The Ancient Gallery, a dark industrial dance project hailing from Dresden, Germany, is a group that I have to admit being unfamiliar with before this disc came across my desk for review. Sleekly produced and chock-full of potential dance-club anthems, I was pretty-well hooked right away and left to wonder where this band’s been all my life. Clearly I need to get out more.
Alles Ist Nichts is apparently the third installment in the band’s growing industrial discography, following up 2001’s Deinstallation and Kopfdelay released shortly thereafter in 2002. I’d be remiss not to allude to the band’s inescapable similarities to Rammstein, although I hesitate to make a big thing of it – it would definitely be a mistake to carelessly dismiss this band as simply another member of the Rammstein wannabe club. The Ancient Gallery holds their own. Still, the metal-tinged guitars layered over entrancing synths, topped off with raspy, aggressive vocals should definitely appeal to fans of Rammstein, Project Pitchfork and other Deutsche industrial frontrunners.
The album starts out instantly captivating and accessible with “Mit Mir,” (With Me) and “Vorwärts” (Forwards). Heavy guitar and dark, rhythmic bass riffs blend effortlessly with pulsating synths, pretty much setting the tone for the whole CD. The stark vocals, delivered unforgivingly by Robin W., manage to sound appropriately enraged without sounding unapproachable – passionate without being preachy. Varying in tone and depth, a combination of sung, spoken, whispered, screamed and snarled, this band has something to say – and whether you understand it or not… they’ve got you listening.
Tracks 3 and 4, “Was Wir Wollen” (What We Want) and “Teil des Ganzen” (Part Of the Whole) throw in some middle-eastern sounding vibe in the opening synths, (which I’m always a big fan of) before the guitars crash the party, and “Ich Leer” (I Teach) ventures into some cool spoken rhythm – the rap-punk stylings of SMP definitely come to mind. The disquieting vocals of “Very Hard To” are undeniably Manson-ish, while the chorus of “Was Wir Wollen” treats us to an almost operatic experience. Yep kids, there’s something here for everyone.
Lyrically, this CD carries a strong self-affirmative, “kiss my ass” sort of tone throughout. Most tracks have an anthem-esque quality, sneering in the face of adversity, speaking out against shallow materialism, that sort of thing. English-speaking fans needn’t be too frustrated at not understanding the lyrics. While they are mostly clever, angry and appropriate for the music they’re written for, you aren’t missing any profound, life-changing revelations here. The “points” the songs are trying to make for the most part aren’t in-your-face and leave a lot of interpretation up to the listener. Translation is difficult, as illustrated in “Druck” (Pressure) by the clever usage, twists and variations of the word “druck” which simply can’t be translated into a single English word that would make the same sort of sense. In short… don’t think too much. Just kick back and rock out!
That being said, here’s a stab at translation of “Ich Leer,“ which I feel is pretty representative of the album’s tone:
Ich muss bewahren was ich
weiss I have to warn of what I know
Ich muss glauben was ich denke I have to believe what I think
Ich will wissen was ich lüge I want to understand my lies
Ich will glauben was ich rede I want to believe what I say
Muss sagen was ich denke Must say what I think
Ich will suchen I want to search
Ich will wissen I want to know
Ich will wissen I want to know
Das wissen sind die hügel The knowledge is the mountain
Die täler weit The valleys deep
Die reden klein The speeches shallow
Nicht leben wie wir denken We don’t live the way we think
Nicht spielen wie wir fühlen We don’t play the way we feel
Wir wollen wie wir müssen We want what we have to want
Und reden was wir brauchen And speak of what we need
Und lieben leben wie wir lügen And love, live the way we lie
Lieben leben wie wir lügen Love, live the way we lie
Wir rennen, laufen vorbei
an dir We run, walk right past
Wir rennen, laufen vorbei an dir We run, walk right past you
Ich will I want
Ich leer I teach
I’m impressed with the band’s decision to keep the vocals for the most part in their native tongue. It definitely lends them more clout, less cheese (and I’ll save my rant about foreign bands scrambling to sell out to the largely English-dominated music industry for another day). It also struck me that, despite the fact that the band comes from a city in former East Germany where they’ve likely witnessed their share of political upheaval (not to mention the resulting tension and mutual east/west resentment that still sadly persists), The Ancient Gallery doesn’t appear to want to make any overt political statements with their music. (Even though they’ve undoubtedly got plenty to be political about.) The main goal and emphasis of their music really seems to be on entertainment value… and I applaud that. Mission definitely accomplished.
I find it an interesting decision on the band’s part to include 3 or 4 songs on Alles Ist Nichts that already appeared on their last release, Kopfdelay, which don’t appear to be remixed or revamped versions of the first. With 2 years between CDs I can see that sort of thing becoming a bit redundant for die-hard fans. And while this is obviously an impressive and consistent release from start to finish, I do still see room to grow for the band, especially in adding diversity from track-to-track (resulting hopefully in more unique and stand-out tracks on their next venture) and a bit more instrumental variety. That being my only constructive criticism, I’d like to thank my good friend Jyri Glynn for my long-overdue introduction to this talented act, and I’ll definitely be keeping an ear on what will hopefully be a long and successful career for these Dresden industrialists!
ALL MY FAULTS
Euthanasia: Memento Mori (A&F Promo)
~review by Mick Mercer
Oh blimey, electronics with a jaunty edge, now that can cause me problerms! Very upbeat and squiggly, ‘Sand Of Time’ has a simple dance pulse cutting through, and cleanly sculpted vocals sensibly careen through an efficient arrangement, in what you’d call effusive electro-rawk. Nothing soppy here, but nothing excessive. It pounds away, he howls in time and it has stages, because he’s shrewd enough not to go for a simple route. The main beat and pattern comes back to emphasise the melody but he overlays well with rough patches. What lets it down is having so much keyboard work to suggest power, and not enough guitar, although the press release suggests he’s changing that for the future, so this could end up a real torrent onstage. There’s also a weird piano phase at the end which introduces a sweet shock, especially given the vocal cheek, but it stops the song becoming a true explosion.
He goes a bit feeble in ‘Forest After Midnight’, as though gripped by Herculean mental dilemmas, before the guitar impersonations comes to his rescue and he can frolic again with lots of faux rock bluster, grunting treated vocals, followed by the frisky aerated chorus, just so you remember the world is a nice place really, and it’s working well. I don’t like it at all, but the Modern Goth Clubber will feel like they are Zeus on a night out. ‘These Hours Of Emptiness’ again has a decent chorus, because he knows his structures this guy, but the incorporated noises, which are there to keep things busy, are actually a pain when he could have beefed up the rhythm of a cohesive onslaught, and it leaves the song fairly empty. ‘Alles Ist Gesagt’ then closes as a rabble-ranting sound which again fits in an orderly sequence, for accessibility, and seems almost camp. It rolls along quiet steadily but I kept forgetting it was on, because it’s full of so many expected sounds and professional sounding ‘effort’, with roary vocals, twinkly synth and some dour riffs. I seem to be hearing that week in, week out.
A job well done, clearly, but not for me.
~review by Kevin Filan
Although they’re only a duo, Boston’s Amber Spyglass makes enough beautiful noise for a symphony orchestra. Kelly Godshall’s vocal stylings and keyboard work complement the guitar and programming mastery of John DeGregorio like spiced port complements a cold Cambridge winter. Far too many synthesizer-driven duos create music which is cold, detached and mechanical. The sounds of Amber Spyglass are warm, immediate and organic.
Much of this is due to DeGregorio’s choice of instrument. Striking a string produces overtones and harmonics which the best synthesizer cannot duplicate. (Don’t believe me? Find a synthesizer which can duplicate the sound of an acoustic Baby Grand piano, a flamenco guitar, or even a feedback-laden Jimi Hendrix solo). Simply put, the notes produced have more individual variation and more personality than the notes generated by a computer program.
DeGregorio puts this to fine use in songs like “Pearls of Blue” and “Hands in Position,” combining an acoustic intro with a clean electric accompaniment. He also takes advantage of the multitude of sounds a talented player can produce with an electric guitar. His Middle Eastern-flavored fills throughout this CD reminded me of a less ego-driven Robert Fripp.
Equally important is Kelly Godshall’s throaty, sexy vocals. She combines the passion of a blues diva, with the breath control and tone of a trained vocalist. She handles the tricky progressions on “Pearls of Blue” like a pro, catches the longing and sadness of “Her Dark Swan” and blasts out the Siouxie-esque moans of “Catalyst Groove” with equal flair.
Amber Spyglass could have been Another Soulless Darkwave Synth Unit: they could also have been Another Pretty but Forgettable Ethereal Unit. They’ve avoided both traps: instead what they are is one hell of a band, and one which deserves wider notice. If you haven’t heard them yet, do yourself a favor... buy this CD.
1. Pearls of Blue
2. Red Dust
3. Hand in Position
4. Little Things
5. Silent Ravine
6. Catalyst Groove
7. I'm Afraid of Americans
8. Her Dark Swan
10. Venus in the 8th House
11. In White
Kelly Godshall: voice, keyboard,
John DeGregorio: guitars, samples, programming
David Chervenak: bass guitar (Pearls of Blue, Hand in Position, Silent Ravine, Her Dark Swan, Divide).
American Music Club
Love Songs For Patriots (Cooking Vinyl)
~reviewed by Stuart Moses
One of the wonderful things about my time at University in the early 90s was the access I suddenly gained to other people’s record collections. American Music Club were just one of the bands I discovered at this time. One of the less wonderful things is the amount of time I spent depressed - when I should have been out meeting girls. I don’t think American Music Club caused me to feel melancholy in the first place. I don’t even think they made me feel worse. Just when I did feel down this was the band I reached for. So you can understand if I approach this album with a little trepidation.
When singer Mark Eitzel and his cohorts went their separate ways ten years ago it was the end of an era, both for me and the band. I had been underwhelmed by their final release, 1994’s San Francisco, in any case. Eitzel continued releasing increasingly bizarre solo records. Among these were The One With Peter Buck of REM (West), The One Filled With Unlistenable Covers (Music for Courage And Confidence) and The One Where American Music Club Classics Are Redone With The Help of Traditional Greek Musicians (The Ugly American). It felt like there had been a time when Eitzel and I were close, but that our routes through life were becoming increasingly disparate.
Yet as time passes you sometimes forget what you fell out over and wonder what the other is doing these days. When I heard American Music Club were reconvening for this album my trepidation was mixed with excitement. I’d missed Eitzel’s late-night tales of drunks, lowlifes and miscreants. It was no surprise that he would make a record with Peter Buck. Imagine R.E.M at their saddest and you’re in the American Music Club playing field. There are plucked acoustic guitars, tales of sadness and regret. Yet this doesn’t really tell the whole story either.
Love Song For Patriots stars with the lumbering “Ladies and Gentlemen”. It’s a curmudgeonly electronic beast, which on initial plays sounds woefully out-of-tune. This isn’t the place to convert the casual listener. Give it time to settle and actually it sounds much better. The discord is deliberate, a statement of intent from some old punks that never lost their ideals. Sure they could play in tune, but they aren’t going to compromise the raw emotion they feel just for the audience’s benefit. It’s a call to arms which begins: “Ladies and gentlemen it's time for all the good that’s in you to shine…” Alcohol is a regular motif in both Eitzel’s life and music. The idea behind the song is that having been drinking all night the people in the song are going to do something really constructive with their life. Eitzel knows that failure is all too often an option and offers an alternative route: “If you can’t live with the truth go ahead try and live with a lie.”
Musically the next song "Another Morning" is a much more delicate creature. At first I think that we are in familiar AMC territory. Then listening to the words I realise that Eitzel is urging the listener to move on from painful times. He invokes his long-time muse Kathleen, which won’t mean anything to the casual listener, but will strike a chord for anyone that knows the story, or even just the song “Kathleen” from 1989’s United Kingdom album. It’s interesting that American Music Club can have a more upbeat message and still not sound trite. Ultimately Eitzel urges: “Lets smash all the violins at the symphony, I wanna see you smile with a real simple melody.”
Eitzel sounds cantankerous
on “Patriot’s Heart”. Maybe if Tom Waits had come from San Francisco this
is what he’d sound like. There’s nothing of the rampant experimentalism
of Waits’ recent work but thematic links between classics such as Heart
of Saturday Night and Blue Valentine can be seen by this listener. What
I initially imagined might be a comment on the current political situation
in the US turns out to be a much more oblique story about a stripper who
“don’t look that good but he’s got an all American smile.” There may be
an extended metaphor at work, but it’s difficult to tell. It may just be
another story of someone living their tawdry life. This song is in the
more surly style of “Ladies and Gentlemen”.
We are once more melancholy and melodic for “Love Is”. This song takes me to a dark place asking: “Did I make you throw away, all the lives you had?” It seems a strangely appropriate question for the singer to ask the listener, but I don’t blame anyone else for the choices I made. “Job To Do” starts slowly, then swells like the sea for the chorus. It’s a raucous, slightly discordant, swell but the dynamics serve the song well.
I don’t know whether Mark
Eitzel has been indulging in the sort of self-help therapy for which his
hometown San Francisco is known, but in “Only Love Can Set You Free” he
seems to be urging someone to leave pain behind. I rather like the idea
of focusing on what we want, rather than why we are sad, even if the title
of the song doesn’t really offer us any new insight.
Thirteen songs of this emotional weight are almost too many to take in one sitting. After a while you realise this album has two settings, quiet and melancholy vs loud and raucous. “Myopic Books” is quite lovely, about the simple joys of hanging out at a book shop that plays Dinosaur Junior. “The Horseshoe Wreath in Bloom” is a less manic echo of the band’s earlier song “Crab Walk” from 1991 album Everclear. Things come to a climax with the seven-minute plus “The Devil Needs You” which starts well, before drifting into cacophony around the four minute mark.
It’s strange becoming reacquainted with someone that you were close to ten years ago. You can still see why you were attracted to them, you understand their many fine qualities, you wish them the best of luck, but you know that you’ve both moved on and things will never be the same. That’s the problem for me with American Music Club, they expressed so fully who I was back then that they don’t have the same relevance to who I am now. Love Songs For Patriots may be as good an album as they have ever made. But it doesn’t have the emotional attachment that United Kingdom and Mercury have for me. I only have so much room in my life for music like this. I wish them all the luck in the world though.
Ladies & Gentlemen
Job To Do
Only Love Can Set You Free
Mantovani The Mind Reader
Your Horseshoe Wreath Will Bloom
Song Of The Rats Leaving The Sinking Ship
The Devil Needs You
Danny Pearson: bass
Mark Eitzel: vocals
Marc Capelle: piano
Tim Mooney: drums
The website: http://www.americanmusicclub.com/
Illuminate (Nilaihah Records)
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
The Azoic are kicking ass and taking names! Here is a collection of songs lyrically delving into the nonsense of relational game playing and overcoming the mind screw and torment left behind.
Now take these same lyrics, run them through heavy duty electronic vocal processing and fuse them with the trademark Steve Laskarides beat driven pulsations and one has a sure fire winner in their midst.
Vocalist Kristy Venrick put her heart on her sleeve when composing these tracks in the anticipation that her learning process would help to “illuminate” others. When one thinks of illumination, often we misleading assume that it should inspire us to something that is positive. Sometimes, illumination takes the form of waking up to one’s own denial and excuses within the framework of a relationship. Sometimes it means waking up and realizing that something we have been striving for is a wasted effort. Nevertheless, whatever form illumination may take with listeners, be assured that these tracks will leave dancers breathless on the club floors and home-party people in awe with the sonic potency delivered through their home stereo speakers.
In spite of the intensity of the heartbreak of some of these lyrics, the percussive fulmination simply makes you want to move and move a LOT.
Along with these tracks, we are also given a remake of the classic New Wave song, Obsession, done expertly for the modern era. We are also given a bit of a tease with Laskarides’ hand at vocals on The One, which is hopefully something that shall continue in the future as both Venrick and Laskarides make the song come fully alive with their harmony.
If you are seeking out potent dance music with beats per minute that are pretty much off the charts, do seek out Illuminate.
Let Me Tell You Something
Carve Into You (2003 Edit)
Conflict (cyber DJ Medley)
DESCENDING FAITH (Global Inception)
~review by Mick Mercer
They seem to have been away for an age, but this, recorded last year, is a precursor for a tour of Eastern Europe and the West Coast of America in early 2005, which will be followed by an album, so…..they’re back! There will also be a remix album of some of their earlier work in the middle of next year.
‘Promising Roses’ is promising indeed, starting with despair and groaning, tossed lightly on a bed of thick, well sprung bass. The vocals are sweet and clear, and grow in clarity and power as the song starts to flail with a stirring, striking Goth chorus. The song spins downwards into a spiral of madness impressively too, suggesting a whirled passion and ends by exhaling, literally. ‘Embrace; is another tight chittering thing with some strangely old fashioned rawk guitar touches, lots of gloomy, spirited space and fine singing. They create a superb mood. ‘Seeking Sanctity’ is more modern and stranger with floating, skittering sounds and a strange, light elegance. The title track is a subtle, wizened item with guitar friction, keyboard plumes and wily, bickering vocals. It feels as wonderful as it sounds too. They really suck you in on it.
Looks like the album could be something special!
LIVE IN THE STUDIO 1979 (Nemo)
~review by Mick Mercer
This CD actually goes with the limited edition Bauhaus book compiled by Andrew J. Brooksbank, who also runs a Love & Rockets zine, Apollox, but there were about fifty copies more of the CD done than the book. I have exchanged a few things recently with Andrew, and he suggested that if anyone fancies getting the CD by itself he would supply them until they run out. Anyone? Everyone should want a copy of this.
It’s interesting to read in Nancy Kilpatrick’s book how so many people still don’t get Goth’s musical antecedents correct, and wrongly attribute major Goth influence to either The Banshees or The Cure, and even Joy Division, as all these bands had far more impact on the Indie scene which naturally grew out of Punk, just as Goth did. All the first Goth bands would have been flexing their musical wings at the same time as those bands, and were strong enough individuals not to be influenced by others. While everyone of the earliest Goth bands probably owned a copy of The Scream so did anyone sensible, and only UK Decay might have a slight Banshees influence, but they had a far stronger Ants one. Nobody had a strong Joy Division influence, because they would have been aware that this was a band containing members from the truly dire Warsaw. People in the early Goth bands who bought the early Cure singles or went to see them, and saw nice boys in jumpers playing lovely, nervy punky-pop songs weren’t going to be swung by that! They were more likely to have their ears turned by Gang Of 4 and think how they could use that sort of sound.
