Short Cuts to lists by: Blu, Eric, Joel, Matthew, Mike V, Sonya, Steph, Uncle Nemesis, Professor Jef

Blu's Top Ten CDs

1. Cinema Strange – The Astonished Eyes Of Evening 
I called it for my Yearly Top Ten when I first reviewed it back in May 2002 and here it is, the end of the year and its still at the top of my list. This is their second CD and it's the most beautifully morbid piece of work I've heard to date - from anyone. .. with lyrics somewhere between the worlds of Poe, Tim Burton and Edward Gorey. This CD is packaged smartly in a digi-pack, the cover and spine with sparkling silver lettering and the insides which open up like a Brother's Grimm fairy tale with index page announcing: "The Astonished Eyes of Evening by Cinema Strange." Thankfully there are lyrics inside - a delight to all the senses when read along with the music to more fully appreciate their twisted wit and satire -  and a very amusing list of players that will no doubt clue you in on the complex personalities that have created this masterpiece. The lyrics are nothing short of sheer literary genius.  A morbid set of stories unfolds as you listen...

2. Myssouri - 4 Song Demo (2002)
Some might argue that this release shouldn't count in my top ten because it was never a public release and you cannot buy it anywhere. It was a demo CD they did specifically for shopping labels and they were kind enough to send me one. In regards to anything Myssouri does I find myself thinking, as cheesy as it might sound, "I'm not worthy." This band is miles beyond most bands in the mainstream/altrna/indie markets let alone our little subculture and the fact that they even make time to talk to me and that they are not busy doing world tours confuses the hell out of me. They rank right up there on my list with bands like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. A new CD is on the horizon and this is just a small taste of it:  The music is as tight and as complete as the new band photos will lead you to believe and the power and intellect in the lyrics remain a strong and driving force behind this band. What's changed, and perhaps for the better, is that they've gotten a little bolder and a little more punchy in their delivery. Michael's loosened up his singing style quite a bit and the percussion has gone the way of a dirty rock n roll beat with a slight hint of the blues. Never fear though, the unique qualities that made Myssouri such a stand out band are still there - the slide guitar, the western twang, the dark sentiments -- all there like a well worn pair of riding gloves. Tracks include: Floorless Jig, Landlocked Blues, Catalog of Woes, Orphan Song.

3. Belisha - People of the Dark
If you were lucky enough to attend one of their shows on the West Coast of the U.S.A. you probably got your hands on this new CD and will have had a chance to hear what most people won't for a few more months yet (it's slated for a mid-April 2003 release in the UK and later for the rest of the world). San Francisco DJ Rick A Mortis joins me in naming  People of the Dark one of his top CDs of the year alongside work such as Cinema Strange, Penis Flytrap, Peter Murphy and David Bowie. Greg Fasolino, noted alternative music journalist and guitarist for The Naked And The Dead, has said it's a "damn good" CD and named their track, "The Fall Of The Evergreen," as his favorite off the StarVox Trinity Compilation. You see, it's not just me. So what's all the excitement about you ask? Buzzing around subjects as diverse as UFOs, ghosts and paranormal activity, matters of the heart and rebellion against unfair practices of organized religion and government, is a complex, well produced, textured and musically powerful CD. At times it's a seething ball of fury and criticism on political fronts; at other times it has all the abandon and fun of bouncy, riotous punk and every once in a while, there are moments of pure blissful beauty and heart-felt soul. If I had to make references for familiarity's sake, I'd say mix up a bowl of one part Sex Pistols (for the angry energy) and one part New Model Army (for the politics) and toss in a bit of Killing Joke, Led Zepplin and The Damned for musical flavor.

4. The Brides - Baby Girls Are Much More Tender
Starting a new band after a popular one dissolves is always a hard thing to do. You don't want to sound like the same band with a new name really so you go in a new direction. The risk then is what happens to all your old fans? Do they go with you? Or do they whine and complain that they miss the old band? After the Brickbats split up, I wasn't sure how well I'd like The Brides and with their first release, I was a bit lukewarm to their sound. I was still mourning the loss of monster music. But looking back on it, I think it also had alot to do with the fact that The Brides had not rounded out their lineup yet and their sound was incomplete. Fast forward a bit and mix Greg Jaw and Julia Ghoulia into the batter and you have a cake that will rise. Baby Girls Are Much More Tender with addictive songs like "Hi!" and "Wives Turned Widows" is the CD that sold me on The Brides as a unique and entertaining band completely separate of our dearly departed Brickbats. It's really like nothing else I've heard before with dashes of morbid victorian charm, 70's psychedelic fog, B Horror Movies, Rockabilly, and Glam-rock all mixed together. The absolutely corrupt and psychotic lyrics are worth their own story altogether. If nothing else, you need to check them out to see what creative minds are capable of in a scene that all too often gets stagnant on trends.

5. Bella Morte - The Quiet/ The Deathrock EP
They just keep getting better and better. The long awaited follow up to Where Shadows Lie find the Bella Morte boys pushing the boundaries of their sound. With the addition of guitarist Tony Lechmanski, they have taken on a decidely more rock feel incorporating more gritty guitar sound than ever before while managing not to stray too far away from the synth propelled melodies that fans are used to hearing. Never ones to follow trends, Bella Morte seems to have avoided the EBM trap while managing to keep the "club appeal" in their music. Plain and simply - they ROCK and may be the one band capable of unifying a scene that has been splitting at its seams. As an added bonus I included their Deathrock EP - a re-issue of a vinyl pressing that had sold out during their US Tour with The Cruxshadows that pays tribute and homage to their punk background and their love of all things undead -- ZOMBIES!

6. Frankenstein - Limited Edition EP
I really don't think I can put it any better than Johnny Bubonic did on
"This is a pure bone-crunching juggernaut of raw energy. A collection of blistering bluesy bad-boy horrorpunk dirges that ferociously hammers it's fists against the laboratory walls.  A green leviathan of fulsome pile-driving sexuality demanding release...There's a seething sultry undercurrent in the guitar work that hints at more than a little mischievous debauchery in it's discourse with the pelvis grinding rhythm section".

