‘The Deathrock invasion continues!’ yells the slogan on the flyer for tonight’s gig. Hang on - I wasn’t aware the deathrock invasion had even started. Did I miss something? Was I in the bathroom when it happened? It’s true enough that there’s currently an upsurge of interest in all things deathrock in the UK - at a time when our scene looks in danger of getting as stale as a three month old fairy cake, many people are looking for something different, something with a bit of the old guts and fire and colour and craziness to it, and deathrock fits the bill. But I don’t know if I’d go so far as to describe this growing interest in such dramatic terms as an invasion. If anything, deathrock is creeping into the UK scene like a rumour. I suspect that what we have here is really a case of good old fashioned hype - after all, none of the three bands on the bill tonight actually describe themselves as deathrock. But what the hell. There’s certainly a good crowd in for the show, enticed along by reports of Bella Morte’s barnstorming performance at the Beyond The Veil festival in Leeds a few days ago. Here in the more compact surroundings of The Verge, we’re surely in for a night of concentrated, boisterous rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s a good prospect whatever the brand name on the package.
To a certain extent, unfortunately, this looks like one of those gigs where the bands have to fight it out with the venue.The Verge isn’t just compact - it’s also one of London’s most bizarrely laid out and frustratingly under-equipped performance spaces. The stage is a squashed L-shape, squeezed between the main entrance and the bar. Drummers, who are forced to occupy the far end of the L, are thus invisible to most of the audience. The PA stacks are cunningly arranged in such a way that the sound fires directly into the crowd, making everything muffled and bass-heavy. Human bodies create an excellent sound baffle, and it only takes a few people down the front to mop up the mid and top frequencies pretty effectively. Oh, and there are two stage lights. Count ‘em, two. And they’re both red. This means that all tonight’s bands are forced to perform under the kind of dim red glow which would be ideal for anyone wishing to develop their own holiday snaps, but is a bit bloody useless for lighting up a live set. The bands, to their credit, take all this in their stride, but I can’t help feeling a little embarrassed that the shortcomings of the London live music circuit have been so glaringly revealed - especially as various members of The Deep Eynde are here tonight to see the show. They’re probably making a note never to play any UK gigs, if this is typical of our venues!
Devilish Presley certainly aren’t about to allow themselves to be troubled by the lack of rock star facilities. If anything, they use the basic surroundings to fuel their fire. Their set is short, but packs a punch. They rampage their way through a set of their trademark blues-punk tunes, the guitars clashing, the drum-program pounding. Johnny Navarro takes time out from thrashing his guitar to make some pithy remarks about the venue’s gear: ‘Look, we’ve got two lights - and they’re either on...or they’re off! In the twenty-first century I just think it’s incredible that we can do this!’ The duo stomp and clatter to a conclusion, and by way of a grand finale Johnny tips over a monitor, grabs the beer crates it was balanced on, and claps them together over his head, very nearly reducing The Verge’s entire lighting rig to shattered fragments. You’ve got to love this band: loud guitars, sarky comments, and a healthy disrespect for the hardware. All the rock ‘n’ roll essentials present and correct in one brief set.
Which brings us neatly to Zombina And the Skeletones, who are currently being hailed in certain quarters as the greatest rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon since Little Richard’s hairstyle. And, in theory, they do indeed seem an enticing prospect. A female-fronted bunch of rockers, with a knockabout trash-kitsch aesthetic and some corny-but-crazy 50s pastiche songs about mad professors and prom nights, high schools and sci-fi - hey, they should be rockin’ cool, right? Alas, not for the first time, I fear I must cast myself as the spectre at the feast, because quite frankly I can’t see what all the fuss is about. The band chug their way through a set of fairly innocuous pop-rock numbers which, apart from their deliberately kitsch titles and cornball lyrics, don’t seem to have anything much to do with their supposed vintage rock leitmotiv. There’s a brief acapella interlude, in which the boys in the band gather round a mic and go all doo-wop for a while, but this comes across like a token nod to the band’s alleged 50s style rather than a natural extension of their overall theme. Most of the Skeletones’ music sounds like workaday alternorock to me - with, bizarrely enough, a side order of heavy metal. Yes, those guitars do get quite alarmingly heavy at times, riffing away as if the lads harbour a secret desire to be Black Sabbath. Zombina herself simply stands diffidently at the mic throughout. Now, call me Mister Demanding if you will, but from the way so much praise has been heaped upon this band, I thought I was going to be swept away by a sassy, bubblegum blowin’, bra-strap twangin’, high heel stompin’ cross between Betty Boop and Bettie Page. What I get is a rather shy-looking girl next door who looks like she’s fronting the college rock society’s pick-up band at the end of term party. Oh, I suppose Zombina And The Skeletones provide a certain lightweight fun, and I think lightweight fun is all a large chunk of the goth scene wants these days, which is probably why the band are receiving so many plaudits. But I really think Zombina and her chums should go out and buy some albums by The Cramps and the B52s, and learn from the real experts at this stuff.
The obstreperous punk gang that is Bella Morte crowds onto the stage. But they don’t leap into their set right away. There’s a lengthy delay, in which arcane things are done with (or perhaps to) a laptop. There’s an irony there: even in their new, rocked-up, drumkit-and-everything guise, Bella Morte still need technology to help them make their racket. Dear me, how on earth did bands manage before computers were invented? Eventually, they get everything working. Our promoter tonight, the mysterious DJ Psyche, announces the band. Punters crowd to the front and place themselves in the ‘to be rocked’ position. And then we all get comprehensively rocked. Bella Morte hurl themselves into their music like a wrecking crew. Songs are set up and gleefully whacked down again, as if the band are wielding demolition balls rather than guitars. The small stage means that the band can’t leap and lurch about in quite the same unbridled manner as they did in Leeds - here, the visual side of the performance is carried by vocalist Andy Deane, who busts his moves in the small pool of red light at the front of the stage like he’s a graduate of the Henry Rollins Frontman Academy. It’s loud and rough, with more than a hint of a ‘let’s do the show right here!’ attitude. Bella Morte don’t seem concerned about their less than lavishly equipped surroundings. They’re here to make some noise and have a good time, and by crikey they’ll do just that. It occurs to me that this band would probably be happy to play a gig in a cardboard box - and they’d put on a good show, too. They rock and rumble and bellow through their songs, and then, right at the end of the set, they pull an unexpected contrast out of their musical bag. It’s an endearingly faithful cover of The Penguins’ 1954 hit, ‘Earth Angel’, a fine old tune from the days when R ‘n’ B meant something more than a bland soundtrack to a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption. Bella Morte deliver the song with an affectionate respect, adopting, it must be said, a rather more convincingly vintage band-persona for this one number than Zombina And The Skeletones were able to muster for their whole set. They leave the stage to a warm and enthusiastic reaction, and London is hereby added to Bella Morte’s list of conquests.
Yep, that was a good gig, notwithstanding the fact that Zombina didn’t exactly sweep me off my feet. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad, and in any case it’s good to see two new-to-London bands getting an opportunity to do their stuff. Bella Morte certainly went head-on at the limitations of the venue and won: their high-energy punk show dovetails very neatly with the take no shit, take no prisoners London attitude, and it all worked very well tonight. Barns were definitely stormed.
But let me point a thought at you before we go. Bella Morte’s musical journey from trad-goths to synthpoppers to ramalama punks does beg a pertinent question. Where will the band go from here? Does their musical master plan envisage the band mutating into fully paid-up denizens of the nu-punk scene? They’re already coming on like a cross between Green Day and Black Flag, to the point where their continued presence in goth circles is starting to look rather illogical. Surely Bella Morte’s natural territory, looking and sounding as they do these days, would be as tour support to The Offspring, AFI, or someone of that ilk, playing their amiably boisterous punker anthems to the mohawks ‘n’ keychains crowd? OK, I’m throwing rhetorical questions around here. But, as Bella Morte continue their headlong dash down the punk path, those questions are getting less rhetorical all the time. One day, I suspect we’ll all wake up to discover that Bella Morte have become the new Blink 182 - and will we think that’s a good thing or not?
see all the photos from this concert here
Bella Morte: http://www.bellamorte.com
Zombina And The Skeletones: http://www.zombina.com
Devilish Presley: http://www.devilishpresley.com
DJ Psyche, promoter of the gig: http://www.viciouslondon.com/psyche
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Whitby Gothic Weekend
Saturday 24th April 2004
~review and photos by Duncan Bryceland
The renowned Whitby Gothic Weekend is set in a breathtaking location on an idyllic coastal sea town in north east England, which is of course known for it¹s historical connections to Bram Stoker's Dracula and Captain Cook. Although there are plenty of bands and events over the three day gothic-extravaganza, we are here predominately to witness the final gig of the Dream Disciples.