So let’s be sensible about it shall we? Yes, the Banshees, Cure and Joy Division influenced Indie bands, and some Goth bands later on, who lacked sufficient imagination to create their own path, but not the first wave of Goth, and if they didn’t influence them they simply didn’t have an actual impact on how Goth became what it was. Right?
The only band who did have a strong influence was Bauhaus. They were also the band who had four equally insistent characters whose contributions rivalled one another in excellence and that is what makes their music remain so strong. Rhythmically, Kevin Haskins was some kind of human robot, as David Jay was a seismic assassin. Daniel Ash mastered the sense of guitar frisson better than anybody else, and the way Murphy dissected words in his mouth and stretched vowels lends credence to the fact he influenced Andi Sex Gang.
And Bauhaus thought of themselves as a glam band? I hate to harp on about it, but they were a t-shirt and jeans band with the occasional minimal outlay of a feather boa in the visual stakes until they supported Gloria Mundi, and then they took that and came back looking divine! Musically they ratcheted everything the Ants had suggested on their ‘Dirk’ album up a few gears and which the Banshees had managed to instil into the Punk field. They shaped a dark musical world and did so in a filthy and scandalously exciting manner, and without them Goth wouldn’t have been so much fun at the time. It would still have existed, but their potent brew of brute force and intelligent manipulation, of juddering power and demure sarcasm hasn’t been rivalled since.
This CD finds them recording a viciously spirited rehearsal in1979, with the guitar scraping inducing expectant nostalgic atmosphere instantly as ‘In The Night’ unfurls as a lunging brat of a tune, then the quavering creepy guitar and rustling percussion is cast aside by the inspired vocals of ‘A God In An Alcove’ right down to its vinegary dregs. ‘Dark Entries’ tumbles and flashes with Murphy like Oscar Wilde on speed, while ‘Telegram Sam’ is a casual, minimalist affair. There is more prominent chiselled bass in ‘Nerves’ alongside more classic Ash energy and the snail-like vocals set us up for an ugly musical brawl which is what’s required. ‘Honeymoon Groom’ is a frothy playful number with some hearty vocal drooling, and blow me down if ‘Kamikazi Drive’ isn’t The Small Faces! No idea how that happened, but they recover swiftly, easing out with the incomplete ‘Shows’.
It is a brilliant record, of a brilliant band, and comes in an attractive card slipcase. If you want one remember there are only 50 available. Cost?
£10.00 inc p&p
£11.50 inc P&P Europe
£12.00 inc p&p USA / Elsewhere
Contact email@example.com for details and say Mick Mercer sent you.
POST MODERN PLAGUE (Black Custard Records)
~review by Mick Mercer
I guess a hideous hellspawn rock band who record on a label with a name like that can’t be all bad but I still doubt very much I’d even be listening to this but for the involvement of Max from History Of Guns. It’s an area of music I back away from happily every time a hairy man in a black and white t-shirt opens his mouth and the ballbearings at the back of his throat start vibrating.
Leaving aside the noises-off of ‘The Dream Of The Unattainable’ it’s ‘Fortune Fades’ which emerges as well groomed rock, with initial vocals from a parrot on steroids. Comfortable and bruised, it’s very linear music and hardly over-fussy with a good chorus, but some of the guitar is a bit rickety!!! ‘Giving Up The Ghost’ then spreads the mix with quick guitar and plinking piano, as they rush into action, and it’s certainly less unwieldy than before, until ‘If Only’ to be acoustic and soppy.
‘Dead Poets Words’ is wonderful. Far tougher, squealing ands wobbling playfully like turbines on the piss, complete with great bass and fluttering synth work. ‘Grey’ has mildewing synth work like a 70’s organ, strange soft vocals, and wheedling guitar to create an unusual and diverting tune, complete with riffs to guide it home. ‘How much? How fast?’ isn’t quite as good, as the vocals aren’t clear enough half the time here, when he has all the room he needs. More organ pumps away, drums clatters respectfully and guitars keep to the shadows, other than some masturbatory widdling
‘Short Lived’ is mouldy sensitivity and even I’m starting to want some actual noise, and it duly arrives in ‘Hide Away’ but furious guitar activity until the fingers blister. is very tedious, and the acoustic ‘Secret judgement’ deserves no further comment. ‘The God That Fell From The Skies’ is some sweet piano led dawdle, and then it’s done and I’m bemused. They claim to display various rock styles, from metal to classic, but with a strong gothic tinge. I didn’t notice any gothic at all. I’m not sure I noticed a great deal of rock either. I think they’ve gone mad.
HAPPINESS AND OTHER CRIMES (Ncompass Records)
~review by Mick Mercer
Simon Cowell: You have talent Bill, clearly. It’s your motivation which concerns me.
Old Bill: Whatever, you soppy cunt…..
Okay, so that didn’t happen, but it could. Those of you intrepid souls who grappled with early issues of THE MICK will have read an interview with this man, and maybe puzzled over why he dabbled with French songs, played erratic dates, wrote peculiar songs and was clearly not your normal kind of artist. But you wouldn’t have missed his character, for Bill is never short on that.
I love his work, and I was amazed to learn of this album when Richard from Silverscope contacted me and informed it existed because I simply had no idea, so it was a joy to be suddenly surrounded by potentially inoffensive songs with centres that are soft because the pus of life, or the mush of romance, rarely hardens. Bill may strum gently, he may write riffs off as a crude affliction, but the songs still make a bigger impression than panicking drag queens falling onto wet cement.
”You stole my Capitol collection, of Frank Sinatra EPs” is a great opening line for any album (“You gave me absolutely nothing, then you threw away the keys”), and he’s straight in there with uncaring relationship woes, where the detritus needs to be considered, briefly, before cleaning up and moving on. Off-putting personalities are drafted in to people the songs, and ‘You Meet Every Loser In London’ (including “animals in lycra”!) is chirpy indie par excellence, like The Lighting Seeds without the hamfistedness.
It’s quality throughout, with Bill’s vocals, always fast enough to raise themselves above drowsy, being the main constant sound. He tricks you into expecting rich stories to unfold, as with ‘Jimmy McCay’ but you only get snapshots - “his wife works undercover, as a Masonic brother” - before it ends abruptly. Short stories, maniacally edited down, abound and ‘Broadway’, tale of a scam as yet of indeterminate potential, is a delight, stirring the mind, then evaporateing. Serious intent occasionally intrudes, as with the queasy ‘For The Good Of The People’ but soon it’s into the French ‘Hippy Hoorah’ which is Sacha Distel does Oasis.
He does turn into a sentimental old tosser for ‘Atmosphere’ and it’s always unnerving to hear him relaxed and optimistic, but then the reedy, bayonet-like ‘Melody Said’ spins into action, and both ‘The Tipton Slasher’ and ‘Terry Toy’ are seamy English life spread out like Morrissey might manage if he wasn’t such a ponce. ‘Marie Claire’ offering a more naïve glimpse into some unpicked social tapestry, before he romps through the foul-tasting ‘Suddenly Last Summer which revisits former musical glories of his past; the personalities depicted his lyrical playthings, tossed around like whimsical decorations. An organ and drums get pretty frisky here, although I have no idea why.
He only seems to use names Ray Davies would approve of, and ‘Cherry Orchard’ carries itself well, as the functional ‘Le Monde Selon Jimmy’ baffles me, and the luxurious simplicity of ‘Live A Little Longer’ encapsulates how something so plain can also be so heartfelt or just plain weird,.
Bill isn’t like other people. Ask those who have worked with him. They are easily identifiable by the raw gashes on their scalp where they have torn their hair out. All will agree on one thing. He’s well nigh a musical genius, and a total maverick.
http://220.127.116.11/~silvers/index.php?p=shop/cdinfo.php&id=ncomcd004 – (Try ‘Every Loser’)
Typically, Bill has no actual site, but here be info (detailed discog): http://www.theacf.com/billprit/
~reviewed by Goat
Harsh industrial ambient noise, engineered to maddening monotony. As whole, the album comes off as somewhat poorly planned if not also ill-executed. Inexplicable (and perhaps unintended?) fluctuations of sound volume are an annoyance, as well as bits of almost dance-oriented tracks and what is to me a grave mark of insincerity; the sounds of a woman having an orgasm. *Yawn* There is only one thing more a band can do that will make me want to throw an album across a room, and that’s sample in the sounds of their first-born children crying.
Parts of the album are enjoyable and show that horrid curse we know as “potential”. If more of the album stuck to the flash of brilliance evidenced in “gate-keeper-effect” it’d be glorious. Instead, however, the band seems to have missed the mark on this one by trying to cover too much ground with not enough attention to detail. I’ll just listen to the last three tracks over and over and forgive them the rest.
1. Ecology of hanta
4. In between
7. Death factories
Hanta Records does not at this time have a website. To purchase the CD, type the artist name and title into an internet search engine.
DANZE PAGANE (In The Night Time)
~review by Mick Mercer
There’s something of a mystery attached to the story of this band. Originally one of Italy’s first Post-Punk bands, their press release points out that although formed in 1985 and issuing their first demo then split up the following years “due to the crisis which involved all the Gothic scene in Italy.” What the Hell was that? Can anyone tell me? It sounds dramatic.
Three of the original members are still in this new line-up, having got back together again in 2002 for a reunion, which soon progressed to releasing a demo and then this album, dated as last year. They have resumed playing live, including with Wire and Diva Destruction, and proudly proclaim themselves a mixture of Californian Deathrock and Italia Wave, so let’s explore.
Italian Goth is very distinctive in its own way, which many people have yet to fully explore. It has the low-key intensity present in many of the original Goth bands, where the mood is used to reflect what is in the lyrics, so the vocalist must exude great control and authority. If he, as here, has quite a gently observational manner, the music falls in behind him and the band only step out into stormier passages, usually for a chorus, where again the music isn’t what creates impact but the manner in which they sing. Luckily for all, these vocals are softly shaped but compelling. I’m sure some of you have heard the wonderful Artica, and Bohémien have soft focus similarities with them.
The title track has high female vocals too, hung like tattered curtains, and fidgety Goth guitar pecking at the hems. ‘Terra Sanctae’ shows in an instant they also have a classy guitarist who stirs up almost hints of the Middle East without them resorting to the clichés so many use. The vocals remain archly demonstrative, and lead firmly into a mildly shouty chorus, then they all step back as the guitar whisks morosely. It’s a beautifully balanced sound, with sinuous echoes cleverly included here and there, rising in volume towards a fine end with clappy percussion and hollow bass.
‘Libido’ is a wonkier item, with thin but fantastically fretful guitar somewhat awry from any solid mood, and this is on the punkier side of things, with a colourful vocal display and savage end. ‘Dirsi Addio’ is restrained and quietly austere, ‘Nella Nebbia’ is an old song resurrected from a 90’s compilation appearance and jangles sweetly with insidious vocal harmony. ‘Les Jeux Sont Faits’ is different, with Stefania’s mewing vocals that have a dip to them and a little lilting rise at the end of each line. With a creepy synth line and some dry, roasted guitar this is another stunner.
‘Tra Specchi’ spreads out, emotionally wasted, as piano flops onto some hazy guitar and it creates a sweet mood. ‘Sangue e Arena’ has more of the choppy, wrangling guitar which excites just by its imaginative curls, and some woollier bass and dark piano twists coalign to bounce beneath the singer’s portly vocals. They could have rushed off through this and been explosive, but that isn’t their style. It builds to a certain level, then simpers and glowers. ‘Eclissi (dell’anima)’ is a gleaming Goth whisper with beautiful vocal glaze and stompy drums, and they close on ‘Eclissi’ the thickened, echoing version which is a lovely idea.
This is a quite superb, richly varied, big album, but rarely does anything in an outright, obvious manner, letting the quality of the songs work their own magic on you instead. I hope they follow this up with another soon so they don’t slip away again.
Starting to Dream
~review by Kevin Filan
According to their promo handout, Bleak Track’s debut EP offers “a gloomy marriage of death punk and noisewave.” If this scares you off, don’t be too worried. They’ve got plenty of smooth melody, combined with enough roughness to keep things interesting. Bleak Track is the love child of Exene Cervenka and Robert Smith, with Siouxie Sioux and Lydia Lunch duking it out for a shot at the Evil Fairy Queen role. In a world of hand-stapled-to-forehead bands, Bleak Track would rather jam that staple through someone else’s hand. They’ve spiced up their angst with a good bit of aggro, creating a mix which is tuneful without being tepid.
Bleak Track pays homage to their punk roots by keeping everything short and to the point. At 4’32”, “fear to follow” is the longest track ... and it seems positively indulgent next to tightly wound tracks like “the letter” and “decomposing love.” Jason Nipple deserves much of the credit here. His percussion is fast and furious: he doesn’t play his kit so much as he attacks it. Dave Ed provides a solid and steady thump which gives the proper support for Melody Bleak’s strong and sexy voice.
They also give a nod to experimental
acts, with their closing song, “Terrible.” This brief tune consists
of various and sundry weird noises which don’t really go anywhere.
It’s an unnecessary appendage, in this reviewer’s humble opinion.
I’d rather hear another 2 minutes of adrenaline-charged power chords; why
toy with a formula which has worked so well for so many others? Starting
to Dream has a more successful use of Strange Effects; they open with
weirdness, then get right back down to the business at hand.
Three people playing in 4/4 time... and singing songs which are both hummable and pogo-able. How can you go wrong? Don’t be a shmuck: buy this CD.
1. the letter
2. starting to dream
3. fear to follow
4. decomposing love
Melody Bleak: guitars, bass,
Dave Ed: bass, guitar, keys
Jason Nipple: drums
Nyaga (Self release)
~review by Uncle Nemsis
At last, the debut album from Corrosion. I say ‘at last’ because Corrosion formed back in 2001, as a side project of 90s-scene goth-rockers All Living Fear. The band have shoved out a few demo CDs since then, but it’s taken four years to arrive here, at first-album stage - a delay that possibly came about because All Living Fear, instead of being put on ice for the duration, just kept on going. I suspect Matthew North, who is the principal musician, songwriter, arranger and producer in both bands, found himself with too little time to devote to his second band. During those four years, however, Corrosion have managed to make the occasional foray out onto the gig circuit, where they’ve proved themselves a suitably loud and boisterous live rock outfit - no mean feat in itself for a two-men-and-a-drum-machine combo.
So, here’s the album, bizarrely named after the New York Amateur Gardening Association, and sure enough it follows on from the live experience in that it reveals Corrosion to be first and foremost a rock project, rather than anything directly related to goth. Of course, because of the presence of that pesky ol’ drum machine, it may be that Corrosion’s main audience will nevertheless turn out to be goths, who tend to tolerate programmed rhythms in a rock context far more readily than rock fans, who usually insist on a human tub-thumper being in evidence before they’ll take a band seriously.
The programmed drums are unashamedly to the fore on the opening track, ‘Temple Of Secrets’, the rhythm clattering away with drum rolls dialled in every four bars - one of Matt North’s trademark programming techniques, that. And there’s Corrosion’s essential dilemma: the song is a good old rollicking rocker, driven along by a splendidly dirty chugger of a guitar riff, while vocalist Paul Roe gives it the full-on angst ‘n’ anguish treatment in the verses. But the relentless artificiality of the drum sound does rather detract from the overall flavour of full-on rock-ness the band are obviously trying to create. Perhaps in an attempt to deal with this, the beat is stripped back and simplified for ‘Soulless City’, and while there’s never any doubt that we’re in the presence of machinery rather than humanity, at least there’s not quite so much of that frustratingly artificial ticky-tocky sound going on here. In any case, the song is more of a power ballad than a rocker, although Paul’s vocal is so far back in the mix he struggles to make headway as the layered synths gang up on him.
Then there’s a new version of ‘Resurrection Playground’, possibly Corrosion’s best-known track from those early demos, which here appears in a pulsing dance/rock crossover anthem - the beat ruthlessly chopped back to a whump-and-thump floor-filling rumble. I’m just getting into it when a rinky-dink hi-hat starts ticking away, as if someone’s set a clockwork toy in operation, and some frankly rather weedy keyboards start see-sawing up and down the scale. Argh! And it was going so well up to that point! The track works very well as a hurtling club anthem, but there really was no need to clutter the mix with those eeee-oooow keyboards and chintzy hi-hats. But that’s Corrosion for you: just when they hit on something simple and effective, they can’t stop themselves from throwing in the kitsch and sync.
‘Armageddon In A Can’ employs a menacing bassline rumble, slashed-out guitar chords, a distorted, freaked-out vocal and - say hello to another Matt North trademark effect, folks - a sampled choir to create an acid rock experience that sounds very early-seventies, in a way. A taste of Corrosion’s classic rock influences coming through here, I think. The mood is maintained for ‘Nyaga, My Brother’, which is the most fully-realised track here - a genuine tour de force upon which Corrosion move decisively away from their goth-scene connections and their drum-machine-with-everything rock ‘n’ programming approach. It’s a deceptively subtle thing, based on a restrained percussion backdrop - all maracas and hand-claps - around which other-worldly psychedelic sounds and voices swirl. A real lost-in-the-desert tune, and a hint of what Corrosion could do if they decided to move boldly away from what the goth/rock audience is assumed to want.
‘Cold Blooded Martyr’ sees Corrosion move boldly in the direction of Led Zep, with a feel that suggests ‘Kashmir’ is in the influence-pile somewhere. ‘Speak And Destroy’ is a weirdly eighties-style slice of synth-rock, complete with lush keyboard sounds, like an out-take from an Alphaville album. The rattly drum machine is back, though, and the song chops off so abruptly at the end that I can’t help wondering if the studio experienced a sudden power cut. ‘Shattered Fragments’ brings back Matt’s tame sampled choir for an encore on a track which is otherwise a good old punkish blast. Good stuff, but I recall an earlier demo version of this song which was rather more rough and raw, and which I wish had been included here. Then ‘Dead’ leads us through a brief all-purpose demonstration of the essential Corrosion soundscape, with Paul Roe cruising through the vocal in uncharacteristically restrained fashion, as if he’s just giving it a swift run-through before he has to dash off to catch his train. ‘The Elemental’ employs some Big Country-ish guitars on a psychedelic rocker - nice electronic effects in there too, dropped in to the song like Worcester sauce in soup, but, as so often with Corrosion, the drum machine is uncomfortably dominant. And finally, ‘Sinister Dexter’ gives us a slice of spook rock upon which the band make a virtue of their drum-machine-driven sound by employing a deliberately old-skool rhythm sound on a whacked-out slice of almost sixties-ish acid strangeness.
