I wonder whether you would call this Mature Indie, being songs you only become capable of through experience, about experiences? Either way it’s a peculiarly beautiful strain of weird, because Simon Huw Jones seems to tangle himself up in lyrics of nature, small places and ghostly people, where there are always skies to consider, sometimes fire, and a lot of staring going on.
It is genuinely peculiar, and at times it seems effortless, which is the key to experience. Only the other day I was listening to a Furniture compilation, a band who never managed to make the music as light as this, but it’s a similar approach, where the lyrics stand aside, then the music noses up, intrigued, to try and work out what is being dealt with. Each dance slowly round one another, gently touching and keeping the motion going.
I also happen to enjoy the work of Bill Pritchard, and there are many similarities here, not that I mean as musical influences, but in the unusual nature of what is taking place. ’21 York Street’ is reflective, but not damp, looking back without weariness, and ‘He Walked Through The Dew’ is an involving scenario rather than a striking drama. First a song of a place, and then a person. Memories seem strong on this collection.
Is this about a life tainted, taunted or haunted? Primly, and trimly, ‘The Man Who Ran Away’ seems too much exertion for a song which is content with its own company and very self-enclosed. The nice rhymtic burr to ‘In My House’ might almost suit lamplight, with creepy guitar wiggles where the words dive and dovetail into the watery music which is deeply delicious.
Stealth guitar is then used on ‘Genevieve’, as are ticking drums, never as bleak as the lyrics, before the song gently slopes then slips away, and this mood will have you gripped by now. Even when the lyrics seemingly concern romantic imagery, as in ‘Pale Sun’ it isn’t joyous, or melancholy, but pitched somewhere between, and the music often exists with the bare minimum of notes, yet the songs themselves seem so big, almost painted.
Ghostly imagery across slow shifts is rudely awoken in ‘The Reply’ when organ forgets itself and floods the spaces, and the instrumental reprise of ‘I My House’ gives the album it’s second wind, whereupon you’ll glide to an end through a slippy ‘The Willow’ which is almost breezy, the oozing Mediterranean tinges of ‘Feeling Fine’ and the lightly dour prickliness of ‘The Untangled Man’.
There’s something demonstrably odd about an album which only offers disquieting lyrics, but manages to hold your attention. Never has emptiness sounded so lovely.
21 YORK STREET
HE WALKED THROUGH THE DEW
THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY
IN MY HOUSE
IN MY HOUSE II
THE UNTANGLED MAN
Rebirth: Metamorphosis into godhood
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Man oh man. How far can a band take their cheesy satanic image? Acheron, who've apparently been doing this since 1991, have pushed their image about as far as it could go before causing most death metal fans to puke and/or laugh hysterically. The next step is for the bandmates to record their final session in some kind of dungeon just before they're tortured and ritually killed (the resulting gore would, naturally, make the cover for their farewell CD).
Anyway, Acheron plays a very basic form of old-school death metal, at times reminiscent of old Death, except not as entertaining. Amazingly, Acheron's guitarist works in some technical solos now and then, and not just the squiggly wanking that one usually finds in death metal. The band does manage to play a number of different riffs in each song, and even at different tempos. But they do so without the slightest bit of raucuous energy you'd expect from a band with a really "loud" image.
As it stands, only four things caught my attention on this CD. The intro, because it has a lot of... um... I actually don't remember. Though it didn't have the same crappy repetitiveness of the rest of the CD, at least. "Golgotha's Truth" has an unintentionally funny spoken word intro bit about revealing the truth behind false gods or some such nonsense. The soloing always snaps my attention back to the music, since it's technical and fairly melodic. And... where was I? I've noticed that my review writing incorporates the feel of the music I'm reviewing, so this text is very listless and confused and "wandering around a lot without going anywhere," as an old man who used really tiresome non-expressions might say.
Oh! Right. The last thing that stood out to me was the final track. Stupidest... song... ever. It's nine minutes of a repeated high-pitched tone with a couple of ambient fillers and nothing else. Sounds bad, doesn't it? You think the idea doesn't work, put yourself in my shoes: I had to listen to it. And inevitably, that's my reaction to the CD as a whole. I had to listen to it. Acheron does nothing wrong musically, for their genre, but the result is more of a sleeping aid than anything else. Unless you sign your documents in blood and run over old ladies in your decked out VAN OF DOOM, look elsewhere for worthwhile music.
1) CHAOS INVOCATION (Intro)
2) CHURCH OF ONE
4) BOW BEFORE ME
5) THE KINDRED
6) A LONG TIME AGO (Intro)
7) GOLGOTHA’S TRUTH
8) BETRAYED (A Broken Pact)
9) THE 9th GATE
Vincent Crowley - vocals, bass
Michael Estes - guitars
Kyle Severn - drums and spoken voice
Acheron - Official Site:
The End Records (US):
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
An album from 1995, with either an ironic or unfortunate title for the band whose rise was halted by various addictions, and it carries on from my review yesterday when I raised their peculiarities.
Once again they sound more concerned that everything is delivered with the utmost clarity than to invest their songs with any wild energy or commitment, just very spruce playing and precise diction, making it rather cold. There are still some very good, albeit somewhat strange (to these ears) songs, with occasional surprises, and two very distinctive musicians, on guitar and keyboards. The guitar is quite simple, with virtually no effects, and often very thing but highly mobile in contributions while the old-fashioned synth or keyboards are being handled by someone who knows how to bring a new infusion to old sounds.
There's no point analysing it greatly, because you'll either pop to their website or you won't, but I must say that that mad yelping to a go-go beat in 'Eternal Love' is infectious, 'Abordage' shows they can be abrasive, as the synth is pulsing, and 'Black Moon; is like something from the annals of Dr Who, having a succulent bass, cavorting splendidly. 'Fairy Taiga' is 60's spy music with Shadows-like guitar and the star song is 'Transylvania' with a great tone to it all, spaghetti western guitar and a busy dance pulse in the middle, so once again the various elements are all there. It's just making sense of any of it which is difficult.
More spaghetti guitar enlivens 'Heterosexualist' but, unfortunately, so does a syndrum and grotesque keyboard runs, while 'Opium For Nobody' is like a sour take of New Romantic hallmarks.
All very strange.
SANESS WITHOUT END
YOU AND ME
OPIUM FOR NOBODY
NEITHER THERE NOR HERE
Pristine in Bondage
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Pristine in Bondage is a fine CD that metal fans everywhere should own. I realize that's more of a conclusion than an intro, but sometimes I like to shake things up a bit, and listening to Amaran has put me in a very giddy mood. Metal of this quality only comes along so often. Sure, other bands feature the same top-notch metal production. The riffs and drumming are not so far removed from heavy/thrash/death metal that you won't recognize them, and the music is not especially technical. But Amaran is set apart - far apart - from the rest, thanks to Johanna De Pierre's kickass singing.
I'll admit that Amaran's instrumentation does not quite bring the CD up to the "must hear" level, although there are a number of memorable riffs, and the compositions are certainly above average. Johanna De Pierre's singing, however, elevates the music to another level entirely. She possesses a very strong and commanding clean voice, melodic and sweet, but fast and powerful all at the same time. It sounds neat, to put it simply. She reminds me a bit of Agnete M. Kirkevaag from Madder Mortem, although Amaran's approach is more straightforward.
I'm not sure what to make of the bizarre album title, Pristine in Bondage, nor the freaky alien love taking place on the cover. And when I say I'm not sure what to make of them, I mean that most sincerely... I haven't the slightest clue what any of it has to do with the music, and in the absence of a lyric sheet, I must conclude that the band thought it seemed cool and went with it. Which segues nicely into my only criticism of Amaran: it's easy to accept the music without being critical, but a deeper probe into the songs makes me think the band composes by brainstorming wildly and keeping whatever sounds "cool."
Now, there's nothing wrong with that approach, and it makes the CD a great listen, but I'd feel remiss if I pushed the CD too strongly without mentioning that it's really good, but not "classic" good. The difference is that with Amaran, you can buy it, spin it on repeat for a few weeks, and be completely satisfied with the experience, feeling the need to return to it only occasionally. The classics keep you coming back for a long time. Nevertheless, the music is without a doubt above average, and Johanna De Pierre's excellent vocals make Pristine in Bondage a must hear.
2. Revolution Without Arms
3. Coming Home
5. Without Stains
7. 24 Pills
9. Crow Me
10. Primal Nature
Mikael Andersson - Bass
Ronnie Backlund - Guitar
Robin Bergh - Drums
Johanna De Pierre - Vocals
Kari Kainulainen - Guitar
Amaran - Official Site:
The End Records (US):
Running With Scissors
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Cyber-Punk is such a nebulous term. It has nothing to do with original Punk, because the lyrical matters can be personal and obtuse, rather than statements, and nothing to do with your modern day Punks, who are too polite to create a stir. So it's just Industrial without pomposity, yes? Unlike Industrial from the Old Days, which could be quite savage, most Industrial these days is artistic Rock, taking itself so seriously, and everybody knows that. But a band like Arkam Asylum can still retain humour and vent sensible spleen even when being boiled alive by their own sounds. Everyone should accept these are good things.
A heavy doof burst, lopsided vocals and furious, frantic sounds is their forte, with inventive activity beneath their scalded skin, and as early as 'Ground Zero' they have established serious character within turbulent climes. The clompy Punk stomp of 'Nerve' is very close to the early Goth spirit, and 'Let's Go!' is genuinely unpleasant and unwelcoming, until the pace trebles and we're into Squarepusher/Lamb territory of garbled madness.
