Music Reviews

Artist: Wolfskin
Title: O Ajuntar das Sombras
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
When it comes to Dark Ambient music, I’m really old school and picky. Sure, I love Lustmord, Robert Rich, Caul, Megaptera, Raison d'être and a slew of other artists in the genre, but I don’t like everything they’ve done. They all seem to have their defining moments. It’s all what goes into making dark ambient great- it has to set a very dark mood, and only deviate in certain respects from its core aspects. Too much noise, and it’s crap. Too much percussion detracts. Too many sonic elements and it is not dark ambient anymore. Yet, there has to be more than just dark droning.

I am happy to say that Wolfskin’s "O Ajuntar das Sombras" has few of these flaws. I can’t I’m familiar with Wolfskin, even though they’ve been releasing music (initially independently) since the mid 90’s. Wolfskin is the project of Johan Aernus from Portugal, and he is as much of a force to be reckoned with in the dark ambient world as Sweden’s Peter Andersson. Not knowing anything else from Wolfskin, I only have this album to go by, and it is certainly destined to be a classic and worthy of being on the Malignant label. (Cold Meat Industry, eat yer heart out.)

The album begins auspiciously, yet ominously, with the bleak "Body of Chaos". A barren wasteland. Stranded in desolation without hope. "The Wild Hunt" is a particularly enthralling bit of oppressiveness that will keep you pinned to the wall until nearly the end. Wolfskin gives a nod to Nordic nihilism in "Cart Of Light" as a whispered voice can be heard talking about the sun turning to blood, and a chilling chorus of chilling voices echo the skald’s doomful tale. All the while sparse tribal percussion gives a sense of primitive ritual. Awesome stuff.

"The Yew Colum" cranks up the ritual factor with more ominous spoken word over mournful bagpipes deep drum beats and heavy sonics. "Rex Sacrorum" builds into a dense, intense storm of sound that subsides leaving you to survey a changed world from the precipice. "A World Of Veils" ushers in an alien industrial dark ambient atmosphere. Title track "O Ajuntar das Sombras" ( I thing it translates to "The Gather Of The Shadows") starts out a bit more subtly, but soon the skald and bagpipers are back and the atmosphere once again becomes thick. At times I am reminded of Nordvargr/Drakh or The Protagonist. "Iron Unfolded" sounds like a dirgeful death march with a recitation by a priest of some blasphemous cult. Bagpipes are still in attendance. "Throne of Stillness" may be the most placid track on the album, a well-needed respite. "Head Of Clarividence" finishes off the CD with occasional verbal mutterings over another bleak soundscape. Man, this is good stuff. No, it’s GREAT stuff! Somewhere I heard that this is the last album for this project. What a shame. Well, get it while you can, and I most highly recommend it. It is probably available at your local goth-industrial indie record store, and online at CD Baby, which is a boon to U.SA. buyers who have trouble tracking down a lot of this kind of product that originates overseas.
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Artist: FrontierGuards (@)
Title: Predestination
Format: CD
Label: Aliens Productions (@)
Distributor: DSBP
Rated: *****
The Slovakian label Aliens can be seen as a kind of last bastion, which defends itself successfully against any hypes and up-to-date kinds to produce Electronica music. Rather following the classic style to produce authentic Dark Electro music, also the Czech project FRONTIERGUARDS fits well with the labels’ manifesto and releases with "Predestination" its debut. FG is a side-project of the rather EBM-related outfit BEAMSHIP, which we had on here with their debut a few years before. Martin "Atreid" Pavlik, who is responsible for all audio results of FG, presents a different musically environment compared to BEAMSHIP, which allows a constant Ambient-related influence to take part. "Predestination" is for the most part a pure instrumental album, only on two of the 9 own compositions Martin has picked up the microphone to provide some vocals. It is definitely the dark and complex layered mood, which attracts on this album. A track like "Betrayed By Light" is a marvelous example by integrating a rough and rather experimental drum pattern programming, some good samples and a menacing but remarkable synth programming. Some of the classic yelworC-recordings come to mind by listening to this tune. And no, "Predestination" avoids to satisfy the needs of a dancefloor-junkie, mostly all of the tracks are based into mid-tempo, if not into slowness – with the one exception entitled "Transcendental Experiment", which disturbs with its faster structure a bit the float of this fine Dark-Electro/Ambient-Electronica-album. Additional remix contributions by musically relative related acts like the DISHARMONY-side-project OXYD, the Greek SUBHEIM or the label colleague of ANHEDONIA offer their best abilities, to produce some fine alternative versions to the original compositions. "Predestination" is also the return of multi-talented graphic artist Tom Galle, who could himself make a quite good name thanks to his collaboration with their side-project HEEL – extremely well documented through a special bonus video track. Demanding, but attractive Electronica music not to underestimate.
Artist: VOIDE (feat. Suzie Electric) (@)
Title: Love
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: self-released
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
It’s seldom that a reviewer nowadays receives a real Single-CD with 3 tracks and moreover, that bands are seriously producing CD’s in this limited dimension. But this fits perfectly to the release catalogue of the Swedish Electronica-specialist VOIDE a.k.a. David Almgren. Combining the tradition with the newest media resources available to publish and present his music, has always been the main direction for VOIDE - and somehow this counts also for his music. It is an Electronica/IDM-related outfit, which balances between the elements of EBM and Trance/Techno-influences. Sound-wise at the state-of-art, David integrates additionally a strong Pop/Wave-influence out of the good old 80ies and his sounds out of his beloved CZ-synthesizer family – you see, this stands rather more for the tradition. He also cant hide his dedication to the German pioneers KRAFTWERK by using comparable and vocoderized voice/vocal effects. But for "Love" the things differ. First off it needs to be mentioned, that "Love" isn’t at all a new composition of David – it sounds too much similar to David’s 2007 classic "Space Sponge", available on the same titled Voide debut album released in 2007. For this track, available in 3 different versions, he could hire Germany’s female artist Suzi Electric to provide the vocals. So you’ll get a version with lyrics in English and one featuring German lyrics. The third version is a mixture out of both languages, but it provides nearly 8 minutes of music. It seems a bit, that David felt the need to produce a real Extendet version of this sweet Synthpop-tune. A good collaborative idea and enough potential to become a favorite for every Synthpop-fan, but at least only a tiny shining light at the end of a tunnel, which is only a glimpse of the huge talent, which David has to offer.
Artist: The Division (@)
Title: Mantras
Format: CD
Label: Lens Records (@)
Distributor: Lens Records
Rated: *****
I guess Lab Report is a name known to most Dark-Ambient-Industrial music enthusiasts, being one of the early pioneers of the genre with a rotating roster of guests, including- Genesis P Orridge, Lydia Lunch, Chris Connelly, Johnny Polonsky, Chris Blazen, Becky Allen, Kerry Simonian, Derek Frederickson, Tom Slattery, Dan Burke and many others. Of course, the guy who was Lab Report is Matt Schultz, the creator of the souped-up dulcimer-like Anti Tank Guitar, which you might have heard him guesting with on some early 90’s Pigface albums. Now Schultz has a project called The Division, which is supposed to be a musical reconstruction of ancient spells and rituals.

