strange and wonderful twist. Astatqe’s compositions may owe a great deal to American Jazz, but he regularly uses the scales and chord progressions of his homeland. This would be an excellent choice for an introductory disk:
Astatqe’s riffs will be easy listening for anyone who is used to “hard bop” or 50s jazz.
Ethiopiques 10 is dedicated to “Tezeta”—an Amharic word for “memory” or “nostalgia”. Like American blues or Portuguese fado, Tezeta songs feature slow, emotional tunes which transmute pain into beauty. As with the other entries in this series, you’ll find the familiar and the alien closely juxtaposed. “Eyètègnu Nèqu” by Frèw Haylou sounds like a Muzzein’s call to prayer performed by a Delta Bluesman, while Mahmoud Ahmed’s “Tezeta,” has an eerie Farfisa organ that you might hear playing at the House of the Rising Sun (Addis Ababa branch). Other tracks show an influence of American soul: “Hédètch Alu” combines Muluqèn Mèllèssè’s unearthly voice with an amazingly infectious rhythm guitar and Alemayehu Eshete’s “Tèrèdtchéwalèhu” has a tinkly vibraphone and longing vocal alongside a guitar riff that would do Curtis Mayfield proud.
With Ethiopiqes 2 we see how Ethiopian popular music has come back after the 1991 fall of the military dictatorship. This second installment catalogues the efforts of the “Azmaris,” wandering singers and entertainers who provide a musical backdrop to daily life in Ethiopia. As in the “Golden Years” of the 1960s and 1970s, they have incorporated elements of modern life and foreign music into their songs while preserving traditional forms. Ethiopia is the “Holy Land” of Jamaica’s Rastafarian movement. Adanèh Tèka’s “Bob Marley” returns the compliment, with a fractured rendition of Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” (Tèka, alas, doesn’t speak a word of English or Jamaican Patois ... but he’s so joyfully enthusiastic that you’ll hardly notice his creative and frequent mispronounciations). “Ethopia Hagèré,” an instrumental performance by krar (Ethiopian Lute) virtuoso Messele Asmamaw, is probably the standout performance on this CD. It sounds like a hybrid between a Spanish classical guitar and a dueling banjo, but you’ll find yourself humming it long after it’s done.
Ethiopian music is nothing like the “World Music” you may be used to: neither does it bear much resemblance to other African music. “Ethiopiques” gives us a glimpse of a little-known culture... and American Soul and Jazz reflected in a lovely but distorted mirror. Budamusique has received numerous well-deserved accolades for this series. Pick up a few of these CDs today, and you’ll know just why.
Buda Music Website
NEW DARK AGE Volume 1
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
What a bastard! It’s value for money, certainly, and scores high on both the variety front and the creativity, for while it sends various waves of passionate Goth warhorses thundering into your flanks, it also has many a bizarre set of characters who are worth exploring, as some are always bound to be new. Even if a quarter of the songs don’t appeal on a personal basis you’re bound to find a rich seam or three of different Gawf perspectives which will lead you down a perfumed alley you might otherwise have spurned in favour of more traditional territory, and that can only be a good thing.
Scary Bitches over-egg their lyrical joke, where Smiling Goth are crazed and raw but quite unpredictable. Humour is pretty much a rare event, as you might expect. Much of the material is highly involved. You have the adventurously intense Human Disease, Culture Reverse are almost lo-fi Goth, choppy and dour, Collapsing New People almost reminded me of the old Xmal styling, being a human soup and screaming mess, which is good. Penis Flytrap give off punky shrill mayhem, Noone I know are seriously murky, just as Descendents Of Cain offer overtly busy dramatics. Bats In The Belfry leave things fairly empty with good personal style, and Creta are extravagant with their electro shiftiniess and frilly guitar interface.