7. The Sins - The Beginning
Gothic Rock the way it should be. Our generation's version of bands like The Mission UK, Fields of the Nephilim and The Cult. This is big, gritty, full tilt rock with all the darkness, brooding anger and mystery you could ask for. Immensely talented musicians from various backgrounds contribute making this band one of the most musically sound bands I know who can pull off amazing improvs at their live shows functioning as one like-thinking organism. It's absolutely amazing what these guys can accomplish. Probably one of the hardest working (they played 20 shows last year in the Pacific Northwest) and hardest partying bands I know of in the states. This CD is just a sample of what they have to offer.

8. Audra - Going to the Theatre
If you thought you knew what Audra sounded like, think again. Going to the Theatre is Audra's second full length CD release on Projekt and with this - we are ushered into a different world than the one they left us with at the conclusion of their first CD. And although their self-titled CD was dark and brooding, this is quite different in an intense way. All too often sophomore efforts too closely echo their debut and with that the intrigue and mystery of a band is quickly lost. But this - this will make people stop and take notice. The strength and variety of this second album, the growth shown in all areas from song writing to production, should be an indicator that Audra has huge creative potential and staying power. The maturity in their lyrics and the confidence in their delivery speaks volumes about where they're headed. Audra is one of those bands who has "it"  - that magical element that can captivate and spell bind audiences.

9. Peter Murphy - Dust
Peter Murphy is nothing short of magical to me. His words these days seem like warm, fatherly advice or pearls of wisdom from an all-knowing sage. Bringing us the sounds of Turkey - his home for quite some time now - Dust mixes the wordly and exotic sounds of that country together with the wise lyrics of Murphy to create a soothing and utterly beautiful work that is something more akin to Dead Can Dance than Bauhaus. As our fellow writer Anthony so eloquently said of Peter in regards to this CD:  "Murphy speaks two languages, one verbal and one musical. It is the commingling of the two that so befuddles, enthralls, and seduces with its every breath. It is the language of music that wrenches my heart as I listen. It is the language of music that fills my eyes with tears. The greatest music has endured, because of its ability to violently and just as suddenly whisper across our heart strings. It resonates because it is human and speaks of the eternity that stretches out before us. Murphy's offering is alchemy, the base metal of man, transformed into the glittering gold of self and spirit awareness."

10. Sex Gang Children - Bastard Art
Vitality. This CD certainly proves that our favorite Uncle Andi is far from out of the running. Thought provoking, mysterious, cultured and certainly with its moments of beauty (the strings on "Saraband For Dead Lovers" can bring me to tears), Bastard Art propels Sex Gang Children into the here and now in delightful ways. It should be bought for the lyrics alone... I dare you to dive in.
Bastard Art website:
Andi Sex Gang's website:

Eric Rasmussen's Top Ten: 

1. Arcturus - The Sham Mirrors
The Sham Mirrors is a surprisingly straightforward follow-up to
Arcturus's revolutionary La Masquerade Infernale. The fairly catchy songs at first seem uncharacteristic of Arcturus, but further listens reveal enormous depth and creativity. This album is not to be missed by metal fans. It'll hijack your CD player and keep spinnin' for weeks on end - with half the psychological damage La Masquerade Infernale inflicted on unwary listeners.

2. Virgin Black - Sombre Romantic
Virgin Black is the most artistic metal band I came across this year. Their use of operatic vocals, choirs, and cellos along with traditional metal instrumentation gives Sombre Romantic an intense depth. Virgin Black uses metal elements when suitable for the passionate music they are compelled to write - but this is as far from metal as you can get with heavy guitars and harsh vocals. All fans of dark music should give Virgin Black a listen.

3. Immortal - Sons of Northern Darkness
Immortal is the band I go to for to-the-point, kick-ass black metal. Abbath and crew have crafted what is possibly their best release to date, and the blackened thrash approach on Sons of Northern Darkness is a metal experience you need to hear to appreciate. If you've got even the slightest inclination towards blackened metal from the cold, cold forests of Norway, you need to own this CD.

4. Soilwork - Natural Born Chaos
Soilwork are getting their due credit from the mainstream metal crowd, but I'm afraid more underground fans are content to label them "sellout" and ignore the quality work they've been putting out. Natural Born Chaos is not only the best produced release I've heard all year, but every single song is superbly crafted and just plain rockin'. Soilwork had been looking for their voice, and on Natural Born Chaos they found it.

5. Apotheosis - Farthest from the Sun
Intense! That's the best word to describe this epic journey through four lengthy songs. Apotheosis combine elements of hardcore black metal and epic orchestral soundtracks in a way that'll have you running around madly and flailing your arms randomly. Unless you've got some dragons to slay, you won't know what else to do with the overdose of epic excitement.

6. Enslaved - Monumension
The masters of viking metal have crafted their most overwhelmingly odd release yet. You may wonder exactly how Monumension fits into the genre of viking metal in the first place. Musically, it only loosely does... but Enslaved have tapped into the spirit of their ancestors and set out to explore new musical bounds in the Viking tradition of exploration. The end result is a stunning and wholly unique foray into the darker side of metal.

7. ...And Oceans - Cypher
...And Oceans craft undeniably listenable and excellent techno-ish metal. Unfortunately, Cypher is full of horrible side-effects that will turn you into a raving paranoid madman living in a house made of foil. If you find that idea appealing (and who wouldn't!), by all means seek out a copy of Cypher.

8. Das Ich - Antichrist
I wasn't sure I'd ever find a band that could fulfill my need for jagged dance-industrial the way Skinny Puppy could. Das Ich is no Skinny Puppy clone, but their harsh syncopated rhythms and apocalytpic atmospheres hit me in the same way Skinny Puppy's work always did. Das Ich present dark atmospheres with electronics, orchestrated synth arrangements, and very emotional vocal performances.