Support band Libitina come on just as the crowd starts to arrive, but their monotone droney vocals, seemingly obligatory drum machine and spacious sound produces a grating and dated 80's gothic sound that is less than inspiring. Although their take of Pulp's "Common People", now renamed "Gothic People" may be catchy, sadly this gothic karaoke number is the highlight of a rather drab set.
This is the last gig of a ten date European tour for headliners The Mission and the veteran gothic rock outfit seem to want to go out with a bang. They swagger through more rockier and at times rawer renditions of classic songs like "Crystal Ocean", "Serpents Kiss" and "Wasteland", and more contemporary numbers "Evangeline" and "Slave To Lust" with intoxicating efficiency, but the highlights are undoubtedly an emphatic "Tower Of Strength" and a rousing "Deliverance".
The Dream Disciples started out over 14 years ago, having initially been influenced by bands like The Mission, the irony being that it takes their swansong for them to finally share the billing with their once mentors. The Disciples have of course transformed from their early gothic-pop-rock sound, to a more innovative hybrid of genre breaking, electro-goth and industrial-rock and that is why travelling a 500 mile round trip to see this fantastic band on their final outing is worth every mile.
With the venue packed and with a rather over the top introduction from a somewhat camp compere, the Dream Disciples take to the stage to a deafening reception. "Good evening Whitby, this is the end!" declares vocalist Colin Lowing as they energetically launch into "Black Widow". The fast n' frantic "The Enemy" is accompanied by fit inducing strobes, which competes with the intensity of the amphetamine-fueled "Cobalt (Blue)", illustrating why the DD's have been one of the most exciting bands on the live circuit.
There seems to be a relaxed, if not an almost party atmosphere and a real connection between band and audience as the frontman invites the crowd to sing the chorus of "Care Of The Devil", joking afterwards "that was the jazz version". To prove this isn't a time for mourning, but rather a time for celebration of the DD's prolific career, a cocktail waitress, complete with basque, high heels and feather headgear comes onstage to serve mid set refreshment of pints of gin and tonic to the band, "gin anyone?" asks the guitarist Sid as the band slide into the passion laced and wonderfully grandiose gothic romanticism of "Aradia".
The tightly coiled "Veins" unleashes into a ferocious live number, with the power surge of the duel guitars of the eclectic "Velvethead" making it a surprise stand out, but it's the dark electro grooves of the club hit "Room 57" that enthrals the captivated audience, igniting and activating the crowd as the floor is packed with Goths of all persuasions feverishly dancing to end a brilliant set. With the crowd not just shouting for an encore, but rather demanding one, the DD's return, responding unequivocally with the dark riffage of their Industrial slanted rendition of Blondie’s "Atomic". As the enthusiastic frontman announces "We¹re going to end, how we started" the seminal gothic-rock anthem "Pray" carries the ecstatic crowd along on a euphoric wave, raising the roof to end the gig and their career on a spectacular high.
The fans still incessantly
shouting for more, seem oblivious, or perhaps just refusing to hear Colin’s
poignant last words of "Thank you Whitby, Good-bye!". With the Dream Disciples
more popular than ever on this, their final gig, irony seems to be the
theme of the night. A sublime performance and a memorable night.
see all the photos from this concert here
The Mission: http://www.themissionuk.com
The Dream Disciples: http://www.dreamdisciples.net
Whitby Gothic Weekend: http://www.wgw.topmum.co.uk
Duncan Bryceland: http://www.mk13.net
Earth Loop Recall
The Water Rats, London
Friday February 27 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
Tonight, another gig organised by Devilish Presley, wearing their Pity For Monsters promoters’ hats. Again, it’s a forward-looking line-up of bands which steers refreshingly clear of the usual suspects zone, and the gig pulls a healthy crowd which seems to include representatives of every band in London. I’m a little disconcerted to find that the bar has no Shepherd Neame Master Brew on this occasion: fortunately, they do have Hoegaarden on tap (Belgian wheat beer, with a nice undertow of vanilla; slips down a treat), so I get myself fuelled up and ready to pay attention to the music.
First on stage, under some frustratingly minimal lighting, is Faetal, a new band about whom I know nothing. I don’t even know if you’re supposed to pronounce their name ‘Fate-al’ or ‘Feet-al’. There are two of them: a guitarist hiding under a tipped-forward hat, and a singer hiding behind a tipped-up microphone. It’s interesting that both members of the band seem a little uncomfortable with being on stage. I don’t want to get all psychological here, but there’s something telling about the way both members of the band use props to create a barrier between themselves and their audience. Musically, they’re a dense wall of guitar, mashed and smashed through myriad effects, behind which programmed rhythms click and groove. Electronics flesh out the bones, and the vocals - an angsty, indie-kid wail - skitter over the top like pond insects on the surface tension of the water. Faetal sound far bigger than they are, if that makes any sense. Close your eyes and it’s easy to convince yourself there’s a full-on four, five, piece band hammering away on stage. I’m reminded of the big, dense guitar sound of up and coming indie-manglers Serafin. I suspect Faetal are at an early stage of development at present - there’s something about their slightly cautious, apprehensive stage (non-) presence that hints at a band that’s spent more time in the rehearsal room than on the gig circuit. But you can’t argue with that big, bad guitar sound, and once they’ve got a bit of rigourous gigging under their belts I suspect Faetal will shake down into something rather good.
Earth Loop Recall are on a roll at the moment. Their album, Compulsion, has picked up good reviews everywhere from indie zines to metal mags (I even took it upon myself to award the band the StarVox seal of approval), and their gigs always generate a stir. There’s a feeling in the air that this is a band teetering on the brink of...well, I won’t make any grand predictions and say ‘superstardom’, but certainly there’s a sense that to watch Earth Loop Recall in action is to witness something special unfolding before our very eyes. They fire up ‘Optimism Creeping In’, and their sound roars and swirls around the venue like a jet plane running up its engines for take-off. It’s such a big, big sound you can almost feel the walls bulging under sheer sonic pressure - and yet it’s not just a formless noise. Earth Loop Recall’s secret weapon is their ability to create detail and space in amongst the guitar-fuelled roar. There are distinct keyboard lines and odd little rhythms winding their way around the densely-packed decibels; bespoke features of the band’s musical landscape which you can pick up on and marvel at, even as the sheer power of the sound is pinning you to the back wall of the venue. Ben hunches over the mic like Johnny Rotten’s better-dressed brother and rips out the lyrics like his soul’s being roasted over a low flame, while the band lurch and sway and riff around him. But it’s not at all an angst-by-numbers show. On the contrary, there are grins and quips between (and occasionally during) the songs. Earth Loop Recall know how to mix their vitriol with fun. There are shout-outs to friends and aquaintances - ‘Reconnect’ is dedicated to Mick Mercer, who, alas, is unable to be with us tonight. Come to think of it, Mick has been unable to be with us for about the last eight years. But no matter: for those of us who still connect, this feels good. This feels like something new is happening. Something new is oozing up from the murky swamps of the underground, and Earth Loop Recall are the foremost tentacle of the monster.
The interesting thing is - if I might digress for a moment - that it looks uncannily like Earth Loop Recall are on a collision course with the zeitgeist. The London club circuit is steadily filling up with nights which tap into the dark, left-field areas of post-punk independent music. There’s The Dark Stuff in Camden, Alan McGee’s Death Disco in Notting Hill, and - soon - Devilish Presley’s own excursion into the darker side, New Dark Age. Even Dead And Buried, London’s deathrock club, could be said to occupy the crossover ground. It’s as if the cliches and insularity and blind alleys of the latter-day goth scene are being cast aside: all of a sudden, nobody’s too bothered about haircuts or clothes, nobody cares about the latest standard-issue EBM floor-filler. The important factor is intense, creative, out-there music, which has the courage to stare into the heart of darkness and give it a sardonic wink. And that, of course, is exactly where Earth Loop Recall come in. Now, I’m not going to predict that a whole new movement (post-goth post-punk?) is going to start up - in fact, I rather hope that’s not the way it goes. But if there’s a new focus on the music, and less on spurious ‘scene’ issues, and if everything starts crossing over...well, I reckon the future is going to be a cool place to be. If it happens, remember where you read it first. If it doesn’t happen - forget I mentioned it!
