Music Reviews



When: The Black Death

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 25 2015
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Artist: When
Title: The Black Death
Format: 12"
Label: Ideologic Organ (@)
Rated: *****
The sonic rendering of the pestilential wind that according to some ridiculous conjectures by so-called doctors about the origin of the so-called Black Death, which almost caused the extinction of humans in the fourteenth century, was attracted by a planetary conjuction from the depths of the earth before getting pushed back on Earth with the venomous recipe that God added to it - it seems incredible, but it's true - opens this old record - it was recorded at Sound Sector in Oslo with the support by sound engineer Bernt Kanstad in summer 1992 - by which Lars Pederson translated into sounds Theodor Kittelsen's "Svartdauen", a sort of dark poem inspired by Black eath in Norway, which killed almost two thirds of the populations, including the whole medieval aristocracy - Norway had no heirs to throne in those ages! -. Both the macabre theme and the astonishing sound-collage by which he rendered it, including gnawing rats, whining horses, moaning people, grinding wood, Death's snigger and quotations from traditional Norwegian folk music and dirges, turned Pedersen's solo-project When and this release in particular into a sort of cult listening by fans of Norwegian black metal scene - not so many people know that Varg Vikernes aka Count Grishnackh (the man behind Burzum) as well as many other black metal musicians of that scene considered this When album an essential listening in the heydays of burning churches in Norway -. In between environmental sound poems by Luc Ferrari and Nurse With Wound's dadaist studio experiments - even if When's "The Black Death" reminded to me some really obscure less known stuff from Laibach such as their disquieting album "Krst Pod Triglavom - Baptism" -, this listening experience should be listened while reading Kittelsen's Svartedauen - I read it last year on the occasion of the issue of an Italian translation which followed the celebration of 100 years from the death of its inventie author and illustrator -. Check it out and beware of the rat fleas!

Nick Grey & The Random Orchestra: Breaker of Ships

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 21 2015
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Artist: Nick Grey & The Random Orchestra (@)
Title: Breaker of Ships
Format: CD
Label: Milk & Moon Recordings
Rated: *****
This new album by Nicolai Riccardo Moldoveanu, better known as Nick Grey, and his Random Orchestra sounds like a sweetened declension of bitterness, the written tales on a wet diary after a storm by a mercenary captain everyone would like to save from a shipwreck or maybe the wheel, whose spinning top costantly swing around enchantment and disenchantment. The opening title track evokes that dark beauty you'll find in some stuff by Sofa Surfers or Massive Attack, but its musical skin soon changes colour and turns towards obscure bluesy, heavenly pop halftones, lush natural and exotic soundscapes, temporary ecstatic ablutions, a space-rock break-in; the puzzling electronic dark-pop, where kraftwerkian nuances meet pitched tones and 8-bit melodies from vintage videogames, on "Of Ghost & Women", inoculates an element of pervert opacity, while the somber "The Archivist" is a wonderful portrait of someone, whose distance from reality, turned himself into a vaguely henpecked shell of a man and better express one of the distinctive trait of this release by Nick Grey: even if I can't consider it a conceptual work, it's clear that Nick wisely braids a dilemma between the eagerly aesthetic yearning of being endowed with all the beauty you'll find in this world, the concern for the impossibility of accomplishing such a task and the dangers behind getting trapped by its mortal hug by means of meaningful lyrics, which got appropriately dressed by Random Orchestra. The dark tones of the above-mentioned "The Archivist" digs deeper and deeper on the bittersweet tones of "Vanisher", whose holy nihilism sound like echoed by the heart-rending storytelling on the final "Ghost Rain", whose speaking ghost marks the most hopeful moment of the album, on the dual portrait of a woman, which appears like a fairy on "Juliet Of The Spirits" and as a silent corpse on "Juliet Of The Bones". Scanner joined this glomily seducing album by a likewise seducing remix of "Here He Comes Now".

