‘Denver’s experimental harbingers of gloom’ says the press release, rather forbiddingly. According to the blurb, listeners to this album are in for ‘...sonic explorations of pain with acoustic gloom that speaks for wounded losers.’ Blimey! After all that, I was all geared up for some dark 'n' doomy nu-metal workouts, with self-consciously 'weird' interludes and the inevitable grunting gloomcookie on vocals.. I was not, frankly, looking forward to the experience. Wounded losers, indeed. We’ll have no adolescent angst-by-numbers around here!
I’m therefore surprised - and not a little relieved - to find that Orbit Service don’t live up (or down) to their press hyperbole in the slightest. Their music is gentle, somewhat folkie, acoustic-tinged balladry, which here and there swells to epic proportions on surging, emotional verses and swelling, Brobdingnagian choruses. There's more than a nod to the early Pink Floyd in the band's overall style - especially in the vocals, which, oddly for a band from Denver, have a certain middle-class English quality. There are excursions into pure outer-spaced psychedelia at intervals; passages of weirdtronic ambience that would make any passing Hawkwind fan happy. But for the production, which has a clarity and warmth that's entirely twenty-first century, you could imagine that these tracks were recorded back in ‘67, when Orbit Service supported the Floyd at the Love In Festival at Alexandra Palace (and yes, that event really did happen. I’m not inventing bogus historical detail here!)
I’m not sure if this flavour of sixties-ish wistful psychedelia is intentional, or whether Orbit Service have simply stumbled on their sound by accident, but, notwithstanding my resolutely punk rock outlook on most music, I confess I rather like it. But then, I was always partial to a bit of Floyd in their acid-freaked Englishness days, before they became the bloated stadium rock monster that we know and detest to this day. Orbit Service, either by a fluke or on purpose, have captured the flavour of those endearingly innocent times. If you have ever wondered what the Floyd would sound like today if Syd Barrett was still with them, and still in possession of most of his marbles, this album, incongruously, unexpectedly, gives us a window into that might-have-been world.
Just one thing, lads. Get yourself a new publicity-blurb writer, OK?
Dark Orange Sunset
A Song About Birds
The Seven Rays
How I Know You To Lie
When Everything Was Dead
Thought You Should Know
Minutes, Dollars, Days
The website: http://www.orbitservice.com
Reviewed by Uncle 'the lunatic is on the grass' Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
This Is My Battlefield
~reviewed by Goat
Power Industrial Noise? Gothcore Symphonic Electronica? Whatever genre is decided for this one, it’s okay with me; the music is fantastic. Teeth-baring lethal doses of anger and destruction; a fist in the face of political corruption and self-obsessed activists who fancy themselves moralists. This is the road rage of the information highway. Prepare for a sonic nosebleed.
I also love the fact that this collection of recordings have a harsh, belligerent feel to them, all the while retaining a luxurious and cultured atmosphere; it is as if hell has broken loose at Castle Wewelsburg. Stately and vicious, I can’t think of anything I’ve heard recently that has sounded this rabidly sublime.
“This Is My Battlefield” has a radiant German Indus-trial soul, spilling its crimson blood on snowcovered front lines as it goes; poetic, haunted, noble, and doomed. Altering between German language and English, between poised rhapsody and Gabba aggression, Andy LaPlegua has created a study in antagonism, a symphony of contradictions. It really must be heard to be believed. I’m gonna wear this one out.
For those afraid of such things: “Don’t Be Blind. This Is NOT A Pro-Faschist [sic] Project”.
1. Introduction Of The Damned
2. Filth God
4. Chemical Breed
5. When Death Embrace Me
7. Totale Luftherrschaft
8. Sick Is The One Who Adores Me
10. Tides That Kill
11. God Eats God
12. It Is All In Your Head
13. Behind A Gasmask
14. Pure Tension
15. Drukne I Taarer
All songs written by Andy
(Known primarily for his work with Icon of Coil.)
LAST PHARAOH (P1201)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Take a big enough mixture of influences and you could be capable of creating an album with potential appeal to many genres, but this is so easy with Electro-Industrial-‘Darkwave’ that it also runs the risk of having such a diluted basis core it ends up meaning very little, of substance, to anyone.
What Project 12:01 have going for them is that there is something inside this, so even when a track is slight of build, it isn’t as anaemic as most modern electro which has lost a sense of soul, when real synthesised feeling shouldn’t be beyond anyone, if the music can match the mood of the lyrics. Instead, many bands are clearly limited by similarities of sound and equipment, while Project 12:01 turn snatches of daydreams into slides worthy of inspection. The opening title track somehow squeezes Bollywood and Catatonia together, if you can imagine that, and then ‘Taste’ is steeped in subterranean fog, where they display they understand a genuine club throb, with counterfeit coy vocals caressing a poisoned beat.
‘Beyond These Streets’ sees a different vocals style introduced, so we have another major plus here, because the tracks aren’t identikit plumes, and the poignant austerity of this provides an absorbing gentle tread, with an unusually; bassy end. ‘Just As Sound’ lets the ragged badgirl sheen spread and the intensity build, then implode, which carries interest throughout. ‘Are There Angels?’ is muted, but after a few listens, as with a lot of the songs, the vocals start to impinge more on the character of the work, for there’s a placid disguise going on.
‘Lucid’ is a bit beauty in the voice and beastliness in the mildly grubby rhythm, but relying on artful rather than primal urges, as revealed by the final remix of ‘Taste’, means they wimp out on the power sometimes, which is a mystery. ‘Crook And Flail’ is a curiously authentic Asian/Arabic swatch, and ‘Cleo Kisses Caesar’ is the plainest song included but is captivating, because it’s scooped out yet still spiny. ‘Bluish Jewel’ is smashed and smeared over ululation and synth swirls, with very breathy vocals, like a chiselled Julee Cruse, but this track seems banal compared to the rest. ‘Spell’ is also tasteful electro, so that’s the duff patch over with, as the graceful swellings of ‘Love’ have a hazy mistiness, and the skinny dance twitching of ‘Shut The Door’ with its clammy overtures is a studied husk of a track.
The funniest moment is their cover of Front 242 ‘Headhunter’ but only because I didn’t know the song, but recognised that the chorus is ripped off from the Human League, and while the lineage makes sense, it’s still amusing, and then a shame ‘This Heaven’ seemed rather ‘mature’ when it could have bounced. The uncompromising dance chatter, sub-gabba flickering and lovely switch beats of the ‘Taste’ remix close, and brings out a joyous side to their music which seems lacking in how they present it.
Does that seem like a wide array, in terms of variety? Well it is, but that’s the key here. Anyone who finds electro remarkably twee but wants electronic music which isn’t experimental can start here. Anyone who likes electro but craves artistry rather than redundant poses can also start here. It’s an unusual journey, but they make their connections.
Mission highly accomplished.
RAZOR BLADE KISSES
~review by Mick Mercer
Look, a delightful demo, and it’s very welcome. Just seeing the mention on their site last year of how this may be Persian Pop was excitement enough, because what is Persian? A lost land, evoking a sense of mystery; tantalisingly close, but cast aside by modern developments and relegated to the land of storytelling and fables.
And it’s still a mystery. Andy and James credited on guitars, but who does what, and does a ghost play the synth? Which of Layla or Azadeh is singing, and when? Ah, dilemma, they name is Razor Blade Kisses, or thereabouts. Yes, they look like Strawberry Switchblade, and in truth they’re not a million miles apart, only someone chucked out the keyboards which sounded like shit, and the songs are modern with their own weird mixture of inspirational elements which they then pour into their own moulds, and that’s always worth trying.
‘Ballerina’ gives you a good idea as to why they work. The vocals are sour and knowing, cast in languorous shapes around twisting violin until they all march into a snottier chorus, giving you a sense of vigour, then dropping immediately back into the previous pattern which becomes reassuring and solidly inviting, and it ends brilliantly. They’ve established a sense of character and don’t sound like other bands around, and you’re hooked.
‘Deadly Yours’ is minxy and tricky, with a purring opening and then a brutal outbreak, like more orderly Daisy Chainsaw. It has a pulpy feel, but secretes a hard as nails vocal missile. Okay, the timing flags momentarily when the violin is left exposed, but it offers a truly hopeless end! So they’re fallible, which is good.
‘No Strings Attached’ has a lopsided 80’s indiepop sense to it, but never mind my manky comparisons, for this is a really great sounding song from the plinky opening onwards, with an almost magical feel to it, and the monstrous slug of a guitar which rolls through the middle works wonderfully with lowing synth. In a few seconds they do what Tristania couldn’t do with a whole album! The vocals then sashay back in, as clipped beats propagate behind and the beauty grows.
‘The Butterfly’ has a slicker, chalkier dance stumble, and almost spoken vocals, including a passage in another language which would ordinarily be French, but I don’t know what it was. The piano rings out, making the emotional sense of regret carry on the wind. A beautiful chorus unwinds gradually as the mournful violin sighs, and you’ll find yourself droning along in your own untuneful manner, like a drugged guard dog before stylish and audacious thieves, it’s that hypnotic.
