Acts Magdalena - Demo
Acts Magdalena are a very difficult band to pin down, and that seems to be the way they want it. This 4-track demo kicks off with 'Elliptical Mind's Eye', a dark, brooding Gothic track that bursts into sheer malevolence every now and again, as Christian Merry's vocals change from soft and ethereal to a venom-spitting growl. 'The Only Thing' is completely different, a grungey, funky piece where Christian's vocals sound like they're straight out of some smoke-filled dive in the mid-60s. 'Bullet' is darker, musically close to Alice in Chains, but Christian's schizoid vocals, where she explodes into a growl to challenge Genitorturer's Gen, puts it into a league of its own. 'Wasteland' is slower, more ethereal and verging on psychedelic. This demo is eclectic and varied and, although it comes close to collapsing in a shambolic mess through-out, it is refreshingly different.
Little Miss Conception - The Plate Glass Fallen Sky
Good god, this is dreary stuff. Funereal music for the depressed. This is the soundtrack to Eastern European Goth suicides. The pace is interminably slow, the vocalist sounds on the verge of either sleep or tears. And it goes on and on, improving only slightly towards the end where the beats speed up from "death's door" to "slow walk". Cheer up, you bastards!!!
Murder Inc - Locate, Subvert, Terminate - The Complete Murder Inc (Invisible)
1992 was THE year for industrial music, at least as far as the greater part of the world's population was concerned. It was the year Ministry and NIN began to threaten the primacy of grunge and metal, with 'Psalm 69' and 'Broken' respectively. It was the year "Hotwired Monstertrux" compiled the new and old sounds and defined industrial music for a new generation and it was the year that rock music finally admitted that synths, samples and machine beats were not just the domain of pop stars. Riding high on this new wave was Murder Inc, a bridge between the new and the old. With members culled from Killing Joke: Geordie Walker; Paul Ferguson; John Bechdel; Paul Raven and Martin Atkins; alongside Raven and Atkins' Pigface co-conspirator Chris Connelly, who was also, alongside former PiL man Atkins, a sometime Ministry member, a Revolting Cocks member and a former member of Scots alternative dance band Fini Tribe. Between them they had the most impeccable credentials and had a link with virtually everything that was going on around them. They should have been brilliant.
Alas, they weren't. Their main hook, aside from their collected histories, was the fact that they featured two powerhouse drummers, Atkins and Ferguson, and despite the appeal of this to the waning heavy metal fraternity, it really failed to make a lasting impression in an increasing machine driven scene. A tempo that was much closer to that of Killing Joke at their most laid back didn't help, especially when judged alongside the frantic speed of 'NWO' or 'wish'. Murder Inc released one album, a remix EP and then disintegrated to be completely overshadowed by the masterful return of Killing Joke with "Pandemonium".
This release is the album, brought together with the EP and five live tracks, very obviously released to lead in to the launch of the Damage Manual, the new band featuring Chris Connelly, Martin Atkins and Geordie Walker. Unfortunately, it all sounds very dated. The remixes from the EP are by Foetus' JG Thirlwell, but there's none of the reckless deconstruction he brought to NIN's "Fixed". There's nothing really here for anyone who already has the album; the remixes are uninspired, while the live tracks are nothing special. For the new listener, there's nothing particularly seminal about the band, they were more of a filler between Killing Joke incarnations. Better off checking out that band's back-catalogue. A fairly pointless reissue, likely to appeal to completists only.
Fall of Because - Life is Easy (Invisible)
This is a badly-produced, low quality collection of never before released recordings from 1986-87 that Invisible Records has seen fit to send our way. It is legitimate to ask why, but Fall of Because do hold a very important place in industrial music history. Maybe the names of the members would help: Paul Neville, GC Green and, last but not least, Justin Broadrick, the threesome who, a year or so later, became Godflesh. This CD is basically the sketchbook of what later developed into one of the most influential and important extreme industrial bands. Also featured on one track, a live medley from '86, are Nik Bullen and Mick Harris, who went on to form Scorn with a little help from Mr Broadrick when they left Napalm Death. Well, that's the importance of this release dealt with, is it any good? It will undoubtedly appeal to fans of "Streetcleaner" era Godflesh, or even "Colossus" era Scorn. Unlike later work by some of the people involved , there is nothing like a 10-minute dub workout featuring sax by John Zorn, this is a load of punks making a lot of noise. However, the playing is tight and well controlled, and there is a strongly audible Killing Joke influence that was toned down later on. This is slightly more than an interesting relic, it's a well put together reminder of where a lot current noises came from, and how little they've changed.
