Summer Artifacts
~reviewed by Goat

It can’t be a good thing when a CD ends and it takes 10 minutes or so to register that the music has actually stopped.  It’s hard to write this.  Because I really wanted to like this CD very much.  I love the artwork.  I love the idea.  I love the name.  I love everything about it except the music.

The question I then sought to answer for myself was “Why?”  Why don’t I like the music?  Where did the CD go wrong for me?  What’s my big gripe?

In the most unscientific and moronic terms possible, I can only explain that, “It doesn’t go anywhere.”

Sometimes I wish that I had been able or willing to sit through the music theory class.  I just couldn’t.  I felt angry in that class.  Like how I felt in the art classes where we dissected every great painting I’d ever loved; the art class that made me see every painting now by it’s technical merits.  If however, I had sat through that music theory class, I might be able to explain in not-so-moronic terms what, “It doesn’t GO anywhere” really means.

It’s all I can say though.  There’s nothing about this music that engages my brain enough to pay attention to it.  It doesn’t gently take my hand and lead me along as perhaps I feel it should.  It doesn’t whisper things between the lulls.  It doesn’t leave me feeling like I’ve had a *relation-ship* with it, and even the bleakest KK Null tracks have done that for me.  This just doesn’t.  I listened to the disc several times, and the same thing happens each time.  The music ends and it takes a while before my brain registers, “Oh.  The music stopped.”

I will say that tracks 6 and 8 have moments that are exceptions to my general feeling about this CD.  These two tracks had moments where I felt my brain awake again from “sleep” mode and begin to follow.  Only to be thrown again into an unwilling disenchantment.  I tried so hard to like this.  I hope the musicians involved will not give up.  It seems they are headed some-where, but as for now, this isn’t a disc I’ll spend any more time with.  I’m sorry, fellows.

Track Listing:
1.)  The World Has Changed
2.)  Explains Colors To The Blind
3.)  Beatitudes
4.)  As The West Encroaches
5.)  Lest We Forget
6.)  Lock 32
7.)  The Crowds Amass
8.)  Summer 1977

On Skean Dhu Recordings

Mana ERG
~review by Mick Mercer

Some forms of music baffle me more than others, which is obviously a good thing, but also frustrating. Composers of dark, twisting music frequently take from dance as they also batter seven bells out of boundless electronic possibilities, which inevitably confounds the listener, as you bring your own expectations and preferences into direct collision with what you are hearing. Bits will excite, others entice and much will leave you wondering why on Earth something is happening in a certain fashion.

Is it relevant to expect an opening track to set out the artistic stall and hint at what is to come? ‘Bother’ shakes some of the Middle Eastern and Asian percussive slivers about that you find a lot of Industrial artists using but throws them against solid beats, and oblique vocals suddenly shove in a touch of the novella. Call it compatible with a less commercial Chemical Brothers, with commendably blazing guitar, and notice how much of the rhythmical shifts are similar to popular Fetish club fare. Bruno has a great voice, being the scalding man, frequently offset by Deborah Roberts having a beautiful voice. Preposterous pop antics are shape-shifting throughout ‘Wasps’ but with dark doldrums landing arising to hamper your expectations. And so it goes on, with exemplary performance, and mystifying intentions. What could be a massive dance record, with striking rock strata, turns sideways and constantly folds in on itself. Flashes of musical thunder enliven ‘The Lynx’ with bass and piano touches, and ‘Cunctis Diebus’ may be some antique musical piece, but here it sounds all squashy with its soft d’n’b pulsing after the Ethereal angle seems set to rule the roost.

‘Angel Of Chaos’ appears soft until a submarine-type sonar pingggg keeps you perplexed, with metallic beats and sweet vocals going head to head. ‘Target’ has gently distressed cyber kitsch, with shuddering vocals. ‘Novi Mir’ sees weird noises gathering, then whumpp, Bruno snarls a la Lydon, but all too briefly, and although this is a surging bastard of a song, like Lamb meets Art Of Noise, is that slap bass? Lordy! ‘Burning Fields’ seems like abstract tinkering, then ‘Children Of The Rubble’ finds Roberts being sly in another song which could have been lethal gets bleepy and bloodshot..

The rhythms are robust and the textures tough. It has sinister lyrics, politely conveyed, and when it’s musically pretty it’s usually being totally deceptive and setting you up for a nasty shock. Honestly, I found it hard to maintain attention indoors, because so many of the tracks get into a rhythm, twist back and become something else, then revert, slow down, get heavier, and fade out. Outdoors with the walkman it’s completely different: frequently arresting, and vibrantly adventurous.

So make of that what you will.


~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Never having joined anyone’s fanclub I never enjoyed the bonus of occasional rarities. In the old days it was the occasional single but now you get albums, and such was the case with this, which is now available as a limited release, which you imagine any Manuskript fan would need for their collection.

They’re an unusual band, having gone from the comedic touches early on to this mature sound, which hoovers up modern pop sensibilities and then wedges it alongside some pretty heavy guitar, and ridiculously strong vocals.

What do you get? A mix of studio (including remixes/edits) and live, with the smell of Eau de Sauvage wafting over opener ‘Guru’; its brashness calmed by a soothing synth, with inventive Ladyboy guitar and a great chorus. It shows how they understand you can move from a rhythmic stamp of identity into seamless, rising guitar, which is the fluidity bands should aim for.

‘California Dreaming’ gets a right, well deserved, kicking and you know they’d do a great ‘No Limits’, then a touch of mild blandness ‘No Reprise’, a nose-breaking ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’, the frothy and deliberately soppy ‘Another Heaven which has some lovely delicate touches, and then a pretty gloomy ‘Rings & Scars’.

They must have the limpest song with ‘Halloween’ as its title ever, which still manages to be catchy for all its willowy shyness, and for all the guitar whiskiness, ‘Natural High’; is bland again. The dank bass and hushed vocals turn ‘(You’re The) Devil In Disguise’ into a spreading guitar shadow, and ‘Plastic Fangs’; is ridiculously powerful for such a daft idea, with guitar hacking divots out of the song’s burly rhythm.

The sharp ‘Semaphore In Thunderstorms’ undulates delightfully, and “I’ll explain the vicar’s outfit later” would make for a great epitaph for some! ‘Crash-site Compassion’ hints at twisted innards behind glorious signing but really it’s a synthy pop nothing, at which point ’Hidden Shallows’, easily the best song, shows how matured they have become, yet conveying it in such a light manner.

They leave the crowd wanting more with a daft ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ but you’ll already be a convert by then.

ROCK ME AMADEUS (C10 movie download available!)

Mar De Grises
The Tatterdemalion Express
~review by Matthew Heilman

Mar De Grises is a dark and innovative metal band that hails not from the cold forests of Norway or the rainy moors of rural England, but from Chile of all places.  The Tatterdemalion Express is the band’s debut after forming in 2000, and as the title ambiguously indicates, their musical offering is indeed a ‘tattered, ragged’ journey.  But it might also be one of the most pleasurably challenging and genre expanding dark metal releases of the year.

If I could choose one word alone to describe Mar De Grises, it would be sophistication.  While the band draws from similar sources as other leading dark metal bands, it is the manner in which they have applied these elements that make them so unique.  They have the density and frightful darkness of Funeral Doom, the grace and fluidity of Gothic Metal, and a suitably progressive sense of timing and arrangement.   The rhythms and changes are impressively dynamic, and the atmospheres range from somber calm to tempestuous rage.  The entire album is underscored by a marvelous sense of unease and restlessness that keeps the listener not only on the edge of their seat, but constantly looking over their shoulder.

The guitar work is mammoth, a fondness for thick barred chords or jarring atonal jabs and shrill pinches. Indeed, there are a wealth of melodic riffs and elegant harmonies, but the effect is significantly more profound than most contemporary bands passing themselves off as ‘Gothic Metal.”  The band’s melodies are not marred by over sentimentality.  The mood evoked is one of honest contemplation, as opposed to the common tendency of bands to wallow in self-aggrandizing pseudo romantic pity with the trendy hope to pass as melancholic.  This same gravitation toward the bitter instead of the sweet is brilliantly reflected in the keyboard playing, which frequently employs dissonant chord patterns and sharp, sustained synth-noise to create a more subtle and disquieting effect.  The threatening growls and raspy clean vocals lurk in the shadows of it all, sneaking in and out of the musical fog.  The album’s production is very warm and spacious, the guitar rendered with deep bottom end, the drums crisp and punchy, with a tasteful amount of reverb to enhance the overall atmosphere.

The listener is downright attacked by the band upon pressing play the first time. “El Otro” begins abruptly, introducing a wall of magnificent darkness and unbridled cacophony, massive and utterly foreboding.  Only a quick swell of nearly imperceptible feedback prefaces the song’s introductory eruption.  An elongated vocal roar monstrously crowns a whirlpool of pummeling crunch, grinding drum dirges and disharmonized layers of synth.  A serpent’s hiss and disjointed riffs appear amidst the maelstrom, with ragged pianos eventually pushing the nightmare past the point of excess.  The overall sound is just gigantic, incomparably dense, and immediately arresting.  Aural terror rages on for about three minutes before fading into a deceptively quiet interval of murky arpeggios and lugubrious drumming.  The effect is like a paranoid dream, where you unknowingly stumble along a shadowed, drafty hallway, beckoned by some unknown and irresistible force.  This hypnotic interlude in many ways could be said to be picking up where Anathema left off with “The Silent Enigma.”  The song eventually crescendos to a climactic finale, spurred on by a shuffling rhythmic propulsion, intricate riffing and drumming, and violent stabs of guitar.  Disordered synths present a surreal ‘melting’ effect achieved by random pitch bending, diving in and out of key, to resemble a vast choir of vengeful ghosts.

The listener is shaken, stirred, and impressed.  “To See Saturn Fall” is a decidedly more direct and up-tempo song; an elegant melodicism shapes it, pushing it forward toward more dynamic variety.  At first, the song comfortably treads the epic pastures of bands like In Flames or Tristania before they fell from grace, or a less emotionally detached Opeth.  Ultimately the song pushes toward a climax as the melodic center completely falls through, collapsing into a disjointed and hellish mire of manic piano and feverish experiment, bashed out and hammered, until you can’t help but wonder if the band lost their minds right there in the studio. But they explode back into a tight galloping riff, blazing across the aural landscapes with grace and determination, with their faculties entirely in check.

“Storm” is perhaps one of the strongest and most powerful moments on the album, boasting a deeply affective introduction, steeped in dreary yearning and haunting gloom.  With the pained, dusty vocal delivery lurching atop the ringing tides of murky guitars and spectral volume swells, one can’t help but recall the Fields Of The Nephilim.  The song explodes into confident, metallic heights of breathtaking beauty.  It is just absolutely an outstanding and paralyzing good song, dynamically sailing through bombast and serenity, never abandoning the listener.  A trickling chorus of layered piano riffs flit about at the heart of “Recklessness,” the next triumphant track to appear on the disc.  The song introduces a variety of catchy yet powerfully stinging twin guitar harmonies and impassioned vocals, the band’s most accessible yet commanding and emotional moments.

The instrumental “Self Portrait No. 1” is not the average short solo piano piece to appear on a contemporary dark metal record.  These are professionally skilled hands tickling the ivory here, and the result sounds like a genuine piano sonata or impromptu close to the style of Chopin or Debussy.   “Be Welcome Oh Hideous Hell” unexpectedly cuts through the nocturnal tranquility of the piano piece with perhaps the most dynamic and explosive track yet, offering a truly fascinating arrangement, with rhythms offsetting one another, odd time signatures - unpredictability reigns supreme.  As the band grows more technical, they are careful not to neglect the atmosphere.  The more complex the rhythms become, the melodies reach a new poignancy.

The otherworldly “Onírica” brings this extraordinary album to a fine close.  A heavenly echo enhances this quieter though no less powerful song.  Loose, fluid guitars ring over languid drumming, as soft vocals drift and whisper from what sounds like another sphere.  The song is the sound of fading away, rising into the light, with only a slight regret and sadness for the world you will leave behind.   The fragile ethereal grace on this track in particular is comparable to perhaps Soul Whirling Somewhere or Slowdive alone.  Hopeful abandon, an aspiration for peace, and a fear of the unknown usher the song toward its spine-tingling climax.

Each track on this album stands as an individual work of elaborate art.  As a whole, it is simply a majestic collection of high-metal excellence.  The only drawbacks are the lyrics, which when written in English, fail to reach their poetic potential.  The ideas are not entirely lost, but they just read awkwardly and it is apparent that they have not fully mastered the subtly of the language.  Ultimately, this is rather incidental as its difficult to make out any of the words in the first place.  The music speaks volumes and makes up for this indiscretion, and it is impossible not to perceive the feelings expressed in the vocal and instrumental performances.  That aside, Mar De Grises is a dark metal band that is not to be missed.  The occasionally abrupt and unpredictable style might be hard for some fans to initially adapt to, but I can’t imagine any fan of dark music not feeling the impact of this release.

Track list:
1. El Otro...
2. To See Saturn Fall
3. Storm
4. Recklessness
5. Self Portrait No.1
6. Be Welcome Oh Hideous Hell
7. Onírica

Mar De Grises is:

Marcelo Rodriguez: vocals, keyboards
Rodrigo Morris: guitar
Sergio Alvarez: guitar
Alejandro Arce: drums
Rodrigo Gálvez: bass

Mar De Grises – Official Website

Firebox Records:

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Ah, they’re pleasant. ‘Ginger’ sees them wielding pleasant guitars, with slow, grazed vocals telling us about nothing in particular, and they’re warm and bubbly, but far from distinct. Then two songs of mild and attractive rock, and apart from the guitar it seems no-one has any wish to work hard. Who needs pleasant?

Silent love song
Bleeding for noise

Miguel And The Living Dead
Demo 2004
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Miguel And The Living Dead: the name says it all!  The interesting thing here is that this brand of lo-fi Ghoul Rock hails from Poland, rather than the expected NYC, LA, or Germany.  Apparently, the band’s founder, Nerve69, decided that Warsaw’s Goth scene was headed toward disastrous integration and convolution, where the new blood in the scene couldn’t differentiate between Goth, Post Punk, cheesy Goth Metal or EBM/Electro. Sound familiar?   Alas, the plague of cluelessness is closer to world domination.

The good news is that Miguel And The Living Dead have successfully begun to set the record straight as it were, and have presented five tracks that range from raging Misfits inspired horror punk, Cramped psychobilly (“Train Of The Dead”) and washes of eerie rhythmic claustrophobia (“Salem’s Lot”).  There is a humbling apology for the lack of production on the demo, but the raw and b-horror movie decadence is well suited by the limited roughness of the recording.  Truthfully, it really isn’t as bad as some of the things I have heard. The guitars buzz with grating gloom, ringing haphazardly and discordantly above relentless upbeat drums and rumbling bass.

The opening title track has probably the most direct appeal, sounding like it was lifted right off of “Walk Among Us” but injected with the thrashy angst of “Earth A.D.”  Samples recounting zombie plagues (however worn out) work well, as do the surprising chimes of creepy guitar.  However what really sticks out about M&TLD are Slavik’s lugubrious, echoing vocal bellows.  It has to be a Polish thing, because the stark vocalist of Variété has similar graven intensity and expresses the same rigid sense of torment.  His voice is truly stellar on “Aliens Wear Sunglasses,” reverberating and throaty, adding an impressive sense of gloom that is lacking in far too many bands.   “Salem’s Lot” is positively chilling, with dizzying typhoons of guitar fuzz, creepy watery chimes, and punctuations of low-end piano chords.  The vocals cry out like anguished howls from within a barren tomb.  Of all the classic vampire tales to interpret with music, I am both surprised and somehow pleased to see homage paid to one of Mr. King’s most effective early tales.  This must also be a Polish thing because Americans would be too ‘cool’ to admit they like Stephen King.  Disclaimer: Just his early novels!  (See?)

Though the song titles and lyrical explorations suggest a thoroughly campy affair, the music has a sincerity and darker urgency to it that suggests that M&TLD have a sense of maturity that one might not expect. I personally am not too partial to the zombies and all the arguably corny imagery of contemporary Death Rock (see my review of Penis Flytrap) but I didn’t have to ignore my uptight conceptions of what is dark and cool to enjoy this.  This still won me over despite my usual resistance.   The stark black & white visual collages of all things spooky and putrescent reflects a pure old school sensibility, and the band definitely has the look down to a tee.  But all of that aside, this is an impressive demo that despite its production drawbacks introduces a confident new addition to the legacy of Death Rock and Ghoul Punk.  This demo successfully testifies for the band’s potential. I am positive that the aural threat would absolutely quadruple in a live setting.  And finally, the very existence of M&TLD attests to the popularity and universality of the genre.  So these are all very uplifting things.

I can’t imagine these guys would want much for this EP – the shipping would be the only minor inconvenience. Its short and DIY but will serve as a very interesting international treasure for fans. All Death Rockers and such need to check into these guys, so wander on over to the website and see what you can see.  I don’t suspect most would be disappointed.

Track List:
1.) Miguel And The Living Dead
2.) Aliens Wear Sunglasses
3.) The Night Of Terror
4.) Salem’s Lot
5.) Train Of The Dead

Miguel And The Living Dead is:
Nerve69: guitar, drum programs, founder
Slavik:  guitar, vocals
September: bass
Niuniek El Diablo: drums

Miguel And The Living Dead – Official Website:

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

This is interesting. We’re all used to the splendour of ethereal music, part of which comes from the lyrical themes being so beautifully and emotionally presented, as there needs to be harmony between the words and music or there’d be one almighty clash, and also because this is one form of music where musicianship is a massive plus. In punk a unified impact is sufficient to make great songs jump out of their skins and into yours, but on this side of Goth and Ambient music you need to know what you’re doing. It’s like taking the snooty aspects of classical and throwing them away, bringing in new approaches to old themes.

So you have here a band who have a cool head start, being a trio, which makes for natural balance in itself, with singer Kit Messick, Joanna Dalin (ex Backworld) and James Babbo who handles guitar, bass and some imaginative programming. Messick’s past includes Unto Ashes, which is something to consider, and she has an alternative cabaret/torch side to her activities which also shows through here. This is a beautifully realised record, and it benefits from the added interpretive styles Messick has acquired in her time, as well as this not sounding too old. The beauty of Unto Ashes is they way they take Olde Forms and make them bleed as they’re dragged towards, or into, the world of now, with sharpened perspective. The beauty of The Mirror Reveals is that they’re not old in the first place. Okay, violin, but here you have what sounds like an rabidly imaginative Indie band playing in a Victorian parlour. The instruments seem to bulge outwards, the vocals are all around you like a daylight séance. The guitar rings out.

It is off to an impressive start with ‘Cold Heart’ which sounds like Indie Ethereal with vibrant guitar, richly mixed vocals and a seriously fine chorus, then the light Goth guitar styling inside ‘Waves’ mixes delightfully with crisp percussion and a persuasive voice. ’Blue Fire’ is more of the same, after which you see the vocals become folkier in ‘The Grail’ to fit the lyrical theme but instead of becoming predictable as a result some slick beats keep it nimble.,

‘Out Of A Misty Dream’ is more challenging with austerity used to create a beguiling aura, drawing you in, as is ‘Moons On Fire’ with male vocals and big guitar upfront, everything else swirling behind, and somehow suggesting matters of profound weight, when they’re nothing of the sort…which lets me slip in my usual snide comment about former/current nazi fantasists Death In June, whose ‘The Golden Wedding Of Sorrow’ is included here. (I’ll always be suspicious of that band, even though it is now just Pearce. Old habits die hard.)

‘Storytellers’ is sweet and lively, and yet so frail, with gorgeous vocals dominant as the music twists in on itself, and ‘Little Plaything’ is lyrically strong, but was actually a disappointment to me, sounding like an amateur All About Eve tribute band, as if they don’t quite have the confidence in this type of sound, although it’s rescued by vivid violin, and it ends with two superb, stark pieces, the title track and closer ‘Finale’, where the music ripples outwards from an intriguing vocal heart, shot through with great percussive streaks.

Almost flawless, but not just yet, I hope they stick together, because are going to create something incredible one day.


Machine Men
Scars & Wounds
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Fabulous Finns Machine Men are a quintet of hard rockin' guys making throwback metal with a modern edge.  Man, that sounded like the PR gobbledygook I read in press releases.  Nevertheless, it is an accurate statement.  If you are a-hankerin' for a hunk of 'guitar driven early 90's Americanish hard rock/metal' in the vein of Queensryche (or other contemporary acts), Machine Men will sate your hunger with Scars & Wounds.  Speedy riffs, catchy melodies, and a propulsive beat keep the album from sounding like reheated leftovers that are far past their expiration date.

I routinely bash bands who ape a previous era's style... mainly because most of them write dull songs.  Dullness is a timeless crime, really, but when you're dull -and- derivative it makes it even worse.  Luckily, the Machine Men know how to extract potent musical ideas from past ages and then ably rearrange them into new music that retains the spirit of its source.  I'd hesitate to say Scars & Wounds resembles glam metal, but if you took a little late 80's glam, a dash of harder-edged thrash, and a dollop of NWOBHM Brit metal, you could roughly approximate Machine Men's sound. Thankfully, though, the production on 'Scars & Wounds' shares no such affectation of the past.  It is modern through and through, with a thick and lush yet crisp sound perfect for the genre.

The Queensryche analogy is further bolstered by the uni-named Antony's Geoff-Tate-ish singing voice.  While not displaying quite the silky-smooth crooning that is Tate's hallmark, Antony's voice has a similar timbre and range.  It pleasantly evoked memories of a bygone era of music... though thank goodness it was not potent enough to make me remember all the stupid crap that happened to me in high school while I was listening to the bands from which Machine Men derive their sound.  Like the time Jim backed his dad's vintage Studebaker into the garage wall before hockey practice and- well, crap. I guess it -was- potent enough after all.

If you pick up Scars & Wounds expecting innovation or thought provoking, original ideas, you'll be disappointed.  If you pick it up expecting to nostalgically re-live an era you enjoyed long ago, or just want a good time, your money will have been well spent.  Machine Men have crafted an engaging album that should please people who liked the rock and metal scenes in the early 90's... along with new fans who may not have been born or particularly aware of their surroundings back then.  I am now feeling quite old.  Time may wait for no man, but if a man waits around long enough, somene will revive the music he liked when he was a kid.

Track List:
01.) Against The Freaks
02.) The Gift
03.) The Beginning of The End
04.) Silver Dreams
05.) Man In Chains
06.) Betrayed By Angels
07.) Victim
08.) Scars & Wounds

Machine Men is:
Antony - vocals
Turbo J-V - guitar
Johnny - guitar
T-Pain - Drums
Iron Fist - bass

Machine Men Official Site:

Dynamic Arts Records:

Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

To fans of Doom Metal, the five years that have passed since Morgion’s last release, “Solinari,” were far too long.  Most of us honestly didn’t think we’d hear from these guys again.  Then rumours began to seep out, slowly spreading around assuring that the band was indeed still active and a new album was on its way.  At last, this album is here and there was much to digest.  As always, expectation plays a very crucial role in a listener’s initial reception of an album.  For as long as it took, it damn well have better been a masterpiece!  Obstacle number one.  Obstacle number two, for me personally at least, was the fact that I tend to evaluate music foremost on its ability to move me emotionally.  When it comes to Doom, it better annihilate me.  It better suck the air right out of my lungs and suffocate me in dismal oppression, exorcise all hope of happiness or romantic comfort from my fragile form, and leave me to drown in a sea of unsettling darkness…a darkness that is dark enough to distract me from the minor torments of everyday life, academic responsibility, futile interaction with other lowly human beings with their own sinister agendas, the universal decline of morale and the political incompetence of our government.  In other words, present something more miserable than life as it already is, so that I can have a temporary artistic means of escaping.  If I am not frightened, irreconcilably saddened, or cackling in macabre delight after hearing a Doom band, than I am not happy with them.  This of course is exaggeration, but I was hoping to be flattened by this record.  And I wasn’t.

It’s just not that kind of Doom.

Of all the great masters of contemporary Doom, I have never found Morgion to possess the same kind of emotional immediacy or accessibility as other bands.  Their first two much lauded releases “Among Majestic Ruin” and “Solinari” were sprawling, enthrallingly monotonous, arid releases that utilized thunderous, rumbling chords, hellishly slow paces, parched guttural vocals, and hypnotic minimalism to create a sound that was inescapably heavy, suffocating, and inspired such a sense of defeated lethargy that the listener (of decidedly more elevated tastes) eventually succumbed and began to understand the band’s subversive power.  Then it all made perfect sense, but it took a while. Morgion’s brand of Doom is sneaky, secure in its eventual ability to claim its listeners, creeping beneath and sinking in, rather than directly tugging violently or demandingly at the heartstrings.  They possess a cool, calculated confidence and reward the patient with truly epic masterpieces of dark colossal art.

This third release yields the same latent rewards.  I approached the album thinking that they were going to return with a kind of embellished vengeance, expecting it to kick off and immediately assert itself as a triumphant return to the scene.  I expected a collection of urgent blaring depressive funereal dirges, but instead, what I encountered was a much more refined, refreshed, musical and yes, emotional release.   It took at the very least three listens (all of which I have to admit were relatively casual) before this album clicked. And honestly, I wish that I could recreate the feeling that overcame me when this album first made sense to me.  It was like a veil was lifted and it all suddenly made perfect sense.   It’s rare that an album can cause you to literarily stop what you are doing and ask yourself, “Do you hear how fucking cool this is?”

An understated introduction, consisting of very low subtly eerie drones, evocative and pensive, conjuring the abysmal greens of the deepest midnight ocean tide, the listener displaced, as if peering out from the airless void beneath the waves.  Feedback screeches phantom like in the distance, as a dreary disembodied riff rises to the surface, gathering equally dissident harmonies until the climactic rumble of a drum punches through the uneasy stillness, and the song “A Slow Succumbing” pummels its way into being.  Crunch to die for, density rarely achieved.  And the epic begins.

“Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth” is a very fine-tuned and carefully structured record, tweaked to perfection down to the very last detail, and hallowed by an absolutely pristine production.  The clarity of this disc is remarkable when compared to the band’s previous releases.  The use of texture and layering is incredible, with guitar sounds that are as immense as they come, impressively bottom heavy, perfectly spaced riffs which are enabled to breathe rather than crowd the sonic landscape, therefore helping the melodies and harmonies stand out.  There is an abundance of shadowy arpeggios; murky green guitar tones ringing out like a fine mist or humid rain beneath or between passages of jarring terror.  The drums pound and crack with a bone-dry snap, thick, punchy and perfectly executed while a very conservative and meticulous use of low-ended orchestral synths provide additional depth and shade to the band’s encompassing sound. Vocally, the growls could not possess any more of an unearthly timbre, low and threatening, weary with grief and age but hardened, sepulchral and sobering while the clean vocals are a sedated, whisper of dejected grace, a comforting breeze amidst torrential storms.  At first I found the clean vocals to be precisely that – far too clean.  But it didn’t take long to adjust to them, a kind of Floydian traditional style of soaring singing, ebbing on the breath of final hope and brave optimism.

While firmly grounded in the Doom tradition, the album could easily be enjoyed by a variety of listeners, not just fans of that genre in particular.  Morgion’s fast moments sound like Iron Maiden or Alice In Chains at their slowest, and there is a lot of Fields Of The Nephilim going on here.  But they disguise and reshape their influences, and stir their ideas up enough to remain interesting, winding through a veritable labyrinth of sound and texture.  As long as you are willing to be ferried along, you embark upon an enthralling journey through the murkiest and dankest regions of an emotional underworld, eventually to emerge enlightened, resigned and at rest (and I am guessing perhaps the metaphor in the scheme of things is indeed the peace of Death, the final “crown of earth”).

“Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth” can be referred to as an epic in the most literal and strictest sense, as all eight tracks work together to create one cohesive work of gorgeous and smartly dark art, one long multi-dimensional piece that is like a modern day metallic tone poem.  Each song contains its own memorable and chilling climaxes, from the darker, oppressive first half of the album to the melancholic warmth of the second half. “The Mourner’s Oak” stands as one of the most atmospherically astounding, “Cairn” the most exciting and anthematic (Or perhaps even Anathema-tic, “Silent Enigma” era that is) and the final two tracks the most pensive and melodic.  Listening to this album is truly an experience, one that thought it may require patience and a bit of dedication, is of immeasurable reward.  I can’t help but genuinely admire Morgion and feel proud of what they have accomplished with this record.  Sophisticated and refined, this is the sound of very mature and experienced musicians who know their craft inside and out, and can breathe new life into perhaps the inherently and intentionally most lifeless genre of music there is.  This is a breathtaking and powerful return.  Welcome back Morgion, I have indeed been annihilated—by a sense of astonishment and genuine reverence.

Track List:
1.) Cloaked By Ages
2.) A Slow Succumbing
3.) Ebb Tide (Parts I & II)
4.) Trillium Rune
5.) The Mourner’s Oak
6.) Cairn
7.) She, The Master Covets
8.) Crowned In Earth

Morgion is:
Justin Christian - bass
Rhett Davis – drums
Dwayne Boardman – guitars, voice
Gary Griffith – guitars, voice, keyboards

Morgion – Official Site:

Dark Symphonies Records:

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I’m not the sort of person who sits about allowing his mind to wonder whether this band have achieved their aim of creating “a metaphorical universe, a bridge between us and the world as a ‘tube’, no talks but thoughts throwing” on the grounds that that is mental.