I fail to see why they waste our time, or theirs, with noise snippets like 'Umbilicus' or 'Special Victims Unit', which are both total rubbish, or the mildly amusing but effortlessly vacuous 'McFuck', but I suppose it makes sense to them, and at least they're very short. It certainly doesn't help their reputation, any more than the intergalactic gargling championships' version of 'You Spin Me Round', which is rancid.
'Slaves & Whores' keeps breaking off from the power, when it could have been magnificent, and so ends up as early rave fare, 'Drinkers' is weakened by its samples but remains as a glowing torture charade, with fluidity and fine, pained vocals, 'Nd4spd' is like Carter USM gone horribly wrong. 'Gundam High' is mean and surly with chaotic guitars and vocals working in tandem, with rock-hard power and effective colouring, just as the closing 'Claustrophobe' sees our vocalist shaken, stirred and tossed high above a festering pit of noise, kept viscous by its seething beat.
Just as I have never been able to fully enjoy the spluttering of Chaos Engine, so I find the majority of Arkam Asylum's work draws you further in for squeamishly close inspection. They should consider dropping the merely precocious frivolity because they have it in them to create something special and this, a wonderful album, should be a vital stepping-stone on the way to something amazing.
LET'S GO! 2 THE LEGO
YOU SPIN ME ROUND (LIKE A RECORD)
SLAVES & WHORES
DRINKERS OV THEE HEAVY FLUID
SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Ascii Disko is a new electronic effort by indie rocker Kat D.D. Rokk (formerly the guitarist in Slown). His indie rock background allows him to bring a pretty unique vibe to this hybrid synth pop/EBM/IDM/electro dance/new wave/hard-to-classify techno. But more importantly, he makes music that's chock-full of catchiness. Catchiness taken to hitherto unseen levels, where 74 minutes of music can roll by with nary an uncatchy moment. For the most part, this sound is achieved via neat little effects, good, danceable beats, and melodic vocals that veer just slightly into the realm of cheese, but remain tasteful and don't wear on my nerves.
And for that matter, er... wait. I think I just wrote the entire body of the review in one intro paragraph. Holy crap, that's my new personal record. In fact, I almost don't have any reason to keep talking, except maybe to mention that Ascii Disko has influences such as Kraftwerk, and would be quite well suited to the dance floor. Kat D.D. Rokk clearly dabbled in alchemy to produce a formula for catchiness, and while I sometimes feel slightly silly sitting on a chair, drinking orange juice, and listening to dance music, I can appreciate that the music might be better suited to other contexts.
Ascii Disko is a very competent and well-conceived recording, but it mostly inspires me to say things like "it is what it is". Either you want to listen to this kind of music, or you don't. Ascii Disko is definitely on the higher end in terms of quality, thanks to a lot of creativity and variation. Not to mention Mr. Rokk's mastery of alchemy and the dark arts. Did I mention he's a witch? Actually, he's not, I've just run out of meaningful things to say about straightforward electronic music that's fun and catchy but ultimately inconsequential and transitory. Check it out if it's your thing.
2) Ne Travaillez Jamais
8) Jack Your Body to the Beat
9) Moi, Jeveux
Ascii Disko is:
Kat D.D. Rokk
Ascii Disko - Official Site:
ALIEN SEX FIEND
(13th Moon Records)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Somewhere between an X-rated Clangers and a modern day Goon Show, we can find Alien Sex Fiend. One of the rarest of UK lifeforms, they sleep covered in cobwebs, beneath greenhouse workbenches, and even the snails outrun them in their garden. Away from our ears for way too long, you'll thrill again to their fractious fantasies as they begin cranking up and bursting out once more with a surprisingly short and often quite peculiar record. But what do you expect: normality after five years? Redundant revisiting of the past?
No, this is like a ghostly galleon, filled with bickering spirits, which sound naggingly familiar but then stretch out and gibber. Sure, the title track could almost be 'Ignore The Machine' it's so fresh and bulging with ideas as our head boy snarls, 'Rape and pillage, in the global village', that you might think we are witnessing a rebirth. Not so, it's just they often have more life in one song, when spectacularly unruly, than most bands deliver per album, and this is one of those tracks.
Then they bliss out with 'Motherfucker Burn' and get bubbly and gloopy, a sort of Laundertte Of The Ring. Blibby blisters and twoinky drizzling innards slowly coalesce into a weird medical fanfare and a ranting, stomping fit, where you can wave your frail elederly relatives in the air, like you just don't care. If Carter USM had ever gone to Hell they might have written soemthing like this.
Where it gets very odd is 'Baby' which takes ages guguguggetting going, until finally some twisted guitar hoiks it all into a lewd dance, where it's a slice of glam treacle tart, heavy and mad as any Repka tackle, then 'Gotta Have It' which simply seems far too long, and despite being thunderous doesn't quite bring forth the cry of 'Incoming!' you'd hope to shout when it first started. Instead they're holding back with a scrambled, rambling beat, as a police siren or murdered bagpipes wails away.
The weirdness settles down and 'Kiss Arse' achieves what those tracks didn't quite managed, where layer upon layer sees it through to a wonderful end. They're got a new quicksand pull going here and it's intriguing. 'Voices In My Head' ("some are lviing, some are dead") is more traditional, but only in that echoey, perversely churchy wilderness way of theirs, like a building might be singing its own song, and then they end with some post-nuclear dynamics which could easily be vigillante toucans on parade.
It's fun, it's mildewed, it's got repeat appeal because of the softer twists and it's an angry thing at times. It's not a case of them being back on form, because they've never been off it, it's a case of they're back, and they're bouncing onwards, and for the more adventurous of you, this could be your first encounter. You're going to love it, and longterm fans will be celebrating.
DRUG OF CHOICE
GOTTA HAVE IT
LORD OF THE SEXUAL MATRIX
VOICES IN MY HEAD
FIVE TO ONE
~reviewed by Steph Quinlan
Melodic Disturbances has a very environmental sound, full of waves and rainfall, all creating a gentle surrounding noise that sounds like an natural backgrond for the drama of water-washed stones and waterfalls.
I almost began this review by writing about the challenges of reviewing an instrumental CD, until I browsed Aureate's web page and was reminded that several of the tracks on Melodic Disturbances have vocals and lyrics. This is not to imply that that vocals are in any way lacking, but Aureate uses the human voice in same way Dead Can Dance used to, as an musical instrument like any other.
The tracks unfold against a background of soothing white noise, a small series of recurring low-key dramatics. Gently enticing, slow but persistent.
In a word, lovely.
1. The Foreshadowing
7. The Unmerging
~reviewed by Goat
I’ve been waiting for this CD to be born into the world ever since I heard that Holger and Susanne were working on a new one. I’d really liked what I’d heard of them so far, and so my fingers trembled a little when I ripped the package open.
I am not disappointed! If you are a fan of bands like Death In June or Blood Axis, you will absolutely love this Belborn album. Gentle and powerful, sincere and elegant. Belborn remind me musically of what it felt like to stand at the foot of a castle in Austria that took six hundred years to build. They remind me of what it feels like to stand at the base of a tree that is big enough around to drive a car through. Their music has a timeless quality to it; it reminds me of how small I am in the universe, and yet how important all the little pieces of the cosmos are.
I also appreciate that Belborn sing all of their songs in their native tongue, which is German. I have always loved listening to German operas and I love the sensation of not knowing what the words are and yet somehow understanding what they mean. Majesty and honor and pride and longing. My heart soars when I hear this music!
This is without question a masterpiece in Belborn’s growing catalog. I intend to wear this CD out by the end of summer.
Also included on the CD is a CD-rom video of the song “Notfeuer”. The video is almost painfully beautiful in its eager assertion and affirmation of life; I feel amazed that people still go to the lengths that Holger and Susanne do to create a body of artwork, music, and video that all work together so flawlessly and with such careful attention to detail. I am, once again, overjoyed to let my life now by influenced by repeated interactions with this music, this motion.
Jedem Das Seine
Chor Der Toten
Wir Konnen Sehen
Eure Tranen Bedeuten Nichts
Sohne Der Sonne,
Tochter Des Morgens,
Kinder Des Lichts.
(+CD-ROM video of Notfeuer).
Belborn website: www.belborn.de
Lyrics to this album in English:
How to order the CD for yourself:
THE 9 PEARLS ON THE TRAIL (IAP)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Although I thought this band were Italian the press release has them down as a UK cult band, and suggests this specially packaged release contains there previous albums, All The Colours Of Death and What The Hollow Shows Through. (A single, ‘The 45 Monsters’ and a new album are on their way shortly.) And something must have happened while trying to release this, due to the terse message, ‘”Thanks…to those four bugger shits that tried to obstruct the realisation of this album, because they just made it more powerful and strong.” Unless it is a re-release, surely, in which case it’s as powerful, strong or weak as it ever was?
It comes in a weird translucent hexagonal package, with the CD able to be taken out from beneath a flap, which looks nice, and it instantly warms you heart with a stark clash of synth or violin, portentous suggestions from the lightly spoken female voice and noises which may be the first medieval car alarm.