Sentinel of Eternity: s/t

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 17 2015
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Artist: Sentinel of Eternity (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Progressive Darkwave Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Sentinel of Eternity is the brainchild of electronic French composer Stephane Marty, and he realizes it with the help of Sebastian Elliott from Braindance on vocals and Salandre, also on vocals, and she is also responsible for the stunning digital illustration on the six-panel CD. The only other work I could find by Marty was 'DarkAlbedo - Romance In Trance'(Reloaded) from 2007, but I get the impression he has his fingers in a number of other pies as well. Sebastian you may know from Braindance, and if you don't go back and read my review of their 'Master of Disguise' album from just a little while ago. Sentinel of Eternity is a whole 'nother animal though compared to Braindance, and I will try to keep those comparisons to a minimum here.

Stephane excels at melding techno with darkwave as you will immediately experience on the opening instrumental track, "Cyberia". It's a rabid burner that should shake the tiles of any dark danceclub. Elliott is definitely in his element on "Surrender", with his powerful, resonant baritone vocals taking command on this potent song. Salandre's backing vocals on the chorus add some nice depth too. This is richer than anything I've ever heard from VNV Nation or Assemblage 23. "Mandragore" follows as another strong dancefloor number, and although the hook isn't as strong as "Surrender", it still melodically appealing with Elliot's melancholy vocals interspersed with a femme French recitation, presumably by Salandre. She gets the lead in the next track, "Desire", which switches gears and slows the pace. Some of the lyrics are spoken and some are sung, and although she doesn't have a strong voice, it's an effective one. This track adds a dimension and fragility I was not expecting on this album. "Monolith" is a monster of an instrumental track, obliterating all in the wake of its rampage, like a techno-Godzilla. 'The Exchange" rises from the ashes of the carnage with Sebastian slowly building into a powerful vocal performance. Some nice, dark atmospherics are a prelude to "Awake My Senses" before it hits its stride. Thematically, this song somewhat reminds me of Braindance. For a song as powerful as this one, it still incorporates a good amount of sensitivity. "Out of the Ashes" is another great song with hit potential, elegant in its execution. Marty gets Phantom of the Opera-ish on title track, "The Sentinel" with a gothic organ intro. It's a medium-tempo lush, progressive instrumental with a stellar arrangement. "Something in the Wind" is a dolorous ballad that begins with piano before it moves into synth orchestration. I'm hearing a side of Elliott on this one that I hadn't noticed before. The vocals are understated and warm, but perfect for the material. The album ends with the instrumental, "Eternity", a reconciling of dark and light, of despair and hope, of angels and demons...in a word, eternity.

To put it succinctly, this is a phenomenal recording, the five-star album you and me have been waiting for. I'm really glad Elliott is a part of this too; it will give dark music lovers an opportunity to experience the depth he's capable of. There is not one thing out of place here, as this is a work you would only expect a band that has been together for many years. Stephane's vision has been realized, and you owe it to yourself to experience it. Give me more!

YobKiss: The Light

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 08 2015
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Artist: YobKiss (@)
Title: The Light
Format: 12"
Label: Grond Records (@)
Rated: *****
This is a relatively easy review for me, and a rather enjoyable one too. YobKiss is a music project by Paul Borchers, originally from the Netherlands, now based in London. Paul is an illustrator and musician (as well as a DJ). His illustrating style is along the lines of vintage comics and it's said that he's working on a graphic novel too. There's more back-story to his visual art, but we're primarily concerned with the music here, so I'll leave you to check that out on your own time. Musically, Paul started out as a drummer, but was inspired to get involved with synthesizers. Borchers started the YobKiss project in 2006 as an excuse to tour Japan as a solo act. The other party on this EP, vocalist Yuko Hazama aka Fuzzy, from Tokyo, didn't join Paul until 2013 and the collaboration was a long distance one trading tracks online. The result was this EP, 'The Light', only three tracks, but what an amazing little work it turned out to be!