If this is an accurate taster of their debut album to come, it will be truly magnificent.
the further we fall (EP)
~reviewed by Goat
This almost made me cry. Nostalgia. Ain’t it a bitch? Just as the band Nothing Inside capture and carry forward the glory days of 80s gothic electronica, Redemption create a sound that makes me fall deliriously in love with gothic rock all over again.
Think Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, Rosetta Stone. Shimmering guitars and surrealist horizons dripping Peter Murphy into eternity. This EP is a little gem. I really look forward to hearing more from this band in the future. They’ve got it down and they’ve got it right. More, more, more!
1. Judgement Day
2. No Revelation
3. Point of no return
4. Stealing your breath
5. A trick of the light
Anatomy Of Ecstacy (Symbol System Music)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
Right, then. Sit up straight and put your serious face on. This ain’t any of that pesky ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. We are dealing here with Real Musicianship. Get a load of these sleeve notes:
‘Rob Levit, in a radical departure from his jazz roots, explores the relationship between sound and the visual arts.’
Now that, it seems to me, is a rather pretentious way of saying that Rob Levit has made a 22-track double-CD of psuedo-film soundtrack music, and he doesn’t half think he’s pretty darn clever for doing so. Rob himself, in a frankly bizarre letter to his listeners in the inlay booklet, says: ‘Music is the most mysterious, lonely, and dangerous process I have ever experienced’, from which I infer that he must’ve lived a very sheltered life. In short, all this blurb makes Rob Levit come across as a bit of a geek, and a head-in-the-clouds pretentious geek, at that. Surely it would have been better to cool off on all the high falutin’ statements, and simply let the music do the talking. As it is, Rob has successfully raised my hackles and set my bullshit detector on code red, and I haven’t even pressed play yet.
So, let’s press play. And, to give Rob his due, his music isn’t half as annoying as his inlay notes. It’s also nowhere near as adventurous and on the edge as Rob seems to assume: anyone who’s heard late-period Cabaret Voltaire (80s transitional experimental/dance period) or perhaps a bit of Aphex Twin (in playfully relaxed mode) or even Brian Eno (at his most wilfully outré) will be on familiar territory here.
Rob Levit makes ambient-dance instrumental soundscapes, sometimes driven along by jittery, staccato beats, sometimes based around more subtle rhythms that are merely suggested by minimalist clicks and glitches. At intervals, the beats will drop away altogether, and we’ll drift through pools of warm, shifting, electronica. Little melodic motifs come and go; layers of sound build up and are stripped down again. Effects fade in and out. There are even tantalising hints of guitar and bass here and there in the mix, although they’re used very much as impressionistic elements in the sound palette, rather than in any conventional sense. Yes, it all does get very film-soundtracky at times, although I think the film would have to be an art-house sci-fi movie, involving plenty of soft-focus slo-mo, jump-cut with three-legged monsters lurching towards the camera on mischief bent.
The production is faultless throughout; the sound is sharp and clear. It’s good stuff of its kind, that’s for sure - it’s just that, whether Rob realises this or not, there are plenty of people these days creating this kind of material. Hard-wired backwoodsmen, bedroom boffins, underground electronicists, call them what you will. They’re all out there, all creating their own take on the electronic music of the spheres, and by and large doing so with an easy-going wit and self-deprecating humour - certainly without penning any laughably pretentious manifestos, or trying to create the impression that they’re out on some desperately lonely limb of their own. I think Rob Levit’s main trouble is that he doesn’t seem to get out much, and thus he’s not aware of the other practitioners in his chosen musical field, nor does he realise how foolishly big-headed his grandiose statements must seem in the wider world. Rob, mate, I think you need to do a bit of work on the presentation. And go to a few parties, or something. Get drunk, loosen up, hear some good bands, whatever. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m overcome with a sudden urge to play Brian Eno’s ‘Nerve Net’ album...
The tunestack (Do I have
to? There's twenty-two tracks!):
Anatomy Of Ecstasy
Prayer To End Suffering
Era Of Praise
Flight Ascent Ode
The Truth Is Not Permitted
Light On Bay Ridge
Window Of Chance
I Dance In Your Light
The Aquisition Of Things
Step Into Light
Rob Levit: Everything
The website: http://www.roblevit.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.com
Per Aspera Ad Astra (Own Label)
~review by Mick Mercer
It isn’t always about the words, the music, the imagery, the performer, but about the feeling and the art and the ability to transport. I could go on pointlessly detailed through the tracks and emphasise points about how Elena’s music changes and functions, but it’s the overall impression which counts. This is one of best the records I have heard in the past few years which allows you to just become lost in thought while also locked into the music, which is where true electronic artistry, with a sound classical background, differs totally from chill-out trance soporiphs. Elena’s work is dour or romantic, but very striking and enormously powerful. A graphologist would also have a field day with her handwriting, and both Lynda and I gawped in shame at the beauty and control of her lettering. We both write like we’re extras in one of those Living (Stone Age) Museums.
Morose synth squalls and steadfast, gloomy bells certainly make for a doomy opener, but in ‘Per Aspera’ you immediately find a sweeter concoction where the synth can display a brighter curvature, as though Bo Hansson finally found a youngster he has passed some cheerier theories onto, and she repeats that trick in ‘Ad Astra’. The same idea will often be found in one track and the one which follows. She is almost merging some elec-dance soundscapes with Ethereal rather than Ambient because the music has emotion trapped within its wires.
It’s highly distinctive, and able-bodied. It swings from the crinkly mist of ‘Solaris’ to the robustly glowering ‘Ice And Fire’, so that one minute you’re in ambivalence, the next confronted by a guiding principle, with a halo of voices being a stark beat and a rolling synth. The only time you can honestly say you have a real grasp of the situation is with a track like ‘Dreams Made Of Sand’ because piano is not an instrument of deceit and you can sink into some reflective thought while the synth decorates in a piping manner. Or you can rely on surprises, like the jaunty ‘Ropedancer’ which is winsome and playful.
The main synth sound is curiously reedy and like a modern equivalent of a lot of those medieval instruments you hear people using on their Ethereal recordings. That age is an aid to the age-old matters which will concern you as you drift. If it was all bright and harsh you’d hardly be able to get anything out of it.
Don’t expect future releases to necessarily exhibit the same symptoms (although if she releases earlier recordings still, of her band Gothic Lethargy that’d be interesting), because she’s moving on, but this is definitely an album to consider if you want something as a personal musical ghost for moments of relaxation or provocation. An album with no real vocals. Music which hauls you softly away like a willing kidnap victim.
No Sleep Demon v2.0
~reviewed by Brian Parker
No Sleep Demon v2.0 is a domestic reissue of Seabound’s first album, justified by the success of 2004’s Beyond Flatline (which had been released in the U.S. first, oddly). This version is remastered, adds three bonus tracks to the end, and features new artwork thematically similar to that of Beyond Flatline.
The album opens with strong, upbeat tracks like “Smoke” and the single “Travelling” [sic] (co-produced by Eskil Simonsson of Covenant). Which immediately brings to mind: if forced to draw comparisons, I’d liken Seabound to Covenant. Although the music is entirely electronic and often danceable, both bands seem interested—first and foremost— with crafting real songs. Attention to lyrics and pop structures, catchy hooks, and quality full-length albums are emphasized over high BPM dancefloor fodder. I wouldn’t push the comparison, though; Seabound’s lyrics seem more interested in emotion and storytelling than Covenant’s clinical approach. Seabound also possess a unique sense of flow that makes a diverse album feel like a consistent journey. Seabound, with all their honesty, offer a real musical pearl in the trough that is EBM / “futurepop” today.
Not that Seabound can’t be playful or cynical at turns. “Torn” and “Dunnocks,” in the center of the album, alternately empathize with their narrators and poke fun of them. The latter takes easy potshots at a bored married couple and absurd television, yet sympathizes; oddly, it works. “Torn” is a heartrending narration from the point of view of a deeply depressed individual committing suicide. But then it concludes with the line “If you love me you will find me...,” repeated several times with no further elucidation. You’re not sure if the twist is cruel or sad or pathetic, and the ambiguity is delicious.
The album also acknowledges throwaway dance tracks with “Coward,” leaving you no doubt they could churn out a disc full of club hits; but puts it in perspective by sandwiching it between the synthpoppy “Hooked” (with sweet lyrics about naive but heartfelt love) and the relaxing instrumental “Avalost.”
If you’re already familiar with Seabound via Beyond Flatline, you’ll find that this release is a little more consistent. All tracks are of a high quality, but there isn’t a breakaway single like “Poisonous Friend” nor quite as much silliness as tracks like “Go International.”