Girls Under Glass - Equilibrium (Hall of Sermon)
"Equilibrium" shows a much more sedate version of GUG than that which was recently unveiled to America. This is the band going right back to their electronic roots. The first two tracks are mellow, melodic electro, similar to the sounds on "Darius" and verging on darkwave. 'New World Order' is harder, with a chugging guitar sound, but the emphasis on melody is retained amid the industrial leaning vibe. 'Protean Dreams' takes a giant leap backwards in time, throwing up a very 80s sounding slice of melodic hard rock. The vocals of Jenny Kähler, which move from the background to centre stage, save it from being as horrible as it sounds, in fact it's quite enjoyable in a retro sense. 'Wings' moves from the realm of 80s rock to 80s electro, comparisons to the Human League would not be all that far off. An on it goes, throwing different elements into the pot, mixing them up and pouring them out stylishly and enjoyably. "Nightmares" was the sound of a band showing what it could do in an effort to attract new fans. "Equilibrium" is the sound of a band with nothing to prove, doing what they damn well like.
A Murder of Angels - while you sleep (Middle Pillar)
A Murder of Angels is Bryin Dall and Derek Rush, a pairing that has previously released material as Dream Into Dusk. A Murder of Angels is further evidence of their absolute mastery of the Gothic ambient/atmospheric form. Unlike Dream Into Dusk, this is a purely musical affair and is probably the most evocative example of the genre I've heard. Where much of this kind of music sounds like a horror movie soundtrack, "while you sleep" is more like the accompaniment of a ghost story. It's more refined, more sophisticated, creating images of Dickensian graveyards, trains through dark Eastern European night or eerie country mansions. An initial feeling of unease builds slowly into fear and then terror. The stand-out track is the powerful 'Melting Across the Night', which is built around a spoken word section of what sounds like "The Little Match Girl". It rises and falls with a slow intense rhythm, full of sounds that could be snatches of conversation, screams or the sound of a storm, but, then again, might not be. This is simply brilliant.
Kismet - North Atlantic Balkan Express (Tone Casualties)
OK, to call this weird would be an understatement to say the least. Kismet mix heavy electro/industrial noises with ethnic Balkan instruments. Intrigued? You should be. The one very obvious influence on their music is the Swiss nutters, the Young Gods. In fact, 'Red Zurla' sounds a little too like 'TV Sky' for its own good, but, in general the influence is implied rather than blatant. There are hints of other world music samplers, Enigma and Dead Can Dance, in tracks like 'General Black'. 'Stolen Wall's repetitive drumbeat, strange instrumentation, spoken word vocals and choral backing begins to weave a spell as the CD takes a step away from ordinary music styles. Suddenly, normality disappears and we're into a cover of Pink Floyd's psychedelic 'Main Theme' played on traditional Balkan instruments alongside electronic, creating a truly bizarre clash of Eastern and modern sounds. This tactic continues through the atmospheric 'Church', the powerful 'War' and the tribal ' Zid'. However, the biggest shock comes with the cover of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', played exclusively on traditional instruments. It is completely out there, and it takes quite a bit of getting used to. This is about as different as electronic music can get and it is nice to hear a band that is completely unafraid to ignore the supposed rules. Highly recommended.