There is skimpy guitar in ‘No fate’ which helps galvanise the spirited drum machine and it’s got that thin, rangy 90’s sound. You wouldn’t go far wrong imagining early Inkubus Sukkubus, but slowly their character emerges and it’s very definitely artistic. They clearly have no idea of song length and having hit their stride seem to go on forever,. But that’s90’s bands for you. A lot of that happened then.
‘Non Peau Vert’ is maudlin, with the strange French vocals oozing over a bruised beat, where attractive keyboards and angry guitar grapple happily, and there’s a passionate stream of ideas throughout the album as though being able to listen in on a musical conversation that frequently becomes argumentative. There are light operatic touches clearly visible and often the atmosphere s important, with the drums held down and fluttering, vocals then allowed to gold out attention before guitars flood in.
They can be supremely sour, like with ‘Kyuh Jesse’ with the bare vocals exploring the space between the sharp instruments, and shrill vocal dramatics erupt as though from a native American tribal dance. Bells for a dour lament bring through the historical flavour to ‘Ad Memoriam’, ‘E Lucean’ is a Tosca snapshot spread out with remarkable vocal passion and they rush off in spectral theatrics at the end, so you ought to check them out if you missed it first time round. It’s really very good.
NON PEAU VERT
DAS GIFT INNEN
E LUCEAN LE STELLE.NELLA TENEBRA
WATERFALL & THE PICTURES
http://www.maethelyiah.com/home.html (infuriating amount of bad links, during an exceptionally interesting biography, and supposedly literature too) (both in Italian and English)
I.A.P. – UK, PO Box 2443, SN21WZ
No Angel EP (Self release)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
A new EP from Montreal’s engagingly sleazy horror-rockers. Five tracks of ramalama spookiness, clamourous guitars and blat-and-splatter drums. Imagine what the Runaways would’ve sounded like if they’d been brought up on a diet of horror movies from an early age; think of the songs the New York Dolls would’ve written if they’d been locked in a basement with only spiders for company for a year. That’ll give you Bordello’s musical area in a nutshell. They’ve got that seventies-glam guitar sound, that low-slung rock ‘n’ roll attitude, and, in Nadzine, a singer with an assertive, sandpaper rasp of a voice, a blues diva for the deathrock generation.
The music here appears to have been recorded live in one take in the studio - at any rate, the sound is raw, immediate, unpolished. There’s none of the compression or smoothed-out production you’d normally expect on a conventional studio recording. That’s good, in that it gives you the real rockin’ Bordello sound, loud and in yer face - but it’s not so good in that these tracks will inevitably sound rather rough when played back to back with other artists’ material on a radio station or in a club. In particular, there are moments where Nadzine’s voice is almost swamped when the instruments pile in - a slightly tarted-up mix would’ve surely pushed her vocals a little more to the fore.
But for all that, this is good stuff: glam-punky rock with a grinning pumpkin for a head. The title track wallops along like vintage Penetration, while ‘Sandman’ is a pell-mell barrelhouse rocker, the twin guitars obviously having fun as they kick the riff about like a football. ‘Echoes’ crash-lands on the kind of latter-day punk territory in which Antiworld have made their home, while ‘Heart Of Storm’ is almost a deathrock power ballad (now there’s a frightening concept) with suitably melodramatic lyrics: ‘A wide open chest, filled with fire/And this heart of storm, burning with desire’. Put a Jim Steinman production on that, and Bonnie Tyler could probably take it into the charts.
But the standout track - certainly, the one which any self-respecting deathrock club DJ should be playing to, er, death - is ‘Undead’. This has a rather throwaway lyric - ‘Dance the undead baby/Dance the night away’ - but makes up for it with a bad-ass blues rhythm, all stalking bass and swaggering guitars, and a big, rowdy, rambunctious arrangement into which the band seem to be throwing everything they’ve got, and more besides. A real cuban heel stomper of a song that’s crying out for grand-finale status on any deathrockin’ dancefloor.
There’s no barcode on the packaging, so I assume this EP isn’t widely distributed. If you want one - and if you’ve got a glam-punk atom in your brain you really should - you’ll have to contact Bordello via their website, and I’m sure they’ll sort you out. Alternatively, if you’re within striking distance of the band’s home city of Montreal, I dare say you’ll be able to pick one up at a Bordello gig. The band seem to play around Montreal fairly frequently, but not, as far as I can gather, much further afield. That’s one thing which must surely change in the near future, because Bordello are far too good to stay just a home-town band for much longer.
Heart Of Storm
Cedric: Lead guitar
Jon: Rhythm guitar
The website: http://www.bordello.ca
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Abyss of Darkness
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
I'm a card-holding member of the black metal listening syndicate (or, at least, I listen to a hell of a lot of black metal), and as such I am usually opposed to the flowery, cloying genres of heavy, classic, and power metal. When it came time to listen to Broken Arrow, I expected a lot of happy, bouncy music that would make me nauseous. Just look at the album cover - it's got anorexic, topless mermaids, brightly colored sea-life, and a submarine. At this early stage in the pre-review CD listening process, the title Abyss of Darkness struck me as an absurd joke.
Thankfully, Abyss of Darkness is no joke, nor is it Yet Another Power Metal Album (or YAPMA, as we say here at StarVox). Broken Arrow draws its sound from classic rock and heavy metal, stretching as far back as Deep Purple and all the way up to Savatage's timeless style. Broken Arrow may be unoriginal, but the musicians put their own unique spin on a number of classic styles. As they say, stealing from one source is plagiarism, but borrowing from many is research. Broken Arrow injects just enough of their own personality across enough decades' worth of music to make classic ideas invigorating once more.
Consequently, Broken Arrow wields a large arsenal of rock/metal tricks, and you'll hear plenty of variety on Abyss of Darkness. "Invisible Heroes" strives bravely into the darkness with its anthemic might; "Abyss of Darkness" shifts smoothly between darker atmospheres and more upbeat classic metal; and "The Gothic Line" has some impressive and showy leads/soloing. The rest of the songs stand out just as well thanks to the kickass rockish solos (think Steve Morse), thematic riffs, impressive mid-register singing (Dave Baduena has a remarkable emotional range), and focused drum and bass section.
However, Broken Arrow is not without fault. For starters, they share their name with a Jon Travolta movie, and thus searching for information on them can easily lead one in the wrong direction. And the songs are of varying quality - "Invisible Heroes" stands out pretty far above most of the tracks, for instance. Nevertheless, Abyss of Darkness is quite the astounding debut, and I say so as someone who usually dislikes this style of metal altogether. Fans of classic rock and metal really must look into this release, as it's loaded with feeling and memorable themes and fun riffs and solos.
1. Abyss Of Darkness
2. Invisible Heroes
3. The Gothic Line
4. Angels Of Fire
6. The Call
7. Frozen Tears
8. Isaac Story (Part I)
9. Isaac Story (Part II)
Broken Arrow is:
Camillo Colleluori - Drums
Dave Baduena - Vocals
Giulio Bogoni - Keyboard
Nick Savio - Guitar
Steve Balocco - Bass
The End Records (US):
Far Away From Conformity
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
I have no idea which end is up after listening to Far Away From Conformity. This album has more twists and turns than the Tour de France. The title is very accurate, since the band conforms to no genres, sticks to no specific sound, ignores any and all trends in the current metal scene, and sounds great doing it. Cadaveria switches tempos, genres, moods, and vocal styles multiple times -within each song- and yet manages to avoid becoming a train wreck of unlistenability. I have no idea how. I am baffled. This is great stuff.
Cadaveria covers so many styles on this album it's almost impossible to list them in any sensical way. Sometimes it sounds like you're listening to a Mercyful Fate song with female deathmetal vocals. Other times, you'd think you were hearing 80's chick-rock ala Joan Jett but with a serious heavy metal band backing her. Then all of a sudden - WHAM - it's black metal! Then ZOOM! It's turned another corner and metamorphosed into an alltogether unforseen meshing of all that stuff. The glue holding it together is the crunching pulse of Frank Booth's dominant, driving rhythm guitar riffs. No matter how byzantine the song structures become, he keeps a firm grip on things and prevents the music from spiraling off into a distant galaxy.
The real star of the show, however, is she for whom the band is named: lead singer Cadaveria. Astoundingly, she is just as chameleonic as the music. Her remarkably versatile voice manifests in at least five distinct tones over the course of the album. Most frequently, she wails out a mid-range, uncommonly smooth blackmetal rasp. She also has a very cutting and aggressive deathmetal bark. Oh, and there's her clean singing, which is surprisingly pretty for someone who treats her vocal cords so roughly. Then there's that weird creepy whisper and a sort of hybrid clean/angry yell... I may have missed a permutation or two along the way. They all sound good, all carry substantial emotional impact, and all fit the mood perfectly when she employs them.
If a standout vocal performance and wild songwriting that has no regard for convention doesn't excite you, you're hopeless. Far Away From Conformity is full of raw creative energy and perplexing genre crossovers that will daze you with rapid fire tonal shifts. The sole black mark against the album is spotty production that is overly hot, adding a fuzzy distortion to the mix particularly when the guitar lines are exposed. If you can get past that, and I'm -way- past it, things are darn near perfect. Cadaveria demonstrates just how lame it is to stick to formulaic renditions of specific genres. In doing exactly the opposite, they have created an instant classic - an album that breaks all the rules but never gets caught.