There’s plenty of rock hybrids. Some traditional tough affairs from Kiss The Blade and Altered States, passionate extensions form The Last Dance, lighter corroded rock from Murder At The Registry, lively ugliness from Casual, mental capering thrash from The Last Days Of Jesus, guitar-driven rhythmically insistent Goth glee of DeSade, rasping vocals on a guitar springboard with drum rancour from the lively Ordeal By Fire, the cleverly held back clenching of Frank The Baptist, and an orderly passionate display from Reptyle. There’s also some turbo-charged pontificating from The Faces of Sarah, with the lighter variety coming from Belisha, with lovely bass touches. Have those two bands gone right off the boil, or do they have spectacular things planned for early in the new year?
There isn’t maybe as much as I’d like from perverse quarters, although the bands themselves are radiant, be it the subterranean dance stains of Tragic Black, or the slow distorted richness from Frankenstein. Exit To Eden are refreshingly precocious, Hatesex are unusually delicate in a maudlin manner, the light esoteric refrains of Ikon, Black Ice have a wonderfully malicious sound with a fine, tense voice. The vagabond kitsch of The Ghost Of Lemora works well, abut the finest track for me was a brilliant display from Bloody Dead And Sexy who could be the new Christian Death if they’re not careful. Speaking of which, Chants Of Moldoror do a Rozz cover and come over suitably sour but twinkley, and Avaritia spring around with sonorous vocals and guitar grit.
SCARY BITCHES – You’ll End Up Looking Like The Scary Bitches + THE LAST DANCE – Whisper (Between Strobelights) + IKON – Ghost In My Head + CHANTS OF MALDOROR – Spectre (Love Is Dead) + BLACK ICE – Eve E + SMILING GOTH – Beetlejuice + CULTURE REVERSE – Our Eyes Squint Sadly + COLLAPSING NEW PEOPLE – Revolution Girl + PENIS FLYTRAP – Cemetery Girl + ALTERED STATES – Go The Distance + BELISHA – Eyes That Blacken + CASUAL – Tard+ AVARAITIRA – And Here They Are Again + BATS IN THE BELFRY – Sanatorium + CRETA – Silence + NOONE I KNOW – Save What’s Left (In The Strobelight) + DESCENDANTS OF CAIN – The Ceremony + THE GHOST OF LEMORA – Dread The Day (The Cities Rise) + MURDER AT THE REGISTRY – The Stolen Photograph + TRAGIC BLACK – Nachtschiecchen (Reanimated Mix) + THE LAST DAYS OF JESUS – Guns ‘n’ Drums ‘n’ March ‘n’ Fun + FRANKENSTEIN – She Cats No Shadow + NEW DAYS DELAY – Tiny Monsters & Furry Little Creatures + DeSADE – Night Terrors + ORDEAL BY FIRE – Re-creation + REPTYLE – Massacre Celebration – EXIT TO EDEN – French Kiss - HATESEX – Spiritual Palsy – TRESPASS – Comedown (Lost In Light Version) + FRANK THE BAPTIST All The Faces + BLOODY DEAD AND SEXY – Bloody Rose + THE FACES OF SARAH - -Misery Turns +_ KISS THE BLADE – Gone Agai
and a few recommendations:
Notes From The Real Underground (Underground Inc/Invisible)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Ah, the underground! I guess this is meant to be relevant somehow, but I've never understood it. Maybe my lack of arcane training lets me down, but I always find that term idiotic, as though Psychic TV actually had an effect on people instead of being hippies in disguise.
You're quite correct, I digress! That argument isn't applicable here because it speaks of a development from the original Punk DIY ethos, and this double comp highlights 18 bands of varying styles, all of whom have one thing in common. Big Noise. It's a big noise alert, and delicate wallflowers won't want to be going within a five mile radius of copies of this record. I won't be either, having heard it once, because compilations rarely make sense to the neutral observer unless there's sufficient similarities to make it work as a whole record you can appreciate without too many peaks and troughs. And this is nearly all peaks, at bright, brusque volume, each track cantering into the next, like a daytrip for nutters.
