Braindance - "Redemption"(Demo)
I can't believe this is only a demo. If this is pre-production, the finished article will be mind-blowing. Braindance call themselves progressive darkwave, a term that is likely to draw much derision, but there isn't really a better way to describe them. The two main elements of their music are the vocals of Sebastian Elliot and the guitars of Vora Vor. Sebastian sounds rather like Pete Steele of Type O Neg, but his style is very different. In comparison of the rather one-dimensional pseudo-Goth of Mr. Steele, Mr. Elliot's vocals are complex, layered and completely Goth - displaying passion, emotion and matching the fluid music that changes with him. However, it's Vora Vor's guitar work that really gives the band its complexity. The word 'virtuoso' is not that far off the mark, as the classically trained axe-woman is comparable to figures like Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. Unlike that pair of guitar-wankers, though, Braindance is not a vehicle for her solos. Ms. Vor is an integral part of the sound, but only a part. It is due to the progressive element her playing adds to the Braindance sound that the band are compared to prog-metal bands like Queensryche and Dream Theatre, as often as to their Gothic contemporaries. Don't let that put you off, though, their sound is diverse enough not to stick them completely in any box. This band is focussed on progression within the Darkwave style and succeed at giving it a kick in the ass.
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The Chaos Engine - "obstinate"(demo)
Now, this is what a demo should sound like. Pre-production tracks that give the basic feel and sound of what the tracks will be, stripped down to basics. The 10 tracks on this are damn good, and all they need is a bit of fancy mixing to make them perfect. Ranging from the ultra-cyberpunk of '888 (one bigger than god)' - a track that stomps all over the Prodigy and will give Pitchshifter a run for their money - to 'Tao' - a moody and coarse techno-Goth track with a nice piano riff, in only the first two tracks. This sampler hints at great things for the Chaos Engine. The band have a lot of things in their favour, one, they're from England ('though I do get the feeling there may be one incognito paddy in their midst!), which puts them a few steps ahead of the Euro-industrial pack. Two, they have the ability to use various elements of the music from the darkside within the confines of a commercial sensibility that makes them very club friendly. They also have a very authentic punk rock element that compares well with the big-beat fakers, without the heavy metal history that's the bane of Pitchshifter. The completed version of "obstinate" is to be eagerly awaited.
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Genitorturers - "Sin City"(SPV)
Genitorturers' "120 Days of Genitorture" a few years ago was a delicious slice of vicious, uncompromisingly extreme metal, with dashes of techno provided by NIN's Dave "the Rave" Ogilvy for good measure. Predating the whole Goth revival and the renewed trend for fetish wear, the meat-skewers through the nipples viciousness of Genitorturers was too much for the grunge-obsessed Generation X who hadn't even heard Marilyn Manson yet.
"Sin City" is a very different beast, with Gen and Co. moving from seedy S&M to circus freak-show, adding a large amount of evil humour and developing and diversifying their music style. In short, Genitorturers have become the Gothic/industrial band they hinted at before. This CD is less like the being hit by a truck that "120 Days…" was, there's more of a being smacked over the head with a baseball bat by a smirking, sexy cheerleader effect. More subtly, but still powerful. This has everything, driving beats, industrial noises, chugging and screaming guitars and a driving bass. The biggest difference is Gen's vocals. She still roars and screams, but now she also sings, purrs and seduces. There's also some nice effects through it all, like "the Exorcist"-esque keyboards on 'Terrorvision' and the dark ambient loops on '4 Walls Black'. The vocals can be made out much more easily on this than on "120 Days…" and they're darkly humorous tales of sexual deviancy, religion and power play. Just one question, though, what the fuck is 'Squealer' about? Bad '80s rock vocals and a dreadful ZZ Top guitar sound. Talk about out of place, who the hell let this slip through the net? Apart from that small flaw, this is a very powerful, perversely sexy release and just backs up a prediction I made a long time ago that the Genitorturers could become very big on an increasingly twisted music scene.