If you already own a copy of the original No Sleep Demon, you might not want to bother unless you’re an obsessive fan. The unreleased track “Day of the Century” is nice, but not a must-have. A hard-to find uptempo mix of “Hooked” will please DJs who don’t have it, but does not alter the track significantly. The most interesting is a version of “Avalost” with vocals (previously available as the b-side to the “Travelling” single). This leads me to the biggest complaint I have with this release: with a running time under 64 minutes, there was plenty of room left for other rarities from the Seabound catalogue. Remixes from compilations or singles, some promo-only and thus completely unavailable, could have been included. Omitting the Eskil Simonsson remix of “Torn” (a b-side to the “Contact” single) is a huge disservice to club DJs; and continuing to leave certain tracks totally unavailable to fans is just disappointing.
Despite this, I really enjoyed the album, one of those rare releases suited for both the Hot Topic-clad masses in danceclubs and the introspective home listener. And Seabound obviously doesn’t neglect their fans: their website includes not just lyrics but an analysis of several songs, a very nice discography, and plenty of extras like interviews, pictures, etc. It’s all in English (like their lyrics). Best of all, plenty of sizeable high-quality MP3 samples mean you don’t just have to take my word for it.
Tracks: Smoke; Travelling; Exorcize; Point Break; Torn; Dunnocks; Hooked; Coward; Avalost (instrumental); Rome On Fire; Day of the Century; Hooked (Radical mix); Avalost (vocal version)
Seabound is: Frank Spinath (lyrics, vocals, programming) and Martin Vorbrodt (programming, sound)
Seabound website: http://www.seabound.de
SCREAMING BANSHEE AIRCREW
FISHNET MESSIAH (Resurrection)
~review by Mick Mercer
It was hardly a foregone conclusion that a band like SBA would end up on Britain’s only full functioning Goth label, because that humorous tag can be a snag. Luckily, in their case, there is also their sense of musical power, rarely overplayed, with also ushers in a tingling dignity to provide counterbalance, and after the seriously impressive ‘Titanic Verses’ this album will cement their reputation as a growing talent, without delivering the same kind of thrills. Predictable, they are not.
It’s the awkward album, in some ways, as it was always likely to be. On this they prove they’re up there with the very best, so don’t think of them as comedic, think of them as frequently precocious. They have various Gothic themes rustling in the tunnels of these tunes, and a rich set of imaginations providing the ideas in the first place. This spills out gloriously onto the record, but occasionally a desire to emphasise the more serious side flounders.
‘Retrograde Trajectories’ blasts them off with a reassuringly big, beefy sound, as grindy guitar and soaring backing vocals (hovering on the right side of delicate and in tune) jostle, and we cower from the witty, ghostly lyrics; albeit with some accidental Sisters touches (“we all need rescuing sometimes”?) It’s a great opening, full of stylish twists, elegant drop-downs in pace, jam-packed with life. Twiddly guitar slaps ‘Deliriously’ along and the male/female vocals slip together like eels in a test tube. ‘Creepy Crawly’ has finer guitar action and a light moody bass, as crazed lyrics spew forth into a fine, truly stupid chorus
‘Uproot Them’ is where their future lies, with a picturesque lyrical perspective of fanciful notions and tightly arresting musical mood; a tartly measured composition you’ll find yourself coming back to it, regularly. ‘L*st In Space’ is a fast daft caper, but ‘Flashlight Refractions’ is where they sound like anyone, with a piddling lyrical pudding, laboured guitar and plodding keyboards. ‘The Edge’ is more natural and adventurous, frisking on with whey-faced, honest vocals and a sense of potency, but then ‘Treasure’ is also fairly conventional and though exciting and fast, with convivial zest, it’s lacks character or a toughened surface.
‘Eternal Fields’ is such a jarring change with female vocals that this works well, having a sweetly curdled uplifting feel, but it does drags on. ‘Hello Mister Hyde’ is a wild, brash attack, clomping gawfabilly where the loopy vocals go wonderfully with the skittish nibbling guitar. ‘Fishnet Messiah’ is a classic, with forceful, pointed vocals playing with grand lyrics as the guitar strops out in subtle fashion, the keyboards letting the suspense hang. ‘Free Of Me’ follows on this big build to the end of the album with an intriguingly sad song about self-loathing. ‘The Curse’ is also darker and grabs at you, only for ‘Transparencies’ to try and maintain the mood but as it doesn’t vary a great deal, it starts to bore, before ‘Lady Kersoene’ plays fast and loose with its scandalous guitar.
‘Dance’ makes for a short and touching open-ended end; another indication of just how controlled and artistically ambitious they can be. A solemn, seriously striking number. And when those tracks which haven’t raced blindfold and shrieking along the top tightrope of the Mercerometer are actually better than most bands in the UK you have to regard this as another unqualified success.
~reviewed by Goat
A long time ago, I wrote a review for Starvox by a band called Deathwatch Beetle Repairman. I was convinced then and remain so, that what I heard on that disc back then was some of the most beautiful, inspired, and underrated music which had ever found its way to my CD player. Time has gone by. From what I can tell, Matthew Riley is still not fabulously famous nor world renowned. He probably is not fawned over at music events, and I imagine he is still wondering how in the world he will ever make ends meet. In fact, the Deathwatch Beetle website seems to be completely gone now. None of which is fair. None of which is right. But I hope, somewhere deep in his heart, Matthew Riley knows he did something special, and unique, and like no other thing that has gone before or will come after.
All of this is a preamble. It is to say that I have found another CD which reminds me very much of Matthew Riley and Deathwatch Beetle Repairman. It’s by a band from a small town in Kentucky. A band that’s been working away for ten years, perfecting a sound that I’ve never heard done quite this way, anywhere, ever. They’re not a goth band, and they’re not an industrial band, so if you’re only looking to hear those kinds of music, you can stop reading now. If, however, you are a Listener, if you’re prepared to open your heart and your soul to something real, keep reading.
I’m talking about Sixth Floor. They take the tradition of Southern Rock, and bring it all the way forward, to 2005. To a world of cell phones, tech wars, dot coms, and a million other luxury grievances that Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd never dreamed of. That old sound that was so comforting; the lilt and the groove and the jive that drove “Whiskey Man” and “Sweet Home Alabama”, has now been given a Vortec engine and fuel injection. It’s still all about fast cars, summer nights, and good times, but it’s also about how even in 2005, yes, people really do still live in trailer parks with dead-end jobs they hate, and still barely make the rent. This is real. These are songs from real life. Not reality TV. Or some guy with a Master’s degree in marketing making up a prepackaged band whose name necessarily includes Jesus, Chevelles, or Bitchwax.
Whether these guys ever “make it” in the way that most of us have come to understand making it, is irrelevant. They have already made it because they have a voice and a sound and a soul that is their own. Whatever happens from here on out can never change that, nor take that fact away. They have done something few bands ever do. They built their own sound from the foundation up, and night after night, in small clubs full of pumping fists, they burn that mother down.
Sixth Floor are making music that is incredibly special and uniquely sincere. It is genuine, and that truth tears through my speakers like cleansing rain. I’ve heard a lot of music in my lifetime, and loved a lot of it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wholly convinced that a band deserves to be heard as this one. What I feel is a simple human reaction to joy. I want other people to feel this, too.
All this yammering really comes down to just one breathless phrase:
Dude. You gotta hear this.
1.) King of the Road
3.) Keep On Keepin' On
4.) Work Horse
7.) Punchin' Bag
8.) Steppin' Stone
9.) Screamin' Eagle
Sixth Floor are:
John King: Vocals and guitar.
Jarrod Duke: Guitar and vocals.
George Collard: Drums and vocals.
Wade England: Bass and vocals.
For more information, and
to order Sixth Floor CDs and merchandise, please visit:
FENDI (Hungry Eye Records)
~review by Mick Mercer
I think I like this label! “Jagged post-punk reminiscent of the Virgin Prunes or Tuxedomoon,” says the press release, which should snag anyone’s passing eye. I felt ‘Fancy Fingers’ recalled a fledgling version of The Normal mixed with early electronic assaults of ‘Being Boiled’ (yep, the dour Human League period) but with squiggly female vocals that have a sour Punk tinge, and an irritable electronic cocoon gathered around them; catchy, then seething and gangrenous. They play with the electronics, letting the sound go up and drop down, like turning one dial from fast to slow in a B-movie science experiment. It’s ‘Love In A Void’, reinterpreted.
‘Figurative Character’ has a zestful pattern going and nasty exfoliating twinges rubbing luridly against it, where male vocal go all serious, and bubble in the throat as the mood darkens, acquiring a more conventional sense of attack. The synths crackle and rally in some exciting surges, while other noises and mental overlays are designed to keep things awkward.