I do know that it starts and ends with noise; ‘Dancing Without Learning’ being an overture of interference, with voices off. It’s painless, seemingly pointless, and can be seen as an itchy introduction, while ‘Mannn’ will see you off in more attractively dappled mood, after you’re already well contented with the rest of the album, so there is a circle there. From bitter to bland, with all the quality in the middle

Musically, they reek of the 80’s in their melodic sensibilities, and anyone who can’t hear the Human League and (ironically) Heaven 17 rattling their languid chains really needs to send their ears back for repair. Seeing as half the electro bands in the world do exactly the same this is no great crime, or shock, but Mortern Vlde Art do something with it. They simply aren’t looking for a commercial cortex to exploit, and they constantly take what could be a potential hit or crowd pleaser, smearing and ruffling it with artistic intensity.

‘Absenthe Terbenthine’ is a fine example, where the vocal vibrate just ever so slightly above a flat tone, which could be monstrously dull, but they use specific words to introduce tension and very sparing synth just moves them away from empty spaces and installation background music. ‘Someone With A Transparent Eyes’ is far better, having a wretched New Romantic core, but with an off kilter strumming that elongates moods and even the disinterested singing style seems captivating, whereupon they up the ante in ‘Blessingway; with what sounds like a plastic toy acoustic guitar. On its own it’s ghastly, but so strong is the composition that when this plink-plinky strumming returns later it sounds attractive

If a song can feel light-headed ‘E-clipse’ definitely nods off, but ‘Paranoia’ has some funk bass to give us typical Go West nightmares. Think deeper and you could make a decent comparison by suggesting if Soft Cell ever covered Joy Division songs they might have brought us this sort of curious mood. Not deeply felt enough, not quite kitsch, just trapped in a parallel universe all its own, and a truly excellent vocal performance.

After that high point it’s gentle art which coaxes you into staying hooked, but your mind will wander throughout, because until ‘Zone’ where the vocals are slowed to a gravely crawl, you just get their general sound, which is slight, occasionally given a Bowiesque whisking. ‘Getting Around Realism’ is a strange interlude, with a whiff of tribal strength, then they’re downhill into sleepiness again, and the noise for a end.

The good thing is, it works as a record because it doesn’t do expected things, and you can’t predict their turns. Given that I prefer my music thick with atmosphere or lively to the point of sonically hazardous, the fact I find them intriguing surely means people who really go for the artistically stylised sounds would be well advised to try this.


OVER YOUR DEAD BODY (Hell’s Hundred Records)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

It appears from the press release that since they began in 1998 Mister Monster have done a pretty good job in attracting an audience, and a reputation with the ghouls and boys who go for Horror Punk, which is a scene I haven’t seen much about, although it runs parallel in many ways to Deathrock, and I did a lot of site reviews last year. It’s where the mutant strains of punk with character, pscyhobilly and gothpunk merge together, and in Mister Monster we have a punk band who exploit the lyrical possibilities, or so it seems to me. The title track is nice and busy with linear bass, tight but light riffing and melodic vocals everywhere, ‘Prom Night’ is a deeper Ramones, ‘This Night I Call (Bad Luck)’ is slower, but the vocals work it all up and create a sleek sense of action. ‘’Til The End’ gets by on sweet riffs, and ‘Her Open Grave’ has adventurous reliance on more emotive vocals throughout. The way he has the confidence to sing, while a lot of punky boys simply rely on rhythmic chantiness, maintained my interest despite a lot of this, ‘like ‘Dead Flesh Gurl’ being like Stiv Bators rejects, mixed with a touch of The Adicts, with an occasional whiff of The Rubinoos, and while that is never a bad thing, it isn’t produced with enough power.

Punk without power needs cracking melodies, and they don’t actually have those, so excess character would be required to really stamp their identity on the songs, and they don’t display that either, what with so much guitar flying about. So it’s a hotch-potch of styles, but the songs themselves are very trim and purposeful. ‘Bigger Shop Of Horrors’ is move by the jolting guitar, ‘All My Monsters’ is roaring thrash, ‘Love Thornz’ sees Ramones bass give way to slush, ‘Amy Sue’ offers lighter, swirlier guitar, and we have some ramalamasingsong in ‘Little Frakenstein’. The main stab at something different is in the controlled, canoodling drama of ‘Transylvania-mania’, ‘Send More Paramedics’ buzzes with life, and it ends with the moodiest mover, ‘Scars 19’.

So, it’s a nice album, and a nice idea, but overall I felt perplexed. I don’t know if there’s some kind of kitsch stage show they do which boosts the horror aspect, or that live they have increased effort which sees them flaying the audience with Punk energy, but this is all seems rather subdued and polite to me.


Murder By Death
Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them?
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Despite the redundancy expressed in this band’s moniker, Bloomington Indiana’s Murder By Death is a band that definitely has a purpose. Released last October (sorry it’s taken so long to review), this disc offers a delightfully fresh approach to musical arrangement and off-kilter lyrics exploring a small town’s apocalypse with pitch black humour and bad ass bravado, but all with a sincere hope that the forces of good will emerge victorious despite the evidence that evil could very well succeed.  Murder By Death’s lyricist is the type of person that more than likely deals with tragedy or difficulty with a distracted sense of humour.  As the title of the band’s previous release, “Like The Exorcist With More Breakdancing,” would suggest, Murder By Death is definitely a unique and intriguing ensemble of talent.  Despite the sense of humour and goofiness at the surface, Murder By Death is definitely not some snide sarcastic joke band.  The musicianship is top notch and is a graceful amalgam of dark styles, sobering at times even, and it offsets the peculiar lyrics with another dimension of maturity.  If this can at all be imagined, I would say that Murder By Death fit somewhere in the realms of Voltaire, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Son Volt, Amorphis, and the Stone Roses.  And none of it whatsoever was intentional – just some comparisons I personally thought of while listening to this disc that might help you to get an idea of what we are working with here.

Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them is indeed a concept album, centering on the various incidents that occur in a small Mexican town after the Devil appears and is shot in the back by one of the locals.  The opening track begins with the reverberated sounds of a saloon piano, soon joined by desolate guitar strums, organ, cello, and a tight rhythmic section.  The overall vibe’s got a distinct melodic twang to it (hence the comparison to Son Volt, primarily in the vocals).  Things begin on a great note, very arresting and easy to adjust to the somewhat odd fusion of styles.  The second track “Killbot 2000” is a bit of bumpy transition, much more upbeat and a bit too quirky and emo for my tastes.  “Until Morale Returns…” and “Three Men Hanging” restore the slower pace and the moodier atmospheres return, fuller and even more developed.  The latter is an acoustic led ballad, with light percussion and cello.  A gorgeous and dreary track, disciplined and invocative, but the best is still to come.

The second half of the CD is where things really begin to get interesting, where the band’s ideas begin to gel more effectively.  The songs are stronger and the dynamics are more explosive. Sarah Balliet’s cello work is remarkable and in many ways, pushes the band into distinction. “A Masters In Reverse Psychology” has many changes, from delicate piano and cello interplay to climactic bursts of drum cascades, slinky swayable rhythms and urgent, soaring vocals. “The Desert Is On Fire” opens with a blaze of jangling guitar chords (possibly lifted from that classic alternative song “Anything, Anything” by Dramarama) that are soon paired with fantastic cello riffs and snapping drums to create a gorgeous tornado of melody.  The shuffling rhythms, hypnotic guitar riffs, and frantic cellos make “That Crown Don’t Make You A Prince” the album’s crowning achievement, a majestic and beautifully rendered song calming for soft soaring vocals and deep, rhythmic percussive strings and foreboding pianos, only to climax again with dizzying bliss.  “Pillars Of Salt” is a gloomy masterpiece, with slow, defeated vocals and somber piano and dreary cellos at the forefront while the murky minimalism of “End Of The Line,” a nine-minute epic brings the album to a stylish close.  The townfolk are at the end of their tether and are prepared to meet the Devil for the final showdown.  What happens is never revealed…but perhaps a sequel will be penned.  Or perhaps it’s up to the listener to decide what happens (the band’s website offers a great deal more lyrical insight).  Whatever the case, Murder By Death has presented a classy and absorbing album that dips its foot in Goth, Indie, Alt.Country, and traditional alternative rock and succeeds on nearly all levels.  Ultimately, I find this to be a unique and very worthwhile release.

Track List:
1) The Devil In Mexico
2) Killbot 2000
3) Until Morale Improves The Beatings Continue
4) Three Men Hanging
5) Intermission
6) A Masters In Reverse Psychology
7) The Desert Is On Fire
8) That Crown Don’t Make You A Prince
9) Pillars Of Salt
10) End Of The Line

Murder By Death is:
Vincent Edwards: keyboards
Matt Armstrong: bass
Adam Turla: guitars, vocals
Alex Schrodt: drums
Sarah Balliet: cello

Murder By Death – Official Site:

Eyeball Records:

Alms For Iraq
~reviewed by Goat

Ah, Bryn Jones, we miss you so.  I often wonder how his music would be sounding these days, as the situations in Iraq and Palestine grow ever worse.  Would his music be more angry?  Somber?  Sad?  Distressed?  Alas, we will never know.

This recording, Alms For Iraq was completed in December of 1995.  Within the span of three years, young Bryn Jones would die.  The work he completed in those last years is phenomenal; increasing evermore in technical prowess and mastery.  Alms For Iraq is a perfect example.  Layers upon layers of sound, emotion, and meaning.  The sounds veritably shimmer with heatwaves of sorrow and fury; and yet, they skitter along over layers of surety and serenity.

These are the things that have always amazed me about his music; the endless unfolding facets; the kaleidoscopic tiers.

I very much recommend this particular Muslimgauze work to those who have been curious about Bryn Jones and Muslimgauze and are wondering where to start.  Alms For Iraq is Jones at the top of his form, and is a pleasure to listen to.

Soleilmoon - SOL 129 CD  released: (11/11/2003)
in a 6 panel 5.5" x 8" tall folder

Track Listing:
   1. Harizat  (3.38)
   2. Izzedin Al-Qassam  (5.14)
   3. Gold Kalpakcilar Dome Pt 1/2  (3.43)
   4. Pale Elegant Egyptian  (1.34)
   5. Hab Al-Zeitoun  (4.29)
   6. Dark Bedouin Silver  (6.13)
   7. Gujurati Moon  (2.28)
   8. Alms for Iraq  (2.23)
   9. Dirhams Your Dirhams  (4.39)
  10. Hari Rupee  (5.13)
  11. Divine Pink Jinn  (1.23)
  12. Yigal Gun Amir  (1.42)
  13. Gulf Camel Baksheesh  (2.08)
  14. Kapali Carsi Souk  (1.14)
  15. Date Odeur  (4.11)
  16. Za-Hazzanani  (1.20)
  17. Mehmet Quarter  (2.39)
  18. Donated Organ  (2.38)
  19. Bombay Wire Less  (4.00)
  20. Malacca Cane  (3.26)
  21. Serpent Sting  (2.23)
  22. Caravan Sari  (.37)
  23. Fathi Shqaqi  (1.40)
  24. Skin Tone  (.13)
  25. Madhat Basha  (2.26)
  26. Tamil Tiger S.O.S.  (3.59)

Run time:  (75:44)

Re-mixs Volume 1 +2 double CD
~reviewed by Goat

If ever I came into a great deal of money, one of the first things I’d do would be track down all the Muslimgauze releases I *don’t* have, which sadly is quite a few.  I just can’t keep up.  It’s been financially impossible, and really, if you view the amount of work Bryn Jones completed in his lifetime, the wealth of it seems humanly impossible.  How he did it, I don’t know.  What I do know is that every single thing I’ve ever heard by him has been of unquestionable quality, and highly fascinating.  This leads me to believe that if a person were able to possess everything Bryn ever did, one would have an incalculable treasure.

Fortunately, some of the long out-of-print material is now being released, this remix collection being a case in point.

Volume one was released back in ‘96, and Volume 2 in ‘98.  This re-release contains both volumes in a four- panel folder with new artwork.  There was a limited (150) edition run which was fur-covered!  You can see a photo of both editions here:

I definitely recommend getting this re-release.  It unquestionably represents some of the best Muslimgauze recordings ever, and you cannot beat the price for such a collection.  If you’re even remotely curious about Muslimgauze or experimental electronica, please do yourself the favor of making this particular audio investigation.  It’s wondrous!

Track Listing:  (There are no track titles.)
Disc One:
   1. (18.59)
   2. (25.39)
   3. (17.23)

Disc Two:
   1. (10.23)
   2. (7.02)
   3. (8.34)
   4. (3.16)
   5. (6.09)
   6. (4.16)
   7. (4.27)
   8. (6.01)
   9. (5.55)
  10. (6.38)

On Soleilmoon Recordings:
SOL 131 (dbl-CD)  released: (11/11/2003) in a 6" x 11" four panel cardboard folder
150 hand numbered copies covered in fur with paper band

~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Lighter than Rammstein, heavier than Peter Gabriel, poppier than Ministry, less depressing than Depeche Mode.  That's about the best I can do to describe the electro-metal of MXD.  A hodgepodge of genre conventions, MXD's Musicogenic cobbles together elements from several related styles and provides a consistently engaging listen... or at least, that holds true on the five track promo CD I was given.

The full version of Musicogenic apparently has fifteen tracks.  Fortunately, all of them are available for free listening at the band's official website, provided you have Flash installed (and a decent net connection).  I gave a couple a listen, and they seemed to be of similar quality to the tracks presented on the promo CD, but more techno and repetitive in nature.  Don't take my word for it, though.  Go listen for yourself if you're interested in this kind of stuff.

So what is 'this kind of stuff,' then?  Well, the smooth, clean vocals are what made me think of Peter Gabriel...  that and an upbeat sensibility absent from your average Teutonic technometal band.  Some tracks have a very 'rock' feel to them, while others delve more into the 'sound FX and intolerable looped vocal samples that sounded cool at the time' territory.  All of the music is exclusively synth-driven, but occasionally some heavy guitars pop in to vary the mood a bit.  The beats are propulsive, the melodies and choruses are catchy.  Electro metal!

Please forgive my vague generalization, but I got no press material with this and can't find info on the web, so hey.  Take what you can get.  I don't know who's in the band, or why this promo only has five tracks, or much else about MXD since their website is devoid of useful info and their label's site is completely broken at the time of the review.  What I -do- know is that MXD has some catchy songs that surprisingly held my interest while I listened to the promo.  A few of the tracks they have available on their site were... not so interesting. Since you can hear the whole album online, you might want to do that before deciding whether this enigma-wrapped-in-a-synthesizer is the right band for you.

Track List:
01.) Powder Mind
02.) Le Pire
03.) Clean-Ex
04.) Charlie Brown
05.) Defoliant

MXD Official Site:

Equilibre Music:

WAR/LOVE BLUES (Furnace Songs)
~review by Mick Mercer

nidus (n) a nest or breeding-place: a place where anything is originated, harboured, developed or fostered: a place of lodgement or deposit: a point of infection: a nerve-centre

So, greatness then. Here it is. Cast in the form of a Dark Country hybrid, of which I know little, but the tainted resonance of other bands come swimming back into my mind. In fact during the late 80’s/early 90’s one of my all time favourite bands, The Galley Slaves merged country with Irish folk and created something similar to the glories here, as did someone else we’ll mention later. The Galleys took the ironic love song route, but Myssouri have death on their palette, and paint with intricacy over a disquieting wash.

I am truly indebted to Blu for her interview with them in Starvox which alerted me to this mighty band and during a year when I have already lost count of the number of great albums which have arrowed in through my ears and given my brain a fearful kicking, this one stands prouder than the rest, for here is a band - and don’t laugh – who make the kind of music, rich in lyrical power and cool in downplayed musical expertise, that U2 fool themselves into believing they’re either capable of, or actually producing. This is modern rock which spreads like spilled ink over a template of traditions. No-one need be put off by the term Dark Country, as it isn’t a constant theme, and what is country at its best but the most supreme form of music for story-telling? And if those stories just happen to be dark, then all the better. And I don’t see anyone doing it better than this.

As with all stunning bands it only takes one song, ‘Road Boy Blues’ in this case, and will give your first glimpse of the lyrics;

”Your body figures in my future with a boa’s tender tether,
I’ve got a love to shelter us like a flesh and bones umbrella”

The blues motif disintegrates into a country chug around which Goth vocals style entwine, then rasp in explosive ferment, showering dust and rust over a glorious commercial potential. For all their diligence in not shying away from a hugely literate enterprise there is no pomposity here, not when they have such musical power to unload. Strongly delineated, regardless of the surging noise, they nail you time and time again.

‘Terrible Love’ then droops down and patters by with low, mashed steel guitar, then spurts off in a super-fast dash, a scratchy delay and a swift drop into a worrying hole, where lyrical ideas beset your head, like disturbing terrified bats in a cave.

Michael Bradley is the host, and a lugubrious storyteller who has a manner and selfless authority in displaying bruised romanticism in a way Nick Cave will simply never master, and you’re submerged quickly in the musical liquid of ‘March To The Sea’, drowning in its curious depths, often buffeted by the exultant drums of Chris Reeves, and guided by the miraculously invisible bass of Cade Lewis. Honestly, you know he’s there and you can concentrate on it, but the glow he provides inside these songs is quite something, as Mark Rogers wafts the attention this way and that with his guitars.

With ‘The Floorless Jig’ we embark on quite a stirring song of a murderer thrilled, a la Turpin, with his own reputation, and here we have suitable sleaze grind, which scatters the bones of The Cramps to the four winds, and everything feels filthy beneath the scabrous vocals.

By total contrast, ‘Orphan Song’ is beautifully moving, and made captivating by the constantly revolving repetition of words that creates the melody and rhythm, and when we descend into the madness of ‘My Only Love’ the truest comparison I can give is back to The Folk Devils and the Ian Lowery Group, both of which had Ian’s take on an American seamy underbelly. Myssouri naturally do it better, because they’re steeped in it themselves, and this particular song really lets loose with some upright vocal drama into a tormented whirlpool of emotion, from which we are led out by a swampy guitar waltz.

There isn’t a single song here that you don’t welcome on return visits, excited by the prospect once more. In fact the only problem with the record at all is some rather drab artwork, and I have finally initiated a once in a life time star rating for an album in this journal.

‘Down In Flames’ is gorgeous and jaunty. I’m surprised Bradley isn’t whistling over the Kinks-like walking bass opener, or the keyboard trill near the end, as he jiggles around sensational wordplay about a mad couple, in a union which seemed doomed from the start:

”She dressed in red, on the day that we wed”

‘Rictus’ also shows they can strike hard and low, with a brisk rock growl, before opening up, saturated in heavenly sighing, and ‘The Eyes Of Others’ sees the traditional lone guitar weeping which seems fitting for a song seemingly awash in self-pity until the final line surreally spins everything on its head. It’s maybe ‘I Got It All’ that signals the real modern impact this band could have. True, there is more than a whiff of Fleetwood Mac about it (circa 1975), possibly because it’s chirpy, but as the sly, weighted delivery trots out I think you’ll soon be agreeing with me that this is the finest song Cobain never got to include on Nevermind.

Absorbing and challenging throughout, I love this album. It is quite magnificent.

”I’ve looted my life
to the very walls
to find the nidus of my discontent
I do recall
That I had
the gall
to give up church
for Lent”


REGAL DAYLIGHT (Sensitive Records)
~review by Mick Mercer

Welcome, then, to more peculiarity. Having expressed an interest in this man after the intriguing Sensitive sampler earlier, I find myself equally charmed but mystified by much of what is on the album. A stranger to much of the world of avant garde composition, where electronic arrangements mingle with classical theory, I can only frown as mutations bloom.

In one way it doesn’t differ greatly from much that spills from the worlds of ambient or ethereal, except that they have their chosen preferences, which you either identify with or don’t. What Nick Grey is doing is having two factions at work within many of his songs, creating a new form all of its own, although I’m daresay there are other such adventurers in the world of music. As before, he sounds like more a storyteller than a singer to me, with somewhat hesitant control, but excellent diction and delivery, so he fits in with the jagged music made harmonious by certain instrumentation, and in case anyone is wondering, no, it’s isn’t full-on orchestral, just minor twinges. It simply isn’t noisy

‘Structure & Faith’ is a conventional indie ballad, then ‘November Fadeline’ sees a piano stand nervously by as ashen vocals float across in a sentimental fashion, threatening to break into highly artistic triphop at any moment, and the album boasts many such incidents where rhythmical curios punctuate the undertow, often snagging deliberately against the forefront rhythm, creating a weird surreal nature to proceedings, which is still attractive, all of the time.

It starts with an ambient overture, like a smeared ‘Ave Maria’, and ‘Look Like Moses’ has one big voice soaring, with Nick crouching in its shadow, introducing us to be the gorgeous atmosphere. ‘Song For Wyatt’ then makes clearer how they slowly advance in an arrangement, as though two songs were gradually overlapping. ‘Intruders (Upon The Family Grief)’ allows strange little scratchings behind vivacious guitar and faltering vocals, which seem to be sharing secrets, and even a rock riff trying to burrow in later.

‘The Zealot’ is more traditional and mightily mournful, the nuttily named ‘Weeping Chipsets, Workshop Mess’ is artistic, like an infected dream, and then ‘(You Can’t Spell) Parachute Chops’ is bright and polite, swiftly turning gloomy, then introducing a slinky feel which you expect to become a dancefest, but it stays linear. By the time they finish with the grand, stately drama of ‘Obedient Fathers’ and the sonorous delights of the heavenly ‘Hiding In Seaweed’ you’re confused, bewildered, but utterly calm.

It’s a beautiful thing.


Ninth House
Swim In The Silence
~reviewed by Goat

The experience of listening to this has been a series of cringes, deep frowns, jaw-clenching, and sadness that the good bits are surrounded by such horrors.

One, most of the lyrics are atrocious.  In that, “I’m in a band and I’m so deep” kind of way.  On the other hand, that describes about 97.977% of popular music.  Then there’s the singing which smacks of vocal lessons and trying too hard.  Jim Morrison churchboy imitations, et al.  I’m not a big fan of vocal lessons because I feel it makes everyone sound basically the same.  I’ll take a Tom Waits or a Mary Margaret O’Hara any day to a technically trained and correct vocalist.

So.  Compared to what’s on the radio at any given time, this would make radioplay just fine.  They could even hit the bigtime, who knows.

But the thing that bothers me most about this is that there is something real and beautiful that shimmers just underneath the trying so hard.  I wish it were something that could be easily identified, so I could say, “If they’d just drop the 80s bar band act,” or, “If they could just stop trying to be deep and astro-logically profound.”   I just can’t say.  What’s wrong about the recordings is all of the above.  But what’s *right* is weaved right in there with the worst of it.

The best of what shines through reminds me of several things.  Toad The Wet Sprocket’s “Walk On The Ocean” days.  Eric Andersen, the 60s folk singer, (who’s still going strong, by the way).  Mark Lanegan.  Patrick Ogle.  Stan Ridgway.

There is promise here.  There is beauty that shimmers through.  Maybe next album they’ll nail it.

Track Listing:
1.)  Injury Home
2.)  The Wall that You Hide Behind
3.)  Dissolve
4.)  Peephole in the Wall
5.)  The Cure for Your Disease
6.)  Your Past May Come Back To Haunt Me
7.)  Swim in the Silence
8.)  Put a Stake right Through It
10.)  Ninth House
11.)  Warned You
12.)  Down Beneath
(This is a great way to try out the songs and see if you like them well enough to purchase the CD.  If you're curious, definitely visit the Ampcast site.)

Related links:

Live In Osaka (DVD)
~reviewed by Goat

My own first memories of Boyd Rice and his music are rather vague.  I’m guessing it was some-where around 1991 when I first started hearing the name spoken with either whispered reverence, or self-righteous fury.  Holes drilled all over the middle of LPs, connections to the Scary-Dark Calliopist Howie Levy, and all sorts of wondrous mysteries!

I don’t think it was until later, maybe 1993, when I finally felt compelled to track down some of his music for my own.

Through years and lives, I managed to not have strong feelings about him and his work one way or another.  In my naive and perhaps (dare I say) girlish way, I found him handsome and intriguing, but honestly, it pretty much ended there.  I wasn’t believing the hype.  It’s fair to say that I wanted to believe, and I maybe even tried to believe, but at the end of the day, Boyd Rice and his work left me thinking and feeling, “The Emperor, He Hath No Clothes”.  Boyd Rice made my Bullsh!t Detector go off.

All these years later, I still feel pretty much the same way, but my ambivalence has been replaced with a bit of nostalgia.  Somehow, I feel more forgiving of the hype, and can appreciate the things he wrote and the sense of humor with which he (some-times) conducted himself.  It almost allows me to get past the vision I have of him at an L.A. art gallery, in sliver platform boots, wearing a long trenchcoat and surrounded by a gaggle of post-adolescent boys who looked positively aglow.  Every time I think of that, I snigger.  Caligula in drag.

I’ve met people to whom Boyd Rice and his rituals and magicks are very serious business indeed.  I have a hard time keeping a straight face and following along the conversations for long about how powerful it all is, and to what glory.  I appreciate that what they, (Rice, Moynihan, Pearce, Julius, Wakeford, et al,) have been doing is the anti-underground of the underground.  I appreciate that it pushes buttons and envelopes.  But for me, a girl who has grown up in a family of soldiers, real soldiers, with battle scars and medals not purchased on eBay, it’s been hard for me to ever see anything Boyd and Co. have done as anything but art.  And to me, art is not life.  End of story.

So, while I did enjoy the concert with commentary, and I found the slideshows to be witty and humorous, (especially the 12-year-old-looking M.J.M!) I can’t see much beyond music history in the value of this piece.  That is to say, the “art” films which drew comparisons to Anger are to me about as interesting or enlightening as Warhol’s “Sleep”.  I’ve got better things to do.

If you’re a big fan of Boyd, NON, and all the other spinoffs and side-projects of the people involved, then surely you’ll want the DVD for posterity.  If you’re just delving into Satanism, Fascist posing, Fascist art, Fascist Whatever-It-Is, then yes, I would say the DVD could be of interest.

The best part for me, and the part of Boyd’s work I’ve consistently enjoyed most, is the writing.  The liner notes are fantastic.  Somehow, I think some part of me has always wished that he would write more and perform less.  I think I enjoy what comes from Boyd Rice’s mind more when he’s writing, than when he is Being Boyd Rice.  I could do without the charade.

All in all, for /fans/ of Rice and his work, certainly this is a must have.  For the curious and casual, perhaps look for it used, etc.  For those, like myself, who have stood some-what nonchalantly, (not a pun, I promise!) at the sidelines, the DVD is of interest for the liner notes, the concert-with-commentary, and the slideshow.  My lasting feeling about the whole thing is, “I wonder what Rose is up to these days?”

Track Listing:
Concert In Osaka:
-Total War
-Without Judgement
-Might Is Right

-Invocation (One)
-Black Sun

-European and Japanese tour photo diary in slideshow form.
-Concert in Osaka with commentary by Boyd (and his can of snuff).

"Live In Osaka" is coded as a region-free DVD, making it playable in all DVD machines worldwide.

On Soleilmoon Recordings (Cacaciocavallo):

What Rose Is Up To:

NON/Boyd Rice:

Other stuff:

~review by Mick Mercer

If you’re like me (you poor bastards!) it can often be the most attractive and artistic records which make the deepest Goth impact, for their deft creation of mood and the scintillating, truly beautiful use of vocals. But then sometimes you have to accept that when Goth became rocky there was a vast, rolling sound possible which the earlier, kinkier side of Post-Punk/Goth couldn’t produce, and the more Ethereal side will never rival.

The trouble is that so many make a complete arse of the rock side. Many go soft and fall into the same trap The Mission once discovered, where you become mired in your own musicianship love of Rock Myth. Others go so far into Metal that they lose sight of Goth altogether. It takes a strong band to remain strong and not become lost in their own oblivion. So, just as Love Like Blood always maintained the right sense of hungry deportment, now we have Ordeal By Fire, whose ‘Roots And The Dust’ debut was scandalously inspiring, and they bring you a sort of Nephilim offshoot, where vocally things are clearer, and where musically things are starker.

I wasn’t knocked out by any one individual song, because on this album they have created an overall mood, and the fire is a lot less than before. Here they are bewildered among smoke and roaring. ‘Dirty Floor’ has its solemn, dour vocals scowling while they demonstrate the cunning rhythmical variety, and the powerful grip they exert from simply being interesting! ‘Hiding’ is as obvious a late 80’s Gawf song as you could want, without unnecessary frills, then ‘Hanging On’ is gappier, with a scattered mood and frisky guitar. ‘Re-creation’ gives us clompy drums, and thin wiggly guitar as the traditional sound stands proud and uncluttered, then the glowering, furious ‘Prisoner’ unfolds; plainer and emptier still, leaving you to concentrate on the steady guitar and vocal drama. The whirly rocky ending cannot disguise just how strongly their character comes through, which continues with ‘Life’s Uncertainty’, taking an age to ignite.

