Music Reviews

Sonik Foundry: Explosive

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 26 2012
Artist: Sonik Foundry (@)
Title: Explosive
Format: CD
Label: Nilaihah Records (@)
Rated: *****
Have these guys been listening to too much Combichrist lately? It certainly sounds like it. Unfortunately Sonik Foundry isn't ballsy enough to be in Combichrist's league. 'Explosive' was obviously designed for the dancefloor and live performance as it's a stripped-down mean-machine of (mostly) four-on-the-floor EBM, with only an occasional foray into the melodic. On opening track 'Beat It Down' Nikademus implores the masses with a growl to 'Get Off Your Ass Down To The Floor...Stomp Your Feet Like You Never Did Before...' whatever. It's beyond cliché. Speaking of cliché, there's so much use of portamento on the synths that it really gets old quick, song after song. Maybe it's becoming their signature sound or something. The mod wheel gets quite a workout too. What melodies there are are mostly simplistic sing-song, and there isn't much variety in the synth sounds either, making a lot of the tracks on 'Explosive' sound similar. The material here probably works better live, but on disc it comes across as heavy-handed, calculated and contrived.

There are 3 remixes on this album - 'Fuse' (Assemblage 23 Remix), 'Slipping Away' (00tz 00tz Remix), and 'Severance Pay' (SINthetik Messiah Remix) and I liked them all better than the originals ('Severance Pay' was on 'Parish of Redemption'), mostly because they're more inventive than the originals, and actually made the songs sound rather creative. Knowing how much I usually don't care for remixes, what does that tell you about 'Explosive' ? It's really too bad these guys had to head down the path of least resistance and opt for the lowest common denominator in EBM music. 'Parish of Redemption' showed promise but there's no redemption here. Not very explosive; more like a dud.

Velvet Acid Christ: Maldire

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 16 2012
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Artist: Velvet Acid Christ (@)
Title: Maldire
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis Records (@)
Distributor: Metropolis Mailorder
Rated: *****
One of the few in advance praised albums, which really caused curiosity: Velvet Acid Christ returns two years after the rather acoustical arranged 'The Fine Art of Breaking Apart'. 'Maldire' - so it was promised - would pick-up again the more Electro-/Industrial-dance oriented phase of Bryan Erickson, comparable to his classic albums 'Fun With Knives', 'Twisted Thought Generator', or 'Hex Angel: (Utopia - Dystopia)'. What shall I say? It turns to be out as such, although one can recognize Bryan's ongoing development regarding synthesizer programming. For all of you who don't know it: Bryan himself writes several reviews on stuff like movies, games, concerts, and of course music at his Hexfix93 blog at, plus he introduces hard- and software-based synthesizers - several examples with links to software synth plug-ins can be checked out through his web resources. No doubt, Bryan knows every trick in the book and can rely on his experience. His programming skills, as well as the sense for the right 'industrialized' mood has helped him always through the years. 'The Art of Breaking Apart' was in most cases a difficult album. Not for Bryan himself, as he saw the insertion of real guitars and a more Goth-oriented direction as a quite logical evolution for VAC, but the acceptance of fans and reviewers was rather limited. Hardly understandable, that album was a real good one, only the unnecessary EP release 'Caustic Disco' suffered from the lack of artistically valuable ideas. 'Maldire' now brings back that sound which seemingly all love: I wouldn't go that far to call this album a milestone, because Bryan has already produced milestones for the books (see above) but it nevertheless can be called a very good VAC-album. 'Evoke' opens this album and reminds a lot on his rather mid-tempo tunes like 'Pretty Toy', or the often recognized classic 'Phucking Phreak'. With 'Septic Rinse' follows an instrumental track, but a rather unspectacular one, Bryan can provide better. 'Bend The Sky' then is a first favorite with a calm and catchy song progression and also Bryan's voice sounds pretty much relaxed and well integrated. 'Wasted' and 'Ominous Rattle' both are picking-up the traditional Electro-/Trance-driven style, which has made this project that famous. In between we have with 'HyperCurse' a second instrumental tune, but this time better conceived, as it strongly remembers to some tunes out of 'Twisted Thought Generator'. The title-track, 'Christ Whore' and the last one 'Mysteric' are highlighting this album and are ideal tunes to join the dancefloors of the darkest clubs. All of them feature the 'HIT'- factor and won't let you unimpressed. 'Dream Curse' is at least the most unusual, Downtempo-inspired tune with cumbrous and bizarre synthesizer arrangements. Bryan's voice sounds haunting and depressive on here, some relations to Rudy Ratzinger at his darkest moments can be recognized.
A lot of good things are happening on here and this album proves to be an excellent addition to his above mentioned classic recordings. I actually spin it quite often because it is nearly unrivaled with a fair overview of releases during the last 3 months. No retirement in sight for Bryan Erickson, he still sounds that fresh and full of inspiration to continue with his fabulous music-project. Good news also, that he's actually preparing for a new tour.

