Music Reviews

NID: A Fair Masquerade

 Posted by eskaton   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 01 2015
Artist: NID (@)
Title: A Fair Masquerade
Format: CD
Label: La Esencia (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with this Italian band, but just looking at the cover (yeah, I know....) gives some impression of where they're heading. The label describes this album as 'a kind of baroque parade where everyone wears a pompous and amazing mask on the stage of life but just because everyone is trying to stand out and emerge, in the end we realize that we are only equal and homologated.' Yes, we're heading into goth territory. But that's OK; I like goth territory. Putting in the disc, this is somewhat confirmed, as we are met with bombastic, orchestral music reminiscent of Arcana or The Protagonist with whispered vocals. This gives way to 'Again,' with mellow acoustic guitar and smooth baritone vocals. 'Shattered Flowers' changes it up again with synth and drum machine straight out of 'Geography' era Front 242. 'North´s Fire' brings it back with chanting and spoken word with acoustic guitar and chimes. Nicely done. 'Ultimo' is a bit more militaristic, with pounding drums and shouted vocals before mellowing out once again. We see variations of these ideas throughout the rest of the album. Some of the standouts include 'Einsamkeit - Buried In Sun,' which reminds me stylistically of Current 93's rendition of 'All the Pretty Little Horses.' Another is 'Standing Among The Ruins,' which is a bit different in that it is stripped down with what sounds like staticy shortwave radio at the end. 'White Rooms' is a good close to the album, with flute and guitar that slowly build in intensity (although I don't really get what the deal was with the chanting of 'Satan' in the middle of the track). Overall, this is pretty good stuff. If you like your neo-folk with a gothic chaser, this is one to pick up. This album weighs in at around 61 minutes and is limited to 500 copies.

Za La Thu: Ritual of the Abyss/77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 03 2015
Artist: Za La Thu (@)
Title: Ritual of the Abyss/77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Za La Thu is a ritualistic occult metal band from Enterprise, Alabama consisting of The Awakened One (instrumentation) and Katera (vocals). I know what you're thinking - Jeez, yet another black/death/doom metal band with occult overtones, ie, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel, Burzum, Candlemass, etc., etc, insert name of your favorite satanic metal act...well, no, not really. The Awakened One has been on this path since 1995 and throughout the years the band name has changed from Muses of Chaos, DRALA, The Awakened One, The Inverted, Aethyria, Servants of Twilight and now ZÄ Lä Thü (pronounced ZAY-LAH-THEW). I don't know if there were any releases under those previous monikers, but what we're concerned with is the NOW, these two releases, 'Ritual of the Abyss', and '77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156', which they call "demos", but are available for sale on their website, so I call them "product". Although they're home recordings, the sound quality isn't bad, just not as polished as they'd be in a professional ($$$) studio, but I'm not complaining. As I implied, this isn't your typical occult metal outfit, and although the music is guitar-based, also employed are Roland Guitar Synth, drum machines, sitar, sax, Udu drums, native flutes as well as other world music instruments.

The CDs (actually, CD-Rs) are really EPs, being just a few not very long tracks. The first CD,'Ritual of the Abyss', opens with an invocation by a famous occultist (no, not Crowley, but his personal secretary, Israel Regardie) on "Opening of the Portal" which instrumentally is a combination of metal and gothiness. There's quite a mixture of metal styles in the music, and although well played, tends to be a little chaotic. Za La Thu gets down to business in the next track, "Into the Void, Beyond the Sun" which instrumentally is more straight-ahead riff-based metal with dual vocals by The Awakened One and Catera. Lyrics are Ritual Magick-based, and nicely melodic. In fact, the track is more prog-metal than death, doom or black metal. I could see this going down a storm live. "One Star in Sight" is closer to death-doom-black metal with deep, growly, screamy vocals, but then it gets riff-fancy in the guitar leads halfway through. No bout a doubt it, The Awakened One has put his many years of basement practice to good use here honing his guitar chops. So that wraps up the first disc.