‘Tides’ fails to rush in. It may be full of life but here I was just praying for it to explode, and that’s the only drawback here. This album is like an exercise in restraint, where the attention is constantly thrown on their vocal monolith., and the use of Passions in the title is no accident. He emerges like a vengeful figurehead on a black ghostship, creating simple friction across a drizzle of unhappy guitar, and then ‘Heartfelt Sympathy’ smacks us round the head and sends us home after eight epic minutes.

Done right, as it is here, Gothic Rock can be a majestic thing and one of the most naturally recognisable forms within this wide genre of ours. Next time round it’ll be good to see them speed up, and exhibit their wild sense of attack again, but for now they can show you why Gothic Rock makes for fond company. Passionate? Oh yes, but not for wimps.


Lost in Reverie
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Lost in Reverie is an accurately titled trip into dreamy surrealism, somewhat in the vein of André Breton, Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, or Federico Garcia Lorca, but altogether more coherent and set to music.  And unlike the aforementioned poet, painter, filmmaker, and playwright, Ihsahn (Emperor) and Ihriel (Star of Ash) do not neglect the mood-setting aspects of the music, nor operate so entirely on instinct as to create an incomprehensible mish-mash of sounds. Although some have argued that their approach on past releases did culminate in such a mish-mash, Lost in Reverie is a very balanced and highly enjoyable release.

The dynamic range present on the CD is quite impressive. You get everything from the softest, most aimless ambience, to the heaviest, forward-driving riffs. Ihsahn and Ihriel trade off on vocals, both singing cleanly and occasionally much more angrily. “In the Bodiless Heart,” features a very pleasant jazz atmosphere at the start, but takes on a number of shapes as it runs its course. Ihsahn gives one of his most emotional (non-angry) vocal performances yet, singing powerfully and with a nice range.

If one thing about Peccatum hasn’t changed, it’s the darkness that pervades their music. No one is going to confuse this with Helloween style happy metal (if, indeed, it can be confused with metal to begin with). Although the music is not doom metal, it carries a similar level of intense darkness. Where *Lost in Reverie* differs from doom metal is that Peccatum does not stick to one lethargic, foreboding pace: moments of expressive beauty, light ambience, and easy going rhythms break up the flow quite often, and only serve to make the heavy parts heavier, and the dark parts darker.

It’s too soon to say whether or not this is the finest work to date by two of metal’s luminaries, but it is unquestionably a must-have CD for fans of powerful music and transcendental art. If you have an appreciation of Emperor, Star of Ash, Arcturus, In the Woods..., or even Opeth (if you can imagine them going beyond their current limitations), then you definitely have to secure a copy of this CD.  I’ve heard few albums that are as consistently compelling and artistically mature as Lost in Reverie, so make a point to go listen to it now.

Track List:
1) Desolate Ever After
2) In the Bodiless Heart
3) Parasite My Heart
4) Veils of Blue
5) Black Star
6) Stillness
7) The Banks of this River is Night

Peccatum is:
Ihriel - Vocals and instruments
Ihsahn - Vocals and instruments
Knut Aalefjær - additional percussion

Peccatum - Official Site:

Mnemosyne Productions:

The End Records (US):

People Like Us + Kenny G
Nothing Special
~reviewed by Goat

‘Been outdoors lately?

The last People Like Us album Soleilmoon sent (Stifled Love) I adored.  It was so perfectly, beautifully demented.  I became convinced then that Vicki Bennett had something exquisitely wrong with her!

She’s done it again with Nothing Special, and it really makes me wonder how the person who lives with the brain which could create an album like this can stand to live in the world today.  It must seem so horrifically, painfully droll.  [”I must deal with the limitations of the people who I walk this miserable planet with.”]

Gosh, how to describe this work.   A 50s educational film on quaaludes and drinks from tiki glasses.  A bit of Paul McCartney and Wings here.  Snippets of words and sounds there.  A little Carpenters music.  “Just like me, they long to be/just like me”.  Hah!

This is genuinely cleansing.  I appreciate People Like Us mostly for the fact that whenever a new PLU album comes out, it serves to remind me, (like a faux-leopard-skin-covered-2x4-to-the -head,) that there is just so much more to life.

Whatever it is I’ve been doing, there’s so much more.

Let’s see.  What else.  An appearance by Neil Diamond.  Some screamin’ and screechin’.  Bluegrass with orchestra.  Random madness which is brilliantly put together not randomly at all.  [Elton John.] This disc is a meditation.  [Cake!]  Not for pleasure, exactly, [”I’m from Vagina!  We’re all from Vagina!”] but in a good pair of headphones, it’ll certainly [Frank Sinatra] bring the blue sky and meandering sheep-clouds [”Gee, this is swell!] back to even the most troubled consciousness.

Kind of like, okay, remember that great Golden Palominos album Dead Inside?  This has the same effect Dead Inside did, only take Dead Inside and light a firecracker in its butt.  With pink frosting.  And Carly Simon.

Or, imagine yourself in a Hoo-Hoo Hotel. You’re in the tv room for long-term patients, and some nutter has her thumb pressed permanently “channel up” on the television remote while 70s Adult Contemporary muzak oozes through the speakers (in which you know there is a hidden camera).

“I didn’t crawl to the top of the food chain to eat salad!”

If you’ve ever been even vaguely curious about “experimental music”, please, for the love of your ears, start here.  And then work backwards.  Find everything she (Vicki Bennett) has ever done, and make it yours.  It’ll be an education, I promise.  An exercise in letting go.

Somewhere, Laurie Anderson is smiling.

Track Listing:
1.)  I'm From
2.)  Wake Up
3.)  Nothing
4.)  So Sorry
5.)  Close To Me
6.)  You'll Be A
7.)  More Sorry
8.)  Counting Time
9.)  Give Up It's Mine
10.)  Greatest Nobody
11.)  Wouldn't It Be Nice In Yr Face
12.)  I've Got You

Run Time: (59:20)
(Check out the PLU T-shirt! Neato!)

Phantom Vision
Calling The Fiends
~reviewed by Goat

It has taken me nearly a month to complete this review.  And that’s not like me.  No not at all.  I keep listening to the CD and forgetting that I’m supposed to be writing something about it.  I keep getting lost in memories of the 1980s and long rides to work on a bus, wearing headphones playing worlds of music that were so new to me then.  Somehow this CD draws on all of that music.  This band is not then.  This music is not then.  But it’s full of all then’s good things.  Everything I ever loved about gothic music fills the room when this CD is on.  I never want to listen to anything else when it’s on.  I want to stay lost in it.  Forever.  “Please, Please, Please” would be the first song on my mix tape.  If I still made them.

I close my eyes and remember the clanging screeching pitching harrowing coughing hacking air-brake diesel soundsmell of that bus to work.  Of my sad grey suit and responsible pumps.  Of my hair pulled tight in a French roll and Christian Death in the headphones.  I remember the ocean far below us along Pacific Coast Highway, and how, back then, I believed that the world was heading to better things.  As the miles rolled by I listened to tapes of Echo & the Bunnymen, the Violent Femmes, The Cure, Alien Sex Fiend and Kraftwerk, and wondered how my life would go.  This CD reminds me.  Of too much.  The music is so beautiful and right, it’s painful in light of how things have actually gone.

Phantom Vision have created a quintessential goth album.  They have somehow pulled up all the wonders of the gothic 80s and the shimmering flight of the darkwave 90s.  It works; it’s a CD for rainy days, starry nights, cloudy drinks, and deep friends.  A CD for loneliness and for old folks who remember life before MTV when we raced home to tear open the plastic wrapping of vinyl LPs that were not trendy, to play the records over and over until we burst.

Calling The Fiends reminds me of the first time I ever saw the old sepia-toned version of Nosferatu.  And my silent, entranced awe over Dr. Caligari.  It reminds me of the first time I tasted real absinthe.  And the time I stood on the wrought-iron gate of the botanical gardens and told my friends to watch be-cause I was going to fly.  This music is divine.  It’s like watching a shoebox full of pictures.  My first Bauhaus t-shirt.  My beloved Gary Numan 8-Track. (No, seriously.  And it still works!) Learning to make ^^v^^ with a computer.  Standing in the corner of a club with tears streaming down my face; beautiful people all dressed in black, lace, vinyl, leather, sorrow.  “These are my people.”

I’ll remove my dentures and shuffle off now.  Please buy this CD.  Even if you don’t own any Human Drama albums yet.  And for the love of sound, why don’t you?

Track Listing:
1.)  Calling the Fiends
2.)  More Than Than
3.)  The Last Frontier To Hollow Land
4.)  From A Stranger
5.)  After The Chaos
6.)  Please, Please, Please
7.)  Change The Past
8.)  Ancient Dream
9.)  In My Head
10.)  Strange Attraction
11.)  Caged Melody

On COP International:

Phantom Vision website:

PJ Harvey
Uh Huh Her
~review by Matthew Heilman

After hearing far too damn many melodic metal albums with wispy soprano vocalists, I had enough with the ‘heavenly voices’ nonsense and began to seek out the more hellish side of feminine vocal expression.  A friend, aware of my plight and newfound quest, asked, “well, have you checked out PJ Harvey yet?” and the embarrassing truth was No.  Though I knew who she was via Nick Cave’s “Henry Lee” and remember seeing the videos for “50ft Queenie” and “Down By The Water” on 120 Minutes back in the day, I just never got around to buying any of her albums for some inexplicable reason.  Since last summer however, I have completely immersed myself in her work, and fell madly in love with her distinctive throaty voice.  I must have played the To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire? albums a gazillion times in the past year, and I still cannot get enough of them.

Compared to PJ’s last release, the slick and polished Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, her latest and sixth album is a welcomed return to the raw and more stripped down strengths of her earlier releases.  However, Uh Huh Her is not simply a back to basics return to form, it actually sounds very dissimilar to any of her releases when you really pick into it.  The album has relevant links to her critically acclaimed past, but offer a fresh peak into her psyche and her musical ability.  Admittedly, I did not find Uh Huh Her to be as instantly appealing or enthralling as TBYML or …Desire.  It took a few listens, but it grew on me relatively quickly.  The songs are not as deeply melodic, and few of them grab the listener by the throat or rock them into lovelorn despair quite as quickly as her past work could.  But it would be folly to continually compare this new release with older albums, but I suppose I couldn’t help but expect a similar bolt of electric awe like I felt when I first stumbled into her weedy world of sour romance.

The songs creep into you, and speaking overall, the first half of the album is significantly stronger and more impressive, while the latter tracks meander through sleepier, quieter though only slightly less intriguing pastures.  My personal favourites appear early in the disc.  The swampy opening dirge “Bad Mouth” is led by thick percussive bass lines and dirty, overdriven guitars.  The track oozes forebodingly between pounding, stammering verses and a swirling chorus of lazy pianos and spacey guitar effects.  “Shame” features probably my favourite vocal performance on the entire disc, as PJ teasingly grazes the higher registers of her alto, which careens majestically over a dusky up-tempo rhythm and remote humming guitar strums.  Her voice winds up secure and commanding as a result of its evident vulnerability, weeping with strength, in that way that only Polly Jean is capable of.   The provocative “Who The Fuck?” throws a brash curve ball, playfully loud and drunkenly brazen, reminiscent of grungy Sonic Youth in the harried, jagged guitar doodling.  Things quiet down again on “Pocket Knife,” another triumph along a thread of exceptional songs.  Slinky and humid, it’s opiate ‘60s go-go groove sears the song into your brain, a worthy injection of Velvet Underground and “Some Velvet Morning.”   PJ takes on a resistant youthful persona, crooning with haunting grace, masking wisdom with curious naivety. Her words slither through the musical snake den, charming amid veiled rebellion.  “Please don’t make my wedding dress / I’m too young to marry yet / Can you see my pocket knife? / You can’t make me be your wife”

“Letter” is the first single from the album, and offers a similar dose of fuzzed out post-punk groove a la “Who The Fuck?” but under tighter reigns, more accessible and playfully melodic.  PJ’s stark bellows recall Siouxsie in her ‘Israeli’ punk prime, but without all the pouting.   “The Slow Drug” is aptly named, with disembodied pizzicato strings bumping through a sparse creeping void, dusted by dry whispers.  “No Child Of Mine” is a delightful though far too brief acoustic ditty, coming really close to the golden urgency of “Send His Love To Me” that prefaces the album’s final foray into grimy rock n roll in the shape of “Cat On The Wall.”  A glimpse into romantic obsession and an ode to the healing power of music, the song is full of loose scratchy guitars, frayed vocals and a shuffling cascading rhythm, boasting a dense, eerie chorus of enveloping noise.  PJ’s demands to “Turn up the radio” are certainly heeded.

The quieter half of the album begins with the beseeching melodies of “You Come Through,” which inadvertently recalls Patty Smith’s somber lament “Easter,” in both its vocal line and the echoing wood blocks and subtle threads of wistful violin.  “Its You” is a murky jazz number, led by understated piano and quiet overdriven guitars calmly buzzing over delicate drums.   “The End” is brief interlude, distant and fleeting to set up the even quieter folk of “The Desperate Kingdom Of Love” in all its tranquil fragility.  Casual fans, a regrettably would say will have started to nod a bit.  I know I was hoping for another spark of intensity similar to the earlier half of the album, but things do close on a much stronger and developed note with “The Darker Days Of Me & Him.”  Sparsely arranged yet salvaged by an intriguing processed rhythm, spidery acoustic guitars, and a striking, more dramatic vocal melody, reverberating with bruised sensuality.  Trippy electronics drip through, muddying the already bleak portrait with a defeated, lackadaisical hopelessness, further proving that love fails so beautifully in the world of PJ Harvey.

Ultimately, Uh Huh Her is a fulfilling, dynamic, and multi-dimensional listening experience.  Perhaps the manner in which it unfolds is anti-climactic or what have you, but it still beckons to be played repeatedly and reveals more of the artist with each listen.  New fans might have a harder time adjusting to this album than they would with the masterpieces released midway through her career.  I suspect that this album’s reception depends entirely upon what aspects of PJ Harvey the listener fancies the most.  All of the virtues that distinguish her as an artist and vocalist are glaringly present on this disc, and it definitely expands the palate of her discography and embraces new and interesting backdrops to score her unparalleled voice.  Old fans will not be disappointed, but they might find the record a little uneven.  Nonetheless, the strong points are some of her most intriguing and engaging yet, and I think its pretty safe to say that we haven’t heard the last of PJ Harvey.

Track List:
1.) Bad Mouth
2.) Shame
3.) Who The Fuck?
4.) Pocket Knife
5.) Letter
6.) The Slow Drug
7.) No Child Of Me
8.) Cat On The Wall
9.) You Come Through
10.) Its You
11.) The End
12.) Desperate Kingdom Of Love
13.) Darker Days Of Me & Him

All Songs Written, Performed, and Produced by PJ Harvey

Rob Ellis – Drums, percussion, backing vocals
Mr. Head – backing vocals on “The Letter”
Evelyn Isaac – backing vocals on “No Child Of Mine,” “Darker Days Of Me &

PJ Harvey – Official Site:

Island Records:

Popoi Sdioh (formerly Land of Passion, and The Nomad's Land)
s/t  CD
~reviewed by Goat

This CD really has me smiling.  It somehow incorporates (beautifully) just about every single kind of musical style I’ve ever liked well since I was about, oh, 12.

I keep hearing band names drift across my consciousness. Crass.  Echo And The Bunnymen.  Electric Hellfire Club. Scratch Acid.  Thrill Kill Kult.  Christian Death.  PsychicTV.  Front 242.  The Birthday Party.  Alien Sex Fiend.  Aphex Twin.  Clock DVA.  NIN (Circa Down-ward Spiral).  Muslimgauze.  Dead Kennedys.  Information Society!?  PIL.  Anton LaVey’s “Strange Music”.  It’s endless! Now, one would wonder probably how in the world a band could incorporate the best part of all of those abovementioned bands, and how it could work.  I’m sitting here wondering the same thing.  But the truth is, they did.  And it does.

What amazes me is that this Frankenstein of a masterpiece embodies ALL those styles and sensibilities and remains uniquely it’s own.  How and why it works is beyond me but really, this CD is incredible.  It has the curious presence of being entirely familiar, and yet refreshingly new.  So, while this music is brand spankin’ off the presses, it nevertheless makes me sit back, close my eyes, and think of when and where I first heard these songs 10, 15, 20 years ago.  Impossible!  Buy this for track 22 alone!!!

(Gooble gobble, gooble gobble, We will make you one of us...)

Track Listing:
1.)  radioneighbour
2.)  mudcover
3.)  audiocrashtest#07
4.)  the horror show
5.)  audiocrashtest#01
6.)  wanawana
7.)  mikawa & skarpeta
8.)  audiocrashtest#04
9.)  psychogame
10.)  audiocrashtest#03
11.)  great god pan
12.)  braa
13.)  f+f
14.)  audiocrashtest#06
15.)  crick in the head
16.)  audiocrashtest#09
17.)  kuna vaka
18.)  audiocrashtest#08
19.)  pimples and flies
20.)  audiocrashtest#11
21.)  audiocrashtest#05
22.)  freaks
23.)  audiocrashtest#18

On Nerves Prod.:

THE SELECTION DRONE (Action Driver/Ache)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

If I told you this record sounds like early Cult meets Ludus you would say, ‘that’s absurd, we don’t even know who Ludus are!’, and I would have sympathy with you. If I then said imagine a sparky late night session between the Psychedelic Furs and Durrutti Column, we’d still be nowhere nearer achieving equanimity, so let’s just say this is where Jack from aLUnARED also practices aural alchemy, and leave it at that. You either read my review of them the other day or you didn’t. I don’t have time for stragglers. Onwards now, onwards…..

And what a striking sound they do have, because while the vocal are sometimes stridently ultra-corpuscular enough to rival anything, it’s actually the bass and drums given prominence here, which has you suspicious during the opening, title, track where slabs of rhythm fall in place beside you, through which some teasing electronic smoochy chorus glides. You suspect this might be arty rock, but it’s simply a different approach: a rock and a shard place. To show variety they go slow for ‘Change Your Mind’ where the bass is magnificent in its marble presence, the guitar impersonating a swarm of charismatic.

‘Eyes Like Lenses’ sees guitar arrows fired and scattering with slow, steady singing and this orderly approach isn’t quite as exciting, being mature pop by the close, while ‘Electric Halls’ begins with echoes and a coy voice, and the haunting synth ushers in a desolate atmosphere. The abrupt change at the end ruins everything, but for a while it was wonderful. ‘Glass Horizon’ goes truly wild with pained vocals, scathing guitar and a barrage of bass and drums, as ‘Green Teeth’ slows again, smooching. ‘Kill The Moment’ is fun! With very little guitar present everything else goes mental, and the more it goes on the more audacious it becomes, first with a drum and bass passage and then cutting back further to bass alone, without losing any of its impact.

‘Sequences Is Over’ fails through the bass being too light, taking the sting out of the martial drums and creepy guitar, ‘Twelve Fingers’ is slightly sombre with a flooding synth and a squiggly pop feel and then, finally, the title track is cleverly reprised. It sounds muckier and distant, then buzzes off like bored aliens, but if you play track one immediately it starts just how track 10 ends. Now that’s a clever circle!

Their latest album will be reviewed on Monday (see below). I suspect it will be worth reading about, because there are times when this record in almost obscenely invigorating


GLASS (Action Driver)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I made reference to certain early 80’s independent bands by way of creating comparisons to some of Radio Berlin’s achievements. With this newer album we move towards the end of that decade, which was the last great period of Indie music. After that stage, when the independent labels had their almighty crash and financial disasters we saw a rebirth along generic terms. The Creation sound and ethic, the Sarah label, the indie-label-as-major-feeder, and so on. True individual bands tended to survive by miracles as much as any concerted coverage in the press and plenty of bands just vanished. Expectation became diminished and pioneers were replaced by gurning 60’s obsessives with pies for ears.

On this record we recapture some of the bravery, and what happens here is that the big shapes of the older recordings have pulled in on themselves and sweeter strains are stirred in, as soundscapes shape-shift into song! Think AR Kane, or Blurt, by all means, even Stump, then remove all the ‘quirky’ tendencies. Think of wilfully provocative music, but with more sensible, thoughtful singing. The adventure is the overall, compulsive qualities.

‘Gauze’ starts, groaning and clappy, with a leprous chorus escaping from its grey cocoon. Edges are softened, and there’s an intriguing sense of tinny guitar and squinting, assured rhythm. ‘A Suitcase’ is sparse, with clear vocals and chunky bass; a cautious nobility in its expression, while solidifying their intent. ‘The Hyphen’ sees reliably sturdy drums helped into sociability by a poised synth. The vocals don’t work hard enough there, but bounce back in ‘D>E>S>’ and this is straightforward indiepop, but with crucial interplay between the guitar and bass, which is another odd touch – but watch the Prog keyboards lads! ‘Rote Lippen’ sees a delicate voice over a lumpen attitude and you think they’re going nowhere, only for the song to build subtly into something quite superb with a beautiful guitar sound rarely heard since…ooh, I don’t know, Zero Le Creche? It’s Goth. ‘Aftermath’ could also be The Cure, circa ‘Killing An Arab’, due to its basic clarity, but with plainer vocals, and keyboards stirring it into life. ‘Knives’ is nervier and slipshod, almost peculiarly fey, yet still it plunges merrily on. ‘How Fast Can You Run?’ sees a strange poignancy emerged from teasing bass and guitar, which slowly, and grandly, sidles away in a mournful manner.

They’re developing, with distinction, and you can’t ask fairer than that. They’re also showing people alternatives to what have become the norm. And you should ask for a lot more of that.


ALL DRESSED UP (Sugar Shack)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I once had an interview with Rita turned down because her honest confessions of a life affected by violence and addiction was regarded by Steve Sutherland as hardly befitting the sweet fragrant pages of Melody Maker! More than ten years on I find myself listening to only her third album, and wondering why she does what she does.

It’s like some harmless light post-grunge to begin with, as the songs have a certain energy, but mainly urgency, because vocals are naturally given priority, and it can’t be too noisy or she’ll become displaced, so the drums have to play an interesting role in creating variety, because the guitar can at best become niggling, to add tension. Rita herself could be seen as a sedated Courtney or sedate PJ Harvey, but I’ll get more realistic later.

The tone of Lynch’s voice and her delivery keeps you gripped, although it is all fairly repetitive initially. Eventually ‘I’ll Never Let You Go’ builds really well, and also falls away effectively. ‘Far Away’ is extra plaintive, as the album goes through a mid-stage dip, bringing a nice sense of relief, then rebuilds with a brisker approach for ‘Solomon Lady’ with guitar allowed to ring out stronger, as Rita becomes slicker with the rhymes. We see the sound veer towards more scrawny punk distortion in ‘Jesus Converts’, ‘Over You’ is almost playful while maintaining intensity, and only ‘Cry In The Night’ is actually forgettable.

It’s not harrowing, so you can approach it easily, as it approaches you, with almost a rude haste to share and inform, but such is the constant vocal activity that you feel pinned back, almost subjected to it. Occasionally emotive, and hardly uplifting, this is mainly anxious fare, which contains not one memorable melody, until the final track. Rita begins singing ‘Beautiful Eyes’ and I remember it instantly, because this is a remarkable song, now coming on as an impassioned light rock gem.

The weird thing is that I have never encountered someone who takes the Lynch approach, whereby a song has barely begun and she’s churning out lyrics, then keeps on going until it ends, as though filling a sausage. Words, words, words are everywhere, and Rita – which you may be interested to learn - is like a more tuneful Patti Smith, but some of that rawness would have helped this record immensely.


Roger Rotor
Malleus Maleficarum
~reviewed by Goat

It sounds a little like what it would be like if a Panzer tank rolled onto the set of Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Or if Rammstein had been around for Studio 54. Kraftwerk boogie?  Danceable experimental noise?  If you had told me that someone was making such a thing and that it worked, I would’ve remained very skeptical.  Until I heard this.

A link from Roger’s website calls this sort of music, “mixing good’ol disco music with extreme NOISE!”.  Yes.  Absolutely.  Bizarre but true. And it really does sizzle and burn.  At about track 5, (“Doom With A View”,) the album shifts into a gear previously unknown to human kind.  It seems to be a turning point in the album where what was interesting becomes what is mindblowing.

The first four tracks are catchy enough.  The brain begins to respond, shocked, curious, to fuzz and drone that grooves.  A bit of “perking” if you will.  Brain meets RCA dog.  Track Five, bwah ha ha!  You’re in the funhouse now, brain!  There’s no going back!  You’re in an underground cavern in Germany and the dancefloor is bumping.  It sounds like Armageddon, and it feels like funk.  Definitely recommended.

Track Listing:
1 - institoris
2 - the bastard burns in my head
3 - epidemic (CD only.)
4 - without tears (CD only.)
5 - doom with a view
6 - under the cross
7 - wolfish
8 - malleus maleficarum
9 - fix the cruci
10 - beyond beyond

On Ant-Zen:

Roger Rotor site:

RS (Kitten-Eye Records)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

We don’t get anywhere near enough Indie music in this journal, and while I am thankful for that, because so much of it is plodding, formulaic and 60’s obsessed, but when you find a band like this, with one member already known for work with the Goth scene, it really becomes rather interesting.

Elysabeth Grant, who creates the main vocals here and touts a mean viola, has one of the best ethereal voices known, and you’ll probably have been unwittingly seduced by that tremulous voice on recent Black Tape For a Blue Girl recordings, but take a look a this record and you see an act of audacious deception! She isn’t buried in dried flowers, or barely glimpsed in some shadowy photo, she’s wearing a suit and standing with her two weird looking mates, all suited, booted and all mentally astuted.

And what we have here is a playful thing. There’s chaotic artwork, and a lovely little press book (below, left) which looks attractive but is hopelessly uninformative. The music comes politely out to meet you with attractions galore, and yet produced with almost as much expertise as I might manage if folded tightly into a bottom drawer and left to suffocate. It starts wonderfully, then gradually falls apart in a carefree manner.

‘A Kiss And A Tale’ is where you get to set a basic benchmark by which much modern indie should be judged against: the indie scene’s biggest ever under-achievers, The Sundays; a band who missed out on taking over the world, by taking a three year nap. It has exquisite, dipping vocals, and more effort from drums than guitars. It has keyboards which sparkle and tinkle without sweep grandly, thereby filling a song with stodge and the bass has little coughing fits. It has electronic elements but sounds totally human. ‘Distracted’ is equally pretty with the nagging guitar and sub-Tubular Bells keyboard motif returning regularly to become haunting even in bright sunlight. It is relaxing, but quivering.

Then ‘Sapphire Flowers’ comes over all stony, in peevish mood; the guitar very quiet, the vocals flattened by the drab production, and that same feel squashes the ironically named ‘Soar’, where the vocal presence keeps things moving but naff lyrics and a lumpen tune don’t help. Luckily, they finish this EP burping like rascals through ‘Time’ where they’re having fun, loutishly lurching with a mixture of the grumpy and the twee, right up to the final parp.

In a way it’s reassuring to see a band which is fronted by a diaphanous legend who can show they’re up for mucking about and manhandling purely contemporary forms, but it’s a shame only two songs struggle free from the limitations they’ve imposed on themselves. Next time they need to have someone else produce it and to create firmer shapes, because with their crafty ideas and personable character they should have been capable of both transporting the listener, and jolting with some of their more fractious moments. Instead, these sound like winsome demos.


The Screaming Banshee Aircrew
Titanic Verses (self release)
~review by Uncle Nemesis

‘Now with extra wreckage!’ says the slogan on the cover. Yes, indeed. This album is in fact a double-length compilation featuring not only the Titanic Verses material itself, but also all the tracks from The Screaming Banshee Aircrew’s previous release, No Camping. Then there are a few remixes and what-nots tacked on at the end, resulting in a bumper twenty track family pack of in-flight entertainment.

I call this release an ‘album’ above, but in fact it’s probably more accurate to regard it as a compilation of DIY demos. The Screaming Banshee Aircrew have been around since 2001, but they’re still very much at that ‘new band’ stage of development, putting together their music in time-honoured DIY fashion, and self-releasing it on home-burnt CD-Rs. The sleeve of this release has an endearingly lo-rez look about it - at a guess, I’d say it was designed by slapping together some 150dpi images from the band’s website, and pulling the resulting caboodle out of someone’s home computer printer. It must be said that the music itself does tend to suffer from the same problem, in that there are some good songs here, but the arrangements and production are often a bit too ‘home made’ for comfort. Listening to the songs, I don’t really get the impression in my mind of a band rockin’ through their material, sparking off each other, creating their music together.  There’s a bit too much of a ‘computer in the corner of the living room’ feel to the overall sound, a feeling that most of what we’re hearing has been put together by someone staring at a monitor screen and moving little bits of music around in some sort of entry-level version of Cakewalk or whatever. That’s a pity, because many of the songs here are strong, and the band has a distinctly individual wit and charm, plus a kind of crazed humour which comes through very effectively.  But you do have to adjust your perception fields to the demo-ish quality of the sound to get the best out of the Aircrew’s stuff.

