Music Reviews

Title: In Coma
Format: CD
Label: Rage In Eden (@)
Rated: *****
Everything on the newest album by Aethere talks about death: its title is IN COMA, its graphics represent an EEG of what it seems to be the last beat of an human being, this is the last album by Aethere and it is dedicated to the memory of Marco Corbelli/Atrax Morgue (he committed suicide at age 37). The six tracks of the album are part of a concept album and represent an musical comment to the death of a man who wants to die. Since the first minutes of the album we're introduced to the sound of the EEG machine and a respirator. Then the melody of a synth loop sounding like filtered by a liquid and a blasting drums are added. From that point till the end of the 49 minutes of the CD, everything sounds obsessive. The dilated atmosphere is a constant of the whole album and here and there Emanuele's whispered vocals lead the "dance". The five parts of IN COMA plus the closing "I'm fucking dead (A tribute to Marco Corbelli)" induce a sense of dizziness where melody finds its way through industrial ambient intuitions. Despair has found a new home...
Artist: Prometheus Burning (@)
Title: plague called HUMANity
Format: CD
Label: Crunch Pod (@)
Distributor: Crunch Pod
Rated: *****
Yikes! What the hell is this? If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was listening to some alien band of bratty children that had just staged an invasion of our planet and are about to unleash their death ray of doom on anyone that gets in their way. Maybe it’s the pervasive use of processing on the vocals delivered with surly aplomb that had me thinking this electro-industrial outfit was making it known they were gonna lay the smack down hard. And this was before I even got a gander at these dudes, and... a dudess.

Okay, so I never heard of Prometheus Burning before (I can’t keep track of every band out there) and they’re really not that far away from me, being in Pittsburgh. The guys in the band – Greg VanEck and Nick Vasculator look pretty much what I’d expect of electro-industrial musicians- young short-haired guys in black tee shirts, but it’s vocalist Nikki Telladictorian, with her gothy makeup and shocking mass of white hair that looks like she got too close to a Van de Graaff generator that is the image of this band. But besides the grotesque graphics on the CD, the visual image isn’t what this review is about.

As one might expect in electo-industrial music, there’s a fair amount of sequenced programming. For what the band is doing, they have it down, although you won’t find anything particularly unique or unusual in either the synth programming or the rhythm tracks. Maybe it’s overuse of processed vocals combined with a lot of a lot of repetition but it gets old quick. There is also a linear quality to the tracks that makes them sound very old school’ and plodding. Even the sonic events that are interspersed every now and then to break up the monotony don’t quite make anything sound particularly unique. And the occasional synth riffs are pedestrian for the most part.

Vocally, I noticed a bit of a welcome difference on track 4, "Ouroboros Deathride", when harshly whispered male vocals took the lead with Nikki’s processed voice as backing. For me, this worked rather well, maybe because I could understand them. The track sounded a lot closer to band like Combichrist, Hocicio, Suicide Commando, Wumpscut, etc. Back to Nikki, whose voice really dominates the album, in her defense the vocal phrasing got better as the album went on. Even though the majority has little in the way of melodic content (lots of speak-singing) it’s effective enough to get the point across.

As critical as I am of "plague called HUMANity", I wouldn’t say that it’s bad, just sort of under-developed. Comparing Prometheus Burning to a similar (female fronted) project- Android Lust, Shikhee knows how to use vocal processing to her advantage rather than a crutch, employs melody (she can really sing) and knows how to create dramatic tension in her music. I think vocal effects have their place, they’re EFFECTS, and the novelty and effectiveness wears off quickly when you over-use them. Prometheus Burning is probably a great band live (I’d love to see em live- they really ought to consider putting Ithaca on their tour roster, it ain’t that far) from what I’ve seen of their videos, but their recorded material falls a bit short of being as scintillating as it could have been.

For some reason, I’m reminded of a Boston band called Batter Cage. When they began, their music had a similar techno electro-industrial style to Prometheus Burning. They eventually abandoned that in favor of a more melodic commercially-oriented sound. I think they went too far in that direction and lost their edge. I’m certainly not suggesting Prometheus Burning turn synthpop, but I think they could use a bit more melodic content and a bit more structure for diversity’s sake. Maybe the next one will be the charm, when they’ve gained a little perspective. The album is worth a listen, but I guarantee it’s going to wear on you quickly. (I’ll give em a couple of extra points for their cover of Ministry’s "You Know What You Are".) On the other hand, the best way to experience them is probably live.
Artist: Murder By Static (@)
Title: Danceland Dead
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Deadsix Comunications (@)
Rated: *****
Murder By Static is the project moniker of Chris Stepniewski of Mississauga, Ontario, and "Danceland Dead" is his 6th full album release. I can’t say drum n’ bass/experimental techno is necessarily my favorite genre, but I can certainly appreciate the programming effort that goes into it when the programming is quality. I’m happy to say that most of Danceland Dead has quite a bit of quality programming. Because the album is not strictly d n’ b (there’s more techstep and not a lot of bass, per se) and has a fair amount of sonic variety, it doesn’t wear you out right away... it takes a little time.

