Music Reviews



Ayreon: 01011001

 Posted by Krzysztof Kramarz (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 29 2009
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Artist: Ayreon
Title: 01011001
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: InsideOut Music
Rated: *****
Perhaps it's the first time you can read here about a band playing progressive metal, but 01011001 is probably the best album I've heard this year. Calling Ayreon a one-dimensional metal band is kind of simplification as Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the man behind this project combines various genres, from ambient to progressive metal. I'm sure, however, that even orthodox electroheads may find this mixture interesting.
Some people say that progmetal is soullles - not in this case. On 0101100 you won't find tedious guitar solos or other displays of showing off. It sheer emotional music.

If you're not sure you'll like it, I'd suggest starting from the second song - "Comatose". It's a dreamy song full of electronic sounds featuring both male and female vocalists.

01011001 is a concept album - another sci-fi story by Arjen Lucassen. The lyrics at the album are as great as the music. 01011001's plot is tied to the "Planet Y" and "Forever of the Stars" storyline developed in the albums Into the Electric Castle, Universal Migrator and The Human Equation, but you don't need to know these albums to have fun exploring the lyrics. "01011001" is the binary representation of the hexadecimal number 59 (i.e., 5 = "0101", 9 = "1001"), the decimal equivalent is the number 89, which is the ASCII code for the letter Y. It makes sense if you know the story of imaginary Planet Y.

The album features 17 vocalists and 10 instrumentalists. Pretty impressive, isn't it? Thanks to it's complexity, it's very difficult to get bored with this masterpiece. Moreover, it's a double CD release which means that there's really a lot of music. Some of the songs last about 10 minutes yet they keep a listener focused all the time.
As it was said before, 01011001 is a concept album but each single song is a masterpiece of it's own. There's no point in analysing them because they are really difficult to describe - they need to be experienced, not described.
In my case it's one of the albums that have changed my point of view on music. No matter what you listen to everyday, give Ayreon a chance, it may turn out that there's vast area of music you didn't even expect to exist.