But let me give you a bit of detail. We kick off with the title track, an engaging romp in which the band characterise themselves as a shipwreck in progress: ‘All aboard the sinking ship/You can feed the sharks when the iceberg hits’ they sing, in flagrant defiance of marine biology, unless they’ve discovered a new species of shark which lives in freezing polar seas. A female voice recites an emergency announcement - ‘ Due to overwhelming demand, complimentary lifejackets are currently unavailable’ - and the band gleefully predict their own destruction: ‘We’re the Banshee Aircrew and we’re sinking fast!’  It’s an entertaining mash-up of fuzzed-out guitars and an insanely catchy tune, although my enjoyment of the song is a little blunted by the relentless ticking and clonking of the band’s traditionally weedy bedroom-goth drum machine. Just what *is* it about that silly little ticky-ticky hi-hat sound that DIY British goth bands find so appealing? So many of them seem to smother their music in it.  Frankly, it drives me potty, but unfortunately it crops up too frequently for comfort in The Screaming Banshee Aircrew’s tunes.

‘Adore’ is a somewhat more serious number, built around some eighties-fetish keyboards and the band’s trademark fuzztone guitar.  Curiously, the subject matter at hand is exactly the same as the previous song: the Banshee Aircrew are once again singing about themselves. This appears to be their ‘Spirit’, inasmuch as it’s a song about the perils and delights of performing on stage. The vocals are a little muffled in the mix, but I can pick out some angsty soul-searching: ‘And we yearn for your approval/Won’t you chant our name?/Won’t you please adore me?’ I say, steady on, chaps. We’ve only just met!

‘Insect Boy’ is almost a junior version of The Cramps’ ‘Human Fly’, at least as far as the subject matter goes, but it’s a fine bit of comic-book horror-punk even so. Immediately afterwards, ‘Precious’ is a good old angsty rocker, although, unfortunately, someone’s had the idea of turning the tempo up on the drum machine at intervals, making it sound like a toy motor boat whirring away in the background. This, alas, gives an unwarranted ‘Chad Valley’ feel to a song which, if only it had a rhythm track as hard-hitting as it deserves, would be a bit of a showstopper.

‘Positively Punk’ is not, as you might guess at first, a song about the proto-goth era of the early 80s. Instead, it seems to be some sort of fetish anthem, in which our protagonists, er, indulge in some adult fun which apparently involves one of them pretending to be a dog, a bit of role-playing which, we're told, is 'positively punk'. Mister Ed, the Aircrew’s lead vocalist, sneers out the title words with a rude little upward inflection that, believe it or not, is very early-Adam Ant. I wonder if this is the band’s own attempt to conquer the punk-fetish territory that Adam abandoned when he decided that pirates and teenyboppers were where his future lay? ‘Hello Mr Hyde’ is one of the Aircrew’s best songs, an unashamed schlock-rocker built around a vintage rock ‘n’ roll motif (you can sing ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ by Jerry Lee Lewis quite effectively to the tune, which is a bit of a giveaway) and a big, scruffy guitar sound. ‘Fuck Me Slowly’ comes as a surprise after all the larking about, because in spite of the nudge-nudge title it seems to be an entirely serious song about death. It starts as a winsome little acoustic thing, and then, rather alarmingly, revs up into a full-on power ballad. If nothing else, the song illustrates that The Screaming Banshee Aircrew are somewhat more of a deeper band than one might at first assume.

Moving down the tunestack, we come to the earlier material, originally released as the No Camping album of 2001. The first song of this section is entitled ‘Banshee Aircrew’, which immediately clues you in to the fact that it’s yet another of the band’s self-referential calling-cards. Not only that, it appears to be essentially an earlier version of the song ‘Titanic Verses’, although here the band do not portray themselves as a sinking ship. Nope, on this one they’re a crashing aircraft - the lyrics are suitably different, but there’s an emergency announcement in the middle of the song which is suspiciously similar to the one in the later number.  Curiously, the drum (and cymbal) sound on this track is much more convincing than on the later material.

‘My Lovelies’ is an oddly effective ballad, the sort of thing that would probably crop up in a swords-and-sorcery musical directed by Tim Burton.  The arrangement is a little ragged - the lines which are sung by both the band’s male and female vocalists together could’ve done with some form of cueing. As it is, the male voice sometimes comes in on a line half a beat behind the female voice, and you can hear Mister Ed rushing his words in an effort to catch up. To an extent, there’s a similar problem with ‘Banshee Chanty’, which, as if you couldn’t guess, is yet another song in which The Screaming Banshee Aircrew sing about themselves. Well, here’s one band that’ll never be short of subject matter! But the song, which is a re-write of the traditional sea shanty (as I leaned to spell it at school) ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?’, is taken so fast it sounds like the vocalists are having problems fitting in all the syllables before the end of each line. In fact, the words are so hastily garbled I had to go and look at the lyrics on the band’s website to find out just what these mysterious things called a ‘bally singer’ and a ‘birnim badip’ might be.  (And no, I’m not going to clue you in. You go and find out, just like I had to!) The vocalists’ diction isn’t exactly helped by their strange decision to adopt spoof ‘sailor’ accents for this song. There’s a fun idea in there somewhere, but the whole thing is too fast, and the lyrics (when you do eventually work them out) are nothing but a set of in-jokes which don’t really mean much to the listener. A case, perhaps, of the Aircrew’s bizarre self-obsession being taken just a little too far.

Then there are a few remixes, some of which work better than others. The most successful mixes are those which retain most of the original song, and simply replace the Banshee Aircrew’s ticky-tocky drum machine with some rather more hard-hitting beats. There’s a lesson in that which the band could well apply to their regular productions. Not that I’m suggesting that the Aircrew should ‘go EBM’ or anything, you understand, but a bit of extra whump and wallop in the drum department wouldn’t go amiss.

So, here we have an outfit with bags of character and a flight-case full of cool songs, even if several of them are basically advertising jingles for the band. The Aircrew are really still at the test flight stage, finding out which controls will send them zooming upwards, and which might induce a sudden crash landing. They don’t always soar like you want them to, and they certainly need to speak to their flight engineers about giving the production an overhaul. But there’s a load of potential here: the good stuff is very good, and it makes a real change to find a band that’s confident enough to push its collective personality to the fore. I’m tempted to finish with a merry cry of ‘Chocks away!’, except I think I’ve used quite enough aeroplane metaphors here already. But they started it!

The tunestack:
Titanic Verses
Insect Boy
Positively Punk
Shallow Fairytale
Hello Mr Hyde
Fuck Me Slowly
Heavenly Day
Shallow Fairytale (Grimm Remix)

Banshee Aircrew
My Lovelies
Uproot Them
Banshee Chanty

Heavenly Day (Crucifixion Remix)
Precious (Stomp Mix)
Insect Boy (Cypherboi remix)
Captain's Speech

The players:
Mister Ed: Lead vocals
Jo Violet: Backing vocals, occasional lead vocals
Screaming Nick: Guitar, keyboards, programming
Xris Banshee: Bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals

The website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Can anyone tell me when I last had a shit record from a UK band, because this is getting ridiculous? Everything I seem to get reeks of its own particular, often peculiar, brilliance, and not only is this no exception, but it’s something I hope you will all want if you haven’t already got it by the end of this review.

It’s always a problem for bands when they clearly have something of the comedy night about them, but as with other waggishly inclined bands (Zombina/Devilish) within the scene there is so much, in terms of energy, grit, wisdom, sarcasm and melodic subtlety to The Screaming Banshee Aircrew that you can banish all thoughts of tweeness as the ruling factor. The humour is all natural: harmonious, even. You’re simply grabbed by the collar and the ground rules laid down as they roar in your face, then leave you gasping to catch up as they charge off, all gangly and demented into the distance, remonstrating at imagined enemies and pausing just now and again to catch their breath before vomiting up copious amounts of punk-tinged Goth that seems to stream from every orifice.

They are undeniably Punky, in the great Eighties way, where the words match the melodies. They are also perfectly Goth in the non-dogmatic sense, because they have real character within to mould their Goth preferences to, which is always the key. Bands with uncertain character or diffidence go for the Goth sound. Goths who have charisma just get on with whatever they like and it still sounds Goth because they are. It’s not difficult to grasp. Do keep up!

So, I’ll ignore the glorious colour booklet they also sent, and will cover the promo CD in the next issue of THE MICK. We’ll stick to the album here, and start at the beginning, where the rollicking title track gives birth to pumping punk and grumpy Goth, male/female vocals in perfect tandem, hilariously trim lyrics flailing like an octopus fast bowler, and on into ‘Adore’ with twinkling synth and such a cheap sound, which doesn’t matter because they ideas are class. (Another sign that highlights quality.)

Some bands are all gloss covering one idea. This lot have so many ideas they dropped half of them on the way to the studio, sat on some and broke them, and still had too many left over by the time the record was finished. Apart from its crap ending, you can’t help thinking that if Carter USM had ever been Goth they’d have done something like ‘Adore’. It sizzles.

‘Insect Boy’ puts kitsch clichés through a spin cycle, with doomier Goth synth, but energetic displays within a short sweet existence, and ‘Precious’ whacks in with punk bass, no messing. Frilly keyboards, more depth of feeling, as the musically expansive nature of their more sonorous works becomes established. We’re only four tracks in and they’ve already achieved a balance between loud and sweeping, shown humour and sharp turns of phrasing.

‘Positively Punk’ may be soppy, as you’d expect, but it’s packed with layers and levels of energy and sarcastic charm, and when a syrupy ballad storm threatens as they go all hushed for ‘Shallow Fairytale’ the serious mood is caressing. ‘Hello My Hyde’ is punk puree. Cramps? It’s just the curry they’ve had, and they walk the punkabilly walk impressively. ‘Fuck Me Slowly’ has ethereal crudités, lovely and quite strange, ‘Heavenly Day’ is Gawf but speedily dour; a sense of despair but defiance riding shotgun, and then you get an emptied, scattered ‘Shallow Fairtyale’ remix, which brings you to the ‘Extra Wreckage’ element of this CD because they then bung on all of the ‘No Camping’ record from 2001.

‘Banshees Air Crew’ sounds a little bit older, as though the song was recorded inside a cardboard tube, but they have such a great control over their drum machine everything has life to it, and ‘My Lovelies’ is delightfully adventurous for all its stealth. ‘Noctule’ is almost the perfect marriage between a guitar/drums punk fuselage and creepy Goth wing-walking from Mister Ed. ‘Uproot Them’ is wonderfully inventive, and ‘Banshees Chanty’ totally ludicrous. Their idea of seaside humour probably involves drowning each other near a sewage outlet. It’s a riot.

Three more remixes crop up, and it’s only the ‘Precious’ and ‘Insect Boy’ tracks which disappoint on the whole album, being slightly pedestrian, where ‘Heavenly’ is built of bricks. Then you have a maudlin snippet of ‘Dance’ and a message from your captain to close.

It’s an exhaustively brilliant thing, heaving with vigour and good humour, without being slapstick. It had serious power in the songs and still plenty of room for delicate touches, and you get the impression they could do so much more on top.

The ridiculous thing is that this only costs £8 + 50p postage! (Are they a registered charity or something?) Take advantage of this before they change their mind. Address: The Crew, 100A Manor Drive North, Acomb, York, YO26 5RY


The Setup
Tuned To Drop Dead
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Though the titles of the album might suggest another ironic Indie rock outfit with a strange sense of humour, the music is a completely different and lurid story.  The Setup is a completely unrestrained and venomous hardcore act from Richmond VA (odd how it seems like nearly every band I’ve reviewed this month has been from Richmond VA). At any rate, this is some seriously heavy and violent stuff, detuned and cold guitars crunch and squeal with admirable dissonance, anchored by swinging, dry-toned precision drumming.  Unhinged screams roar with poisoned urgency atop it all, with surprisingly in-depth lyrics which read more like diary entries, describing personal scenarios, confrontations, memories, and conflicts that are not as eloquently expressed or expected from the ambiguous titles.

“Flux Capictor” stands out with wonderfully eerie and disharmonic overdriven guitars ring out beneath the raging screams and mammoth bottom-heavy crunch.  Unlike contemporary and more popular hardcore groups, The Setup lacks the obnoxious bravado and machismo.  This is not only much more detached, colder, and nightmarish in comparison to the band’s currently dominating MTV2’s resurrected Headbanger’s Ball show, but its more authentic. “That’s Not Irony” is a pummeling offering, spearheaded by great tribal drumming and exploding into a brash sonic assault.  “Irony” appropriately enough is an acoustic interlude, though the unsettling and raw emotions throughout the disc are only unplugged and still haunt the song with unease.  The album closes with a frantic and faithful cover of Sepultura’s classic “Refuse/Resist” and when the final note rang out, I felt a greater sense of panic than when I listen to Sepultura, which I can only assume is a mark of success.

While I am no expert on hardcore, and have always felt much of it contrived, I hadn’t heard anything remotely like this in quite sometime.  I think angst-ridden folks would definitely find some value here.  If you are looking for some dark, unnerving metalcore than you need not look any further than The Setup.

Track List:
1.) From Detroit To The West End
2.) Dude, Where’s My Scarf?
3.) Flux Capacitor
4.) That’s Not Irony
5.) Irony
6.) I Call Samesies
7.) Are You Going To Tell An Orc What To Do?
8.) Refuse/Resist

The Setup is:
Christopher Harding Kirby
David Shannon Cisco
John Richmond Martin
Lawrence Eugene Byard

The Setup – Official Site:

Action Driver Records:

Empty World Excursion
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

ShamRain is a Finnish band that plays melancholic rock. See also:  To/Die/For, HIM, Charon. And if you decide not to discriminate based on country affiliation, you could toss Katatonia and Anathema into the previous list, too. Those are, of course, just the big name bands that play the style ShamRain has chosen to recreate. So the question, as always, is whether or not <x> new band, in this case ShamRain, has contributed something worthwhile to an overdone style of music.

For the most part, I’m inclined to say yes. ShamRain do depressed gothic rock with the best of them - the vocals, in particular, are very articulate and emotive - but they add in atmospheric elements to make the music more interesting. There’s a certain ethereal quality to the songs. Although the vocal melodies are often quite catchy, the band never seems rushed to present them, as are bands appealing to ADD radio listeners. Rather, ShamRain takes its time in letting the songs flow naturally, and at a rather nice, easy going pace.

The main drawback to this approach is that no individual songs stand out above the rest. Empty World Excursion is fun to listen through when I think to turn it on, but the rest of the time it is far from my mind. Nothing on the CD is memorable enough to inspire many repeat listens. I cannot, however, decide whether or not this is a positive attribute for the style. If the goal is to create depressing rock, wouldn’t it be self-defeating to write catchy, memorable songs?

And thus, we come to the conclusion, and the answer to the last question. Empty World Excursion works very well as a somber friend that will sit with you and be depressed, and so I am inclined praise the band on a job well done. But unless you’re frequently in need of a somber, depressed friend, you might find ShamRain lacking in the replayability department. The music is ultimately too light to really engage fans of the darker side of music, but will likely appeal to individuals both more relaxed and remorseful than I.

Track List:
  1. statues
  2. fail
  3. pieces
  4. drifter
  5. withdraw
  6. sound asleep
  7. into distance
  8. funeral
  9. dispensable

ShamRain is:
Mika T. - vocals
Kalle P. - guitars
Janne - drums
Matti R. - bass, keyboards, programming

ShamRain - Official Site:

Masterpiece Distribution

BLACK BOX (Dark Wings)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

When people talk of a Dark Pop variant it isn’t like we are unfamiliar with the concept, because we all remember Garbage so well, and you have people of the stature of Collide also trying to mix melody with various aspects of Goth and Industrial. Silvery are another band who create a wholesome whole, in which the keyboards suggest the mood and the guitar is often underplayed in its true potential to ensure a band sound, over which an excellent vocalist can hold sway, delivering tales of intrigue and sordid love.

Silvery have Rosa Unrau who does a very good in being a sharp-tongued frontwoman, and what they lack in lyrical bite they make up for in presence overall. This is very much a band sound, cleverly designed to keep you interested throughout, and the playful depth of their complex layers of sound guarantees repeat listenings disturb fresh evidence of their quality while making the songs more familiar.

‘More Than 1000 Years’ is full of flashing sound and the vocals are sweet and curdled, lifting up slightly in the subtle chorus. ‘Why Is It A Lie’ finds her surfing another set of controlled waves of energy, bursting out in an orderly fashion as the guitars and keyboards shake behind her. You notice the way they have made Industrial elements bright. There is no monstrous sulking or shaking.

‘Sequel’ sees Rico Hullermeier’s keyboards working well with Jens on bass, which is always an important touch some bands left unused, and just programming cannot give you the rhythmical density required. Falo’s guitar shows great restraint, pushing Rosa’s tenser voice along. They are following very conventional songwriting constraints here, which makes them predictable, but most songs are full of pockets of inventive atmosphere. ‘Nightmare’ is a scabby, sneering thing, with bigger guitar, and ‘Paralyzed’ is a simpler and emptier, with the vocals hinting at a bitter post-relationship revenge but as in many places the lyrics lack bite.

‘At Your Funeral’ is curiously up in tone, like a modern Eves, with cunning guitar and a bouncing rhythm, whereas ‘Her Way Down’ is slow and soppy but an acid taste emanates from its politeness. ‘Come Out’ does reveal some darker rock traces as the riff-mongering gets hungry, ‘When The Rain Falls’ is chirpy and warm, with a clammy feel, ‘Not Intact’ goes for a slinky dance workout, with stabbing guitar and curly synth patterns and the vocal statements are so sharp it’s impressively kinky. ‘I Feel Rage’ is the main disappointment, being somewhat fleeting in intensity and the lyrics are very bland, then it all slides out on ‘Rotten’ with the vocals compressed into a maggoty sound, which is woozy.

They could do with being more expressive with individual fire, because the band sound has its own limitations, but it’s a great record.


Sixteen Horsepower
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Sixteen Horsepower is precisely the kind of band that up until recently, I thought could only exist in the most idealistic regions of my mind.  The idea of fusing raw, classic Post Punk and Gothic elements with authentic Country, Bluegrass, or Western music would seem preposterous to some, but to me, I thought it would have made perfect sense.  Both Goth and proper Country music explore misery, loss, pain, and angst to some extent, only with a slightly different mode of musical expression. The best songwriters of both genres inquire further into those looming philosophical questions concerning life, death, religion, and the universe itself.   It’s all extremely relative in theme.  What I had only fantasized about I soon discovered was a reality, and Sixteen Horsepower are the exact embodiment of what I had imagined and hoped for. They have released several critically acclaimed albums over the years, each demonstrating a noticeable maturity and development in the band’s sound and approach.  But the gloom and twang and above all the authenticity has remained unscathed and I absolutely adore every album I have heard from them.

The earlier material presents the most direct appeal to traditional old school Goth fans.  Some readers may have already recognized the ‘western’ themes or imagery in bands like the Fields Of The Nephilim, Theatre Of Hate, Adam & The Ants, Southern Death Cult, the Swans, Nick Cave’s work with the Bad Seeds as well as The Birthday Party, and of course The Gun Club (a band which my lame ass only recently discovered!).  Sixteen Horsepower draws from the same decrepit, weedy well of sour American Gothic and paranoid religious fervor, and listeners will find the same sense of tension and anxiety on their self-titled debut EP and the extraordinary follow ups Sackcloth & Ashes and Low Estate. Olden, the band’s latest release, is a collection of demos, outtakes, and live tracks from this period and prior, and it is a fantastic introduction to this truly monumental band.

The material is culled from three different sources, with additional interview bits interspersed to serve as interludes.  As the press release explains, “the purpose of Olden is to illustrate how over a couple of years Sixteen Horsepower found their voice and refined it.  Think of [this compilation] as a road map to show how a great band became even greater.”  On the earliest material presented here, the initial intensity and uniqueness of the band is clearly perceivable and the listener’s reaction is immediate.  Sixteen Horsepower’s sound is direct, pure, and as complex and intentionally convoluted as the lyrical themes might be, the listener is instantaneously transported and understands exactly what they are hearing.  David Eugene Edwards’ panic stricken sermons are backed by equally ominous and evocative music.  Nearly every note played is bursting with anxiety, even the slowest and most doom laden dirges twitch with pent up disquietude, until the moment when it all violently unravels, bursting ablaze across propulsive, punchy gallops or malevolent, frenzied waltzes.  The arsenals of instruments themselves are purely organic.  Serpentine slide guitars bend and cut through the atmosphere, occasionally shaded by a manic accordion passage, the hollow clanking of a banjo or what sounds like the shrill eerie cries of the Devil’s fiddle.  Don’t let this fool you.  This is not your grandma’s country (then again, your grandma’s country might be worth investigating).  These instruments and this voice fuse together to create what might be better described as a phenomenon that is nearly supernatural in its capacity to paralyze, influence, and alter the listener’s emotions.

For fans of Goth and more common styles of dark music, at times, the guitar work channels the nocturnal psychedelic blues of The Doors, while the tight, crisp, dynamic rhythms have a hypnotic Joy Division quality to them (An ingenious cover of “Day Of The Lords” appears on the band’s live release “Hoarse,” by the way). Vocally, Edwards resembles very early Gene Loves Jezebel (we’re talking 1983 “Promise” era GLJ) albeit with a greater twang and inexplicable, almost omnipotent sense of command.

Admittedly, the earliest material from the Night Owl Sessions does suffer from a bit of vocal monotony on Edwards’ part, as he seems less animated and emphatic than he was to become.  However, if you haven’t heard the band before, you more than likely will not notice any reservation what so ever.  Like I was the first time, you will be held in rapt attention.  As the album unfolds, you can hear his near-messianic dominion develop into the startling and unforeseen climaxes, the pitch rising to a howl and to the laconic screams he is now known for.  The Night Owl material beautifully introduces the listener to the general sound of the band, and the smoldering Biblical imagery that has become their trademarks. The song titles alone succeed in conjuring the necessary images to mind. With titles like “Scrawled In Sap” you can’t help but be stirred to feverish reveries.

The second batch of songs presents the band with a sharper, clearer production, fostering the dreamier echoes of “South Pennsylvania Waltz,” “Shametown” and it’s roguish mania and the unforgettable passionate claustrophobia of “Strong Man.”  The live material expectantly reveals the band in their most uninhibited form, and the album concludes with selections that show a range of the band’s strengths, culminating with the mesmerizing gloom of  “Low Estate” and the spectral waltz of “Pure Clob Road,” until the final three breakneck tracks flash forward like a bolt of misdirected lightning, leaving a trail of scorched earth and hell-fire in their wake.

Olden was the very first Sixteen Horsepower release I heard, and it immediately bore me over.  It has its merits in that it compiles some of the band’s best early material on one disc, and case in point, it can make a fan out of you immediately.  Upon further investigation and once I acquired the early CDs, I definitely prefer the versions that wound up on the original CDs.  However, to hear these songs in their primitive and more volatile stages will be of great interest to longtime fans.  The material on here is rare and diverse enough to be of interest to completists for sure.  At this point, the early releases might be more difficult to obtain than they were a year or so ago, so therein lies another reason why Olden is an important addition to the band’s discography.

Sixteen Horsepower is one of the most refreshing, rewarding, and genuinely exciting musical discoveries that a dark music fan could make.  If you have not yet been initiated, you must not delay.  You won’t regret it.  Your perception of music itself will more than likely be altered.

Track List:
Night Owl Session (1993)
1.) American Wheeze
2.) Coal Black Horses
3.) Scrawled In Sap
4.) Prison Shoe Romp
5.) I Seen What I Saw
6.) Neck On The New Blade
7.) Interview
Kerr Macy Session (1994)
8.) South Pennsylvania Waltz
9.) My Narrow Mind
10.) American Wheeze
11.) Shametown
12.) Train Serenade
13.) Strong Man
14.) Interview
Live in Denver, CO (1994)
15.) Slow Guilt Trot
16.) Low Estate
17.) Pure Clob Road
18.) Heel On The Shovel
19.) Sac Of Religion
20.) Dead Run

Sixteen Horsepower:
David Eugene Edwards: vocals, bandoneon, guitar, banjo
Keven Soll: acoustic bass, double bass, vocals
Jean-Yves Tola: drums

Sixteen Horsepower – Official Site:

Sixteen Horsepower – Fan Site:


MOLDED TRUTHS (Novokkane Noise)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

It doesn’t have to be Goth or shadowy rock to convey a sense of the macabre, especially when twisted fun enters the mix, and standing somewhere between the shuddering intrigues of A Spectre Is Haunting Europe and the jabbering dementia of The Brides, we have The Sixth Chamber who look for all the world like seedy magicians.

You should, by rights, file this album alongside those of the above bands, and any other special release of the past few years because this has a stark character of its own, and some songs which will jumble your attention up and thrust unwelcome ideas into your heads. They are playful, both musically and lyrically, and with eleven tracks in just under 32 minutes they don’t hang about.

Reviewers will point out the natural comparisons of The Doors, with their incestuous keyboard/bass relationship, but this is a compressed form of psychedelia, where the pattern is mottled, and they stamp around in big boots. ’Possessed’ gives you what the sleeve artwork does, in more disturbing imagery, Rahne’s lightly echoed vocals pouring out morbid words in song of linear motion, lit by occasional keyboards flares, along a carpet of whispering guitar. ‘Shameful Divide’ nips at your ankles, while insanely scary vocals invite you to frug helplessly to a tune bristling with angular extremities.

‘Circus Faustus’ has that woozy fairground organ, but the vocals seem either not loud, or precise, enough to make the right impact, but it has its moments; ”….fetch me the ointment of lust, and leave bellyfuls of false hopes!” ‘The Charred Gavel’ is deeper and darker, with the bass burrowing like a giant mole, but I didn’t quite follow their intention. In ‘Princess Doe’ there’s a genuine Christian Death tension, hardly odd given that Sevan Kand providing some extra guitar on the album, but instead of going for a clenched sound they open it up with a saucy pop bravura, only for ‘Mesmera’s Gaze’ to start in a frenzy, then pull back and become slippery, casually creepy in minimalist shadows.

There are plenty of Goth tendencies, and ‘Molded Truths’ is one such with Sex Gang vocals, galloping drums and frilly, high guitar somersaults. ‘Delusions Of Persecution’ could have been wonderful, had the impish guitar been allowed to dictate the pace but when they do something wrong it’s relying so heavily on the stop/start shock. It actually holds some of their songs back and is disruptive instead of exciting.
‘Two Legged Parasites’ is snappy and angry, where the vocals are in your face as the music stabs you in the back, and the final track is so brief it barely matters.

I suspect they don’t realise just how exciting they could be. It’s a fine album, and how well they do in terms of creating a reputation will be down to how conventional they want to be. You can define part of their approach as arty. If they relaxed enough to let some real power in, and to establish more fluid pace, they’d be rampant, because this is like Orson Welles gone Punk.


Shadows Land
Ante Christum (Natum)
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

Today, children, we’ll address the question of what makes a metal band truly “metal.” Some people say it’s the hair. Some, the face paint.  Maybe it’s the guitars. The lyrics? The music itself? Or is it some aesthetic, ever so slightly beyond our conscious grasp, that unifies bands who seemingly are not metal yet always hang out with bands that unquestionably are?
The answer to the above question is: the attitude, or the aesthetic.  And some bands manage to convey their metalness by acting like a bunch of crazy hopped up demons. Take, for example, Shadows Land. They’re metal in the way that only slobbering, screaming madmen with instruments ever could be. They capture all the raw aggression and primal instinct of metal, with none of the refinement, purposeful lyrics, or artistic intent.

You could say, in fact, that they just make a lot of noise. And on top of that, it’s completely unpredictable noise, with no discernible pattern or coherency. Abrupt mood shifts abound. One minute you’ll hear an electronic beat and synths; the next, a crazy riff with a vocalist who’s clearly off his rocker, and has long since converted his rocker to a make-shift banana boat for sailing rivers of blood.

If you like the crazier metal bands that most of us find intolerable, you’ll like Shadows Land. If you’re a fan of Cadaver or other technical death metal acts (think Cryptopsy, made raw and black metal-y and shrill and sharp), you should definitely give Ante Christum (Natum) a listen. The band manages to do some cool stuff across the album’s nearly 40 minute duration, but the general randomness of it all leaves me confused and seeking musical solace elsewhere.

Track List:
1) Hybrid
2) My name are three sixes
4) Decimal
5) Last Way
6) Vortex
7) You are God
8) I'm Dead
9) b.o.r.y.s.S.IX
10) Flash
11) Smell of Pain
12) Pagan Fears

Shadows Land is:
ARO.666 - lead and rhythm guitars, all vocals
J NEREXO - drums and percussion "Buzzer" - lead and rhythm guitars
Paul - bass guitars
T. Borys - industrial synth and samples

Shadows Land - Official Site:

Osmose Productions:

Subterranean Masquerade
Temporary Psychotic State
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen

For some reason, I never get my review quotes on album stickers. Today, friends, I’m determined to change that. I have come up with the album sticker of album stickers. A quotation for the ages. Seat yourself - get ready:

Subterranean Masquerade - wacky music. By wacky people, for wacky people.