Right. Back to the plot. It’s time for Devilish Presley to swap their promoters’ hats for rock ‘n’ roll hats (what is a rock ‘n’ roll hat?), strap on their guitars, and give us their own set. Now, conventional wisdom has it that two-piece bands just don’t rock. Indeed, I’ve heard far too many lame, foot-dragging, two-men-and-a-drum-machine bedroom-goth hopefuls myself to greet two-piece bands with any great enthusiasm in the normal scheme of things. But Devilish Presley grab conventional wisdom by the bollocks and unceremoniously tip it down the rubbish chute. The normal scheme of things can go and boil its head when this band is in town. There may only be two of them, but their on-stage energy burns so fiercely I’m sure that if they could bottle it they’d put Red Bull out of business - and yes, they definitely rock. They fix the audience with manic stares and crank it up. Their set is a taut, flipped-out take on punky, bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll moves, stripped, clipped, and distilled to basics. No superfluous guitar solos here. No superfluous *anything* here! By now, the band have established themselves on the London gig circuit - not least because they’ve become fairly regular promoters themselves - so there’s an enthusiastic mob of moshers leaping around at the front, a mass of flailing limbs in which I catch sight of several members of tonight’s bands. Ah, a band-on-band mosh, that doesn’t happen very often! It’s good to see a band just getting up there and blasting away - and tonight, it’s not only the band who get up there. When Devilish Presley launch into ‘Black Leather Jesus’ there’s a sudden stage invasion, and half the audience ends up jumping around among the amps and wires. An appropriately barmy way to round off a set that’s been a good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll celebration from the start.
And now, Deathboy. A band I reviewed long ago, Upstairs At The Garage, when I gave ‘em a rather lukewarm reception. They just didn’t seem to click on that occasion. Apparently, that review - which, I insist, wasn’t exactly *bad*; it was just a bit lukewarm - went down in Deathboy history as a dastardly assault on an innocent band. Jason, Deathboy’s guitarist, has pointedly reminded me of it at regular intervals, every time we’ve run into each other at gigs and clubs over the last year or more. Well, all parties will be relieved to know that this time things do seem to click. Deathboy’s set tonight is far tighter, far more assured, than that Garage gig. I suspect that’s partly because the line-up has slimmed down a bit since the early days: I’m sure the band had a second guitarist back then. Now, it’s a straight-up guitar/bass/electro-drums/vocals set-up, and the overriding musical intent seems to be to lock down a tight groove, and keep it nailed while Scott - the man who is Deathboy - raps out his lyrics over the top. The overall effect is heavily rhythmic while also being bizarrely relaxed - the vocals are occasionally impassioned, but more frequently simply chatted out on the beat, like an industrial version of the Ruthless Rap Assassins, or even The Streets. It’s difficult to avoid being swept along by the insistent, percussive rhythms, and sure enough there’s a mass of fans at the front shakin’ their booties to the Deathboy groove. It’s unexpected, in a way - all the publicity surrounding Deathboy tends to create the impression that the band are the new Nine Inch Nails, and while I dare say there’s an element of Mr Reznor’s nail-it-down-and-freak-out-over-it industrial-rock techniques in the Deathboy sound, I really wasn’t expecting anything so....groovy. There are moments, I confess, when if I’d had a few more drinks I might’ve been moved to shout ‘Yo!’. Deathboy, in their live ‘full band’ incarnation, seem to have got that big, bad, rhythm-monster tamed and eating out of their hands.
And so, another Pity For Monsters gig fades unsteadily into the night. No, wait, it’s me who fades unsteadily into the night...that Hoegaarden’s deceptively strong stuff. But it does feel like something is happening here - the atmosphere of these gigs is noticeably more positive and upbeat than the London-scene norm. What’s next? Well, Devilish Presley have plans to shift their Pity For Monsters events to a new venue from June, and - as I hinted above - shift the emphasis away from the straightforward goth/industrial scene to encompass the wider world of dark alternative music. That’s a bold move, but the time is right and the momentum is building. The future will be different - and it starts here.
see all the photos from this show here
Devilish Presley: http://www.devilishpresley.com [Go to the ‘Pity For Monsters’ section for info about Devilish Presley’s promotions]
Earth Loop Recall: http://www.earthlooprecall.com
Faetal (No website yet. This links to the band’s page on the Mperia site): http://www.faetal.com
Pity For Beer Monsters: http://users.pandora.be/hoegaarden
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Beyond The Veil:
Escape With Romeo
The Last Days of Jesus
The Last Dance
Screaming Banshee Aircrew
Metropole Hotel, Leeds
Sunday April 11 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
The Beyond The Veil festival is something of an anomaly on the present-day goth scene in that it’s all about the music. Now, that might sound like a strange remark - what else would a festival be about? Tiddleywinks? Laundry? But bear with me and all will be explained. These days, much of our scene seems to operate as a kind of extended social club. Many goths seem to regard festivals as nothing more than an opportunity to get riotously pissed, parade their cool new outfits, and network with their peer group - and as long as there’s a vaguely acceptable thump-thump-thump noise in the background, that’s all that’s necessary in terms of providing a soundtrack to the social whirl. I’m sure we’ve all forced a tired grin when the bands for such festivals as Whitby or Convergence are announced, and some wit invariably pops up to remark, ‘What, you mean there are *bands* on, too?’, as if they’ve cracked a real funny.
Sure, you can certainly do some social whirling at Beyond The Veil if the fancy takes you. Before the festival proper kicks off at the Metropole Hotel, there’s the Black Veil club on the preceding Saturday - a night of DJs and debauchery in the battered Victoriana of the Adelphi pub. The following day, the elegantly faded grandeur of the Metropole Hotel is a fine setting for further social networking. You can even buy a cool new outfit from the stalls, and if extravagant boozing is your thing, the bar is encouragingly cheap for anyone who’s used to ever-increasing London prices. But this event is first and foremost about the music. Beyond The Veil has an adventurous policy of bringing in bands from around the world which are either new to the UK or, at least, rarely seen on our gig circuit. Last year, the first Beyond The Veil festival introduced the UK to such acts as Antiworld, Butterfly Messiah and Psydoll, and instantly established itself as an event dedicated to the new and the unusual, the uncommon and seldom seen. In a scene which sometimes seems too cosy and inward-looking for its own good, here was a refreshing approach - a genuine attempt to give UK goth a transfusion of new blood.
It’s a high-risk strategy, of course. Without the guaranteed pull of a familiar UK scene headliner, this is one festival that can’t rely on a massive turn-out of fans keen to cheer on their home scene favourites. Plus, of course, any more conventional events which might take place in close proximity to Beyond The Veil will inevitably pull potential punters away as people chose the familiar over the unfamiliar, the well-known over the new. This year, the festival is squeezed by two gigs taking place elsewhere in Yorkshire on the same date: The Mission are playing in nearby Keighly, while All About Eve play Sheffield. Those bands might not be quite the megastars they once were, but they’ve still got a much higher recognition factor in the UK than, say, ASP or Escape With Romeo, and I’m sure Beyond The Veil must’ve lost a few attendees to the old-skool krew. But, although the festival might have a smaller crowd than other events, it can boast one great advantage: the people who attend Beyond The Veil are genuinely interested in the *music*, and new music at that. I suspect this is a factor which the bands greatly appreciate.