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Intra-Venus - "Pray Silence"(Nightbreed)
Take the ultra-pop electro of bands like Erasure or Dead or Alive, add a mix that recalls the subversive techno of the KLF and, top it all off with a tasty slice of droning, but emotive, Gothic vocals and what have you got? Well, you've got something that comes close to describing electro-Goth newcomers, but not quite. This is an eclectic, pastiching, but also forward-looking band. It is easy to see hoards of Goths on the dance-floor waving their little hands in the air to this. Despite many previous attempts to do this style of music, most bands err on the side of sounding like Depeche Mode's latter day gloom. Not so Intra-Venus, for whom the only conceivable Mode comparison would be more towards the early stuff.
This CD bumps and grinds, with all its beeps, blips and beats perfectly aligned. From the driving beats of 'Unclean' to the spacey, trance-influenced 'Feature Length', Apollos and Mark Tansley show that they're not just pissing around with dance, they know exactly what to do with their synths, sequencers and drum-machine. The vocals, on the other hand, are pure Goth - nasal, clipped and oppressive with a nice line in melody, giving the bizarre impression (to me anyway) of Andrew Eldritch and Mark Almond's mutated lovechild (!). The final track, a remix of the opener, 'Paradise', boasts a very cool KLF sample (that loop that's in a load of their stuff, most recently K2's 'F**k the Millennium'. You'll know it when you hear it.) All in all, a very fresh and interesting mix of genres that is, at the same time, all Goth.
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Jarboe - "Anhedoniac"(-)
The first inkling that this is not going to be easy listening is the picture of a meat hook on the cardboard band around the CD sleeve. That simple element may seem like nothing special, but once you remove the band and look inside, you realise it was a warning. The booklet contains a graphic collection of adult pictures of Jarboe, virtually naked, wearing only a leather and metal chastity belt. Don't be fooled by the word adult, this isn't soft-core porn, rather hardcore intensity. Jarboe's body is laid bare, covered in paint and scabs; the vicious look on her face is about as far from the titillating passivity of Playboy as it gets. Alongside the pics are the lyrics, just in case you can't make them out.
The music itself ranges from the little girl screech on the title track (which comes from word for the inability to experience pleasure) to the disturbing noise soundscape of 'The Cage', which features the words "Fuck your soul", repeated over and over. And that's only the first two tracks. Jarboe runs the gamut of styles, alternating pain and pleasure, melody and noise, enjoyment and discomfort. 'Sinner' sounds like a typical acoustic indie track, 'Forever' is beat-poetry seething with aggression, 'Rage' is vicious, with Jarboe hissing like a snake just about to bite. 'Not Noah's Ark' is pure noise, with screams, screeches and fart noises (!). Then 'Sacred Disciple Wannabe' is a great bluesy, jazz number. And on it goes, Jarboe plays all the diverse parts of her personality, from the little girl to the seductress, from the wicked witch to the killer. This CD is an experience. It's not always pleasant and is very challenging, but it sits up with the Velvet Underground and Joy Division as an honest document of a disturbed artist's soul.
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Lacrimosa - "Alleine zu zweit"(Hall of Sermon)
There's only one word to describe this - wow! Lacrimosa with the London Symphony Orchestra - whoever organised this, thank you. From the opening notes of guitar through the building crescendos of gothic power and full, lush orchestration - strings, horns, wind - the whole shebang. Tilo and Anne give one of their best, most powerful, harmonic performances. It's about the most perfectly Gothic tracks ever. The '(Torris Vita)' version shows just how brilliant the piece of music is, performed by the orchestra on their own. It's lush, full and magnificent, and goes to show the level Lacrimosa's compositions have reached.
'Meine Welt' shows the band's ability to use and fuse different styles, building from a heaven and hell clash - Tilo growling, marched by Anne's angelic tones - to a powerhouse orchestral piece in the soaring emotive German classical style. The final track is completely different, a remix of 'Copycat' (from "Inferno") by Samael. This is really the first time I've heard something that could truly be called a 'gothic' remix. Samael have replaced the viciousness of the original with a brooding intensity, stripping back the vocals and underlying them with a driving, unrelenting beat. These four tracks prove the diversity and power of the band Lacrimosa have become and it leaves you wanting more. Roll on the new album.
