Music Reviews



Artist: Wolfmaster
Title: Murder and Religion
Format: CD
The very opening moments of Wolfmaster's "Murder and Religion" is startling to say the least. Militaristic cadences for percussion, almost symphonic gothic melody and whispered vocals (which surprise you again in a moment by sliding into a funeral dirge distorted vocal stylization). You could call it industrial metal and you'd probably be right. But that hardly manages to convey what's really going on here, sound-wise. First off, Wolfmaster is original enough I can't give you anybody else in the industrial or metal scenes to compare them to. Dark and thoroughly gothic - goth executed with industrial metal influences, either metal tempered by industrial or industrial tempered by metal (maybe I shouldn't even say metal, maybe that's just the aggro talking) - Wolfmaster's atmosphere is accusatory and grim, like a feisty hound of hell come to earth and warning you just before it eats you for your hypocritical sins. The rhythms are mid-tempo but that hardly hurts the groove or prevents the listener from fading into it. The strings sounding orchestral backing (organic or electronic is irrelevant, it sounds good) add lush musical depth to the proceedings while the subdued but aggressive-in-tone vocals finish the picture of dark, haunted woods spilling their unknown secrets out on the hapless humans deserving of death.
Artist: Grendel
Title: Prescription : Medicine
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis Records
Dark and aggro, yet somewhat minimal in the sense that there aren't that many layers (though the music doesn't come across as thin), Grendel's angry electro-industrial attacks the hypocrisy of religion, the evils of corrupt government, and explores generally the dark side of life, the universe and everything (ten points if you caught the in-joke there, ha ha ... ahem ...). Goa tinged melodies slice along like a knife while distorted beats propel this grim but danceable music. Wicked vocals hiss at you (much like the mythological Grendel monster might have, one suspects), delivering its scathing condemnations at conventional moral and social parameters. Grendel is another band to add to the list of aggro-industrial distorted electro raspers like Front Line Assembly and Wumpscut, and others. Crisp and slick, yet emotionally violent, Grendel seems to have a smooth handle on this sub-genre.
Artist: Battery Cage
Title: World Wide Wasteland
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis Records
Batter Cage's "World Wide Wasteland" represents a blend of trance, EBM, synthpop and industrial (granted, these are all related in one way or another, but I can detect distinct elements). Vocally it isn't quite the clean cut smoothness of Apoptygma Berzerk, for example, but neither is it the total aggro distorted vox of the likes of Decoded Feedback, et al. It's sung, not distorted or grinding, but it is a bit throaty and deepish, so you still get vocal elements of melody while also a slight feeling of pain or aggression. The BPMs are fast but not furious, making Batter Cage danceable but not exhausting. The electronic melodies are layered nicely, keeping the music from being too spartan; neither are they too dense. Some of the melody lines represent the darker, goa-ish side of electro while others are more synthpoppy or EBMish. Guitar also pops up a wee bit, a nice touch that waves distantly at the harder levels of industrial. Overall, Batter Cage is a nice middle ground standing between the pop realms of electronic and the dark spheres of aggro-electro-industrial.
Artist: 54seconds
Title: Coma
Format: CD
"Coma", from 54seconds, is one of those CDs you lay back, close your eyes and drift into. Roughly categorizable as shoegazer, though without the heavy distortion element sometimes found in that arena, "Coma" is a very aptly titled release, not because the music is boring - it's not - but because it is so inward reaching you'll find yourself inhabiting a state of mind, not body, as you sink into the sadness and contemplativeness of 54seconds personal and expressive lyrics. Drifting through the clouds and pondering one's life, mind and soul ... this is the sort of realm inhabited by 54seconds' music, which comes off sort of like indie rock heavily filtered through ambient. Pianos, lethargic guitars and psychedelic effects, topped with quiet, sad vocals, create a sound that is melancholy but also capable of bringing you into the realm of musical relaxation.
cover
Artist: TEN HORNED BEAST (@)
Title: Ten Stars - Ten Horns
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Whoah. This is one of the most diverse and intriguing self-released cdrs that I've come across in a long while. THB is the solo project of Christopher Walton, who used to be part of well-known ambient occultists Endvra (whose "The Watcher", on Old Europa Cafè, is still one of my faves in the dark drones field). Chris also plays dark ambient/neoclassical music as Servants of the Secret Flame, but THB has been his main activity for a while. What can I say? Experience and talent shows. THB is pitch black drone-doom. Everything is black just right from the impressive package: the cover design has been printed on transparent film, so you can barely see it when housed in the DVD case; the cdr is black, as is the cardboard insert with black wax and black lace - talk of indicative packaging. And the music is great, and fairly different from what I thought. I was expecting some doom minimalism à la Earth or Sunn))00, but nope, THB seems to walk his own path. There are little to no '70's influences here, instead I was reminded a lot of great UK post-metal acts like Godflesh and Scorn: though THB's pieces are notably different, some characteristics (heavy drum programming, cold and very dilated guitars, etc.) are definitely there. But again, THB is really quite individual. Imagine a bass line or guitar riff obtusely repeated over and over again; drumming is rare, but provides for an obsessive militaristic feel; and then, the best part, the dark drones spiralling and coiling all over. Actually, I think that the more ambient tracks, like "Ten Stars Ten Horns", are just perfect. Pure solipsistic despair. Instead, the more "doom-oriented" ones, while good, could be bettered - at times, the riffs still sound a bit detached from the whole. But the massive, 20-minute "Shrines I-III" does reach the perfect combination. As Walton is working on a lot of new material (including tracks, allegedly, "up to 50 minutes in length"...), I expect some stellar release from the Beast in the near future.
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