‘Cell Schedule’ is twinkily fast and a surprising bass ambles in before they go brattish punk, again with fine twirls. The vocals flow in and out as the electronic waves do, and they meet, then withdraw, creating quite a nice wash over the steadfast bass. It all seems far messier than it is, but ‘Factrix’ has simple key notes plonking away, a very grumpy guitar and simple tcccch beat and this is like the Slits attempting a nursery rhyme and frightening children across three continents.
They are mad, bad and doubtless interesting to know in San Francisco, and for some reason Genesis P. Orridge did the artwork for this EP! Definitely check them out, especially if you liked aLUnaRED or Radio Berlin.
AGED TO PERFECTION (Mad At The World Records)
~review by Mick Mercer
The world doesn’t have The Skabs to kick around any more, so I guess the world wins, but this whirlwind of a record at least shows the band gave it a good shot and there’s a few comparisons about to crop up which will show you whether it’s what you’re into, because these artists are love or hate creatures. It’s a long, vicious parade of tunes which have a punk and post-punk frivolity kept in place by the severity of Helen Ghastly’s vocals which prove to be an acquired taste, but the initial effect is fantastic.
‘The Draft’ suggests percolating dance is threatened, with skipping beats on drums, but it’s weird music with brilliant angsty female vocals, having unusual emphasis on certain words that makes you hang on her every vaguely unintelligible word, as wonderfully deadpan guitar fills the air. ‘I hate White People’ is done all ranty but in such a casual shalalala way over frenetic beats she’s like a female Lydon in his early PIL days!!!!
Then it starts to droop and ‘The Harbinger Of Death’ is lightweight, like Liliput. ‘Kill The Jocks!’ is twittering snappy pop, and I don’t think they mean Scotland by the way, ‘End Wave’ could be Crass having fun, ‘The Boston Tea Bagging’ is, intentionally, a garish kid’s tune, and in ‘Hunky-dory’ the way she rolls the vocal’s around her mouth over a simply bobbling beat sees the ghost of Nina Hagen rising from its slumbers, and none of us want that to happen.
‘Taste The Noose’, ‘The Paupers’ Dance’ and ‘05/17/01’ all do exactly the same thing, being ranty pleasantries, ‘Ad Infinitum’ is a bit slipperier, but then it’s back to the regurgitated ‘Rivington St Chic’ and the indie dance puddles of ‘The Art Of Sophistication’ dry up once she starts roaring, despite fine drumming. ‘Punx Not Punk’ should have been as awesome as the title but it’s a shrill sub-Crass harangue and although ‘X’ is slower, and the rhythm is interesting, the vocals don’t seem to work with it so well. After that ‘Ladies And Gentlemen’ is mottled 82-era punk, ‘Political Flatulence’ is gentler and more fun, because nothing special, ‘New Jack Slut’ is a mess and back to even harsher guttural ranting and ‘Ambassador Of Brevity’ is really one withering blast too many.
If you’re into Punk of the types suggested you will get a great deal out of this, so don’t be put off by me not enjoying it. They clearly had something but they eventually hammer you into the ground with their lack of variety.
Don’t go looking for www.skabs.com as you will only find something called Lingerie Hotties!
~review by Kevin Filan
In the tradition of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, Dallas band the Snowdonnas play shoegazer music. It’s not a soundtrack for head-banging, booty-shaking or hand-forehead-stapling. Rather, it’s background for sitting back and remembering lost loves, missed opportunities and the Way Things Turned Out in the End. It’s nostalgic and hopeful at the same time: music for the last day of summer vacation, or for that first date with someone who reminds you of your high school sweetheart.
“Edison” begins things on a suitably mixed note. Jangly guitars are dissonant enough to add spice and bite but never dissonant enough to become painful. “You bring good things to life,” Tim White croons beneath a blanket of sonic melancholy. It’s a bittersweet joy that warms your heart without turning your stomach.
“Heartache” has a similar blend, with sad lyrics propelled by White’s guitar, Otto’s bass, Niki Saukam’s drums and Bysshe’s synthesizer stylings. “Over Now” has Tim talking about how he “lost his best friend today” ... but the music is, if anything, more upbeat and driving than the rest of the album. This incongruity adds to the album’s strength. Real life is generally pretty complicated: why should our music be any different?
While the Snowdonnas are definitely a Shoegazer band, they aren’t afraid to draw upon other influences. “Burn” has some sweet, high backing vocals which reminded me of the Beach Boys. (Imagine Brian Wilson on Thorazine, singing “i won’t shed a tear” and “you won’t feel nothing” and you’ll get the drift.) The opening guitar line of “Watchful Waiting” will definitely appeal to Cure fans, while the sad echoing vocal reminded me of Morrissey without the histrionics. Like good Scotch it goes down smoothly ... and carries a powerful kick.
Over Now is stylish, well-crafted alternative rock. It’s a promising debut, and one which shows real promise for the future. I suspect the second Snowdonnas CD will retain much of the smooth intelligence of “Over Now” while branching into new territory. If you like Shoegazer—or if you’re a fan of intelligent alternative rock which is melancholy without being whiny and upbeat without being sappy—you definitely will want to add this one to your collection.
3. Destination Girls
5. Watchful Waiting
6. Rocket Cherries
7. I Can't Breathe
8. Over Now
9. Your Love (Death of an Astronaut)
Tim White: vocals, guitar
Niki Saukam: drums
It’s Monster Rock
~revie by Basim
Holy Velvet Cape, Batman! Shadow Reichenstein’s singer has a Widow’s Peak that rivals Bela Lugosi’s. Between that Widow’s Peak, the cowboy hats the band wears in their promo shots and song titles like “Cemetery Surfin’”, I knew what I was getting into from the get go. Though their Surf Rock guitar tone matches up perfectly to Dick Dale on their first few tracks, it was the meaty rhythm guitars on “Dracula Built My Hot Rod” that really grabbed me.
On “Dracula Built…” they ditch the background-music-at-your-Halloween-party surf sound and go all out rock on us. Sifting through their website, I bet this song would be awesome to see performed live with their extensive use of props and horror imagery. “My Dear Deceased” has a great haunted Corral feel. Listening to this disc is like going on an adventure where you have to surf away from Zombie sharks towards the shores of a haunted ghost town, complete with tumbleweed and pianos that play themselves. The music is a mix of Dick Dale with some So Cal Punk moments, ala TSOL and the Dead Kennedys. Shadow’s voice is as flamboyant as Lux’s, though he doesn’t project as much as I’d like. There aren’t any “Hey Baby let’s get FUUUCKED UP” type moments. If Shadow projected, their cover of “House of the Rising Sun” would be devastatingly good. Regardless, the songs on this disc are enough to have me fiending for their other releases: Bela Was A Junky and Werewolf Order. Fellow horror rock enthusiasts will be pleased to know that this band reminds me of Gein and the Graverobbers but with more full throttle rock action going on.
2. Cemetert Surfin
3. Carnival Macarbe
4. Black Car
5. Dracula Built my Hot Rod
6. My Dear Deceased
8. Zombie Dance Trance
9. Be My Victim
10. Texas Tumbleweed Terror
11. Fear o the Rising Sun
THE TUNNEL OF LOVE
UNDERNEATH ARE PHANTOMS (Glorious)
~review by Mick Mercer
And so, on the day John Kerry woke up feeling like the most miserable man on Earth (instead of simply looking like him), I say to you, especially in America, that you must look to things, and people, you know you can trust. Mr Wagner, or Jeff to his surprisingly toadying enemies, looks like a young Orson Welles, and what could possibly be more trustworthy than that?
After his earlier releases I have been lucky enough to review, this is the record which truly suggests you can all get into his world, tiny and cramped as it is. For here the songs grow sharper, the stories get richer, and if you thought it was all Cramps on a ghost train, it has so much more to it than that. (Mind you, that sounds pretty tantalising!) And it’s in a little box. Well, mine is. A small cardboard box with a pasted label, and the CD rests on a small bed of cottony foam. Already his other records have been wrenched from their plastic houses and slipped into this one where they look very comfortable.
You want to know how good
he is, and on what level you should acknowledge how well he merges music
and lyrics to create a believable sub-reality? Well, the title track is
redolent of Tom Waits coming back refreshed after a lengthy recovery from
a tonsillectomy. It’s that good. The Wanger works are impressively bloodshot,
but also quite vicious, and after the opening preamble of dark noise the
howling trashabilly of ‘Your Throat’ sees how the vocals have become more
refined and the keyboards more effectively cooled, and it’s simply a slinky,
seductive monster. ‘Train Won’t Stop’ sends a lugubrious r’n’r shiver through
the room and ‘Snake Oil’ is evil and catchy.
‘…..they’ll admire my shoes, but these humans never guess,
the snakeskin keeps on going, right on up to my reptilian neck’
Hedonism and headaches clash spectacularly in ‘Exiles’, the tune slipping and sliding with a squealing finesse. Wider, flowing styles writhe over fleecy keyboards and imploring vocals in ‘Apocalyptus’, ‘Sails’ is almost cute and caring, ‘Evilicia’ is intermittently hypnotic music, the demented poise of ‘Hairtrigger Heart’ will leave you breathless with admiration and the nice musical end of ‘Exit’ seals a new sense of mystery.