This is a curate’s egg of an album, in that parts of it are excellent. Matt and Paul certainly have a genuine feel for the classic rock stylings they deploy here and there, and when they let their influences off the leash and go for that psychedelic seventies rock feel Corrosion really do hint at potential far beyond the DIY gothic rock zone which All Living Fear have inhabited these many years. But the programmed stuff too often tends to sound cheap and stuck-on, like a lump of fibreglass filler on the bodyshell of a classic car, and that’s the factor that I think will hold Corrosion back. If the band want to make any headway in the rock zone - the direction in which they’ve obviously pointed their music - then I think they’re going to have to up the ante in the area of programming and production.
It’s a paradox: Matt North is clearly so proud of his home studio set-up that he even puts pictures of his kit on the CD inlay (where, interestingly enough, the hardware shots are given significantly more prominence than the single, indistinct, photo of the people in the band). Guitars, amps, computer, mixing desk - they’re all here, displayed with almost fetishistic devotion, as if the most important aspect of the entire Corrosion project is the opportunity it gives Matt to play with his toys. I’m surprised he didn’t stick a photo of his Scalectrix set in there while he was at it. But for all the attention paid to the technology, Corrosion’s sound often betrays Matt’s background in years of DIY goth-projects. Those clattering drum machine beats, those squeaky synths and cheesy hi-hats - that’s just Matt’s style, a sound palette he first put together when All Living Fear first emerged in the early 90s as one of many ‘bedroom goth’ outfits of the time. Corrosion hint at greater potential, the possibility of pushing on to real rock scene success. But I think it’ll take another producer to get them there.
Temple Of Secrets
Armageddon In A Can (Revisited)
Nyaga, My Brother
Cold Blooded Martyr
Speak And Destroy
No specific credits are given, but it's probably fair to say that Matthew North takes care of most of the guitar/bass/programming, while Paul Roe contributes all the vocals plus more guitars and programming.
The website: http://www.corrosionuk.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
At least I know this was sent to me in the spirit of optimism, after I wandered away carefree after the last autopsy, leaving them seething, and at just under 40 minutes even I can get through it easily. In fact opening track ‘Temple Of Secrets’ is hugely engaging, with a chirpy opening, brisk guitar and a nagging, circulatory gleeful chorus. The lightweight ‘Soulless City’ started fine, only for the singing of the word ‘ain-gells’ to stand out as something hackneyed, then they bumble happily along with some sub-techno rumble-rhythm in ‘Resurrection Playground’ maintaining a fairly low-key approach, before throwing their real weight into the chorus.
‘Armageddon In A Can (revisited)’ also has a very good bass and synth opening, behind which some greasy guitar festers and the rockiest vocals are lightly treated to spill into the poisonous froth, which is kept simmering by that synth. When it lapses into rock squalls I make a coffee, pop back and they’re still gyrating! Honestly, some people. Rock fans who find plain Metal overtone s a trifle wearisome will like the perverse traits exhibited, including the soiled poppy heart of ‘Nyaga, My Brother’ which is a clever mixture of enigmatic narrative and a nagging guitar undertow which reminds me of Bauhaus, but my memory refuses to regurgitate exactly what, which is irritating me enormously. Then you get piano introducing ‘Cold Blooded Martyr’ which is cooled down rock with some refreshing touches, and is that ‘Killer In The Home’???!!! Yes it is, trapped behind some murky, passionate rock wrestling. ‘Speak And Destroy’ is mild-mannered by comparison, with too much bleepiness, and then they coast belligerently over a rock plateau with ‘Shattered Fragments’, ‘Dead’ and ‘The Elemental’ before ‘Sinister Dexter’ conjures up a nicely searing ending
There’s nothing predictable about this new record, so if you like guitar noise, it could suit you. The reason it succeeds, in its own modest way, is because they’ve livened up, become slimmer and sharper, and haven’t allowed excess into the open. They’ve also got round any production limitations that deprive them of plush sounds by keeping the songs moving, and having peaks that really work. For the most part they manage that rather well.
It’s still rock though.
(Pouts, then sidles off, sulking.)
Crack Ov Dawn
Dawn Addict (Equilibre)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Here’s one to make the kidz feel deliciously dangerous and radical, man. Thunderous guitar riffing, rasped-out vocals, a generous sprinkling of drug references, and charmingly uninhibited use of the verb ‘to fuck’ from a band who, if their photo is any guide, have spent many hours practicing that essential smouldering hard-men pose without which you just ain’t nuthin’ in the world of modern metal.
Yep, although the publicity bumph claims that Crack Ov Dawn are a collection of glamsters, the band can’t disguise their true provenance. Crack Ov Dawn are, in fact, a thoroughly modern metal band. They come from France, but they’ve been precision-tuned to appeal to disaffected teenagers the world over. When your mom sends you up to your room for cheeking granny at the dinner table, and you’re looking for some suitably obnoxious music to play REALLY LOUD to demonstrate your seething anger to the world, look no further than this album. Alas, I have left my teenage years far behind me (and even then my obnoxious music of choice was far more likely to be Public Image Limited or Wire than any metal stuff), so I find it hard to appreciate Crack Ov Dawn’s efforts without cracking an irreverent smile..
Excursions into would-be shock ‘n’ sleaze territory, such as ‘Porn Junkie’ and ‘Fix You To Death’ leave me entirely unmoved, beyond a slight feeling of amusement that grown men can take such cheesiness so seriously. Of course, there might be an element of intentionally kitsch humour here, but if that’s so I fear it’s going right over my head. The band sound far too much like they mean it for comfort. Still, students of heavy metal cheese will be overjoyed to learn that Crack Ov Dawn cook up a veritable fondue on the song ‘Gothic Party’, in which the vocalist goes in search of ‘vampire chicks’ because (wait for it folks, this one’s sheer poetry) ‘I just want to fuck you, six six six’. Oooh, I’m sure the ladies fall like ninepins, you smooth talker, you.
Crack Ov Dawn parade their modernity by incorporating programmed beats and electronics into their otherwise traditional heavy-on-the-riffs music, but for the most part these elements seem like they’ve been stuck on as an afterthought. Typically, we get a brief burst of electronix at the start of a song (‘Red Light Clubber’ almost sounds like a full-on techno workout at first) but then it’s heavy metal business as usual as the guitars kick in. The production is coke-mirror smooth throughout. This is obviously an album intended for heavy-rotation radio play, and not just on specialist rock stations, either. The album includes a cover of U2’s ‘Pride’, faithfully rendered and entirely free of swear words - a sop to the mainstream if ever there was one.
Clearly, Crack Ov Dawn have been groomed and polished for success, and since they seem to touch all the right bases as far as the metal scene of today is concerned, they might just get there. It seems Joey Jordison of Slipknot has already snapped up the US release of this album for his own label. That may or may not amount to a recommendation - personally, I suspect that just about anything Slipknot’s drummer might like would be automatic anathema to me - but if the band are keeping such exalted rock star company they must surely be on their way to great things. I don’t think I’ll be going along with them, though - this music just doesn’t speak to me. One for the petulant teens among us, I think.
God Bless You
Rise 'n' Fall
Fix You To Death
Red Light Clubber
Pride (In The Name Ov Love)
Vinnie Valentine: Vocals
Britney Beach: Vocals, guitar
Sexy Sadie: Guitar, programming
Mallaury Murder: Bass
Xander Xanax: Drums
The website: http://www.crackovdawn.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
CRACK OV DAWN
DAWN ADDICT (Equilibre)
~review by Mick Mercer
If there’s one thing the French have never done successfully it is Rock. In eighty three million attempts they have never created one authentic rock band that have stunned all in their wake, and left any lasting impression. Nobody knows, or cares, why this is. It just is. There have been plenty of credible independent acts of all persuasions, with Rock proving beyond them, but this bunch may just change that. A cross between Guns n Roses (minus the twatty Axl) crossed with Placebo, they use bright, hard, jagged sounds, with shifting rhythmical technotonic plates, and whispered, gargling vocals, filling their songs with crude utterances, and make the whole thing exciting. Yes, they have included a cover of U2’s ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’ and all but wrung the sincerity out of it, but the rest works well.
Unlike the Der Eremit dimwits I reviewed the other day, this bunch introduce a mean riff and then let further activity splinter off of it. They don’t just plonk it down after the obligatory restful keyboards. They also change the jerking guitar action, doubling its infusive attack. They gleefully pound their pop-rock compositions until they’re a scuzzy mess, ‘Porn Junkie’ and ‘God Bless You’ fly by, arses in flames, and the hopefully ironic vocals in ‘Rise n Fall’ wriggle all over inventive, volatile guitar. There’s a funny sample to trigger ‘Fix You To Death’ into lurid life, and the slower ‘Gothic Party’ wobbles nicely, with daft lyrics. (‘I’m on the way to The Temple Of Doom, where vampire chicks come into bloom.’) ‘Red Light Clubber’ shows them introducing slippery beats in a bellicose manner, and then some historical rawk guitar is made bearable during ‘Popular Queen’ by finely dovetailed vocals. ‘Supermarket Song’ makes up for its naff title with unusual rhythmical shifts set alongside sparse guitar and this is typical of how they manage to carry enough variety throughout the record to cover up the fact they’re probably fairly daft at heart. A highly successful album, powerful and just a little bit clever, against the odds.
LOVE AND HATE
~review by Mick Mercer
Some bands will always have their work cut out for them in creating an identity, eventually coming face to face with just how and why certain influences pepper their work and which will be allowed to take the upper hand. Charlotte’s Shadow are one such band, with a foot in both Rock and Goth camps, and outdated rockist touches at that, kept liberated by a fresh pop sound. Could it be any more deranged?
The website is rubbish, so that offers no real clues, but this delightful record will appeal to pretty much anyone who likes any of the above, if they can cope without great artistic statements being made. It is fairly basic, but on the other hand it’s a joy to meet. The title track doesn’t waste time in inflicting some very metal guitar, but we also have subtly bright keyboard shading and perky female vocals with dippy backing. It’s pleasant, in a lo-fi Gawf way, the vocal structure is what rolls the song along and guitar drifts back in to punch some adrenaline through, but there’s some Godawful guitar soloing in there that should never be allowed to happen again, as it automatically sounds dated, wrecking the established allure. ‘Life Is A Monster’ has really attractive keyboards and beats, with guitar curling imaginatively through it behind hollowed out, desperate vocals.
‘I’m Not Afraid’ has fantastically bouncing guitar, a song which is totally europop with twinkling keyboards and heavily accented, coy English, so we’re into lopsided St Etienne mauled by heavy guitar territory. A new place! I like it. The guitar line here and the keyboards are utterly wonderful and mesmerising as it purrs along. ‘Gimme Life’ is almost more of the same, but with low, pained guitar and frothier keyboards as the male vocals get demonstrative.
‘Movin’ Apart’ gave their rocky tendencies away before I’d even heard the record. No-one writes Movin’ anymore! Very 70’s. But it’s charming, and as the keyboards hang back and the dappled female singing moves slowly down the spiral guitar staircase it’s an guzzling pop formula done well. The guitar knows how to tweak and squeeze itself into becoming shapes. The combined vocals are just weird, her waif-like and lolling, him like a gurgling Rasputin-styled beery uncle. Then they muddy the waters like hippos with diahorrea as ‘Come To Me’ sounds like it wants a death metal pomp ending, but keeps stalling as the vocals stay sensible and raspy.
A really interesting release, and there is great potential, if they could only drop the hoary throwbacks. From Dublin in 2001 to Germany for a year and now Spain, they get around, but where they go from here is anyone’s guess.
LOVE AND HATE (Cynfeirdd)
~review by Mick Mercer
Seems the CD I reviewed recently was mainly a promo for this album which contains those lovely tracks ‘Life Is A Monster’, and ‘I’m Not Afraid’, and it’s a relief to see that some of the Metal influences which could be glimpsed in the guitar aren’t so widely evident here, but the witty melodic uplift is countered more by a cloudy mood and exasperated vocals as the songs switch between sweet and desperately sour.
Both the shadowy ‘Gimme Life’ and ‘Movin’ Apart’ have grown on me more in this wider context, and I like the way they grey guitar seeps over the perky synth slopes. The Gothiest track is ‘Come To Me’ with big bad male vocals and odd capering rock guitar bursts amongst shivering sounds. ‘No Tears’ irritated me with the endless vocal repetition, but the strangely low and grumbling ‘See You Falling’ proves they’re so odd they are distinctively different at times. ‘Better Place’ has more ticklish guitar operating between the strangely anguished vocals, double vocals glower throughout ‘Alone’ with some stupendously grim guitar, and the same feel emanates from ‘’Far Away’ with a terser beat, Charlotte singing as if she’s holding her nose. It adopts a supine posture with wistful rhythm and acidic taste, the guitar spiralling up out of the doldrums, and ‘The Flame’ could be the same song but with a mad man allowed into the studio to sing alongside of her.
They truly are weird. Imagine Goth Metal with no posiness, clashing with deadpan indie europop tendencies. It comes in a chunky little plastic digipack box, and I like it without really being sure why.
PAST TO THE PAST (1992 – 2002)
BARE LIVE (Sonorium)
~review by Mick Mercer
I wasn’t complimentary about Creamviii’s demo of Wintertime a few months back, which is also out now, as I felt they often fell into an outdated Gawf style, with a touch too much emphasis placed on generic Goth vocal styles of unnecessary, forced drama. With these two albums there is no such problem, and I recommend them unreservedly.
Past To The Past is an excellent compilation with frank sleeve notes, plus all relevant info included and it shows they were always more than merely fitting in with the times. The songs don’t scream hard-line Goth messages but evoke unsettling or resigned states of mind and mood, into which you can drift. They are very controlled, from the beautiful ‘Seven’ to muggy synth spikes of ‘Body On Chrome’, two songs still performed now. The slow and strangely charming ‘Carpenters’, the spiky synth-laden ‘Something Good There Must Be’ and the slow pairing of ‘Sister Moon’ and ‘The Hunter & The Prey’ are all highly becoming, for there is grace and splendour to be had for all the sense of bitterness.
By bitter I don’t mean rancour,
or recriminations, but a sense of unhappiness rather than a storyteller’s
unease. ‘Swansong’ is a combustible, mental closer, and ‘Cathedral’ is
Ye Old Gothic Rock bluster, but for the most part this is an imaginative,
haunting modern Goth style, clipped and clear, with a strange sense of
stillness in many of the songs. It certainly isn’t clichéd and shows
them to have created really good work through the years.
‘Bare Live’ is a very limited edition (only 50 copies) acoustic CD, where Boris and the two Saschas take their seats and entertain a happy crowd. I must confess that when someone produces an acoustic guitar it’s like someone lobbing a hand grenade into a busy room. I’m out of there in seconds! Luckily there are no folky traces here, and it isn’t until ‘Tverde Blizo/Zunahe Am Licht’ and ‘Ready To Jump’ that I found my attention wandering. It’s harder for a band like Creamviii to make the acoustic versions as compelling, because they don’t exactly rely on conventional commercial structures. Employing acoustics accentuates some of the mood, but also strips the layers down and leaves certain edges blunted or exposed.
The songs are revealed this way as very precise but fluid, with the vocals fuller and more normal than on ‘Wintertime’, and while the guitars seem a trifle stilted initially you soon settle into the intimate sound, as the songs are put over in a confident way. True, he does do ‘Something Fast’ and Sisters’ covers often strike me as annoying, but then ‘One Level Down;’ is by Roter Sand who I must admit I’ve never heard of, and the style seems entirely natural and fits in.
It gets positively weird when they cover ‘San Francisco Nights’ by The Animals, which seems such an unusual choice, but then comes ‘White Room’ by Cream (ha!) which is seriously stormy, ‘Like A Hurricane’ which might make Neil Young sit up and swear, as it isn’t the finest version I’ve ever heard, although they close with a decent ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’, and squeeze a nicely creepy version of their own ‘Seven’; in between all of these. Strangest of the lot is ‘White Wedding’ that sounds great fun, against all the odds.
Fans of the band should move heaven and earth to get a copy, because it really is a delightful CD, and the compilation should also satisfy anyone on various levels.
Creamviii records are distributed by SX in Germany and Resurrection in the UK.
Days And Nights In The
Working Class Stiffs
~review by Basim
Now, Days And Nights In The Skeleton Crew, you may need to sit down for this. I know this will be hard for you, but I gotta get it off my chest. I have a love/hate relationship with your debut!
You’ve got two different types of songs on this disc. Type #1 can be summed up with: “if The Futureheads were commissioned to do a soundtrack for a Tarantino film under the careful direction of Danny Elfman.” Type #2 can be summed up with: “if The Futureheads were commissioned to do a soundtrack for a TIM BURTON film under the careful direction of Danny Elfman.” I really hope you opt for Type #1, because once you drop the haunted carnival “Making Christmas” evil-pretense and go for the quirky 4-part vocal-harmony synth-punk sound, I’ll get smitten. Some of these songs are good enough to remind me of one of my favorite bands; Oingo Boingo. Imagine really bouncy punk with its raw surface glossed over with a layer of synth. “Follow Your Heart”, “The Sun”, “Keep Moving Forward” and “Dance to the Underground”, are all in this tradition. But your other material, like “Broken Things” and “I Paid the Rent”, sound too Mike Patton/Tim Burton. They all start with a warbling verse or two, followed by loud guitars and evil choir vocals. Then it gets quiet all of a sudden, and the creepy voice starts warbling some more. Sometimes there are arpeggiated “evil” metal guitars and some woman reciting “evil” nursery rhymes. I’ve heard this kind of stuff before. I already DON’T LISTEN to albums like the Mr. Bungle self titled, Serpentine Gallery and the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. I don’t need to NOT LISTEN to more CDs. Not when this one could be something I’d really love.
Now readers, if you do like Faith No More, as well as Oingo Boingo and Nightmare Before Christmas, this CD will rock your socks off. It’s got all the “whimsy” and “childlike innocence” you could ask for.
These are destined to be nine songs that creep into my little CD Booklet every few weeks, simply because of the virtues of four of them.