From the get-go, Mantras’ bears down on you with a searing intensity, with rather harsh sustained strings, the ATG doing a bit of a Middle Eastern sounding dance, whipping noise stabs and percussion in the background. Sounds like something, uh, dreadful is soon to be released. That track was called "Protection", something every Magus needs before working Magick. "Breathe" continues on with breathy synth over a rhythm that is both Middle Eastern and martial. Pretty impressive stuff as the preparation for the ritual begins. The Crowley motto, "Do What Thou Wilt" serves as the title for the next track. Tribal percussion and more Eastern mystic instrumentation. Gotta love this stuff! There’s too much going on to really call it ambient in my book, but maybe Atmospheric Occult might be a better term. Simple, but very effective in both rhythm and instrumentation. Just enough variation to keep it from getting stale, but not so much as to detract. Obviously Schultz’s creativity has not waned from his Lab Report days.

"Incantation One" is punctuated with some gonging, and has a more oriental flavor. Master Therion or Fu Manchu? I could picture Anna May Wong dancing to this. Absolutely inscrutable! "Incantation Two" features an exotic flute melody over a ritualistic rhythm. The track grows in feverish power as the Great Work begins in earnest. The air is thick with incense. Spirits are summoned. The gate is opened. "Life" has a sort of Persian/Turkish feel, with the ATG emulating a zurna or duduk over rhythmically plucked saz or tar with davul and darbuka percussion. The dervishes are whirling. This is perfect music for belly dancing. "Long Construction" keeps the exotic Middle Eastern feel going, although it was perhaps my least favorite track on the album, perhaps because it took more than halfway into it to really pick up steam. This is probably closer to what you’d expect of Middle Eastern dance music than anything else on the album.