Pseudocipher - pseudocipher (Rhythmstick)
Pseudocipher seems like two different bands, one features the vocals of Christopher Anton, who thinks he's Dave Gahan, and sounds like Depeche Mode. That covers the songs '11:14', 'Symmetry', 'Purgatory' and 'Purge'. The other band features the vocals of Rhonda Amber and is much more interesting. Rhonda's vocals range from a floaty Kate Bush to a soft Terri Nunn, diverting to a snarling Jarboe at times. The music twists and changes underneath her singing, at one point it's sparse electro, at another it's acoustic, at all times it's understated and provides a suitable canvas for Rhonda's voice. At one point, the two bands come together, on 'Embryo', mixing the different styles and their vocals, and it doesn't work. 'Embryo' is messy and unfocussed. Pseudocipher will have to decide which band they want to be. My money's on the Rhonda version.
Various Artists - The Gothic(?) Sounds of Nightbreed - Label Sampler Part 3(Nightbreed)
Anyone familiar with Nightbreed's current roster will understand the reason for the question mark in the title and will know that this to be a patchy affair. It ranges from the forward facing techno Goth acts to the stuck-in-the-mud Goth rock bands. Most of these bands have been reviewed here before and break down into the Good: Intra-Venus, Sabotage, Inertia and Man(i)kin, the Bad: Two Witches and the Mediocre: Killing Miranda, One, Brother Orchid and This Vale of Tears. As for the ones that haven't been done already (either pre-dated Sordid's inclusion on the Nightbreed mailing list or previously unreleased), The House of Usher's brooding Goff sounds like a cross between the Fields of the Nephilim and the Tinderstick, but without any kind of spark (Mediocre). Midnight Configuration mix growling male and female vocals over a sparse techno backing in a way that's interesting, but not entirely successful (Good, nonetheless). The previous incarnation of Intra-Venus' Mark Tansley, Suspiria, are here with the electro-Goth '(Now we see) The Swine (ext.)' and it's not hard to see why he switched styles (Mediocre). Squid's 'Endgame', on the other hand, lets rip a kick-ass piece of industrial power, sounding rather like a beefed-up Sheep on Drugs (Good). Finally, Burning Gates show where the label has come from: droning, monotonous and pretty much totally uninteresting Gothic Rock. This comp really shows that traditional Gothic Rock has been done almost to death and the future lies with the cross-over stuff.
Various Artists - Another Prick in the Wall - A Tribute to Ministry Vol. 2 (Invisible)
As if one tribute record wasn't enough for the great industrial has-beens, Invisible have seen fit to compile another. This throws up some pretty funny stuff, alongside some good and some bad tracks. Electric Hellfire Club make 'Land of Rape and Honey' sound like Killing Joke, something that would probably have Jaz Coleman in stitches. Shining make a good job of technofying 'Jesus Built my Hotrod', but En Esch does not seem to have taken the job too seriously. Not that En Esch has any reason to pay tribute to a band that discovered the heavy stuff after KMFDM. He takes a stab at 'Work for Love', from Ministry's embarrassing first album, "With Sympathy", gives it a slow trancey techno mix and throws a load of strange mismatched vocals on top. Meg Lee Chin's version of 'Just One Fix' kicks ass, an industrial riot grrrl bitch-fest of screeching and heavy beats.
Terminal 46 don't do all that much with 'So What', sticking closely to the original, in sharp contrast with Resident Phase Shifter, who slow 'Thieves' right down and add a funky beat that renders the track almost unrecognisable, but fairly cool at the same time. Attrition turn in a slow, brooding and intense Attrition song, the fact that it was originally Ministry's 'The Cannibal Song' making no difference at all. The Aliens take 'She's Got a Cause', rip it to shreds, stomp all over it and put it back together as a disjointed, style-shifting, industrial-dance number. Dessay's version of 'Revenge' is simply crap, a load of shouting and drums and no cool whatsoever, while Deist Requiem do little or nothing to 'Deity'. Sons of Midnight's 'You Know What You Are' is worse than Dessau, they seem to have taken the original and simply added metal vocals and guitar solos on top, yuck! Finally, Heavy Water Factory add a completely surplus to requirement second version of 'Just One Fix' that does nothing at all for the collection and isn't a patch on the Meg Lee Chin version. All in all, a mixed bag that doesn't really say anything new about Ministry or the band's influence.