01.) Blood And Confusion
02.) Eleven Three O Three
03.) Irreverent Elegy
04.) The Divine Rapture
05.) Omen Of Delirium
05.) Call Me
06.) Out Body Experience
07.) Prayer Of Sorrow
08.) Vox Of Anti-Time
Cadaveria - Vocals
Frank Booth - Guitars
Baron Harkonnen - Synths
Killer Bob - Bass
Marcelo Santos - Drums
Cadaveria Official Site:
The End Records (US):
~review by Basim
Calabrese write flawless songs. I’ve spent sleepless nights in my room dealing with a throbbing head and eyes covered in red veins hoping to find SOMETHING to bitch about. Imagine the drama of Danzig 3 filtered through the song writing ear of both Charlie Hodges and Red West (the team behind Elvis’s hits), and you’ll get close to describing this opus. The album opens up with roaring harmonized vocals that tag a phrase that’s repeated at least four times in 2 minutes. Of course you’ll never get tired of it because the drums and bass change the feel of their playing at least as many times! The drums roll on their way up from the verse to the chorus, and they pound their way back down to punctuate the change back. The bassist knows when to grind along with the drums, and when to swerve out of the way to give the song some breathing space. The vocals are what really kill me though. Since the two vocalists (Bobby and Jimmy Calabrese) have such a remarkable texture to each of their voices, they can get away with doubling or repeating the same melodies a number of times without it ever getting old. Another thing I’d like to give kudos on is that this CD came shrink wrapped in spider webs, in a package filled with bouncing pumpkin toys and awesome Halloween sour candy. This is the most authentic revival of the ‘Static Age’ sound that I’ve ever heard; a younger Danzig could have only dreamed of working with musicians as gifted as these.
Albums like this are so refreshing to me, instead of having to deal with 40 minutes of clumsy ideas I get 15 minutes of finely tuned, catchy as hell songs. Blu wanted me to do a top ten, but all I can really come up with is a top one. This is the best cd I’ve heard all year.
Bobby Calabrese on Vocals/Guitars
Dave Calabrese on Drums
Jim Calabrese on Bass/Vocals
Children of the Night
Shrunken Head Kids
Blood in my Eyes
Carter, The Unstoppable Sex Machine
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Weirdly, as Jim Bob's sleeve notes testify, thy hardly did any sessions, during nearly a decade and having gathered the three that exist on this CD, Jim Bob can't even remember much in the way of anecdotes to make his sleeve notes ring with vigour and wit. The music does that for him.
'Sheriff Fatman' finds Jim Bob in poorish voice but the guitar is raw and with the taped backing going mental it's one of their most rousing classics turned positively rowdy, very simply and directly produced; virtually aimed at the listener, complete with gross guitar ending. 'A Prince In A Pauper's Grave' maintains a curious delicacy despite its dour city content, and 'Sealed With A Glasgow Kiss' is something of a vicious sprawl, as maybe it should be, with 'A Sheltered Life' being furiously brilliant, one of the best songs, where the stylish lyrics are spat out over a nitro trampoline of rhythm
On the second session, the chanting and swampy riffing of 'Alternative Alf Garnett' makes you realise rebellion through the jaded eyes of a couch potato and social ills can be temporarily banished by a mean riff. 'Commercial Flippin' Suicide' could be a trifle and one-trick joke, but comes in a darker vein as the irony and sarcasm wrestle, and angry vocals leer.
Flying in the face of the moronic editors, 'Granny Farming In The UK' is nicely funereal and shows, oddly, how they so often heightened social horror so picturesquely, and this is genuinely harrowing.
By the time you get to the big line-up, captured on the final session, you can enjoy the lightly resigned' Johnny Cash' ("I thought I was bullet-proof, but a bullet proved I was wrong") but the comparatively optimistic 'Nowhere Fast' and 'Girls' are really rather dull compared to what went before. The musical power has gone, and I don't think they made the wrong decision to drop it all when they did.
Except...look at UK Indie today, and what a bore it is, with supposedly Punk takes on the Sixties, and very little attitude which interests. They make today's hopefuls look like very sick and idle infants indeed. 'Sessions' could well introduce you to their earlier albums which are bound to thrill.
Trust me. I'm an imbecile, yes, but never wrong.
A PRINCE IN A PAUPER'S GRAVE
SEALED WITH A GLASGOW KISS
A SHELTERED LIFE
ALTERNATIVE ALF GARNETT
COMMERCIAL FLIPPIN' SUICIDE
GRANNY FARMING IN THE UK
GIRLS CAN KEEP A SECRET
http://www.carterusm.co.uk/ - great resource, and a pointer to Jim Bob and Fruitbat's new bands.
A World Without Dave - The Mini-Album
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
AS mini albums go this is a Mini-cooper, with just enough legroom and giving you a nice bouncy, easy ride, showing the full five piece Carter to be a strangely sedate band, which hemmed in the latent energy they'd had before, and throwing extra emphasis on the lyrics, which curve back towards the earlier work.
There is drama and touching gestures in the plain striding title track, a beautifully touching song called 'Before The War' which once again buries you in several layers of drab society. ("Of all the bars and all the pubs, And all the late night drinking clubs, You had to walk into them all.")
The acoustic 'Nowhere Fast' is moving but bland, 'Johnny Cash' a grim experience with neat melodic upturns while the closing 'And God Created Brixton' maybe sums their justifiable demise up. With a title like that they would once have been a cocktail exploding themselves, but here the story of a strange night sounds like PetShopBoys getting down and dirty, and that really is rather strange.
Cute record overall.
BROKEN DOWN IN BROKEN TOWN
A WORLD WITHOUT DAVE
BEFORE THE WAR
AND GOD CREATED BRIXTON
Decadence - Prophecies of Cosmic Chaos
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Centinex's Decadence - Prophecies of Cosmic Chaos is really, really good Swedish melodic death metal. Hmm... yep, that covers it. Not much more to say, really. I guess I should elaborate a bit, though, since it's my job to fill up this otherwise empty space with words. Centinex takes all the genre conventions and plays them to the hilt, exemplifying every positive virtue that melodic death metal has to offer. Great catchy riffs, deft technical guitar displays, monstrous vocals- they're all present and accounted for.
The thing that sets Centinex apart from bands that suck is that Centinex knows how to write songs. I mean, sure, anyone can write a song... take a chorus, add some verses, make a fill or two, maybe toss in a guitar solo... but there aren't nearly enough bands who master the art of making -interesting- songs. The songs on 'Decadence...' twist, turn, skitter, and writhe around. Varied pacing, intricate leads, and brutal rhythm riffs make for a lively, gripping album and ensure that things don't stay in one spot very long. Centinex proves that it is possible to execute a tried and true (some might say tired and cliched) formula and make a very entertaining album from it. Don't try that at home, though... formulaic metal is dangerous -and worse: boring!- in untrained hands.
If you don't have a grip on what Decadence... sounds like yet, I'll make some comparisons to the sound of other bands. A novel approach, I know, but one that has proven to be useful on the rare occasion I employ it. If you've ever heard any At The Gates, and you probably have if you've listened to any Swedish melodic death metal, then you already have a good idea of what to expect from Centinex. Some of the guitar lines to hearken back to 'Heartwork' era Carcass, in a thrashy sort of way, which is about as far from the core melodic deathmetal tenet as this album gets. In other words, expect to hear pretty much the same stuff you've grown accustomed to from the genre, pleasingly well produced and expertly played by people who clearly know what they're doing.
I wish I had more to say about Decadence..., more lavish praise full of erudite prose and flowery adjectives to extol its virtues. I don't. It's a very good example of by-the-numbers Swedish melodic death metal. I haven't listened to enough of that particular genre to be burned out on it, and thus found the album delightfully fulfilling. If you've heard so much SMDM (damn, should have acronymized that phrase way earlier in the review) that every time you cough, Arch Enemy lyrics come out... you may find Centinex's act less compelling. I think the majority of listeners, though, will appreciate the expert instrumental skills, sharp songwriting, and hooky riffs that make Decadence... a sinfully sweet sonic treat.
01.) Arrival Of The Spectrum Obscure
02.) Misanthropic Darkzone
04.) Target: Dimension XII
05.) Deathstar Unmasked
06.) A Dynasty Of Obedience
07.) Mechanical Future
08.) Cold Deep Supremacy
09.) New World Odyssey
Johan Jansson - Vocals
Jonas Kjellgren - Guitars
Johan Ahlberg - Guitars
Martin Schulman - Bass
Ronnie Bergerstål - Drums
Centinex Official Website:
PSYCHOSIS EX MACHINA (Foamin’ Sodomy Records)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
It’s still in here you know. I can sense it. The environmental official claimed the place had been fully cleansed, sluiced at speeds usually associated with sandblasting: even laughing “that’ll do for the bastard!” But it’s still here. Waiting.
Be warned, it comes in a pink, red and white (mostly) sleeve, and you could be tricked into thinking left-field Industrial. You might take it lightly. And be sucked through a vortex of howling misery.
So shall it be, for P Emerson Williams, who is involved with a book, ‘Necromance’, out through Westgate Press, has been preparing for this album by playing gigs in unsuspecting art galleries. He’s been building up to it for years, and the dread fear we should all share is that he will take this miscarriage of inverted melody further still.