The full-on initial assault of "V Haus" lets you know what you’re in for right away. Murder By Static’s arsenal of drum and percussive tidbits is well displayed here, with a modicum of stabs and minipads gluing it together. The tempos of the first few tracks are expectedly fast, over 160BPM, but with enough event spacing manages to avoid blurred barrage’ syndrome. When you combine traditional drum and percussion sounds with a good amount techno-ish blips, bleeps, blurps, buzzers and whirrs at that speed, it tends to sound a bit cartoonish, and whether that’s the intention or not here, the result is the same. The sonic glue could have used a bit more variation overall.

Track 3- "Hedule Grind" was my only real turn-off, with the sampled, repeated "Everybody shake your body" chipmunk-pitched vocal. After 30 seconds I hit the next track button. Thankfully, the vocal samples are kept to a minimum throughout the album. "Bourdain" (anything to do with my favorite travel/food show host Anthony Bourdain?) gives a bit more breathing room at first but is no less relentless when it gets going. I really have to admire the time that must have been spent programming the amount of fills and percussive variations. Incredibly detailed. Complex enough to warrant repeated listenings, and I’m sure that’s a good thing with this kind of music. The other good thing is that the tracks are short enough (and different enough, if you listen closely) to keep from getting boring. There are enough breaks from the barrage too to keep the tracks from being ultimately tedious. And not every track is a machine gone wild’ Still, some of this might be best experienced in small doses as listening to the album as many times as I need to write this review just wore me out.

Although no drummer would ever play this fast, Stepniewski seems to at least have a drummer’s ear and great percussion programmer’s sensibility along with a handle on techno-industrial. If there was ever somebody I’d want to work with on a drill n bass techno-industrial project, I think it would be this guy. I still would have liked to have heard Murder By Static try something much slower in a much more atmospheric vein but there’s always next time. I will say the production was quite good for being self-produced. I can’t say that ever track on Danceland Dead knocked me out, but as a showcase for what can be done with some simply amazing percussive programming, the album has merit.
Title: The Plot
Format: CD
Label: Gomma Records
Rated: *****
THE PLOT is the second album by Danish trio Who Made Who. Released four years after their self named debut, it starts with a blast thanks to the single "Tv friend". For whom didn't already heard it, try to imagine a mix of Gang Of Four, A Certain Ratio and classic chamber music (thanks to the flutes/oboe intermezzos). The main title "The plot" brings more punk funk with a dance floor attitude. "Small town boy" is maybe the funkiest of the lot with electronic inserts and a bit of dub attitude. For sure it is a song that stands out. "Trickster" and "Keep me in my plane" follow the same line, then we have "This train". This is a particular track where it seems to listen to The Beach Boys playing Jimi Hendrix mixed with a classic camera interlude. After "Office clerk" we have the first slow ballad titled "Ode to joy": a nice one with creepy synth lines, bass guitar and harp. After the nice instrumental "Motown bizarre" we have another Beach Boys meet funk, like tune: "I lost my voice". Personally I found it less groundbreaking than other tracks. This one is nice but it doesn't make ring any bell to me. "Cyborg" starts like a acoustic blues tune just to turn into a distorted punk 60's song. "Raveo" is a dance punk instrumental with good stop and gos and prepare the audience for the closing "Working after midnight": a great sinuous electro mid tempo. Personally I found that this album is strongest respect their debut but you can make your own opinion checking Gomma Records page where you can check some excerpts.
Artist: Heavy-Current
Title: Push the Fire
Format: CD
Label: Poisonic / Danse Macabre
Distributor: Al!ve / Prussia
Rated: *****
In order to find a band with some substance sometimes you have to search among the less know artists, this is because mass taste is not always quality-oriented, even in the "darker scene" that fancies to consider itself non-commercial. Heavy-Current is a rather yet unknown act even though "Push the Fire" was preceded by three other full-time albums, a DVD and three EPs and if the earlier recordings are as diverse and interesting as the current release it’s about time the world took a closer look at this German act. Heavy-Current electrifies with their Synth/Industrial Rock with a broad range of influences, most of them from the electronic scene. Jan demonstrates his perfect command of various vocal styles and Nook’s drumming makes the sound more "real", unlike you often get to hear from electro-oriented acts. Ten of eleven songs on the album are in English. The only song in German brings a little more textual diversity to the album. In the last month Heavy-Current was on tour with one of the leading electro acts Project Pitchfork around Germany and had a chance to broaden their fan base.
All in all this is a very interesting release with more stronger sides than the weaker ones.
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