Michael Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel - Love Lies Bleeding (Triple X)
There is one very important fact to note about this release, and that's the fact that it's Michael, not Jay, Aston's band. In other words, it's the work of the man who was the driving force in the day's of classics like 'Shaving My Neck' and was turfed out of the band in the late 80s when Jay got a fetish for bad pop-rock. That's obvious from the first note of the CD, which sets off a very heavily Goth-based collection. That said, the classic GLJ exited around 15 years ago and Michael Ashton has matured in the intervening years.
His music has matured with him, and this CD is comparable to Peter Murphy or Gavin Friday's solo stuff as much as to his own past. He describes his music as "country Goth" and "industrial blues", but a better term would perhaps be AOG, adult oriented Goth, as his music has a grown-up emotional power and passion that's deeper than most of the younger bands around. He sings on all the tracks, he doesn't scream or screech simply for effect, he keeps the melody and matches the quality musicianship that backs him. "Love Lies Bleeding" is unlikely to appeal to everyone, but then again, what is? It's something different, the return of a great talent with a long history in the genre to what he does best. It also proves that you can record an album of straightforward melodic rock and also keep it Goth without resorting to clichés.
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The Narcissus Pool - Life's Bitch Tapestry (Dark Beat)
For years, labels like Nightbreed and Earache have been releasing material by alternative dance bands to major underground attention, but no breakthrough into the dance scene. Bands like Inertia and Ultraviolence remain in obscurity, while bands like the Prodigy and the Chemical Bros. can release very similar music to massive sales and chart success. Dark Beat Records appear to be trying to change that ridiculous situation, straddling both the underground and the mainstream, reclassifying music as dark-beat, including both sides of the divide in the description, and releasing bands with massive dancefloor potential.
Whether or not it's going to work is anyone's guess, but Narcissus Pool are at the forefront of their assault. The Cissies sound is full of big phat beats, techno loops, electro synths, bursts of guitar and powerful vocals. They've also used one of the bizarrest samples ever - the chunk of a country song at the end of both versions of 'Narcissist', which beats (X)CNN infamous magpie tactics hands down. This is a CD that should appeal equally to Rivetheads and E-heads if it gets played in the right places, and it's virtually guaranteed to get bodies moving on any dancefloor. A recommended release that's packed full of potential if people are smart enough to take notice.
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paradise lost - host (EMI/Chrysalis)
You've got to laugh really, when you think about all those poor unfortunate metalheads who went to see paradise lost on their last tour. It'd be like going to see Metallica and having Depeche Mode coming onstage instead. paradise lost have come a long way from their death metal beginnings, through doom metal, Gothic metal, electro-Goth and now, finally, dark electro. Anyone comparing their first release to "host" would not believe they were the same band - this is full of techno beats, awash with synths, lush strings and melodic harmonies. In fact, the bass, guitar, drums line-up of the band seems like a joke, as their playing has been fed through so much distortion, mixing, sequencing and sampling, it's virtually unrecognisable.
paradise lost have made full use of a major label budget to create a pristine dark power-electro collection. The only problem is that they don't really have any new ideas. In general, the CD sounds like Depeche Mode. Once they emerged from their generic metal ghetto, they've made a career out of copying other artists, whether it was Metallica or the Sisters and mixing the sounds together. These magpie tendencies have served them well over the years, but this time they've focussed too much on the one band, Depeche Mode, and emerge as a blatant carbon copy. Even Nick Holmes' characteristic vocals disappear at times under a Dave Gahan impression.
However, when he lets himself go, on tracks like 'permanent solution' and 'behind the grey', the sound is much more interesting. He has a very powerful voice and, with the beefed up electro backing, featuring strong rhythms and recognisable guitars, they create a very enjoyable Goth-tinged electro-metal fusion. With most crossover metal bands focussing on industrial, it's nice to hear a band that realises that power and heaviness are not necessarily the same thing. paradise lost just need to find their feet amid all the changes and develop a style all of their own.
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suture seven - aversion (sarx)
suture seven play a combination of sounds that shouldn't work - intense techno/industrial, loads of crashing and screeching guitars, hoarse growling vocals that alternate between brooding and intense. It should be a god-awful noisy mess, but it isn't. The band has managed to keep a tight rein on all the elements, using them with clinical precision and perfect timing to create a powerful and groovy CD. Tracks like 'why' and 'ten' are powerhouse heavy-shit dance pieces that work perfectly, comparable to some of Ministry's better material.