YobKiss describes their style as Electro, Gothic Disco, Synth Rock, Acid House, and Kraut Rock, but what we really have here is a Cold Wave gem- minimal vintage synths and drum machine, with Yuko's whispery vocals. It's simple, but incredibly effective. Title track "The Light" consists of a repetitive synth line over which an echoed blippy, arpeggio plays, and a dense synth pad (reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream) creates a nostalgic aural atmosphere. Then there's Yuko's singing- wispy with childlike innocence, yet strangely sensual. Although the words aren't clear, the ambience leaves little doubt she was an amazing find. There is simple but effective (yet uneffected) guitar too adding an interesting component. The beat is steady, danceable and hypnotic with unwavering drum machine rhythm. The song is sort of dark, but in a dream-like surreal way. Vocally, Yuko is a little reminiscent of Martha Schwendener from Bowery Electric (I wonder what she's doing now) except a little higher. Second track, "Dancing Ghost" gets into even weirder territory with Yuko using her voice rhythmically at first then interjecting a phrase here and there. The synthwork consists of an ominous repeating bass line over the rhythm track with a beat and the occasional synth pad and other stray electronic burblings. Yuko comes up with an ironically happy little melody line she repeats a few times and the effect is...uncanny to say the least. Before you know it, it's over. "Black Void" is undoubtedly the darkest (as well as longest) track on the EP, using a gothy chord progression over sequenced bass and bare bones beat. While Yuko's voice is nearly buried in the mix, it is as if she is some ghost in the machine. The mode of the music changes a little getting deeper and darker, but no less hypnotic drawing you in. This is bloody simple stuff, but oddly compelling. Yuko resurfaces at the end with breathy wordless vocals. Sort of like an orgasm in the black light room of a psychedelic party scene in some art film; no words can easily the atmosphere created here. It leaves you wanting more, and I certainly hope this is only the beginning of this collaboration. Worth checking out and worth owning. I had to settle for the CD version of 'The Light', but you can get it on 12" vinyl while the limited supply (of 500 copies...less now I'm sure) lasts. Highly recommended!

Storm: Storm's A Brewin'

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 06 2015
cover
Artist: Storm (@)
Title: Storm's A Brewin'
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Since Mr. Urselli (busy guy that he is) is now encouraging artists to send their review product directly to reviewers to expedite reviews instead of to Chain D. L. K. central, this band was one of the first to do so. Since I was curious who chose little ole me to review their album, I pushed this one to the front. From Kahaluu, Hawaii comes Storm, a goth metal band and their debut album, 'Storm's A Brewin'. Gee, I didn't know Hawaii had a goth scene, but stranger things have happened. The band consists of Sandy "Storm" Essman - lead vocals; Gerard K. Gonsalves - drums; Darren Soliven - bass; Jase LeFebvre - guitar; and Eric Barker - keyboards. The first thing that hits you are Sandy's powerhouse vocals- quite melodic and seductive, yet strong. No rust on those pipes! (From what I've seen of the band's live performance videos, Sandy has the looks and presence to back up her big voice too.) Opening track "Serpentine" offers an exotic Middle Eastern intro before it stokes the furnace of this juggernaut. It's a potent opening track exhibiting musical elements you wouldn't expect on a debut album. Third track, "Fly" is a progressive number that caught me by surprise showing off the group's musicianship with intricate riffs, timing and Sandy's soaring multi-tracked harmonies. "Operator" is not a bad followup as the band attacks the material with a wicked vengeance. When Storm settles into their groove, I'm somewhat reminded of vintage Black Sabbath, in the pacing if nothing else. (And no, Sandy doesn't sound anything like Ozzy.) Most of the album is pretty enjoyable but "Dirty Bitch" is a misbegotten number just beggin' for a catfight. Maybe a band "in joke" or Sandy just showing her claws, but I couldn't help but snort, although musically it did rock out with psychotic, frenetic energy. Altogether the vocals are top notch (she can really wail...without screaming), the musicianship quite good, and decent songwriting for the most part...but there is a problem. On this CD the vocals are mixed up above the music giving the impression the singer is right in front of you, and the band is playing in another room. While this might have helped a band with a less powerful vocalist, Sandy blows the doors off on this recording. The mix also has the effect of muddling some of the musical passages and making the cymbals sound slishy. I listened to the CD on several different systems with similar results on all but one - my bookstore's cheapo antiquated Sony system, which didn't sound too bad. Overall, there is a lot of promise from this Hawaiian Goth Metal outfit, and whether they make it beyond their tropical shores or not is up to them, and the fans they will likely amass with their dynamic, compelling sound.


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