So, Sunday morning. After breakfast, at the unfeasibly un-rock ‘n’ roll hour of 10am, I peek into the Metropole Hotel ballroom, where the bands are scheduled to play. The room doesn’t look much like a rock venue at this hour: the debris of last night’s wedding reception is being cleared away, and the PA gear is being hauled into position. The official doors-open time is 1.30pm. This leaves three and a half hours to set everything up and give the bands at least a vague simulacrum of a soundcheck, a workload which I suspect is impossible to complete without warping the very fabric of space-time. Sure enough, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to discover, later in the day, that everything is running somewhat late. An amiable gathering of goths lounges around the foyer, listening to random bursts of soundcheck-noise coming through the doors, as the last-minute glitches are ironed out. I’m amused to discover, on the hotel’s ‘Welcome’ board, that the Beyond The Veil festival is sharing the facilities with something called the City Life Church. Well, if any of us are suddenly seized with an urge to seek salvation from the devil’s music, we’re in the right place. But wait - the doors are opening - it’s showtime!
Beyond The Veil seems to be running a campaign to book every band that’s ever supported Cinema Strange. Antiworld, The Last Days Of Jesus - and now Deathcamp Project, who I saw a few months back at Cinema Strange’s Prague gig. The band seems to have given itself a glam makeover for this show - or at least, the bassist has changed his image from black-clad rocker to PVC glam-god. It’s an effective job, so much so that I’m half convinced the band’s line-up has changed. But the vocalist still retains his straightforward goth-rocker image, and the music is still straightforward goth-rock. Deathcamp Project make a noise that’s familiar to anyone who’s ever heard the Sisters, the Nephilim, or indeed any latter-day drum-machine driven exponents of ye olde gothic rock. They do it well, but nobody’s going to be awarding this band any points for startling originality. Deep, dark, vocals and solid guitar riffage - you know the score. Deathcamp Project don’t particularly inspire me on a musical level, but I take my hat off to the band for getting out of their home zone of Poland and gigging internationally. Given that they’re hardly a well-known band in any territory, and so new that they haven’t even released their debut album, that’s an impressive achievement, and exactly the sort of thing that many UK-based bands like to claim just can’t be done. So, I’ll give the band credit for getting out there and doing it - I just wish the stuff they do had a little more individual style.
The Screaming Banshee Aircrew are the jokers in today’s pack, in more ways than one. Firstly, because there’s a manic, surreal, wit about their performance - but also because they’re an almost-local band, from just up the road in York. It’s a bit of a surprise to see some local heroes here, at a festival dedicated to bands from far-flung corners of the world, but then I dare say Screaming Banshee Aircrew are slightly surprised to be booked themselves. They were brought in at short notice to replace The Drowning Season from the USA, who cried off at the last minute. The band have the advantage of playing to a partisan crowd: almost everyone here seems to know them and love them. Except, that is, for those of us who’ve traveled to Leeds from the south. The Screaming Banshee Aircrew have never gigged in the southern part of the UK. They’re stars of the northern scene, and almost entirely unknown south of Watford. I thus find myself in an odd situation where Beyond The Veil’s international acts, from such diverse places as Poland, Slovakia and the USA, are more familiar to me than the only UK band on the bill. Ah, well, there’s nothing like giving the old irony circuits a good workout.
The Aircrew catapult themselves into a set that’s half bonkers vaudeville, half sticky-back plastic Bauhaus. They’re an odd-looking bunch. The band incorporates a guitarist who looks like his idea of a good time involves Jack Daniels and Guns ‘n’ Roses, a heart-throb gothboi bassist who doubles on acoustic guitar in an unexpected solo interlude, and a reassuringly sensible-looking female backing vocalist who seems to be taking everything far more seriously than the boys. And, fronting this bizarrely assorted gang, lurching and gurning like the lunatic offspring of Peter Murphy and Max Wall, we have the Banshee squadron leader, Mister Ed. The band kicks up a gleefully ramshackle racket, rampaging along to the manic clatter of a speedfreak drum machine, their fans in the crowd greeting their favourite songs with cheers. It’s all instant-connection stuff, easy even for the uninitiated to get into - and yet, as if the band aren’t 100% confident about their own music and feel an insurance policy is needed, they throw in two familiar, crowd-pleasing covers: The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ and New Model Army’s ‘51st State’. I think these are the points where the band let themselves down. *Two* covers, and both no-brainer big-hit tunes at that, seem to suggest that the Aircrew doubt their ability to complete this sortie on their own fuel. I don’t think they need to worry. Their own songs do the business in fine style, and they’ve got the audience with them all the way. Perhaps this is an indication of the band’s relative lack of experience - they’re still at that ‘new band/local heroes’ stage of development, still climbing to cruising height. Once they get there, I think it’ll be a good flight.
We haven’t seen The Last Dance in the UK since their Whitby appearance in 1999. It’s almost shocking to realise that’s five years ago now. Where do all the years go? Down the back of the sofa, or something? In that time, the band have honed their recorded music to a glossy, dance-goth sheen, transforming themselves into DJ-friendly groove-providers for the clubland massive. It’s therefore a bit of a surprise to discover that The Last Dance, in their live incarnation these days, are a full-on contemporary rock band, all thunderous drums and roaring squalls of guitar. Those thunderous drums, incidentally, are being supplied by Stevyn Gray, who must be experiencing a certain amount of deja vu at this show. He was here last year, with Diva Destruction. I sometimes wonder how Stevyn keeps up with his ever-changing bands and their ever-circulating tours. Perhaps he writes little reminders to himself, and sticks them up by his bed, so they’re the first thing he sees in the morning: ‘Today is: Sunday. The city you are in is: Leeds. The band you are in is: The Last Dance.’ The band throw themselves into their performance as if they’re the last rockers in town, ripping it up with a set that’s noticeably more assured, dare I say more professional, than the bands which have gone before. Not that Deathcamp Project or the Screaming Banshee Aircrew necessarily look like a bunch of amateurs, you understand, but The Last Dance are experienced troupers who’ve shaken down their performance, their stage personas, the whole wang-dang, on innumerable gigs all over the world - and, in their pacing, their presence, the effortless way they can spark off each other while never fluffing a riff, it shows. There’s a certain amount of baiting of Bella Morte between the songs - the bands are old muckers from way back - and even a compliment for the audience. ‘This is the most noise I’ve ever heard English people make!’ says vocalist Jeff, as the crowd gives the band the big hand they deserve. This is just what we’ve been waiting for: a no-holds-bard rock set, and the point at which Beyond The Veil kicks into a higher gear.
The Last Days Of Jesus are rapidly becoming one of the most familiar bands on the UK gig circuit, which is highly ironic given that they come from Slovakia. They’re given a big welcome from the Beyond The Veil audience - this, if I’ve counted correctly, is the third time they’ve played Leeds since 2002, which practically makes the band honourary local heroes. They turn in a somewhat restrained set compared to their usual lunacy - Mary O remains on stage, and upright, throughout, which is a highly unusual state of affairs given his usual propensity for hurling himself around like a mad thing. He doesn’t even do his dramatic death scene. But even in restrained mode, The Last Days Of Jesus are entertaining madmen. Their rackety carnival punk noise, coupled with Mary O’s theatrical gesticulations and deranged grins, creates a performance that grabs attention and inspires a certain amount of hurling about down the front, even though I’m sure most of the crowd aren’t quite sure what the band are on about. The Last Days Of Jesus wrap up their set to a warm, virtual-home-town reception, and shuffle off stage like batty old blokes heading for the betting shop. Bunch of nutters, but we love ‘em.
Escape With Romeo are a complete contrast to everything that’s gone before. The first thing I notice is that they seem older than the other Beyond The Veil acts. I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment, but there’s an air of restrained maturity about this band that creates the impression that they’ve been around a bit. The band actually dates back to 1989 - hmm, fifteen years, I suppose that does indeed count as ‘been around a bit’ in rock ‘n’ roll terms - and was formed by guitarist, vocalist, and all-round main man Thomas Elbern, who had previously been in the German post-new-wave outfit Pink Turns Blue. And there’s certainly a bit of an eighties-alternative flavour to Escape With Romeo’s music. It’s all based around carefully-constructed guitar-driven tunes; the kind of old-skool indie stuff that was around when the likes of Echo And The Bunnymen and the Psychedelic Furs first emerged. I’d hazard a guess that this era is Escape With Romeo’s main source of inspiration, and in fact Thomas Elbern makes a point of namechecking several eighties-vintage bands between songs - including The Sound, which was a slight surprise. Very few people in the UK have heard of that band these days, so to hear The Sound bigged-up by an artist from Germany is unusual.