Well, there it is! What do you think? Wouldn’t you buy an album with that sticker? I would, and it’s fully accurate, too. The list of credits for this album is almost too weighty to list, but don’t let the fact that you can read it below degrade my point: a lot of frickin’ people worked on this CD. Many of them are from other bands that you might know, but so confident am I in Subterranean Masquerade’s ability to stand alone, I’ll just say that you’ve probably heard the musicians before, and now they’re all in one group, putting their creativity to good use in my favoritest of all metal styles: wacky metal.

Wacky metal, as you may know, is genre of choice for crazies who, by all reasonable accounts, belong on medication and should not be making music. But somehow or other these people are able to express themselves with a painful clarity and articulation, thus transmitting their various psychoses to the listener, at least while the music plays.  Hence: this review, which is being written as I’m trapped in Subterranean Masquerade’s temporary psychotic state.

The songs cover a wide range of sounds, including Opeth-y acoustic guitar, dramatic vocals ala Garm on La Masquerade Infernale, female vocals, a violin, and a host of other wacky effects. See, kids, the effects are wacky, and that’s why this here music is known as wacky metal. If you dig Arcturus, Korovakill, Source of Tide, or Solefald, chances are you’ll find a lot to like about Subterranean Masquerade’s two song ep. The only downside is the ep’s 17 minute duration. However, the price is right ($8 for very replayable, high quality music), so check it out!

Track List:
1) Temporary Psychotic State (A recollection of where it all began)
2) Observation Through Metamorphosis

Subterranean Masquerade is:
Tomer Pink - guitars
Paul Kuhr - vocals
Jake DePolitte - guitars, spoken words
Tino LoSicco - drums, spoken words
Susan Naud - vocals
Ben Warren - keyboards and electronics
Bronwen Beecher - violin
Andy Winter - mellotron
Jason William Walton - spoken words

Subterranean Masquerade - Official Site:

The End Records:

Art, Science, Exploitation (Cryonica)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

Well, I never thought I'd see the day.

Swarf’s album has been such a long time coming it makes the gestation period of the blue whale look positively hasty. It’s taken four years and three record labels to get this album out, a crazily extended saga which I’m sure has left the band chewing their fingernails with frustration.

Briefly, here's the story. Swarf's debut release, the Fall EP, came out on the Wasp Factory label in 2000, and the band's combination of lilting tunes, seriously groovin' beats, genuinely meaningful lyrics, and a glorious female vocal immediately pushed them to the top of the contender-tree. But the superstardom which many people - myself included - predicted for Swarf didn't quite happen. The band left Wasp Factory to team up with Cubanate's Marc Heal, who not only came on board as Swarf's producer, but also planned to set up a record label of his own with Swarf as the flagship act. Alas, after the expenditure of much time and effort by all parties these arrangements fell through, leaving Swarf with four tracks in the can and nowhere to call home. Fortunately, the Cryonica label was on hand to provide a safety net, on a 'you finish the album, we'll put it out' basis. Swarf shut themselves away in their home studio for what seemed like forever, and - at last! - we get to hear the results of their efforts. And you know what? It was worth the wait.

Against the odds, Swarf have created an album as smooth and cool as ice cream, a collection of genuinely moving songs, wrapped up in effortlessly assured, silky, slinky, electronica. I’m sure this album would have the critics salivating if someone like, say, Faithless had come up with it - and I make that particular comparison quite deliberately, because while Swarf might have emerged from the electronic end of the UK goth scene, their music illustrates that they’re creatively in a very different place now. Curiously, Swarf still seem to regard themselves as a goth band, and personally I reckon that if anything is likely to hold them back now, it’ll be their instinctive tendency to think in terms of the narrow horizons and small ambitions of dear old Brit-goth. But this album puts Swarf in no-shit contender territory. It’s confident, characterful, even, dare I say it, commercial. It’s shot through with real songwriting talent, real musical ideas. There’s detail and minutiae in the Swarf sound, but also a sense of space, an overarching feeling of  breadth and headroom, as if Swarf have plugged their synths and their sequencers into something much bigger than themselves. The sheer range of ideas at work in the music is impressive: the nifty little cross-rhythms, the fills and spills, the nips and tucks, fitting themselves so neatly around the band’s trademark plaintive melodies. Despite Swarf’s endearing, if rather misplaced these days, faith in the small world of goth, this is in no way a goth album. It is, however, unequivocally a good album.

But wait. Let’s cork the geyser of praise for one moment, and utter a word of caution. There are, it must be said, a couple of moments on the album which betray the less-than-ideal circumstances which surrounded its production. Not that these get in the way too much, but they’re there. For example, it sounds to me like the album starts off with a glitch. The opening track, ‘Vision’, simply erupts into the listener’s ears without the slightest build-up or intro. The song just crash-starts in a way that makes me think someone’s done a rather over enthusiastic editing job on it. This is one of Marc Heal’s productions, and overall the sound has a lush depth to it that works extremely well. But maybe the track was cut down to size at the mastering stage, to fit a pre-determined running time? Or maybe it’s *supposed* to start like that? In any case, I wish Swarf had eased us in, rather than immediately dumping the full weight of the track on us, like a bucket of water balanced on top of a door to suddenly drop upon the unwary.  But once you’re over the ‘Ouch!’ moment of the unceremonious start, ‘Vision’ settles down to a cool groove, with Liz putting that characteristic lilt on the vocal line which in itself is a great deal of Swarf’s appeal. The lyrics mine a somewhat mystical seam, with references to ‘A solar pathway leading straight to the sun’, and I’m reminded of the Swarf-fact that the three members of the band - Liz, Andrew, and Chris - first grouped together at the Glastonbury festival. But even if you didn’t know, you could guess!

Track two itself is ‘Supine’, a familiar song, inasmuch as it’s cropped up on assorted compilations and promo singles over the last few months in various mixes. Here, it unfurls lazily, with, ironically, exactly the kind of slow-build intro that would’ve made it an ideal contender for the opening track on the album. This is a slice of cool, classic trance, a genre which seems to be Swarf’s natural territory - at any rate, I experience a sudden desire to dig out my Trance Europe Express compilations as ‘Supine’ unleashes its layers of shimmering synths, precision engineered to get the entire Ministry Of Sound experiencing an epiphany on the dancefloor. But if you’re assuming that Swarf intend to spend the entire album down the disco, think again. The next track is ‘Shadows’, a gorgeous mood piece akin to vintage Cocteau Twins. It’s built around deep, murky, drifting tones, and given structure by a relaxed, natural, almost jazzy drum beat over which synths slither and play, as Liz gives us a yearning, wistful vocal. A small but perfectly formed tour de force.

‘Grey’ sees Swarf tipping their hats to 80s electronica, even to the point of using a little synth-chatter that recalls The Human League’s ‘Being Boiled’, and a lyric which picks up on the musical theme with lines like ‘Nostalgia crowds your mind...’ Incidentally, techie-trainspotters might like to note that if you listen on headphones and a decent hi-fi (not your computer with its crummy soundcard and weedy speakers!) you can hear the ambience of the room as the mic channel is opened, just before the vocal comes in - an endearing little touch of real life on what is in other respects a song built on synthetics.

We stay with the vintage theme for the next track, but in this case it’s Swarf’s own past that is hauled into the light, as the band give us a refreshed version of ‘Fall’. This all-new recording has the polished sheen which characterises everything here, and yet it still seems oddly old-skool, perhaps the closest thing on this album to ye olde electrogoth as the glowsticks brigade up at the Slimelight would understand it. It’s still a very fine song, mind, with its classic build-ups and breakdowns, and that neat little skipping snare sound cropping up like a mischievous child as the rhythm swaggers along. ‘Fall’ also has one of Swarf’s finest lyrics, pieced together with the band’s trademark combination of rhyme and alliteration: ‘We fall/For the fools that lead us/We fall/For the lies they feed us/We fall, we fall/We fail to see it all’ - now, could I just take a moment to point out the brilliance of that? Note, please, the way the ‘F’ sound comes in again and again, building up a rhythm of its own. Note the deliberate, yet effortless, way it’s done. After all, an inferior line like ‘We just don’t see it all’ would scan and rhyme, and keep the same meaning - and a lesser band might employ just such a form of words. But not Swarf.  They throw in that essential word ‘fail’ and score the double. Alliteration and rhyme in one line - and I’m sitting here grinning like a fool at the band’s adroitness.

‘Sorrow’ finds the band in torch song noir mood, on a slo-mo, piano-driven number with a loping, jazzy, drum-rattle prodding it along. There’s an exquisite melancholy here, as there is in many Swarf songs. ‘Can you kiss an empty shell?/Find water in a barren well?’ sings Liz, as if she’s staring into the eternal void of nothingness. This is a quite disturbingly bleak song, if you’re brave enough to figure out the lyrics, and even though it ends on a note of optimism (‘Open your eyes...’) it does illustrate the fact that we’re dealing with a band of some creative depth here. If it’s happy-happy-joy-joy music you want, something harmless and gormless to fuel your pilled-up gyrations on the dance floor, you might wish to approach Swarf with caution. There’s much more to this band than merely that.

All of a sudden, we stumble over another production-glitch. The track listing on the CD inlay assures me that the next track is ‘Subtext’. Oops.  It’s not. It’s ‘Drown’. Somehow, the order of tracks on the CD itself doesn’t fit the order given on the cover. I have no doubt that someone, somewhere, is going to get their arse kicked for that balls-up, but it’s a bit late now. It’s ironic that here we have an album that’s taken the best part of four years to make, and in all that time nobody could spare a couple of minutes to proof-read the small print. Still, once we’ve figured out exactly what we’re listening to, ‘Drown’ is a delight. It’s an incongruously jaunty number about alcoholism, and further proof, if proof were needed, that just because Swarf make a groovin’ dancefloor sound doesn’t mean that their lyrics need be trite party-party banalities. The lyric incorporates more of those fiendishly clever alliterations - ‘It’s been so long since you saw straight’ sings Liz, lining up her sibilants like sitting ducks. This, in a way, is the quintessential Swarf song: an insistent groove, a meticulously detailed arrangement, and a soaring, swooping vocal delivering clever, pithy lyrics that are a whole lot darker than you might at first expect.

Then ‘Subtext’ turns up, a little later than advertised, but it’s still a welcome guest at the party. This is an unashamed, full-on club anthem, but it’s eclipsed by its neighbour, ‘Motion’, which is, perhaps, Swarf’s ultimate fire-on-the-dancefloor tune. It’s a rolling, thundering floor-packer, with, unusually for Swarf, a lyric which seems untypically upbeat and optimistc: ‘There’s always tomorrow/The future’s a golden haze’.  But then they qualify the optimism with a note of caution: ‘I can hear something/Sounds like a warning’. That’s Swarf all over. Every silver lining has a cloud!

And so, we approach the final curtain. The last track here is ‘Reflect’, and it’s a wistful, introspective thing, bookended by what sound like heavily treated guitar sounds, as if Swarf stole the souls of The Jesus And Mary Chain and imprisoned them in their effects units. A rising tide of string sounds floods in, as some bongos and beats take the rhythm for a little dance, and Liz sings of the past, the path from there to here. It’s genuinely moving, to the point where I find myself prodded into thinking back over my own life and times, and getting all misty-eyed about people and places I haven’t thought about for ten or twenty years. Now *that*, ladies and gentlemen, is effective songwriting - and this, as if you haven’t got the message yet, is an outstandingly good album.

It’s just a pity that the odd little glitches prevent Art Science, Exploitation from being the faultless tower of competence that it really should be. There’s simply no excuse for mixing up the track listing on the inlay, and while we’re in that area I have to say I’m not over-impressed by the cover artwork as a whole. It seems to me that Swarf are simply doing the standard goth-band thing of hiding behind a piece of blandly anonymous ‘design’ - in this case, three puffs of smoke. It’s as if Swarf are trying to tell us that they’re flimsy and insubstantial and will soon get blown away - which hints at a strange lack of confidence, as if the band can’t quite bring themselves to be assertive enough to create a genuinely eye-catching cover. All it would take, surely, is a photo of the band.  Swarf have a strong visual image, and they have some supercool promo photos already in the can, a legacy of their time with Marc Heal's label.Why not use one of those shots for the cover, which surely would tempt record store browsers in a way that those little fluffy clouds will never do? As it is, the only band-photos are inside the inlay, and are nothing more than three small, separate snapshots which don’t even show the members of the band *together*. It’s ironic: a band which wrote a song called ‘Vision’ seem reluctant to give potential fans a sight of their true visual identity.

So, what are we to make of Swarf? A brilliant band, tripped up by production problems, and let down by their packaging? Well, maybe. But, leaving the hitches and glitches aside, Swarf are something special, and I hope that the next year or so will see them breaking out of their incongruous orbit around the UK goth scene, and setting a course for stardom. They’re easily good enough to achieve it, but it is going to require a deliberate steer away from the goth zone, and that’s something Swarf have never been quite ready to do thus far. Meanwhile, the rest of us can simply revel in this album - the sound of potential bubbling up to the breakthrough point.

see LIVE photos of Swarf in our Photo Gallery

The (corrected!) tunestack:

The players:
Liz Green: vocals, lyrics
Andrew Stock: synths, programming
Chris Kiefer: synths, programming

The website:

The community:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

~review by Mick Mercer

When it comes to electronic music I prefer ethereal, experimental or ambient, because no limitations produces distinct individual composition. When it comes to electro pushing towards dance, or industrial, you’re into serious hit and miss territory, where the singer must have character or the whole process is identikit. Swarf’s Liz can flit through tracks with confidence - which is why they cross over into Goth, as they have personality, the human touch - but it doesn’t happen consistently here to create a lasting impression, even if the album grows in strength as it goes along.

The ten tracks all have one word titles, which is iffy, and that semblance of order spreads across this record as an even-tempered balance, reducing many tracks in status, and we’re usually talking racks, not songs. And if I get the titles wrong that’s because the sleeve is wrong. ‘Vision’ isn’t a good opener; light electro with dull and drippy lyrics, followed by ‘Supine’ which is club dance of conviction, and the rhythm is sleek, but the beats don’t cut it sharply enough to add anything emphatic to the sound. Vocals swirl airily to the point where you forget them and then when it picks up in the second half, evolving a post-techno touch of steel, the vocals come back in with no evident change so it all falls away!

‘Shadows’ is great, and shows why there was compatibility worthy of supporting the Eves, being a gloomy/dreamy hybrid. Staying slow gives the Julianne impersonation real purpose. ‘Grey’ is a little livelier, but keeps on settling behind the sedate vocal stroll and by the time Liz hits some sharper moments the synths have gone onto aimless autopilot. ‘Fall’ has more atmosphere early on, which creates an interesting feel, but it’s on a even downward incline, towards mildness. You could stick a violin on this and it’d be a Corrs remix! What, assuming they have one, is their overall view? Track 6, (mistitled ‘Sorrow’) has more unusual percussion and rhythm, so they’re switching from the seriously anonymous to having natural depth, which implies they’re in a confused state. More Julianne vocals, a lightly spray of venom, but a song, not a track, which is excellent.

Then back to dancey ambition with the genuine ‘Sorrow’, where the rhythm is steady and it has a good chorus, except that the pleasant vocals don’t rise up and go with the intensity. ‘Subtext’ is a wonderful song, and the best one here with streamlined vocals which fit the flow, and the heavy ending indicates what they’re capable of. ‘Motion’ is starker. The vocals do start worryingly slight but keeps up with the required urgency, and for once they let the pulse do its work. All the more effective for it. Then they with a little epic, ‘Reflect’, which is woozily artistic, with vocal dominance, the music idling submissively, and if it doesn’t take you out with a big bang, it’s got a lovely mood.

So, plenty of good bits, yes, but there’s an equal amount of anodyne offerings. You’ll even need to turn your volume up more than normal because the whole record seems quiet, and the question I ask is, why the timidity, in all quarters? Surely no-one ever formed a band saying, ‘I’d just love to create some songs which are fairly conservative, with little pace’?

They can play well and Liz can sing well, so I hope this reveals they’re at some stylistical crossroads, and the next album will be a cohesive work, because this certainly isn’t.

REFLECT - their club

Hands on Centrozoon
~reviewed by Goat

This is uncomfortable.  It is my task, albeit voluntarily, to listen to this CD from start to finish, and tell you in the clearest manner possible what it is like and if I would recommend buying it based on how similar or dissimilar our tastes may be.

The problem is, this CD is making me want to throw the headphones off my head and run screaming away.  For you, Unknown Reader, I will press on.  What gives me courage is that the thing is an EP and not a full-length CD.

[Exactly 25 minutes and ten gruelling seconds later.]

The press release says this is one of those Experimental music THANGS, where one group's release is "reinterpreted" or whatever they're calling it these days, by another group.  In this case, the former is Centrozoon, the latter Synapscape.  The big selling point here is that the original material is allegedly "mutated five times".

It's 25 minutes of art-school wanking.  A bit of Gabba bum-bum-bum-bum, a bit of campy goofy singing, a bit of white noise fuzz.  So what?  Next please.

Track Listing:
1.)  Pop Killer
2.)  Girl of the Week
3.)  Little Boy Smile
4.)  Healing The Land
5.)  Bigger Space

Run Time:  25:10


~reviewed by Joel Steudler

It's easy to drown in gushing superlatives when confronted with an album like Polars from Dutch newcomers Textures.  There's so much to appreciate.  Blazingly intense aggression, virtuoso technical performances, lush atmospheric passages, stunning production... and that's all just on the first song.  The rest of the album is even better!

Very shortly after digging into Polars, it will be apparent to most that the music of Textures is the bastard son of Meshuggah and Devin Townsend.  This is especially pleasant since Meshuggah ceased being Meshuggah after 'Chaosphere' and turned into a mushy nu-metal band.  The world needs at least one Meshuggah, and thankfully we can now crown a new one.  All hail the new Meshuggah Of Metal, Textures!

What the hell am I babbling about?  I'll tell you.  I am adrift in a sea of insane technical drumming, crazy rhythm changes, swirling keyboard layers, elephantine guitar riffs, and paint-peelingly harsh vocals.  Pieter Verpaalen could give Jens Kidman a run for his money in terms of pure screechy testosterone laced raging.  He sounds like he's continually on the verge of vomiting his larynx straight out of his mouth and having his heart explode from over exertion.

The sporadic lead guitar lines are alternately cut like Thordendal's weird, blippy jib or are soaringly ambient, washing over the pounding drums and synth layers.  Speaking of synths, there are several very lengthy passages of eerie ambience on the latter half of the album.  They provide a stark and bizarre contrast to the unbridled killer bloodlust of the earlier tracks, but somehow feel entirely organic and at home in the ambitiously artistic compositions.

I hate relying so heavily on comparisons to other bands, but the resemblance is so striking it is impossible not to.  Whether it's hero worship or pure coincidence, Polars sounds great.  Like a ginsu-knife, Textures can saw through pure metal and yet stay sharp enough to delicately slice off thin layers of wispy, ethereal sound.  They stand with Invocator and Omnium Gatherum at the vanguard of modern progressive thrash.

Track List:
01.) Swandive
02.) Ostensibly Impregnable
03.) Young Man
04.) Transgression
05.) The Barrier
06.) Effluent
07.) Polars
08.) Heave

Textures is:
Jochem Jacobs - Guitar, Vocals
Stef Broks - Drums, Vocals
Richard Rietdijk - Synths
Dennis Aarts - Bass
Pieter Verpaalen - Vocals
Bart Hennephof - Guitar, Vocals

Textures Official Site:

Listenable Records:

Throbbing Gristle
TG Now (Mute)
~review by Uncle Nemesis

Are they back? Or are they just passing through? Twenty-three years after the band split up, Throbbing Gristle have reformed - and although we’re told that this is only a temporary regrouping, it’s clearly bona fide enough to have spewed forth this new release, the first Throbbing Gristle material in over two decades. And it most certainly is *new* - the four tracks here were recorded in March this year. No rehashed material from the vaults, this - like the man said, this is TG Now.

Of course, in 2004 there’s no way that Throbbing Gristle can sound as radical, as startling, as out-there, as they were in their original, late seventies incarnation. The twenty-odd years of Throbbing Gristle’s absence has seen the sounds they pioneered, and their experimental approach - always putting the art concept first and rock ‘n’ roll second, if at all - expand into an entire genre. It’s not just that Throbbing Gristle invented the concept of ‘industrial’ music, although when the ultimate history of music is written I dare say that’ll loom large as their enduring legacy.  There’s a whole swathe of artists - everyone from the Aphex Twin to Autechre, all those glitch-rockers and avant-guardists - who do what they do essentially because Throbbing Gristle showed them the way. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the music on this CD places Throbbing Gristle among their peers, rather than dramatically ahead of the crowd.

‘X-Ray’ opens things up with a long, slow, bass-heavy pulse, full of glitches and wrongness. In particular, there’s a strange vibration which overlays the bass, as if the wooden cabinet of an old radiogram is shuddering in sympathy with the rhythm. So convincing is this effect that when I first played this track, I found myself on hands and knees, peering worriedly behind my speakers, convinced that something had fallen down the back and was vibrating against the cabinets. When the truth dawned - it’s *supposed* to sound like that - I couldn’t hep but crack a smile. Throbbing Gristle managed to get me on my knees before the speakers, less than two minutes into the first track. A neat way of tricking the fans into the homage position!

‘Splitting Sky’ is all breath and atmosphere. Squalls and scratches of something that possibly once was a guitar lurk under layers of reverb, while Genesis P-Orridge recites a baffling poem which occasionally threatens to turn into Monty Python’s ‘Albatross’ sketch, but never quite tips over the edge. Oddly enough, it’s all a bit like a slowed-down, dub-plate version of Underworld, which either illustrates how far Throbbing Gristle’s influences have travelled over the years - or, conversely, illustrates where Throbbing Gristle are getting *their* influences from these days.

The same kind of cross-referencing crops up in my mind when ‘Almost Like This’ sidles into view. If anything, this is Throbbing Gristle doing Portishead. The tune is a funereal-tempo lope, electonic skritches and skreets flying by like insects, fragments of tortured guitar dropping in and out of the mix, everything kept in place by a bass-plunk that sets the pace like a New Orleans funeral procession. Over all this, Genesis comes dangerously close to singing, in a tortured bellyache that recalls - dimly, I’ll grant you, but it does - Beth Gibbons’ keening wail. Again, the distance between then and now is neatly illustrated: in their early days, you simply couldn’t compare Throbbing Gristle to anyone else, because there *wasn’t* anyone else making remotely the same noise. But after twenty-odd years of the TG influence seeping, directly or indirectly, into our collective psyche, there are all sorts of connections to be made. That’s not a bad thing, but listening to this music reminds me how far we’ve come - and who started it.

‘How Do You Deal?’ is dangerously uptempo by comparison to the stuff that’s gone before. The bass drives everything along, a bad-tempered, rumbling, almost-reggae grumble. It’s possibly a sample - I can hear what sounds suspiciously like vinyl surface noise in the background, although, knowing Throbbing Gristle, it’s entirely likely that they carefully generated every last little click and fizz themselves. Whatever its provenance, that big, bad bass dominates everything, implacably setting up the rhythm and daring the max-reverbed, treated, guitars and circuitry to challenge its relentless flow. The tune builds and builds, rolling forward with the flinty-eyed determination of a farmer pulling tree stumps with his tractor.  Genesis lets rip with one of his torturous lyrics: ‘Love is a vacuum pump...strangeness, sucking in...’ Well, you said it, Gen. There’s a sudden break, where the bass drops away and lets the noises play - Throbbing Gristle’s idea of a middle eight, if you will - and then it all comes back, but this time in overdrive. The whole caboodle builds into a crazed tower of teeming noise, fuzzed-out guitar sticking its elbow in, percussive rattles and clacks cracking the head of the tune. There is, I should mention, nothing as conventional as mere *drums* anywhere on this EP, but ‘How Do You Deal?’ comes closest to something you could dance to. It would be a pretty strange dance, mind, but with a certain amount of belief-suspension, I reckon you could do it.

So, Throbbing Gristle, 2004 style. Still relentlessly individualistic, doing their own thing and giving no quarter. Inevitably, these days they don’t seem quite as mad or bad or weird or wild as they did when they originally emerged, but that in itself is a tribute to what they’ve achieved. The reason Throbbing Gristle now seem to fit in so neatly with the goings-on in the world of contemporary music is, to a great extent, because the world of contemporary music has caught up with what Throbbing Gristle started. They may not be the out-on-a-limb pioneers they once were, but they still have their own flavour. If you haven’t discovered the world of Throbbing Gristle yet, this EP will give you a good way in. Return to the source, and pour the sauce.

The tunestack:
Splitting Sky
Almost Like This
How Do You Deal?

The players:
Chris Carter
Peter Christopherson
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Cosey Fanni Tutti

Throbbing Gristle official website:

Throbbing Gristle's page within the Mute site:

More Throbbing Gristle:

Genesis P-Orridge's website:

Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti's website:

Cosey Fanni Tutti's solo art projects etc:

Peter Christopherson's current incarnation as part of Coil is documented here:

Throbbing Gristle's next (and, we are told, last) performance:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

PUSTOTA (Pandaimonium)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

The sixth album from a band whose avowed intent is the “merging of external and internal, implying peripheral stylistic trends, glitters and voices of the outside world as external and a personally coloured traditional harmony and internal.” What the fuck is that supposed to mean? I’m thinking it lost a hell of a lot in translation.

The basic idea is to merge Goth with sounds of the Orient, which means the Indian sub-continent and Middle East rather than China, Japan or anything remotely Gamelan (which is so Eighties!), and the end result is something striking and stirring. It isn’t anything you haven’t already heard dozens of times before in this new world of New Age Industrial Ambient witterings that surrounds us, because plenty of bands are toying with the sounds of the Arbabic and Asian worlds. It creates drowsy, swaying music, and percussive instruments have to be produced with gusto to breathe life into the arrangements because nobody ever seems to want to attempt at fast vocals on these records.

So, tons of sitar, or something similar, and sumptuous rhythmic deployment, but not much in the way of anything memorably melodic. Music, not songs, and fitting well into any filmic category this is a ravishing experience of the highest order and you’ll feel yourself transported effortlessly to….well, nowhere really. This world doesn’t exist, which is an odd reality. West only truly meets East in clubs usually, unless you count Tourist music in faceless hotels. I was fascinated by most of it and loved the attack of ‘Satellite’, which they could have done with more of to offset the predictable elegance. What we have here is a wonderfully detailed, challenging but accessible artistic concept which goes way beyond being an artistic conceit.

Of course, whether it can be used for anything more than intellectual background music I can’t say, but I personally fail to see what can be pulled from it in inspirational terms. Admire it, enjoy it, try to understand it, and Good Luck.


I, Thighpaulsandra (Eskaton)
~review by Uncle Nemesis

As Julian Cope would doubtless have it, here's one for the real heads.

This double CD package is a towering, sprawling, gloriously indulgent psychedelic krautrock trip, stopping off along the way at avant-jazz and ambient and all stations in between, and featuring among its many collaborators assorted members of Coil, Spiritualized, and even the Arch-Drude Cope himself. As if that wasn’t enough, the thank-you list on the inlay card namechecks everyone from glam-punkers Rachel Stamp to Geoff Downes (yep, that bloke out of Buggles who went on to join Yes) and, erm, Lord Yatesbury. Not what you’d call your usual Livejournal friends list, that’s for sure.

So, who is this strangely-named artist who can muster such a bizarre array of friends and conspirators? Thighpaulsandra (or Timothy Lewis, as he hasn’t been known for a good few years now) is (con)currently the keyboard player and all-round electronicist in Coil, Spiritualized, and, rather more sporadically, Julian Cope’s groups. This is the first of his sporadic solo outpourings (there have been more since this CD was released) - although to call ‘I, Thighpaulsandra’ a solo effort is really rather misleading, containing as it does contributions from so many fellow space travellers.

There’s also no way of summing up the music in one pithy phrase, although ‘somewhere between Hawkwind and the KLF’ might give you Thighpaulsandra’s general location. Having said that, track one disc one is ‘Lycraland’ - an angular jazz-opera, and a frankly frightening experience if you were perhaps expecting something at least tangentally related to rock music. But then ‘The Angelica Declaration’ breaks the mood as it slams in with a big, bad, diluted-pupil groove, Thighpaulsandra addressing us like a mad Roman emperor: ‘More livestock! More suction!’

‘Optical Black’ leads us into a different headspeace, all half-heard voices, machine noises, and alarming, swelling chords, like somebody’s messing with the Devil’s Wurlitzer. And for those who want a bit of that ol’ spacey ambience, ‘Michel Publicity Window’ drifts and hums, with a plangent steel guitar punctuating the rolling clouds of sound like little shafts of sunlight. This, I suppose, is Thighpaulsandra’s answer to the KLF’s ‘Chill Out’, and it works very well. Could’ve done with a few train noises, mind.