9. Agalloch - The Mantle
I was shocked to find out that this album has received a lot of 'love it' or 'hate it' reactions. The main complaint seems to be that The Mantle is boring. Pfft! Nonsense! This is Agalloch's most varied and ambitious work to date, and though the feel is brighter than past releases, it's still a must-have CD for fans of doom(ish) metal. The repetitive themes lend it a hypnotic cadence that draws you into Agalloch's world and takes you on a journey through several bleak landscapes. It's tough to find good metal releases that you can get completely lost in and absorbed by, but this is one of them.

10. Brave - Searching for the Sun
Brave write some of the best prog/rock/metal songs you'll ever hear. Although lighter in mood than anything else on this list, Brave's music has a rare emotional depth that will appeal to any fan of skillfully written and honest music. Michelle Loose is no 'supporting female vocalist' as is all the rage in metal bands today. Rather, her amazing and emotive performance on Searching for the Sun is a critical part of what defines Brave's sound. Be sure to give them a listen and see what you think.

Matthew's Top 10 of 2002

1. The Shroud – In The Garden (Neue Asthetik)
The long awaited fourth release shows the band in top form, fusing gorgeous washes of guitar with mid-paced trip hop.   And of course, the throaty alto vocals of Lydia Fortner add the final touch of velveteen perfection.

2. All About Eve – Return To Eden
Certainly not a 2002 release, but it was re-released this year! And I have yet to grow tired of this gem of a collection.  Featuring the raw post punk singles of the band’s early discography, this is a fantastic introduction to All About Eve, who rightfully ranks alongside classic alternative/Goth Rock bands like the Banshees, The Mission, and the Cocteau Twins.

3. The Changelings – Astronomica (Middle Pillar)
A lovely mix of Celtic, Eastern, and Darkwave music, with authentic instrumentation, fantastic female vocals, and a dazzling atmosphere of fantasy and romance.

4. Novembers Doom – To Welcome The Fade (Dark Symphonies)
Not nearly as intense or funereal as their early releases, this band’s fourth full-length was still a progressive triumph for November’s Doom.  A moody and epic release with a warm and clear production, it shows how powerfully emotional and poignant Gothic Metal can be.

5. Agalloch – The Mantle (The End Records)
Agalloch’s latest release shows how a band can indeed be technical and progressive yet not lose sight of atmosphere.  This release invokes an enveloping and grandiose sense of gloom, and simultaneously yields impressive musicianship.  The band wears their broad influences proudly on their sleeves, ultimately giving birth to a unique blend of Gothic Rock, Doom and Black Metal, Apocalyptic Folk, and Classical music.

6. Cinema Strange – The Astonished Eyes Of Evening (Trisol)
Bizarre, challenging, surreal, haunting, and above all, genuine – Cinema Strange blatantly disregard the current trends prevalent throughout the scene in order to provide something that truly captures the essence of what the genre could be.  They are the musical embodiment of not only Gothic anxiety and Victorian Decadence, but they pick up where the great forefathers of Death Rock left off and boldly venture further into the nightmarish caverns of the mind.

7. The Machine In The Garden – Asphodel (Middle Pillar)
This band has a few minute shortcomings indeed, but they possess the rare ability to send chills down the spine with standard Darkwave formulas.  They seamlessly fuse organic guitars with mechanical rhythms in a way that is familiar, yet still effective.  I guess to be quite frank, I dig them because a few of their compositions are truly creepy and unsettling, but they still somehow manage to seem accessible to mainstream Goth audiences.

8. My Dying Bride – Voice Of The Wretched (Peaceville)
I am a bit reluctant to include a live CD in my top ten list, but MDB are indeed my favourite band and this is one incredible live album.  This exceptionally well-recorded release collects some of the band’s most beloved (or bereaved) tracks on a single CD.  I have waited almost ten years to see this band live – and this CD (and corresponding DVD) managed to tide me over at least temporarily.

9. Necare – Appassionata (Crestfallen Records)
Contemporary Doom Metal that gives a nod to the genre’s raw and early past. Monstrous male growls volley between dejected clean vocal lamentations while dreary guitar melodies float eerily above walls of rhythmic crunch and dirge-paced percussion.  Recalling the early days of Anathema and My Dying Bride, Necare is one of the best Doom bands active on American shores.

10. Trespassers William – Different Stars (Sonikwire)
The sophomore release from this mellow Orange County act is a gorgeous reminder of how straightforward acoustic based songs can be more poignant than heavily layered and overproduced music.  Trespassers William elegantly fuse elements of dark folk, indie, shoegaze, and even a tad bit of country. The introverted voice of Anne Williams croons atop the subtle yet expressive guitar work of Matt Brown, resulting in a heart-wrenching alchemy of artistic passion.

Mike V’s Top Picks for 2002
Another year has passed and it is that grueling task of trying to select the top 10 out of hundreds, if not thousands, of CD's.  2002 was an odd year for releases because the good ones came in at the beginning of the year, trickled in drips and drabs in the middle of the year, and then came as yet another onslaught at the end of the year. 

Since many of our readers are club patrons and want to dance, the selections were based on dance accessibility, lyrical & emotive content and vocal delivery. Many other CD's would have been here that are also in the ethereal genre but thankfully, some of my esteemed colleagues have made their choices within that realm. This helped a bit because between all of us, we hope to give as well rounded and as broad of a selection to choose from. My list basically shot for the middle of the bell curve to appeal to as broad a section of the underground as possible. 

1. Funhouse - Oceans of Tears
If you have not read Blu's review and have not picked up on this phenomenal goth rock Cd, you will certainly be stripped of your goth black ribbons. A band THIS good should be on every playlist from coast to coast!

