Music Reviews



Furvus: Aes Grave

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 04 2017
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Artist: Furvus
Title: Aes Grave
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Dark Vinyl
The first Furvus album in eighteen years is a cinematic journey of gothic neo-classical dark drama. Long drone bass notes, religious-sounding organ and harpsichord arrangements and sparse, surprisingly prosaic, militaristic drumming combine into a sinister arrangement, over which pained, gravelly male vocals sometimes strain themselves in Latin. It’s not a comedy album.

While opener “Missio Apostate” is a strong introduction, it’s closing piece “De Rerum Natura” that is the definite highlight, with a strong sense of the culmination of all the expression and tension having built up to this determined release of energy that seems to make sense of everything that came before it.

Pieces like “Melopoeia pestilentiae, caudata domina nostra”, with its horses hooves, distant bells tolling and whispered Latin incantation-style vocal, do border more than a little on the gothic cliché, but for the most part it walks its own distinctive and sincere path. “Pos de chanter m'es pres talenz” predictably introduces a chanter into the mix and makes you wish its authentic evocative tones had been present more often.

“Mon In The Mone” stands out as anachronistic- a folksy guitar and multi-layered vocal affair that takes a break from the dark drones in favour of a more around-the-fireplace-in-the-pub singing tradition. The other unusual interlude is the Gregorian chanting of “Attollimus culignas, pro gloria Bacchi!”, which sounds like it’s been recorded in a road tunnel.

The production is good, but perhaps not as epic as it might have been. While many of the string and bass sounds are very rich, the drums sound thin and undynamic. The powerful acapella vocal that opens “Pos de chanter m'es pres tanlenz” somehow doesn’t cut through as much as it might. The end result is just a touch too muddy.

It’s a bold and very focussed statement that adds only the very slightest touch of modern production to an organic musicality steeped in both the Middle Ages’ primitive side and its religious pomp and circumstance. Limitations in the production budget are the only thing holding “Aes Grave” back from being truly stunning.

Elouise: Deep Water

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 18 2017
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Artist: Elouise (@)
Title: Deep Water
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Well, this is certainly different! You've undoubtedly heard of Bluegrass music; you know - banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, etc., country style finger-picken, toe-tappin' good-timey stuff. Well, this ain't that. This is Blackgrass music, the antithesis of Bluegrass. From the band's one-sheet: "Fueled by a sordid real-life backdrop of good old-fashioned suicides, murders, and alcoholic depravity followed by church on Sunday, Elouise is an eccentric collaboration of Los Angeles-based musicians who came together to create an ominous, raw and cinematic genre of music they identify as Blackgrass. It is the sound of sin and salvation mixed in a dark cocktail with a taste of Bluegrass, a black symphonic sound and weary emotional vocals that tell original tales of struggle and re-imagine songs from our collective American consciousness." And that's the doggone truth, so help me Gawd. The CD cover ought to give some sort of clue- five ne'er-do-wells in stark black & white standing in front of a decrepit barn. That's got to be Elouise Walker (whom the band was named after) in front with them dead eyes (actually, too much eye shadow), not the kind of gal you'd bring home to mama. Elouise has the kind of voice that's all jailhouse Mallory from "Natural Born Killers" with a distinct drawl and the creakiness of an old porch rocking chair. Backed with banjo, guitars, cello, fiddle, and sometimes drums, harmonium, horns, double bass, accordion, bandoneon and marxophone, this band plays morose into magnificent. It's the kind of outfit you'd expect to be from New Orleans (Nawlins), Baton Rouge, the Mississippi Delta, or somewhere just outside of Mobile, Alabama, but certainly not LA.

The album is a mix of inspired originals and deconstucted and re-imagined classics such as "I'll Fly Away," "Amazing Grace," the Carter Family's "Shadow of the Pines" and Link Wray's "Fire and Brimstone." These ain't yo daddy's versions of these chestnuts; this is pure Elouise Country Gothic, slowed and simmered, steeped in the blood of the lamb, and kissed by the devil. One of the best tracks on the album is the booze-fueled "Saturn Bar," a Dixieland style funerary march to that famed New Orleans watering hole where danger lurks at every turn. It's a flavor Elouise capture perfectly, the sour taste, the smoky ambiance, the surrealness of the moment. They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Elouise proves it in "Hurricane" with her witchy warble over over pounding toms. (Best not go on any dates with a girl named Katrina.) For a brief respite from Ms. Walker, one of the guys in the band, Rich Dembowski takes over vocal duties on a couple of numbers, the best of which is "Oh Lord." Vocally he comes across like a combination of Ray Davies and Leon Russell, with the song more the latter than the former. Gotta love a line that goes, "...I ain't gonna get on my knees, I ain't gonna get on my knees and pray, til you and I get a few things straight.." There's also an amazingly sad gypsy cello and double bass solo by Michelle Beauchesne and William Bongiovanni titled "Evil." Any one of these songs would have been excellent to play over the end credits for the HBO "True Blood" series, but too bad that's long gone now.

