Music Reviews

Vestfalia\'s Peace: Loneliness

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Sep 17 2017
Artist: Vestfalia\'s Peace (@)
Title: Loneliness
Format: CD
Label: Swiss Dark Nights Records (@)
Rated: *****
From Pescolanciano, Italy comes darkwave band Vestfalia's Peace, and their third release, 'Loneliness.' The band is comprised of Duccio Del Matto: classical guitar, electric guitar, chorus; Gianni Caldararo: vocals, bass, lyrics, chorus, mix; Salvatore Pallotta: drums; and Eugenio Auciello: electric guitar. They formed in 1997, in a very tiny village in Molise, Italy. Their first works (1999-2000) were strongly goth/new wave oriented, but around 2003 they styled themselves as more of a melancholic darwave act. They cite the band And Also The Trees as a major influence, which is fine by me as I'm a big fan of AATT's earlier work. Instrumentally Vestfalia's Peace does seem to be very influenced by that band, as well as The Cure. Vocally though is a different story. While AATT's Simon Huw Jones has a distinctively melodramatic style that just draws you in, the vocals in this band are whisper soft and often overridden by the music. The opener, title track ("Loneliness") is so indistinct as to be totally forgettable. There's a woman (Gina) also contributing supporting vocals (on a few tracks), but often it sounds like she's singing in another room. The second track "Wet Ferns Shine" is better than the first with slightly perked-up vocals, but not by a whole lot. Most of the songs on this album are quite mellow and don't cause much of a stir. Obviously the band suffers from a lack of distinction, especially in the vocal department. It's not that the vocals are bad by any means, (they are actually quite pleasant and melodic) it's just that they are very subdued and don't make much of an impact. On the musical side, the ban's sound is consistent but overly reliant on flanging and reverb. It gives the music a kind of shoegazer quality too often in my opinion. As for the songwriting, it's average with nothing was outstanding on this album. Track 9, "The Peasant" showed promise at the outset but didn't evolve into anything I'd consider compelling. Overall this is atmospheric but amorphic darkwave, which is sort of a shame because I had high hopes for it. Maybe adding a strong vocalist to the band might help. A lot of great darkwave come out of Italy, but sometimes, not so much.

Gene Loves Jezebel: Dance Underwater

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Sep 03 2017
Artist: Gene Loves Jezebel (@)
Title: Dance Underwater
Format: CD
Label: Westworld Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Here's a band whose name should be instantly recognizable to elder goths; a band with a convoluted history who have managed to sustain themselves since the earliest '80s in one form or another. Without going into a lot of detail, Gene Loves Jezebel revolved around the identical twin Aston brothers, Jay and Michael. Back when they were together, Michael was the lead singer and Jay the singer/guitarist. After their 1987 'House of Dolls' album, Michael split going solo while Jay continued the band. After reunions, breakups and a lawsuit over the use of the name, there are now two Gene Loves Jezebels. Michael, who stayed in the U.S. gets to call his band Gene Loves Jezebel when performing in the United States, but in the U.K. has to call it Michael Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel in the U.K.. With Jay, the opposite is true. So then, whose band is this album? Well, being released in the U.K., it's Jay's band, as he gets to use the name without having to prefix his own name. It's the first new Gene Loves Jezebel release in 14 years. Starting out as a semi-punky goth-glam band that to me sounded a bit like The Cure with more energy and less depression, over time GLJ became less gothy and more alternative rock. By the time Michael left, most of the musical goth aspect of the band left as well, although I'm not saying he took the goth with him. Be that as it may, how does this new effort fare? Well, to be truthful, it's not a goth album, although it does touch on some of the old GLJ magic. Not surprising since Jay was the band's main songwriter anyway, and he and his brother had similar vocal characteristics. Along with old GLJ bandmates Pete Rizzo (bass), James Stevenson (guitar) and Chris Bell (drums) Jay puts across a credible effort of polished songs that in a fair world would garner a good amount of airplay on college and alt-rock radio stations, if in fact there are any of the latter left. The opener, "Charmed Life" is an inspirational number about "never giving up..never giving in". It sounds quite different than what you might associate with the GLJ style. "Summertime" sounds like the perfect song to play for an outdoor cocktail party. Yet I'm not getting that signature GLJ vibe until "IZITME" and while it won't burn down the house, it does bring back some of the band's old magic. "Cry 4 U" is another tune that hearkens back to the band's earlier days. "Flying (The Beautiful Blue)" is a nicely constructed number, although rather lightweight for GLJ. If you're looking for a rocker in the band's classic style, look no further than "World Gone Crazy." Well done, and you can still hear those trademark Aston cries and wails now and then. As for the rest of the album, it sounds like polished alt-rock, but that's not our specialty here, so 'nuff said about that. For older GLJ fans, you can expect a few echoes of the glorious past, but Jay has grown and matured now, and the Goth aspect seemed to have been more or less a passing phase. I wouldn't write this off completely, but don't expect to be blown away by it.