2: Mortiis - Smell of Rain
This is a grand departure from the infamous musician with a decidedly "different look. This CD and it's follow up with special remixes has Mortiis in a new realm of industrial style music which is rather addictive. The MP3 songs are down at the moment of this writing due to a glitch. In the future you can sample some work at  For now go to his website at:

3. The Sins - The Beginning 
One would swear that lead singer Nightmare Boy puts subliminal messages into the songs. These tracks are LOADED with such sensuality that is hard not to want to rip your clothes off and dance naked in the park all night long. Great goth from the US North West coast. This band will be huge, just you wait! 
Sound samples at
Official band page at

4. Paralysed Age - Into the Ice 
You either love it or hate it. I loved it. Nice old school goth rock beats with a vampire and synthesizer twist. The wait was worth it for this release which should keep the folks at Dancing Ferret pressing into overtime yet again. 
Official Website:

5. Claire Voyant - Love is Blind
Victoria Lloyd simply has the vocals that can calm a savage beast or mend a broken heart. Whether she sings with this, her primary band or as a guest vocalist for any number of projects, it is impossible not to be swept up into the beauty and majesty of such well delivered vocals.
Sound samples:
Also at Metropolis

6. Tapping The Vein - The Damage
It was once said that lead singer Heather Thompson embodies every tragic diva that ever lives. Now on Nuclear Blast, the band pulled out all the stops and poured every raw emotion into their CD. Additionally, they have even included a couple of old school style tracks to appease the elder goths as well. 
Song samples at
Official page at

7. Belisha - The Hounded
These Brit bad boys know how to throw a party as evidenced by their 2002 appearance on the West Coast! They didn't play it safe in the least and managed to go one step over the edge to be real. Their uptempo songs are simply hard to resist. Let's just hope success doesn't spoil them! 
Song samples at
Official website:

8: VNV Nation - FuturePerfect
Yes, I know it's not goth, but it has to be among some of the most heartfelt EBM to come around for quite some time. Another winner for the band.
Official homepage at

9: Various Artists - The Best of Gothic Radio Volume 1
DarkFuture music has scored again with another hit. The work is decidedly more electro/industrial, but the macabre goth elements were never far behind. This company manages to find music that isn't on everyone's playlist and makes us drool for more.
Official site at 

10. Neuroticfish - Les Chancons Neurotiques
I fell in love with Neuroticfish and have now been fully immersed in their sound. Dance floors have been quick to pick up on this because it is so well done without being a copycat of anyone else. The emotive lyrics and infectious beats make this a sure fire winner for the year!
Official website at

Sonya Brown’s Top Ten List for 2002
Quite often with top ten lists, I find myself struggling to remember ten favorites over an entire year. Not so this year. This year, my cd collection is just bursting with excellent music - many of which are worthy of making the top ten list for 2002. Here they are in alphabetical order...

*THE CHANGELINGS - Astronomica
Middle Pillar Presents:
When I’m in the mood for meditation and Middle Eastern soundscapes, Astronomica lifts my spirits with fluttering faery vox, viola, dulcimer, chimes... quite heavenly! Favorites include “Orbit”, as well as the Changelings’ version of Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”. 

*DAS ICH - Anti’Christ
And on “the eight day” (“Der Achte Tag”) Das Ich created Anti’Christ. What collection would be complete without Das Ich?!  Certainly not mine. Das Ich takes industrial music to biblical heights with Anti’Christ. 

*DIARY OF DREAMS - Freak Perfume
I have always been fascinated (and often plagued) by strange dreams, so perhaps that is why Diary of Dreams was a sure pick for my top ten.  Freak Perfume invokes personal lyrics, word-play (in both German and English), electronics, melodic piano... all of which combine to help fill my restless nights.

*HMB - Great Industrial Love Affairs
WTII Records:
When I heard this CD, I KNEW it would be one of my all-time-favorites. Daniel Myer & Victoria Lloyd create beautiful music together; add Dennis Ostermann (In Strict Confidence) and Vanessa Briggs, and you have a great industrial love affair.  This CD is a brilliant and beautiful combination of EBM, trance and techno, masterfully produced.

Every so often I like to shake things up with something truly “different”. The Umbrella Party provides eclectic spoken and sung word, accompanied by keyboards and odd sounds, by an artist that deserves much more recognition. Julian Tulip’s Licorice is poetry for when I’m feeling “artsy”... or just plain “weird”.

*LOLLIPOP LUST KILL - My So Called Knife
Artemis Records:
The cover artwork (created by Chad Michael Ward, first drew me into Lollipop Lust Kill, and the music kept me there. My So Called Knife feels oh-so-wicked and depraved (I really like that quality in a cd!), and a very sexy cover of “Personal Jesus” is only the beginning. Inspired by Stephen King’s “The Shining”, the track “Bury You” is another of my personal favorites.  Tasty!

*MIDNIGHT SYNDICATE - Vampyre: Symphonies from the Crypt
Entity Productions:
This one took me by surprise, and I’m still perplexed as to why I would choose a cd without vocals for my top ten list (I truly LOVE vocals!)  However, Midnight Syndicate has done something extraordinary with Vampyre - Symphonies from the Crypt. Ghostly chants and lush orchestrations create the perfect backdrop of sound when every day is Halloween.

Dust is the culmination of Peter Murphy’s life and work in music. This is the quintessential Peter Murphy CD for my collection.  My favorite Dust track would be “No Home Without Its Sire”.  I play this one again and again. 

Candyland Entertainment:
Project Pitchfork demonstrates industrial excellence with Inferno.  Sexy German and English vocals wrap me up on a cold winter’s night and warms like a hefty shot of Jägermeister.  Inferno is simply one of my “must have” cd’s.

*Various Artists/PROJEKT: GOTHIC an ethereal/darkwave compilation
Now a cornerstone in my collection, the Projekt: Gothic Compilation features all of my fave Projekt artists (Audra, Voltaire, This Ascension, Black Tape For A Blue Girl, Attrition, Mors Syphilitica, Lycia, Mira, Thanatos, Human Drama, Rajna, Lovespirals & Unto Ashes).  Human Drama absolutely mesmerizes with “Lonely” (I can still hear the piano resonating in my head!), and the Unto Ashes cover of “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, alone, is worth the price of admission. I’m also intrigued that most of these artists gathered together to perform at Projektfest ‘02 in Philadelphia ( That must have been quite the show, as I have seen several of these artists perform in my own home town. Projekt: Gothic gives me the opportunity to take them all home with me - and to choose 13 fantastic Projekt artists for my top ten list all at once!