2. Broken Things
3. Bleed On Me
4. I Paid the Rent
5. Follow Your Heart
6. The Sun
7. Dance To The Underground
8. Keep Moving Forward
9. Life is the Fight
Their site is down, so here’s
~review by Mick Mercer
The problem with Rock meeting Electronics is that those involved tend to see themselves as making some noble sacrifice and becoming Serious Artists. Then you play their record and they all sound like each other. Der Eremit put you off with the actual record itself first, because like a lot of cyber gloop it has that pretentious and clinical feel. It’s very white, very clean, like the music, with mountain ranges added for visual balm. The band members photos are like an ad campaign for the studiously morose but stylish, apart from one guy having a bullet hole in his forehead, and I expected to be bored, but it’s actually pretty good, providing you like rock or electronics. Rock fans get to chill, electronic fans get to have some actual fun for once in their poor, wasted lives. The rest of us shrug our shoulders in that charming, benign manner of ours, wondering why they don’t go the full extra mile and truly try something daring?
You see there are tracks galore here which are comprehensively ruined by the guitar, and the vocals convey no real urgency or emotion. (Think Lacrimosa, minus any heart!) It’s all so precise, so spotless. Having rock riffs and cello is a fine idea, but mixing it means you still end up sedate and then compromised. Similarly, the need to push home lyrical ideas means there are no signs of unleashing power. There are no successful dance beats, there are no wild rock moments. It’s a halfway house where songs are scientific slides.
Sod the song titles, they’re irrelevant for the purposes of this review. A very pretty, but soulless album, if you like arty installation music, you’ll find it attractive, and it does work on that basic, antiseptic artistic level very well, because the combination of ideas is often quite unusual, but in terms of a connection? Forget it. When the riff lumbers in I have heard similar efforts hundreds of times these past few years and it’s become a dull bloated cliché. Without the guitar this record would be very interesting indeed, but they kept it, so it isn’t, and I have no more time to waste on them.
CALLING UP SPIRITS (Beggars Banquet)
~review by Mick Mercer
It’s interesting how many famous and well respected characters the American scene has thrown up since rock and roll compared to Britain, from the early style gurus of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis (etc) who have still managed to span the decades, as did perverse singers, like Roy Orbison and Gene Pitney. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Brian Jones. Characters persevere there. Who do we have in England? Outside of some grizzled, wayward folk-blues veterans like Michael Chapman or John Martyn, I guess there’s only Robert Wyatt and Elvis Costello?
Aidan sent me this when I expressed an interest and I’m still interested, and grateful, but I’d not want to hear any more unless Dale sings. However, I would imagine if you’re in America you simple have to see this man, at least once. Something about America makes sense to Americans, if it’s locked into the songs, and they rely on people to give voice to concerns, or to illustrate things, to encapsulate society through sound. Dick Dale seems to span everything, from the hottest regions, and marinates it in salty r’n’r offshoots to create his mainly instrumental works, but with a difference. ‘Nitrus’ shows him as some desperado with frantic guitar and thrashing drums operating under cover of surfabilly madness. Duane Eddy meets The Cramps, no doubt about that, but there’s more. After one dash there’s a thickening of drums, coruscating guitar runs lasting a few seconds and almost post-punk solidity to the adventure. Utterly bizarre and compelling! Then a big section of tub-thumping drums before guitar falls back in and begins to unravel spitefully. This is seedily exhilarating stuff, and very strange.
‘The Wedge Paradiso’ is cowboy sing-songy with hectic drumming as though inside an old circus tent, and cranky Tijuana brass, just as ‘The Pit’ has stompier paradiddling drums, then low down mean r’n’r, and a typically unnecessary cover (when isn’t it?) of ‘Fever’, done as a creepy skeleton of a piece. He even sings in a heroic femme style. So he’s crosses generic boundaries and dragging the influences across one area and back into another, creating a spirited mush. ‘Doom Box’ is like that film, cheese royale, because he has plenty of kitsch moments, but ‘Catamount’ is cooler, with guitar exuberance over dour rhythm. ‘Window’ is quite a sad tale. Ostensibly a bleak ballad trying to inspire optimism it’s unusual: about deadness, a call to arms, a tale of pain.
‘Calling up spirits’ returns to coltish rocky chills with a nice chunky union between the guitar and clomping steady drums. ‘Temple Of Gizen’ is very desolate, as is from a sunbeaten Lee Marvin western as he saunters off to his end. Then it gets quite chirpy as they speed up, settle, speed up again and become jauntier still in an epic frolic, but what of? ‘Bandito’ doesn’t sound like the title suggests, with odd picky guitar, but somehow up the intensity goes into another curiously engaging vortex. ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ is clearly something personal for him but it struck me dull, ‘Peppermint Man’ is grotty 60’s US pop and ‘Gypsy Fire’ utilises the thin reedy guitar style and ends up a bit Russian cabaret!
The bloke’s a nutte, Gawd bless him!
http://www.dickdale.com/ - buy his new record from him and you get a personalised signed photo.
Sounds from Beyond the Silver Wheel
~reviewed by Goat
A fantastically ethereal goth-ambient album. Dark, organic sounds stretch horizontally across empty, windswept landscapes. Reverb washes in and out like tides; perfect for looking out a window and sorting the contents of one’s brain. To listen intently is like taking a long walk alone.
What I find fascinating is how the vocals here blend so absolutely perfectly with the sounds; they become pure instrument. Not that they are inhuman, but somehow so emotive as to leave behind the plane of “Someone here is singing” and enter into, “Someone here has become singing”. Amazing, inspiring, beautiful.
Anything I’d say beyond this point would be clumsy blustering. This work is tremendous. Beyond recommended.
1. Queen of the World of Spirits
2. Certain Angst
4. Luna Flow (the Deep)
5. Once Amid a Dream
6. Silver Wheel Flow
Dark Muse is Phyll.
The Fossil Dungeon:
Distributed in the US by
Distributed in Europe by
Drop The Fear
Drop The Fear (Self release)
~reviewd by Uncle Nemesis
From somewhere unspecified in the USA, a faceless bunch of latter-day indie types deliver this album of post-shoegaze fuzziness. Drop The Fear are a curiously identity-free outfit: their CD packaging and their website are entirely bereft of band member photos, biographical detail, or indeed any of the usual nuts and bolts info that bands are normally keen to provide. I’m not even certain what, if any, label this release is on - there is no record label info on the CD. The website incorporates a logo for Helmet Room Recordings, but I can’t say for sure if that’s a record company or the recording studio where the band make their music. All this mystery does, however, concentrate attention on the music itself, and perhaps that’s the point. So, let’s listen.
Drop The Fear have a warm, almost ambient sound; their music motors on relaxed, loping rhythms through some psychedelic-indie epics. I was going to try to tip-toe around the word ‘soundscapes’, but there’s no avoiding it: soundscapes are exactly what Drop The Fear create. Most of the vocals come courtesy of an offhand, detatched female voice that sounds uncannily like the singer of the Sundays, that winsome indie band of the late 80s, although Drop The Fear set the vocals in surrounding music that is far more lush and wide-screen than anything that was around in those far-off indie daze. ‘Murnau’ is a typical example: it’s almost an acid-tinged take on the Cocteau Twins, containing as it does multiple, layered, vocalisations in which the combined sound of the voices seems to be more important than the actual words they’re singing.
It’s all perfectly effective, although there’s a slight lack of focal points, hooks or naggingly memorable choruses. Drop The Fear seem primarily concerned with creating a sound, rather than songs. It’s sometimes said that the acid test of the songwriter’s craft is to strip away all arrangements, production, and instrumentation and simply play the song on one simple instrument such as an acoustic guitar. If it still works, it’s proof that you’ve got a good ‘un on your hands. I suspect, if you stripped away Drop The Fear’s lavish production and detailed, meticulous, arrangements in search of the essential songs lurking within, you wouldn’t actually find all that much remaining. ‘Natural Law’, for example, is a buoyant cruise through some ambient pleasantries, with an extemporisation on a ‘La, la, la’ theme for a lead vocal. It’s nice, but somehow I can’t rid myself of the feeling that there should be a song in there somewhere...and there isn’t.
So, what’s the verdict? If you’re looking for an extended excursion into ambient-ish territory, Drop The Fear make an agreeable tour guide. But if your preferred route takes you into the Land of Structured Song, you might want to hitch another ride.
Never Mind 
When Memory Fails
Long Way From Home
Edge Of The Universe
As Lonely As They Come
 Drop The Fear render this title as 'Nevermind', which, despite what Nirvana and many others seem to think, is a word that does not exist in the English language - check this dictionary entry for proof: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=nevermind The correct form is two words: never mind. I have taken the liberty of correcting the band's English here. There is no charge for this service.
Sarah: Vocals, keyboards, guitar, drums
Gabriel: Drums, keyboards, vocals
Ryan: Keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass, drums
The website: http://www.dropthefear.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
DUST FEAR OF LOVER
~review by Mick Mercer
You know what they say: you wait all year for one experimental electronic band to do a cover of Fad Gadget’s ‘Ricky’s Hand’, and then two come at once!
Look! It’s Death Boy again, who I reviewed when he did ‘Dust Fear Of Lover’ under the name of Psycho D-vein, so I assume there’s a logical progressing pattern to the record titles (?), and here he is making morose noises and singing wearily, while Lupa fills the air with lusher mouthy sounds, and this pair often combine well on their fetid bed of nails. ‘The Sin’ is sparse and quite sprightly. Little, winking synth, muted vocal muttering and a constant bass flow makes it easily accessible and the dual vocal phase is quixotically calming. ‘Connected’ is a little brisker on the bass flood, and the keyboard weeps happier sounds. The vocals are treated or distorted to hide deficiencies, but that’s fine, as it all blurs and smears well like discordant early 80’s electronics did originally.
The more conventional bass spleen in ‘Aching Home’ and a very basic drum machine sees Joy Division petals fall from a withered flower of a song. Their version of ‘Ricky’s Hand’ is more lo-fi even than La Mamoynia and if you didn’t already know it was a good, weird song you’d be a bit perplexed by this; jaunty, faded synth line aside.
‘Leave’ is great! Really grim, plucky guitar and floaty, groaning backing sounds makes for a dramatic and interesting start, and even though Death Boys voice starts to pull it all down they’re showing signs of life and the vocal structures are becoming more advanced and the arrangements seriously appealing, providing you accept you need to be adventurous to grapple with this.
‘Fashion Fear’ sounds like it wants to really shake itself hungrily but the same vocal delivery really does do for this one, so Death Boy needs further admonishment. If all you can do is sound weary let Lupa handle these songs alone and get her to boost the songs with life. ‘Sick Brain’ has more twinkly innards behind the problematic singing/talking, but soon runs out of promise. ‘Fear Of Gaze’ is more like it, with Lupa sounding mental and the sound choppy, but instead of letting the guitar suddenly cut it to elevate the song, as the synth remains interesting, they stay slightly muted.
‘Automatic Love’ is barely awake and thereby a waste of space, then they cover Jesus & Marychain’s ‘Head’ and it’s fairly authentic, like very early Marychain records but without the same sonic power, understandably. It’s still a potent sound but doesn’t jut out enough. ‘Crowd’ finishes with some good grumbling bass, splattering synth puffs of smoke and it’s another song full of fine, ugly sounds and ideas.
Don’t go anywhere near this is you’re the sort of person who needs things ‘tidy’ or full of pleasant curves. This is not for you. But if you like to wander the more ungainly territories out there then Death Boy is getting his act together, and there are far better glimpses here for what they might soon create.
An interesting record.
~review by Mick Mercer
Voices chitter and laugh as elegant music waltzes around them and the percussion sounds like swordplay, but seeing as this is Russian enigmas DVAR I am not entirely surprised. A band who has no website is an unusual thing, and it’s also virtually impossible to find any photographs of them anywhere. They have been recording since the early 90’s and no-one knows bugger all about them which must be something of a record.
It has the plausible drama of a children’s story. Think Narnian wastelands and intrigues and light dementia. Think of gently insidious piping keyboards and wheezing synths and strolling, martial drums. Think of imps and old professors with round wire glasses. Think of Xmases where toys come to life, think of Santa taking a shit on the end of your bed. (It could happen.) Then look up and see the stars whirl and fizz until just one big circle of smeared crystal and you realise you don’t know what’s going on. This could be Goth (think Gobins reinterpreting Alien Sex Fiend), it could be wily Indie, it could be some Ambient daytrip.
You’ll have to search hard for any noticeable Russian ingredients, that’s for sure. There are no Cossacks dances or dour, angular vowels, no real vocals at all, come to that! Sometimes it appears voices have been recorded and the tuned into birdsong, which is a start, and the more you play it the more you will be smitten by their insane take on electronic drama. I think I almost overheard The Clangers forming a Kate Bush tribute band.
At their plainest, in ‘Yar Yar’, they’re willowy and keep a crisp electro beat same as anyone, although the twinkling and synth refuse to appear dogmatic, terse or arty. When they do the conventional thing they’re a cross between Virgin Prunes and Alice In Wonderland, which I assure you is a scarily accurate comparison, especially as DVAR is two men. Sometimes they purr like pop animals and then your toes curl with love for them. You’ll even have ‘Ya Raii Ta Hirrih’ played at the wedding.
You could be walking the tightrope across ravines to their twinkle-toed xylophone accompaniment. You could be riding ghostly carriages on skis across snow-swept fjords, or lugging secret weapons through rancid meadows. Your hair could be full of treacle, you shows alive with termites. With DVAR music playing in your head you’d be too inanely happy to be concerned. You would volunteer to cross the Andes dressed only in a nun’s habit, with a sign saying ‘Caress Me’ on your back.
It is hard to think concrete thoughts when the music plays because it intrudes on any lapse in concentration, so forget about playful background music, as this has a way of demanding your involvement, albeit politely. It is dramatic in a highly stylish manner, and also silly without ever being remotely close to comedy.
It‘s unlike anything else I have heard, that’s for sure, and I am delighted to make its acquaintance.
Taii Liira (Irond)
~review by Mick Mercer
Your psychic perception is all too accurate. This album does indeed highlight tracks from 1997 – 2001, from ‘Piirrah’ and ‘Rail’, with a few unreleased items. Naturally it starts with water, violins and clock chimes, blended together in a scary beast of a tune, like they’re stirring the sounds inside your very ears with a vast ladle. The vocals, like old crones that scared Macbeth, cavort merrily as usual but the synth or strings have more weight that on earlier records. There is a sense of depth here and an inscrutable countenance. So ‘al hilaji’ sets you up for a new adventure, which ‘iina tamiira’ continues with vocals from someone gnarled who sounds highly agitated, and musically it is conventional electronic indie! Streuth!
Luckily ‘taai liira’ (they’re all lower case) is quicker, trying to get away from the voices. It sounds like a funeral march with a propensity for bpm and this time the voices match the music, going with the rhythm rather then being engaging human litter. They’re getting organised, and become positively listener-friendly with concerted chirruping through ‘vo rah arrah iill’ which is deceptively pretty and builds to an ecstatic end. Along comes the spry and deeply simple ‘hissen raii’, proving the music is slipping into more recognisable shapes even if the vocal still come from the underworld. The synths and piano here work together like with a conventional ethereal band. Every so slowly they are going to take people over by seducing slowly. It’s a grim and frightening thought. That said, this songs also sounds like it’s ripping your throat out.
They have hardly softened up, they’re just managed to merge the two realities and make it more attractive to people who wouldn’t find the most obscure style tantalising. They're still demented. 'iih rah' is like a Bedlam souvenir, 'abisser' must be the assassination of a piano and ‘itiir’ is like hearing Prince turning slowly in someone else’s maggot-strewn grave, crossed with a Bond movie soundtrack with music when you’re leading up to the big fight sequence. ‘vaii han’? Yes, that’s included, and quite cute it is too, with a mad rhythm on drums, as though a real band was pissing all over Slipknot. Ha! They’d snap them in half and toss them over their shoulders. It is stomping mayhem that anyone would love, like what Alien Sex Fiend will evolve into in a few centuries, when man and creature are at one. ‘schraii’ is another plainly compelling tune, and ‘ud rah’ seems pert, putrid punk with keyboard sparkle, and the previously unreleased content is thicker, fully charged thrusting electro with demented demonic singing, bordering on techno-thrash but with occasional hypnotic violin and African rhythms!
You genuinely need a bit of Dvar in your world, so this would be the easiest way to begin.
~review by Mick Mercer
I was debating the mania at work in their RAKHILIM album earlier this month, and I hope I was able to convince you that here are a duo creating music that is genuinely unique. Well this album shows less of the musical quality and more of their unusual approach. I played it to Lynda and she was in fits, but still agreed that yes, there was music here. And magic, simple as that.
It doesn’t matter if you can recognise that they are the musical equivalent of the Goons, and equally brilliant, or see the childlike glee involved in much of their work, or that here are a band equally capable at electro noodling, or seriously catchy moments from various genres as other greats. The main fact is that they make albums you cannot accurately compare to anything else and the impact of each short track is instant. They shock you with their audacity and calm you with their evocative charms.
On the childlike front I have mentioned the Clangers and Teletubbies, and Lynda mentioned Michael Bentine and the Diddymen. There is in this strange world any number of warped and surreal antecedents you care to invoke. There is also the astounding fact that this doesn’t matter. The music stands up on its own, and after a few tracks the fact that the vocal input is otherworldy doesn’t matter either. You stop believing humans are in control fairly quickly.
Giving a whistle-stop tour of this set of early 90’s recordings, we find ‘hwhy’ is like Middle-eastern wailing, only ten years before everyone else started doing it, but with for more imaginative ‘vocals’, and ‘laali’ is very persuasive electropop, ‘hiri noai’is actually vocal-led, and guides us through a sleazy waltz, whereas ‘taranah’ is watery electronic madness conducted by the Clangers again. ‘iill’ is simply fast swirls, ‘ya kah tya kah’ has brilliant keyboards circles almost moving in a medieval style, ‘arraheem’ has music box sweetness and seriously delightful giggling, because the vocals genuinely fit the moods of these pieces.
When I say vocals, let me try this on you. Imagine a studio where tapes lay unguarded. Remember the Gremlins films? Imagine if some of those characters have broken in and started doing vocal mixes of their own over the music that falls into their little mitts. That is what it is like. It has a totally sensible vocal structure, as with any other kind of music, but it simply isn’t recognisable. Natural songs, unnatural end result. And it is fantastic.
‘khela baash’ brings up fairground creepiness and ends on an ominous drum roll instead of the other way round, ‘madegirah’ is a piping synth instrumental which is odd, ‘teremiah k’ruun’ is a reflective, dawdling tune, and ‘iakhuut !’ is synthesised woodwind, close in feel to those programmes they make for kids which try and interest you in classical music by having the instruments ape birdsong and the like.