Favourite? Well, the noise-dance brigade were all very clever and appealing, it's just that it never fully connects with me, but Synchro Nine Factor, Diablo Syndrome and StadtFisch certainly whinny with a sense of frivolity. Paul Melville's father writes a moving account of his son's funeral on the sleeve notes, and his tracks here show a bow-legged dance stance which is pumping nicely.
The melodic indiefunk of A New January is encouraging, the raucous crunch of ultra-melodic manglers Railer is fabulous, with Worm as nicely maddening as Torrent Vaccine are lovingly mood-embroiled. System Syn does just seem to be Moby in a matchbox, and Screaming Monkey Boner, you'll be astonished to learn, is like Mike Patton in a blender (not for too long, you know he'll only enjoy it!), and that's what happens underground.
So many bands, so few record labels.
RAILER - WHEN I SEE YOU AGAIN/KISS
TORRENT VACCINE - SENSE OF SOUL/SUBSISTER
WORM - FUCKITALLANYWAY/AGAIN
SYNCHRO NINE FACTOR - 360 DEGREES/TO SPEAK OF THINGS UNSEEN
PAUL MELVILLE - BETTY PAGE/ANTIPHON
DIABLO SYNDROME - INTERVEIN
STADTFISCH - STADFISCH/PANAMA
THE SUPERNATURALS - ALIEN BRIDE/QUEEN OF PROSTITUTES
JAMMYNEWT - MINI D.B./HER
A NEW JANUARY - IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME/SOMETHING MORE DIRECT
JAPANESE CARCRASH - SILENT TEARS/AGGRO
MORTAL CLAY - VERTIGO/SPIRIT OF FIRE
KAMM - HOWTHEWESTWASWON/NEGATIVE SPACE
SUSTEM SYN - ALL ALONG/DUST
ENCOMIAST - NEPENTHE
SCREAMING MONKEY BONER - SMASH TV/ZEE WHY CUE NINE
SILVER LADY - OUMBA OUMBA/LOVERATS
CYNERGY 67 - GIVE ME
VIER FACTOR #1
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
This is a nice idea where four singles are roped together, with extra tracks, starring The Cruxshadows, The Dreamside, Thou Shalt Not and Paralysed Age and assuming it’s a mid-priced thing I can see it being attractive to many who want to try out some names that may be new to them, but it has to be said that it also works overall through having a fairly united feel to the bands involved.
Mainly it’s previous work remixed, or things which you might find hard to find, so we’ll concentrate on the new tracks. Each artist has one track unavailable elsewhere. The Pet Shop Cruxshadows mainly give you three version of ‘Return (Coming Home)’ which is pleasant enough but ‘Dream Yourself Awake’ is far less predictable vocally and a slinky, slow item, which is highly becoming. The Dreamside have two versions of two songs not on albums, ‘Somewhere Before’ which is beautifully still, unfolding like a ballet score, and the stark attack of ‘Spin Moon Magic’ which becomes a melodic maelstrom with wonderfully stark, severe vocals. Paralysed Age have ‘Raindance’ which is pretty but fairly bland, and Thou Shalt Not do themselves nothing but good by including ‘The Final Year’, blessed with aromatic acoustic and those bright clear vocals which dominate even the quiet passages cleverly, involving the listener without being bombastic, and the rest of their material is equally charismatic and inspiring.
THE CRUXSHADOWS - RETURN
Return - Cruxshadows Synthetic Victory Mix
Return - Neuroticfish Remix
Dream Yourself Awake
Return - Advent Sleep Remix
THE DREAMSIDE - SOMEWHERE BEFORE
Spin Moon Magic
Somewhere Before - Angels & Agony Remix
Spin Moon Magic - Dreamside Remix
PARALYSED AGE - BERENICE
Berenice - Iris Remix
Bittersweet - Berenice part 2
THOUSSHALTNOT - CARDINAL DIRECTIONS
100 Generations - Second Generation Mix (Hungry Lucy)
The Final Year
Cardinal Directions (Stromkern Remix)