Over on disc 2, we find such delights as the whomping psycho-pop anthem, ‘We, The Descending’ and the ecclesiastical flotation tank experience that is ‘Limping Across The Sky’. There’s ‘Home Butt Club’, a rocket-fuelled instrumental that could be something Led Zep would conceive after far too many mushrooms, and ‘Celine And Julie Go Fishing’, which sounds like a Salvation Army band tuning up for a support slot with The Pink Floyd, circa ‘67.

If Thighpaulsandra is seeking a title for his next album, he could do worse than call it ‘The Modern Psychedelian’, for that seems to be his chosen role. Trawling in influences from all that is weird and wiggy, but nailing it down to a  production that’s impressive in its clarity and space, and always allowing humour, a knowingly arched eyebrow and a subtle half-smile, to inform the resulting brew. A maverick, a true star. I don’t know what he’s on, but I’d like some.

The tunestack:
Disc One:
The Angelica Declaration
Optical Black
Abuse Foundation IV
Michel Publicity Window

Disc Two:
We, The Descending
Limping Across The Sky
Home Butt Club
Celine And Julie Go Boating
Beneath The Frozen Lake Of Stars

The players:
Thighpaulsandra: Vocals, piano, harpsichord,synthesizers, French horn, electronics
Dorothy Lewis: Contralto
Peter Christopherson: Computers
John Balance: Vocals, text
Malcolm Cross: Marimba, drums, percussion
Martin Schellard: Guitar, bass
Sion Orgon: Percussion
Hans-Jurgen Rausch: Tam tam, synthesizers
Buros Muller-Staal: Drums, electronics, tam tam
The Boy Anal: VCS3
Xeno: Backing vocals
Michael Mooney: Lap steel
Ray Dickaty: Baritone saxophone
Julian Cope: Gibson double-neck guitar/bass
Dave Temple: Clarinet, alto saxophone
Rodan 'Guitar' Nolan: Guitar

Thighpaulsandra's website (incomplete):

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Films We Like/Weapons Training (Ruffian Records)
~review by Mick Mercer

I shouldn’t really say this but I think you’ll agree, upon reflection, that maybe those early Christian Death releases did indeed feature the vocals of Donald Duck. You know how he gets when he’s furious, and it’s like he chews his cheeks while emitting breath? (WEEK WEEK WEEK.) You see my point, don’t you? I could be onto something, and it isn’t disrespectful because Donald is a icon too.

And so take that Rozz sound, lighten it, making it more fluid, even frilly and feathery, and that’s what Turn Pale throw at you, with an equally agile musical development on from known forms. Early Goth luminosity with a punkier version of Grunge. That’s good going, and on this two track vinyl seven incher it tantalises.

‘Weapons Training’ is Rozz-like quivering as the drums begin to bump and grind, but with a form of vivacity replacing the intensity. It’s quite a watery sound, the guitar simple and repetitive, the bass discreet, and the vocals insist, ‘we all need to know what it’s like on all fours’. Well, really! So, sleazy and cheeky, and holding back from frenzy to prick the air. It also ends unexpectedly.

‘Films We Like’ clap-clap-claps and the guitar runs on over some beautifully loping post-Nirvana bass and the vocals pinch at the song’s surface, then spread out, less raw. I love the way they drop back to bass and drums and fuck up re-entry, plus the way it ends so crisply. You will too.

~review by Mick Mercer

Okay, you’re going to love this. Meet Jeff Wagner, everybody. He’s a character and a bit of a card, even a bit of a cardsharp, I shouldn’t wonder. Capable of blending in to any scene with his tricky noir tableaux he scoots about from Edward Hopper primetime to Mars Attack, from 1950’s B Movie kitsch through 60’s juvenile trickery, and on through the decades until he arrives with a freshly microwaved all-purpose timebomb. You’ll be impressed.

Initially, ‘Sugarplum’ sees his sly delivery scratching itself over curvy guitar and cackling keyboards the spooky tale brings to mind a young Alex Harvey, which is a good thing. The instruments are busy, but their tone pared down to allow the vocals true eminence. Then it slops about in ‘Midnight (At The Beach)’ with that Monster Mash meets lo-fi B-52’s mulch and you know the jumpy sound I’m talking about with a slightly crazed, tremulous voice. Scurf’s up, as the pained lyrics are squashed tight by the dizzy music and some scaly Goth guitar muscles in.

‘Hall Of Mirrors’ is a delightful, short instrumental, after which ‘Torch (Part II)’ sees ‘Happy Days’ evoked, in a warped punky spree; wonderfully slinky, just a little bit plinky, and it shows how he can be brilliantly inventive by making this a cohesive form, not quirky, which is usually just another term for revolting. These songs shamble about with cruel charisma.

‘It Wants In’ doesn’t, so I lied. I apologise. This is the duff song of the collection, as a rakish drawl competes with arid guitar and something doesn’t quite spark, but ‘Stupefied’ soon sees Jayne Mansfield’s ribcage vibrate with delight over the slim, grinding sample-packed noise-fest, and there’s great fun to be had with ‘Invisible Stan’, putting the agony in protagonist, with some very unusual sounds woven into a seriously distinctive song.

‘Bat-House’ is full of weird guitar, low bass and sparkling, teeth-jangling keyboards, reminiscent in many ways of exceptionally early Alice Cooper, which is a very good thing. ‘Russia’ is an instrumental that borders on pretty, and I have decided to avoid the untitled extra track, as it’s just alien spacey keyboard trivia, and I claim ‘Nicely Done’ as the true closer, with languid guitar, lambent bass, brash, slow drums and a dramatic vocal on a noxious, gaslit journey, with a great ending.

I can’t really compare him to anyone. That in itself should be recommendation enough.

NICELY DONE (heed the warning first, before entering) where the Mandrake The Magician of sound has some fantastic Links.

CAFÉ FLESH (Foamin’ Bones)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I’m not doing a proper review of this album here because some will be best dealt with in THE MICK in more detail...

The man who now makes intensely artistic records, with the emphasis on intense, under the unwieldy name of Choronzon made these Veil Of Thorns recordings back in the mid to late Nineties and in his accompanying letter to me states, “I finally have the Veil Of Thorns experience encapsulated. It’s with more melancholy that I hear it now. We could have done so much more.”

True enough. This is a record which comes through the ether of Industrial and firm Ambient intricacies. It keeps its beats simple, its guitar intent on stamping out quite a fierce identity, and the songs are pretty precise. In fact they usually take what could be an attractive song, then distend it, pulling at the overall edges, and placing some gritty ingredients at the centre, but offset those with sweet melodies or plaintive vocals.

‘Nothing Is Real’ still stands head and shoulders above the rest, which is why I popped it on a Hex Files compilation, so you may remember that, but there’s plenty of other material which could interest you. It would help if he had a more amenable website of course, but mark these words. By actually being ahead of their time, this compilation sees them not too far off today’s beaten and abused track, but with very much their own character rather than any stolen ideas.


ZENITH (Big Blue)
~review by Mick Mercer

Those of you who have ever listened to earlier diseased flowery albums and wanted to see a move away from inverted psychedelic tendencies and the playful rasping, towards a sleeker, more enhanced static sound will be pleased with this.

Masters of aromatic darkness, with a tendency to use lyrics that hover enigmatically in pretty surroundings, this album hones both music and words into a dual-carriageway of murk, living up to the cinematic claims of its press release and bringing you emotive snapshots set in foundations of guile and bluster.

‘Axis’ is a sweet entrée, the sort of instrumental which means little, then ‘Metropolis’ suggests it’ll be a steady keyboard haze, only for a stark riff and glowering vocals to tower above, as the guitar creates a stiff-backed rhythm, with great effect. ‘Zen’ may well be Asia-by-Numbers but it’s tough, as it moves into swirly romanticism and ‘Sabotage’, which seems old, is chunky with cute effects and roves around with mean purpose. ‘Neon’ starts like a grumpy Human League (‘Being Boiled’ era) then goes all phlegmatic on us, and ‘Twilight Opera’ uses curvy, insidious provocation, sweeping low and luscious, as sly vocals and deceitful guitar mistreat us. A great rtrack.

‘Mercury’ is vigorous, with pop perks, ‘Naked Ape’ does sound fairly preposterous vocally, reminding me of ‘TVOD’, but with mad twirls, ‘Infa Red’ is curiously moving with disturbing imagery set inside such a light and easy going Indie tune, and then they finish with another two wonderful songs. ‘DNA’ has a spacier feel, with pinprick guitar and strange vocals, creaking and scuttling in some robot scorpion disguise. ‘Neg X’ is mysteriously frowning at its Goth guitar, while first a wonderful sense of dread builds, then ends hopefully after a gorgeous eruption of style.

As a duo they have the ability to become ever sharper, and I wonder if this marks a definite change of direction? Fans of earlier works won’t notice that great a change and the quality hasn’t dimmed at all, but I can see this interesting people who haven’t gone for the more intricate albums.

NEG X (includes band, record shop and details of Alex’s ‘Bizarre’ zine)

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Welcome to the inner workings of Joshua A. Pfeiffer’s mind, or Rick A. Mortis as he is more generally known. I suspect this is going to surprise quite a few people.

‘Listen in the dark, and keep it LOUD’ is the advice given on the sleeve and so I did while anticipating this supposed blood-red moon we were meant to be having tonight. As I waited patiently by an open window, with rain occasionally splashing in, so the groaning, elegiac opener spreads like wax on slate; a gentle Industrial hybrid made stately by the sighing backing vocal betraying the first orchestral stirrings.

And then it just flows. The tracks fold together neatly (with one or two tiny but noticeable hitches, which need ironing out) and a quasi-martial beat arrives that then manages to bounce with quite a droopy ambience, just taking the edge off what could have been an annoying accompaniment. This is a clever idea, giving the music just enough backbone, without insisting upon a rhythmic assault.

It’s very ‘Sleepy Hollow, with more than a hint of an approaching storm, and with ‘Dusk Express’ we shift up slightly through the ominous gears, being stalked, rather than chased, by a train. It’s possibly even Omenesque, but with the outright stark fear always played down: a city noir nightmare taken towards a gentle point, and that’s what makes it such a curious blend. By not going for obvious shocks and extremes it simply carries along, and sounds fresh. Cinematic, rather than melodramatic, but not background music as it’s so full, with a touch of funereal organ piping through, or the rhythmical twirl allowing the beat to resurface at times to keep us shuffling along through a dilapidated landscape of sounds.

Because it isn’t trying to be unsettling in a clichéd manner it is also enjoyable, and it then pulls a final surprise out of a battered hat. Some vocal shadows are groaning in ’Grudge’ and return towards the end. My initial reaction was that these might totally ruin the effect, but again they’re gone before you know it, and their return is also quite unexpected. The rhythm even becomes bracing with an almost bubbling sound, elevating successfully at the end before fading and you’re left sitting there, bemused but highly content.

At first I didn’t understand the length at six actual tracks (one unlisted), until I pm-ed him and found it's a demo for an album to be released later this year. So that's a further treat to come. And it will be a treat.

It’s like Terminator, made in Victorian London.


~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I know next to little of an infinitesimal percentage of nothing about Rock and its many modern forms so this record came as a bewildering shock to me. Seven tracks, by serious looking men, this threw me this way and that in confusion over why bands do what they do, as much as puzzling over the content.

The only thing I picked up on as they threshed ‘Sounds Of Relativity’ was Death Metal and the regurgitated vocal style which be comes a gargle at 100mph, which is not something that has ever struck me as appealing, but instead of short, dampened thudding noise in accompaniment what Vortex do is quite enthralling in its own way. They have such a wild, exuberant sense of noise, with unusual sonic drum effects, and the bass and drums are cunning, on into ‘Dead Realm Of Renewal’ with quite lovely guitar touches, almost directly at odds with the vocal horror, and when they clank it is like early 80’s Industrial, before ending in pretty swirls. You could almost say there are a dozen or so music scenes being melted down in this one form.

The sounds at the back of ‘Instinct’ are positively sci-fi, yet the riffing is so old and blunt it’s practically feudal and the rhythm munches and marches along. ‘The Arrival’ is just a instrumental piece of crap, and then ‘Starborn Elite’ goes for the deeply veined drum thrombosis, which could take you into dark areas only for them to have supremely attractive phases, where the guitar sounds like a piano before turning back to a hacking riff bombast over drums like helicopters. ‘Psychosis’ is a convincingly alien instrumental short, and then ‘Parable sees them off, and if you were wondering about lyrics, they go, ‘The Moral is senseless. Is this the darkness you’re looking for? The reign of ignorant bastards. Honour and virtue went out of fashion.’

There’s more vocal trauma, flickering toxic guitar, sledgehammer drums but weird touches visible throughout and I honestly can’t imagine how a band in their murky rock scene could possibly do more in displaying variety, but I’m  also left wondering just how brilliant them might be if they could take the gleaming edge of their adventurous experimentation and combine it with a seamless sound where they truly excite. The drawback to all their changes song by song is that they never sustain any musical passage for longer than a minute before wandering off down a different track altogether.

So there.


No url yet

Pigmartyr (Grand Recordings)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

What’s Watts when it’s at home? The new band formed by ex-KMFDM man Raymond Watts, that’s what. Or perhaps you know him as the frontman of Pig, his previous band-incarnation, of which Watts seems to be a continuation. At any rate, the new band logo - the word WATTS in distressed white capitals out of a red diamond - is in a very similar style as the old PIG logo, possibly a visual clue that what’s going on here isn’t so much a new project as a rebranded version of the old project.

The biography which accompanied this promo CD makes much of Raymond Watts’ dubious status as a heroin addict. Not something that would normally be bigged-up as a selling point, you might think, but it seems that being a junkie is very much part of Raymond Watts’ persona these days. Reading his lyrics in the CD inlay, it almost appears as if he’s relying on his drugs to give him his identity. If you took away his Class As he’d be just another hopeful rocker trying for a comeback in a crowded market, but his addiction gives him an ideal opportunity to play the part of the hopelessly doomed poet of the apocalypse. Bit by bit, hit by hit, he’s slowly, knowingly, almost gleefully, destroying himself - and documenting his own dysfunctionality in the name of rock ‘n’ roll. If there’s a theme to this album, that’s it.

Some lyrical examples? Try this, from ‘Here To Stay’: ‘Just like the bullet to the tomb/From the needle to the spoon/I’m longing for the hit/I’m the fly drawn to the shit’. Or this, from ‘Reject’: ‘And every day it all comes down/To one sweet hit’.  Or even this, from ‘Vitriol, Vice, And Virtue’: ‘I am the scratch you could never itch/Keep it dumb, just one hitch/My god is begging me for one more fix’. How about this, from ‘Take’, which seems to be a valedictory revel in the highs and lows of rock stardom: ‘We got hits and writs and lines of shit’. Or even this, from ‘Arbor Vitate’: ‘My god is good, my god is right/He’ll give me what I need tonight/This finger itches for the spike and spoon/In this city where you weep into the womb’. Oh, and the very last song on the album is entitled ‘Junky’. Just in case we haven’t quite figured it out yet, I suppose.

Frankly, if you took out all the drug references from Raymond Watts’ lyrics, you’d hardly have any lyrics left. Curiously, he also makes frequent references to his ‘god’, usually in close connection with those ubiquitous drug references. It’s as if Raymond Watts regards his own addiction as a deity which just has to be obeyed, an all-powerful force which he simply can’t resist. His god is killing him, but he just has to go along with it - he is, after all, the Pigmartyr. All this amounts to an intriguing angle, and it makes me wonder just what might be going on in that dope-pickled mind of his...while at the same time not wanting to get too close.

So, what’s the music itself like, then? In a nutshell, punchy, contemporary metal, in which programming and samples fight it out with aggressive, crunchy guitars. The sound is sometimes fleshed out by soul-diva backing vocals - notably, by Haloblack’s Arianne Schreiber, who is easily good enough to warrant an album of her own. Raymond Watts’ own vocal style is a guttural chant, loaded with effects; he’s clearly one of those singers who can’t quite sing, and he relies heavily on the technology (and his backing vocalists) to make up for the shortfall in his own ability. He rasps his way through song after song, hoping we don’t notice that the distortion effect is doing most of the work. But then, I imagine the target market for this album is the teenage nu-metal hordes, with their hoodies and I-hate-everything attitudes: to that audience, a distorted rasp of a vocal is pretty much de rigeur. In fact, to the average Slipknot fan, this stuff probably counts as dangerously melodic. Raymond Watts probably sounds like Perry Como to that lot.

But here’s the element that gives the album a lift for me, and, ultimately, makes it work. Occasional touches of humour come through here and there, with knowing little musical and lyrical references to what I suspect are Raymond Watts’ own favourite moments from his record collection. On ‘Kundalini’, an incongruous interlude of 80s-influenced (and sampled?) beats ‘n’ grooves among the full-on rock songs, there’s an entire musical sequence which sounds like it’s been lifted wholesale from New Order’s back catalogue. This is followed by a wonderful moment where Raymond Watts assumes an uncannily accurate pastiche of David Bowie’s south London croon, and purloins a snippet of melody from Bowie’s ‘Secret Life Of Arabia’ for his own line “The secret life of your labia’ - and at that point I fall about with delighted laughter. It’s a gloriously cheeky steal, especially as Bowie gets no writer credit (he’ll getcha for that one, Raymond!).  Although I find Raymond Watts’ junkie posturing rather tiresome, and his metal noise isn’t really my thing, at that moment I could forgive the audacious old bugger anything.

On ‘Take’ he’s paraphrasing Emerson, Lake, And Palmer: ‘Welcome back my friends/To the shit that never ends’, along with a flurry of sampled orchestral squalls and stabs  - very Foetus, that. Of course, Raymond Watts was once a Foetus collaborator, so perhaps this is a trick he learned from Grand Master Thirlwell. Then again, maybe he’s nodding in the direction of Zodiac Mindwarp here, because there’s more than a touch of ‘Prime Mover’ in the rhythm and the cartoonish lasciviousness on this one.

By far the majority of tracks on this album keep pretty firmly to the path of modern metal, and that’s just not my musical area. But it’s these little deviant interludes, these nod-and-a-wink moments, that grab me and pull me in - and make me think that behind his ‘Look at me kids, I’m a druggie, ain’t that jes’ the kewlest thing!’ schtick, Raymond Watts might just be a wittier and more interesting artist than he first appears. An album to be approached with a certain amount of caution, then, and certainly I would advise anyone to take all the druggie-schmuggie stuff with a degree of scepticism. But there’s rewarding stuff here if you care to dive in.

The tunestack:
Suck, Spit, Shit
Here To Stay
Vitriol, Vice, and Virtue
Arbor Vitate
Stage Slut

The players:
Raymond Watts: Vocals, guitars, programming
Eden: Bass, programming
Steve White: Guitars, programming
Joolz Hodgeson: Guitars
Andy Selway: Drums
Arianne Schreiber: Backing vocals

Harry: Backing vocals
Bryan Black: Backing vocals
Marc Heal: Additional programming
Oliver Grasset: Additional programming
Jules Cooper: Additional guitars

The website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

White Chapel Fiends
White Chapel Fiends (Demo)
~reviewed by Blu

Demos are always a risky sort of grab bag. First you have to remove any kind of notion of production quality and chuck that out the door. That's doable enough. And then you listen and try very hard to find the potential in the maze of white noise that generally reeks out of the speakers into your ears. Most of the time, quite frankly, demos suck. But you have to start somewhere right? Well I'm happy to report, that lately, the general rule has went in the pot and I've been lucky to get several demos that have a great deal of potential. White Chapel Fiends is one of them.

It's hard to pinpoint this band once you start digging in. On the surface - the moniker of death punk or horror punk works well enough lyrically and sonically. The songs are definitely bass driven (which is wonderful played by the way) and the lyrics are shouted more than they're sung with the strong melodies coming in from group choruses a la The Misfits but not as simplistic. The drums are relentless and the songs are fast-paced, in your face and relatively short. What's different here though is the guitar. Sometimes it sits so far back that its practically non-existent until out of no where you get hit in the head with a guitar solo that seems more at home in a twangy, bluesy rockabilly band. And if that sounds like it wouldn't work - you'd be wrong. It works wonderfully. It's all dirty and gritty and decadent.

Right away you're given a punchy beat and the group chorus on "Devil's Right  Hand" which would incite a mosh pitt even before the vocalist takes the stage. This is straight up 3-chord horror punk in your face. It's not complicated or extravagant and it doesn't have to be. Sometimes beauty is in the simplicity. If you were the Misfits you'd end it there and be done with it. But not these boys. They have more tricks up their sleeves. Out of no where is a surprising - dare I say almost acoustic sounding guitar break and it goes all dreamy. The only thing that doesn't change here is the insistent drumming which brilliantly serves as a bridge between the breaks. The vocalist struggles a bit here with the more melodic verses and it sounds as if there is some uncertainty about what the melody should be (both in the notes and the timing) between the vocalist and the guitar. If they could polish that break up and make it seamless, it would be jaw dropping.

"American Bombshell" starts out with a classic punk bass line that's so compelling you just KNOW this song is gonna kick ass before the guitar starts in. Again - the guitar is a surprise. Here its more gritty rock n roll then punk (think Iggy Pop), rearing its head right at the start and then settling back into the song until a drum break which sets the stage for a wacky guitar solo that continues til the end. My only criticism here is that it all just kind of fades out and doesn't really end. I can see the guitarist still playing with all his might as someone downs the sound volume on him. Perhaps a more established but shorter guitar bit then back to the refrain of the chorus? I'm not sure. It just sounds as if it wasn't supposed to end there.

Oh - and have I said, "thank god for live drums" yet? You can do no wrong with a steady drummer folks. Bass and drums propel "Lets Go Psycho" - another classic punk song complete with a fist-in-the-air-sing-a-long chorus (hey hey hey hey o!). Nothing terribly unique here but it sure is fun. "Not Human At All" seems to take a beach/surf flavor with a tinge of greasy rock and certainly is catchy enough to have you shakin' in your boots. And here, more than in any other songs, Mat seems to OWN the lyrics and sings out with confidence.

"Dirty Business" is sinfully more psychobilly than their other songs, grinding, digging and getting ugly with the best of 'em. The guitarist lets a seemingly brilliant twangy solo fly only to be killed again by a pre-mature ending to the song as the volume drops off with no warning and no more is heard. I felt really cheated on this one...there's got to be more to this song and I'll chalk it up to being unfinished on the demo. (Come on fellas - don't leave me hanging!).

And finally, "Its All A Joke" is hard and fast, full of "woo -oh -ohs" and heavy handed guitar riffs ending in a righteous "fuck  you" as any good punk band would do. And maybe its a good way to sum up this band. There's nothing groundbreaking about the music being played here although it hints at genuine good musicianship making up the parts. The lyrics aren't challenging any world views nor are they venturing into uncharted territories but they are having FUN and with a little fine tuning and a heavy dose of confidence, they'll be infectious. For my entertainment value - fun goes a long, long way.

There's a post script to this thing because if you're like me and leave the CD playing, you'll get to hear the "hidden track" where the band debates "what the hell to put on the secret track". It's pretty hilarious and hints at what must take place during band practice. After a bit of yelling, joking and discussion, they finally come up with telling the listener just to "FUCK OFF!"  And there you have it.

The band doesn't have a web page yet but look for them to start showing up at venues in Southern California where you can purchase this fine demo for a measly $2.

Track List
1. Devil's Right Hand
2. American Bombshell
3. Lets Go Psycho
4. Not Human At All
5. Dirty Business
6. Its All A Joke

White Chapel Fiends Are:
Mat Skellington - Lead Vocals
Alfred - Guitar, Vocals
Harly Hangman - Bass, Vocals
Ethan Graveworm - Drums, Vocals

The Imaginary Direction of Time
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

As one might suspect, The Imaginary Direction of Time is not easy to wrap your brain around.  Winds has turned in a mind-boggling album that, once digested and scrutinized, is clearly an artistic triumph ... and a damn good listen.  These high-minded (or perhaps just high) Norwegians have ascended the mountain of space and time whereupon mighty brained thinkers like Arcturus, Aesma Daeva, and Borknagar ponder the complexities of the cosmos.  Luckily, their musical theorems and dissertations are more listenable than your average lecture on astrophysics.

Winds employs a neoclassical musical approach to illuminate their discoveries, eschewing synths in favor of live instrumentation.  The song arrangements typically combine traditional metal fare with piano and violin.  They are both progressive and regressive at the same time, bringing together the sound of classic acoustic instruments with the forward thinking, spacey melodicism often associated with the 'progressive' moniker.  Wiggling guitar solos flavor the music with plentiful prog, but the piano and vocals are the heart and soul of the album.

Lars Eric Si has a distinct and singular vocal style, with a very straightforward delivery that I thought I might hate at first... until I listened to the album a few more times, and realized that it fits the music perfectly.  He doesn't succumb to the overly florid tendencies of some of his contemporaries, but instead dishes out earnest lyrics filled with a subtle intensity uncommon in an age of theatrical histrionics.  Andy Winter's piano lines provide a more ornate means to embellish the music, reminding me more of Debussy or Schubert than anything metal.  This unlikely duet of sounds surprisingly merges into a cohesive and powerful whole.

If cosmic rock-metal gets you going, then its a'going you should get and head to your local music store (or portal to the infinte vastness of universal consciousness) and grab this album.  Winds melds rock, metal, classical music and starry-eyed wonder into a thoroughly engrossing forty-eight minutes of music suggestive of what might erupt from a union of Queen and Borknagar.  If envisioning that doesn't melt your brain, you definitely need to point yourself in The Imaginary Direction of Time.

Track List:
01.) What Is Beauty?
02.) Sounds Like Desolation
03.) Theory Of Relativity
04.) Visions Of Perfection
05.) The Fireworks Of Genesis
06.) Under The Stars
07.) A Moment For Reflection
08.) Time Without End
09.) The Final End
10.) Beyond Fate
11.) Silence In Despair
12.) Infinity

Winds is:
Lars Eric Si – Vocals
Carl August Tidemann – Guitars
Jan Axel Van Bloomberg - Drums
Andy Winter - Piano

Winds Official Site:

The End Records (US):

Telepathic With The Deceased
~reviewed by Goat

I just love when someone gets into my vehicle, and, after I turn the key, they look at me wide-eyed and say, “Uhm. I don’t mean to be rude but, can we not listen to this?”  Other comments usually range from, “What in the name of [whomever they use as a curse] is THAT?” to, “Is that person gonna be okay?” and, “Are they singing or throwing up?”  Ahhhhh.  Black f*cking metal!

And so it goes with Xasthur.  Intensely beautiful psychosis.  Ambient noise desolation and just pure, straight-up cold void black metal.  Like the first Burzum albums.  In fact, if you’re one of those people who has ever wondered to yourself, “Damn it, why can’t anyone just make albums like Burzum any more?”  Here’s your jackpot.  Fans of Judas Iscariot, Havohej, etc., take heart!

The thing I really like about this Xasthur work is the epic, folkish texture it has to it.  Not quite as much as say, Summoning or the first few Enslaved albums, but just enough to really keep me grinning the whole way through.  Which is to say, I enjoy the conversation between the cheerfully morose harmonies and the chaotic dissonance.  This is exactly why I ever loved black metal in the first place; it is terrible and beautiful all at once.  It sounds like life.  Real life.  With all the fertilizer and artifice stripped away.

Definitely add Xasthur’s Telepathic With The Deceased to your collection.  I can’t imagine a black metaller not enjoying this album.  And, a raise of the glass to Xasthur for the Kutna Hora photo on the back album art, for the front cover painting, and for making a summer-released album cold enough to tide us over ‘til winter.  [If macabre/funerary art like the Xasthur album art interests you, I’ve run across a well-done and lovingly kept site at:  ].

Track Listing:
1. Entrance Into Nothingness
2. Slaughtered Useless Beings In A Nihilistic Dream
3. Abysmal Depths Are Flooded
4. May Your [can't read] (Void?) Become As Deep As My Hate!
5. Telepathic With The Deceased
6.  [A?, I?] Walk Beyond Utter Darkness (Instrumental)
7. Cursed Revelations
8. Drown Into Eternal Twilight
9. Murdered Echoes Of The Mind
10. Exit

Zentriert Ins Antlitz
~reviewed by Goat

Well.  Ya gotta love a CD that starts of with a quote from Event Horizon.  (“This place is a tomb”.)  It might actually be useful to relate what comes AFTER that quote in the movie:

Capt. Miller: This place is a tomb.
W.F. Smith: When you break all the laws of physics, do you seriously think there won’t be a price?!
Dr. Weir: Hell is only a word . . . the reality is much, much worse.
Dr. Weir: What’s the shortest distance between two points?
Mr. Justin: A straight line.
Dr. Weir: Wrong. The shortest distance between two points is zero.
Capt. Miller: Vacate! I want off this ship.
W.F. Smith: This ship is fu**ed.
Dr. Weir: Well, thank you for that scientific analysis, Mr. Smith.
[end movie quotes]

And so the CD begins.

What’s amusing about this CD to me is, the other day I was looking again at one of my favorite websites:

It’s a list of samples that Industrial (and other) bands have used over the years, and it’s a link I confess I do treasure.  Anyway, I was looking over the whole thing, and I was thinking to myself that I missed the days when a new Front Line Assembly or Skinny Puppy album was something I marked the calendar for.  And then I remembered fondly when Industrial got  mean, and nasty, and smelled bad.  When the Gabba crept in.  When things started to go really wicked.  Oh, how I loved that vast musical landscape which revealed itself to me, and how I have loved to traverse it.