‘kaah’ is friendly parakeet-esque chatter over decorous synth, and then the keys whirl through ‘arvakh’ like some mushed up morse code. ‘lilk’ is my favourite, because the music is utterly hypnotic and the vocal utterances make me laugh out loud they are so wonderfully woven into the texture, then it’s witchy incantations throughout ‘ud rah’, Kurt Weill is trapped in the goblin underworld for ‘kiam kaah’, ‘linah’ and ‘ya nar’ just pop by fast, ‘ airim’ actually has a grand, silky feel and ‘herrah kiyar’ is like Chas & Dave in an alien dimension.
Honestly, you have to hear it to believe it, and once you’ve heard it you want more, more, more.
OLD MP3s http://dark.gothic.ru/dvar/englishmusic.htm
~review by Mick Mercer
We all need some outright loveliness in our lives from time to time and given that this is an EP of five exquisite numbers, so what better way to do it than Portugal’s Dwelling? Three of the songs are in English, so be not afeared of this divinely smooth digipiack crammed with modest brilliance. It’s a few years old now, but serves as a wonderful pre-‘Humana’ introduction.
As with many observing traditional aesthetics the music is of the lightest quality, as ‘A Gaze Of Innocence’ demonstrates immediately with ravishingly attractive classical acoustic that has a light, seamless touch and although the song is beautifully slow it has robust vocals offering a touching snapshot of innocence, albeit somewhat oblique. It isn’t often you get strangely contented acoustic music, with a sweet violin involved which finally thickens behind a more swift end. It isn’t folky either, so don’t fret on that score!
‘ Dear Blossom’ has more gently quavering vocals and lightly tumbling bass, which gives them added shape as the two guitars and violin sway and interweave constantly. I have no idea what they’re on about, but it’s delicate as it unfolds, and then they just up things slightly with ‘Trivial Yet Profound.’ The violin saws niftily behind a strong central vocal and the acoustic runs like a spirited stream in quite a playful little burst.
‘A Danca (Tecendo o Feitico)’ is much deeper, with stunning guitar flow and sorrowful violin accompanying vocals drenched in reflective emotion. This is stunning, and then it closes on ‘Rain’, a mellow instrumental where darker violin shading and slower, lower guitar allows introspection without descending to deep melancholia.
They’re closest in spirit to Collection D’arnell-Andrea, which should make your ears tingle. What’s unusual is they’re always able to maintain their gentility without being ethereal in the manner you might expect, as they have their own stance and style.
Earth Loop Recall
~reviewed by Goat
I wanted very much to like this CD because it’s so well executed, but the problem is, it covers territory that has been so nauseatingly overdone in past years, I just can’t. Nine Inch Nails. V.A.S.T. Those two bands were the high point of this sound. Everything else begins to sound derivative.
Being that this CD is so very well executed, I do hope this band will stick it out until they’re able to find a sound that is more completely their own. The last four or so songs on this disc hint at what that sound might be like.
3.) Petra Lena
4.) Please Stop Hurting Me
5.) Slowly Going Under
6.) Let Yourself
7.) Wake Up Shaking
8.) Optimism Creeping In
9.) Like Machines
10.) Remember Me
Wasp Factory Recordings:
The Deluge of Soundtracks and Other Voices From the World's Silent Majority
~reviewed by Goat
Not a bad outing for experimental noise ambience. The overall atmosphere is appropriately haunting, yet at times dallying and serendipitous. This playing of dark ominous sounds and bright, bouncy sounds against each other is curiously refreshing. There are moments when the recordings seem to lose focus and the listening sensation is akin to watching a windup toy stuck in a corner. Some of the songs seem not to be completed, and end agonizingly short. It seems to me the work would have been more wholly enjoyable if they’d gone with less songs and developed a few of them more painstakingly.
Overall though, it’s a satisfying ambient experience, full of great variances of texture and intrigue. In spite of the shortfalls, I do recommend it.
1.) Afterbirth part
2.) Rotary Bug
3.) Afterbirth part 1
4.) Micro Calliope
6.) Hum Width
7.) Kill the Wabbit
9.) Lizard Special
10.) Polymorphic Trickster
12.) Madwhale's Bass Car
13.) Rubber Baby Bubble Bumpkin
19.) Guitar Log
20.) Molten Rock
...a million empty lives
~reviewed by Goat
An interesting amalgam of sounds. 80s new wave vocals, distortion, noise, 90s industrial chugging, metal riff brutality and techno beats. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s damned annoying. The entire disc vacillates between the two. I’m keeping it though, because I feel that to create such a combination of sounds at all was an act of bravery I can’t help but admire.
10.) Remember Di'Anno
11.) Ribbons Of Mercy / Tried / Nothing - (Radio Edit, Radio Edit)
HOUSE OF MIND (Pandaimonium)
~review by Mick Mercer
There is one stereotype we have all seen come true fairly often within Goth, and that is the German band singing in English who take on an unnaturally stern disposition, as though the softer inclines of delivery are a battle yet to be won, and The Escape are firmly entrenched in this situation. This actually gives them a weird appeal because while some lyrics are perfectly natural, having a man almost snap them out, as though highly indignant rather than raising hypothetical points, is as dramatic in itself as the nature of Goth. And that makes me laugh.
The Escape have been going ages and I trust are highly respected in Germany? Their old classically trained singer has gone but is replaced by Ingo, who has been there since the start of the band. He carries an unwieldy banner, waving it demonstrably, and sometimes curling up inside it like a blubbing big baby. It is emotional, questioning rock of the Gothic variety with a formula you soon understand, lyrics with which you’ll probably empathise, as this isn’t any ego-fest, and it has guitars which have come to give you a hard time. In short, a feisty bastard, and a good one.
I particularly enjoyed the accidental trauma the vocals bear in the second track, ‘Believe’. “This life was made for living, to decide what we are giving, it seems the choice is easy, be the liar nor the sheep?” Or is that lion? I couldn’t tell. Either way, they should have the words checked by someone else first. With the constantly prodding guitar, and vocals stamping the emphasis hard at the end of lines, followed immediately by a fresh surge of guitar, means it’s constantly lively, allowing him to come back with, “Why are you so proud of hurting me? You will keep the deeper scar. There are mirrors all around, you don’t know who you are.” It works well in this sizzling song, but in such a professorial lament it also has a twinge of demented humour. (Think Arnie in Terminator mode, reading Wordsworth aloud.)
They bring in a lighter chorus for ‘Falling’ providing simple variety, but with a similar lyrical them of regret, with subtle use of guitar, and then in the title track you get a reflective sense of isolation at first, then of someone seeing home as sanctuary, but also castigating those who take no interest in the outside world. In ‘Stranded’ he shows what a fine voice he posses, working with the piano on a strangely persuasive ballad, despite the widdling metal solo. ‘The End Of Days’ has a nice swaying rhythm, showing how they once came from an electronic bias, but with lunging, desperate guitar to sauce it all up a touch, and when the barking vocal style comes in it’s like Faith No More, I kid you not! And that can only be a good thing.
‘Flames’ is also a touchy subject for a German, being about war, but made quite touching, ‘My Sister Devil Angel’ is a beautiful acoustic stroll with rather ugly vocals considering the intention of the words. ‘Coming Home’ is frilly, romping Gawf. (Don’t forget the hats and leather coats.) ‘I Will Follow’ is deeper and cooler, with a staggered sound, complete with creepy squeaking and a forceful vocal display, scooping you up and carrying along. It has that pull, regardless what he’s on about. It’s more emotion and setting pain aide to follow your heart. Then ‘Nell’ starts all horror samples and a sense of whispering mystery before he stalks us with that big dark voice and the special mood vanishes but there’s still a nice moody story unfolding crisply over restless guitar and chilly synth, plus a bleepy remix of ‘Believe’ to send us away happy dolts.
Sometimes traditional things are all you need, and this is wonderful.
Between the Devil...
~reviewed by Brian Parker
Most StarVox readers will immediately compare Fixmer/McCarthy’s output to that of Douglas McCarthy’s other famous project, Nitzer Ebb. One of the first bands to popularize a style of music we might now label EBM or industrial dance, their long shadow still stretches over any subculture where electronic music plays a part.
So let’s get this out of the way: this isn’t Nitzer Ebb. Terence Fixmer’s online biography professes fandom (for them and other EBM acts like Front 242, The Klinik, and DAF), and the influence is there, but what you have is a strange mix of retro sounds and samples with more modern techno sensibilities.
Taken on it own, Between the Devil... is not a bad album, better than a lot of music in the genre. But I can’t help but come to this with higher expectations—and end up disappointed. The stabbing synths just don’t have quite as much attitude as I’d like; the variety of sounds isn’t quite enough to save it from sounding repetitive at points. McCarthy’s voice is strong, but his lyrics generally uninspired or even horrifyingly bad: I can only hope that “Spinner” is a piss take on goths and not serious in any way, with its echo chamber effects and lines like “the sun drips down like oozing pus.”
The album works best as an homage to classic sounds, and you can pick out some high points like singles “Freefall,” “Destroy,” and “Through A Screen.” The failure to include the 12” promo remixes of “Freefall” and “Through a Screen” by fellow Metropolis hitmakers Covenant and VNV Nation seems an odd decision. I’m also surprised that the whole thing didn’t sound better mastered; I wouldn’t call it “muddy,” and perhaps it’s intentional, but I expected a cleaner, more slickly produced sound.
“I Run” has some fun with samples, and if you can approach the lyrics with a sense of humor you’ll get a laugh out of “Spinner,” “Nut Split,” and “Tight Fit.” But the whole is less than the sum of its parts when the novelty of the spiky analogue synth lines and McCarthy’s voice begin to sound a little repetitive and dated. Although I don’t mind recommending this album for a unique retro sound, don’t expect a classic.
Tracks: Freefall; Come Inside; Splitter; Through a Screen; I Run; By Any Other Name; You Don't Know Me; Tight Fit; Destroy; Nutsplit; Spinner; You Want It
Fixmer/McCarthy is Terence Fixmer (Music) and Douglas McCarthy (Vocals and Lyrics)
Faith & The Muse
The Burning Season (Metropolis Records)
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
I am an admitted hard core fan of this band, so from my perspective, it just isn't possible for them to create a dud. While some of the tracks have a decided edge similar to the heyday of Strange Boutique, listeners are also afforded with a harder lyrical style, unlike what they have created before.
Been through a heartbreak?
Pissed off at the world? Disgusted by many social issues of the day? The
Burning Season is ripe for your listening pleasure then. Monica Richards
admonishes us that "time to show some sharper teeth, time to grow thicker
In a nutshell, we are taken away from the wanderlust midnight reverie of yesteryears Goth music and brought towards an edgier and more enforced self introspection than ever before.
Throughout it all, Richards croons with such delightful exotic cadences that are amply punctuated by the flawless guitar of William Faith.
As underground legends, Faith
& The Muse have seen and heard styles come and go. Throughout it all,
they always seemed to know what the pulse beat of the public sentiment
may be at the time of any particular release. The Burning Season is
timely as it is a pivotal landmark work for the band that should garner
them even more fans than ever before.
Harder tracks with a kick are "Bait & Switch" while "Boudiccea" drowns us with the luscious guitar chords only William Faith is able to play. The Burning Season has a bit of a quieter reverie coupled with interesting dark percussion that is at once club friendly as it is introspective.
When we look back over the past few years of underground music, The Burning Season will undoubtedly be heralded as one of the most important releases of this era.
Bait & Switch
The Burning Season
Whispered In Your Ear
Gone To Ground
In The Amber Room
Failure To Thrive
Metropolis Records: http://www.metropolis-records.com/
Shaper and Mechanist (Artoffact Records)
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola
While Metropolis Records has inundated the market with top of the line electronic music, Art of Fact has been snapping at their heals with some of the most prestigious talent waiting to be discovered on a massive global scale.
Headscan is one such band that evolves beyond the typical cookie cutter “oontz” beat that we have been trained to anticipate. Here, we have a more futuristic rendition of the electronic dance music of tomorrow, replete with the appropriate blips and squeaks of a mechanized society gone out of control.
Clubs in larger cities may find this geared to their headset than those who are stuck out in the backwoods and three years behind the musical curve. Headscan’s Shaper and Mechanist is up to the minute and beyond, and as such, may take a few listens to get with the groove for dancing. It isn’t that the music is unapproachable, on the contrary. It just incorporates so many effects and sounds that are new and draws them into a collective heap that would fit equally well in a science fiction soundtrack as much as they would in a club setting.
Unlike most of the electronic music out there today, the male vocals are done rather well, with just enough seductiveness in parts to seduce the listener to push the button on repeat play time and again.
Once we get past the auditory feast, we are then thrust into the body of lyrics that create a man as machine and machine as man type of sentiment. They paint a cold stark future world where emotions are complications that seemingly get in the way of living out our lives. In spite of this stoicism, they are delivered with a punctuation that is part statement, part query, and part introspection.
Keep your eyes out for this
release as it is ahead of its time!
Body of Memory
Vacuum Tube (Dan Xue guest vocalist)
TO KILL A KING (Hungry Lucy)
~review by Mick Mercer
There are sometimes strange records which impress enormously and yet leave one cold, simply because it isn’t the right sort of feel, the required type of stillness and darkness intertwined, and this is one of those. With Triphop lineage fully established, with a reputation for stripped down sumptuous offerings, and with a press release revealing some deaf reviewers have compared them to Lamb, this is a record which will please many, but not this Mick.
Initially I loved the opening tracks for their easy charm and deep pools of dour sentiment, but when nothing came along immediately after three or four songs to shake the rotting apples from the interestingly shaped but withered tree, I soon became bored and faintly irritable, as I very rarely go for still life. For anyone else who admires beautifully crafted songs where the music and voice share a central harmonious belief in simmering, quivering, pastel-coated angst, this is a real gem of a record. Think Tori Amos without true horror. Think of a delicate but firmly rounded voice and songs confident enough in their composition to be as slow as possible and you have a spectacular success, which this is.
It’s the same form of elegant, mature electronica which Madonna was wisely enticed to adopt for her ‘Ray Of Light’ dramas, with a lot less bass and percussion patented by stern librarians. Poignant piano, gauzy vocals, whispering synth, and nagging commercial clout behind the vocals in certain songs. Snatches of lyrics can be visually evocative, although the spoken male passages just seem like a sop to his ego rather than valid contributions, and overall a very ordered splendour prevails. So sod my need for direct or tangled mischief, and consider whether you like to relax in the still beating heart of a sensitive serenity and this could blow you away, you light as a feather person, you.
This really is a consistently beautiful album throughout, and that gives it added allure, because while I would avoid it because of the lack of dynamics, it means that for someone who adores this approach you get to bathe for prolonged satisfaction.
HISTORY OF GUNS
WHITBY PROMO (Liquid Len Records)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
You know there was a time when musical individuality was recognised for what it was and respected, even if it didn’t do anything for the band responsible. That was back in the 80’s, of course, when the independent scene was alive with burning lines of adventure stretching out towards every until-then dark horizons, while the charts were full of shite that were the logical end result of Major Label Linear Thinking. (80s start with New Wave, then grows successively weaker in that stylistical direction until there was no substance left.) And today we are virtually at Ground Zero because the music scene is on its knees and everything is almost cold to the touch.
Take History Of Guns as a fine example. Why am I reviewing this, if not to interest you in a band you may not already have tried? Because they stand to one side of most British bands in the way they are doing things. Because the simplistic mush a lot of even the credible independent labels release under the auspices of electro, electronic and Industrial music is in fact jaded toss of the highest order which no self-respecting Indie label in the 80’s would even have tolerated the notion of releasing, let alone actually putting the records out!
Standards today are mind-numbingly low. I can count on the fingers of just two hands the number of great labels around, and those fingers feel numb themselves. We are looking at a time where individual bands must take on creating their own work and trying to reach people, because labels can’t do it for them, and we all know that people are taking very little notice, when there is so much around to sample and the cheapest option is to ignore anything demanding, because the soft option is the most relaxing. And it makes me puke.
I’ve been listening to some bootlegs today from a time when society was so grim that Punk came out of it (music hardly being the only catalyst for that life-changing scene), and hearing those songs still has the pull it did then, where something like barbed wire pulls taut around your stomach. Music which had fire, and determination, and turned a defiant light on inside your mind, not the flagrant drivel so many bands are just aimlessly tossing out today as those their gracious gestures in letting us hear it is somehow deserving of our gratitude.
The truly great bands make music because they have to and the one guiding principle, and most obvious signpost to quality, is that you can tell they really couldn’t give a fuck about whether or not it sounds close to what might be seen as an accessible scene, which might help them ‘get on’. History Of Guns sound like geniuses of sound turned inside out, and if you haven’t read my previous reviews of them then this one certainly isn’t going to help.
Unlike every other band in the UK I have reviewed in the last few years they don’t simply have a refreshingly individual take on something, offering a slightly new perspective. They are like musical rights activists who have gone in and sabotaged sonic principles, until they are sure that what they have taken from the past suits their purposes and has completed an evil prototype they have designed which they are now turning on the populace.
The problem is, unfortunately, that most people under the age of 30 today are too fucking deaf to care, or to hear. We are going through times were the average audience is so average it barely deserves attempts made to inspire it to try something new, because it’s simply got to have some slab of electro remix which some dunderheaded fop has created, or another gruelling encounter with some ludicrously infantile huffy rock bombast past its sell by date. Growing up in a time of blandness has left so many people so easily sated by high-energy piss. And yes, I am talking about the independent scene, where things are supposed to be ‘underground’, and alternative, but where there are increasing signs that blandness is more than an acquired taste of the mentally deranged.
You want to know what this record is like? Well go and e-mail them for it at firstname.lastname@example.org as it is free, and I’m telling you that because it is worth doing.
If you don’t even try just staple a sign to your head saying WANKER, and then at least everyone else’s suspicions can be easily confirmed.
And no, I’m not angry. It’s just been one of those days…..
HISTORY OF GUNS
ENOUGH IS TOO MUCH (The Liquid Lens Recording Company)
~review by Mick Mercer
The way they described this ‘lost’ (until they moved a piece of paper and found it again) album in the interview I did you’d have thought listening to this would be like watching Barbara Cartland lapdancing. It was a record, supposedly, which made them shudder and yet, it all sounds pretty good and explains where they came from.