Second disc, '77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156' is way different. For one thing, Catera handles all the vocals. The music also seems more Goth. "Hail, Hail Babylon" makes few concessions to metal, being primarily synth-based. "Flame of Torture" is more in the metal-mode again, and although an okay track, doesn't have the impact of the opener, but it does have a sort of middle-eastern overtone. "Val-Kree" is really a strange tune. metal at the core, yet with a sitar lead and some clever changes and effective chanting. People looking for something really different should dig this. Before you know it, it's over, leaving you wanting more.

Definitely worth checking out, and probably worth buying too. They also have some pretty neat Za La Thu tee-shirts for sale on their website as well. The Awakened One made a good choice in adding Catera to Za La Thu, and I think they may still be looking for a drummer (adding a bass player and keyboardist might not be a bad idea either) but if you're thinking of applying, you might want to bone up on your occult texts, and I'm not talking about the Necronomicon or LeVay's Satanic drivel. These folks seem to be passionate and serious about what they're doing; posers be warned.

Friends of Alice Ivy: The Golden Cage and its Mirrored Maze

 Posted by eskaton   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 25 2015
Artist: Friends of Alice Ivy (@)
Title: The Golden Cage and its Mirrored Maze
Format: CD
Label: Elysium Sounds
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with these artists, but evidently this Australian duo has been part of the scene for a long time, as part of the 1990's darkwave band Ostia. Surrounding the core of Amps and Kylie are a host of guest musicians from such other notable Australian bands as Ikon (Clifford Ennis) and Eden (Adam Calaitzis), as well as orchestral harpist Megan Reeve, cellists Zora Barisic and Emily Williams, and classical soprano Frances Catherine Brüggener. Add lyrical inspirations ranging from Romantic era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to astronomer Carl Sagan, and this promises to be an interesting disc. As the press release explains, 'The emotional heart of the album is a return to beauty and a nostalgic sense of wonder.' So let's get to the music. When I first put the disc in the player, I had to check to see if this was put out by Projekt or some similar label. This reminds me a lot of old Love Spirals Downward ('Ardor') or Faith and Disease, with its beautiful female vocals and delicate instrumentation. At other times it takes on a medieval vibe reminiscent of Cold Meat Industry act Arcana (e.g., 'Song of Lyra'). If Hyperium Records were still around to put out their Heavenly Voices compilations, Friends of Alice Ivy would fit right in. But this is not just worth checking out for nostalgia; this is excellent in its own right today. This is simply beautiful and it's a shame that there isn't more music like this today. Well done. This album weighs in at around 44 minutes.