You really ought to start collecting his records now. In a world of turmoil, this man adds more.
~review by Mick Mercer
Back in the 90’s no mention of Black Metal was complete without some reference to an obscure idiot defecating on the rest of their band before burning them alive before an astonished church congregation in a remote rural idyll. When called to investigate Police found the guitarist, a survivor of several previously doomed bands, had spelt Satan badly on his school exercise book (‘all kneel before Stan!’) and was remembered by all who knew him as a complete wanker.
Ah, but times have moved on and Tristania are ‘Norwegian Symphonic Black Death Metal Goth Rockers’! Luckily I am a Black-hearted Workaholic Fancifully Operatic Goth Writing Artisan, so we can meet safely in the rubbish-strewn main street of the iconoclastic ether for a tragic showdown, providing I can stay awake long enough.
I think Symphonic refers to the fact that all power and incisive turns of speed have been teased and rounded off until no sense of threat, however ambivalent, has been replaced by a sonorous splendour that is forgotten the moment each track ends. You can bask in the glory of their finely honed music, from the grotty gravely howling of the man to the serendipitous enchantment of the woman, and wonder when the underground became this spruce? And why?
Tristania are basically Metal Goth which always come in winsome decorative form these days. There are moments when the grave male singing unites beautifully with the female folk rock delivery (rather than Ethereal) and there is joy to be had when realising this is what happens if someone got background music for Lord Of The Rings action sequences wrong. The men sound Orcish enough and the guitar jabs as they jabber, but the old thrash metal kick and run motifs are everywhere. Then a suitably symphonic cello or somesuch comes in to deflate the tension.
Say it loud, We’re Black Metal And We’re Proud, or don’t fucking bother. Stop letting labels tailor your sound to suit what imagined is the catch-all audience, because it renders you neutered. They’re not Goth, that’s for sure, just flossy enough for middle-ground Rock audiences who grovel before what the regard as Serious Musicians. A song like ‘Shadowman’ is effortlessly pretty, just as ‘Endogenisis’ is a colossal fake riff drama with acoustic double agents posing as simpletons. They’re a cliché, if anything, sounding like any number of other bands from the past ten years, when the irony is that if they dropped the fake macho antics and let the woman sing, providing she can do more than waft wanly, they might be on to something. She hints at it briefly during ‘Circus’ for a couple of seconds but then The Man sidles in and glowers, and I nod off, defeated by the hot breath of Hades.
They’re making records even their grandparents can relate to, but hey, that’s rock! It likes to be seen as devilishly exciting, but it’s always pitiful piss really.
The Diaphanous Depressions
~reviewed by Goat
Have you ever had so much going on that even when bad things happened, you couldn’t find within yourself to cry? December 2004 has been that kind of month. I’ve been holding myself together by the tape and glue of respon-sibility. No time to cry.
In the midst of my responsibilities there is this chosen hobby, of writing about music. Every once in awhile, from out of the stacks of CDs comes a disc that leaves me stunned. This CD by Thy Veils is one in a million. When it began to play, I looked over at my stereo, as if to question its veracity. Could these speakers really be telling this sort of truth? Has not emotion this clear, this strong, this pure, been lost in music?
Depend on someone from Romania to call forth a clarion of this power, this tenacity. A land with a history rich and deep which is to me a living expression of bold romanticism even through great tribulation; through wars and political movements seeking to destroy the very spirit and existence of the Romanian people; and still they rise, and still there is a quality of creativity among them as evidenced here, that is like no other in this world.
This album has no peers and nothing to compare it to. Any clamouring about ambience, neo-classicism and medieval grace is just insulting; there is no fair description of this. It simply must be heard.
And so, on a cloudy afternoon in December, as the world spins in its horrors, as the challenges of my own life boil up around me, these sounds, like living things, reach through the aethers and draw me in. I am transported. I type from another land. Sorrow is transformed. Every-thing is possible, but not without damage. Not sound, but The Great Mystery, is what comes through these speakers. It washes me. Take us with the floods.
And finally, I am weeping.
2. Through the Halfdark
3. Night Desert
4. The Depths
6. As the Rain is Clearing My Pain
7. Ensemble Theme
9. Fast Bird
10. Hunt at the Haunted Forest
11. No One's
12. Bells and Oboe Theme
14. Short Piece (for flute and guitar)
16. Vacuous Seas
17. Waiting Theme
19. Wind Anywhere
Thy Veils is Daniel Dorobantu.
On Nonut Muzik
TALES OF THE NEWLY BEREAVED (Own Label)
~review by Mick Mercer
Not many bands have someone in a song telling an admirer, “you see more than just slippery entrails,” so at least we know we’re on pretentious territory. Our singer sounds like a wilting, vinegary, quivering vampire soul, and that could all spell utter, face-reddening disaster, but…no! Seriously, they pull this off. Yes, they are thigh-deep in Goth-Noir-Horror kitsch clichés, in terms of the basic construct, but what they do in these songs – the important part - with a simpler booming bass and clattering percussion, squiggly thin guitar and unexpected twists or sudden dead stops, makes for a very nice change.
After the ‘Elegy Of The Romantic Cadaver’, ‘Call For Silence’ swaggers along with jutting shoulders and you’d could easily place them in the same territory at Sex Gang at their wriggliest. There is a warped passion at the heart of this, and despite having an awkward vocal presence it doesn’t piss you off because musically they have enough fluidity and warm depths to make this a burning whole, and you get used to his voice as the songs are strong. ‘The Final Hour Of Mystery’ even uncoils with a bright chorus.
Usually quite sumptuous, there is a chalky feel to ‘Lady Winter’s Untimely Demise’ which waltzes past murderously, and while the words aren’t as striking as I expected there’s some wonderfully wiry guitar and chiming keyboards, and they tumble into ‘The Strange Case Of The Girl In A Cupboard’, which is probably where the fans go mad live. The rhythm closes in and the mood is more claustrophobic in ‘Not Everything Is As It Seems’, and there’s a sense that anything could happen. ‘Beloved Friend’ could have done with a harsher production because this is a seriously lively bastard, but it still sweeps into your ears like boiling blood with hectoring vocals and the bass bulging while the guitar froths in the background, and ‘Chants For The Fallen’ is on the cute side of weird before chirping seductively.
‘Destroyed Disillusionment’ has quite a grand opening, but a muted feel and starker vocals, so that the moods keep shifting and adding to the overall charm, eve if that one doesn’t strike you so hard. ‘Beneath The Skin’ is almost am ambient exercise, until it shakes itself in a plain awakening, with great guitar presence. ‘Dance Of The Dead’ is a beautiful number and verges on the macabre Sex Gang/Brel feel except for a much tougher guitar undertow. ‘Sombre Joys’ is almost sweet and coy, with a simple thudding bass and light keyboard sparkle, and mad noises burrowing through its perfumed belly. The vocals get quite mad and sound wonderfully convincing nd compelling, so I think we can expect even greater things from this man in the future. Stately in a light rock sense, that song is very strange, despite seeming utterly conventional.
‘This Feeling’ is a somewhat groany distraction, ‘Tragic’ is cool, flash and twitching rock, ‘A Beautiful Savage’ is something of a mess on my CD, as it seems to be skipping and sliding unintentionally , then ‘Requiem’ glides out like a chilly bastion, as though the opening track has got a special ending for us. It actually hasn’t but not only is returning a clever idea, in topping and tailing such a stylish album, but it also reminds you instantly just how good this song is by itself, but also how strongly the character has permeated all of these songs, and rammed itself stage centre into your head.
Look beyond the image, if that’s the sort of thing to raise hackles and trust me, this is an exquisite album.
The Oncoming Storm
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
The Oncoming Storm is a thundering discharge of electrified hyperspeed death-thrash. Unearth has let fly with a lightning blast of supercharged metal that mixes the best aspects of numerous metal sub-genres into a blistering assault. Hardcore vocal stylings, melodic lead breaks, and a ferocious rhythm battery characterize this excellent album.
Extreme metal can often become tedious in its unrelenting intensity. Unearth consistently avoids this trap. They seem to know just where to break down the wall of noise, and when to inject a soulful lead break to pull back the pace. Gripping riffs come flying out of nowhere, usually when they're least expected. Varying the tempo and tone of their attack is perhaps Unearth's greatest strength. Every song is fresh and exciting. The band adroitly shifts between cacohphonos guitar crunch into melodic eloquence and then back again from beauty into the beast.
Everyone in the band (aside from the typically superfluous bassist, whose absence in many metal bands would be nigh undetectable) gets a chance to shine. Vocalist Trevor Philips rages quite coherently, shouting out invective with a driving purpose. His hardcore styled rasp-shout occasionally gives way to a spoken word delivery, but is always filled with roiling emotion. The guitar players also get in their licks, quite literally, ceaselessly peppering engaging melodies all over the album. Even drummer Mike Justian makes his presence known, creatively banging out delicate rhythms that occasionally burst down wholly unexpected percussive avenues.