Violet: Modern Life

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 22 2009
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Artist: Violet (@)
Title: Modern Life
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Equinoxe (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
If you're not totally unaware of the German Gothic-folk and Medieval scene, it's possible you already heard something about Violet '“ or maybe you were lucky enough and see them perform on the same stage with renowned acts such as Corvus Corax, Faun, Saltatio Mortis or Persephone... - as well as their side project Violetta, one of the most intriguing medieval music project from the German fertile ground, which gained a considerable acclaim among people addicted to that enchanted imagination crowded with princesses, knights and sometimes dragons, witches and necromancers and perceives as still anchored to forgotten habits and values clashing with modern times! If you already follow this band, you probably know that just one year ago they composed a sort of soundtrack for The Book Of Eden, the best selling book of the fantasy German novelist Kai Meyer... Well, that book begun as a sort of spiritual journey of a group of heroes starting from the Parisian Tour Eiffel - a steel giant which could be considered as one of the most emblematic symbol of the modernity '“ and going towards orient. It seems that for Modern Life, the same heroes come back to the modernity to fight against the false gods and believing of Modern Life. Such an interpretation could be easily verified since the beginning of the record: while Exult is a sort of ironic statement dealing with the misunderstanding of the concept of self-fulfillment '“ often confused with ephemeral material wellness... - with an apex reached in the final strophe ("they say it's healthy to be just a little selfish/to be a liar and a bitch sometimes/they say it's fine to be a little egocentric/just in case it suits you well"), Modern Life is the introduction to the other side of the so-called modernity, speaking about the sense of denying and annihilation of personal identity and the need to emerge of people laying like numbered balls in a ballot box hidden into an anonymous crowd. The first part of this record winking at rock-orientated dynamics end up with Home, which seems to be the page of an intimate diary inviting the listener to find home inside itself while walking on the endless path of life. There's a touching cover of Wreath Of Barbs '“ famous and lovely piece by the legendary Bavarian dj Rudy Ratzinger (just to dispel any doubt, he's not related to the Pope... as a body of evidence we could cite of the highest point of the insensively spiritual lyrics of this song sentencing "the injection religion/has a comalike effect/and bodies lay in decay/dreaming of a greener day"!)- with a goth-folk flow and a distinguishable oriental fragrance. You'll probably stand on ceremony after having a listen to a musical version of the Ode to Francisco Salinas, originally written by Fray Luis de Leon for this revolutionary musical theorist and organist, blind from birth (sometimes it's not a limit... ), who starting from the theories by the Franciscan monk Gioseffo Zarlino about music in High Renaissance (the "ars perfecta" in its own words!) elaborated some interesting theories frequently applied in modern music about harmony and rhythm, intuitions which according to the literary tenor of this ode are compared to the vision of high spheres ("alta esfera"), even if his scores have been lost and no one knows anything about his compositions for organ; the combo has chosen an elegant texture of dubby rhythms mixed to latin and celtic sounds with an oriental touch, a pot-pourri highlighting the intent of this exquisite combo to go over the stylistic boundaries. Oda a Francisco Salinas is not the only song entirely sung in Spanish, being the other one a foggy habanera interpretation of the famous caricature-like poem Poderoso Caballero by Francisco de Quevedo (words such as "poderoso caballero es don dinero" '“ "brave knight is mister money... !- reminded to us the El Pais reportage on Italian prime minister, the cavalier Berlusconi... .!!!), a poet, politician and nobleman who was endured by political persecutions for its frequent attacks on avidity and vices of the Spanish political establishment. The nice male/female vocal duet in White and the easy chords of the ballad Read My Lips are the more poppy acts of the whole album, while the formula mixing Celtic suggestions and athe brightening pop-rock melodic ballad in The Web could be perfect if Equinoxe will decide to issue a single from this album. Cembalo, guitar and bagpipe together with the mournful sing of Bianca Stücker in the melancholic vibes of I Wonder Why and the ritual appeal of Come Closer To The Fire close an album persuading us of the musical skills of this six musicians combo and even if they prefer to call their style "Medieval Crossover", they demonstrate their ability in drifting different style in their boiling pot. Hope to see them perform somewhere during the forthcoming summer as their live-shows are often enhanced by entrancing oriental dance elements and theatrical ones.

PNDC & HOUSEWORK: Secondhand Language

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 17 2009
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Artist: PNDC & HOUSEWORK (@)
Title: Secondhand Language
Format: CD
Label: Ammonite Records (@)
Rated: *****
SECOND HAND LANGUAGE is the second album for PNDC and this time he tighten the collaboration with Thanos Vavaroutas a.k.a. Housework (each track see him playing guitar and he also sung on four of them) and you find it stated on the CD cover as it has been released under the PNDC & Housework moniker. The net collaboration between Serbia and Greece still worked fine and the duo offers ten new tracks in balance from dark electronic pop and dark wave with no boundaries. Offering intimate atmospheres, electro wave sounds and melodies that will seduce your soul the album convinced me and if Joy Division fans will be pleased by "Animal farm", lovers of female vocals will be seduced by Marina Skiadaresi a.k.a. Shadowlike on "Pilots" and "Goodnight". Musically, Pedrag created a good mixture of synths, piano and bouncing bass/drums sounds which found a good counterpart into the distorted/acoustic guitars of Thanos (which sometimes he sampled and treated). Sounding sophisticated and creative without forgetting to be "popular", SECOND HAND LANGUAGE is a good album which you should check. P.s. As bonus we also have three mix: "30.000 feet" reworked by "Laurent", "Shut my soul" remixed by Harold Nono (he did a wave semi industrial version of it) and "Goodnight" (this one is based mainly on Marina's vocals and layers of treated guitars).

