Music Reviews



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Artist: Nebelhexë (@)
Title: Laguz - Within the Lake
Format: CD
Label: Candlelight Records (@)
Rated: *****

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If you are a fan of Hagalaz Runedance you'll love the solo debut of Andrea Haugen (aka Nebelhexe). Nebelhexe (meaning fog–witch), is dark Nordic rock with elements of folk, darkwave, rock, gothic, industrial, classical, and other forms of music creating an eclectic blend. Hagalaz Runedance and Nebelhexe have much in common with their peers at NorthSide records ( www.noside.com ), especially Hedningarna, for their expansion outside of traditional Nordic folk into other areas of musical exploration. Like Loreena McKennit, Nebelhexe moves traditional, classical, and folk elements into a more acceptable listening format suitable for a modern audience. However, Nebelhexe goes a bit further and goes into Darkwave and Industrial sounding sectors with tracks like "My Visual World" and "Celtic Crows" for instance. The first adds a bit of electronics giving it a suitable darkwave feel while the latter adds a throbbing mechanical, industrial rhythm. All of the works of this artist have very strong pagan spiritual significance with a focus on Scandinavian mysticism. Andrea Haugen has been active in variuos occult orders and pagan groups since 1990 and is the author of her 2000 book The Ancient Fires of Midgard. She is reportedly at work on a musical project and theatre play with Sabbat/Skyclad creator Martin Walkyier. She is also handling Norwegian translation of Anton LeVey's Satanic Bible. Her label, Candlelight Records, is also planning a reissue of Hagalaz Runedance's highly revered Friggas Web and Volven albums.
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Artist: Temple of Venus (@)
Title: Endless?
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****

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Rock-n-roll with a sound of influence from 80's bands like Echo & The Bunnymen and Killing Joke; raw guitar riffs and melancholic vocals. Reminiscient of the college rock scene that R.E.M. and The Church came out of but with all the original hard-edge and punk undertones, evidently these influences have made their way to Italy where Temple of Venus hails from. ToV also has experimental interludes such that one usually only finds in indie rock, "Silent" is a good example of this, experiemental ambient noise backing slow guitar strums and solitary vocals, almost reminds me of Love & Rockets. "Settle Me" gets a bit Joy Division on us and "The Knowledge" almost turns gothic sounding. Sometimes the Italian accent sliding through on the English vocals sounds a bit odd but musically this band has great potential. While being mostly guitar driven there are some keyboards features subtly on the overall project and with some professional guidance and studio time this band could likely produce a very nice album. Being self-released and not electronic oriented I'd say they've done a very nice job. Along with this one I also received a preview of their upcoming fourth release which shows even further improvement. with enough exposure they could possibly gain a similar following as The Bunnymen or Jesus & the Mary Chain for example as this is mostly where they fit in genre-wise, something I've not heard much of in recent years and it's a nice change.
Artist: The Mythics
Title: lamentaVampira
Format: CD
I may not be a vampire but The Mythics "lamentaVampira" make me want to sup freely of the juice flowing through their music. Beautiful and just slightly sad new wave influenced goth rock is the order of the day and it's got just the right flavor to make me nostalgic even though it's not an old CD. You see there are moments when 80s new wave style flares through and hits me just right. But then, there are also the moments when you can almost hear soft alternative filtered through a goth sieve. And also to consider are the just straight electronically infused moments of pure goth pop. The music is written with such strong yet simple songwriting sensibilities that it's easy to get caught up in the artists' love of what they're doing. Pop isn't my thing, but I love the pop The Mythics do, pretty and a little shadowy and boasting multiple influences fused into a luscious whole. Catchy, pretty and a tad melancholy, The Mythics are a shining example of the pop side of the goth world.
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Artist: NIMH/NEFELHEIM (@)
Title: Whispers from the Ashes
Format: CD
Label: Amplexus (@)
Distributor: Soleilmoon (USA)
Rated: *****
Inspired by the Inquisition and witch-burning periods, "Whispers from the ashes" is a great collaborative effort by Roman artists Giuseppe Verticchio (Nimh) and Nefelheim. After a private cdr edition, the work is luckily made available by the ever active Amplexus, which has also re-released Nimh's "The Impossible Days" (see review). "Whispers..." is an inspired, flawless work which combines the best features of Cold Meat Industry-inspired dark ambient and a bit of acoustic folk, managing to avoid the n.1 problem with this genre, i.e. sounding cheesy and cliché. From the very beginning of the solemn, gregorian chant-driven "Last hours of the heretic", the listener is plunged into an atmosphere which is at the same time gloomy and epic, depressing and soothing - a quality which is common not only to good dark ambient, but also to the best black and doom metal, where Nefelheim's roots probably lie. "Age of stakes / Crying bard" rises into a menacing melody and heavy mechanical percussions, before dissolving into dripping rain and a melancholic guitar arpeggio. "Sounds from the Ossuary" is utter bass-heavy droning darkness, reminding of Nimh's solo "Frozen", but a funeral melody emerges from the final layer of distortion. "Malleus Maleficarum" goes back to the initial Raison d'Être-sounding fusion of gregorian chants, swirling drones and electronic throbs. "Peaceless Rest" closes the album with more gentle guitar picking and a thunderous underlying ambience. A very successful and cohesive work from start to end, which could reconcile many to the CMI/Northern wave of dark ambient, definitely not that thrilling over the last few years.
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Artist: INCANDESCENCE (@)
Title: Chapter One: The Second Phase. Songs and remixes
Format: CD
Label: Raw Nerve Promotions
Rated: *****
Incandescence is the solo project of UK artist Paul, former member of extreme metal/hardcore bands Tangaroa, Narcosis and Canvas, and half of the dark ambient outfit Eye of Phetkanha. This release is a collection of sorts of early material, meant as an opener for the first proper release, "Chapter Two, The Replacement Phase", which by the way is already out and will be reviewed anytime soon. Hum, I don't know if putting all the early works in this cd was a good idea. I suppose this could be a logical documentation for the artist, but it's not a particularly captivating experience for the listener. Incandescence play (here, at least) a mix of looped electronica, sparse rhythms and droning ambiences, but the final result is too static (in a negative sense) to engage me. The main problem is that the more promising tracks - the ambient ones - are just based on looped sounds, without much variations, and the loops themselves are not that strong to stand on their own for 10+ minutes. I craved for some change that never came. "Walking the corridors in the building that houses the final obstacle in life" is probably the best track here, though. The pieces that mix rhythmic parts and minimal electronics are equally unresolved: the opening "Day one, the wanderer returns", for example, has some interesting looped live drumming, but the accompanying electronics are quite anonymous. Oddly enough, the best conducted song is probably the dub remix of The Gathering's "These good people". We'll see how this project has, or hasn't, progressed with the more recent release.
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