Aesma Daeva - [Here lies one whose name was written in water] (Accession)
Aesma Daeva appeared a few years ago as 162, with the amazing 'Darkness', which was featured on compilations like "Diva X Machina II" and "Futronic Structures I". Formerly a solo affair of J Prassas, he's now joined more permanently with operatic vocalist Rebecca Cords and N Copernicus, who, as Odark:30 remixed 'Darkness' for the Dixa X Machina comp.
This album could be called variations on a theme, the theme being the juxtaposition of the beautiful voice of Rebecca with a variety of musical styles. While 'Darkness' was an inspired clash of hard-hitting electronics and classical vocals, 'Here lies one…' broadens their music across the entire spectrum of dark music. The album is split into two parts, the first, "A quiet chamber kept for thee" is a hard-hitting affair, as the ethereal vocals float over the metallic guitar onslaught, the powerhouse rhythms and the industrial electronics. Far from creating an unlistenable clash of styles, the masterful production abilities of Prassas and Copernicus fuse the styles brilliantly to create something that is, at once, all the styles it contains.
The second section, "Here lies one…" proper, takes the intensity down a few notches, sliding into the more common atmospheric style, with the classical influences becoming more prominent. Less experimental than the first section, the six tracks show clearly the musical and production abilities of the group. Modern electronics sit easily with classical guitar, piano and violin, and of course the divine vocals, showing better than most how classical music can be modernised without losing its power and intensity. These tracks run together in a blissful and hypnotic stream of beauty. Finally, the album ends with two mixes of the magnificent 'Darkness', which sounds as fresh and groundbreaking as they did originally. Aesma Daeva is a band that has the potential to radically affect, not only the atmospheric genre, but also classical music, with their example.
The Mirror Reveals - Frames of Teknicolor (Middle Pillar)
In a relatively short time, and only 4 releases, Middle Pillar has blossomed into a powerful force on the atmospheric/ethereal scene. The Mirror Reveals is the project of one of the label's founders, James Babbo. However, unlike 4AD's Ivo Watts-Russell or Projekt's Sam Rosenthal, Babbo doesn't handle the production duties himself, giving them over to the highly capable hands of Bryin Dall and Derek Rush (A Murder of Angels & Dream Into Dust). The Mirror Reveals stand out among the bands of the genre, as Dall and Rush seem to have restrained their influence, simply providing the adornment to the powerful cabaret/folk vocals of Kit Messick. With a background in cabaret singing, she has developed a singing ability that stands out on its own, comparable perhaps to Natalie Merchant or Heidi Berry, but also completely her own.
The music is sedate and mellow, with a dark edge added by Dall and Rush. The track, 'Moebius Stripped', stands out as a simple electronic drumbeat gives an edge to the more natural vocals and the echoey guitar effects. 'In a box' is a duet between Messick and Babbo, with a very bassy atmospheric backing, which gives a strongly ethereal feel. 'Dreaming of Myself' goes deeper into the ethereal sound, with a very This Mortal Coil-influenced sound, which continues through 'In a Memory', 'The Undying Man' inspired by a Tolkien poem, features Mark Steiner of Piker Ryan's Folly on guest vocals. The light and shade vocal contrast on the vocals gives more than a slight nod in the direction of Nick Cave's "Murder Ballads". Finally, 'Frozen in Time' completes the album high up in the ether as the sound floats away. This CD is a masterful collection of atmospheric tracks that floats blissfully through the consciousness without once putting a foot, or a note, wrong.
Mutual Hate Society - Exploration of the Multiconscious Mind (Astarte-Luna)
Tracy Peters makes soundtrack music for strange German sci-fi films that don't exist, but probably should. A long stream of noises over nine tracks that draws acknowledged influences from Kraftwerk, the Orb and Tangerine Dream, MHS generally stick on the melodic side of ambient, with the odd flash of noise and discord. If this had appeared 20 years ago, it would probably have had more impact than it does. Unfortunately, coming in the wake of so many ambient acts, it's just another relatively inoffensive ambient record. This doesn't have the seniority of Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream, nor does it have that spark of brilliance that made Aphex Twin or The Orb stand out from the pack. That's something that may come in time, this is only a debut release, but "Exploration…" really is nothing special.