VV.AA.: Keep The Fire Burning

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 15 2009
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Keep The Fire Burning
Format: CD
Label: Equinoxe (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
Once upon a time there was a little small house in the middle of the Black Forest with a little group of fairies casting gothic-tinged spells, some years later a necromancer noticed the music spread out by this little creatures’ ensemble was a good and safe thing and so he decided to pronounce a magical formula to turn into a wonderful and luminescent castle... It’s not just a silly fable to let your puppets deeply sleep, but it could be a transposition of the story behind the astonishing Equinoxe Records, a label which moved his very first steps in the summer of 1998 in order to provide an independent release platform to the legendary German Gothic Rock band The House Of Usher by avoiding the subjections and compromises of the usual market mechanisms. Nowadays Equinoxe is one of the most interesting reality of the music market but in spite of a 10 years-long activity and more than one hundred releases (and notwithstanding the leaving of two of the four founders, who decided to move on to other endevours) the enthusiasm which inspired their action is almost unchanged and it seems to be the same of the beginning. The tireless publishing effort of this German label let us discover a plenty of interesting bands coming from those music grounds... but the story (or the fable?) of Equinoxe keep on surprising with two remarkable highlights i.e. an agreement in 2003 with the professional distributor ALIVE and the almost concomitant decision to create an electro sub-label, e-noxe, digging into the rich electronic music soil – that’s why this 10-versary sampler is also a celebration of the 5-years birthday of e-noxe!-. As it happens in almost every respectable fable, it should be a frightening ghost, a pustule covered angry ogre, a ravenous wolf or any other monster-like character playing an antagonist role in the set: as everyone knows, the music industry has deeply changed with the advent of internet and file-sharing, one of the greatest threat to many labels – especially the smallest ones -, reducing the possibilities of surviving in an highly competitive market, featuring an excess of supply never experienced before. But this "new order" resulted in a sort of new challenge for Equinoxe masterminds and that’s why the brave efforts mainly focused on any possible attempts to improve the quality of the releases without neglecting the roots behind any bizarre form of stylistic "revisionism". So we could say that this 16-track sampler combining exquisite pieces of both catalogues (the Equinoxe and e-noxe ones!) – with a lot of special tracks by bands which filled the roster from the very first day such as House Of Usher and interesting newcomers such as Psyche and Silvery... - has a particular meaning for the men behind the label curtains! Not only a gift and a sort of thanksgiving to all supporters of the label all over the world, but also an invite to breathe on the 15 candlesticks to join to the bacchanalia! But please don’t forget to... keep the fire burning, folks!!!

WERKRAUM: Unsere Feuer brennen!

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 14 2009
cover
Artist: WERKRAUM
Title: Unsere Feuer brennen!
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring Records (@)
Rated: *****
UNSERE FEUER BRENNEN! is the debut album by Axel Frank's project Werkraum and it has been released for the first time back in 2004. Since it was out of print from quite some time Justin at Cold Spring decided it was time to reissue it and for this new remastered issue he also added two compilation tracks to the original 11 songs track list ("Wir Rufen Deine Wölfe", taken from the compilation of the same name and "Blutsommerland", taken from the vinyl-only release "Eternal Soul"). For those whom didn't never listened to Werkraum's music I should name bands like Forseti, Sonne Hagal and Death In June (but I may say that in this case this is a slight influence on some song). Influenced by romantic authors Frank used for part of his lyrics works of John Dowland (composer born in London in 1563 and buried the 20th February 1626), Gottfried Benn (he was a German essayist, novelist, and expressionist poet. A doctor of medicine, he became an early admirer, and later a critic, of the National Socialist revolution), Rimbaud and Baudelaire. Musically Werkraum mix martial industrial sounds, neo-folk guitar driven ballads and neo classical moments. The album sounds heterogeneous and fresh and if songs like "Hohezeit" and "Chanson De La Plus Haute Tour" are influenced by folk songs and are good guitar/female vocals duets, songs like "Die Letzte Jagd", "Legion", "Steh Auf, Nordwind!", "Ewigland", "Heilige Krieg" and "Wir Rufen Deine Wölfe" are new folk upbeat acoustic tunes with martial percussions and full of energy. To balance the track list we have great atmospheric tracks which are influenced by industrial and neo classical music: check the great "Blutsommerland", the opening "Nocturne", "Einsamer Nie", "Dignitas Dei" and "Civitas Dei". This is a really good reissue! Check it if you missed it the first time!


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