Günter Schickert / Pharoah Chromium: OXTLR

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 22 2015
Artist: Günter Schickert / Pharoah Chromium (@)
Title: OXTLR
Format: 3 x 12" vinyl
Label: Grautag (@)
Rated: *****
The eighth ring on Nicolas Moulin's label Grautag comes from two brilliant sound artists of German musical scene. Gunter Schickert could be considered one of the men behind the curtains of German krautrock scene since late 60'ies and first 70ies: he was one of the first guitar player which played a style that got widely known as "echo guitar", mainly based on sort of loops of repeated notes and overdubs, which was extensively used by many krautrockers. Even if his technique and his style were not so different from the ones of Achim Reichel and Manuel Gottsching of Ash Ra Tempel, his two best solo recordings, "Samtvogel" and "Uberfallig" (recently re-released by Bureau B label), have been deservedly rediscovered during Internet age. He splits this record with German-Palestinian musician and performer Ghazi Barakat, another brilliant sound artist, whose Pharaoh Chromium project (named after a song of the band Chrome) draws inspiration from free jazz, ancient past and near future rituals, science fiction novels and radical architecture groups like Italian Superstudio and Archizoom as well as by the sonorities of the psychedelic avant-garde of the 70ies, the industrial bands of the early 80ies and middle-far east nuances that got performed by Ghazi, who usually wears a golden mask on live stage, by a wide set of ethnic flutes and electronic devices. They already met in the mid-eighties in West Berlin, but Barakat discovered the similarities of his style to Schickert's approach just after he listened to a re-release of the above-mentioned "Samtvogel" in 2010 so that many discussions about possible collaborative works followed. Then Barakat introduced Schickert to Nicolas Moulin in order to release some of his recent outputs as well as the first fruits of their collaboration an that's how this release was born and what should have been a douple lp became a triple lp featuring two very long bicephalous tracks. Most of the compotional ideas are quite simple, but both the iterations which dig into listener's psyche little by little, and the "ritual" halo of each track, which could infer many reviewers to label it as a dark-ambient release, require immersive listening sessions in order to enjoy them: the slow flutes, the sneaking circles of a synth-brass and the gradual electronic wrapping on the initial "Bamiyan", which last 22 minutes and 22 seconds, evoke the images of the "executed" statue of the Buddhas of Bamiyan that got dynamited by Taliban icnoclasm, while the sinister tolling and the oppressive echoed sonic entites of the following "Campfire" are the elements which get closer to the so-caled dark-ambient. The almost orchestral parade of heavy echoes, ghostly drones and resounding guitars on "A6" reaches the highest hypnotical peaks of the release by means of tonal stonewalls that seem to evaporate whenever they got erected and vaguely resound on the amniotic buoyancy of the entrancing "Katharsis", where some listener could perceive some resemblances with Starts of The Lid. Such a feeling of amniotic floatation keeps on wrap listener on the awesome space-walking of "Galaktik Debris" - the first collaborative track by Barakat and Schickert-, where your eardrums could meet many strange objects in the thich layer of stardust, including guitars which are in between U2-like intro and Eastern chords. Last but not least, the final collaborative track 'Music D'Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud' where I guess Ghazi and Gunter made a really interesting imaginary score for Louis Malle's noir movie "Ascenseur pour l'echafaud"...not an easy task if you consider that the OST of the movie was an ad hoc jam session by Miles Davis...

Ray Creature: s/t

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 12 2015
Artist: Ray Creature (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12"
Label: Sister Cylinder (@)
Rated: *****
Ray Creature was formed in 2013 in Bloomington, Indiana, consisting of John Eric Booth - synth, guitar, bass, vocals; and Natascha Buehnerkemper - acoustic percussion, bass, and vocals. This self-titled 12" EP on 180-gram vinyl is their debut on the Sister Cylinder, and what a strange delight it is! This harkens back to some of the more interesting dark electronic music of the '80's, such as 'Black Celebration' era Depeche Mode, Wolfgang Press, SPK, and Trisomie 21, maybe with a dash of Suicide. Right from the get-go on "Don't Stop Talking" you know where these folks are at. It's cold-wave and post-punk done right, and you'd be hard pressed from Mr. Booth's vocals to peg him as American, for they surely have a more English or Euro sound. The song is funky in a Gang of Four or Shriekback sort of way. "Threat" is an unstoppable locomotive charging headlong into oblivion with a fast, repetitive bassline (think Alice Cooper's "Return of the Spiders" from the 'Easy Action' LP mixed with Suicide's "Rocket U.S.A."). The fun continues on "Burning Alive", with early Art of Noise/Human League synths and near rockabilly vocals. Unfortunately, it ends too soon. Natascha's vocals are harder to get a handle on, often blended in the same way Sisters of Mercy's Patricia Morrison's are with Andrew Eldritch. "White Suits" really reminds me of early Depeche Mode (but post 'Speak and Spell'), more in feel than trying to copy them in any way. There is a rawness to this record that exudes vitality, and its lack of professional polish gives it a credibility that might otherwise be lost in glossy production. Semi-submerged vocals give it almost a live sound, so you can bet that hearing them live shouldn't sound much different than the recording. Some songs are better than others, but in total, the eight tracks presented here are a pretty good debut. I'd recommend the vinyl over the digital download and limited to only 500 copies, it's bound to sell out sooner than later. Surely a band to watch.

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