Wednesday, July 15, 2020
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Jihad: Retrospekt

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Artist: Jihad (@)
Title: Retrospekt
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
It must have been in 1994 / 1995 when I discovered the duo of Jihad for the first time with an appearance entitled "Hands That Hide" on the legendary "There Is No Time" quadruple CD compilation presented by the then up and coming RAS DVA Records. This fine Milwaukee-based label founded by Ric Laciak (R.I.P.) once started as being the US Leaether Strip fan base G.A.W.M.U.S. and has always had a valuable contact to us young and unexperienced writers of the German Vertigo magazine. Under the moniker RAS DVA this label brought those iconic releases like the debuts of Kevorkian Death Cycle or the pre-Mentallo & The Fixer project Benestrophe to our attention. Also that cool "Dora Blue" compilation with new and/or unreleased stuff plus interviews by the Kevorkian Death Cycle / Benestrophe / Jihad dudes was kind of brillant to represent both, label and artists, and brought us new and unreleased Jihad-music. In 2007 the Mendez brothers finally released their debut album "A Prayer In The Night" and this was the last official release of RAS DVA.

Jihad has been initialized originally in 1988 by the brothers Rich and James Mendez but now consists of only James. It was Rich who has made his international recognized impact earlier as being the vocalist of the pre-Mentallo & The Fixer project Benestrophe in the San Antonio- / Texas-area. James rather acted in the background but through various first experiences in support to Benestrophe (live performances and band rehearsals), the inspiration behind Jihad was conceived. At this first period with Benestrophe and the up and coming rise of Mentallo & The Fixer, James has collaborated in several side-projects (for examples Fury & Fear with Robert Bustamante of Fektion Fekler, Primary Target, and Trial by Fire (with vocalist Jaime Chavez) and could use temporary the studio possibilities.
So here we are in Texas and here gets the story its punch line. There should be no need to introduce the Dassing brothers and their meaning internationally through their prominent Mentallo & The Fixer project at least with their signing to the famous German Zoth Ommog label. And so finally it shouldn't wonder anyone that the textbook of authentic and meticulously produced Dark Electro music formulated by the Dassings has also made its impact on the Mendez brothers too. Rumor has it that they played together in the sandbox in their youngest years. So eventually upcoming comparisons to the art and kind of the Jihad compositions as well as it belongs to structure and technical skills to the deads of the famous Dassing brothers are rather intended than happened by chance.

But since we talk nowaddays on the second Jihad-album released 23 years after the debut, there's still the question: what has happened in between that to bring out a new album has taken that long? Beginning in 2006 by sharing friendship via social media to some international reowned Dark Electro musicians (mainly the German acts out of the Fïx8:Sëd8, Object, Pyrroline, MC1R camp...), the search for clues finally leads us to Bratislava, capital city of Slovakia, and into the year 2015 when James made a live performance at "Dark EBM Souls". This 2-days taking festival featured a prominent set list asides Jihad with ISH, Terminal State, KIFOTH, Fïx8:Sëd8 and MC1R. This all of course doesn't explain completely the long-years absence of James and his Jihad-project, but at least this festival and moreover the acquirement of new and helpful friends has made it finally possible, that James could settle the course for this new album.

Excellently mastered close to perfection by Vincent Uhlig of 2nd Face and with the helping hand and support of Martin Sane of Fïx8:Sëd8 regarding shipping and European contact, this new Jihad-album and the moral of the story behind stands representatively of a phenomenon which is recognizeable since a few years. Bands and projects especially out of this classic and veteran-influenced Dark Electro- and EBM scene in which the members have aged over decades, are acting like a huge FAMILY. So are the bands and their members, and so are acting their supporters and fans. They help each other out and one part grants the other one totally success without envy and selfishness. A remarkable and exemplary development of a music scene.

So now we have in hands this new album and actually I had to repeat it several times. No skipping at all to any of the featured tracks available on "Retrospekt", no, not at all, but regarding to be confronted with the meticulously produced arrangements, it was just the upcoming perplexity growing in me. The deep and so densely produced synth layers, all the multiple pads are producing a quite familiar, but still fascinating impression to the listener and also in me. The comparison to the Dassing brothers may still exists in the mutual sense to produce richly layered Dark Electro music - but that's it. Jihad differs enormously already with the choosen sounds and it's design. The whole "Retrospekt" avoids it to fall too much into the Puppy-an structure regarding brutality because the arrangements offer warmth and a nearly smooth and calming impression. I tend to call James' work as being Dark Electronic Ambience and it is throughout the album quite helpful that almost all tracks have been produced in mid-tempo. This fact separates "Retrospekt" from any thinkable companion release, at least also from the ones out of the German playground.

What also separates James from any other related project is his kind to express his vocals. I have to admit that I am not completely impressed of his rather grouted kind (for instance noticed on the opener "(I Can't) Let Go"), here and it sounds a bit too strenuous. This special kind of vocal performance has been already discovered with some Benestrophe releases as well as on "A Prayer In The Night" (yes, normally Rich has provided the vocals, but somehow the Mendez brothers flock together...). If there's actually space for further developement, then here would be a point. But to be fair enough this has developed a lot and comes to a quite better result nowaddays on "Retrospekt" in comparison. Best tracks, which to me both throne a bit above of any other track, are the magically arranged "Degree Of (Im)morality" as well as the instrumental, Blade-Runner-memorial tune "Origins". Well, I'm down on my knees and praise to the sound-god of brilliancy which currently (once again...) creeps out of my home entertainment! The finger taps on the repeat button but I finally refuse it until I reach the end of a musically highly impressive course of an epic produced Dark Electro album.

I wouldn't go so far to call "Retrospekt" a class of its own but it is nevertheless one of outstanding releases for this specific genre of this year so far. Purest entertainment from the first to the last track and not so "angst-driven and dark" as one or another would have expected. Congrats to James and all people involved for this musically highlight. Let's keep the fingers crossed that the release of a follow-up album won't take another 23 years. More live performances internationally to support this album should be in the planning process as soon as we all can get out after the current Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

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