Escape With Romeo receive a politely interested reaction from the crowd, but to an extent they’re struggling against the festival schedule, which has placed them more or less slap in the middle of the ‘lunch break’. There always comes a time in any day-long event where people drift away to grab some food, or just to take a break and chat with friends over a few drinks. Any band which finds itself playing in this mid-event dip inevitably has to contend with a reduced audience - and Escape With Romeo, unfortunately, get the full effect. The crowd in front of the stage for their set is small, the applause consequently somewhat muted. I imagine the whole experience must be a little underwhelming for the band, who are doubtless used to much bigger audiences in Germany - they’re probably wondering what happened to that cool UK alternative scene which inspired them so much. Well, on this occasion, I think the cool UK alternative scene has buggered off to get some pizza. Still, the band acquit themselves well under less than ideal circumstances, and I for one would be very interested to see them again - perhaps in the setting of a conventional gig, where the band can be sure of winning the full attention of an undistracted crowd.
All of a sudden, the stage is full of punk blokes with mohawks. Have we been gatecrashed by The Exploited? Nope, this is Bella Morte, who have now completed their transformation from drum machine-driven trad-goths to rip-roaring punk monsters. Now, with the addition of a real drummer, they’re the rampaging rock beast they’ve been threatening to become for a long time now. It’s astonishing to think that this is the same band that made the frankly rather pedestrian bedroom-goth album, ‘Remains’, back in 1997, or even their vaguely synthpoppy later material. It’s been a long, strange trip for Bella Morte, but they’ve finally ended up in the punk precinct, which - I assume - is the destination they’ve always wanted to reach, although it occurs to me that they’ve got here by a bizarrely circuitous route.
They explode onto the stage in a riot of flailing limbs, thrashing guitars, and noise noise noise. The audience experiences a moment of sheer terror - some of them, I dare say, were expecting a *goth* band - and then, as one, leaps into the sonic melee with huge enthusiasm. It’s really all you can do when confronted with the rocket-fuelled whirlwind that is the Bella Morte live show. They’re a hurricane-force blast of punk rock madness, and they deliver a wild, careering, runaway train of a set which is pure, distilled energy throughout. It must be said that if it’s subtlety you’re after, Bella Morte are not, perhaps, the band most likely to hit your spot. The songs themselves are submerged beneath the punk-powered pounding, such details as melodies and lyrics steamrollered into oblivion as the noise-monster rolls along. Nevertheless, the band’s whacko deathrock classic, ‘The Coffin Don’t Want Me and She Don’t Either’ manages to stick its bedraggled head above the maelstrom, and gets its own special cheer from the crowd. This is, perhaps, Bella Morte’s best-known song in the UK. It’s been given plenty of plays on Natasha’s Batcave show on Total Rock Radio, and it definitely seems to have seeped into the consciousness of the Brit-goth massive. There’s plenty of banter between the songs, too: ‘I drove for the first time in this country today,’ says quiff-hawked vocalist Andy Deane. ‘You guys sure know how to dodge!’ Us guys also know how to give a high-energy live show a rousing reception, and Bella Morte depart from the stage having become UK scene stars within the length of their own set. Now that was a good result.
A motley assortment of muso types arrange themselves on stage. This, it seems, is ASP. I’m confused. I know nothing of this band, beyond the fact that they’re from Germany - I don’t even know why they insist that the band name should be written as ASP instead of Asp. Maybe it’s an acronym - All Spare Parts? Amazingly Strange People? Now here they are, getting ready to play - and they don’t even look like a goth band. This could be any old bunch of rock geezers. Surely ASP must have something more? As it happens, they do. We haven’t seen the main man yet. ASP is, apparently, a person, not a band. All the random rock blokes on stage are simply his backing musicians. And here he comes, a bizarre figure with a shaved head, spooky make-up and a weird dress-cum-cloak outfit which makes him look like a mad monk. He’s pacing slowly, deliberately, up to the microphone...and he’s smiling a strange, secret smile. All of a sudden, things are starting to look a whole lot more interesting.
The ASP-band revs up a big, dark, blustering rock noise, and Herr ASP himself lets rip with a stentorian holler of a vocal. This is rock as high drama, and although everything’s sung in German it’s still very accessible to this UK audience. The songs are arranged for maximum catchiness - in amongst the big bad rock noise there are honest-to-goodness hooks and choruses. Even though I’ve never heard any ASP songs before, I find myself grooving away to ‘Sing Child’ - an engaging pantomime-Wagner workout - as if it’s an old favourite. The overall sound of the band is beefed up by two backing vocalists, who supply a virtual Viking warrior chorus at strategic intervals, as the guitar just keeps on grinding out the dark sparks. But the focus of everything is Herr ASP himself, a striking presence at the mic. He looms over the front rows, a dramatic but never threatening presence. His habit of breaking into a delighted grin as he soaks up the enthusiasm of the crowd ensures that he seems more like an eccentric uncle who’s insisted on regaling us with his very own rock opera, rather than any kind of prophet of doom. He even gives us an impromptu lesson in German, in a bid to get the audience to join in a call-and-response chorus - and, unbelievably, it works very well, with the crowd yelling back complex phrases of German which they’d only heard a minute before. In the ordinary run of things, I’d say that this isn’t my kind of music, but it’s delivered with such humour and panache by this idiosyncratic performer that I find myself won over.
And then...that’s it. ASP wrap up the encores, the house lights come up, and it’s over. The bands have run late throughout, to the point where the DJ sets which were originally scheduled to end the night have been shelved. But it’s been a great event, an entirely worthwhile effort which I’m sure will have knock-on effects across our scene as a whole. This, perhaps, is the uniqueness of the Beyond The Veil festival. It’s not the largest such event, and probably never will be. But its revitalizing influence will be felt very widely in the future, I’m sure. In fact, it’s already being felt:
The Last Days Of Jesus were introduced to the UK by the Beyond The Veil crew, and now they’re regular visitors, with a growing fanbase of their own. Bella Morte will, I predict, attract similar attention. If the band manage to continue what they started tonight, they’ll probably see their profile rise in much the same way. But whatever happens, the Beyond The Veil crew can congratulate themselves on getting there first; for taking the risks and setting something new in motion. Beyond The Veil is where all sorts of interesting stuff finds its launch pad. We’re lucky to have such an innovative event in the UK.
see all the photos from this show here
Bella Morte: http://www.bellamorte.com
Escape With Romeo: http://www.escape-with-romeo.de
The Last Days Of Jesus: http://lastdays.host.sk
The Last Dance: http://www.thelastdance.com
Screaming Banshee Aircrew: http://www.bansheeaircrew.co.uk
Deathcamp Project: http://mroki.terra.pl/deathcamp
Gog Promotions, Beyond The
Gog Promotions Livejournal (gig announcements, DJ playlists, etc):
A gallery of 3D photos from
Beyond The Veil:
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Open’n Band Blues:
Shroud of Bereavement
Malice in Leatherland
The Skybar, Somerville, Mass.
~review by Basim
After hauling our gear into the moderately sized Sky Bar, I cringed when I saw the stage lighting. It was very... “Highshool Band Night”. Then again, this was Lucretia’s “Dark Sky” event, which is the only monthly Gothic/Dark Alternative LIVE event in Boston, so we can’t be too picky. As long as we can fit Lindsay’s giant Jason cutout, it shouldn’t matter too much. The place was moderately packed for the gig, which is cool since it was Thorr’s day. Up front I recognized this doom metal kid named Clint, who at one point wanted to start an Evoken-esque band. We exchanged emails, but he ultimately decided that I was a gothic, and he was not “impressed with their ways at all”. I wasn’t sure goths had any “ways”. We hit it off, and in record time we had discussed all that matters in life: the greatness of Middle Pillar, and how flat Bland Wave for a Bored Twat’s music is.