I lost track of tracks, which I think is intentional, although I’d tried hard to observe the map. The opening noise cloud contains voices, of that there is no doubt, and then the arousal/carousal which is abruptly switched on displays a dazed choral industrial tableau. Then it’s off, roaring and screeching like flea-infested beggars on speed. (Think: Ancient Mariner Inventing Anarcho-Punk.)
The tracks often suggest these are ditches of burning maniacs, but in ‘The Enchanting Dead’ there’s guitars shunting into each other; one slug-like, one acrobatic, all juiced up by rasping, bubonic vocals, and these lyrics are almost convivial compared to the main body of work: “Who you are is what you buy, You try so hard to charm the Enchanting Dead, You’ll never know the price you’ve paid.”
Then we descend into Hell. You may think it’s just Industrial Rock with knobs on, but some of those knobs are bobby-trapped. It becomes a sandstorm inside which a battalion of skeletons create spectacular effects. (Think: Mummy Returns at a napalm death convention.)
You’ll encounter vast juddering creations, some secreting doomy riffs, and always the vociferous vocals are a sediment, a constant wild whispering in the harsh strata. The demonic spew is fine, the punky stomp unexpected, but mostly it’s just worrying, as you find yourself encircled by disembodied voices. There’s gruelling, hard ambient grindcore, leaving a shattered cadaverous wreckage. And that’s you. And that’s okay too.
I was relieved when it ended, making Leech Woman sound like The Proclaimers as it does, but I couldn’t help noticing that this palpitating Hellish breath creates a wind tunnel of musical mucus which is none other than orchestrated chaos.
So I’m keeping it under lock and key, just to be on the safe side. Regrettably, it seems to have heard my plans…
THE ENCHANTING DEAD
SURGE OF BLOOD
CROSSING I – THE 30TH AETHYR
ASYMMETRICAL RED CHAMBER
CROSSING II – THE 29TH AETHYR
CROSSING III – 28TH AETHYR
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
One man groan ' n' grimefest Weno handles all instruments and human utterances, so no wonder he gets tired. Having rested a while during the late 90's, after years of cult status in Finland, he's back with this short CD, to show just how strange he is. Recording in the old method, his music is supposed to be timeless, relying on trance-enhanced arrangements, and some of these creepy guitar-driven dirges, can be compelling: just so long as they don't become law. Weno keeps his voice out of it, apart from background clouds of slow motion rasping, and the rest is a solid sheet of insects for you to wrap yourself in.
Bleak, harsh and repulsive, it doesn't descend too far into maddening morbidity because of an occasional guitar sound that harks back to the earliest Christian Death era. He says he's more Metal than Goth, and you can easily see the whole Doom thing at work. In fact if it wasn't so basic you'd think he'd be a natural for Cold Meat Industry. I can't imagine anyone enjoying this, outside of Black Metal dunderheads will probably find it symphonic.
BALLET OF THE KILLED BIRDS
IN HOLLOW HABITUS
FROM THE OTHER SIDE
RETURN TO THE SHADOW
Descendants Of The Wandering
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
It's interesting how two people automatically make a project so much more vital than the solo Industrial espionage records we are inundated with these days and Datura have interesting ingredients, with snakehips guitar, a surprisingly tatty drum machine, trusty choruses and lively vocals. Even when the sound is treated somewhat it sounds sparky.
The first two tacks are equally striking, and often slow to allow their noises to make more sense (a lot of skittering sounds creep through the background), with imaginative guitar twinkling and poisoned commercial sense at work. Rock minded guitar also slugs you when least expected.
The simple lyrics of 'In The Silence' connect, for all the pained style, and while the emoting is a biy dippy 80's and the chorus old-fashioned it's as torrid as it is florid.
They also have very slick compositions. For all the supposed Tool empathies, you'll find 'Maneto' is close to Ure-era Ultravox. 'This Kind Repair' also has a touch of the stiff and angular 80's electronics, circa Thomas Dolby, if that's any help.
Apart from the self-pitying vocals in 'Ghost Page' I liked this record, especially 'Strength Of Will' with strong vocals and razored guitar curtains closing around them. It isn't even rocky, lacking any forward motion, but just seems to stand there, being noisy.
I wish them well on their journey, for I have no idea where they're going, having stated, "Datura is no longer willing to be bound by the constraints of the Gothic Music scene." Bye then.
DESCENDANTS OF THE WANDERING
IN THE SILENCE
THIS KIND REPAIR
STRENGTH OF WILL
DESCENDANTS OF THE B.E.D.ROOM REMIX
I AM REMIX
Dead 2 Life
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Disconnect is every bad alternative album you never bought. You remember a time in high school, when you were listening to Nine Inch Nails, and people would talk about how NiN and Gravity Kills were "industrial" music, but then you later found out that it had nothing to do with industrial? Well, James Heath never found that out. He calls his music dark alternative and industrial, the latter of which is a totally inappropriate genre label for this style of overdone alternative.
There is very little redeeming value on this CD. The music is lifeless and dull, and with flat production to boot. The riffs all sound alike and could be played by any newcomer to the guitar. The drum programming and samples are standard issue, though it's not quite so bad as the pre-programmed beats that certain keyboards offer. The music really suffers, however, from the vocals. Although Heath does a passable spoken voice and quasi-angry alternative grumble, his clean singing is hilariously bad.
He emphasizes lines ridiculously, and sings them with the kind of old-time flair you'd usually relegate to your local 1950's barbershop quartet. On "Alone", he actually vocalizes a background melody that would normally be filled by a synth, resulting in a hysterical "dew dew dew" sound. Two other vocalists join him on "Pain" (an appropriately titled track, if ever there was one); Heath and the male vocalist take turns, each singing the same crappy lines, making the song twice as bad as it ought to be. The female vocalist jumps in for the chorus, which sounds like something The Kovenant might've done on SETI.
There is only one potential saving grace for this CD. The alternative genre isn't measured by how well artists communicate, but by how much people "feel" the music and identify with it. Many an idiot will see a negative review of his or her favorite band and complain that you shouldn't review it if you don't like it. With the alternative genre, that notion fits better than anywhere else. So, if you do like early to mid-90s alternative, it's possible you might just get into this CD. Otherwise, you'll be stuck listening to four pointless remixes and 10 songs that range from barely tolerable to comically bad.
1. Because Of You
2. I'm Too Busy
4. Don't Need Your Silence
7. Voyage: Final Fear
8. I'm Sick
10. Hidden Life (Get Used To It Mix)
Paramaecium 'I'm Not To Blame' remixes
11. The Blamer Mix
12. Too Much Blame Mix
13. It's Not Up To Me Mix
Dead 2 Life is:
w/guest vocalists Jenny Heath, Sally Woeliner, Natalie Smith, Luke Brennan
Dead 2 Life - Official Website:
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Human Breed is possibly the most boring metal CD I have ever received. I wondered - what kind of people would make this music? So I looked in the liner notes and scanned the names. It began normally enough, with a singer named Alex. Then my eyes shifted down and saw that the guitarist is named Lazar. Hey, that's not too out there for a metal band, no problem. But then I saw the drummer. Yanarrdakh. Yanarrdakh? The way the list of band members gets progressively weirder, I can only imagine what'd happen if they brought in a fourth musician. Xgliwangydxkpr, maybe, or Eldinaaakplkng.
Ah well, enough ranting about names, I guess. If I sound incredibly bored during this review, and if I keep going off on tangents... believe me - it's for the benefit of the band. Otherwise you'd get four paragraphs viciously ripping Human Breed to strips of its raw, fleshy composite. But this CD isn't so much terrible as it is extremely boring and generic.
I've tried to get into it. I've spent a lot of time listening to it, loudly. I tried nodding with the beat, but I began to nod off. I tried getting into the proper frame of mind. The cover shows a wolf and some trees, so I thought maybe I could make up a little movie in my head that would let me better feel the music. Turns out the movie was pretty cool, and the music still sucked.
Der Gerwelt play blackish... metallish... rockish... stuff. There are generic riffs likely culled from better bands such as Emperor, Immortal, Enslaved, or Cradle of Filth. The vocals are monotonous rasp-singing. The drums are so prototypically "metal" that they might have been willed into existence of their own volition, a manifestation of the metal drumming archetype, named Yanarrdakh. So, yeah. I'm out of things to say. The music is not offensive. It is played and produced nicely enough, though it's not at all technical. Some people do enjoy this, for what it's worth, but unless you prefer the most repetitive and dull side of not-so-extreme black metal, stay away from Human Breed.
2) A Shred Of Me I Cannot Reach
3) Newborn World As We Know It
4) Into Mayhem
5) A Bleeding Path
6) Dreaming With The Dead
7) Human Breed (Ripped Open To A New Reality)
Der Gerwelt is:
Alex Duke - vocals
Lazar - guitars, bass
Yanarrdakh - drums
Rage of Achilles:
The End Records (US):
SUICIDE LOUNGE (Orphanage)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
First of it isn’t very good, just so you’re not kept on tenterhooks, but it is often good fun, and it does make some sparks fly. It is also authentically certified Deathrock, with the punk innards are the biggest influence and the now departed (left, not dead!) singer Sarah Deathriage reminded me partly of Kat Arthur (Legal Weapon) and partly an inferior version of George from Action Pact.