Various - Distention - Alterculture Records Label Sampler (Alterculture)
This compilation centres on Mindless Faith, Alterculture's main act, who provide four tracks remixed from the forthcoming "Manifest Destiny". 'Rat Race' is an explosive Gothic/Industrial track that remains melodic despite the harshness. 'Strained' is slower and more emotive with more than a hint of Depeche Mode. 'All These Years' brings in a dance edge with a lively industrial techno sound, while 'Prodigy' moves closer to EBM, with clean electro lines and a powerful vocal sound. Raudive Voices, who contribute three tracks from their debut, are more chaotic and challenging. 'Flicker' is, on one level, like a melodic Depeche Mode track, but that's combined with a strange mix of sound fx, vocals played backwards and more David Lynch-esque. 'Accused' is more conventionally industrial, with a harsh Germanic vocal and a powerful driving beat, but underneath the surface there are more of the strange effects going on. 'Dessau' is a bit like Nine Inch Nails, though it's closer to something off one of their remix CDs, like a straightforward piece put through the grinder.
Gears Slowly Grinding, a side-project of Mindless Faith, contribute two pieces of dark, intense ambient soundtrack music, which are competent examples of a sound that has become rather jaded at this point. The same is true of 'The Unquiet Void', who do dark ambient better than most. While their three tracks are perfect examples of what can be done, there is very little that hasn't been done before. Vivid Liquid, a side-project of Mindless Faith's Chris Sevanick, is more of the same, 'though he does combine the dark ambient sound with futuristic electro melodies that lift the music out of the cul-de-sac that contains most of the others. In all, Mindless Faith have the potential to take on the big boys of the Gothic/Industrial scene, while Raudive Voices' inspired chaos points to a challenging and potentially exciting future. Of the rest, though, only Vivid Liquid have really done anything new to the dark ambient sound.
The Damage Manual - One (Invisible)
Industrial supergroup: take two. First came Murder Inc, the Killing Joke-dominated, quickly dated, collective that split up in favour of the reformed Killing Joke. Damage Manual sees three of the Murder Inc members try again: Killing Joke's Geordie Walker, Martin Atkins, formerly of PiL, Killing Joke and Pigface and Chris Connelly, ex-Fini Tribe, Ministry and Revolting Cocks, are joined on this occasion by Atkins' former PiL cohort, eccentric musical genius Jah Wobble to much greater effect.
A lot has changed since the Murder Inc album, Atkins has become one of the most prominent producers on the scene, largely working with alternative techno/industrial acts like Hyperhead and Sheep on Drugs. Chris Connelly has broadened his range a lot, what with doing "Linger Ficking Good" with RevCo and his own acoustic album, "Shipwreck". Combined with Geordie's seminal and much copied guitar style and Jah Wobble's complete lack of fear when it comes to doing what he wants, Damage Manual was always going to have potential for greatness. Boy, have they carried through! These old gits wipe the floor with their younger successors and Connelly, the least senior member of the band, is pushed further than he's ever been before.
From the first track, 'Sunset Gun', each member of Damage Manual establish their credentials. Atkins' drumming batters into your head, Walker distils years of Killing Joke into a few perfect riffs, Wobble's bassline is tight and rock solid, Connelly's unmistakable Scottish twang is more alive than its ever been and it's all tied together with techno effects and industrial noises, bearing the fingerprints of Atkins and Wobble in equal measure. It is very rare to find a band where every single member and every single instrument stands out in equal measure, but that is the case here. The drivin' bass on 'Damage Addict', the thunderous power of the drums on 'Blame and Demand', the electrifying guitar onslaught of 'Leave the Ground' are all beyond comparison. What is most surprising, though, is how well Chris Connelly adapts and changes to fit each of the songs, the screaming punk rock of 'Scissors Quickstep', the quirky melody of 'Leave the Ground', the sharp snippets of voice in the dub of 'Bagman Panic'. And finally, the techno/industrial effects and noises fit perfectly, never overpowering, never understated. These four men are the best at what they do and, together, they transcend genres and divisions to become the unique and brilliant Damage Manual.
All reviews by Girl the Goth, unless otherwise stated.