Okay so ‘ Weevil’ is the irritating slicing technique, and why the grand design of ‘Devastation Remains’ needed to go beyond 3.30 is a mystery to one and all, when it was so good in its pained but restrained manner, but overall this collections hangs together as well as any furtive gang could. ‘Floods Back’ has those circus drums and the phased wooziness with guitar and rhythm jostling the drowning vocals. ‘Ode To The Succubus’ has brilliantly malign percussion with a sweet melody hanging on the barbed wire, ‘Random Death Bag (Vs.1)’ highlights the old Sex Fiend or Pop Group posters which might have been on their early teenage walls, and the rave residue is swiftly cleared up in ‘Best Of Me Two Thousand.’
There could be a spoken turd album if they willed it, with ‘Plain X/Requeim’ sliding along on wispy synth and agile beats, the rascal that is ‘Little Miss Suicide’ still demands attention, ‘I Am Defective’ is grubbily hypnotic, with superb beats and ‘Meat On Slab’ has a fine cinematic opening, then falls apart like a limited edition PIL sickbag.
If you know anyone who loves Faithless you ought to sneak this into one of their CD cases. They’ll not notice immediately, then they will be astonished, assuming you always listen to rubbish.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is only for diehard fans. This is a more than decent record. It is indecently adventurous.
HISTORY OF GUNS
STUFF THE TURKEY (Promo thing-ish)
~review by Mick Mercer
This was waiting for me when I got home after a long Xmas at Lynda’s, and maybe it’s the year’s earliest promo, set for a 2005 festive launch? Given that History Of Guns have some tangible empathic similarities to the Eighties Fiends in terms of intensity and breadth of expression it isn’t unsurprising that their sense of humour lies in the same direction, talking something unwholesome, silly and wildly enjoyable, and making it such a jangling, oscillating sonic mudslide you can’t tell if they’re doing as remix or an impersonation with knobs on.
“Enjoy this Christmas,” goes the perennial message, “it might be your last.” Rhythm, with the exception of an out of place, burnished bass just stumbles onwards in the familiar lurching pattern, and the beat is a relentless, but never unforgiving. (The Fiends always had softness lying in wait.) Electronic pretties take wing and fly in teasing circles and it ends quickly.
A neat idea, then, with two versions, the second more gurgling, with symphonic mayhem as a side order, but as to why it exists, I have no idea, except that it’s a good laugh, which at this time of morbidity is more than enough reason, albeit accidental.
Hanzyl Und Gretyl
~review by Jyri Glynn
I have had the pleasure of seeing Hanzel Und Gretyl a few times now and with each show I must admit I’ve been thoroughly impressed with their live execution. This last time I was able to catch them as the opening act for Ministry and truth be told they gave ol’ Jorgensen and his crew a run for their money!
HUGs latest album, Scheissmessiah is a very hard-hitting, guitar driven release. None of the earlier hints of electronics HUG fans are accustomed to hearing are present on this one. It’s fast, hard, and angry folks! Very angry!
Sarcastic samples of Handel’s Messiah; as well as various other mocking and anti-religious themes can be unearthed throughout Scheissmessiah. Those humorous overtones play great counterpoint to all the angst the album contains. But then this is nothing new from the pseudo-German duo. Yes, its true, despite the ever present German lyrics found on every HUG album, they are from New York, not the Motherland.
Hanzel und Gretyl did manage to get themselves banned from Germany with the mocking and yet misunderstood lyrics of their previous release, Uber Alles. But of course this is old news to any HUG fans. With the Scheissmessiah release, they have targeted the Right Wing, Christian base, citing lyrics that incorporate themes of heaven and hell, Dante’s Inferno, and the previously mentioned Handel’s Messiah.
Musically, the album is a bit repetitious for my taste and I frankly miss the more electronic aspects I came to appreciate from the duo. However, as always, I do enjoy the impressive shock factor of Loopy’s female-Klingon sounding vocals. The guitar riffs are talented and imaginative reminding listeners of guitar-based industrial acts such as the aforementioned Ministry.
If you enjoy hard hitting, guitar based industrial music I highly recommend you give Scheissmessiah a listen.
Metropolis Records: http://www.metropolis-records.com
In Strict Confidence
Seven Lives EP
~reviewed by Brian Parker
Seven Lives is perhaps an unusual choice for a single; one of the slower tracks from the Holy album, it also featured guest vocals and lyrics. But In Strict Confidence has a history of incorporating guest artists to form an artistic whole, and this EP attains the loftiest goal of a single: by recontextualizing the music with remixes and a pile of b-sides, it creates an artistic experience surpassing that of the track alone or on the album.
Before you even get the CD in the player, you’ll notice the attention to art direction and packaging. The nun featured in the artwork of Holy and previous single “Babylon” appears on the cover as a seven-armed knife-wielding goddess. The six-sided fold-out digipack with rounded corners is unique, but all the colors are washed-out browns matching the album.
The EP kicks off with an extended version of the track to showcase the raw material. Although slow for a dance track, with understated percussion, a catchy synth line dominates. Vocals trade off between the lightly-distorted vocals of the band and those of guest Ion Javelin; a two-male duet is unusual in the genre, and it really works, mixing sweetness with a more aggressive edge. The English lyrics (In Strict Confidence use both English and their native German for different songs) are catchy—you’ll find yourself singing along—but don’t offer anything profound. There are plenty of guitar hooks rounding the whole thing out, but the guitar is kept low in the mix. Taken as a whole, it has a professional, well-balanced sound you’d expect from a major label act.
The biggest misstep the EP takes is including the “clubmix” as the second track. Stripped of a lot of its character, the emphasis of an exotic string line and some studio tricks don’t make up for what’s lost. The tempo is increased and the structure is more DJ-friendly, but I expect most DJ’s will skip to one of the other mixes anyway.
All the mixes are very faithful to the original, offering shades and perspectives on the original rather than entirely re-written versions. De/Vision offers a surprisingly tripped-out version, based on unusual effects, without sacrificing the structure of the original. Monozelle—who are also credited with the artwork—place more emphasis on the percussion and heavy metal guitar licks. Tenth-Grade Me would throw the two-finger “devil horns” in approval, I’m sure. But it’s synthpop act Iris who steal the show—they bring their pop sensibility with a head-bobbing synth line and playful punch on the guitars, without demasculating the track.
A pile of b-sides turn the EP into a mini-album. Hardly throwaways, these sound better than some bands’ album tracks. “Open Skies” gives us a male-female duet over a keyboard-heavy uptempo track with synthesized cello; “Walking Shadows” competes for dancefloor attention with a romp through formula EBM territory. “Der Teufel” and “Slowmotion” might sound a bit more like filler, but only because they are more meditative “audio sculptures” rather than for lack of craft.
All this alone would seal the deal, But Wait!-- There’s More!-- with two remixes of Holy’s “No Love Will Heal” (by Lucas Boysen and The Cruxshadows) and a couple of Hecq remixes that are probably outtakes from Holy: The Hecq Destruxxion (a version of Holy remixed, beginning to end, by Hecq). Of the latter, neither is quite as good as the versions that made it to the remixed album, but you get some interesting (and entirely different) takes on “Eye of Heaven” and “Babylon,” both with a little bit of trip-hop flair. Lucas Boysen transforms “No Love Will Heal” into a catchy dance track that would sound great mixed into a club set, but comes off a little stale in context. The Cruxshadows close the EP with a version that seems structured for clubs, balancing heavy percussion with synths and a nice piano line, and—in a “love it or hate it” move—adds vocalist Rogue. From a band known for being over-the-top with everything, his backing vocals are restrained enough to work, but his monologue feels a little tacked-on (perhaps tack-y if you really like the original). Nonetheless, it’s a gutsy move.
Despite any problems, this is monster of an EP (at 78:30 running time), and it’s pretty easy to overlook flaws as a result. Chop out any tracks you don’t like and you should still have an hour of great music, more than you’ll get from many more expensive full-length albums.
Tracks: Seven Lives (extended version); Seven Lives (clubmix by Olaf Wollschlager); Open Skies; Seven Lives (de/vision remix by De/Vision feat. Telekommander); Eye of Heaven (silversilence by Hecq); Der Teufel; Walking Shadows; Slowmotion; No Love Will Heal (lucas boysen remix); Seven Lives (monozelle remix by ingo romling); Seven Lives (iris remix); Babylon (drumgrip III by Hecq); No Love Will Heal (The Cruxshadows remix)
In Strict Confidence is Dennis Ostermann, Jorg Schelte, Stefan Vesper, and Antje Schulz. “Seven Lives” lyrics by Inga Gottsche and featuring vocals by Ion Javelin.
In Strict Confidence website: http://www.instrictconfidence.de
~reviewed by Goat
Fans of Juno Reactor will not be disappointed. The album begins with the beautifully constructed “Conquistador” series. A warm breeze builds through these songs which becomes more energetic as it progresses; by the third song when Conquistador series is completed, this album is amped, pumped, and ready for a fight. It never lets up the whole way through. Punching bass, exotic rhythms and melodies, and pure unrelenting energy.
Layers upon layers of sound, ecstasy, and bludgeoning fury. This is what I count on from Juno Reactor, and this is what they have once again delivered. I love the crisp hard edge that shifts and fluxes through the organic splatters and thrums; a delicacy of shimmering sonances and reflecting textures, this album is a masterpiece of chiaroscuro.
For those curious of what the liner notes’ “ Mors stupebit et natura cum resurget creatura huic ergo parce deus” means, it’s “Death and nature will be astounded, when all creation rises again. Spare us by your mercy, Lord.” The full text can be found in any book which contains beloved Catholic hymns, as this one is best known as “The Dis Irae” and also appears in Mozart’s Requiem. It is traditionally sung at the Requiem Mass; a mass said for the repose of the deceased.
1. Conquistador part 1
2. Conquistador part 2
4. War Dogs
5. Mona Lisa Overdrive
7. Mutant Message
8. Angels and Men
On Metropolis Records:
CONSUMATE (Cadiz Music)
~review by Mick Mercer
"This is way beyond anything we've done to date. One thousand per cent more ambitious. We're throwing down the gauntlet for the whole underground. We can compete in production terms with the big major label bands and the European scene and also keep our identity. This is arguably the best and undeniably the most professional sounding album to come from the UK Goth / industrial underground to date as far as I'm concerned."
Well, Rikky’s no shrinking violet is he? He’ll happily make statements which leave him no option other than to back them up, but in Consumate they’ve certainly created something on a melodic/sonic par with Ministry or NIN, so sound-wise he’s spot on, although what’s so important about being ’the most professional sounding album’ mystifies me, and hopefully always will. (Chris Rea sounds ‘professional’.)
‘Conspiracy Theory’ is bold, building cunningly, before the chorus adds flesh to its sinewy grace, with the vocals just quivery enough not to be over the top. The rhythm is cautious but full of possibility, and the twinkling keyboards, which make their presence felt throughout this record, make it all work beautifully. This, the temperate side of Industrial material, is a great opener.
And then, after the sampled ‘Five Minute Freeview’, it gets better. Doing what Danzig never had the wit to manage, ‘I Know What You Want’, a song vicars nationwide are celebrating as their new anthem, is rough, rifftastic nonsense of unbridled mania, as the song pounds dementedly in a way that you know will make it a classic live joust. I can’t actually make many accurate comparisons through never having been between a Killing Miranda album and a hard place, but I’m happy to report that often it’s like Billy Idol songs being played by giant robot owls. Learned use of space, depth and texture allow Rikky to live up to his name, which he does with some scandalously abrasive lyrics.
They’re employing a very efficient method of keeping everything lively. ‘I Know What You Want’ seeps in on synth squirts and a quickening heartbeat then skitters about on glowing guitar before cutting back to vocals which are one of the few Goth touches, as in sensitivity, before the guitar hacks and slashes again, as the drums keep pushing you along. ‘No More Love Songs’ has a fantastic big 70’s lolloping glam beat and 80’s keyboard winding around the chiselled riffs, and some dire lyrics. It’s playful, pomp-pop the way it turns and sneers, and it sounds like a chart wrecker it’s that wilfully sneaky.
‘Disposable’ flaunts a seething bass rumble and lightly grim death drums, with the guitar welded onto that rhythm, as the vocals spread everywhere. This tight change of sound and ability to maintain the seismic flow is excellent, although the way guitar then needs to stand out touches is what shall I say? Steely? Alloyed to that, the vocals are one step away from being histrionic. It also ends like a bombastic version of early 70’s Alice Cooper. ‘Saint Of Blasphemy’ is just a noise/sample sliver, and then ‘Bastard/Heretic’ takes the Death route again with mean, immoveable riffing and the keyboards adds a touch of colour behind mildly dramatic vocals, until he hurls the title out over a bristling barbed wire chorus.
The final countdown? Well, there’s ‘Boy Meets Gun’ for a start. This is the one track which just drifts by, although the lyrics have far more impact, but you can almost imagine Richie Sambora joining them onstage for a bit of guitar slinging. ‘Shadow Over Innsmouth’ is another brief distraction, and they flay you alive with the closer ‘Enter The Dagon’ with a spookier thread snaking behind more clenched vocals. This soon walks into a barrage of guitar and stentorian rasping, as an army of Warhammer enthusiasts raise their flagons high. There are lots of lovely touches in this which are seriously attractive, and it’s got a real density to it which appeals, so it’s a shame to see such a bludgeoning guitar dominating, but it’s still an exciting, brainless ending. Then you get a bonus track complete with spit-roast guitar solo and sounding like The Sisters doused in phosphorous.
So, ‘crossing over’. It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? When one tires of being a stroppy fish in a quiet, placid backwater, and wants to flex muscles and go on a musical rampage? There’s many known entities within the Goth scene who could have run gloriously through Indie territory (well, before the media vanished in a black hole), or gone this route and embraced the Terroriser and Kerrangg audience as potential allies, just as those magazines do look for bands within the Goth and Industrial areas too.
The important thing is that if it is to be done, allowing a band to be recognised by others outside of where they start, it had to be done in a dignified manner, and nothing displayed here will shock or appal existing KM fans, but should easily attract attention from elsewhere. Sometimes it’s too simple lyrically for its own good, but then I daresay half of their intended audience have little time for syllables, so I’d say it’s mission accomplished.
The best album to emerge? Not to these ears, no, but it is a big, noisy bastard with plenty to recommend it, and it does have more chance to get somewhere than any Goth-related band in the UK has achieved since Rosetta Stone, and that’s such a long time ago! Go to their site and download the delightfully brutish ‘Conspiracy Theory’, which will reveal just how good this is, and whether it sits well with you.
LA MAMOYNIA (Die Kraft)
~review by Mick Mercer
This is one those records which features a form of music I am no longer interested in but was generally attracted to and able to with stand during the late 70’s early 80’s when Indie exploded out of Punk, and early electronic bands such as The Human League and Vie Versa mixed with likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Section 25 in giving you a right royal headache with all their bellowing and harsh music. La Mamoynia are logical descents of that and have more delicate but forceful synth patterns which shoves into areas where Industrial and Electro mix, but with more artistic vocals. This isn’t generic at all, and has a pulsing indie excitement to it which is highly refreshing.
‘Decadence’ has bleepy spots
and pauses and clattering bells to heighten the mood, but mainly a filthy
ditch which they run along, with the singer wailing heroically. It’s great.
‘There is Only Vanity’ is perkier and warped, with a drunken dance heart
and a shattered head, and Dimitris Triantafyllou has a harsh staccato delivery
which reminds me of Nitzer Ebb crossed with ‘Woman’s Own era Danse Society.
Then the slower ‘To Lyknisma’ which shows how they have a musky, hypnotic
musical allure, because they can suck you in to this gently gloom and it
has wonderfully deep bass/keyboard musings and some wonderful guitar touches.
‘Walk In The Silence’ is almost poppy, if mentally damaged, and for some reason no-one else in the band told Dimitris that during the chorus his vocals become a tuneless annoyance. He ought to consider which singing styles suit him and which reflect badly on what he’s singing or what they are all doing. ‘Now The Rain Will Fall’ has a scratchy, hissing musical opening which is good, but fairly slapdash singing again, before ‘Ta Macheria Mou’ ticks, rattles, splashes and evolves into something quite beautiful, as the drums and keyboards are majestic, and Dimitris is back on sharper form with his jabbing delivery. It has a wonderful dark mood and impresses more with every hearing. A truly great song.
‘I Anixi Emoraghi’ sees them chitterling and chattering and the guitar bouncing in the background before a turbo-charged droning mess, ‘Ola Gri’ is lopsided, shadowy drama, then they cover Fad Gadget’s ‘Ricky’s Hand’ which also shows you what they’re about. It’s a lighter version than I’d have expected, and sounds weirdly Punky. ‘I Anixi Emoragi II’ is another mess.
I don’t think it’s even close to how good they will become if they stay together, and the impressive moments far outweigh the bumbling parts. If you like that side of electronics make a point of checking them out.
~review by Uncle Nemesis
A lavishly packaged compilation album here, bringing together almost 25 years of Laibach tunes, from Brat Moj of 1985 to Tanz Mit Laibach in 2003. Laibach, of course, industrial conceptualists par excellence, have made a career out of wryly sardonic commentaries on ideologies, political systems, economics and nationhood - all wrapped up in arcane art, set to grandiose, driving music, and shot through with a sense of humour so deadpan you’re never quite sure when, or even if, you’re supposed to laugh.
All of which might seem ludicrously pretentious - after all, when it comes right down to it, aren’t Laibach just another pop group? But maybe the band’s apparently wilfully obscure mash-up of art ‘n’ politics makes more sense when you consider that they first emerged in the surreal, fragmented craziness of post-Tito Yugoslavia, that swirl of liberal and repressive contradictions, and that during their twenty-odd year career they’ve witnessed the map of Europe being re-drawn around them. Their home state of Slovenia only became an independent country in 1991, after many centuries of existence as part of one empire or another; before, in more recent times, being carved up by invading Nazis and then re-invented as a Communist republic. When you have that kind of history behind you, when you’ve experienced the upheavals that go with an emerging modern nation in a historically volatile part of the planet - well, you’d hardly expect Laibach to make a career out of singing inconsequential yeah-yeah-baby pop songs, would you?