We’re back in the early 80’s. Times was ‘ard. And singers had Sarah’s voice - all face and neck – meaning the mouth opens, the jaws lock tight and the sound rips and rasps out of a throat so taut you can almost hear the vocal chords shredding. This means virtually no range or fluctuations in the singing (as proved throughout this record) and you’re dependent on character alone. Luckily she writes the lyrics and gives them the conviction they deserve, otherwise this might sound liker Vice Squad, and none of us would want that.
What happens here is the guitar starts and then the bass comes in, as if nervous. They then charge off together with her screeching, and it’s nice, it really is, with some lyrics that impress, reliably noisy guitar throughout and some good, surging choruses, even if there isn’t one memorable melody to be had. It’s about the overall effect in a way, and they’re probably a good night out. What they need is control and more layers to highlight their better points. Too often when a song needed the bass to be brought through to provide some actual texture for the guitar to then play off they just kept on trundling along, and that gets boring, verging on what was always called Rentapunk back in the day, which in America in this scene means they’re like a third division Screaming Sneakers.
There was one odd moment, when it seemed ‘Escape’ might be their punk version of Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’, but it wasn’t, and the vocals are ghastly. Only ‘In The Eleven’ and the title track are they spunkily seen to fully rise out of the feisty mire in fine fierce fashion. The majority just goes graarrgghhhheeeeeeee.
COURAGE T KILL
DON’T HAVE TIME
IN THE ELEVEN
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Deviant offer an arsenal of searing electronics, industrial percussion loops, chainsaw guitar riffs and cold yet soulful vocals, providing incisive narrative to the darker side of life...deviant sex, chemicals, betrayal and revenge. Deviant - with their self-styled pornoGothic sound and obsession with deviance - are the perfect antidote to the poison of pop culture.
Wait a minute - this isn’t me talking. This is how Deviant describe themselves in the promotional blurb-sheet which comes with this three-track CD. The band is portrayed as mean ‘n’ moody industrial/darkwave operators, ripping open the seamy side of life and throwing the dirt they discover into the face of the nicely-nicely everyday world. All of which is splendidly dramatic, of course, but it isn’t a particularly new stance. Many bands over the years have billed themselves in broadly similar uncompromising terms, as if they’re the last gang in the underground, the only remaining bulwark against blandness. Trouble is, it’s all become a bit cliched now, to the point where any time I hear music described by such adjectives as ‘searing’, ‘chainsaw’ and ‘incisive’ I find myself gripped by an uncontrollable urge to rush out and buy Dido albums.
The other problem with this approach is that the music, when you finally get to it, frequently isn’t anything like as ‘searing’ as the blurb leads you to expect. To an extent, Deviant fall into this trap. They’re a perfectly competent bedroom-industrial outfit, blending suitably stomping dancefloor beats, spiralling synths, and obsessively metronomic ticka-ticka-ticka hi-hats with great blocks of guitar noise in a way that hangs together well enough. It must be said, however, that Deviant don’t score particularly highly on the originality-o-meter. There’s a lot of this sort of stuff about these days, and whether Deviant realise this or not, they’re working in a crowded genre. If they’re going to get ahead, they’re going to have to stand out - and I’m not at all sure if their music is distinctive enough to raise its head above the seething industrial-dance masses. There are a lot of elements here which are familiar - sometimes tiresomely so - from other bands I’ve heard who create this kind of music. For example, the practice of throwing in ‘apocalyptic’ samples of movie dialogue at intervals is a crashing cliche in this musical area, and, yep, you’ve guessed it, Deviant dutifully do it.
However, Deviant do have a unique selling point. The vocal, unusually for this gene, is not the distorted one-note chant I was half expecting to hear. Instead, vocalist Jay Smith delivers a full-on caterwaul which sounds so uncannily like Gary Numan’s angsty, estuary-English accented singing style that I have to assume the similarity is deliberate. Well, I suppose it beats trying to sound like Andrew Eldritch, and it’s certainly more palatable than simply going ‘Huuurrgh!’ through a distortion effect - but the ‘tribute band’ vocal style does mean, of course, that Deviant’s unique selling point isn’t all that unique after all. On the lead track here, ‘access DENIED!’, Jay Smith reproduces those Numan-style adenoidal vowels so accurately on lines such as ‘This is your judgement day/Time to choose your way to pay’ that he sounds like he’s repeating a lesson from his night-school class in How To Speak Numanoid.
The blurb-sheet goes on to assure me that Deviant have a ‘distinctive image/stage presentation’ and deliver an ‘outstanding live performance’, although I can’t tell if this is the unvarnished truth or just a bit of shameless hype. There are no photos of the band in the promo-pack; there is no Deviant website where the ‘distinctive image’ of the band can be seen. There is no list of upcoming gigs; no history of previous gigs. In fact, Deviant supply no evidence whatsoever that they’ve ever played a gig in their entire existence - which is why I characterised the band as ‘bedroom-industrial’ above. Reading between the lines of the promo-blurb, and listening to the music with the slightly jaundiced ear of one who’s heard a lot of this stuff before, I’m left with the distinct impression that Deviant are essentially a home-studio project with big ambitions, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think the band would do well to ease up on the hyperbole, ring the stylistic changes somewhat, and above all get out onto the gig circuit where they can really shake down their craft. They’d be bang in line for a gig with Flag Promotions, that’s for sure. Frank of Flag is the world’s biggest Numan fan, and I’m sure he’d go for Deviant’s neo-Numanoid sound. Well, maybe we’ll see Deviant out on the circuit before too long, and then we’ll see the reality behind the blurb. For now, we shall file Deviant under potentially interesting - but with a lot to prove.
living for SIN/dying for VICE
The players: (No clear details given, but
as far as I can make out the line-up is as follows)
Jay Smith: Vocals, programming
Stop press: a few days after this review was written, Deviant's website went online: http://www.deviantmusic.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
FUNGICIDE (Own Label)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
You know the record will be odd because of the big mushroom on the cover, and it is, because this is Devereux’s tribute to the ‘Ambergris’ stories of Jeff Vanderemeer, about which I admit I know bugger all, and is a total work of love, produced to the highest quality, with a beautifully designed CD surface and an inner booklet with explanatory details of what each song is to representing, with an example segment from a chapter included. Under such circumstances this makes it all the more bewildering to an outsider, who would generally find this music rather harsh and abstract, but as you know it definitely represents something you try harder to understand and appreciate it.
When, for instance, the opening track sounds fairly turgid and horrifies you with the sound of a voice seemingly replicating a didgeridoo you check the accompanying notes and learn that this is ‘Tuvan throat singing’, and let that go, because it’s like incidental film music, which has a touch of tension. That may well be the best effect a record like this can hope to instil in a listener, but you can imagine slugs and seahorses fighting for supremacy inside a piano as well, if you like.
‘The Exchange’ is strangely unpleasant, a cacophony of a human swarm and then, as total contrast, ‘The Transformation Of Martin Lake’ has a grey Medieval background with a wordy description. This is fairly close to inventive ethereal, but with astonishing lyrics.
I didn’t personally find ‘Uzumaki’ made me think of spirals (which it’s meant to), more seeing through a Philip Glass darkly, and in the pastoral world of Shrek ‘Dradin 1’ would make sense, being modern classical and quite conventional until best by a parade of lunatics. With Moroccan inspiration ‘Festival Of The Squid’ is an atonal sprawl to me; seriously ugly music until a few gaps punctuate the sheer blare of it all. It’s music Jim, but I’m locking you in the cargo bay with it.
‘Dradin 2’ is positively harmonious by comparison and by now I feel I’m trapped in an art gallery unable to locate the volume controls. This is staggered, raged rock, and ‘Flooded Streets’ has a post-Apocalypse Now’ feel, droning and claustrophobic. Why ‘Uzumaki II’ then does lo-fi indie pop I know not, but by now confusion is my middle name, and this was the one I really didn’t like, being muso art-wank, but ‘Cage’ got my attention back, with normal piano ruminations and slurred delay with a wiry tick-tock: a musical soup, best served cold.
‘The Man Who Had No Eyes’ was simple dreary, which then brought us to final track, which is Vandermeer reading from his vile literary creation, and I mean that in a nice way. As he drew me closer into his fantasy creation I was genuinely repulsed by some of the imagery and also hanging on his every, somewhat stilted, word. He isn’t a natural speaker, but the words are cunning, and the picture gradually builds up fusty, and deeply grotty layers as you listen.
It’s gross but riveting, and this album is actually a fantastic success, despite being excessive with style, where he can logically excuse and defend any sloppiness by saying it suits a certain segment of a book, when it seemed lazy to me at times. In interesting the listener in Vandermeer’s books it does that well, once you have experienced this release in its entirety, with the detail conveying how important he finds Vandermeer’s work, and in the end you get that reading providing the final validation.
A very unusual record, it makes you interested in the book more than the record, and yet if he’d simply made the music more engrossing rather than gross-outs he’d have had the best of both worlds. That’s brainiacs for you. They lack common sense.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF MARTIN LAKE
DRADIN, IN LOVE (PART 1)
FESTIVAL OF THE SQUID
DRAIN IN LOVE (PART 2)
THE MAN WHO HAD NO EYES
THE EXCHANGE (READING BY JEFF VANDERMEER)
Dream Into Dust
The Latha Of Heaven
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Some records make your heart sink when they arrive. A foetus attached to a Frankenstein generator adorns the front cover, a man with his head through a wall on the rear and the press release tells of this being Derek Rush, an Industrial-experimentalist, one associates being guitarist Bryin Dall whose work includes Thee Majesty with P. Orridge and Loreatta's Doll. Hard work ahead, I thought, strapping myself in for a grim ride.