Less than two days later this CD arrived, as if in answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I’d made.  (That was the amusing part, if you’re still waiting/wondering.)

If you’ve got a black trench coat and a Hellraiser collection.  If you’ve got Re/Search #6/7.  If you’ve ever slept to Scorn, Null, or Biosphere.  If you own one or more pairs of shoes and they’re all black leather boots.  If your joy is 808 State and your sorrow is Leaether Strip, then this, my friend, is your next purchase.

Meandering through chainsaw massacres and trance-like beautalities,  I simply could not have dreamt a better torture garden for someone hungry for a little hardline Industrial delicasy.  (Namely, myself.)

Some of these tracks are downright nasty. Funky nasty.  Thrill Kill Kult-in-a-bad-mood nasty.  Absinthe and ecstasy nasty.  Murder-angel nasty.  The kind of nasty like when you watch Reptilicus and you get off on that part when they peel the meat from the drill.  And then you dance to it.  It’s even got samples from Aliens in it!  Whaddo I have to hit you over your head?  You know you need this.

On COP International.

Track Listing:
1.)  Try to Escape
2.)  ...ob die Engel auch Beine haben
3.)  Nuklear Haze
4.)  Darkritual
5.)  Elemental Parts
6.)  Genozid (my virus club mix)
7.)  Elektronendammerung
8.)  Die Schampulermaschine
9.)  Define Tracing
10.)  Motion Tracker
11.)  Genozid (bonus track)

Run time:  57:56

Excellent "Unreleased Area" downloads section of the website:
(The artwork for the "Lost Tracks" is fantastic, as are the tracks themselves.  Go there!)

Zentriert ins Antlitz
~reviewed by Goat

I remain in awe of this band.  The sounds, the samples, the artwork.  Some of the best and most stunning samples are included in their work; samples which can be catalysts for reflection on many levels.

Example from track 5 (“Microbial”) is a bit from Star Trek.  I’ll include the entire text of the quote they sample from here to give you an idea of the levels of meaning I’m talking about:

BG=Borg Queen
DA= Data

BQ:  Are you ready?
Da:  Who are you?
BQ:  I am the Borg.
Da:  That is a contradiction. The Borg have a collective consciousness. There are no individuals.
BQ:  I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many. I am the Borg.
Da:   Greetings. I am curious. Do you control the Borg collective?
BQ:  You imply a disparity when none exists. I am the collective.
Da:  Perhaps I should rephrase the question. I wish to understand the organizational relationships. Are you their leader?
BQ:  I bring order into chaos.
Da:  An interesting, if cryptic response.
BQ:  You are in chaos, Data. You are the contradiction, a machine who wishes to be human.
Da:  Since you seem to know so much about me, you must be aware that I am programmed to evolve to better myself.
BQ:  We, too, are on a quest to better ourselves. Evolving toward a state of perfection.
Da:  Forgive me, but the Borg do not evolve, they conquer.
BQ:  By assimilating other beings into our collective, we are bringing them closer to perfection.
Da:  Somehow I question your motives.
BQ:  That is because you haven't been properly...stimulated yet.
Da:  You have reactivated my emotion chip. Why?
BQ:  Don't be frightened.
Da:  I am not frightened.
BQ:  Do you know what this is, Data?
Da:  It would appear you are attempting to graft organic skin onto my endo-skeletal structure.
BQ:  What a cold description for such a beautiful gift.
BQ:  Was that good for you?

The track ends with the Queen Borg saying, “Such a noble creature... a quality we sometimes lack. We will add your distinctiveness to our own.”

Now, I will confess that I don’t watch much TV or movies, but I do appreciate that discussions of the highest nature are dropped like little bombs into the most mundane of contexts.  I don’t take television and movies very seriously, but I take the need for the discussions very seriously.  I’m thankful for musicians who are willing to add these bombs to their music.  May they blow our minds wide open.  Here’s to being awake.  Here’s to being unplugged.

I will say again also that the artwork associated with this band is fantastic.
This particular outing blends the delightful textures of insects with the wonders of photography and microscopy.  Truly delightful.

The music, once again, is brilliant.  This album is quieter in atmosphere than the previously reviewed “Genozid” outing.  Where Genozid was at times a raging fist, and much like being hit over the noggin with a most beautiful 2x4, “Prozium” glides along through and over waves of emotion and disease.  Prozium pulses and burns, it saws and it riddles, it invades, it soothes, it educates and maligns.  The musical experience is wholly satisfying; the messages transmitted may be soul-death defying.  I will not swallow the Prozium!

Again, this album is beautiful and well-done on every level; musically, artwork, conceptualization.  A complete work, one which a curious mind would do well to purchase.  The track “Gollum” really must be heard to be believed.  Who knew that the most tragically human character from the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien could ever be danced to?

Track Listing:
1.  Ultra Violent Ultra Skilled [Club Mix]
2. Chainreaction [Part I]
3. Svarnetik
4. Prophecy [Extended Club Mix]
5. Microbial [Elektronendämmerung Kapitel II]
6. Third War
7. Un nouveau début
8. Ultra Violent Ultra Skilled
9. Emotion Dampening Tranquilizer
10. Contact
11. Gollum
Run time: (64:20)
(Visit the download area for special treats, and try out the Ogg Player!)

On COP International:

Various Artists
XII Caesars
~reviewed by Goat

This CD is a collection released by Somnambulant Records, exploring the sounds various artists decided to make when confronted with the task of having their sounds describe or investigate an idea of one of the Twelve Caesars from Julius (49BC) to Domitian (96AD).

Part of me would almost expect to hear a two-hour compilation of nothing but screaming.  But, as anyone in America today can tell you, beauty still happens within the falling of an Empire, and as the Caesars live out their days.

Birds still sing, whales still breach, leaves still fall.  And so, this CD may be truer to life then than my expectations.  Of course, we will likely never know.
(Time travel and etcetera aside.)

So, yes, there are some dark bits here.  Dark enough to be associated with a Caesar?  Does it get much darker than that?  A good example is the fourth track, (“Gaius (Caligula)”).  It’s one of those dark ambient tracks that has sounds like hard-shelled bugs wriggling into your ears.  That squishy, clicking, mind-bending sound that cannot but reflect a nation dying of bad laws and brutish law-enforcers and destruction all around.  (Plus, you’ve all seen “Cali-gula” the movie, right?)  Another is the ninth track, (“Domitian”,) which is all black helicopters and jailed patriots and Waco burning down.

Other tracks seem more pleasant.  Calms between storms.  Calms between debauchery in the places of power and towers falling.  Calms between rampant “Me”ism and invasions and immigrations and cities being turned to dust.  Beauty and torments.  Sunlight and tears.  Blood and soil.  Centuries.

What can possibly be more haunting than an Epilogue?  (Track 10, titled, “Epilogue (Ultor)”).  It tugs at my guts;  the sounds of smouldering on an empty plain which once was filled with everything I held dear.  The Empire marches on.

I do very much recommend this album.  It’s the sort of music I like to listen to when I’m reading.  By this, most people think I mean, “It’s background music.”  Perhaps.  But it is the soundtrack to the end of the age.  It is the sort of music that catalyzes my thinking processes, and adds dimension to words on a page.  Being that I do like to read history, I think this CD will stay next to the CD player for those evenings when I sit down and sort through issues of sovereignty among nations, or a Jane’s catalog, or the conquests of Genghis Khan.  It’s all here, weaved through these tracks.  The livestock crying, the dust rolling.  The whites of the horses eyes.  And always, birds sing.  Whales breach.  Leaves.  Fall.

Track Listing:
1. Exsanguinate - Julius Caesar, dictator
2. Tugend - Augustus
3. Murderous Vision - Tiberius
4. Bestia Centauri - Gaius (Caligula)
5. Post Scriptvm - Claudius
6. The Great Despires - Nero
7. Survival Unit - "The Year of Four Emperors"
8. Ond - Titus
9. Axone - Domitian
10. Marspiter - Epilogue (Ultor)

Run time:  67:40

'No excuse not to get this!  It's only 10 dollars direct from Somnambulent!  (Not including shipping.)

Also, if you go to the website, click on "releases", and find the "XII  Caesars" CD, you can see the exquisite artwork that comes with the album. The whole thing is beautifully done.  Really, very worth the money. I'm a little biased, but I think the artwork alone is worth ten bucks!

I trust you can search for the histories of the Caesars on the search engine of your choice.

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

If any of you feel like turning off when I say this is a Russian compilation of the best music being made in their ever-growing scene, that’s because you have no genuine interest in Goth as an important artistic musical genre, and just like fashionable aspects which apply to your area. Small scene, small mind. You may depart now, and come back when I am reviewing something you understand.

For the true Goth devotee one of the most intrinsic elements of Goth is the mystery and adventure, of discovering new delights, which you will certainly find here, as this huge cross-section of talent has very little in the way of rock or crass ebm stylists, but is heavily into attractive modern mood and melody. A lot is in English, and what is in Russian still manages to be languorous, evocative and spellbinding.

Side 1 (Dusk) is wonderful. The voice chokes on ashes in Stillife as they mix shuffle beats with classical, building serenely and making it clear why they have been voted Best Band in the Russian scene. Antisisters do secretive dark dance, Theodor Bastard ululate and vibrate in sepulchral surrounds, there are flickering electro pleasantries from Izida in a city noir escapade, and Darkwave veterans Necro Stellar are very up and bouncy, keeping busy even when it turns dour. Dvar is a bit too diverting for the Russian Sopor Aeternus tag he’s got, and Virtual Server’s Xymox remix is an arty relaxative. The odd track is Requiem For FM which is old techno, and the ridiculously catchy Hallucinations For Two don’t strike me as particularly dark, but it is a great collison of sweeping dance and gritty guitar. Cruci-Fiction are a merging of Goth and something called ‘Love-Metal’ which creates spruce rock with passionate vocals, and Para Bellum are unusual Goth Rock with a distinctively picky guitar style which keeps everything interesting behind rousing Russian vocals. Unholy Guests some of you should already know and love. A curious commercial suss rolls inside their delightful attack, Doppelganger give quite a mental rock approach, straight in there, but with a sophisticated edge. The true independent stalwart that is Children Of The Gun also proves you can be simpler in tone and arrangement than most but make just as strong an impact, if not more so, being strangely affecting. There is classical beauty from Bless, desolate plain drama from Vidna Nebo and it closes with the neo-classical drone of Moon Far Away which has added modern twists.

The ‘Dawn’ side wasn’t quite so much to my tastes, because there’s a greater variety here of some of the more extreme elements. Canonis are graceful and stirring, with something happily alien to my ears, which is why foreign compilations can be so exciting, as you encounter something new, and you have to love those sharp vocals. Caprice, who apparently have two albums out already yon Prikosnovenie, are absolutely stunning, with gorgeous vocals in a standard Ethereal manner, but of the highest quality imaginable. Drolls are lunatics who offer convincing medieval romps, and then there’s some melancholic folk from Romone Mikotto, followed by the still mysteries of occultists Kratong-TD. Sandcastle are fabulous, rich in emotional suggestion and she is proud to admit to Lycia being a strong influence. Emily A. Saaen offers similarly seasoned, sumptuously restful music. Neutral, and later a track by Languor, have acoustic stylings of the warm variety which bring Ataraxia to mind, which his no bad thing.

Where I got a bit bored was with the drab electronics of Cyclotimia, the Industrial Experimentation of Vishudha Kali, the occult drippings of Majdanek Waltz and the serious Neo-folk statements of Wolfsblood. I never like any of these forms, and particularly not neo-folk, and the reason is demonstrated by the very next track, from Laklustre Mirror, which is instantly full of life and intelligence and romance and compassion, not some barking mad grim-faced tortured loon. Blood & Sand are more like attractive slow indie to me, with lovely interwoven voices, Embrace Of Branches give us dark classical folk, where the strong clear vocal and strings make it charming, and then it all finishes with some magical ambient work by Anthesteria who must be insane. He has people very naturally interest in his work, but limited his release to just fifty copies!!!!

Honestly, it’s all in here, to be examined, and new favourites to be found. A genuinely magnificent compilation.

STILL LIFE  Disillusions
IZIDA A Hypnotic Attraction
DVAR Hissen Raii V.2
REQUIEM FOR FM Devouring Element
DOPPELGANGERS Kiss To My Last Breath
BLESS Il Pleut
MOON FAR AWAY Witchcraft By A Singing
CAPRICE To My Sisters
DROLLS In Taberna
ROMOWE RIKOTO Song Of Prosperine
KRATONG TD Experience
NEUTRAL Festival
MAJDANEK WALTZ Love As A Whip Strike
LANGUOR The Purpose Wells
BLOOD & SAND For Faith
I will recommend a few urls for the bands I liked best (unfortunately Izida, Children Of The Gun, Canonis, and Sandcastle don’t have sites listed):


Various Artists
Cryonica Tanz V.3 (Cryonica)
~review by Uncle Nemesis

This is the third in an ever-lengthening series of compilation CDs released by the UK-based Cryonica label, with the intention of focusing attention on some of the up-and-coming electronic bands around today. It’s a big value package: 30 tracks spread over two CDs, but as with all various artists collections, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. You get some good stuff, some fair-to-middling stuff, and a few tracks which frankly seem to be there simply to make up the numbers. What’s slightly more to the point is that the music here tends to fall into a handful of distinct sub-genres. There’s light, melodic, synthpop, typically with half-chanted, melancholic vocals; some fast, assertive, techno-influenced tracks, clearly designed to trigger an instant floor-invasion in the clubs; and then there’s the distorted-shouting-over-bangin’-beats stuff. A few more adventurous contenders take their music into more individualistic areas, but overall I have to say that hardly any of the artists represented here seem willing to jump out of their chosen genre-box, and there’s a worryingly high incidence of tracks which simply sound like they’ve been put together by assembling prefabricated components. Here’s a bit of Covenant, here’s a bit of Suicide Commando, here’s a bit of something which sounds a bit like everything else.

This phenomenon - when a musical genre starts to feed on itself, when genuinely new ideas stop cropping up and everyone simply starts doing what everyone else is doing - is not a new thing, of course. It happened to the indie scene, post-Oasis, when every indie band on the planet suddenly started doing Beatles-influenced retro-rock. It happened to goth scene about ten years ago, during that distinctly underwhelming period when every other goth band simply rehashed the Sisters Of Mercy sound, if they weren’t trying the same trick with the Nephilim style. It’s been my contention for a while now that the EBM/synthpop/whatever scene has reached that same chasing-its-own-tail stage, and this compilation seems to confirm my view.  To illustrate all this, consider this statistic: 12 out of the 30 tracks on this album employ some sort of distortion effect on the vocal. That’s uncomfortably close to 50%, and, perhaps, demonstrates how far down the road of doing-the-same-as-everyone-else we’ve gone in the electronic genre.  I’m sure that if a label released a 30-track compilation of goth bands upon which almost half the vocalists were doing that hackneyed Andrew Eldritch-soundalike thing, this would be instantly held up as evidence of the goth scene’s stagnation, its redundancy and creative stasis - and that would be a very fair criticism. Well, apply that critical criterion to the electro scene, as represented on this album - and draw your own conclusions!

But let’s jump in to the music, and pick out a few highlights and lowlights. Track One, Disc One sets out the stall pretty effectively.  ‘Paranoid Destruction’ by Agonoize opens up with a briefly intriguing clatter of intro-beats, and then settles down to a fairly regular-issue hard-EBM stomper, punctuated by one of those ‘uplifting’ synth motifs, and - yep, you guessed it - an ‘Aaarwwghh!’ vocal. Well, so far, so standard. A little further in, Matrix give us ‘Sensless Game’, and it’s a very Mesh-like pop tune, with a lyric about unrequited love - ‘You’ll never know I exist’ - and this in itself represents a common generic theme. All the synthpoppy tracks here seem to have melancholy, downbeat, doom-and-gloom-on-a-stick lyrics, usually about lost love, or sometimes just general bleakness. Another example crops up a few tracks further down the stack, in ‘Nailed’ by Diskonnekted. Their track is a slammin’ slice of dancefloor madness, complete with little Space Invaders ‘zap’ effects, but the lyrics are the usual depression-by-numbers stuff. A sample line:

‘Misery, it seems, is my only friend’. This is really quite bizarre. If a goth band wrote a lyric like that, they’d be laughed at, and roundly condemned for playing up to the stereotype. So how come all the synthpoppers can get away with such blatant gloomcookie stuff?

It’s a bit of a surprise to encounter Knifeladder in this company, since they’re so much of an organic, physical, band. In the normal scheme of things, they’re hardly the stuff of EBM playlists. I suspect they make it under the wire on this occasion because their track, ‘Dervish’, is here in remixed form. It’s been doofed-up into a thumping great hardcore motherfucker of a tune - effective enough, but nothing that Ultraviolence weren’t doing several years ago. Knifeladder, of course, share a member with Inertia these days, and since Inertia are the proprietors of the Cryonica label it’s logical to find their own acts represented in full effect. Disc One rounds off with two of ‘em. Fiction 8 give us ‘Nothing More’, a slice of busy synthpop with yet more of those agonised, melodramatic vocals: “Let me die or let me live/There’s nothing more that I can give’. The vocalist sounds in such distress that I’m seized with a sudden urge to sit the poor chap down and give him chocolate. Mono Chrome are a welcome diversion in that their track, ‘Rivited’, features a very fine vocal performance from Victoria Lloyd, a great relief after all the synthpop-chanters and distortion-demons I’ve had to suffer so far.

And then on to Disc Two. There are no real surprises here - this second part of the compilation covers the same generic territories as the first; the bands all do more or less what you’d expect them to do. But Seize surprise me somewhat - their ‘Unbreakable’ is much more hard-hitting and assertive that I was expecting. The palette of sounds they use is fairly standard, but its good to hear this band, not previously noted for their tendency to play it hard and loud, giving it a bit of welly.

Namnambulu contribute ‘Memories’, and, alas, it’s not a version of Public Image’s vintage stormer. It’s a regular doof-doofer, complete with squeaky synths and that ‘sonar’ effect, which is yet another over-used sound in the electronic area these days. I’ll give Namnamblu their due: they’re good at what they do, but that’s not really saying much, is it? Where’s the stuff that’s going to stop me in my tracks?

Ever hopeful, I dive in to Pangea’s ‘Permafrost’, hoping for one moment that it’s a cover of Magazine’s menacing slow-burner. It’s not. In fact, it’s a rather bland instrumental, like the theme to a TV sports show. It drives along without really going anywhere, and ultimately it bores me.  Still, I’m sure it’ll go very well with some library footage of windsurfers, or something.

Culture Kultur’s ‘Wonder’ opens with a nice piano motif, and a trancey vibe overall. It’s all a bit too Covenant for comfort in the end, though, and yep, the track contains yet another doomy lyric: ‘Someone in the corner is crying silently.’ Oh, that must be me, then, weeping for the death of creativity in electronic music. Ariya’s ‘Disease’ is a cut above the competition, featuring as it does the distinctive, relaxed vocal of Jennifer Parkin, which transcends the rather over-generic backing. A fine vocalist, a good song, but the decision to simply press the same old synthpop buttons instead of creating a bespoke style rather lets things down. Spretsnaz seem to be trying to re-write Front 242’s classic ‘Join In The Chant’ on their ‘To The Core’, so we shall move quickly on. Sprinting to the finish now, I’m grabbed by the third-to-last band on this disc.  They’re called First Black Pope, easily the best band name I’ve heard for a while (since Future Sound Of Elvis, in fact), but, alas, they seem to have expended all their wit and imagination on their name, because their tune is a straight-up doofer with a tiresome ‘Eeerrrwwghh!’ noise for a vocal.  Competently done, but no risks taken.

And that, as it happens, is a good summing-up of this album. Every band here is technically good; the production and presentation of the music is faultless. But genuine, creative, ideas seem to be in very short supply.  I’ve predicted before that EBM will eat itself, that synthpop will end up chasing its own tail, and to be brutal about it this album seems to offer more evidence that it’s all starting to happen. Sure, there are a few little sparks here, but a few little sparks just aren’t enough. I want a raging inferno of creativity, I want to be tripped up and astonished by new ideas and quirky individuality, I want to be taken somewhere *new*. This album, unfortunately, just doesn’t buy the ticket.

The tunestack:
Agonoize: Paranoid Destruction (Implant mix)
Solitary Experiments: Watching Over You (Cut Off)
Matrix: Senseless Game
Nebula-H: Mobilis Im Mobile
Swarf: Subtext
Diskonnekted: Nailed (Fucked mix)
Human Decay: Body of (Un)knowledge
Knifeladder: Dervish (Antivalium mix)
Terrorfakt: Like Bricks And Thunder
Dunkelwerk: Die Sechste Armee (Club Is A Battlefield cut)
Inertia: Black Ice Impact (Acidic mix)
Cesium 137: Atrophy (Edit)
Fiction 8: Nothing More
Mono Chrome: Riveted (Seize mix)

Pressure Control: Triggerfinger (Extended club mix)
Oil 10: Le Bar (Happy hour mix)
Seize: Unbreakable (Broken mix)
Namnambulu: Memories (Vox Celectia mix)
Mindless Faith: Momentum (Clone mix)
Pangea: Permafrost
Void Construct: Imperfection (Rejection of Self)
Glis: Resolution (Sero Overdose mix)
Culture Kultur: Wonder
Nino Cortez: Eternal Dreams (Massiv In Mensch mix)
Ayria: Disease (Namnambulu mix)
Spetsnaz: To The Core (Extended 2.0)
First Black Pope: Evil One (Fucking Bastard remix)
Cyclone B: Sputnik
Infekktion: The Mask (Exclusive mix)

The Cryonica label website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

~reviewed by Mick Mercer


All four ‘artists’ are individuals, and as they are clearly composers why on Earth have they all chosen names, rather than using their own, thereby building up a strong individual identity? Are they hiding? Perhaps they’re paranoid.

Anaphylaxis is actually one Jason Coffman, who handles ‘plunderphonics’, apparently, but to me is creating humming faux evil soundtracks. They develop in a linaer fashion, and are merely weirdness in the background. Hollydrift (aka Mathias Anderson) gives us ‘uneasy listening’ that veers between radio interference, drunken Gregorian sighing and muttered shadows. Kava Project, normally known as Jobe, creates groaning dross of the lowest order, and only The Devouring Element (or Geoff Dargan), manages to create a definite dream world where the ideas have a sense of being, The last track is pointless white noise, but at least his first two seem to simmer with potential.

Overall though, it’s shite.


Various Artists
Gothic Magazine Compilation XXI (Batbeliever)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

Here we have another in the never-ending series of compilation albums released by Gothic Magazine of Germany. The name of the magazine might have a rather clunky does-what-it-says-on-the-tin feel to anyone whose first language is English, but there’s no denying that the mag’s sheer mass of content is impressive. The issue with which this compilation was released runs to 102 pages and features substantial coverage of  21 bands - not counting reviews - and you get a set of free postcards to boot. The compilation CDs are very much stand alone items, rather than mere promotional devices to encourage punters to buy the principal product. The bands on the compilations don’t necessarily tie in with the bands featured in the magazines alongside which they’re released, but the overall package, with those distinctive ‘real people’ covers (derived from photos taken each year at the Wave Gotik Treffen) hangs together very well, and illustrates just what is possible in a scene that’s large enough to generate some real media enterprises. All those of us who don’t live in Germany - we can start seething with jealousy now.

But for all the overall quality of the package, it ultimately comes down to the bands. Various artists compilations often tend to steer an erratic course between the cool and the clunky, the essential stuff and the space-fillers. In the past, I’ve complained that such compilations also tend to take a rigidly generic approach - deliberately showcasing bands which represent all the neatly-defined sub-genres of goth (metal, synthpop, etc) while ignoring the mavericks, the true creatives, the bands who can’t be pigeonholed so easily.

Is that strategy at work here? a certain extent, yes. The fifteeen tracks on this CD represent everything from portentous metal with ‘Huuurgh!’ vocals to bouncy dance-floor EBM with, er, ‘Huuurgh!’ vocals.  (The one thing that seems to unite these opposing ends of the musical spectrum is their utter disdain for vocal clarity. Maybe it’s just unfashionable these days.) There are a few tracks here upon which true creativity shines, but to a great extent all I hear is an exercise in pushing genre-buttons. That’s not unexpected, but it’s disappointing.

Let’s dip in to the tunestack and see what we can pull out. A few examples of the grim stuff first. Moonspell’s ‘In And Above Men’ is generic goffmetal with an unconvincing vocal. it’s obvious that the singer’s voice isn’t naturally inclined to make that chewing-on-Brillo pads noise. You can almost hear his vocal chords stretching to breaking point. Type O Negative rattle through ‘I don’t Wanna Be Me’, a nihilistic anthem which would’ve been great if performed by the Ramones, but as always with Type O it sounds like the band are taking themselves far too seriously for comfort.  Zeraphine contribute ‘Be My Rain’, and it’s a frankly average slice of AOR which, if it wasn’t for it’s maudlin lyric (‘Be my wash the pain and the truth away’) wouldn’t even qualify as goth. Eminence Of Darkness have one of those hilariously OTT names which bands who use English as their second language sometimes employ in the belief that they’ve stumbled upon a supercool combination of words. Their song - ‘Ground Zero’ - sounds like they’ve stumbled upon Delirium’s ‘Silence’ and thought - ‘Hey - we could do that!’ It’s well-produced, and all,’s been done, y’know?

The latter half of the album - from track 9 onwards - is given over to the pumpin’ sounds of dance floor-friendly EBM/synthpop, and variations thereupon. As I’ve opined on several occasions now, it’s my view that this particular area of music is describing ever-decreasing circles on a creative plateau these days. It’s reached that same stage goth arrived at a few years ago, when too many bands started chasing too few ideas. I’d like to report that the selections here overturn this view with a show of rampant creativity and astonishing new ideas....but, alas, no such progress is made. A few examples. The Eternal Afflict’s ‘Crucified’ is punctuated with a nifty little fuzzy neo-guitar sound, and the bluesy female backing vocals give the song a lift every time the chorus comes round, but overall it’s too much of a generic-average stomp-and-chant workout to excite me.  Combichrist do that Ultraviolence thing of a harsh, whumping, beat and movie samples for a vocal on ‘Joy To The World’. If this was 1994, this would sound radical and cool, but it’s 2004 and the tune just sounds like old ideas dressed up as something new. S.I.T.D. give us ‘Hurt’, and it’s another of those distorted-vocal-over-bouncy-dance-track things - as always with this sort of stuff, there’s precious little character or individuality; just a familiar generic sound. This could be Void Construct under a pseudonym, or, indeed, any one of fifty or a hundred other practitioners of modern industrial-dance.

Fortunately, there are a few goodies here as well as the stuff that leaves me unconvinced. Faith And The Muse bring a welcome shaft of light into this murky box of cliches with ‘Boudiccea’, on the face of it a delicate, folky thing, but with a depth and strength to it which lifts the song far above hey-nonny-no territory. Untoten surprise me with ‘Mit Der Augen Der Nacht’ - I’d been expecting a bouncy, cheesy pop tune, since that seems to be the band’s usual style, but this sounds like something from a Brecht/Weil operetta. ‘Farbenblind’ by Experiment Nnord (that’s not a typo; they really do have two Ns) is...weird. It’s like an excerpt from a cyberpunk production of Shock Headed Peter, with its off-kilter combination of mannered vocals and squalling guitars over a plonking hurdy-gurdy-ish foundation. Bands from Germany often seem to do this theatrical, melodrama-on-a-stick stuff very well, and on this occasion the other-worldly music hall feel hits the spot.

So, what’s the verdict? A great package with, ultimately, disappointing content. These compilations could be so much better if the net was spread a little wider, if the selection of bands and styles was broadened to include artists who don’t fit the predetermined goth-scene templates, who don’t make music which fits neatly into the little boxes assigned for it. This, perhaps, points up a weakness at the heart of the successful German scene: for fear of a downturn, a dip, a nosedive, everyone simply sticks with the stuff that’s known to work. Now there’s a paradox. A powerhouse scene that could push all the envelopes, move everything forward - but is too heavily wedded to its risk-averse strategy to do so. Who’s going to be brave enough to break that mould?

The tunestack:
Moonspell: In And Above Men
Type O Negative: I Don't Wanna Be Me
Faith And The Muse: Boudiccea
Zeraphine: Be My Rain
Illuminate: Nur Fur Dich (Schwartz)
Untoten: Mit Den Augen der Nacht
Eminence Of Darkness: Ground Zero
Experiment Nnord: Farbenblind
China Touch: You
The Eternal Afflict: Crucified
Combichrist: Joy To The World
X-Fusion: God And Devil
S.I.T.D.: Hurt
Painbastards: Orbituary
Re-Work: Never See You Tomorrow
Gothic Magazine at the Wave Gotik Treffen (Video)

The Gothic Magazine website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Various Artists
Gothic Magazine Compilation XXII (Batbeliever)
~review by Uncle Nemesis

Fresh in from Germany, a further instalment in Gothic Magazine’s series of various artists compilations. Fifteen tracks by fifteen bands in an impressive digipack, and all tied in stylistically with the magazine itself. A cool exercise in multimedia marketing, for sure - but the album will stand or fall on the music in the end. So, let’s give the CD a whirl and discover whether it does the business.