Except, of course, in a way Laibach have spent a large chunk of their career doing just that. Their cover versions of mainstream hits are legendary, and quite a few of them are here. Harmless chart-hit ditties such as Europe’s ‘Final Countdown’, Status Quo’s ‘In The Army Now’, and the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ are re-invented as sinister, brooding anthems in which the lyrics - never changed from the original - become positively threatening. An example? Listen to Queen’s ‘One Vision’, melted down and reforged as a frankly frightening Nuremburg-style rallying call, a transformation Laibach accomplished by the simple expedient of translating the lyrics into German. Listening to such words as ‘One flesh, one bone/One true religion/One voice, one hope/One real decision’ barked out, in German, in a gutteral growl over a rampaging, stadium-scale stomping beat, dear old Freddie Mercury suddenly seems like a malefic shaman in disguise. Are Laibach making a point at these moments, or are they just making a very dry joke? Are they seeking to reveal the darkness that lurks in all our hearts, the malignancy that hides behind innocence? Or are they just messing about? Naturally, the band never drop the slightest clue. Laibach, perhaps more than any other artists, require their listeners to work at all this. You listen, you decide.
There are, of course, Laibach originals here, great thundering cinemascope chants, mutant techno-slammers, and industrial-opera workouts guaranteed to make most other bands’ excursions into similar territory sound feeble by comparison. ‘Wirtschaft Ist Tot’ careers along like an invading army making the last sweep across the plain to the target city. ‘Die Liebe’ is a brutal assemblage of beats and horn-blasts, the wild hunt going out of control. Possibly the nearest Laibach come to (relatively) conventional dance music is on the remixed ‘Das Spiel Ist Aus’, a gloriously cheesey-but-cool chunk of techno-opera. Even if you don’t speak German, you’ll be singing along with the Valkyries as they let it all go on the chorus - ‘Raus! Das spiel ist aus!’ Laibach do a singalong number? You’d better believe it.
There’s a whole other CD of remixes, which, as ever, turn out to be a bit of a mixed bag. Some work, some don’t. Some tweak and enhance Laibach’s original concept; others just sound like the remixers did their standard dance-floor job on the originals. ‘Liewerk’ appears in a so-called ‘Kraftbach mix’, and does indeed sound like a bit of Kraftwerkian minimal-electro magic has collided with Laibach’s own big bastard-beat sound. ‘War - Ultraviolence meets Hitman mix’ is frankly annoying, reducing the original to the kind of gabba-by-numbers workout that has been Johnny Violent’s stock in trade for too long now. And that’s pretty much the way it goes throughout - good mixes and lame efforts, inspiration and tedium. Overall the remix CD isn’t a bad selection to dip into here and there, but personally I would have preferred more of Laibach themselves and less of the excess baggage.
Oh, and the entire package comes in the form of a hardback book which tells the story of Laibach and supposedly sheds a little light on the conceptual stuff that underpins the music: ‘Part intuitively and part systematically, Laibach set out to re-determine the coordinates of its paradoxical and increasingly alienating environment.’ Ah, so that’s what it’s all about, then. Me, I prefer Laibach as an enigma. Fortunately, this compilation captures enough of their essential strangeness to work. It’s a good place for long-standing fans to catch up, and a suitably baffling entry point for newcomers to cautiously venture in.
Das Spiel Ist Aus (iTurk remix)
Tanz Mit Laibach
Alle Gegen Alle
Wirtschaft Ist Tot
God Is God
In The Army Now
Sympathy For The Devil
Leben Heisst Leven
Geburt Einer Nation
Das Spiel Ist Aus (Ouroborots
Liewerk (3 Oktober Kraftbach mix)
Wir Tanzen Ado Hinkel (Zeta Reticula mix)
Final Countdown (Beyond the infinite Juno Reactor mix)
God Is God (Optical mix)
War (Ultraviolence meets Hitman mix)
God Is God (Diabolig mix)
Final Countdown (Mark Stent alternative mix)
Wirtschaft Ist Tot (Late night mix)
Jesus Christ Superstar (Random Logic mix)
Wirtschaft (R. Hawtin hardcore noise mix)
Brat Moj (Random Logic mix)
Smrt Za Smrt (Octex mix)
Wat (iTurk mix)
Laibach website: http://www.laibach.nsk.si
Visit Laibach at home: http://www.nskstate.com
Legendary Laibach video clip (Warning - not for the fainthearted!): http://www.rathergood.com/laibach
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
Lamb of God
Ashes of the Wake
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Remember the days when metal was about something? You know, you'd pop in a CD... er... a tape, and you'd listen to some heavy groovin' music that'd get you all worked up and angry, but angry with some kind of conscience. It's an era I'd considered long past, but Lamb of God hasn't forgotten the metal days of yore. Ashes of the Wake is all about kicking your ass and telling you how it is. The lyrics are full of one-liners that aren't particularly insightful or deep (the primary point is to kick your ass, after all. Did I mention this was in regards to ass-kicking?), but they're nevertheless made with a keen eye, for instance: "Just enough to keep it together, never enough to make it work." That's as good a way to sum up American culture as I've seen, and it's safely tucked away in a song without any particular emphasis or pretension - the lyrics are full of observations in this vein.
The music at first seems to be your standard modern hybrid metal. There are bits of thrash and hardcore and grindcore and several other styles that use words like death, black, speed, <your genre name here>core and so on. However, Lamb of God successfully takes these different elements and makes them coherent, which is more than I can say for many recent bands. More to the point, they do so in a way that makes for diverse songs with some genuinely melodious moments, intense riffs and time changes, and they even throw in bonus guest solos by Alex Skolnick and Chris Poland. The drumming mostly takes a supportive role, but every so often you'll get some crazy passage or high-speed double bass roll that keeps the rhythm alive and energetic.
The only potential downside to the CD is Randy Blythe's vocal approach. He's quite good at what he does, but for the most part he rants and yells in the same manner. Occasionally he'll throw in a crazed scream or two, so I know he's capable of more, but for the time being he seems content belting things out in a way that's sometimes repetitive, but ultimately works. Nevertheless, Ashes of the Wake is a rather remarkable album that has the added benefit of being about something. It's metal with substance, and it doesn't mess around or hold back. I had a chance to see the band perform a few years ago, and while their songwriting was somewhat weaker (at least relative to this CD), they had a real stage presence and intensity. Lamb of God is poised to take one of the top spots in current metal, and fans of other current hybrid bands like God Forbid, Candiria, or Shadows Fall definitely need to give them a listen.
01.) Laid to Rest
03.) Now You've Got Something To Die For
04.) The Faded Line
06.) Blood of the Scribe
07.) One Gun
08.) Break You
09.) What I've Become
10.) Ashes of the Wake
11.) Remorse if for the Dead
John Campbell - bass
Mark Morton - lead and rhythm guitars
Chris Adler - drums
Randy Blythe - vocals
Willie Adler - lead and rhythm guitars
AEONS (Tragick Records)
~review by Mick Mercer
Occasionally bands can impress just by the sheer ease with which their seamless compositions assume bold posture while mischievously appearing supine and quite listless. It’s the magic ingredients of slowness, articulation, and rhythmical reticulation that usually does it, and here we have a band who are very slow, very grand, without grandiloquence, and pretty damn strange without trying for enigmatic. They’re just different, close to Myssouri, but without the flashes of brilliance or robust melodies. Like a modern version of The Triffids but without the squalid drama, Legion Within are very, very tidy.
William Wilson is a very odd singer as well. People may label him a baritone all like they like but he’ll quiver as much as he quavers, as vibrato runs wild in his mouth, making the lines stretch out and ring with his charisma, although this grates on the nerves until you’re used to the fact he does keep it under control and then the more you listen the more it makes sense.
Opening with ‘Cover Me’ they set their best song seeping around you with cold bass and recurring keyboards, as Wilson slides into view. It’s noir, it’s slippery and histrionic, and utterly captivating. ‘Dream Carny’ has that queasy fairground trickiness of The Tunnel Of Love but with Jeff Wagner’s scariness. This is actually closer in tone to Andi Sex Gang, while ‘Glass Ships’ is far more conventional but for Wilson’s pert peculiarities, this time buffeted by glowing guitar. It’s a jolly song, that also verges on crazed.
‘Ghetto Dragon’ is a beautiful slow crawl with tapping percussion and lithe guitar flourishes over which precise, haunting female vocals are poured, ‘Pray’ is lightly Goth, having a touch more life to it, with the focus on the pressurised delivery of the vocals across sparse, beating backing. This leads into a jangling cover of Love & Rockets’ ‘Earth Sun Moon’ and then, weirdly, ‘The Sky Is Falling’ is virtually the same in its approach so things have merged and become still once more. Guitars low gently, everything seems dusty as if early morning light glares in your face. Then the KMFDM remix of ‘Cover Me’ highlights the simple grandeur of that song by making them seem exciting, which is almost uncouth! But that’s the way of a great song, you simply can’t ruin it, just elevate it.
It’s a shame this is a mini-album because you want more substance to make the experience truly satisfying. These are tantalising glimpses, and they’re obviously making us wait, the bastards!
Repeat after me – BASTARDS!!!!
http://www.tragickrecords.com (also worth checking out – interesting artists!)
LIVE NOT ON EVIL
NEXT TIME NAIL IT SHUT (LNOE)
~review by Mick Mercer
It is ironic I should mention Naked Raygun the other day, because I mentioned them for the first time in living memory when reviewing the debut of this band earlier this year. That ‘Lucky Stiff’ album was a mercurial bastard, pitched between post-punk grime and Fugazi-like wrath and bluster, with a shrewd, seedy humour throughout, and we get more of the same here is a slightly harder, stockier form.
‘Dead Eyes’ pins you against the wall with angry guitar and seemingly offhand vocals, but as the guitar snakes around he isn’t just spitting out careless goodbyes to an old friend, it has some edge to it, and the brief, throttling tune, complete with wayward squiggling solo, prepares you for the cheeky ‘Shooting Stars’ which highlights desperation around Hollywood. (‘I’m sure that someone cares, and I know that it’s not me.’) Like Snuff with a more serious focus, they all but thrash with variety, clarity and brutish timing.
‘Ghost In The Woods’ veers towards Goth nettles, rolling and stumbling in mired anguish and slow burnished guitar, and they sensibly maintain the mood instead of jerking into a different pace. ‘All Is Vanity’ is classic pop-punk waiting to wet itself, riffing politely and adopting expected posture which is always fine when it sounds this cool., then ‘Lost Prophet’ is weirdness, with distant mumbling and guitar noise, short and mysterious. ‘End Of Time’ staggers in with dour bass and doom-ridden lyrics, where the singer still finds time to point fingers of blame. His funeral will be an appalling affair, as thumping is heard inside the coffin. (“Oh no you don’t!”)
‘Broadway & Fulton’ is an amiable fallow spot, which doesn’t seem to have much going for it, until the guitar sprawls outwards and you can tell the earnest lyrics are heartfelt, about something. Similarly, ‘Love You To Death’ is chipper punk, but puts solidity of sound over actual impact. ‘Crown Of Souls’ is a mixture of almost Gothy Astbury-like yowling, and dour punk guitar tricks, then a mixture of phases as they lurch to an elegant end. Things perk up and pick up with ‘Never Say Die’ with bloodshot bass and a brattish friskiness, and ‘The Great Escape’ then goes for a lolloping sour rock finish with some unexpected twinges, pulling themselves in tighter for a bit of angst with dense layers, but a fairly flat ending. (There is also a video on this CD for ‘End Of Time’ somewhere but I’m not attempting that with the state my pc is in right now.)
There is a keen sense of invective lurking in their manly bosoms, and it’s only when they take their finger off the observational button that they become a bit predictable. While this may not be as dynamic as their debut, it still has far more great highs than repetitive lows, and I hope this ensures they’re on the map, so they go on to leave a fine legacy.
Legendary Pink Dots
The Whispering Wall
~review by Kevin Filan
There are lots of bands which claim to be “original;” most of them... well, AREN’T. The Legendary Pink Dots, on the other hand, are truly one-of-a-kind. In a world of cookie cutter synth bands, the Legendary Pink Dots are producing true outsider art. Like Edward Darger, the Rev. Howard Finster and Louis Wain, head Dot Edward Ka-Spel is one part visionary genius and one part endearing weirdo. The latest LPD offering, “The Whispering Wall,” continues their long tradition of unclassifiable but utterly unforgettable music.
Many Goth/Industrial musicians take their cues from Peter Murphy, Andrew Eldritch and various anonymous synth-poppers. Ka-Spel’s music is more reminiscent of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. He’s got the same gleefully twisted way of looking at the world ... and, like Barrett, the same gift for surrounding himself with talented musicians. Niels van Hoornblower’s saxophone and clarinet licks are as catchy and demented as Ka-Spel’s lyrics: they provide a sweetly weird lounge backing to “Dominic” and add an Alice-in-Wonderland strangeness to the already strange “Peek-a-Boo.”
Much Psychedelia sunk into sugary sweet tweeness, complete with unicorns and elves. The Legendary Pink Dots provide us with a truly psychedelic experience, one which touches upon both heaven and hell. Their pretty lights and flashing colors often lie alongside velvety darkness and industrial discord. “The Divide” evokes White Light/White Heat era Velvet Underground: Ka-Spel’s spoken word ramble drifts above a Silverman/Steeg sonic sculpture that would have done “Lady Godiva’s Operation” or “Sister Ray” proud. “Soft Toy” and “In Sickness and Health” also feature Phil Spector-esque Iron Walls of Sound: Ka-Spel’s quirky lyrics sparkle amidst the chaos like flowers poking out of the rust and corrosion.
If you haven’t heard the Legendary Pink Dots yet, this is a good place to start. “The Whispering Wall” is a CD which sounds like nothing else you have in your collection (unless, of course, you already own a few LPD discs)... but which will soon have you humming along. If you want to support originality in music (and if you don’t shame on you), you’ll buy this CD and everything else the Legendary Pink Dots have ever recorded.
1. Soft Toy
2. A Distant Summer
4. In Sickness and in Health
5. For Sale
6. King of a Small World
7. The Region Beyond
10. The Divide
11. Sunken Pleasure/Rising Pleasure/No Walls, No Strings
The Silverman: keyboards
Edward Ka-Spel: voice, keyboards
Erik Drost: guitar
Niels van Hoornblower: saxophone, clarinet
Raymond Steeg: sound wizardry
~review by Mick Mercer
One of the ironies of Goth is that for all its richly deserved reputation for highly artistic content it always seems bands making genuinely artistic music appeal to ‘purists’ only. The majority look on askance from inside wobbling boots, wondering where the treated vocals are, positively mystified at the lack of insipid bleepy backing. The neo-classical beauty of some bands, the intense and varied Ethereal projects, the ‘historical’ subtleties all probably charm the basically invisible crossover audience of Goth and Indie most.
Lupercalia certainly belong with a label like Equilibrium, who put quality first and foremost, for they take their subject seriously, recreating elements of medieval Italian music but suckling it forwards through other times and areas of Ethereal music which can be made on authentic instruments, or reconstructed accurately on synths. All you need then is an exceptional vocal talent, or it would all go horribly wrong.
Lupercalia are two people, with help from a couple of friends live. Claudia Florio is the voice, and Riccardo Prencipe is the classical guitarist who admits freely to ‘orchestral synth’ plus the all but obligatory dulcimer. They operate, to be crass, within the same area as Ataraxia, but don’t even try for the surreal majesty and modern mystery which Ataraxia conjure up. Lupercalia take the past and do new music which reflects those times but pours the music into more reflective patterns than they originally enjoyed.
This is a beautiful record, but strange. Claudia almost has too much vocal power, and there’s a problem with that, which you can notice immediately. Musically it is long and involved, with many subtle changes; picaresque guitar and violin, slowly tinkling piano and these strong, gradually controlled, soaring vocals. Vibrant, dramatic and every so slightly daunting, this makes for a highly accomplished, stylish whole. ‘Tribe’ is an immediate success, followed by ‘Ouroboros’ is bigger, with spookily delayed natural singing, bleak percussion and twittering strings. The breathing space comes with guitar and drums, but the vocals become increasingly fiery.
The vinegary ‘Aegypto Ad Sicilian’ has more guitar input and clip-clopping drums, where open harmonics merge with sounds of the sea, where the jaunty swirls are close to a reel, but for the flowing, enigmatic curves and having such a wild instrumental is good for them. The mixture of horses, dogs and birdsong in the background of ‘Personent Hodie’ presents us with huge, sedate vocals, and that requires real power, with a slow recognisable melody. This is plain drama, and the vocals actually lose some shape when going too high, which is odd. She never softens her voice on this record, and maybe going higher is an attempt to minimise the power, because the music can’t be mixed too strongly to match her or it would seem lumpen and heavy.
‘Sub Specie Aeternitatis’ is moodier, and grandly elegant with no pomposity, as it remains simple and clear. This time the variety comes from a mad, pattering phase, some weird spoken elements and ends with slow Mediterranean guitar and we find an attempt to reign in the power of that voice. ‘Praga’ is very slow with muted guitar, and bells, ‘Rebis’ slams straight in with the high vocals, big and serious, but the song is pretty, as ‘Kundalimi’ is creepy and weird. ‘Curtis’ has some dazzling vocal flourishes which also sees the drums and guitar perking up and quivering, ending with light stomping like Italian flamenco, so the centuries are, effectively, merging.
Ghostly guitar, hurdy-gurdy bee storms, and the skipping vocals make ‘Axe’ so precise, so delicate you’re surprised when she rears up and roars some more. According to Lynda this dramatic soprano style is so sharp it may be a woman but it sounds close to known recordings of castrati! Then a touch of oratorio inside ‘Formis Melata Sanctus Filix’ is gentle but strangely gripping. They give us a Celtic thing with ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ although with Claudia’s accent it took me a while to realise this was English being sung, then they end happily haughty with ‘Pilgrim’s Chant’ which manages to be both catchy and ugly simultaneously.
An utterly magnificent record, but are you Goth enough to handle it?
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Lycosia? I think I had a great aunt who died of that.
Wait a minute, that’s not quite right. Lycosia is, in fact, a band - ‘Glam Goth Deluxe from Paris’ according to the press release. Now, having waded through much press release hyperbole in my time, I tend to take such assertions with a pinch of salt. And salt is definitely justified on this occasion. Forget the glam, forget the goth. Forget, even, the deluxe. Because on the evidence of my ears, Lycosia turn out to be a slick, polished, commercial, rock-going-on-metal band. They do what they do very well, I’ll grant ‘em that. It’s just that what they do is essentially smooth, accessible, mainstream metal, and after all the hype, that comes as a bit of a let-down.