Probably the best thing about suture seven, though, is the lyrics. Rather than the same old clichés about the apocalypse or religion, this lot sing about relationships, love lost and gained, in a way that makes the music sound more honest and personal, like on the groovy electro 'Fake', which features lines like "I will always love you, but then I let you go." suture seven show how you can take a lot of familiar musical elements and with the right amount of skill, and a clever twist, can make them enjoyably fresh and interesting.
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This Vale of Tears - Adam Nude (Nightbreed)
Raar!!! This is as Gothic as Iron Maiden are heavy metal. It's Fields of the Nephilim meet the Sisters of Mercy at midnight in a graveyard under a full moon. It's dark, it's brooding, it's got powerchords! Euro-rock bands, you gotta love 'em, eh? Seriously bad English (on 'Angel Station' they seem to be suggesting "Let's dance together into Des Moines"!) The rip-offs are so blatant, it's funny - '7-17' is 'Kiss the Carpet', 'Kiss Miss Paranoia' is 'Hollow Hills'. Things improve a bit on 'La Veuve Blanche', a rather tasty electro-Goth piece, when they sing in French, but not so tasty when they revert to bad English. But, worst of all is 'Humanity'. It really doesn't matter what kind of music you normally play, all Euro rock bands sound equally bad when they go all acoustic. This is a classic example of how dreadful this stuff can be, with classic lyrics like "There is no God, there is no Satan, only we, humanity", wow, incredibly profound (or should that be profane?)
Then they start to piss around a bit and things improve no end. Their electro-Goth version of the Cure's 'Killing an Arab' is a great dancefloor filler (I've shaken some booty to it myself) and 'Maniac '99' is even better. It's a blippy, poppy take on the old disco track ("He's a maniac, maniac on the dancefloor"), that adds humour and fun to the proceedings. It's wonderful and largely makes up for the earlier sins. The standard stays pretty high with the driving rhythms of 'Did I Miss Something', while the breakbeat remix of 'Kiss Miss Paranoia' is a vast improvement on the original, a bizarre clash of styles that wraps things up on an interesting note. This CD is massively flawed, but it's worth it, if only for 'Maniac 99' which is great fun.
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Unknown - demo (Blackcentric)
To say that Unknown favour a big sound would be understating things a bit - big phat beats, big waves of keyboards, big powerhouse guitars, big classical sounds and big layered vocals are all thrown together to create a huge sound. Things kick off with a track that's reminiscent of Lacrimosa without the light element of Anne Nurmi's vocals, but, and maybe it's the demo production, it doesn't come together very well. The disparate elements remain disparate and don't mesh. However, that will hopefully improve with a bit of post-production. 'Holy War', on the other hand, works a lot better, sitting somewhere between Front 242 and Lacrimosa, with a major Gothic/industrial sound, packed full of samples, from battle sounds to chanting monks, and a strong Germanic vocal tying it together. Finally, 'nation of fear' is more metallic, along the lines of Die Krupps, but features a kick-ass breakbeat underneath. This is an interesting taster of an album that should be eagerly awaited.
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Uranium 235 - cultural minority (Harder than Normal)
U 235 are an incredibly difficult band to describe, the one word that comes to closest is mercurial - their sound is fluid, unpredictable and impossible to pin down. Everything goes into the mix; growling Korn-esque hard rock; Type O Neg-style brooding Goth metal; NIN-style electronics; KLF type danciness; Placebo-like foppish pop-Goth and early '80s camp electro. Each element is twisted, turned and mixed together to create a sound that is always dancey, often aggressive, very powerful and intense, at times melodic and poppy and always enjoyable.
The stand-out track is 'Stimulation', an industrial-dance track that is so poppy, yet powerful that, if it doesn't have you dancing, well, you're dead. In short, it's probably the best alternative dance track EVER!! 'God Thing' is heavier, a hard-edged industrial-dance track with a powerhouse vocal performance that thankfully avoids falling into the boring grindcore vocals trap. 'Creator' and 'Walk On Through' are both kick-ass dancey tracks, while 'Drown' is slower and more moody. Unfortunately, they do spoil a perfect curve with 'Uranium 235', which errs a bit too much on the metal side and sounds like a Korn remix, 'though the chorus isn't bad. Things get back on track with the sample-heavy 'Scent Explosion' and the Goth-tinged 'Bleed my Disease'. They wrap things up with a great updating of Dead or Alive's camp electro classic 'You Spin Me Round', with a little bit of 'Tainted Love' for good measure, and finally 'Right Sir Blight', another tasty slice of industrial dance. I really don't think I could possibly recommend this CD too much, one duff track out of 12, and what crackers the other 11 are. Brilliant.
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