This kind of music isn't going to be everybody's cup 'o mud, and to be perfectly honest, country, western and bluegrass is some of my least favorite music. (The only thing worse in my world is rap and hip hop.) But I have to say for me, Elouise holds some kind of fatal attraction.

The Last Days of Jesus: The Last Circus

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 28 2017
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Artist: The Last Days of Jesus (@)
Title: The Last Circus
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****

The Last Days of Jesus is a band from Bratislava, Slovakia, and 'The Last Circus' is their sixth album. I've never heard any of their previous material, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. If somebody asked me if I'd heard of The Last Days of Jesus I might have thought they were trying to lay some religion on me. Well fortunately, this band isn't one of those Christian rock acts, or we'd be done by now. According to Discogs, they're a Slovak Progressive Goth Rock band that started out in 1992 to combine the spirit of old school Batcave and Deathrock with new musical sounds and patterns. To me, they sound more like quirky new-wave with a slightly prog-art rock bent. Also according to Discogs (font of information they are), the band's record label ZIM-ZUM s. r. o. is the company of Mario Poór, the lead singer of this band, calling himself maryO the Joker on this album. I put the label as self-released as I could find neither website nor email for the label.

While not strictly "circus music," 'The Last Circus' does have a certain atmosphere of carnival lunacy about it, as exhibited in the weird opener of "Joker's Aid" with lyrics intended to knock 'em dead - "...I can conjure up some oxygen, Can't see your lover, Through the smog in your room and Streets covered in murder..." Kind of like Batman's Heath Ledger Joker. Hmmm... The obvious hit single from this album is the next song- "Hop-Hop," a fast shuffle that would have deserved an MTV video in the 80's, and might have rocketed this band to fleeting cult stardom. Great hook about running away really, really fast. The instrumentation of the band is fairly standard - guitar, bass, keyboard and drums, but these guys have working this since 1995 and are a well oiled machine. Throughout the sixteen songs on this album the band never lets up with their energy and enthusiasm and though some tracks are better than others, this is the kind of album that maintains a certain level of consistency and interest throughout. maryO is the consummate showman entertainer throughout with a distinctive melodramatic vocal style. There's a hint of darkness woven throughout and a smattering of madness as well. To some degree I'm reminded of the more sinister aspects of Oingo Boingo, and to a lesser degree, Wall of Voodoo. Some songs have a cabaret flavor, especially in tracks like "Swing the Clown," "Arthenice," and "Cabaret of Life". Along the way there are nods to 1930's and 1940's performers like Cab Calloway and Raymond Scott. In a more modern vein they sort of sound like Electric Six meets the Cramps at a funeral party for Bauhaus. One of my favorite tracks on the album is (She's happy because) "She Died" (at my wedding...) which are the only lyrics in the song. These guys are delicious mad fun throughout 'The Last Circus,' and if you don't like the picture of the juggling ringmaster in the novelty diamond-shaped die cut on the cover, you can switch the booklet around to show Siamese twin showgirls. Absolutely worth a listen or three.