Unearth shares some similarities with other bands, as most acts do. They might be likened to a more melodic Meshuggah, or Soilwork's muscular little brother. A little Rage Against The Machine peeks through now and then, and one could even cite instances of some Sabbathy doom ala Corrosion of Conformity seeping into the sonic stew. Really, though, Unearth has a distinct enough sound that they produce with frightening precision. Their explosive energy, facility for avoiding static songs, and knack for great riffs makes The Oncoming Storm a furious tornado that you must chase down.
01.) The Great Dividers
03.) This Lying World
04.) Black Hearts Now Reign
05.) Zombie Autopilot
06.) Bloodlust Of The Human Condition
07.) Lie To Purify
10.) Predetermined Sky
11.) False Idols
Trevor Phipps - Vocals
Ken Susi - Guitars
Buzz McGrath - Guitars
John Maggard - Bass
Mike Justian - Drums
Velvet Acid Christ
Between The Eyes Vol. # 4 1994-1995 (Metropolis Records)
~review by Mike Ventarola
As a rule, industrial style music has not been my sound of preference. Maybe it was timing, maybe it was the fact of the anger related to a breakup of a significant relationship after ten years. Whatever it was, Velvet Acid Christ and Metropolis released and remixed some of the most brutal and angst ridden sonic assaults for the masses. This reviewer in particular found it quite cathartic after a spell.
While the music has a decided and almost hypnotic outraged edge to it, one cannot help but get drawn into the visual artwork encompassed on the 4 releases. Volume 1 simply created a new fan out of me, so that by the time volume 4 was released, it became essential to own the soon to be discontinued back catalog of the artist as well. The music and artwork is not for the nervous. In fact, it is disturbingly brutal, just as much as real life can be depending on who holds your fate and heart in their hands.
One can fluff such an artist off by stating it is mere dance electronic work, however, Velvet Acid Christ is far more than this. As a one man creation and operation, it comes across with the personality of many, possibly scraping the darkest psyche of our composer than has ever been heard before in the recorded medium.
The music veers from demented surrealism, sonic assault, dark humor and pure genius. The vocals are the apropos aggro-screams one has come to endure within the industrial realm, but for some reason, Velvet Acid Christ pulls it off better than most. It cannot be denied that he isn’t gravel screaming for effect as much as pouring out other emotions besides just angst that is usually devoid from most industrial style work.
The added bonus to VAC’s work is that he isn’t afraid to make the music as dark as it can be while putting a beat behind it. While one will be hard pressed to find the typical old school minor goth rock guitar chords, you won’t have very far to go to find sound elements meant to plague your nightmares.
Whether blending Middle Eastern notes in Vaginismus or pure ghostly haunting from Repulsive, listeners to Velvet Acid Christ will come away richly rewarded by the depth of composition that the artist is able to create with such finesse.
Let's Kill All These Mother Fuckers
Vaginismus(crotch kick mix)
Repulsive (necropolis mix)
Itussisception (bowel move mix)
~review by Basim
This should be a name most of you have come across. Voodoo Church was one of those early bands who I saw name dropped enough, but never got around to listening to. If this disc is any indication, I would’ve enjoyed these guys a ton when I was younger, when Black Sabbath was as dark as my listening material got. Like 45 Grave’s albums, this Voodoo Church one has a lot of hard guitar work. The first song “Live with the Dead” is a very easy song to listen to. The tempo pulses at that standard 120 BPM radio rock pulse, while the instruments do a great job of providing a backdrop for the wailing vocals. I had a pretty easy time humming along to the words “Liiiiive With the Deaaaaaaad” after the very first chorus. If I were to describe this song to someone who had only a surface knowledge of this type of music, I’d say it comes across as a blend of The Cure’s “Maybe Someday” and Alice Cooper’s 80s Poison-era material. Things get harder soon, and "Piece of Hell" has a lot more to do with Motorhead than the Cure. The drummer gets to cut loose from the rock beat on “Steeple Walls” and “Dungeon Freak X”, which seem to be the bleakest of all 7 songs. I appreciate the atmosphere, but the songs are still very standard rock oriented. In fact, all of the tunes on this CD follow the same formula. The tempo is constant throughout the disc, every chorus is repeated upwards of 4 times, and there’s that 80s Metal guitar soloing in every song. I’ve put a lot of thought into who would benefit from owning this CD, and I’ve concluded that fans of Alice Cooper’s “Poison” era 80s phase would really dig it.
1. Ressurectious Annhilatious
2. Live with the Dead
3. Piece of Hell
4. Steeple Walls
5. Dungeon Freak X
UNHOLY BURIAL (Strobelight Records)
~review by Mick Mercer
When I first carried the press release earlier this year about their return I figured it meant a cause for celebration all round, but the reality of this record is something different, as they create a bleak, wooden sound that has many Horror Rock attributes, minus the sense of active energy essential to Deathrock, with no real conviction or tangible treats.
A short album, with twelve songs averaging there songs each, they have one unusual thing working for them, which is their desire to mainly deal with slow songs. If their drummer works up a sweat in isn’t in the studio, and the guitar is rarely vicious, but they flicker instead behind the vocal doldrums of Tina Winter, who is actually remarkable in that she sounds American. (Most American Goth-like singers don’t, which is weird.) Her voice also makes me think of this band as a less interesting Legal Weapon.
From the vaguely eerie opener ‘Unholy’ and the limping ‘Who’s Faulty’ with its saving bass grace, this isn’t an eventful record. Most of the songs just drift in and then depart. ‘Ragged Souls’ spews out me mini-rage but the vocals aren’t carrying sufficient power to knock you back, and the main sin is that with slow songs requiring lyrical impact, their lyrics are simply never distinctive.
They have their kitsch moments, and for the sort of Vampy fan who like their Goth spooktastic maybe this would be a good pick as it has all the hallmarks of cliché and reminds me of Action Pact, minus their irreverence, and I can only point to the strangely brief ‘May I’ and its perilous nursery rhyme approach as being a standout. The rest is a waste of time, and I’m shocked to see it on Strobelight.
A DAY OF WARM RAIN IN HEAVEN (Equilibrium)
~review by Mick Mercer
When I want my room filled with musical magic and delight I’ll often turn, as any sane individual would, to Ataraxia for that. You can always rely on Vandelli’s innate ability to create a reflective mood, seemingly with unerring ease, on his eloquent guitar, which is a major part of the emotive understatement that forms one identifiable part of their sound - the other being vocal fire.
Now, when I was a brat at school one teacher really did have me sussed, plonking a book down in front of my frowning face one day as I was daydreaming the lesson away. When I examined it I found he had given me Coleridge’s ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’: not, thankfully, for the poem, which I struggled through out of politeness, but because Mervyn Peake had done the illustrations. Anyway, that’s by the by, although there is something haunting about the poem, as there is with Ataraxia’s music. Indeed, I once intentionally crossed the path of this poem again during the mid 70’s when David Bedford released an ambient album about it on Virgin, a sort of professorial Mike Oldfield in many ways: not very good, in other words.
The sea has played its part in many Ataraxia compositions, so the fact Vittorio has wanted to make an album inspired by this literally wretched tale is no surprise. It’s a story of seeking redemption and direction; a story which bleaches the heart and hurts the head, although you’ll be relieved to know the album doesn’t quite go that far, and Francesca Nicoli’s’ presence on vocals may confuse you. How can it possibly be different, you surely are asking yourself, is she is also singing here?
Well, it certainly is, sometimes, and isn’t at others, if that helps. ‘Farewell Farewell, Thou Wedding-Guest’ starts us off with a strict bass, sonorous backing vocals and stabbing strings and with typically measured, spectral vocals but the closest comparison I‘ll conjure is if Army Of Lovers had purely been a serious band. It’s got more conventional modern flourishes in among the artistry on some tracks. ‘Beneath The Lighting And The Moon’ puts the Med in the Medici, as traditional warmth floods in, and then ‘My Heart As Dry As Dust’ sees the more semi-gutteral vocals rolling up from the base of the mouth as the music twitches comfortingly. When these more expected traits emerge it’s clearly close to Ataraxia, but less extreme.
The searing ‘The Ocean Green’ is very Ataraxia, as the vocals pull you in then push you gently away again, while the guitar is measured, relaxed and suggestive. ‘A Sadder And Wiser Man’ is cute, skipping along quite smartly with skittish warbling behind a sharp main delivery, chiming music and fulsome electric guitar (another newer touch). This is an exquisitely cheeky song, while also quite dour. To achieve that takes utter brilliance!
