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29 Died - Promo
This is a 4-track sampler off 29 Died's new album, "In Vein", and marks a dramatic change in focus from their precious offering, "Sworn". Rather than stay in that increasingly boring, "I can shout louder than you" ghetto that's crippling the new wave of US indus, 29 Died have gone back to their root. They've reached into their influenced and plucked out two bands in particular, Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb. Rather than simply copy these two, though, they've combined the older electro/EBM sound with a funkier, more upbeat techno-rock backing, closer to Thrill Kill Kult or even Jesus Jones. The end result is an extremely dancey take on the two Mute bands, with the same focus on melodic vocals that no longer seems to be much of a priority.

Art of Decay - escape from virtuality
Art of Decay come from that hotbed of musical talent... Belgium? OK, maybe not, but Belgium has produced one classic band, Front 242. At first, there is a certain similarity between the two bands, sharing the same dark European electro sound. AoD, however, do veer closer to darkwave, with a slower, darker sound and droning vocals. Their sound is fairly repetitive, 'though it does create a nice hypnotic atmosphere. That is until the eighth track, 'In this World', where the sound suddenly branches off into techno-Goth. It's nicely done, if a bit unfocussed. Then, suddenly, 'Society-grasp' kicks in with a synth-pop influenced sound. From then on, the sound twists and turns, dragging in elements of numerous different styles, everything from trance to industrial. All in all, it is very interesting and varied, but at 15 tracks and over an hour's running time, it is a bit heavy going.

The New York Room - The Colour of Midnight
In modern music, there is often an obsession with originality. One of the main reasons for this is the relatively limited forms of music and the general lack of true talent. When discussing the average Goth band, we're not dealing with virtuoso musicians or fabulous singers, so, instead, we look for the thing that makes them stand out from the crowd, the unique twist they put on things. However, every now and again a band like the New York Room appears and, although throwaway comparisons to the Cochteau Twins and All About Eve are accurate, they're also meaningless. Any band that can perform a gloriously ethereal track like 'The Gates of Heaven' in English and French, a dark Gothic version of the Rolling Stones classic 'Paint it Black' AND an operatic piece, 'O Mio Babbino Caro' without breaking a sweat, transcend comparisons and enter the realm of pure talent.
Sara Dellinger has a beautiful voice that lifts you up into a dreamlike state, while the musicians weave a web of pure melody about her vocals. For the more classically oriented tracks, they skilfully adapt themselves to the more trained vocals of Leslie Broughton and Vivian Lim. This is a band that recognises no limit to what it can do with the right elements and succeed wonderfully in what they attempt.

Cydonia - Cydonia (Tinman)
Cydonia kick things off with the brooding 'Abyss', a powerful electro track, with dark, sinister Gothy vocals, growling and spitting paranoia. 'Yen' continues with a sound like Ministry on speed - a beat of almost gabba-esque intensity and vocals distorted in an Al Jourgenssen style. 'Heretic' is a bit of a mess though, all distortion and noise, unsalvaged by the electro melody, which is buried too deep in the noise. Things pick up with the hyper sounds of 'Creed', where the vocal distortion is dropped in favour of hoarse growling over an intense electro-indus backing. 'Indoctrinate' is another mess of noise, but 'Sentiment' brightens things up with a vocal-free that sounds like it's based around the sound effect of a shotgun being cocked and loaded. 'Confessor' is more noise, and the Tangerine Dream-style electro soundscape of 'Threads' is spoiled by too much distorted vocals. Finally, 'Remnant' builds slowly into a powerful piece of electro-indus melody. In all, this is a rather patchy debut, showing an annoying tendency to descend into noiseniking, but, at the end of the day, it does show a lot of potential.

Idiot Stare - The Hate Cage (Bodybag)
What happens when you ram some serious hardcore punk-rock up the ass of techno dance music? Basically, the answer is the first two songs on this CD, 'Smile' and 'Number One'. While the rest of the album is very capable and well done electro-industrial, it all pales into comparison with the full-on, blood on the dancefloor psychosis of the first two tracks. That said, there are some pretty cool other tracks, 'Afterbirth' and 'This is the Life' have some of the dance elements, just not done quite as well as the first two tracks. The band seems to know this as well, because there's two remixes on the CD as well of, surprise, surprise, 'Smile' and 'Number 1'. It is surprising that the gabber mix of 'Smile' actually seems to reduce its intensity and is pretty pointless, while there's little difference between the radio edit of 'Number One' and the original. If this is the direction Idiot Stare are going, then this is a ride well worth hanging on tight for.

