Music Reviews

X-Bax: 'Twas The Night Before X-Bax

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Dec 22 2016
Artist: X-Bax
Title: 'Twas The Night Before X-Bax
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
If you really think Christmas music is all Mariah Carey and Bing Crosby, think again. Admittedly it’s only the misleading track and EP titles that make this a ‘Christmas record’ in any way shape or form, which does seem to be cheating somewhat, but here’s a ‘festive’ (= not festive at all) release from Silber to scare your granny during Christmas dinner.

The centrepiece of the EP is fourteen-minute atmospheric epic “Panamanian Snow”, bolstered by five minutes of other bits & pieces. “Panamanian Snow” is a distant, ominous industrial hammering, a drone that’s part distant machinery part super-deep string instrument part synthesizer, and the supremely slow build-up of closer, smaller impacts and claps. After almost eight minutes a bell tolls, an implication of a change that doesn’t come; the industry continues unabated.

The opening two tracks “We Three Kings” and “Five Golden Rings” (which segue and are essentially the same piece with an arbitrary track break in the middle) are an overture of sorts, standalone discordant guitar power chords, sustained and distorted in an unsettling pattern.

Final track “Epiphany” is an anachronistic and playful guitar piece, starting from random flanges and fret slides before embarking on a simple riff that for a moment suggests this EP is ABOUT TO ROCK (get your index and little fingers ready) before looping and sustaining with an effect that’s a little like repeating the same word over and over so often that you start questioning how it sounds and it detaches from what it means.

Give me this over “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” any day.

Dyr Faser: Dyr Faser

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Dec 20 2016
Artist: Dyr Faser
Title: Dyr Faser
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
Many of the Silber “5 in 5” series releases I’ve heard to date have been drones, atmospheres and noises. This seemingly self-titled “Dyr Faser” release is the closest to ‘pop’ I’ve heard them come. It’s a lo-fi, muddy collection of five miniature pop songs, all packed into one minute doses (well some of them go several seconds over that but who’s counting?) There’s a swaggering lethargy to some of it, like a grumpy New Order bumping into a drunk Depeche Mode in 1986. The lo-fi production gives you a slightly thin sound, with vocals bathed in reverb and heavy use of stereo separation that’s faintly discomforting.

Both “Just A Face” and “Only The Dark And I” sound like the first minute of longer songs abandoned or unfinished. “Until Then You” is a riff and soft breakbeat. “To Be Desired” has an interesting groove that’s got hints of the 1960’s White Noise experimental protopunk-with-oscillators over which a guitar wanders, ad libbing in search of a riff.

Particularly on “Take The One”, the combination of psychedelic effects, rough-edged electronics and thin-sounding twangy guitar is reminiscent of the before-they-were-famous sound of The Shamen, but without the catchy hooks that propelled that band into an utterly different world.

The Silber “5 in 5” concept series suits some artists better than others. There are some interesting ideas and definite potential swilling around, but unfortunately rather than feeling like a complete five-minute work, this is one of those that feels like a teasing sampler to build interest in their longer EP’s on Bandcamp.

Heathen Apostles: Albatross

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Dec 19 2016
Artist: Heathen Apostles (@)
Title: Albatross
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ratchet Blade Records (@)
The Heathen Apostles take a central core of faithful Americana and murder ballad arrangements and give things a slightly stylish, faintly gothic twist. “Albatross” is a one-track single and while their discography has several remixes and electronica elements in it, this is a straight-up three-minute 3 / 4 song featuring slightly Chrissie Hynde-like vocals over a folksy arrangement of violins and mandolins that would appeal to staunch Levellers fans. Accompanied by a music video where great costumes and thoughtful storytelling are let down by wobbly camerawork, this is a neat little introduction to the band, but as a regular ChainDLK reader I’d certainly want to know more about their remixes than their originals.

Magnetic Ghost: Loss Molecules

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Dec 07 2016
Artist: Magnetic Ghost (@)
Title: Loss Molecules
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
“Loss Molecules” is a dark mini-album that merges shoegaze with drone, and attracts a lot of genre labels that begin with ‘post-’. It’s guitar and effects-heavy, with meandering and often indistinguishable vocals throughout most of it. It’s expansive, atmospheric, but unfortunately at the same time, a little bit drab. It’s the sound of raw but resigned emotion in a lonely, windy place.

The filmic tone of “Sleeping Is Believing” is a highlight, whereas tracks like “Landfill” sound like they’re weakly fighting the urge to transform into rock songs. At best there are hints of Ulrich Schnauss-like widescreen thinking, at worst it dips into muddy meandering lo-fi.

Magnetic Ghost is the one-man band project of Andrew Larson, and there’s a typically shoegazey sense of self-indulgence in parts, inviting the listener to either admire the melancholy, or listen to something else. Each of the pieces is in sections, eschewing the “one idea for seven minutes then stop” approach you sometimes get with drone work in favour of occasional mild drama.

The one-man-band approach can lead to modesty (false or otherwise) at the mixing stage, but a mix from Neil Weir has dealt with the danger that sometimes arises from people mixing their own performances. Nevertheless, there are points such as in “Grand Canyon” at which the vocal still sounds a little low in the mix and a little dry in places. Apart from that it’s a mostly exemplary and polished production, but of an album which merges broad influences into something that ends up slightly grey.

Guillotine Dream: Lemuria

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Dec 04 2016
Artist: Guillotine Dream (@)
Title: Lemuria
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The sound of an English Gothic rock band is unmistakable which shouldn't be surprising considering the Brits led the way in the genre. They don't sound like German Goth, American Goth, French Goth, or any other Goth. They don't even all sound alike. Bauhaus sound nothing like the Cure, Sisters of Mercy nothing like Sex Gang Children, and Killing Joke nothing like Killing Miranda. Yet there is a certain commonality that distinguishes them from the rest. Okay, so you must have guessed by now that Guillotine Dream is an English Gothic rock band, from the nethermost regions of Somerset they say. This band goes back to the mid-80's, but their output was slim (a cassette demo was about it) due to personal, and other circumstances. Now though, they have sprung this six-track EP and it certainly hearkens back to the glory days of Goth. Members are Arc - guitars, vocals; Lake - bass; Mapk - drums, vocals. Their identities are "a loosely guarded secret" but they all admit to having played in the Gothic Death Doom Metal band My Silent Wake. I'd have to say Arc is obviously Ian Arkley, while the others, I'm not totally sure of. I'm guessing that the raison d'être for Guillotine Dream is that Arkley wanted to do something more straight ahead gothic rock. To a degree what they sound like is Fields of the Nephilim with the tongue-in-cheekiness of Spinal Tap. Arc apparently has the Carl McCoy raspy vocal style down pat. But there are other influences here as well - The Cure, Sisters, Mission, Joy Division and more. And yes, it's derivative, a throwback if you will, but while more, newer so-called gothic rock bands are indulging in elaborate production and striving for a hit single, these guys remain true to their roots and put forth the kind of dark music you loved in the 80's and 90's. Nothing fancy, just solid, intense goth-rock. I'm sure if this album was released in 1986 this band would have made its mark at the time. While I can't really pick a "best track" on 'Lemuria' I'm somewhat partial to the Nick Cave-ish "Man on Fyre," although the songwriting is quite good across the board. If basic goth-rock with attitude and atmosphere is what's been lacking in your life, let Guillotine Dream fill the void.

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