‘The Bay Is White In Silent Light’ is mildly sad, ‘The Curse In A Dead Man’s Eye’ brings out a more abstract stretch of sounds and recurrent spasms of the earlier tracks comes back to us before the bubbling title track becomes flustered by the suddenly soft or wiry vocals, and this is verging on commercial it’s so clean and pushy. ‘The Death-Fire Danced At Night’ is more melancholic with mysterious and partially whispered vocals, then ‘I Killed The Albatross’ feels unnecessarily repetitive, and suitably depressed initially, with some rawk guitar pain going on.
Post-slaughter, ‘For The Sky And The Sea And The Sea And The Sky!’ is moody but not grim, so I think - am I not really following a story? ‘The Moment I Could Pray’ is more gentle, with sweet singing and light, almost soothing guitar touches. ‘Singeth A Quiet Tune’ is a jaunty old shanty, that gets its own demented circus ringmaster, close to Andi Sex Gang territory, and it ends with ‘Sails In The Sun’, a little piece of guitar pleasantry.
It is strange, but compelling, in the same ways Ataraxia are, with a few less peaks and troughs. Several of these songs could actually end up among your favourites of the year if you give it a try. Ataraxia fans will obviously devour it, but I would simply recommend everyone to do so.
- brilliant label site!
Voices of Masada
Four Corners (distributed by Strobelight/Resurrection)
~reviewed by Stuart Moses
Once upon a time it seemed as if you could plot every goth band on a Venn diagram, with The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and Fields of the Nephilim as your reference points. While I can understand why this state of affairs could become tedious for some, I rather liked this situation. Indeed I took this status quo for granted. With so many riches to choose from, I may have neglected bands which didn’t provide exactly what I wanted. There was so much fruit on the stall I rejected any which were in any way bruised. Fast forward to this century and bands that adopt the drumming of Doktor Avalanche, the guitars of Simon Hinkler and the stentorian vocals of Carl McCoy are thinner on the ground. Suddenly any fruit at all seems an attractive option.
It’s easy to imagine that opening song “Vathek” is based on the classic of 18th century Gothic literature written by William Beckford, which tells of the adventures of the titlular hero as he encounters witches, demons, human sacrifices and other spectral horrors as he journeys to the underworld. Voices of Masada’s trademark dual guitar attack – Eddie plays low and grunge-y, while Rob plays plucked and high – can be heard clearly in this opening song. Add Danny’s solid bass and Raymon’s stern vocals and you’ve got a gothic rock classic. The lyrics don’t have the eldritch complexity of The Sisters of Mercy, though there is clear yearning as Raymon sings: “I need, I need another…” When he calls out “Mephistopheles! Mephistopheles! I know him! ” you take him seriously due to the entirely straight delivery. You don’t get far in goth if you are upset by large – and ludicrous – gestures anyway.
All three songs from the band’s debut ep are featured on this album, which is slightly disappointing. They may be re-recorded, but while the changes might be obvious to the band the differences are subtle to the casual listener. What dogs the songs on the first half of the album is the lack of variety. You could put any of these songs in any order and it wouldn’t make a difference. If I may adopt a Fields of the Nephilim–metaphor for a moment, just like Dawnrazor was a collection of good songs, rather than a coherent whole, so is Four Corners. The band are still in the early stages of development, but I can’t wait to hear their version of The Nephilim, an album that ebbs and flows before reaching an exultant climax. As it happens Voices of Masada can provide a good climax, but more of this later. You don’t get far in goth moaning about repetitive drum machines anyway.
The melancholy nostalgia of “Days of November” keeps the pace of the songs that precede it. “Fragments” makes a welcome return from the band’s ep. Once again words transcend their mundane origins, particularly, “Haven’t I seen this place somewhere?” which Raymon sings with the intensity of Ian Curtis. In a break there’s some sampled voices, followed by what sounds like an explosion. It’s too low in the mix to understand what has been said, or what has exploded, but it adds intrigue to the song. With its five minute plus running time it’s easy to imagine this song becoming a prog-odyssey in years to come. The extra running time is warranted as it gives the song room to breathe, to change and grow.
“No More Gods” benefits from an occasional burst of keyboards. Hopefully this will be explored more fully on future releases. At the moment I get the idea that each member just plays their instruments without experimenting further, but the songs demand a larger, widescreen production job. “Flight” is a sprightly upbeat – while simultaneously being downbeat – somewhere between Fields of the Nephilim’s “Moonchild” and the first side of The Sister of Mercy’s First and Last and Always. It would sound great at a club. It has a wonderful sense of dynamics where all the instruments drop out, bar the tsk, tsk, tsk, of the drum machine and the gentle plucks of Rob’s guitar. Then all the instruments come back and you get the rush that comes with an expertly built song.
“Shine” is the masterpiece
that the band threatened to pull out of the bag all the way through this
album. The drum machine is pared back, with an echo that reminds me of
The Cure’s Faith album. There’s some gentle Cure-like guitars which
you just know are going to explode into something magical. The song builds
slowly, with Raymon putting the utmost conviction into the opening lines:
“There is no cross, no crucifix, can take away this pain.” It’s a glimpse
at what Peter Steele of Type O Negative might sound like if he sang without
a smirk. The trauma is palpable as Raymon asks: “What the hell have I done?”
and “Is this the way to heaven?” Coupled with the imagery of blood the
band paint a complex scenario in a few broad brushstrokes.
The dynamics that have been lacking elsewhere find their place here as the song builds some amazing guitar arpeggios – worthy of Fields of the Nephilim’s own finest hour “Last Exit For the Lost”. At the climax the hysterical protagonist with blood on his hands sings: “I blame myself, I got it wrong, your fading moment took too long, you were my air, you were my breath, you were my life, but now you’re dead…” before invoking the gods “Bring her back to me! Bring her back to me!” But the gods are dead, or maybe dead but dreaming, and there is no redemption for this damned soul.
I hope that there are great things in store for Voices of Masada. If the band can match the intensity of “Shine” more often then their future releases will be essential. At the moment the band still seem to be finding their feet – with the results a little pedestrian as a result. I hope that they’ll be pushing boundaries with their next release. It’s good solid goth rock, but the band are capable of so much more. This is an album of potential. Who could have predicted the greatness that Fields of the Nephilim would achieve when they stepped out of Stevenage with their cowboy hats and bags of Homepride? Voices of Masada are ploughing a well-worn furrow. There’s nothing wrong with this. And while many other bands have explored this route before, there are few doing such a thing now. There’s enough to treasure for the moment, with the promise of even greater things to come…
Days of November
No More Gods
Raymon Shah: vocals
Eddie Martin: guitars, programming, backing vocals
Rob Leydon: guitars, programming, backing vocals
Danny Tartaglia: bass
The website: http://www.voices-of-masada.co.uk
~reviewed by Goat
It feels like anchors are
bein’ taken up in this world.
Our generation’s guitar god’s gone. Tsunamis. Buddy D. isn’t in New Orleans any more. The Ship of Fools drifts onward, outward, upward.
When things get crazy, people look for high ground. ‘For what’s made of steel and stone, and won’t be moving anytime soon. WarDogz, baby. That’s where the ground is.
Drums beat out a rhythm as old and as sure as the Confederacy. Guitar crunch and bass bellyroll. Everything you loved about Pantera. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Black Sabbath. Molly Hatchet. Everything you love about a ‘67 Camaro and the smell of gasoline. Everything about summertime, 120 mph, and the wing windows wide open. Fireflies. The difference between bourbon and whiskey. Those little things that make it all right. That’s what WarDogz are.
I listen to this CD over and over and the world doesn’t get any better. But the room does. It’s not so bad when I look in the mirror. People still live who understand. Who smell diesel and smile. Who know what works, and don’t break it. Ball Deep is all that and more.
The art of the guitar solo is not lost. The true American spirit of heavy Southern metal is not lost. Every beautiful thing that sleeps is not dead. If it ever slept, it slept with one eye open, and now it’s showing teeth. Play this loud and let it get you by the neck. It’s cleansing. It’s electric. It’s beautiful. Listen...
1.) In Your Head
2.) Still I Pour
3.) Bleed It (D.F.W.)
4.) The Need
Self-released. To purchase,
and for more information, please visit:
MEAT THE WEEGS (Hungry Eye Records)
~review by Mick Mercer
In a rare moment of truth and explanation, The Weegs, on the final bonus spoken track reveal, in an alien voice, how our world used to exist in a harmonious state primarily because of ‘Beatle Balance’. The use of the notorious “Butcher Baby” sleeve is also covered in depth when it turns out Paul McCartney was present in the crowd at one of their earlier gigs in Hamburg and simply ripped off the ideas. Then, when he was murdered, by an alien McCartney from the 13th Dimension, where all things are evil, things began to change. This new McCartney represented negative energy, along with Ringo. While the good guys, John and George, were alive the world did well, as their positive vibes energised and contained the bad influences. Following the execution of Lennon, at the behest of the Evil Paul, and then Harrison, where McCartney used mind control to stop his heart, following the botched assassination, the world has slipped further towards a state of total turmoil. After Lennon died the balance began to tip with Corporate Greed, AIDS and The Nuclear Threat. Since Harrison’s passing we have had George W and the rise of Terrorism. Now, it appears, the only chance to prevent the world being ripped asunder is to maintain Ringo’s life way beyond all known forms of human existence, which is ‘clearly unacceptable’ or killing the evil Paul.