There’s a vintage electro feel to the first couple of songs on the album.  Wumpscut come over all Chris And Cosey on ‘Your Last Salute’, a minimalist slice of electro with a detatched female vocal that would sound very early-eighties if it were not for the hi-end production. In Strict Confidence generate a lush bed of electronica on ‘Babylon’ over which a stern male voice lectures us severely. And then the mood abruptly changes, as Secret Discovery crash-land with ‘Down’, a towering power-metal anthem complete with ranks of roaring guitars and a massed choir of backing vocalists. If it were not for the lugubrious, downbeat lead vocal you’d almost believe this was Meat Loaf.

Then the musical style is wrenched in yet another direction. For one moment I thought Gothic Magazine had scored a coup and convinced The Cure to contribute a track to their compilation. As it happens, they haven’t - but ‘Ghost’ by Burn sounds so uncannily Cure-like that I was nearly fooled. It wasn’t until the guitars rev up into full-on rockbastard mode that I realise this isn’t The Cure - just a band with an uncanny Robert Smith soundalike on vocals, and enough chutzpah to play up to this fact in the music. It works, but it’s a bit of an exercise in novelty. I don’t know if I could stomach an entire album of Burn’s shameless Cure-isms.

Mandylion’s ‘Per Dominum’ sounds so grand and doom-laden it could’ve come from The Lord Of The Rings. I can imagine this track appearing on the soundtrack album, where it would probably be called ‘The Aftermath Of Battle’ or something. There’s another abrupt stylistic leap into ‘Night In My Hands’ by Sara Noxx, which appears to be some sort of melodramatic goffick love song, all lush keyboards and a danceable synthpop beat. The production is warm and the tune is highly melodic - so much so that the song is half over before I realise, with a distinct sense of being let down, that Sara Noxx herself doesn’t actually *sing*. She simply talks her way through the song like a music student taking an exam in Advanced Anne Clark.

New Concept’s ‘Sky’ is actually an old concept: a slice of easy-listening trancey synthpop, like something Erasure would’ve knocked out in the mid-nineties. ‘Die Andere In Dir’ by Tristesse De La Lune is in a similar vein, inasmuch as it’s a smoothly forgettable synthpop ballad, with a dance beat that sounds like it’s been tacked onto the back of the tune simply because That’s What The Kidz Want. Superikone’s ‘Opiate’ is  a jerky, jittery thing, with a curiously awkward-sounding make voice lecturing us about drugs over electro bloops and squiggles. There’s an idea in there somewhere, but this bizarre attempt to combine William Burroughs and synthpop doesn’t quite work.

I was hoping to be spared yet more synthpop, but ‘Made For You’ by Say Y is more of the same, in that it’s an innoffensive, danceable love song with a sugary female vocal and trite lyrics: ‘I was made for you/Don’t know what to do’. Hmm, I can think of a few suggestions, as it happens, starting with ‘Ditch this feeble, soppy, song and make more interesting music, why don’t you?’

Then things toughen up with ‘Personal Oblivion’ by Mechanical Moth, on which the band weld a synthpoppy chorus to a melodramatic distort-o-stomp.  The chorus is sung by a fairly typical synthpop girlie-voice; the verse is one of those ubiquitous, characterless, distorted chants. The name of the game here is juxtaposition, but the musical elements that are being juxtaposed are, by themselves, fairly standard. No prizes here, alas.  ‘Tumbledown’ by Restricted Area is a mid-tempo electro-dance thing that plays entirely by the rules, and need concern us no further. ‘Evil Song’ by Amduscia is, by contrast, speedfreak-fast, a pell-mell EBM/techno anthem, with, unfortunately, a ‘Waaarrrghaarrrggghhaaarrrgh!’ noise where the vocal should be. I don’t think we need stick around on this one, do you? Next track, please!

Jesus And The Gurus have an intriguing name, and ‘Paint It Black’ is an intriguing track. Yes, it’s a version of that ol’ Rolling Stones standard, and although it’s a cover, the band inject their own wit and style and come up with something rather good. A frantically thrashed acoustic guitar and a clattering rhythm underpin a deep ‘n’ spooky vocal - the overall effect is a bit like Type O Negative larking about on holiday. Fun, and, ironically enough, this cover of a thirty-odd year old song sounds fresher and more inventive than much of the original music here. The very next track provides a neat example of this. ‘Dead Lover’s Blues’ by Astrovamps sounds like it should be good, but the gritty, contemporary, blues grind I was hoping for doesn’t materialise. Instead, the song is a mid-seventies style mainstream rock workout. If this came up on a classic rock radio station, you’d think it was Warren Zevon or someone of that ilk. They’ve got the sound down pat - but, c’mon, it’s not 1973 any more, guys.

The last two tracks on the album take us into what for want of a better expression I shall call ethereal territory. But that catch-all term short changes Unto Ashes, whose ‘I Cover You With Blood’ is an effective, acoustic number. In some respects it’s very trad-folk, but there’s a contemporary feel in there, too. A well-constructed song, and really quite engaging. Chandeen close the album with ‘Drift’, and the song title does not lie. There’s a rhythm moving everything along, but this is very much music for inside your head.

And that’s yer lot. What’s the final verdict? Well, as so frequently with goth-scene compilations, I find myself rather frustrated by the feeling that generic boxes are being dutifully ticked. This particular collection is very much a case in point. To listen to the track selection here, you’d think that goth was principally soundtracked by fairly standard, conventional-sounding metal and synthpop, with only a few variations and deviations along the way. In my book, it’s the variations and the deviations that provide the most interesting music. The most intriguing bands are the mavericks and the rule-breakers, the weirdos and the why-the-hell-not merchants. Very little of that spirit of left-field creativity ever seems to surface on these compilations, and that, I think is a shame. I suppose it’s always easier to trawl in a bunch of metal-bellowers, synthpoppers and industrial-dance chanters to make up the numbers, rather than going all-out to find some bands which do more individualistic stuff; and, of course, there’s a virtual guarantee that an album full of lowest common denominator inoffensiveness will sell better than an album packed with ‘difficult’ music of one sort or another. So, there may be good business reasons for the way goth-scene compilations are put together - but artistically they tend to be a little thin. That’s very much the state of things here. This particular compilation contains some interesting moments, but overall there’s just too much play-safe filler.  The presentation is impressive: the musical selection, alas, lets the side down.

The tunestack:
Wumpscut: Your Last Salute (Air Forge remix)
In Strict Confidence: Babylon
Secret Discovery: Down
Burn: Ghost
Mandylion: Per Dominum
Sara Noxx: Night In My Hands
New Concept: Sky
Tristesse De La Lune: Die Andere In Dir
Superikone: Opiate
Say Y: Made For You
Mechanical Moth: Personal Oblivion
Restricted Area: Tumbledown
Amduscia: Evil Song (Paradise mix)
Jesus & The Gurus: Paint It Black
Astrovamps: Dead Lover's Blues
Unto Ashes: I Cover You With Blood (Mix)
Chandeen: Drift

The Gothic Magazine website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Various Artists
Gothic Magazine Compilation XXIII (Batbeliever)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

The compilation-assault from Germany’s Gothic Magazine continues. This particular release is a double CD - 32 tracks of music, plus a couple of video clips thrown in. There’s allegedly some sort of concept at work here, because disc one is subtitled ‘Goth Soul’ while disc two is ‘Goth Body’. In practice this seems to mean that disc one contains a variety of ethereal, folkie or restrained rock stuff; anything with ‘sensitive’ lyrics, or some sort of delicacy of musical style seems to get in under the wire.  Meanwhile, disc two is skewed towards the EBM/synthpop end of things. The trouble with setting up your genre-categories like this, of course, is that you end up leaving a lot of stuff out, and creating the impression that goth is a much narrower field than it really is. But that, of course, is my principal reservation with these compilations: in their efforts to represent all the sub-genres of goth, they end up ignoring all those artists who don’t fit into those neat little predetermined categories.  Which means, in my view, that they ignore most of the interesting stuff.

But let’s suspend our scepicism for a moment, and dip into the music. Goth Soul encompasses the flotation tank ambience of Mona Mur’s ‘Eden’, the meandering electro-acoustic ballad that is ‘Alive’ by Swans Of Avon, the smoothly produced coffee-table gothic rock of Dronning Maud Land with ‘Hollow Eyes’, and the string-soaked power balladry of Leaves’ Eyes and ‘Norweigian Lovesong’. There’s the mild-mannered, mid-tempo folk rock of Schandmaul’s ‘Die Flucht’, and much the same again, with a bit more of a stop-start rhythm, from Adaro with ‘Minne Ist Ein Süsser Nam’. Estampie deliver an ecclesiastical choral piece entitled ‘Al Jorn - Carceres’ and Stoa give us the medieval-flavoured ‘Captivity’. Incongruously, the final two tracks on this disc - ‘Fade Into You’ by Final Selection and ‘Sex ‘n’ Cross’ by Distain! suddenly swerve into synthpop territory: both tracks are smooth, bland, and pass by without leaving a trace on my memory. In this company, Frank The Baptist seems slightly lost, with ‘Beggars Would Ride’.  Hemmed in by folkies and etherealists and practitioners of hippy-metal, the assertive alternorock of Frank and his fellow riders seems strangely muted.

Goth Body includes the electro-stomp and gutteral chant of Blutengel’s ‘Love Killer’, the low-rent take on old-skool Front 242 of Spetsnaz’s ‘On The Edge’, and The Retrosic’s tiresome exercise in ‘angry’ distorted vocals, on ‘Total War’, like we haven’t heard that stuff a million times before. We get the curiously dated hardcore motherfuckerisms of ‘Mechanische Unruhe’ by Xotox, with a vocal that sounds like a wino chuckling to himself in the street. We get the cinematic battle scene of Decree’s ‘Violent Reckoning’ - high drama, to be sure, but ultimately this track simply sounds like an intro in search of a tune. We get the pleasant, but unremarkable, synthpop of E.R.R.A. and ‘Energy In Your Eyes’. We get Metallspürhunde’s ‘Teenage Years’, which wastes a rip-roaring female vocal on a forgettable synthpop tune. In short, it’s all a bit underwhelming.  Only ASP with ‘Ich Will Brennen’ - with its mad guitar riff and gravy-browning vocal - shows any real individuality; the song jumps out of the track listing like an energetic shark in a paddling pool.

Overlaying the Goth Soul/Goth Body concept on this album wasn’t quite the masterstroke it might at first appear, if you ask me. The principal problem remains: too many of the songs here are really no more than forgettable exercises in ticking all the right generic boxes. I’m sure - I *know* - that there are many bands around who ply their trade in the goth zone without neatly fitting the pre-formed templates, or following any of the generic rules. It would be nice to hear some of those bands, some of the maverick tendency, the awkward squad, if you will, represented on these albums. So far, unfortunately, it just ain’t happening.

The tunestack:

Disc One: Goth Soul
Mona Mur: Eden
John Alexander Ericson: A World You'll Never Reach
Swans Of Avon: Alive
D'Arcadia: R.I.P.
Frank The Baptist: Beggars Would Ride
Dronning Maud Land: Hollow Eyes
Cell Division: Fingerprints
Leaves' Eyes: Norwegian Lovesong
Schandmaul: Die Flucht
Adaro: Minne Est Ein Süsser Nam
Dargaard: Bearer Of The Flame
Estampie: Al Jorn - Carceres
Stoa: Captivity
Kontrast: Eisberg
Final Selection: Fade Into You
Distain!: Sex 'n' Cross
John Alexander Ericson: A World You'll Never Reach (Video)
Atrocity: Cold Black Days (Video)

Disc Two: Goth Body
Trümmerwelten: Princess Of Blood
Soko Friedhof: Blutsauger (und du kommst...)
Blutengel: Love Killer
Silent Assault: Subzero
Spetsnaz: On The Edge
Run Level Zero: Under The Gun
Taubkind: Knie' Nieder (Club mix)
ASP: Ick Will Brennen
X-Fusion: Left Hand Path
The Retrosic: Total War
Xotox: Mechanische Unruhe (Cycloon remix)
Solitary Experiments: Existence
Angeltheory: Cold Fire
Decree: Violent Reckoning
E.R.R.A.: Energy In Your Eyes
Metallspürhunde: Teenage Years

The Gothic Magazine website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

NEW DARK AGE Volume 2 (Strobelight)
~review by Mick Mercer

The glut of compilations seems to have settled down a little this year, which is a relief, and this is a value-packed second volume – nearly two and half hours of good music on a double CD at a budget price - with plenty to titillate.

So what made the Mercer brain bounce with joy? I was greatly taken by the saucy melodrama from The Unholy Guests and Sleeping Children who I have recommended before and do so unreservedly again. All but idiots will love the quality flickering from a willowy Frank The Baptist, and the downsized artistic offering from Leuisr::Hive. I liked the raw whooshing old school power and crunching delivery of Cauda Pavonis, and the choral gloom of Crucifix Nocturnal Christians which gallops beautifully. The big guitar-led drama from Funhouse and wiggling scampering rawk loveliness from The Way Of All Flesh is excellent, as is the fidgety guitar-tickled rock running wild that is Bella Morte. And, surprisingly for me, the Metal gawf with a happy chorus and wobbly vocals that is Diemonsterdie struck me as having a feel of real potential about it. If they tighten up they could do real damage.

I also thought there was genuinely light vocal beauty in Zadera whose singer also has hair like a bird in flight and Quidam are a similarly demure and light fingered, with a vinegary aftertaste. Their singer seems to have escaped from somewhere. After those immediate highlights, there’s also no denying the cantankerous pulsing pop of The Last Days Of Jesus and The Phantom Limbs and with the rest it was a case of sifting through the flotsam. Tchiki Boum have the best name and some fleet of foot dank indie with flowery vocals, as do The Prids and The Eden House. These three leave good lyrical puncture wounds.

The grim dementia of Jacquy Bitch, who warbles weirdly with a whirling mania, is okay, and waltzing with Katzenjammer Kabarett is enjoyable. There are nicely dour performance from an alien sounding The Vanishing, bass-strangulation of Voodoo Church, and the guitar-tangled Gotterdammerung. The unexpected return from a lowkey Skeletals seems underfed, midrange efforts from House Of Usher, and Voices Of Masada are okay, the asthmatic Alan Woxx was weird, and Dr Arthur Krause take an old Sisters/Neph-type formula and make it a touch brighter.

Besides that you have all but incomprehensible low budget horror from Stigmata Martyyr and Eat Your Make Up, the funny scrabblings of Radio Scarlet, bleepy and poppy Goth from Plastikstrom, Cold and Adoration and twittering mental arty noise from Graphik Magazin.

Strobelight Records

And a bloody big list of song titles:
CAUDA PAVONIS – Dusk ‘Til Dawn / FUNHOUSE – Cry For Love / SKELTAL FAMILY - All My Best Friends / THE HOUSE OF USHER – It Doesn’t Matter / ADORATION – Follow The Thief / FRANK THE BAPTIST – Signing Off / ALAN WOXX – Bloodrain / STIGMATA MARTYR – Suffocation Leads To Exemption / RADIO SCARLET – Sat On A Wall / SLEEPING CHILDREN – Poppies Screen The Light / CRUCIFIX NOCTURNAL CHRISTIANS – Here And Hide It / PLASTIKSTROM – GroBstadtalarm / GRAPHIK MAGAZIN – Where Have The Yearts Gone? / JACQUY BITCH – Cimetiere / THE VANISHING – Princess Poison / KATENJAMMER KABARETT – Gemini Grly Song / LEISUR::HIVE – Try To Be Still / BELLA MORTE – Eyes Of A Ghost / TCHIKI BOUM – Teen Wolf / ZADERA – Fallen / VOODOO CHURCH – New Death / DIEMONSTERDIE – Gravedigger Girl / QUIDAM - Horrores / EAT YOUR MAKE UP – Holy Bats / THE PHAMTOM LIMBS – Connected Or Infected /THE PRIDS – Contact / COLD – Sorrow / THE EDEN HOUSE – Infra Red / GOTTERDAMMERUNG – Echoes Of Despair / VOICES OF MASADA – Fallen / THE UNHOLY GUEST – Synapses Cry / THE WAY OF ALL FLESH – Final Resolve / DR ARTHUR KRAUSE – Violence

A few recommended urls of those you might have missed before: (Funhouse)

Various Artists
Sex: Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die (Only Lovers Left Alive)
~review by Uncle Nemesis

On the face of it, this compilation is an oddity. An assortment of 20 tracks, ranging from 50s rock ‘n’ roll through 60s psychedelic garage punk to 70s glam. And a bewildering range of artists - I’m willing to be Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Loretta Lynn, the Flamin’ Groovies and Johnny Hallyday have never appeared on the same album before. What links all these artists? What do these 20 songs have in common? Why, indeed, should you be interested in this motley assortment of obscure old rockers?

There’s one simple answer to all those questions. This CD brings together 20 songs which, between 1974 and 1976, were on the jukebox at a certain shop known as Sex, a rock ‘n’ roll fetish emporium at 430 Kings Road, Chelsea, London, England. As anyone who has the smallest shred of interest in punk rock (and what came after) should know, that was the shop owned by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, where, during those mid-seventies years, a motley crew of disaffected teenagers who would later become luminaries of the British punk scene first gathered.

The album was compiled by Marco Pirroni, who, as a youthful rocker with attitude, was one of those hangers-out at Sex, before going on to bestride the world in a pirate outfit alongside Adam Ant. In the inlay booklet he writes wittily about his teenage days, mooching about in the shop for want of anything better to do: ‘It seemed...more important to spend my few waking hours surrounded by pornographic T-shirts, black lurex and pink rubber than to try to get along with the rest of the human race. With hindsight, I was right.’

I’m sure you’ve heard the legend that Johnny Rotten auditioned for the Sex Pistols by caterwauling along to Alice Cooper’s ‘Eighteen’ on the Sex jukebox. That track is here - you can recreate Johnny’s audition in the comfort of your own home (just be sure to find some teddy boys to beat you up afterwards, for additional authenticity).

But what else did those young proto-punks get for their jukebox shilling?  In a nutshell, some distilled rock ‘n’ roll attitude. The Count Five’s classic burst of gonzoid psychedelia, ‘Psychotic Reation’ opens up the selection; we also get such forgotten classics as The Troggs’ galumphing paen to lust, ‘I Can’t Control Myself’. Screaming Lord Such might have become better known in latter years as a spoof politician, but, as his ‘Monster In Black Tights’ demonstrates, in his earlier days he was a crazily humourous rock ‘n’ roller. ‘Shake Some Action’ by the Flamin’ Groovies sounds as  gleefully deranged now as it did when it first came out.

It’s fascinating to trace the connections and threads which spread out across the music scene from this little jukebox. Directly or indirectly, the songs and the artists compiled on this CD found their way into post-punk culture in all sorts of ways. ‘Through My Eyes’ by The Creation is here, a bug-eyed piece of West Coast psychedelic rock which became part of the Sex Pistols’ live sets - and The Creation were later to lend their name to a British post-punk record label. The Strangeloves’ after-dark classic, ‘In The Nighttime’ is featured, a song later covered by Bauhaus; another Strangeloves song, ‘I Want Candy’, was covered by Malcolm McLaren’s post-punk proteges, Bow Wow Wow. Vince Taylor’s ‘Brand New Cadillac’ crops up as track eight - and was later covered by The Clash. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with his classic ‘I Put A Spell On You’ sneaks in like a mad uncle at a party - a song covered by everyone from The Phantom Chords to Diamanda Galas. Screamin’ Jay even found himself headlining over The Cramps a few years after his appearance on the Sex jukebox. And, of course, the Sex Pistols themselves covered Jonathan Richman’s glorious, dysfunctional, geek-anthem, ‘Roadrunner’, which closes the album. If you’re obsessive enough to plot all the lines of connection, the chances are half the music in your collection ultimately comes back to Malc ‘n’ Viv’s Kings Road jukebox in one way or another.

But this is not simply a compilation for rock ‘n’ roll historians, punk culture obsessives, or contributors to The Covers Project website. It’s a good old kick-over-the-traces rock ‘n’ roll selection, an instant jukebox (literally!) which will make any party swing. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood knew what they were doing when they put their jukebox selection together. Their choices were cool back then: they remain cool now.

The tunestack:
The Count Five: Psychotic Reaction
The Creation: Through My Eyes
Clarence 'Frogman' Henry: Ain't Got No Home
Flamin' Groovies: Shake Some Action
The Spades: You're Gonna Miss Me
The Castaways: Liar Liar
The Strangeloves: In The Nighttime
Vince Taylor: Brand New Cadillac
Arthur Alexander: You Better Move On
Alice Cooper: Eighteen
The Moontrekkers: Night Of The Vampire
Screaming Lord Sutch And The Savages: Monster In Black Tights
The Troggs: I Can't Control Myself
Screamin' Jay Hawkins: I Put A Spell On You
The Sonics: Have Love Will Travel
Johnny Hallyday: Joue Pas Le Rock 'n' Roll Pour Moi
Loretta Lynn: The Pill
The Spades: We Sell Soul
Jackie And The Starlites: Valerie
The Modern Lovers: Roadrunner

Vivienne Westwood:

Malcolm McLaren:

A rather dry dissertation on original-era punk fashion:

The Only Lovers Left Alive label site:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

STROBELIGHTS Volume 1 (Strobelight)
~review by Mick Mercer

Compilations can be very good, but many, if not most, of us have grown cynical these past few years and shied away from them because the same bands, and sometimes even the same tracks, turn up far too often. In the correct hands they should be enlightening, uncovering past gems and introducing new bands and with this first compilation Paul Cuska makes his reasoning pretty clear. These are tracks he demands to hear in clubs, while adding, “you’re just lucky that we’ve got such fabulous taste in music.”

I’d like to know more about Mighty Sphincter may seem like the opening line of a masterfully perverted novel, but I refer here to an epic track where grand vocals of a Spartacus-style genre spread out over silken bass, subtle guitar and scampering drums. I already know the Death Cult and Rosetta tracks, and it’s amazing how both still sound so cool, despite a big gap in eras. Cancer Barrack are offering sneaky sleaze with orcish vocals, after an opening reminiscent of ‘Rebel Yell’, and Voodoo Church are fabulously raw.

The inviting drums and wise old bass of The Wake, set over a light religious fervour, with tugging guitar and dark, scholarly vocals is superb. This Burning Effigy and Altered States are slightly ordinary in this company overall, but show how some 90’s Goth fought against conformity with flashes of lightness within, having a simple abrasive approach with passionate vocals, rather than big drama. Nicely stirring, but not stunning. Nor are Shadow Project, as they seem hell-bent on becoming Blue Oyster Cult.

Of many surprises, Australia’s Subterfuge are purring with menace, Screams For Tina have a terse little monster, Norma Loy are almost bizarrely poppy with insanely scary vocals bubbling away, Dronning Maud Land are a dank tussle, Secret Discovery bounce with very pretty guitar and vinegary guttural vocals, and Ausgang’s track is a total classic and still far more inventive than many of today’s G-bands.

It finishes as the series hopefully means to go on, with two totally different, but compulsively lively tracks. Lucie Cries come on all Ye Olde Goth but it fizzes like fuck with dexterous bass, and Screaming Dead are curiously catchy with the messy sax, clompy drums and shapely chorus.

This really is an excellent release at a time when many people are questioning just what Goth is. Goth isn’t soppy club fare with singers wearing face mikes and slinking about looking like Pet Shop Boys groupies. It also works as a good introduction to certain aspects of the past for people getting into Goth today who do want variety.

Goth is live fire, of human endeavour and thought, given a bracing outward projection, and you will find all of that here.

DEATH CULT – God’s Zoo + ROSETTA STONE – Darkness & Light + CANCER BARRACK – Cancer Barrack + MIGHTY SPHINCTER – In The Kingdom Of Heaven + VOODOO CHURCH – Live With The Dead + SHADOW PROJECT – Static Jesus + THE WAKE – Watchtower + THIS BURNING EFFIGY – Emeritus + SUBTERFUGE – Curses + SCREAMS FOR TINA - In Her House + AUSGANG – (You Got The) Hots For Christ + NORMA LOY - 1964 Shadows + ALTERED STATES – Everything + DRONNING MAUD LAND - Cry For Happy + SECRET DISCOVERY – Evil Feeling + LUCIE CRIES - Le Talisman De La Muse + SCREAMING DEAD – A Dream Of Yesterday

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

If any of you feel like turning off when I say this is a Russian compilation of the best music being made in their ever-growing scene, that’s because you have no genuine interest in Goth as an important artistic musical genre, and just like fashionable aspects which apply to your area. Small scene, small mind. You may depart now, and come back when I am reviewing something you understand.

For the true Goth devotee one of the most intrinsic elements of Goth is the mystery and adventure, of discovering new delights, which you will certainly find here, as this huge cross-section of talent has very little in the way of rock or crass ebm stylists, but is heavily into attractive modern mood and melody. A lot is in English, and what is in Russian still manages to be languorous, evocative and spellbinding.

Side 1 (Dusk) is wonderful. The voice chokes on ashes in Stillife as they mix shuffle beats with classical, building serenely and making it clear why they have been voted Best Band in the Russian scene. Antisisters do secretive dark dance, Theodor Bastard ululate and vibrate in sepulchral surrounds, there are flickering electro pleasantries from Izida in a city noir escapade, and Darkwave veterans Necro Stellar are very up and bouncy, keeping busy even when it turns dour. Dvar is a bit too diverting for the Russian Sopor Aeternus tag he’s got, and Virtual Server’s Xymox remix is an arty relaxative. The odd track is Requiem For FM which is old techno, and the ridiculously catchy Hallucinations For Two don’t strike me as particularly dark, but it is a great collison of sweeping dance and gritty guitar. Cruci-Fiction are a merging of Goth and something called ‘Love-Metal’ which creates spruce rock with passionate vocals, and Para Bellum are unusual Goth Rock with a distinctively picky guitar style which keeps everything interesting behind rousing Russian vocals. Unholy Guests some of you should already know and love. A curious commercial suss rolls inside their delightful attack, Doppelganger give quite a mental rock approach, straight in there, but with a sophisticated edge. The true independent stalwart that is Children Of The Gun also proves you can be simpler in tone and arrangement than most but make just as strong an impact, if not more so, being strangely affecting. There is classical beauty from Bless, desolate plain drama from Vidna Nebo and it closes with the neo-classical drone of Moon Far Away which has added modern twists.

The ‘Dawn’ side wasn’t quite so much to my tastes, because there’s a greater variety here of some of the more extreme elements. Canonis are graceful and stirring, with something happily alien to my ears, which is why foreign compilations can be so exciting, as you encounter something new, and you have to love those sharp vocals. Caprice, who apparently have two albums out already yon Prikosnovenie, are absolutely stunning, with gorgeous vocals in a standard Ethereal manner, but of the highest quality imaginable. Drolls are lunatics who offer convincing medieval romps, and then there’s some melancholic folk from Romone Mikotto, followed by the still mysteries of occultists Kratong-TD. Sandcastle are fabulous, rich in emotional suggestion and she is proud to admit to Lycia being a strong influence. Emily A. Saaen offers similarly seasoned, sumptuously restful music. Neutral, and later a track by Languor, have acoustic stylings of the warm variety which bring Ataraxia to mind, which his no bad thing.

Where I got a bit bored was with the drab electronics of Cyclotimia, the Industrial Experimentation of Vishudha Kali, the occult drippings of Majdanek Waltz and the serious Neo-folk statements of Wolfsblood. I never like any of these forms, and particularly not neo-folk, and the reason is demonstrated by the very next track, from Laklustre Mirror, which is instantly full of life and intelligence and romance and compassion, not some barking mad grim-faced tortured loon. Blood & Sand are more like attractive slow indie to me, with lovely interwoven voices, Embrace Of Branches give us dark classical folk, where the strong clear vocal and strings make it charming, and then it all finishes with some magical ambient work by Anthesteria who must be insane. He has people very naturally interest in his work, but limited his release to just fifty copies!!!!

Honestly, it’s all in here, to be examined, and new favourites to be found. A genuinely magnificent compilation.

STILL LIFE  Disillusions
IZIDA A Hypnotic Attraction
DVAR Hissen Raii V.2
REQUIEM FOR FM Devouring Element
DOPPELGANGERS Kiss To My Last Breath
BLESS Il Pleut
MOON FAR AWAY Witchcraft By A Singing
CAPRICE To My Sisters
DROLLS In Taberna
ROMOWE RIKOTO Song Of Prosperine
KRATONG TD Experience
NEUTRAL Festival
MAJDANEK WALTZ Love As A Whip Strike
LANGUOR The Purpose Wells
BLOOD & SAND For Faith
I will recommend a few urls for the bands I liked best (unfortunately Izida, Children Of The Gun, Canonis, and Sandcastle don’t have sites listed):