"Monks" begins with the slowly repeated sounding of a struck Tibetan bowl and the emergence of a tamboura-like drone with castanet or idiophone clacking, and low thudding percussion. Ghostly voices quaver in the background. Spirit monks? Very eerie. Finally, we end journey through The Division’s Mantras’ with "999", a very enigmatic track. Interestingly, the first eight tracks are 6:02, and the last is 6:00. Hmmm... I’m sure there is some significance to that. All-in-all, this is great stuff, and you don’t have to be a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, or even a practicing occultist to appreciate it. There is more than enough interesting material here to warrant repeated listenings. Mantras’ is supposed to be the first of a trilogy of works by The Division. I can’t wait for the other two.
Artist: IP NEVA
Title: Symbiosis of Contradictions
Format: CD
Label: Impulsive Art (@)
Distributor: Ad Noiseam
Rated: *****
IP Neva is the project name of Ivan 'NeverdiE' Proskurin, from Moscow, Russia. The label his Symbiosis of Contradictions’ release is on, Impulsive Art, is a new indie label from Athens, Greece. If IP Neva is any indication of the talent the label is culling, it seems to be an auspicious beginning. The CD comes in slick digipack packaging with a cool and intriguing look. But as packaging can often be deceiving, the music must be heard to be evaluated.

From the outset, IP Neva sets a mood. Light mysterious background padding and a medium slow tempo beat with interesting percussive additives. Think of something along the lines of earlier Delerium meets Black Lung. The first track, "Correction" uses English spoken word soundbytes that seem to be about the economic market correction’, or more to the point, economic meltdown. The overall impression of this track is a lumbering mechanism on the verge of collapse. I’m not a big fan of spoken soundbytes in music (except for perhaps their occasional shock value) but it’s unobtrusive enough here, and doesn’t really break the mood.

Next track, "U Boat performance", uses a metallic based beat, an eerie, airy sonic blast and background female choir in a minor 5 chord repeating pattern. Buzzes and bleeps punctuate the proceedings. Dive! Dive! I’m not sure I feel like a submariner, but is an interesting track. "The Process" which follows, is a bit more of an amorphous semi-dark ambient piece. Old school electronics, a distant female voice and other sonic sundries, some heavy, some light add to the atmosphere. Kinda psychedelic. "Constallation of war" has a siren over sustained strings while bombs burst and the famed J. Robert Oppenheimer soundbyte, "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds" pretty much nails the lid on the apocalyptic coffin. From this emerges strummed acoustic guitar and drums in the background. The Pink Floyd harbinger of doom? Gee, I hope not... I’m getting a little nervous that this guy is Russian... Still, it’s the U.S, that only ever actually a nuclear weapon. Maybe a warning...

"Full Moon" has a weird acoustic guitar loop over sustained atmospherics and glitchy, treated electronic elements. Most experimental track so far. "Radiation Field" is probably not the place you would want to take a stroll, as IP Neva imbues this track with ominous elements from which a heavy beat emerge. Industrial ambient to be sure. "Whether in numbers" brings back some acoustic guitar over the dark ambient background and a voice recites... what else but numbers! Coordinates? Code? Science experiment? "Meteoric Rain" offers a glissy descending synth sound over a sustained ambience out of which piano chords and a breakbeat emerge, and then disappears only to reemerge again. All the while there is creaking and groaning. "Calm after the storm" has cosmic overtones in that oh-so-Eastern way, and will have you contemplating your navel in no time flat.

We get another version of "U Boat performance" (Mobthrow Remix) that ups the tempo and brings a more conventional big beat to the foreground. It really doesn’t sound a whole lot like the original, except for the chord structure, and is actually pretty cool. Reminds me a bit of Noise Unit. The beat could have used a few more breaks and breakdowns, but it’s still enjoyable. We leave Symbiosis of Contradictions’with a different version of the first track- "Correction-Failed" (Abstractive Noise Remix) which is a noisier, more rambunctious version. Obviously the correction didn’t work. (Ha ha!)

For a first outing, this album is really pretty good and works on multiple levels. If you enjoy experimental dark ambient industrial, I can really recommend this one to you. Good luck finding it though if you live in the U.S. Impulsive Art says CD Baby is one of their distribution channels, but I couldn’t find it this CD there. Other Euro online outlets are Ad Noiseam, Klangware and Spectraliquid. I guess you can always visit the artist’s MySpace page and ask Ivan directly how you can purchase a copy. Might help if you were fluent in Russian.
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