And then it turns out to be complete opposite. True, the tracks are constantly bursting with noises, often unnecessarily so, but these are frequently beautiful songs, with wonderfully sweet and expressive vocals, and astringent guitar which makes it unnecessary to delve too deeply into clashing sounds. This guitar has a sombre anger all its own.
The opening is just noisy mood, but when the violin or viola kicks into 'Disconnected' you realise we're dealing with intense compositions of surprising delicacy, the vocals winding through controlled drama. In 'How The Roses Burned ' they succeed even when battling with a production geared more towards the instruments; powerfully emotive drums and tough strings, with the guitar almost sweeping you along. Then they strum and tumble through the rest which, without wishing to alarm anyone, is like a direct descendant from the soppiness of AL Stewart ('Distant Horizon' is definitely old folk rock dangling), the pained individualism of Doll By Doll, and now comes to us as Old Blokes Being Interesting, in a way that never really happened before about the late 80's. The Industrial field often does seem to allow greater expression and depth.
It's more a feel here, because you can't see the vocals as a highlighted character, and sometimes they go for the bleaker wobblier sound approach, where you have to get used to the noises at the start of each track, but at least there's a human guide wedged in between the gears and columns.
Sometimes it's a bit too jumbled, 'Wrong Side Of The Glass' boring me, liked a stuck door, but the dredged and gurgling 'No World Outside' is equally unattractive yet manages to feel inviting and ravaged. 'Sleep In Dead Time' is one of the more interesting ones where the clangier sounds start to disrupt, but they adhere to reasonable melodic middle ground, which then means you have sweetness and uglier innards all coiled and curdled together. What they don't try, which disappoints, is at least one song where they really hammer away at a hard approach. Instead they rage like librarians, but keep their glasses on throughout the storm.
A DREAM OF JOY IN A SLEEP OF SORROW
HOW THE ROSES BURNED
SLEEP IN DEAD TIME
WRONG SIDE OF THE GLASS
NO WORLD OUTSIDE
THE LATHE OF HEAVEN
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Around this time last year, I reviewed The Duskfall's debut, Frailty. The following list from my previous review sums it up well.
Band: The DuskfallSo, you ask, what's changed since last time? Let's see. They're still known as The Duskfall. Still playing SMDM. Same guitar and drums, but with louder bass. Oh! This is now the 672nd melodic death metal album, and Magnus Olsson isn't here for a guest appearance. I also think that The Duskfall have moved up in their ranking, from "slightly above average" to "well above average". Source is very standard SMDM, but it's got crushing production, cool and tasteful solos, kickass riffs, and many more memorable leads than Frailty.
Genre: Swedish Melodic Death Metal
Guitars: Fast, bouncy riffs and dual-lead guitar harmonies
Drums: Standard metal drumming
Bass: What? Where? Straining can reveal a distant bass rumble, which may or may not be Odin growling his disapproval for the 436th melodic death metal album.
Vocals: Raspy, throat-tearing yells
Rank within SMDM: Slightly above average, good mix of riffs
Sole Distinguishing feature: All solos courtesy of Swedish guitar virtuoso, Magnus Olsson
I still don't have much to say about The Duskfall, but I can give them a hearty recommendation to the SMDM fan. The music is well played, expertly produced, and at times memorable and catchy. Kai Jaakkola (who has a really cool name, by the way) has improved a great deal as a vocalist, and you almost get the sense that he's really singing beneath the haze of distorted growls and rasps. There's an uncommonly musical quality to his anger.
The Duskfall is competing against bands like Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates for the "top dogs of classic SMDM" position, and while they haven't scaled the mountain yet, they're high enough up to stand out from the armies of Swedish melodic death metallers camped at the base of the mountain, roasting goat flesh and wondering why no one ever buys their CDs. I think I'd be happier if more of these bands took Soilwork's lead in crafting a more unique sound full of personality, but perhaps there will always be a place for the traditional SMDM style. As long as there is, you're much better off listening to The Duskfall than most.
1) Case Closed
2) Striving to Have Nothing
3) The Grand Scheme
5) Not a Good Sign
7) Lead Astray
8) The Destroyer
The Duskfall is:
Kai Jaakkola - vocals
Mikael Sandorf - guitars
Joachem Lendback - guitars
Kaj Molin - bass
Oskar Karlsson - drums
The Duskfall - Official Site:
Black Lotus Records:
The End Records (US):
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Dwelling is an ensemble of expert musicians, hailing from Portugal and first conceived as a solo project by virtuoso guitarist Nuno Roberto. After fleshing out his melodic vision with the help of additional musicians, the band’s first mini CD was released in 2001. “Humana” marks the band’s first full-length release and it is a delicate collection of soothing, organic compositions, built around intricate acoustic guitar work, magnificent violin, and tender female vocals. The atmosphere throughout the disc is warm and encompassing, ethereal in the purest sense. Dwelling admirably turn their collective backs on synthesizers and keyboards and instead opt for a more natural and human sound. What you won’t find here are exaggerated orchestral imitations and other synthetic trappings currently nullifying a good two-thirds of the dark music underground. Instead, you find a lush and exotic album that culls from jazz and classical guitar techniques as well the band’s native Fado traditions, a kind of Portuguese folk ballad.
The group is fronted by Catarina Raposo, a confident alto vocalist whose voice perfectly crowns the strongly ethnic backdrop. Her voice shares a similar ashen quality with both Kari and Ann-Mari, the former vocalists of the 3rd & The Mortal, and I suppose Dwelling shares a bit musically with the Norwegian legends as well. Catalina’s expressive performance is coloured by a bittersweet vulnerability, and her delivery throughout most of the disc is calm and smoky. While I do not dislike her vocals, I was bothered by a number of moments where she seems to sing with a slight detachment, rarely altering the pitch or delivery of her lyrics. After awhile her voice is sort of absorbed into the music. She compliments the music very well, rarely (if at all) distracting from the stately intimacy of the compositions, and that is what matters most when all is said and done. I am just a cranky miser when it comes to female vocalists and I suppose it’s just harder to impress me these days. Ultimately, she is a distinctive and able vocalist, but Dwelling’s real strength lies within the music itself and the subtly dramatic arrangements.
The hypnotic, sweeping acoustic strums and melodic finger picking of the guitars works in perfect unison with Silvia Freitas’ dusky, slithery violin playing. The instruments work in immaculate unison, with equally poignant melodies distributed evenly between them. While most of the disc is relatively tranquil and tender in its dark romanticism, the music is quite active, intricate, mid paced, and there is even a burst of mischievous energy for the album’s closing jig “The Reality That Remains.” The violin work is perhaps what held my attention the most, presenting an admirable balance between traditional neo-classical and ethnic stylings and moodier atmospheric techniques. The manner in which the songs are structured give all of the instruments and vocals ample room to breathe, volleying off of each other and synchronizing in brilliant harmony.
Dwelling was an unexpectedly sophisticated treat, managing to sustain and arrest my attention despite the fact that I have been responding to much more maniacal and frantic, rhythm based music as of late. One must be patient with these compositions, and allow them to over take you. The reward is a dynamic, relaxing release that passively captivates rather than lulls the listener to restless wispy ennui. As I mentioned, fans of 3rd & the Mortal’s early work will appreciate this immensely, as would regular fans of neo-classical and dark folk music. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the need of something progressive and mellow, but not too whacked out with technical showmanship. The talent is here, in both delivery and the consistently sublime atmospheres created.
1.) Silencio Intemporal
2.) Teceloes da Nova Realiade
3.) The Wheel (* Based upon a poem by William Butler Yeats)
4.) Lingering Stupor
5.) Chasing The Rainbow’s End
6.) Remember Virtue
7.) O Cinzel do Tempo
8.) As The Storm Chants
9.) The Reality That Remains
Catarina Raposo – vocals
Silvia Freitas - violin
Nuno Roberto – guitars
Nicholas Ratcliffe – guitars
Jaime Ferreira - bass
Dwelling – Official Website:
The Fossil Dungeon:
A Brief Fado / Portuguese Music Resource:
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
The press release marked it all out quite clearly for me, in that this is a group whose work accurately reflects through 'stringed voices' the ethereal./neo-classical fusion of Portuguese musical history, which makes for very relaxing listening. There are some medieval sympathies trapped in the gauzy spirals, you'll be enchanted by the light luscious vocals, and it isn't all in Portugese either which makes the mysteries somewhat easier to deal with.
It's only their second release during a five year existence and comes close to the Heavenly Voices category at times, but stays firmly within traditional boundaries, which holds it back somewhat, because the guitar is often too similar sounding and languid. Even when used as punctuation in slow pieces it doesn't require anything of the listener, and you now what to expect once songs have got underway.
It is exquisitely beautiful and contains songs which throw you into a mood for reflection, as did the recent And Also The Trees album. Oddly, considering I think it is natural to want something more from this style of music than easy background romance, when they did get a bit lively during 'As The Storm Chants' I then found the frivolity strangely irritating because it was such a disruption.
Not the sort of thing I can imagine listening to a lot, but then I'm not the quietest of people. For those who know this genre you will love it, I'm sure.