The Exaltics / Morphology: The Exaltics Meets Morphology

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 13 2012
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Artist: The Exaltics / Morphology
Title: The Exaltics Meets Morphology
Format: 12"
Label: Solar One Music
Rated: *****
Here we are with a new 12" of the "Exaltics meets" series, where Robert Witschakowski this time shares with Morphology this second release after meeting Gosub on the first one. As for the first time, we have two tracks for each band. The Exaltics open side A with "Changing Things", a track that combine upbeat rhythms and paced arpeggios with spacey pads, creating an effect of "changement in stillness". "Quiet Earth" exalts the sidereal effect thanks to deep bass lines combined to windy synth sounds and echoed tiny melodies. Coming from Finland, Morphology is the duo formed by Matti Turunen and Michael Diekmann that is already known by followers of the electro sounds thanks to their album and ten 12" they released in the last three years. Here they open side B with "Neural Network", a track that has a bouncy classic electro bass line with 808 syncopated rhythms which dance with spacey pads and picked synth cello sounds. The second tune is "Stochastic Resonance", a track based on similar sounds but whose atmosphere is more tense thanks to sparse percussive synth bells sounds and space synth inserts. I noticed that on both releases of the series The Exaltics composed its tracks according to the atmosphere of the guest band, so I asked to Robert and he confirmed that this is what he wanted these release to sound like: two bands, one atmosphere. Anyway, you'll read more on the forthcoming The Exaltics interview.

Cynical Existence: A Familiar Kind of Pain

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 08 2012
Artist: Cynical Existence (@)
Title: A Familiar Kind of Pain
Format: CD EP
Label: Engraved Ritual (@)
Rated: *****
Cynical Existence is the solo dark-electro project of Fredrik Croona, ex-Menschdefekt and currently of the aggrotech/industrial Project Rotten. Not much of a fan of Menschdefekt...something just wasn't working for me there with their sound. Project Rotten seemed somewhat better to me, although there seems to be a harsher edge there. Although prior to receiving this CD to review, I never heard of either band before. (I live in a dark closet, don't you know.) On the first listen to 'A Familiar Kind of Pain' I didn't quite care for it. Old-school harsh EBM I thought, complete with raspy processed vocals...haven't I heard this a zillion times before? Leaether Strip, Hocico, Suicide Commando, et al, so many bands have been down this road sounded so...90's...

But on the NEXT listening, I noticed something. There is an elegant simplicity here. Sure, those analogue synths are sounding familiar; it's the staple of industrial music we all grew up on to a great degree. And the music is oh so simple, but that's the beauty of it. What really makes it work though is Croona's vocals. He growls, he yowls, and wrings every shred of emotion he can possibly muster out of his tortured pipes. In fact, I don't know if I've ever heard this much variety in the harsh EBM vocal style. If this album (well it's an EP really) had come out in say, 1995, it would have been an absolute classic! Still, even now it stands up because no one is doing quite the exact same thing as this nowadays. Besides, the songwriting is top and to the point. No meandering intros, no extended dialogue samples, just pure, delicious dark-electro.