Steph's Top Five List:
Call me cranky, call me picky, but I kept my list short this year. Every album on this list is essential, and albums that truly meet that criteria for me are far and few between.

David Bowie - Heathen
Still here, still vital. Everyone said this was one of his best in years, and for once, everyone was right.

Raveonettes - Whip it on
The Velvet Underground (with an unsedated Nico)  met the Jesus and Mary Chain in a rough n' ready cowboy hangout, and when the dust cleared, The Raveonettes were standing there, guitars in hand. I was defenceless from the very first note.

Chaos Engine - Escape Ferocity
Strobe lights, anger, aggression, fighting against resisting forces, watching the centre cave in and building it all again from scratch, maintaining a fierce victory over it all. This album will twine itself into your neurons.

Ladytron - Light and Magic
A gender-bending Kraftwerk for the new millenium. This whole album was slyly seductive, sharp and entrancing.

DUST - Lords of Madness 
This bright young band who impressed me a couple of years ago comes back with a darker, more focused sound, and they wear like it kings. I must cross the ocean to see these guys live!

Uncle Nemesis' Top Ten:

Manuskript - Natural High (Resurrection)
A splendidly assured album which packs a mighty guitar-driven punch, but never loses grip of a nimble pop sensibility. Accessible, catchy pop songs which could easily hold their own against anything produced by the Suedes of this world sit neatly beside excursions into more left-field territory. Clever lyrics and choruses to die for, full-speed-ahead rhythms and ideas that tumble forth as if tipped out of a bucket. This is classic, spiky, assertive British pop songwriting at its best, and how ironic that we have to delve into the goth scene to find it. 2003 will be an interesting year for Manuskript: they've pretty much hit the 'goth ceiling' in the UK now, in that they've more or less achieved everything it's possible to achieve within the small confines of the UK goth scene. Any further progress can only come by expanding their audience - perhaps in the direction of the 'eyeliner indie' area. And why not? The band's music and general aesthetic has always been up that street. (All those Suede fans out there *could* be Manuskript fans...) Let's face it, Manuskript are simply too good a band to languish in the small pond of BritGoth. It's time to take a tangent and make a few things happen. (Updating the website would be a good start!)
Manuskript's website:

The Narcissus Pool -  Rehearsing For Dementia (Razorblade Beat)
Abrasive and gritty and manic and very much out on their own limb (and sometimes just plain out of their tree), The Narcissus Pool mash up punky energy with programmed rhythms and dry, cynical lyrics - and come up with an impressive album which shows just how effective the DIY approach can be. Neat production, cinematic samples, and a splendid disregard for goth-scene trends all contribute to an album which bursts with individual identity. Very English, in a way, with a vocal style that probably owes more to John Lydon's sarky outbursts with Pil than any goth influences. The Narcissus Pool are busily engaged in chopping out their own niche in the UK underground...and they don't much care who gets showered with their hacked-out dirt. Good on 'em for that, I say!
The Narcissus Pool's website:

Suicide - American Supreme (Blast First/Mute)
Back in 1977, when we were all spitting at each other to the sound of heavily-abused guitars, Suicide came out of nowhere with a whumping drum machine, an Elvis croon, and seven tons of reverb on everything. The sound they made - pre-techno, proto-industrial, just plain scary - was nothing like anyone had heard before. A frightening 25 years later, Suicide are still with us - not trying to make a buck with some stupid reunion to please ageing punks, but producing new material that is as resolutely left-field as ever. 'American Supreme' is an album dripping with cynicism and bile. It casts a baleful eye over the world and reports back with jaundiced resignation. Every human folly from celebrity lifestyles to worldwide American dominance is skewered by Alan Vega's lyrics, while the music grooves magisterially behind his vocals. And what vocals they are: never has Vega sounded so 'out there', like Elvis Presley singing from beyond the grave. On 'Swearin' To The Flag' his voice is genuinely unsettling, slipping uneasily over the loping electronics of the music like a skater swooping over the thinnest of ice. 'Dachau, Disney, Disco' breaks the mood with a big, bad, rhythm and a lyric that's nothing more than the song title endlessly repeated - until you start to contemplate the juxtaposition and meaning of the words and it all gets rather unnerving. It's the closest thing here to old-skool industrial, and it's nice to hear that aesthetic given a contemporary workout. But the track is an aberration on an album which for the most part matches Marty Rev's slick electronica, slipping down as easily as cream, with Vega's other-worldly rock 'n' roll vocals and magnificently bleak viewpoint. It's all spookily effective and it could *only* be Suicide. Listen and get the fear.
Suicide's website:
Suicide's page on the Mute Liberation Technologies site:

Frank Black & the Catholics - Dog In The Sand (Cooking Vinyl)
2002 saw the release of yet another Pixies compilation ('The Purple Tape' - previously unreleased early recordings). As if goaded by this, the band's erstwhile frontman, Frank Black, riposted with three - count 'em, three - new albums with his current band, The Catholics. I'll confess it, I'm a Frank Black fan. I went out and bought them all - but only one makes my end-of-year chart. Of the three albums, two stand as in-the-raw documents of work in progress. A nice idea, but the results are a little too patchy to win a place in this listing. 'Black Letter Days' contains a roistering version of the old Tom Waits song, 'The Black Rider', and a genuine, storming, classic in the title track, but overall is padded out with a touch too many alt-country strumalongs for my taste. 'Devil's Workshop' has some gloriously freaked-out stuff (and, on 'Velvety', a wonderful half-hollered, half-yelped vocal performance from Mr. B) - but at times I get the impression that the band are just having a pleasant afternoon in the studio rather than really going for it. There are little gems here for the diehard fans, but for those less committed to the cause, it's on the third album, 'Dog In The Sand', that it all comes together. Recorded live to four-track, the sound shoulders its way out of the speakers with an assertive no-shit attitude that's quite shocking in a world where most recordings are compressed into timid submission. 'Robert Onion' is an impassioned performance, with, in true Frank Black style, an incomprehensible lyric: 'Tails pushing grand whales/Heads hope to have the stuff/Each flag had no sail/Can you believe enough?' 'Stupid Me' is, by contrast, a direct, wistful little doo-wop song on the subject of lost love, while 'Bullet' reprises Frank Black's long-term interest in space aliens. A pedal steel weirdly wails as he sings: 'Excuse me now I've got a call/I'll take this call from Valhalla/Please tell my friends from outer space/You are my son, you'll take my place'. Sure, Frank, anything you old weirdo. 'Hermaphrodite' is a gritty, 70s-style guitar workout, built around a crunchy riff which comes dangerously close to turning into 'Brown Sugar', while 'I'll Be Blue' is a simple, melancholy ballad with a curiously moving lyric which seems to concern the right to be sad: 'Please pardon me for these my wrongs/And I will leave, but I won't put your party face on'. The real killer, however, is the thunderous, full-tilt, trucking song, 'If It Takes All Night'. It's a big, bad, on-the-road anthem with dirt on its wheels and guitars in the fuel tank, and it's easily as good as anything Frank Black has ever done in any of his incarnations.
A Frank Black site - fan-authored, but as official as makes no difference:
A recent Frank Black interview:

The Delgados - Hate (Mantra)
The indie scene isn't exactly in a flush of good health these days. With its audience-demographic battered from all sides by TV-gimmick manufactured pop groups and the major-label juggernaut of nu-metal, it's a marvel that anyone is still listening to intelligent, independent music made by bands with their own ideas, their own sound and spirit. But in spite of everything, the fans are still out there - and so, if you look for them, are the bands. And for my money, the best indie release of the year is this, the new album from The Delgados. The band makes oddly off-centre pop tunes wrapped up in lavish arrangements (there are choirs and string sections on this album), with lyrics that are very often darker than you'd assume at a first listen. 'The Light Before We Land' opens the album with swooning strings, celestial choirs, and a massive, massive drumbeat which will kick your head in if you're foolish enough to listen on headphones. Believe me, the production on this album is BIG. And then Emma Pollock's cut-glass voice comes in, so controlled and yet so wistful: 'In cases such as these I'd like a hand/Don't wake me up without a master plan' - and the song swoops off on spiralling thermals of sound. Yeah, yeah, I'm giving way to hyperbole, but the song deserves it. It's a nice little indie-ballad, and yet also a wide-screen anthem. Don't ask me how the band tie those contradictions together, but they do. Second song in, and we get the (almost) title track, 'All You Need Is Hate'. This features a vocal by Alun Woodward. I'm not so keen on his voice, which sometimes seems a bit too much like that identikit 'indie-bloke' style for me, but here he aquits himself well with a splendidly sarcastic showstopper. It's orchestrated to the max, like an out-take from a lavish sixties musical. Imagine Lionel Bart if he'd woken up with a *very* bad hangover: 'Hate is all around, find it in your heart, in every waking sound/On your way to school, work or church you'll find that it's the only rule'. Like all the best black humour, it's delivered absolutely straight. But for me, the best track on the album is another Emma Pollock song, 'Coming In From The Cold'. Again, I'm struck by the unaffected Englishness of her voice: she's not putting on any airs or graces, she can just *do* it. The song has one of those lilting tunes which lodges in your brain after one listen, and like so much of The Delgados' stuff, it has that streak of melancholia which will have you feeling all introspective even as you tap your feet. A tour de force of an album which quite restores my faith in the indie scene.
The Delgados' website:
The Delgados' page on their own (and former!) label's site:

Waterglass - Wisdom Like Silence (Watertight)
Cool, well-crafted songs, immediate, in-your-room production, and an individual approach which lifts the band head and shoulders above many of the current UK goth scene's chancers. This is an album that you can really get into. Lyrics that strip emotions bare, and some very fine musicianship - not that they make a big deal of it, or anything, but Waterglass can *play*. Like Manuskript, Waterglass have an appeal that could potentially go far beyond the tightly-drawn boundaries of the UK goth scene. It's interesting to note that of all the bands I've mentioned here, Waterglass probably have most in common with...The Delgados, who aren't a goth band at all. I suspect if Waterglass could blag a few supports with The Delgados or someone of that ilk, all sorts of doors would swing open for them. But that would require managers and middle-men, booking agents and buy-ons: all the tiresome paraphernalia of the music biz which Waterglass, as a 100% independent band working outside the machine, don't have. There's the dilemma, and don't ask me how to solve it. I'll just listen to the music - and be thankful they're out there doing it.
Waterglass website:

eX-Girl - Back To The Mono Kero (Kiki-Poo/Ipecac)
Weird costumes, wacky concepts, silly stuff a-go-go, but also a breathtakingly skillful musical ability served up with crazed good humour and an effortlessly cool attitude. Somehow, that kind of combination can only be delivered by Japanese bands (or maybe they're the only ones who can get away with it). eX-Girl were brought to my attention by Siouxsie And The Banshees, who had them on tour as their support band, and if the Banshees never do another thing they'll always be in my good books just because of that. eX-Girl's headline show in London in 2002 was the gig of the year for me. This album only gives you half the picture, in that eX-Girl's crazed visuals and gung-ho stage presence are missing from the mix, but the music itself easily holds its own. It's tight and precise, complex and exact, and yet also a helter-skelter punky rush. Time-changes, cross-rhythms, and spot-on vocal harmonies rub musical shoulders with bad-ass punk riffs and a wonderfully gritty, dirty, bass sound. 'Waving Scientist At Frog King' (eX-Girl's song titles are as mad as the music) throws all this at us at once: it's a stop-start anthem which sounds like Madam Butterfly in a blender with the UK Subs. That's probably the stupidest comparison I've ever drawn, but I challenge you to listen to the song and find a more fitting description. 'Tozaka' is Sonic Youth-style bubblegum-punk, with the added advantage of three-way harmony vocals. There's an 80s pop cover, which provides a welcome oasis of relative sanity amid the strangeness, but eX-Girl's take on M's 'Pop Muzik' kicks the original up the arse in no uncertain terms. And contains, incidentally, the most gloriously gravel-in-the-guts bass sound I've heard since The Stranglers did 'Nice 'n' Sleazy'. 'Cucumber Surrender' is angular and awkward, with unsettling gaps in the rhythm; Captain Beefheart's three daughters playing weird games. 'Zero Gravity' is a vast, towering, wall of guitar, a hammering bass-break and a skipping snare drum, but don't ask me to attempt to decipher the vocals. The band are about to crash their spaceship, or something. If all this sounds like a freaky weird-fest...well, yes, it is. But eX-Girl make it *work*, in a totally natural and un-precious way, without the slightest twitch of an ironic eyebrow. And the band's ability to make guitar, bass, and drums sit up and talk is astonishing. By turns proggy and punky, it occurs to me that eX-Girl are the only band I've ever encountered which I could unreservedly recommend to fans of both King Crimson and the Ramones.
eX-Girl's website:
eX-Girl's US label, Ipecac Recordings:

Sex Gang Children - Bastard Art (Magiccavern)
Andi Sex Gang, as ever occupying the strange territory between genius and savant, comes up with a astonishing album which re-writes the glam-rock rulebook in his own style. If you're looking for 'old goth stuff', this album will leave you confused. But if you can follow Andi on his journey into the centre of his own art-psyche, this will be very rewarding. Although the Sex Gang Children name has made a re-appearance here, this is in reality Andi Sex Gang himself working with the pool of musicians who have backed him on much of his recent solo stuff. Don't expect ten new versions of 'Sebastiane' - but *do* expect truckloads of glam-guitar, songs which effortlessly swing between cerebral and emotional, and a voice which keens and soars. It's all totally out of synch with everything that's currently happening in the world of rock  - and about a million miles away from what the present-day goth scene likes to listen to - but we need this kind of uniqueness. Long may Mr Sex Gang pursue his vision.
The new Sex Gang Children website:
Andi Sex Gang's website (most comprehensive information here):

Add N To X - Loud Like Nature (Mute)
What do you get when a bunch of electro-heads decide to take on glam? Possibly something like this album, where whumping great Glitter Band-style stompy drumbeats mix it with weird samples and gleefully smashed-up fragments of sound. Possibly the silliest album of the year, but that's a compliment. 'Total All Out Water' is a monster instrumental, while 'Sheez Mine' is dirty bubblegum. 'Invasion Of The Polaroid People'  is a sci-fi story told in samples, and is just as gloriously daft as the title. Play this album at a party, and I'll guarantee that before it's half over someone will glance bemusedly at the stereo and say, 'What the fuck is THIS?' In our compartmentalised, genre-specific world, we need music which provokes that reaction. This is an album that should be played *at* people, rather than to them.
Add N To X website:
An Add N To X interview:

Barry Adamson - The King Of Nothing Hill (Mute)
Barry Adamson is probably becoming very bored with constantly being referred to as 'ex-Bad Seeds', but his former life as one of Nick Cave's sidemen is still probably the principal reason he's known around these parts. Over the last few years, however, he's carved out an entirely new career as a creator of noir-ish soundtrack albums for imaginary films - and even for a few real ones. His first such album, 'Moss Side Story', was a bleakly chilling excursion into gangster-horror, complete with Diamanda Galas on screams. This time round, he's turned up the heat, transported himself into the seventies, and come up with an album of taut, gripping, cinematic funk. Unusually, it's a vocal album, rather than the instrumental works he's turned in previously, and his lyrics are as dark and menacing as the rolling funk is relentless. 

The pace of the album is interesting: it starts off relatively jaunty and uptempo, and gradually gets slower, darker, and more menacing as we are pulled further in. If you're coming at this from the goth angle (and I assume that most StarVox readers will be doing just that), start with 'When Darkness Calls', a groovily sinister number which rolls along like a limo on a night-time city street as Barry croons: 'We suck on your backbone, sliding right up to your mind/And get you making motions baby, of the evil kind'. That gives you the flavour of the album: it's a roiling, slinky, steamy, sexy brew, and the sinister late-night haze doesn't clear until the very last track. If this album really was a film, it would probably be a French arthouse porn-flick, an underground pastiche half way between James Bond and Shaft, showing at some seedy dive in Montmartre - in 1975. Listen to this album in a darkened room...and take yourself there.
Barry Adamson's website:
Barry Adamson's page on the Mute website:

...and two honourable mentions:

Half Man Half Biscuit - Cammell Laird Social Club (Probe Plus)

Daniel Ash - Daniel Ash (Psychobaby)

Joel Steudler's Top 10 Albums for 2002
This list is by no means comprehensive, and much more good music came out this year in multiple genres of metal... but these are the albums that grabbed hold of me, shook me around a bit, and demanded inclusion on a list that may influence others to buy them.

1. Aesma Daeva - The Eros of Frigid Beauty (Root Of All Evil)
An album that qualifies as fine art, this progressive metallic symphony features the tightest joining of orchestral and metal instrumentation I've yet heard.  Including operatic female vocals, prog metal with blazing synths, a horn section, flutes, violins, baroque harpsichords, and classical guitar, this ultra-ambitious release will please all fans of dark, avant-garde music.

2. Thy Majestie - Hastings 1066 (Scarlet/The End)
A rousing and massive choral performance highlights this energetic and uplifting powermetal release.  Thrill to the dramatic performance of the Teatro Massimo Choir, and be swept away by the blazing anthems the band delivers across the length of the album.

3. Immortal - Sons Of Northern Darkness (Nuclear Blast)
Sporting their traditional corpsepaint, the blackened-thrashers from the frozen north have never sounded better.  The album's clear and powerful production allows each crushing riff to thud full-force into the listener's eager ears.  An icy epic not to be missed.