Herzparasit: Parakropolis

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 14 2017
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Artist: Herzparasit (@)
Title: Parakropolis
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Herzparasit is a Neue-Deutsche-HÄrte band (think Rammstein and Oomph!) from Munich, Germany and 'Parakropolis' is their third album. As with most Neue-Deutsche-HÄrte bands, they mostly sing in their native German, kind of nationalist thing, you know. (There is one track in English, but we'll get to that later.) After the dramatic buildup and recitation on "DNA Unbekannt," Herzparasit begin their trudge and slog through "Manege Frei!" with some lively orchestration, plenty of metallic guitar and emotionally overwrought vocals, heavy on the vibrato. In fact, heavy on everything. It seems like it won't let up on the next track, "Tastsinn" but actually does a bit after the guitar intro for the verse. Before long though we're back to the typical sturm und drang Neue-Deutsche-HÄrte is known for. Sven Mehrens from Defated guests on vox for "Meine Traume Jagen Mir Hinterher" ("My Dreams Hunting Behind Me," or something like that) and Sven must be the one with the harsh, gravelly vocals, the only real difference from what's preceded it. "Blut Lught Nicht" is a more uptempo number compared to the mid-tempo tunes preceding it. Definitely more metal than anything else, it's unusual because of the "kinderstimmen" on the chorus. "Zack! Boom! Bang!" is exactly the kind of song you'd expect from this band, sort of stripped down verse, buildup, then let it rip on the chorus. I'm worn out already and there's still 7 more tracks to go. On what follows there is some nice synth and keyboard work but El Toro's metal guitars are pretty overwhelming. As for the next to last song, "It Must Be in English!," I guess the boys got tired of music critics like me complaining that all their songs were in Deutsch and we couldn't understand what they're singing because we're too fucking lazy to learn the language. Of course, they're right but that's not going to change the universal pop music language to German. "It must be in English! Please no other language! Don't say it in Denglisch! German ist doch garbage!" Okay, we get it Herzparasit, or at least I do. The silly synthpop opening kind of drives the point home. Sad though that this song is the one most likely to get played in the U.S. One of the nicest songs on the album is the last one - "Regentage," a well-orchestrated ballad devoid of heavy-duty guitars. The vocal style really works well here too. I'm impressed. My overall impression is that 'Parakropolis' won't get much attention from American audiences, but the band obviously didn't write and record it for them anyway. Although singer Ric-Q's vocal style isn't one I personally favor, it's better than guttural growl even if it is melodramatic. While most of the material on the album is typical Neue-Deutsche-HÄrte, they do rise to the occasion now and then and deliver something a cut above in the songwriting. Germans should really dig it, those who like dark gothy metal anyway.

Descendants of Cain : Conversations With Mirrors

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 30 2017
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Artist: Descendants of Cain
Title: Conversations With Mirrors
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Over the course of their existence, from 1998 on, London, UK-based band Descendants of Cain have released five albums prior to 'Conversations With Mirrors,' the music being mostly in the eclectic/esoteric gothic rock vein. Led by the enigmatic DM Kruger, the band seems to have evolved over the years refining their music and moving away from what could be called traditional goth rock into more art-prog territory, and with this album, a less culty and more commercially viable sound. Not to say they've gone pop, for that certainly isn't the case. Opening strong with "Shapes in the Mist," this is a song of comrades in arms, something I could hear being used in the pirate series "Black Sails," or maybe even a contemporary war movie. Its bold chorus of manly voices makes it somewhat anthemic, nothing like I've ever heard from D.O.C. before. (It's also the longest track on the album as well.) In "These Hands" DM channels the emotiveness of Peter Gabriel, and in a different way, this song is nearly as strong as the opener. "Lost in the Woods" gets kind of gothy-metal without succumbing to excess. "Unbreakable" is rather draggy and maudlin and "Scaring Crows" is similar but with a nice memorable chorus. "Shallow" reminded me a lot of Roger Waters in a down mood which is kind of typical for Waters. Thinks pick up dramatically with "Let Go" and its standout hook, along with some snazzy bouzouki. "A Thousand Years" introduces Nikola Jackson's lovely voice for some nice contrast, and this is another song I hear Waters' influence in, along with another band I can't seem to recall presently. "Defiance" once again recalls Peter Gabriel in a melancholy mood, augmented by a great string section. Final track "Lost to the Noise" is the only real bummer on the album; sparse plaintive piano melody with a woman crying in the background. Just sad. On 'Conversations With Mirrors' D.O.C. has a more massive sound than previously, and Kruger's voice is more varied than ever before making for an interesting time of it. I like this better than their prior albums ('Songs From a Vanishing World,' 'Hell Bar Blues') but I think there's still room for improvement. Its richly atmospheric, deeply emotional and introspective, and although many will dig it, there are some that probably won't, thinking it's too self-indulgent. Still, 'Conversations With Mirrors' is a work of art and the work put into it shows. Moving away from the strictly gothic into more alternative territory is always a risky move for a band with a cult following but if you don't take the chance when you really feel it, how will you ever grow?


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