TECELOES DA NOVA REALIDADE
CHASING THE RAINBOWS' END
O CINZEL DO TEMPO
AS THE STORM CHANTS
THE REALITY THAT REMAINS
Earth Loop Recall
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
I had expected them to be fairly wild, but initially they made me think I was still listening to the superb Vampire Nation album, with some firm but far from outlandish guitar and pugnacious, angsty vocals. The music doesn't come up to match the intensity of the vocals, and the guitar simply opts to go into overdrive, leaving you puzzled.
They often have a grizzled background, with pretties for you in the foreground, trapping their chattering host. 'Petra Lena' could have been very special indeed, but there isn't enough grit to the crunch of the music, and might wipe out the vocals, but I daresay it's a killer live, because they have a real band feel, and there's power lurking. They can also do the decent quiet opening, as with 'Please Stop Hurting Me', before loutish guitar bravado grabs your attention, but it's a song laid low by some rather unadventurous production. It drops down, a great guitar line kicks in and it should have ended with a big bang, but they repeat the words too much and fade out on fuzz. Disappointing.
'Slowly Going Under' certainly has a pointless intro, then plods about wistfully and for all the stylised enunciation it's a dreary exercise, but they're really flowing in 'Let Yourself', opting for some mild dance, and nice words to create a sense of mastery and mystery, even if it is more Pet Shop Boys with attitude than the press release's claims of My Bloody Valentine. 'Wake Up Shaking' has another naff end of protracted noise, but the strange vocal delays and loping, rocky guitar have kept it stirring even when fairly restrained, and 'Optimism' shows how it should be done when it's bam and in, with a fractious beat fey vocals and plenty of guitar sting. Further establishing some perverse pop credentials, 'Like Machines' has Almondesque vocals and mild synth, with a heartbeat rhythm patter, which shows character, but doesn't quite deliver, and the final track is a coy little instrumental piece of nothing.
So, there is something charming here, but
it's not backed up with any sense of weight to the songs, and somewhat
flies in the face of the live reviews I'd seen. If anything they're like
little caged Suedettes, desperate to break free.
PLEASE STOP HURTING ME
SLOWLY GOING UNDER
WAKE UP SHAKING
OPTIMISM CREEPING IN
THE EMPIRE HIDEOUS
SAY YOUR PRAYERS (Hell’s Hundred Records)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Goth musicians can be fairly wilful and stupid sometimes, and the way Myke’s book showed how band members would just wander off and away from him clearly indicates he was surrounded by morons half the time. Why he should still be having trouble finding committed musicians who would want to work with him is something bordering on urban myth right now, because if this record is anything to go by he is the man in Gothic Rock circles there with the clarity of vision, just like the Audra boys write the best lyrics, and Projekt has the best collection of artists.
Myke has got the sound together and the doomy lyrical menu which makes something cohesive. He is a real figure who other bands could learn from, and this is a very special record indeed. Massive drums and luminous guitar whisk up our opener and some bloke is droning away, no doubt meaningfully. The fact a record seriously deals with the future state of the world has never been of great interest to me, I just like the noise, and given that this sounds like primetime Mission playing Rollerball it’s a self-destruction derby of finesse.
‘Art Is Dead’ is merely chilling samples and static, but ‘Two Minutes ‘Til Midnight’ sees steadfast vocals rasping over a deep guitar ravine, and is a perfect example of where a melodic style can be directly identified as Goth, because it’s a maelstrom within a rock genre; the guitars chugging happily and circling around sonorous vocals; cleverly reined in, operating as a pincer movement around the salivating singing. Cross The Bolshoi with Flesh For Lulu, then give it some balls.
‘Interlude’ is more samples rubbish but it provides a breather before ‘My Mind Plays Tricks On Me’ which sees a guitar used as rapier, as Myke fights alone with his deepest, wobbliest Goth vocals. It’s a fairly standard song but zips along, happily demented. ‘Heaven Raining Bullets’ suffers somewhat from insufficient bass boost, but the vocals have real presence and there’s a riff assault so heavy you could bring charges. It’s also got a ringing, stinging, almost joyous chorus and a roaring convergence to the end.
Myke remains king of all cesspits he surveys in ‘If Only I Kept Dreaming’ but is barely irate, making it all somewhat conventional, and he becomes a bit of a gurl during the acoustic ‘Bound To Happen’ sounding positively hopeful. Going all vulture on us, the guitar hovers and the vocals flap throughout ‘Post Hell’ and it’s like a more involving, malignant version of what Valor tries so hard to do; a slow burning powerhouse of a song which is beautifully produced, rising to a tempestuous ending. (Wait long enough and you also get some spacey howling, artful delay, nice suspense and another epic almost ten minutes long which is urgent and bristles.)
An utterly fantastic album, aside from those pointless sample segments which could have been replaced by another proper song, this truly puts them on the map.
Buy this atlas.
ART IS DEAD
TWO MINUTES ‘TIL MIDNIGHT
MY MIND PLAYS TRICKS ON ME
HEAVEN RAINING BULLETS
WELCOME TO THE HERE AND NOW
IF ONLY I KEPT DREAMING
BOUND TO HAPPEN
...and i'm the queen of the moon
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
This paragraph will officially be the "taking care of business" portion of the review. I'd like to first congratulate the Endless on their use of the word "fey" in the press sheet. It's an accurate description of Adriana Roze's ethereal, otherworldly vocals, and it's a neat word, too. Also, I have to confess that I only opted to review this CD because I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and his Sandman comic, which is where the Endless gets its name. Oh, and my stomach hurts like hell right now - I don't know what that's about. Something I ate, maybe. I don't think it's the music. I like the music well enough.
"Ah," you question, pointedly, "well enough, but is well enough worth purchasing?" And I, hunched over with terrible abdominal pains, answer, "Indeed! If you're a fan of ethereal electro-pop eps that cost $7.50." the Endless's songs feature smooth synth and bass backdrops with occasional guitars and accordion, and Mrs. Roze puts her relaxed but engaging vocal style to good use. This ep is just as suited for use as peaceful background music as it is a soundtrack for one of those rainy days when you begin to question the meaning of life and love and loss.
My only criticism of the music is that it's relatively non-descript; David and Adriana Roze craft very basic songs, but without the intentionally minimalist qualities of Antimatter (a group that's otherwise a fair comparison to the Endless). And so, while the ep's 32 minute duration remains quite pleasant and inoffensive, there isn't a whole lot to remember later, either. Nevertheless, ...and i'm the queen of the moon contains light, nicely played music with a generally interesting vocal performance. If you're into electro-pop, indie electro-pop, or ethereal electro-pop (all of which are genres that may or may not exist), chances are you'll enjoy the Endless's foray into the dreamy side of easy-going music.
2) as we collide
6) setting sun
7) lee miller
the Endless is:
Adriana Roze - vocals, lyrics, keyboards
David Roze - guitars, bass, accordian, cello, keyboards, programming
the Endless - Official Website:
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
I had a whole other review of Mirrorworlds, the reissued 1998 Eucharist classic, written and ready to go... but something gnawed at me until I caved in and set out to rewrite it. I should not like this album nearly as much as I apparently do. Eucharist follows the Swedish Melodic Death Metal formula to the letter. All the riffs, all the tempo shifts, all the ideas on Mirrorworlds (except for one exception I'll detail later) have been heard a billion and one times- mainly thanks to the extreme commercialization of the genre following In Flames' ascendence to popularity.
For an almost entirely generic album, though, it sure is good. Too often, albums released in an over saturated genre sound manufactured, crafted specifically to cash in on a trend. Mirrorworlds sounds like it was created by people who really cared about the music and put all they had into making it the best it could be. The dirty, scratchy, raw analog production probably helps to dispell that 'studio-robot perfect' feel that sellout albums tend to get. There is a real energy and fury in the way Eucharist plays that the production renders beautifully, capturing each derivative but highly catchy riff in all it's raging glory.
There are two elements on Mirrorworlds, though, that really make it stand out from the masses. The first is Marcus Johnsson's agonized rasp, so full of emotion and forlorn intensity that even the most jaded listeners will not be able to dismiss its stirring vehemence. The second element was quite a surprise - track seven, 'In Nakedness', is a hauntingly beautiful neoclassical composition for oboe, guitar, and bass. I certainly had no idea I'd run into as artful and moving a piece during a rote (though redeeming) exercise in genre metal. I don't think I've ever run into an oboe on a metal album, in fact, and this track certainly elevates the artistic merit of 'Mirrorworlds' a notch or two.
The performances of each of the bandmates are passionate and well crafted, though not technically impressive. The songs are full of cliched riffs and melodic progressions, yet they're catchy, propulsive, and never lost my interest. The production is old, fuzzy, and dated, yet it has a charm that sometimes seems lacking in crisp digital recordings. Mirrorworlds is a perplexing album, but I have a feeling that it's about as good as Swedish Melodic Death Metal gets. If you're not burned out on the genre, this is a classic you may have missed once, but should not let escape your grasp again.
03.) With The Sun
04.) The Eucharist
07.) In Nakedness
08.) Blood Red Stars
Marcus Johnsson - guitar / vocals
Martin Karlsson - bass
Daniel Erlandsson - drums
Kenneth Gronberg - oboe (track 7)
The End Records (US):
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
In the words of Facebreaker vocalist Robert Karlsson, GRUM FOOF EN BLORGLL ERRFULLLLLLLLLLL! At least, I think that's what he said. Damn basement-throated deathm