4. Borknagar - Empiricism (Century Media)
New album, new singer, same old crazy Borknagar.  Once again the nutty Norsemen provide a sci-fi tinged burst of Scandanavian progressive black metal (or something like that).  Vintersorg ably picks up the vocal reins from the departed Simen Hestnæs and turns in a good performance over the band's usual superb compositions.  Øystein G. Brun's riffs never fail to impress and delight.

5. Salem - Collective Demise (System Shock/The End)
Israel's angry sons turn out a metal masterpiece reminiscent of Sepultura in their heyday.  Middle Eastern percussion and interesting (though sparse) electronics compliment the catchy riffs and varied vocals on this album.  The band melds elements of thrash, deathmetal, black metal and more into a cohesive and impressive whole.

6. Sirenia - At Sixes And Sevens (Napalm)
Morton Veland's post-Tristania project is a grandiose and majestic triumph.  Filled with huge sounding arrangements including multiple vocalists, a choir, a violinist, keyboards and heavy guitars.  A heap of entertaining and memorable songs make this an album to look for.

7. Manticora - Hyperion (Scarlet/The End)
Blindingly fast progressive powermetal based on author Dan Simmons' book 'Hyperion'.  Deftly played and interestingly arranged, this album will catch the ear of anyone who enjoys power metal with a science-fiction leaning.

8. ...And Oceans - Cypher  (Century Media)
Relentlessly depressing and negative, yet musically superior dark electronica-laced metal.  These Finns know how to craft mezmerizing music, but when you're done listening, you may not be able to muster the willpower to get up and continue on with life.

9. Envy - Sweet Painful Reality (self distributed)
A smooth and powerful lesson in songwriting from Niko: the mastermind behind this, his debut album.  Dark melodies, engaging riffs, and expressive clean male vocals make this a treat for fans of progressive and gothic rock alike.

10. Dominion III - Life Has Ended Here (Napalm)
Dargaard's Tharen and Elisabeth Toriser are joined by guitarist Lanz in this apocalyptic electronic blast.  Sounding mostly like a futuristic version of Summoning, this album's hypnotic rhythms and harsh industrial edges will enrapture and disquiet listeners at the same time.

Professor Jef’s Top Ten List for 2002
In New York, 2002 was all about holes. We excavated a big hole only to dump the precious remains in another big hole. Here is a list of some of the new releases that kept me from falling in one hole or another. Each and every one will also provide a fine soundtrack for such a trip, should one occur. 

The Vanity Set - Little Stabs of Happiness, 2003
Jim Sclavunos, known for his rhythmic duties for Lydia Lunch, The Gunga Din, and Nick Cave, steps way out on this, The Vanity Set’s second full length.  This record is A LOT more fun than anything his boss (Cave) has been able to cough up for a long, long time. Like the eponymous debut of The Vanity Set, “Little Stars…” is chock full of wickedly amusing observations on the conclusion of life’s little journey. Seek this out and be sure to catch this act live should they deign your burg worthy of a visit.

World/Inferno Friendship Society - Just the Best Party! (Gern Blandsted, 2002)
Orchestral punk rumble like you’ve never heard (and who has?), WIFS are a mad lot. Here they press on, into ever-greater definitions of their sound. Particular highlights are “I wouldn’t Want to Live (in a World Without Grudges)” and the crowd pleasing, “All the World’s a Stage (Dive).” Fans of parentheses should take special note.

Rasputina - Cabin Fever! (Instinct, 2002)
Melora Craeger is simply one of the great talents of our time. Her graphic design alone makes this a gem that makes me jealous of myself. As for the music, this is surely Rasputina’s most consistent offering to date.  “Gingerbread Coffin” opens the record in ways both coy and almost too cute. Other highlights include: “A Quitter,” a suicide note that cripples me each time I hear it and “Antique High Heel Red Doll Shoes,” which offers a twisty turn to your foot shuffling.

Cinema Strange - The Astonished Eyes of Evening (Tribol, 2002)
Cinema Strange give unto us, the wanton of soul and hungry of ear, more than we deserve. This is a total package: the songs work together to create a total mood, one which they absolutely propel with their brilliant spookytime-cum-surrealist graphics. Night falls and gets up again to parade about your room. If I were a mouse, I’d want to live in their kitchen.

LoveLife - Here is Night, Brothers. Here the Birds Burn (Jagujaguwar, 2002)
Baltimore’s LoveLife played the harum-scarum with an intensity rarely found this side of hardcore punk. Lovelife were a collision of absolutely antagonized guitar, organ, drums and heavy female vocals that tossed words with the weight of cinder blocks. You should buy this, their only release, but don’t let it fall on your toes! Yes, all of this is to say that LoveLife have loved themselves to death and are no more.

The Brides - Here Come the Brides (Dismal Abysmal, 2002)
Jokers or retards – you decide! (Cf. my review in Starvox for further details!)

Shadow Reichenstein - Shadow Reichenstein (2001)
I’m hoping to “grandfather” this CD into my list because it came out in late 2001 and was my favorite full-on deathrock release of that year. Reichenstein have put together a playful set of songs that bode extremely well for the future of this outfit. Now, if only they’d do a show in New York!!

Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights (Matador, 2002)
This record makes my nose twitch. It has a certain cold, snowy feel, like Joy Division all hopped-up on something sweet. Yes, if you’re a fan of Joy Division, you’ll be sure to find this to your nervous liking, and with a list price of $8.97, it’s a good deal in the age of internet piracy. (Note: I’ve been assured that Matador has broken free of its corporate shackles.)

Barbez - Barbez (Black Freighter, 2002)
While this record is not quite as heavy in tone and texture as I’d prefer, it does highlight the suburb musicianship and atmospheric capacities of this talented troupe. Barbez play a curious blend of Brecht-Weill “Three Penny Opry” with a smidgeon of Slavic madness and the oddball Black Sabbath cover. A new CD is on the way. If any of this raises an eyebrow, you may wish to seek it out.

The Centimeters - Live at Coles (Aqualade Records, 2002)
The height of art-damage, The Centimeters go way, way out. While the magnitude of their stupidity can only be hinted at in a purely audio format, you’ll get the no message of their message loud and clear.

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