Sweet William: Time

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 31 2017
Artist: Sweet William (@)
Title: Time
Format: CD
Label: D-Monic Records/Datakill Records (@)
Rated: *****
Now here's a band I haven't heard anything from in a really, really long time. Not their fault though. This German band was founded in 1986 by singer/guitarist Oliver Heuer, and has had dozens of releases since that time. I know I've heard them here or there before, but I can't remember when or where. I don't have time to walk their back catalog to catch up (more new releases keep pouring in every day) so I'll be primarily concerned with this one. From what I remember Sweet William was ensconced in the Goth-Punk-New Wave hybrid genre, and Heuer's vocals were a bit Nick Cave-like, while the music was reminiscent of The Cure and New Order. I also recall them being kind of raw too. Over time I think the band's sound was refined, and polished, and 'Time' reflects that. The band covers a lot of ground over 15 tracks on this album, and while not every one is a winner, there is still plenty to enjoy. The album starts out kind of weakly with the low-key "A Face Without a Name," but picks up steam as it goes along. "Funny" is a throwback to simpler times but has mood and groove. For some reason "Kind" reminds me of David Sylvian, perhaps more in the emotion department than anything else. Electro-techno elements burnish "Say Good Bye" and now we're cookin' with gas. "No Need To" has plenty of Goth atmosphere with its spooky theremin-like synth and understated, nearly moaned vocals. It also reminds me a bit of latter-day And Also The Trees. Nice guitar work too. "out of Here" is the first track with some real punch. This is the kind of stuff you'd expect from a good Goth band with 30 years of experience under its collective belt. They tone it down a notch with "Slowdown," a track with oodles of drenched in reverb psych atmosphere and seething darkness. "Room" is the epitome of '90s Goth, yet with a sort of twist. It will remind you of what you liked about Goth bands in the first place. "Yesterdays" is another strong song with a simple but memorable guitar riff and a nice chugging groove. Bet it goes over good live. "out of This Blue" has a very Nick Cave vibe to it. "Magic of The World" is an interesting number that instrumentally builds with layered sequenced synths a good 2.5 minutes before any vocals come in, and when they do, they're synth-processed. The lyrics are mainly the song title, and perhaps that's all that's needed here. The ironically titled "Slow" really isn't slow at all and has this great moving bass riff with vocals that ooze over the top like molten frosting on a burning cake. "My Ignorance" should have been a better song with a good beat and great guitar work but just falls short of being memorable lacking a potent hook. That's redeemed though with "Confusion Taking Over" a mind-bending gothy psych-out that's bound to leave an impression. It all ends on a "Summer Night," a song with a provocative groove, some nice unexpected changes to keep it interesting and a moody atmosphere.
Overall on 'Time' Sweet William exhibits a good degree of sophistication with effective arrangements, excellent use of keyboards and electronics and varied songs. Worthy as it's bound to grow on you and stay on the playlist for quite some time.

Slim Cessna's Auto Club: Cypher

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 13 2017
Artist: Slim Cessna's Auto Club (@)
Title: Cypher
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Rated: *****
Slim Cessna's Auto Club has been around for a long time, since the early 90s. They're an American band originally from Denver, Colorado with musical elements of country blues, gospel, folk and other forms loosely grouped as Americana or alternative country. The only reason why they're getting a review here is that they're supposed to have an aspect of "Southern Gothic" to their music. Throughout this album that aspect only surfaces occasionally in my opinion. For the most part 'Cypher' plays like alt-country rock, and there's way too much religion (or pseudo-religion) woven throughout the fabric of this album for my taste. More often than not, these guys sound like the warm-up act for a fire & brimstone preacher at a tent revival. They are competent musicians and vocalists but their material left something to be desired. If you're going to call yourself Gothic in any way shape or form, there's got to be a dark element incorporated into the music. It surfaces only a couple of times on 'Cypher' - on the tracks "Americado," and "Jesus Is In My Body - My Body Has Let Me Down". Yeah, there's a lot of references to Jesus on this album, also to "braces"; in fact there are four different versions of "An Introduction To The Power Of Braces" a song about wearing braces on arms, legs, teeth and faith. According to the accompanying one-sheet, "braces" is coded language. Whatever. The song reprised three times is thrice too much. As you you might surmise by now, I didn't care too much for Slim Cessna's Auto Club or 'Cypher' which was originally released in 2008 on CD but has been just re-released on their own label on a double-vinyl gatefold LP. Of course, they didn't send me that, they sent the CD because vinyl is expensive ya know, and why waste good vinyl on reviewers, especially if they may not like it. Well, this time they guessed right.

Jo Berger Myhre & Ólafur Björn Ólafsson: The Third Script

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 08 2017
Artist: Jo Berger Myhre & Ólafur Björn Ólafsson
Title: The Third Script
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro Music
“The Third Script” is a pack of four ‘ambient gothic’ pieces where slow steady percussive rhythms are the backbone over which layered double bass, long synthetic chords, drones, found sounds and relatively mild electronic bleeps and twitches meander at what is generally a very moody walking pace. Recorded in Iceland, it’s evocative of trying to traverse Iceland’s road number 1 on foot- views that are simultaneously both majestic and barren all the way, underpinned by the steady necessity of left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot...

At points, the gradually building start of opener “1000%” sounds as though at any second it could break into a massive Pendulum-esque slab of EDM, but what arrives is far removed from that. Some of the percussive elements are repurposed and recycled industrial objects or even flotsam, which leads to a very rough-hewn rhythmic tone.

The title track is the longest and most sparse piece, with the percussion mostly removed and the spontaneous double bass bowing often allowed to stand completely alone in an elegant warehouse space. This tone is also initially followed in third piece “Orifice”, though as we progress through this orifice (erm…) the rhythms and tensions gradually reappear in a way that feels very nicely mapped out. Final piece “Ravening” has a more accessible, soundtrack-like feel thanks to the more prominent and relatively mellow piano work.

It’s a very neat and well sequenced package that, while not pushing any boundaries with its experimentation or any distinctive instrumentation, can win you over on its sincerity alone.

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