Soon it was show time. We opened up our set with "Suburban Holocaust", which I announced as a song about “Fat girls that wore fake wings. You aren’t aerodynamic, stop fooling yourself.” Girls: If you’ve got cleavage in the front AND cleavage in the back, it’s time to rethink what you’re wearing. We were thrashing and pogoing our way through half a set list when Lindsay smashed a hole through her snare. We had to wait for a drummer to reluctantly volunteer his snare to us, which sucked because playing a show is no different than any other cardio activity. When we stopped suddenly, my heart was on the verge of pounding through some ribs. Though it was kind of cool to sweat beads that vaguely smelled like aqua net. I don’t think a goth band’s smashed through a snare since the days of TSOL and Samhain. Speaking of TSOL, we ended our set with a cover of “code blue”, and after the last verse, I lost it. I threw my bass down, hopped on a monitor and jumped on top of the tallest guy there. He put up a bit of a fight, but then I sunk my teeth into his skull and bit hard. He fell down, and we tumbled for a bit. I stayed attached to his head the whole while though, I was set on drawing blood that night. He managed to throw my body off him and I hit the ground with a slap... somehow I crawled my way on stage. “We are Malice in Leatherland, we have free demos up front!”
After some water and gear hauling, we mingled with the friends, and soon-to-be friends in the crowd to buttress our immense egos. I hugged the guy I had bitten into and bought him a drink. Soon we were talking about Obituary and good death metal with each other. Next band up was Shroud of Bereavement, and Clint spoke highly of them. I stood and watched them set up, marveling at their front man’s dyed gray hair. “Pretty Bad Ass” I thought, wishing more of the kids smoking outside would fight their aversion to metal and gather to show some support. Shroud of Bereavement play melancholic music, to be sure, but there are some song writing quirks that irk me. Doom Metal and classical music are both built around epic song structures consisting of many smaller movements. Since metal most resembles Baroque era classical, to successfully write a cohesive piece there has to be melodic motifs that propel the movements into each other. In Candlemass’s “Demon’s Gate”, the motif is pounding drums; before a “chugging” guitar part, the drums clue you in with some double bass. When the songs go back to the slower, gloomy parts, the drummer starts splashing his cymbals to warn us of the impending doom. Shroud of Bereavement have a bit of a “piano” motif, as their keyboardist plays a sweeping up and down melody between parts. This is cute, for about one song... after a while, the band begins conjuring up comparisons to that horrible “Velvet Darkness they Fear” album, and that’s no good! These guys are a much better band than Theater of Tragedy; let’s hear some dark ambient dirges to link the different flavors of funeral in your melancholy.
Once their set ended, I joined them for a discussion about My Dying Bride outside the venue. We talked about how much of a genius Aaron Stainthorpe is, and this prompted one of my biggest beefs with doom death at large. Aaron has a very rhythmic way of delivering extreme vocals, it’s almost punk rock how rant like his phrasing is. That type of rasping really helps drives the songs on Turn Loose the Swans, and I’d like Shroud do more of that. Shroud’s extreme vocals are more in the vein of early Evoken, diSEMBOWELMENT, and others who use growls as an “omnipresent” sounding wash of white noise. Some woman who was standing by the lead singer was quick to bark “emotion has no rhythm” at me. “It doesn’t have to be robotic to move you” she reasoned. Dear Lord! What about the poignant songs that came out of plantations and railways when Africans were used for slave labor? What about early R and B that came out of poverty in the 20s, which was so raw with emotion that the words sounded like scattered vowel sounds? What about Coltrane, Monk, Jaco or Duke? Does she realize the wealth of music that’s being invalidated by her statement? I’d like to back over her with a truck. Gargle afterbirth ‘til you stop making daft statements.
I can’t help but feel a bit maudlin when it comes to reviewing Salem Fires. These guys were the first band I ever reviewed for Starvox, and here I am reviewing their last show. The band played their set well, and I think they’ll be sorely missed by many in the Boston Gothic scene. They were the closest we had to mixing the Gothic and Metal crowds, and to see them disband after playing so tightly sucks. All they need to do is find a way to limit their instrumental parts, and get their singer to sing in her lower “bellowing” voice more, and ditch this high pitched bitchy shit. She is a great singer, easily one of the best I’ve ever heard, but good god do I hate Liv Kristine! High-pitched vocals in metal should be left to the likes of Iron Maiden and King Diamond. Don’t break the oath MOTHA FUCKA! All four members really moved a lot, given the style of music they were playing, which kept many people up front entertained.
Now every genre has it’s
Iggy Pop, industrial had Oghr, deathrock had Nick Cave and Fad Gadget.
I want doom metal to get its Iggy. I want to see someone hanging from the
ceiling by a microphone chord at the end of each set. I want to see someone
slashing themselves up with razor blades and smearing blood on the audience.
Let’s see some real nihilism on stage. Life isn’t pretty, and the corporate
world has already setup a worldview hostile towards reality. Let’s rebuild
Lucretia’s taken good scare of this event, I urge all of you in bands to look into playing darksky. It’s a dream to work with her, and if we all do our share this will really take off.
Best witches, and stay ghoul!!
~ Basim Usmani
Band links in chronological
Malice in Leatherland – http://www.sinsanctuary.com/mil
Shroud of Bereavement - http://www.shroud-of-bereavement.com they play a lot of shows!! Support ‘em!
Salem Fires are disbanded but you can check em out here: http://www.salemfires.com/
And Darksky info can be found by emailing Lucretia here: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Garage, London
Saturday February 21 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
One of the conventional wisdoms I’ve heard time and time again on my travels around the murky world of underground music is that guitar bands are on their way out, and the future will be soundtracked by the slammin’ electro beats of dancefloor-friendly club anthems. Rock, we’ve been told, is eroding fast. Grab your glowsticks and get with the program (literally). All you dodgy old goths, make way for the sleek silver machine of EBM. The future is coming through.
But then again, maybe it’s not.
This gig is pitched squarely at the EBM fans - the flyer makes the target market very clear: ‘A night of Electronic Body Music’. Tonight’s headliners, Armageddon Dildos, are one of the top bands on the German scene, making their debut in London. So, we should expect a packed venue, a seething mass of enthusiastic cyberkids ready to cut loose and groove, a full-on celebration of the top musical style of the moment - right?
Well, actually, not quite right. The audience tonight, I would estimate, barely nudges 100. In the wide open spaces of the 500-capacity Garage it’s impossible to disguise the uncomfortable fact that London’s EBM massive has significantly failed to show. Where is everyone? Well, tonight is Slimelight night, and I’m willing to bet that a large number of EBM-heads have simply trooped off to the Slime for their regular Saturday night bout of dancefloor-stomping and glowstick-waving, without even bothering to check if there’s anything good happening on the gig circuit. That’s the trouble with trying to market a gig to a club-oriented scene - your first problem is to make the club kids think out of the DJ box.
I suspect, however, that there’s a deeper reason for the poor turn-out tonight. Quite simply, I think EBM (futurepop, synthpop, insert your favourite variation here) has peaked. Sure, the top bands in this musical area - the likes of VNV Nation, Covenant, Apoptygma Bezerk - can still command big audiences, because they’ve been fortunate enough to build up their own fanbases. They have loyal followers who will stay with the bands regardless of the ebb and flow of the scene from which they sprang. Then there are a number of ‘second wave’ bands - Assemblage 23, Icon Of Coil, to name two examples - which can reliably fill mid-size venues such as the Garage or the Underworld, but they’ve effectively stalled at that level and they’re not moving up. And then there are all the ‘scene bands’, those lesser-known artists who don’t command their own followings, and who therefore rely on a healthy turn-out of the general scene crowd to fill their gigs. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if the scene as a whole starts to decline, then the ‘scene bands’ will see a corresponding drop in their audiences. Armageddon Dildos are a well-established and successful band in their home country - but in the UK they’re very much a new thing, and thus reliant almost exclusively on the EBM scene-crowd turning out to show support. And tonight, it just ain’t happening. If this is the best the EBM scene can muster, then we really must be over the peak and on the way down. Plugging this gig as ‘a night of Electronic Body Music’ was evidentially not the marketing masterstroke some might assume. I have a horrible suspicion that Virus Events, tonight’s promoters, have decided to jump on the EBM bandwagon at precisely the moment when the wheels fall off.
But here comes the irony: all those stay-aways missed a rather good gig. And, double-irony ahoy, it wasn’t even an EBM gig - at least, not in the way that a VNV Nation fan might assume.