So, at least that’s cleared up. The rest is a messy mystery, for The Weegs are unruly indie brats up their knees in punky manure. From the opening ‘Intro For Real’ with its rumbling bass, angry feedback fumes and angular approach, it looks set to be an exciting record, but in a short while it becomes too erratic for its own good. ‘Loaves’ is psychotic thrash pop, where vocals desperately chase the fleeing melody. The low, trailing guitar in ‘Pink Elephant Walk’ is trodden on harshly by yammering vocals comparisons soon spring to mind, of Alternative TV and The Mekons, with that purposeful hamfisted approach.
‘The Ballad Of Shitty McCoolie’ has good guitar discipline, with madly pained singing, but they wrest control of the exploding vehicle during ‘Silvery’ with a glowering central insistence and lovely, lustrous bass. ’M.I.A.’ is the other side of the coin, being a little too streamlined, because when they near conventional behaviour they lose their sparkle.
‘Wouldn’t Last A Weeg’ is suitably snotty, but fairly uninspired and with the cloven-hoofed rhythm you also start seeing their limitations. When a song is stark and means fast business, it is cool and wild. Trundle beyond that and the aimlessly flailing drumming is swiftly exposed as musically incontinent. That then drags them down into mundane chaos, but it’s still a nifty racket throughout.
In fact, for those with a voracious Indie diet where thorns are essential it’s something of a feast.
~reviewed by Kevin Filan
At first listen, San Antonio duo Wyrmwood appears to be following in the footsteps of many another EBM/synthpop/darkwave group. The beats are tightly programmed and simple enough that even Goths can dance along; the keyboards are smooth and tasteful. Then Aria opens her mouth and starts singing... and suddenly everything kicks into high gear.
Aria hits all the notes and definitely knows how to project her voice... but so do many other singers. What makes her stand out, what grabs you and pulls you in is her passion and her power. Her delivery is throaty and sexy and cuts through the slickness like a hot knife slicing through cheese. Songs like “Spiders” take us down a nightmarish rabbit hole, while on “Mirror, Mirror” Aria breaks the glossy surface with an anguished, angry alto. The music is generally cold and detached, like most synthpop/darkwave. Aria’s vocals are anything but: this tension helps make the songs compelling.
The apocalyptic imagery found in “The Keeper” and “Red Moon Rising” may be off-putting to some, particularly those who would pigeonhole “Christian rock” into an airbrushed and immaculately scrubbed “Rock without Danger.” Of course, anyone who has read Kierkegaard, C.S. Lewis or Flannery O’Connor knows that there’s plenty of darkness to be found in Christianity. Much as non-Christians can enjoy *The Chronicles of Narnia*, you can dance to Wyrmwood’s music even if you’re following a different spiritual path. (And let’s give credit where credit is due: in most Gothic circles expressing faith in Jesus is more shocking, transgressive and courageous than anything Genesis P. has done in decades... )
I’d like to see Wyrmwood stretch themselves a bit and try expanding their musical horizons. All too often they’ve programmed “darkwave-by-the-book.” Their music is invariably pleasant, but doesn’t always grab you by the throat the way it could. I’d suggest putting a little Schoenberg and Varese alongside their VNV Nation and Covenant collection; I’d also like to see them adding an electric guitar player and a drummer to the band. (You can do a lot with programming, sure ... but live musicians add an immediacy and energy which you can’t get with any synthesizer). Still, this is a worthy debut effort and one which deserves wider attention. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next.
3. Mirror, Mirror
4. Take it To
6. The Keeper
7. Strange Angels
8. Red Moon Rising
Aria: Vocals, Lyrics,
Lysa: Synth, Beats, Programming
~reviewed by Jyri Glynn
YelworC is a German based project that first made its debut on the underground music scene back in the late 1980’s. After signing to German label Celtic Circle, the band released a total of three albums between 1992 and 1995 after which the duo, Peter Devlin and Dominik Van Reich parted ways. YelworC albums became a rare find and the group was thought defunct and a lost act for many years.
Despite the band name resembling the sound of phlegm stuck in the back of one’s throat when pronounced out loud, the band attributes its origin to the late Aleister Crowley. yelworC spelled backwards is Crowley.
For those out there who have been living under a rock, Aleister Crowley was a self-proclaimed drug and sex "fiend," a mostly self-published author of books on the occult and magick, a poet and mountaineer, and the leader of a cult called Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).
Not surprisingly, the band yelworC lyrically pays homage to the Dark Arts, horror genre movies, corruption, religion and death with their latest concept release titled Trinity.
Trinity is the start of a trilogy in which yelworC demonstrates in their own words, their “unbroken vitality” and continues to set new standards in the dark-electro-scene.
As previously stated, this album sets the perfect stage for a horror flick drifting through soundscapes of terror and anguish, yet also revealing a diverse array of acoustic sounding instruments through out the journey.
Initially I wasn’t overly impressed with the album though after multiple listens Trinity has grown on me, revealing a very complex layering of sound.
One of my personal favorites is the second track titled "Doom of Choronzon" which has a very early Skinny Puppy feel to it dating back to the days of Bites and Remission. Puppy’s "Flowers and Staircases" comes to mind when hearing several of the tunes on this album.
The band flaunts a first-class blend of retro electronic-based music and gurgling gargoyle vocals in the traditional, and at times overused, Industrial format yet yelworC manages to add their own signature flare to this over populated mechanized scene.
With tracks like "Revelation" and "Trinity", yelworC resembles the likes of bands such as Wumpscutt, yet don’t let me mislead you into thinking this is another future-pop, EBM club album. It certainly is not, but a multifaceted soundtrack to the underworld with a hint of dark spirituality.
This being said, I haven’t a clue how serious this band takes themselves with their sinister lyrics, samples and cover illustrations, but who cares? It’s certainly worth a good listen!
01. Blaze of Downfall
02. Doom of Choronzon
03. Triune Junction
04. Prodigies of Black
05. Vexilla Regis Inferni
07. After Laughter
09. Cania`s Curse
12. Beast Tamer
13. Almighty Din
14. Thru Me
SOMETHING RED (Strobelight)
~review by Mick Mercer
‘That Much I Didn’t Want To Know’ kicks in with a scalpel of a guitar, heavy fast drums, and a boiling energy which is positively rapacious. Most modern Goths’ hair would fall out on the spot as they tremble and rush for the nearest old lady to hide behind. ‘W-w-w-what is this noise?’ they would quiver. It’s what post-punk vigour brings to Goth sensibilities, and Zadera have a great vocalist in Conny, half- sass, half-drowsy. Great hair too, like a petrified world war one pilot, somehow. They bolt through the song, kicking up a storm of delirious dust. It’s catchy, with some gaseous bellowing backing vocals and as they turn into a quiet spell they also do that with purpose and powerful presence. Me impressed.
A cracking opening, but there’s fourteen songs on this, and you know what I said about some German vocalist handling English manages to sound like ranting maniacs? Not Conny, she has a tender, smooth side which is clearly natural, and can soar high over the slower songs like ‘Through The Pale Door’, where the guitar dominates as main instrument, but Conny remains the guide, which is what singers are there for, after all. It’s very Punky with a well-honed energy that takes time to acquire, but this is their debut album four years after they’ve formed, so they have pent-up ambition pouring into every song.
Even when the guitar/drums pattern is fairly nondescript and the punky hammer-down old-fashioned, as with ‘Life Strikes Back’, which is Action Pact in all but name, the hyper-yelping vocals carry the day as the drums duck and dive, and in ‘No Answer’ they’re stomping and rolling furiously as they splinter and throw of angry sparks. This is Punk, pure and simple, with little flecks of guitar depth. ‘You Have Lost’ is more open and still racing along, but holds back enough for the vocals to display real charm, conveying pointed lyrics, and the guitars hover, going all bilious.
‘Circulation’ has a sweeter internal charm as the guitar beefs up and keeps jabbering, with sweeping bass curves filling out the sound while dual vocals act as mischievous horns of their attack. ‘Fallen’ gets you worried, with an acoustic intro and slow, meandering vocals, but they grow like a diseased plant and wobble about like spiky-haired triffids, which is more than acceptable. They go all morose and muted in ‘One More Life’ but the bass saves a fairly turgid song by keeping it humming rather than bumbling along, and ‘Das Licht’ is slower and weirder, drooping then floating, showing more of the post-Punk sense of doing whatever feels right, without some of the constraints Goth imposes.