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Pist.On - "$ell.Out"(Music for Nations)
Pist.On return with a CD that takes the idea of the 'difficult second album' to a whole new level. Overcoming personal and emotional problems, including the serious illness of one band member, they've avoided the obvious temptation to call this CD "Number Two" and opted for the self-deprecating "$ell.Out". This follows accusations that they 'sold out' when they dropped the dot in their name for a label in the US.
This is a giant leap forward from their first album, which was a very patchy affair. Henry Font has dropped all attempts to sing like anyone else and has given his own voice full rein. And it is an amazing voice - this man can actually sing. He mixes beautifully melodic crooning with hoarse growls and intense screams that sound like a trapped animal, but owe more to Ian Gillan than any death metal faker. He is ably backed by Val.ium's equally melodic vocals. Musically, this is pure magpie fare, mixing classic metal elements, Black Sabbath's psychedelic period in particular, with the delicacy of British indie and some of the doom and passion of Goth. They mix these disparate elements together so seamlessly, 'though, that they've created something fresh, which at times is delicate and insistent, melodic and powerful, and melancholic, but uplifting. This is nominally an alternative metal release, but it has enough depth and diversity to save it from the metal ghetto and give it appeal across the board.
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Various - "Das Bunker - Elektronische Untergrundkultur-Ein"(Possessive Blindfold)
Das Bunker is a club in LA that's dedicated to the latest in extreme techno and industrial. This compilation is a collection of tracks by bands who've played the club. As usual, there are quite a few who are afflicted by that disease, which is common to many new indus bands, that causes bands to spend a lot of time working on creating new and innovative beat/synth/sample mixes and then let somebody growl and shout their way through it all (laziness I think it's called). Gridlock's 'Retina' is a prime example. It kicks off the CD with a great Twin Peaks-influenced soundscape that owes quite a bit to Aphex Twin as well, but then it's ruined by the hoarse, roaring vocals.
Things pick up with Vault Point's eclectic, fast/slow 'Communication', which features a sharp, biting robotic vocal. Salt's 'Hycrome' is heavy dub, featuring a noisy soundtrack and samples that seem to be in German, owing a lot to Scorn at their best (before the 'band' became a drummer!). Individual Totem's 'PSI Trading Company' is like a sci-fi soundtrack, Tangerine Dream gone techno. Holocaust Theory 'treat' us to some pointless noise, before Borstal's 'Void' shows one way to solve the bad vocals problem by burying them under a kicking selection of beats. Death Industry's 'Dead Pool' is a heavy electro piece, with a very hard EBM sound, topped with droning darkwave vocals. Jugend Staat seem content to bludgeon the listener senseless with some rave for masochists, before Inertia tweak the nipples of 80s electro, creating quirky and slightly kinky dance music. Noisex seem to have decided that bass is best and 'In Noise We Trust' succeeds admirably … in giving me a headache! This is a live recording that must have measured on the Richter scale. Primordial's 'Killer '79' is just weird, reminiscent of some of Bytet's lunacy, matching powerhouse techno, quirky, blippy electro and vocals that sound like first contact with psychotic Martians. Calear take the bad vocals thing to extremes, trying to match a very nice ambient sound and techno beats with some bloke shouting his fucking head off - a match made in hell.
Zymosiz forget about music altogether and pure and simply batter the listener. Coito's trancey, electro 'Cronica', features the strangest vocals I've ever heard, they're like an evil Muppet! They are pretty cool and there's a nice bit of celticy atmospheric music thrown in for good measure. Bleat's 'Fatima 72-07-14' is pure toss, feedback overdose without one listenable element what so ever. All in all, this compilation does have its moment, but it has its complete turkeys as well. Get it if you like experimental heavy techno, including being shouted at a lot. I'll say one thing, though; the club must be very interesting.
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