Now, having just bigged-up this gig as a good one, I have to admit that Aslan Faction don’t exactly fill my little heart with boundless joy. They’re one of those two-men-and-a-backing-track industrial-dance outfits, all assertive beats and angry vocals shouted through a distortion effect. There are umpteen bands of this general style around, and to me they all sound much the same. I suppose there must be some sort of fanbase out there for this kind of thump-and-shout stuff, but I fear I am not of that merry throng. The best I can say about Aslan Faction is that they’re perfectly competent at what they do. The vocalist lurches around the stage, hollering his head off about...well, who knows? The distortion effect makes it all sound like ‘Aaargh! Awrgh! Ach! Aaargh!’, so the subtle nuances and erudite wordplay which are doubtless such a feature of the band’s lyrics remain, alas, obscure. Meanwhile, the other member of the band whacks away at what looks like a small plastic picnic table. He looks amusingly like he’s trying to stop a wasp eating his marmalade sandwiches. I assume the small plastic picnic table is actually some sort of electro-percussion unit, and is probably a sophisticated and expensive piece of kit. It’s just a pity that it looks like...well, a small plastic picnic table. That’s the trouble with electronic instruments. They may be frightfully clever, but they’re just not sexy, are they? The first manufacturer to bring out a keyboard that has the rockin’ cool of a Stratocaster will make a fortune. But I digress. Aslan Faction bash and shout their way to the end of their set, and leave the stage to a polite ripple of applause. A rather underwhelmed reaction to what was, in truth, a rather underwhelming performance.
It’s when Inertia take the stage that things start to look up. Inertia are a devilishly fine live act; all the more so now that Reza and Alexys, the two main people in the band, are sharing the frontperson duties more equally between them. They’re like the Elvis Presley and Bettie Page of industrial, two performers with a personal style that transcends the usual cyber-look which most people might assume to be the usual visual identity of this subcultural area. They deliver a high-energy set which hammers along on a barrage of phat beats and a thumping analogue bottom end. Keyboard-jockey Andrew Trail, who in his other life is part of voodoo noiseniks Knifeladder, throws in vintage synthesized wails which sound like they’ve been purloined from Kling Klang studios, while the synthi-basslines - particularly on ‘No Defect’ - get downrght funky. It seems to me that Inertia have re-jigged their sound for a more old-skool feel. At any rate, the overall vibe of their set tonight is gritty and full of classic-era industrial flavours - so much so that I find myself using the word ‘vibe’ to describe it with nary a flinch. And yet, for all that, the highlight of the set comes when the band veer off on a tangent which takes them away from the industrial zone altogether. ‘Shakalaka Baby’ is a pop-bhangra tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bollywood-meets-the-West-End stage musical Bombay Dreams, and as such is about as unlikely a cover as you could think of for an industrial band. But then, Inertia are probably the only industrial band who could pull it off. Alexys comes out and shakes a bit of booty to the loping beat, and although there are a few puzzled frowns in the audience, most people get it immediately and grin with delight. This is Inertia at their best: on a tangent, doing the unexpected, putting on a real show. It’s the band’s tendency to veer randomly off the industrial route-map at random intervals that always makes their gigs worth catching.
And then Daniel Ash walks out on stage and cranks up his guitar. Wait, it’s not Daniel Ash. But Armageddon Dildos’ guitarist does bear a strange resemblance to the legendary plank-spanker of Bauhaus and Love And Rockets - and yes, Armageddon Dildos really do feature a guitarist in their line-up. Hang on, whatever happened to ‘a night of Electronic Body Music’? Perhaps someone forgot to tell the band what the theme of the gig was supposed to be, because they launch headlong into a no-holds-barred set of rockin’ energy. The foundation of the Armageddon Dildos noise is a thunder-rumble of programmed beats over which assorted layers of electronix are slapped down, and then, over all *that*, the guitarist works a bizarre kind of psychedelic magic, coaxing out fuzzed-out, sustained chords and runs which somehow make the band’s entire sound seem organic. I suppose the nearest UK-scene comparison would be Synthetic: Armageddon Dildos have that same unceremonious mash-up of electronics and gung-ho rock moves. There’s a leather-trousered geezer on vocals who looks like he’s spent the afternoon polishing his BSA, and a female backing singer who could’ve wandered in from an ABBA covers band. They’re an odd assortment all right. Only the keyboard player lurking at the back, in his T-shirt and cropped Barnet, has anything you could reasonably describe as a straight-up electro-musician image. The band don’t seem bothered that the crowd before them is a little thin - they hurtle through their set with boundless energy and great good humour, the singer descending into the audience from time to time to sing nose-to-nose at disconcerted individuals, then clambering back up to bust some more frontman poses at the mic. Occasionally, brave souls from the audience return the compliment by jumping on stage. The band seem to welcome these interludes, stepping back and allowing the fans a moment in the spotlight. It all makes for an upbeat, party atmosphere, and I’m impressed by the way the band give it everything even though I’m sure this gig must seem very small beer compared to their German shows. I’m even more impressed by their lunatic romp through ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’, which has been transformed into a manic snarl punctuated by frenzied shouts of ‘Armageddon! Armageddon!’ Poor old Morrissey must be spinning in his grave. (Yes, I know Morrissey isn’t officially dead, but he lives in rock star exile in LA these days, which amounts to much the same thing). At the end of the set, the band leave the stage one by one. Last to go is the guitarist, who signs off with a swift burst of Hendix-style soloing...and then it’s over. The dust settles, the smoke drifts away.
That was a damn fine performance by a band who clearly relish the live experience - and utterly unexpected, too. I confess I was anticipating a fairly standard doof-doof show, but I got much more than that. That was...rock ‘n’ roll! Now I’m even more baffled by the decision to push this gig exclusively at the EBM crowd. Armageddon Dildos could easily appeal to a broad audience of electro-heads and guitar fans alike. There’s little sense in effectively turning that broad audience away before the gig has even happened, especially when the EBM crowd by itself isn’t necessarily big enough to make a gig work these days. A little cross-genre boost would surely be welcome. Ah, well, that’s one for the marketing department to chew on - for now, I’ll just chalk up tonight’s show as a good ‘un.
see all photos from this show here
Armageddon Dildos: http://www.armageddondildos.de
Aslan Faction: http://www.aslan-faction.com
Virus Events: http://www.virus-events.co.uk
The Garage: http://www.meanfiddler.com/version1/thegarage/index.asp
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Dogs Blood Rising
Lucky Cat Cafe,
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
March 13, 2004
~review by Kevin Filan
(photo by Joshua Weiner)
According to the advertisement for tonight’s show, Amy!Pop plays “live band renditions of material originally composed on toy keyboards.” I’m expecting “ironically bad” performance art—off-key vocals, sloppy musicianship and a general aura of “we’re FAR too hip to actually practice our craft.” If you’ve ever attended a performance in Williamsburg... or any other town with a thriving art scene ... you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Still, a reviewer should put aside his preconceptions. Besides, DogsBlood promoter Angel says Amy is a fantastic songwriter, and Angel generally has great taste in music. Sipping my coffee, I wait for the band to set up and try hard to put myself into Appropriately Openminded Reviewer Headspace.
The opening, “weatherman,” sends my prejudices sailing out the window. Many bands today try to evoke the “synthpop” sound of the mid-80s. Amy!Pop is going back a couple years earlier, to the halcyon days of New Wave. New Wave began as a reaction against the flash pots and overblown cheesiness which characterized much late 70s “arena rock” and “progressive rock.” Amy!Pop has captured that stripped-down, hard-edged, angular sound. Amy’s bass player provides a chugging straightforward rhythm, while guitarist Jordan Hadley, keyboardist Sam Bland and backing vocalist Jamie Lou provide simple but tasty filler riffs.
As they begin “little prince,” I understand the logic behind Amy’s toy keyboards. Working with toy keyboards forces the composer to simplify, simplify, simplify. She creates a basic hook, then builds a basic tune around it. In the best New Wave tradition, her songs are short, no more than 2 or 3 minutes each. There’s barely time to enjoy one before another is on its way.