Cynical Existence is well-suited for stomping around the dancefloor. It can't be helped, the beat is compelling. If your DJ ain't playin' it, you ought to tell him (or her) to get on the stick, or beat 'em with a stick, Punch & Judy style. I think Croona has hit on something special here, something so basic it's primal. The music is sinister and menacing even though the melodies can be a bit puerile. The controlled collapse remix of 'Dead Eyes (see no future)' really points that up with sing-song insanity. I preferred the original anyway, and really liked the use of vocoder as the followup vocal.

As I mentioned before, this is an EP (limited to 100 copies worldwide, 50 in Europe, 50 in the U.S.), but a generous one with 8 tracks and (thankfully) only one remix. If I were you, I'd pick one up before they're gone. I really hope Mr. Croona continues his Cynical Existence, and doesn't get fancy with it, because the world really needs a kick in the ass with a pair of stompy platform boots, and 'A Familiar Kind of Pain' goes a long way in reminding us just what our roots are in this scene.

Unitcode:Machine: Nosophobia

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 06 2012
Artist: Unitcode:Machine (@)
Title: Nosophobia
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I know no one wants to hear me rant about the mechanics of a review but rant I must. Before you can even post a review here you've got to gather ALL the info which includes artist and label websites and email contact and get a pic of the cover of the release and resize it to Chain D.L.K. Specifications. The pic is the least of the problems; it's email and website addresses that are usually the problem, artist's email contact usually being the toughest. I got lucky with this one; others...not so much. It's very time-consuming and my time is quite limited. I'd rather spend the bulk of it listening and evaluating the recording rather than playing 'contact detective'. (Note to band: this ain't about you; you had it covered.) So with that out of the way, I know I'm waaaayy behind on reviews, part my fault for all the other things in my life that cropped up that had to be dealt with by the time I got the review batch, and of course, the review package is always late.

Unitcode:Machine (heretofore U:M) is the EBM/electro-industrial project of Eric Kristopher from Fort Worth, Texas, I believe, and he does it all (almost) ' vox, synths, sampling, percussion programming, production. Helping out on a few tracks is Katrin X (Tears of Arria) on vocals. It's all very well done, and Eric's vocals are gruff enough for the music without resorting to distortion, screaming, excessive raspiness or too much electronic processing. Lyrically, pretty standard for this kind of music...I detect a bit of Assemblage 23 with more of an edge. Melodically U:M is nearly on a par with that outfit as well, although more noise-pop than future-pop.

As for danceability, U:M rocks! You won't be moping around the dancefloor at the Goth Club when any track from 'Nosophobia' comes on, and there's a decent amount of variety. Trouble is, no tracks seemed to have that certain 'killer hit potential'. I found myself liking the tracks Katrin X sings more than some of the others, especially 'Ghost' where she's the sole vocalist. That track really showcases her pipes, which are formidable. The constrast between the two vocal styles serves U:M well, and separates them from the pack. Maybe I should mention that Eric and Katrin X are also involved in a Neo-Folk project called Awen under the leadership of Erin Powell (guy, not gal) which is obviously very different from U:M. Even though Katrin X sings on only three tracks I think she adds a lot to this band, and on the track 'Imperfect' the vocal interplay between her and Eric is scintillating. On the CTRL remix it becomes much more evident just how vital her vocals are (some of the other elements are stripped down and the vocals are more clear) and it would be a big plus if she became a member rather than just a guest artist.

Oh, did I forget to mention the album contains seven remixes? (9 basic tracks to the album, three of them remixed by geeky c, CTRL, vvulgar, Void Prototype, Tokyo Focus, LKERR, and Awen, for a total of 16 tracks. I've never been wild about remixes, and these don't change my mind on the issue, although there are a few creative twists. I guess I didn't need to hear those three songs again, and would have preferred one more stab at a new killer tune.

Be that as it may, Unitcode:Machine is a band to keep an eye on. Eric's programming skills are solid, his vocals strong, and if Katrin X stays with the project, this band has the potential to rise to the top. A couple of catchy, memorable numbers with dynamite hooks may be all they need to make their mark in this uber-saturated genre. Nice effort, and one well worth checking out.

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