Flesh Field - Viral Extinction (Inception) Buy from MNS
Flesh Field effortlessly mix electro, techno and industrial, as well as male and female vocals, to produce a fabulous album of dark, heavy dance music. The beats are bigger than anything imagined by your average dance band, while the coarse male and melodic female vocals are intertwined through the recording create a simultaneous light and dark feel. The stand-out track is 'Overload', where every single element is in the right place. It's reminiscent of Ultraviolence's 'Adultery' or Messiah's 'Beyond Good and Evil', but with a style all of its own. Things mellow out with 'Where Angels go to Die', a track that edges closer to mainstream techno and has major crossover potential. 'My Saviour's mix of angelic vocals and piano with electro sounds, bring them closer to an atmospheric, Goth-tinged sounds. 'Cyberchrist', on the other hand, has a beat that approaches gabba in its speed and intensity. Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake, this is the sound of the future and do not be surprised if you hear Flesh Field on a dancefloor near you, soon.

Two Witches - Eternal Passion (Nightbreed) Buy from MNS
Who let this crap get through the censors? This isn't Gothic, it's heavy bloody metal, and I mean heavy metal at its most annoying, Iron Maiden/Cathedral style crap with a crap kinky fetish for witches and Hammer horror clichés. Look at the band for Christ sake, they even look like sad old metallers. Absolute rubbish, Nightbreed should have higher standards.

Brother Orchid - The Babysitter Murders (Nightbreed) Buy from MNS
Brother Orchid is the latest in a relatively short line of Nightbreed electro-Goth bands. This lost are a little more Gothic than the others, fitting fairly safely in the darkwave category. Unfortunately, despite attempts to be all atmospheric and gloomy, they don't pull it off. The vocals are so flat and unchanging, they get tedious very quickly. They don't really do much with the electronics either, the beats are pedestrian and the synths are unimaginative. At best, it could be described as harmless.

Lithium - demo
Lithium is fronted by a former member of Goth-metal acts Tiamat and Sundown. That isn't exactly something to inspire major expectations of from this new industrial act. And, there are no surprises. These three tracks are run of the mill industrial metal, guitars, beats, samples and metallic vocals. Granted, there's no death metal growling, so it is listenable, but, as yet, they've produced nothing special.

Fear of Dolls - When the Organ Played at Twilight
Seattle's darksiders return with a big barrage of appealing atmospheric noises. Siouxsie and the Banshees and "Pornography"-era Cure are signposts upon the road travelled by FoD, but they don't tell the whole story. There's shades of acid-addled psychedelia in there too, the tripped-out sounds of Jefferson Airplane or Pink Floyd. There is definitely some bad craziness going on in the dense fog of noise the band creates. A personal favourite is 'Fragile Toy' with the childlike lyrics over the tribal rhythms, but all the tracks have a certain, indescribable power and intensity that's fairly unique. This band just goes from strength to strength.

Penitent - Roses Spawned by Chaos (Memento Mori)
Arcane Art - The Cursed Artist (Memento Mori)
Karsten Hamre returns with not one, but 2 new releases, the fourth Penitent album and the first by Arcane Art. Never one to be predictable, "Roses Spawned by Chaos" is, as promised, a very different beast to its predecessors. Not that the style of the music has changed, there's still that same medieval classical sound, but this time there's vocals, which have concentrated the music into more of a song structure. The vocalist, M Andrew Goldfine, sounds a lot like both Christian Death's Valor and Type O Negative's Pete Steel (who aren't that different to each other), giving the songs a distinct booming dark feel. One track, 'A Bleeding Heart of Desire', also features a female vocal to provide a contrast to the male. As ever, Karsten's musical ability is astounding and the vocals do add an interesting new dimension, while also tying Karsten back down in the Gothic genre he seems to like so much.
Arcane Art is, at times, more similar to the previous Penitent material, probably owing to the fact that the material was first recorded around the same time as "As Life Fades Away". The music is king on "The Cursed Artist", any vocals there are merely add an extra element rather than shaping or controlling the sound. In fact, the lyrics are, at times, very hard to work out. There is a lighter, more celebratory feel to this when compared to the Penitent album. The intro, 'A Sleepless Mind' is a very upbeat track. That's not to say that it doesn't lapse into brooding darkness, it is obvious even from the name that 'Endure Suffer Die' is not all sweetness and light. The spoken work vocals make it comparable to something from Penitent's "Beauty of Pain". Arcane Art do play around with the sound as well, especially on the darkwave track, 'My Destination', which features a dark electro backing to the classical sounds, and with the repetitive electro pacing of 'In Memory of Eliza'. "The Curse of the Artist" is the sound of Karsten Hamre looking back on what he's done before and then facing front and hinting at what's to come. Penitent and Arcane Art represent some of the sides of this multi-facetted artist who is a master at what he does.

All reviews by Girl the Goth, unless otherwise stated.

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