They’ve got a big sound, all right. The guitars chug away like muscle cars revving up for a drag, the drums hammer out their rock solid battery. The vocals, a reedy rock caterwaul, emote grandly, in that classic windswept-hero-on-a-clifftop manner, although they’re always smoothed out by the production so that nothing ever gets really OTT. Occasional interludes of sensitive acoustic guitar crop up here and there, but for the most part the loud stuff rules. The lubricious production always keeps a sense of control. Lycosia contrive to create the impression of a hurtling heavy metal hot-rod, but you know they’d never really dare to exceed the speed limit.
Like so many self-consciously modern metal bands these days, Lycosia throw electronic elements into the mix. Occasionally they go all dance floor, as on the smooth groove of ‘Elegy’, but more usually they keep the electronics in their place as a flavouring, rather than a main ingredient. ‘Travelling Through Our Love’ has a bomp-bomp dancefloor beat, but over the top of this Lycosia have constructed a coffee-table anthem, the kind of sweeping, anguished, emotions-on-parade rock ballad that an outfit like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers could probably take to the top of the charts. That’s Lycosia in a nutshell - a big, essentially traditional, mainstream-friendly rock sound, with just enough of a nod towards contemporary musical mores to prevent the band sounding too retro. It’s not the sort of stuff that gets me all excited, but I dare say every rock radio station on the Continent will shortly have Lycosia on the daytime playlist. Forgive me if I don’t tune in.
Travelling Through Our Love
Trade In Your Hate
Ice Queen Baby
Travelling Through Our Love (Wet remix)
Elegy (Fat remix)
Christi Scythe: Guitar, vocals
Don Ragno: Drums
The website: http://www.lycosia.net
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
HOLY RELIC IV (ARKNID)
~review by Mick Mercer
Why, only the other day I was saying how you don’t usually expect great things of anything vaguely rocky from within France, having enjoyed Crack Ov Dawn, and then along comes another wonderful record, flirting weirdly with a mixture of Goth and Grunge, coupled with soft black metal intestines worn on the head.
They are a very confident band, able to rest easy enough behind the skilful, smooth vocals. Bleating about Dracula isn’t ever easy without sounding like a total arse, but they not only have eager guiding guitar ‘Rise Up’ but some unusually inventive keyboards, which proves to be a reliable feature of the album which provides much of the plush, subtly energetic twists, instead of any rhythmic excesses.
It’s mid-Goth in many ways, occupying expected lyrical plateaus, but digging deep ditches of dark despair along the way. ‘Velveteen Kiss’ is slow and canoodles adequately, but then they slow down even further during some tracks, stretching out the vocals and letting the keyboards bleep alongside grinding guitars which makes for a strange sound. The vocals may seem a bit vacant at times but the low rippling bass also adds a distinctive touch.
‘Travelling Through Our Love’ shows chirpier facets as the vocals come through powerfully as a sensitive force, and in the Arabic ‘Altar’ there’s a “yeaaahhh!”, and a surge, and suddenly it’s Nirvana! For a four piece that’s no coincidence, and given the close proximity of ‘Trade In Your Hate’ to Soundgarden (and a good Soundgarden at that) their roots are well and truly showing, which is no condemnation.
They end their album with the raw rock showers of ‘Glitter 4 Tears’, occasionally ululating guitar and adventurous, effusive vocals in the epic ‘Scythia’, with some death metal shivers and slivers, then the hushed, restful ‘Eleey’. ‘Ice Queen Baby’ gets so sleepy it dies, but extra versions of ‘Travelling’ and ‘Elegy’ flicker back into life, leaving this reviewer bizarrely impressed.
http://lycosia.free.fr/index.htm (brilliant site!)
Collapse And Sever (Cryonica)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
Synthpop, ladies and gentlemen, is not dead. It is alive, well, and in night-spots around the world is probably inducing otherwise sensible human beings to put their hands in the air even as I type. And here comes a sleek slice of modern synthpop which I suspect will gladden the hearts of those clubbers - for there are no shortage of hands-in-the-air moments upon this, the debut album by Mono Chrome.
Mono Chrome’s ingredients are simple, but they’re combined and cooked with skill. Clint Sand assembles energetic, jittery, beats and busy, staccato stabs and bubbles of electronics into rush-and-bustle dance-pop tunes. Over this, Victoria Lloyd spreads her vocals like sugar icing on a particularly light and fluffy sponge cake. If this makes Mono Chrome sound like a piece of melt-in-the-mouth confectionery - well, yes, in a way that’s exactly what they are. We’re certainly not in the heavy industrial zone here, and although there are plenty of whumpa-whumpa dancefloor beats in evidence on this album, there’s no hint of the harsh, stern, troubles-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders approach that many practitioners of the EBM art like to employ. Mono Chrome are a pop group: bright, uplifting, lightweight, and as fizzy as a glass of lemonade.
It must be said that Mono Chrome are not in the business of innovation, nor of expressing much emotional range. The arrangements and production hit all the right synthpop buttons in a way that, frankly, has been done many times before by many other artists in this area, and the band never let their demeanour of relentless perkiness slip. Listen to ‘Riveted’ as it bursts out of the speakers like a sugar rush set to music - it’s almost as if Clint Sand had simply clicked the ‘uplifting’ preset on his software, generated an instant spiralling synth motif, stuck 130 bpm behind it and called the result a tune. ‘Liquid Hi’ features exactly the kind of doof-doof beat that has become an EBM cliche these days, while the central melodic theme of ‘Solutions’, a chorus of warbling synths that sounds almost pathologically jaunty, leaves an almost tangible taste of sweetness on the tongue. There’s one slowie, ‘This Death’, which is actually a slo-mo take on a song entitled ‘This Life’, which appears ealier. I assume this sudden deviation from the path of synthpop bounciness represents the band Getting Serious About The Big Issues, but even here the overall impression is merely relaxation rather than introspection.
There are many moments on the album when I wished that Clint had chosen to paint from a more adventurous palette, surprise us with a musical idea or two that didn’t come straight out of the recipe book, and perhaps give us something savoury to go with the sweet, but I suspect Mono Chrome are deliberately precision-designed to appeal directly to the club market, and that means nobody’s going to go out on any such limbs here. The kids want sweetly uplifting synthpop? Well, then - they’re going to get it, until the band gets a club hit, or the kids’ teeth fall out, whichever comes first.
The saving grace of Mono Chrome, and the factor that keeps me listening even when the going gets a bit too candy-floss for comfort, is Victoria Lloyd’s vocals. She has a controlled, expressive power to her voice, and even when the music speeds up to a mad dash beneath her, she’s always unruffled, always in command of the song. It’s her vocals that give Mono Chrome their character, their identity: take Victoria out of the equation, and you’d have some slick programming workouts, to be sure, but you wouldn’t have a band.
So, then: Mono Chrome. A band created for a particular market niche, and they do what they’re designed to do very well. I’m sure the synthpoppers of the world will love ‘em to pieces. Me, I’m not entirely convinced: I’m sure Clint Sand can create more challenging music, and I’d like to hear Victoria Lloyd’s voice in a setting that does her vocal prowess creative justice. Sweet, but sticky.
Fall In To You
Riveted (Assemblage 23 remix)
Victoria Lloyd: Vocals
Clint Sand: Programming, production
The website: http://www.mono-chrome.net
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Electric Blue Fire Hazard/Campari And Sex (Tbilissi Recordings)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
These days, when so many bands rush to get a CD on release five minutes after they formed, as if this gives them some sort of instant ‘real band’ status, it’s nice to find an outfit who prefer to introduce themselves to the world via the cheap and cheerful pleasures of the humble seven inch single.
The small print on the sleeve insists that this release should be filed under ‘Electro-glam racket’, and that pithy phrase captures Miss Pain’s modus operandi very well. They sound like they’ve been dining out on lightly grilled Human League albums, with a side salad of vintage punk and freshly-chopped new wave influences. But that doesn’t mean they’re a retro band. Miss Pain’s stylistic mash-up is, paradoxically, very fresh and new. They combine elements of the last 20 years of alternative music in a way which could only be done by a 21st century band. Perhaps the phrase I’m looking for here is ‘post-modern’. Or perhaps I should quit all this erudition and just tell you about the music.
‘Campari And Sex’ is a slice of vintage-style electro which I’m sure would have got Mute Records in a froth if Daniel Miller had heard it in 1982. Come to that, it might even get him in a froth now. It’s all shuffling synthi-beats, boldy-prodded keyboard chords, and fuzzed-up electronic sweeps over which a matter-of-fact female voice relates a tale of wannabe-sophisticated teenage seduction. It’s a school disco fantasy, an authentically cheesy teen sex anthem which makes me think back to all those aloof girls I knew at school, who I always suspected were not quite as worldly as they liked to make out. A neat collision of naivete and knowingness, set to a soundtrack of groovy electronica.
‘Electric Blue Fire Hazard’ advances the story a few years. This time, the seduction scene takes place between consenting adults in an outwardly respectable suburban bedroom. The fire hazard of the title is an item of nightwear in blue synthetic fabric - a fetish object, no less, as the song describes in tones of manic enthusiasm: ‘Nylon! Friction!’ Musically, this song takes the brakes off and boots the accelerator to the floor. The restrained vintage-synthisms of ‘Campari And Sex’ are unceremoniously replaced by a full-on punk rock rush. It’s a riot of frantic, overdriven beat-boxes and wildly distorted guitar noise, and a tempo that hurls the song at the unsuspecting listener as if in a rampant sex frenzy. The way the band all pile in on the vocal climax of the chorus is a moment of authentic pop glory: ‘Come on boy, ‘cause I want you/In my electric blue.....FIRE HAZARD!’
Miss Pain are glorious weirdos,
with heads full of off-kilter musical ideas, an irreverent sense of humour
and a healthy interest in the seamy side of life. What more could you want
in a pop group?
Miss Pain are: Sarah, Verity and Dominic
Miss Pain's website is: http://www.misspain.co.uk
Miss Pain MP3s at Vitaminic: http://stage.vitaminic.co.uk/miss_pain
This single is not widely distributed, but you can mail-order it for a very reasonable two quid from Miss Pain's record label: http://www.tbilissirecordings.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
~reviewed by Goat
Since avant garde music labels are so fond of submitting music between label mates and having the label mates remix that music, then marketing the whole thing and sending it out for yet another round of reviews, I've decided that turnabout is fair play and the following review is reinterpretations and remixes of samples of material which appeared on the internet when I put the words "Neutral Caller ID" into a search engine. Enjoy.
Still an album of remixes decorated news, history to alleviate the amateur and to draw the attention of the neophyte, and this time it is Neutral which is stuck to it, or rather which undergoes...
i like cactus because they are prickly and green and don't use much water. they are spiny on the outside
marketing campaign of its Caller ID services attempts to conceal the Caller ID protections available to telephone customers and violates state and federal
But every end has a beginning (or something like that).
Seller Service - very good, cooperative. Product Quality - quality is excellent, however, I wish I knew that tan coliur meant chocolate brown with green stars.
Less than a year after she redefined her sound from laptop industrial
Remixers include Ant-Zen and Hymen's well-known noise arbiters noise arbiters noise arbiters noise arbiters noise Xingu Hill, P*A*L, and Telepherique End, Burning Rome, Chango-Feo, Solenoid, Gridlock.
1. answering machine #1
2. cut paper
3. bird in the air (xingu hill remix)
5. hey ash (atlas' anthem remix by solenoid)
6. carbon (end remix)
7. paper boy (main post boy remix by telepherique)
8. answering machine #2
9. 180 (cientos y ochenta remix by chango feo)
10. carbon paper
11. j. doesn't do acid anymore (gridlock remix)
12. jazz interludes for looney tunes
13. desire of (p.a.l remix)
14. february and march (burning rome version)
15. answering machine #3
Neutral is Nicole Elmer.
NO LOVE LOST (Jungle)
~review by Mick Mercer
There can’t be many tags more likely to have a musician viewed with suspicions of almost preternatural lethargy than ‘ex-Nephilim’, but somehow Tony Pettit has shrugged it off and survived, joining NFD who already have the oaken throat (and lethal guitar) of Peter White, and drummer Simon Rippin, with their Nefilim/Sensorium past. With extra contributions from Peter Yates and Chris Milden on guitars, here we have a strange arrangement. Stranger still, the press release reveals than when they played Camden last year so many fans were locked out there was nearly a riot, lending credence to the theory that parallel dimensions exist.
A sense of foreboding accompanies the opening instrumental: dark thoughts, dark light. Moaning fills the air, and that’s just me considering reviewing it, but as the bloodstained curtains part and ‘Blackened’ begins, the guitars are onto you like clockwatching graverobbers, the drumming acts like their slave master, whipping them on to further bouts of scurrilous activity, and the vocals rasp and roar, while lighter streaks come from little bursts of guitar decoration, over already fine guitar lines. Unfortunately it simply goes on too long and, having made its impact, three minutes would have been magnificent, but it’s a remarkably healthy salvo. ‘Stronger’ is slower, full of big bracing notes and confident vocals, basking it its own groaning rust, when suddenly in leap the guitars, going mad again. This will be a recurring feature.
You’ll believe a guitar can take your bloody head off, when ‘Awaken’ is unleashed, as they start shunting and stacking up, while vocals hover like vogueing jellyfish. True, it threatens to have a big girl’s blouse ending, all whispery and whiskery, but they soon rattle back in, replicating earlier attacks, while the second part of ‘Awaken’ slows down dramatically. Although warbling commences of a more bloated fashion, it ends as a pretty little nothing.
‘Hold On To Life’ has ludicrously dramatic vocals sounding like the Ancient Mariner is guest vocalist, and attractive guitars try hard to shave away centuries of matted hair from his demented face. The rhythm clumps and clatters while he delivers unwieldy, empty lyrics, but it’s a big boomy piece of gawf foolishness, so that’s alright, even though it takes forever to go away. ‘Turbine’ is stricter, with a landslide of sputtering drums burying the vocals, as guitar fireflies cavort and devilish riffing hoists the diseased singing up into a good light, until everything sounds exciting.
It is definitely Goth ROCK, but with such exciting guitar here they’re never close to being Goth Metal wasters, and with such constant activity the 'trad' element of the vocals isn’t allowed to dominate, ‘Darkness Falls’ starts as if it might be trying to go dancey but then it just twirls and gyrates with obscenely vigorous guitars and saucy drums in a dizzying outpouring of razored energy; losing it a bit towards the end, but you’ll come to love it.
‘Lost Souls’ seems loaded with waffling drivel. With the Neffs you never really knew what it was about, or even expected to, but with this lot you know it doesn’t really matter. Maybe a few mean something personal to the singer but it isn’t sharp enough to connect, and I don’t mean that in any offensive way, but it is mostly human noise filling up spaces, and providing a framework isn’t it?
‘Enraptured’ is then the big test, as in, can they finish spectacularly? It has faux delay in the opening, then the big, bold vocals must forage within constant noise, and simply ends, unexpectedly! Now that shows style, as the album shows serious promise. Sonic Seducer, one of Germany’s biggest magazines, has dubbed this, ‘possibly THE Gothrock album of the year’ (well, is it, or isn’t it?), which is just over-egging matters. Wonderful as this is, there are clearly a number of moments when you know judicious pruning, or more potent production, would have elevated this into the realm of seriously imposing debuts but, regardless of such sensitive carping, I take my hat off to them, as this is quite an awesome display of power.
NFD have the musical mobility Nephs lacked, who always stood and glowered magnificently, where this lot clearly want to go on an absolute rampage. Their rat-infested suitcases are already packed.
(Also in their plus pile is the fact that Roland Hyams does their press, always the very greatest of Great Blokes, and the PR site - http://www.workhardpr.com - even has an e-mail address for office cat Rufus.)
Twisted vision (Attack Attack)
~review by Mick Mercer
Rocky records unnerve me, even though I was looking or Rory Gallagher’s ‘Irish ‘74 Tour’ earlier (‘Walk On Hot Coals’!), although I don’t want to send you rushing for cover just yet, because they’re not like Rock-Rock. With their links probably known to some of you, for reasons about to become clear, they’re an acceptable form of modern rock. John was in The Colour Mary and Pressgang, Dave has done NMA, Rev Hammer and Justin work, as has Michael Dean, while Toni Haimi is well known to many for investing All About Eve with youthful zest. Yes, that sort of rock, and here we have ten songs that have taken a few years to make and release after their debut album, due to commitments everywhere.
They’re jaunty fellows, without ever being strident or wasteful, and the pleasing nature of their songs, like opener ‘Just For Your Beautiful Eyes’, brings them close to indie rock, with melodic choruses, guitar marching to the vocalist’s needs, and a weird central politeness, even when a hint of revenge is vaunted lyrically. In ‘Revelations Come’ you notice how sweet sounding these vocals are, which is quite rare. There’s no angst here, as though we’re hearing from a very controlled character.
Musically, ‘Roller Coaster’ has unusual clattery percussive traits, slow guitar and really beautiful vocals but that’s pretty much as far as they go in deviating rom any norms. It’s as traditional as you can get without actually saying Oasis With Brains, but also so directly involving it’s charming in its poignancy. ‘Mystery’ is more of the same, purring along with lovely little tumbling steps included. ‘Hidden Love’ is actually quiet but full of cunning ideas, so that each time you think you’re sinking into a warm vat of gentility they do something else behind the sumptuous vocal approach to poke you in the nose, and in ‘Siren Song’ we find a bit more urgency; guitars and vocals flooding outwards from the central point. Very cushioned and luscious, they wash over you in waves right up to the devious finish.
This is actually too pleasant for my own tastes and, at times, simplistic, as ‘Too Late’ shows, but with that small voice, gentle drums and guitar, almost verging on optimism, it’s another highly attractive song. I was relieved when ‘Wake Up’ found them excitable, scurrying hither and thither with some of the most wonderfully jolting guitar I have heard all year! Then I all but drifted off in ‘Wasted Years, because it doesn’t have enough weight, despite the bombastic end.
And so to the last song, which is woozier and unveils a violin. And suddenly everything changes, because suddenly there is drama to match the vocal story, and extra emotional cover. It works as a haunting song anyway but that one instrument makes it majestic! As things stand, if you’re into New Model Army and bands of that nature you will find solace and joy here. If they do more like ‘Fatal Beauty’ in future there’ll be an awful lot more people interested.
Also Michael Dean/Dave Blomberg at http://www.newmodelarmy.org
Dave Blomberg at http://www.calicosoul.com
Toni Haimi at http://www.allabouteve.net
John Forrester will be playing bass for Wob. Details at http://www.wobmusic.com