Many New Wave acts featured high-voltage, histrionic singers: Amy eschews this approach, preferring an almost glacial cool. If Romeo Void’s Deborah Iyall and Pylon’s Vanessa Briscoe-Hay were Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” Amy is Greta Garbo in “Queen Christina.” This approach makes “oui oui non non” one of the evening’s highlights. Much as Garbo kept her face blank during Queen Christina’s final scene and allowed the audience to read whatever they liked into her expression, Amy gives us a deadpan tale of someone she “can’t get out of [her] head.” The song gains its power from the things which remain unspoken: a sweet cookie of a song that evokes a Remembrance of Things That Might Have Been.
They may need a bit more rehearsal as a band. While they’re all competent musicians individually they haven’t quite jelled as a unit. Because New Wave music is so stripped down, but it demands razor-sharp precision from the band... the kind of precision that only comes from playing together over and over again. Replacing the drum machine with a live drummer would add a great deal of power to the songs; I’d also like to see Amy gain a bit more confidence in her voice and learn to project a bit more. Still, Amy!Pop has a great deal of potential... and gave me a pleasant surprise. They’re worth seeing right now, and should only improve as time goes on.
oui oui -non non
story 2 tell
amypop : lead vocals and bass
sam bland : keyboards
jordan hadley : guitar
jamie lou : backing vocals
Dogs Blood Rising
The Last Days Of Jesus
The Vincent Razorbacks
Dead And Buried, London
Friday April 2 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemeis
Tonight, we’re in north London. Up the surreal end of the Holloway Road, to be exact, where traffic islands rise hopefully out of the motor-river and every third shop is a slightly dangerous looking hairdressing salon. Between the crashed spaceship architecture of the Metropolitan University and the taxi showroom, there’s an Irish boozer called, inappropriately enough, the Lord Nelson. It’s a traditional spit-and-sawdust-without-any-sawdust establishment which, under normal circumstances, plays host to showbands and folk groups, ceilidhs and hooleys. It’s the kind of place where Johnny Rotten’s dad - who still lives round these parts, in the ancestral council flat - would probably come for a pint o’ the dark stuff of an evening. But tonight is different. It’s the first Friday of the month, and that means the pub re-invents itself as Dead And Buried, London’s deathrock club. No toe-tappin’ jigs tonight. The plan is to make the old place shake with the righteous power of rock ‘n’ roll. Rip up your fishnet, big up your hair, and step inside.
Dead And Buried doesn’t feature live bands on every occasion - not least, I suppose, because at this stage the number of deathrock-compatible bands on the UK gig circuit is fairly small. But three gung-ho rockers of assorted styles have been assembled for tonight’s entertainment, and the first of these is a combo by the name of the Vincent Razorbacks. That name sounds like it was derived from an obscure species of lizard, but in fact it’s a play on the name of the band’s main man, Vince Ray. He’s better known as an artist than a musician: his rockabilly comic book-style art has appeared everywhere from T-shirts to record sleeves (the cover art on The Damned’s ‘Grave Disorder’ is a Vince Ray). The band looks somewhat like one of those art projects come to life - a regular geezer on drums, a couple of chaps who could be taking a break from the night shift at the 24 hour funeral parlour on bass and guitar, and, fronting the whole caboodle, Vince Ray himself, looking like he’s just strolled on stage after a hard afternoon wrestling with the innards of his BSA Star Twin. They deliver a good-time rockin’ set (always supposing that your definition of a good time extends to cheerfully macabre songs about serial killers), shamelessly throwing poses and mugging for the crowd. The sound of the band is essentially traditional vintage rock - the Razorbacks aren’t here to take us into uncharted musical territory, that’s for sure - but it’s played with a swing and a grin and a fine disregard for muso concerns that is entirely punk. When the drummer breaks his kick drum, he simply calls for a roll of gaffa tape, sticks it back together, and carries on rockin’. They climax on a version of that fine old Osmonds hit, ‘Crazy Horses’, a suitably wacky choice for a cover, and a selection which, I think, gives you the drop on the band. They’re here to entertain; they’re here to flam it up, cut loose and get spooky-silly to a good rocking beat. If that’s what you’re after, here’s a band which does just what it says on the 50s-style Brylcreem tin.
Devilish Presley are another band who touch base with the throbbing monster of rock ‘n’ roll, but rather than reproduce the well-tried band-blueprint, they’ve wrenched things in a different direction. They’re a two-piece, equal parts attitude and technology, pitched up somewhere between the White Stripes and Suicide. (At this juncture, I should perhaps mention that I consider Suicide to be the finest rock ‘n’ roll band that never touched a guitar, so - well, so there!) Devilish Presley’s minimal line-up makes for a sound that’s all bare bones and knuckledusters, a rattletrap hot-rod on the dirt road to oblivion (I think I’d better ease up here before my metaphor-motor overheats) - but, having said that, it’s impressive that the very first song in the set, ‘In League With Elvis’, is stripped down even more. It’s an uber-minimalist arrangement for two voices and bottleneck guitar, which makes the band sound more like they’re in league with Robert Johnson than ol’ aviator shades himself, and yet it still manages to rock. But then it’s time to hit the loud pedal. Johnny Navarro gives us a defiant glare, looming over the audience like a Bond villain sizing up the next victim for the piranha pool, while Jacqui Vixen swings her bass like it’s just been reloaded. They slam into a set of what are rapidly becoming their live-set hits - at least, in London. Johnny pointedly compares the London crowd’s enthusiastic cheers to the cautious, don’t-know-if-it’s-cool-to-like-this-band reaction of the audience in Sheffield, where Devilish Presley recently played: ‘They were hard work!’ It’s an indication, perhaps, of how much of a shock to the system Devilish Presley are to the out-of-London goth scene, which I imagine still expects its bands to do that regular goth thing. Me, I reckon ‘regular’ is for bowel movements. The more Devilish Presley can shake things up, the better.
The Last Days Of Jesus are the jokers in tonight’s pack in that they’re not steeped in transatlantic rock ‘n’ roll style. They’re coming from a different place (literally - was Elvis ever big in Slovakia?), and their set is at once a freaked-out avant-rock show and a baffling middle-European carny experience. It’s difficult to think up neat, catch-all comparisons for the racket The Last Days Of Jesus make. Sometimes they’re almost a metal band, in that scratchy, minimalist, first AC/DC album style; at other times, they’re a fractured, fractious, punkish bunch, somewhere between Wire and and the Adicts. Mary O, the frontman, lurches and gesticulates his way through the set, declaiming his incomprehensible lyrics as if they contain the Fundamental Truth Of All Things, and if he only hollers them out with enough conviction, light will dawn upon us all. He’s flanked by a half-naked guitarist-cum-percussionist, with the keyboard player looming as impassively as an Easter Island statue on the other side. The drummer, effectively at the centre of everything on the venue’s small stage, keeps it all pounding along, a reassuringly solid foundation for Mary O’s loony grandstanding. The crowd seem half amused and half amazed by the spectacle: some people jump about to the clattering beats, others stand rooted to the spot, wearing expressions which seem to say, ‘Oh no, there’s a scary man on stage!’ During ‘Death Song’, Mary O contrives to fall off the stage altogether, and shuffles around the crowd on his knees, singing up to them such random lyrical couplets as ‘I’m a joke/Full of coke/I’m so strong, a plastic bloke.’ There’s something rather endearing about a band from Slovakia including the word ‘bloke’ in a lyric. At the end of the song, Mary O does a big death scene on the floor at the audience’s feet, but miraculously recovers to take a bow. It’s all a splendidly absurd, theatrical performance which transcends the rather prosaic surroundings of this north London boozer, and leaves the audience grinning foolishly even as they scratch their heads, uncertain of what to make of it all.
That’s not the end of the night by any means - Dead And Buried’s DJ crew takes over for several more hours of encouragingly diverse music as the gig switches to club mode. The UK may not do deathrock to any extent or in any way that would be recognised in, say, California or Germany, but tonight, in this packed and scruffy pub, it feels distinctly like something is starting to happen. Where, if anywhere, our nascent deathrock scene will end up going is anybody’s guess at this stage, but if we get more gigs like this one along the way then I think it’ll be worth the ride.
see all the photos from this show here
The Last Days Of Jesus: http://www.lastdays.host.sk
Devilish Presley: http://www.devilishpresley.com
The Vincent Razorbacks: http://www.vincentrazorbacks.com
Dead And Buried: http://www.dancefloorpoison.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to