Interview: Marc Heal

“It’s funny, having worked so hard to make a living out of music I found once I’d got there that I’d broken myself in the process. I needed a break to do some, uh, emotional housekeeping.”

Live: Katatonia – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 07/05/2017

KATATONIA (+ TheGreat Discord, Ghost Bath) Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 07/05/2017

Wave Gotik Treffen - The Preview June 2017

The gathering of 2017s Wave Gotik Treffen, is but a month away. Time to get the fascinators out and the boots polished!

Review: Mortiis – 'The Great Corrupter'

MORTIIS 'The Great Corrupter' OMNIPRESENCE PRODUCTIONS

Review: Freakangel – 'How The Ghost Became'

FREAKANGEL 'How The Ghost Became' DIGITAL WORLD AUDIO

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Review: Coburg – 'The Enchantress'



COBURG
'The Enchantress'
EVOLVE OR DIE RECORDS


Symphonic rock/metal is a tag that fills me with dread usually, but Coburg's debut offering 'The Enchantress' is a pleasant surprise. Owing more to Lacuna Coil than the pseudo-operatic styles that unfortunately accompany the symphonic tag these days, Coburg sees soaring melodic feminine vocals underpinned by powerful rock full of classical flirtations.

Featuring members of Naked Lunch and Jet Noir, the band already has a solid pedigree but with the overt classical meets gothic influences injected with the occasional nasty industrial synth the band shatters any pre-conceived notions and quickly establishes itself as a new force.

Songs such as 'A Cold Day In Hell', 'The Hall Of Ghosts', 'Thy Dagger', 'Till The Bitter End' and 'Rise' take the classical elements and run with them blending great gothic rock and emotive vocals for a commercially viable but still high-brow core. Whereas tracks such as 'Echoes In The Night', 'Into The Darkness', and 'The Enchantress' give the album a harder more energetic slant with the guitars on overdrive and the electronics getting a little more industrial. It might sound like there's two styles vying for supremacy, but they compliment each other rather nicely and create a nice sense of variety on the album.

In terms of production the album is as strong as any big label rock release. The vocals are nice and high to drive the songs forward, the electronics are balanced with the guitars throughout and the classical sounds don't sound cheap or dated. Instead it's powerful, bombastic and modern.

This is a very strong first album from a band that has an awful lot going for it. It's heavy, melodic, delicate, hard and always interesting. The band have a good grasp on their sound which remains unique in what has become a somewhat derivative genre in recent years. It will be interesting to see how they progress their sound on future releases. 

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Review: Noir – 'Reburning'



NOIR
'Reburning'
METROPOLIS RECORDS


Noir – the sensual darkwave/electronic project from Athan Maroulis (Spahn Ranch, Black Tape For A Blue Girl) – returns with 'Reburning' the remix companion to last years 'The Burning Bridge'. The blending of dark cabaret and darkwave electronics under the veteran guidance of Maroulis has quickly seen Noir become an act to watch with their stunning debut and EP releases so far.

This remix EP sees the title track from the previous EP get the remix treatment from The Rain Within, Decoded Feedback and Panic Lift. While the cover of Ministry's 'Same Old Madness' is remixed by Bestial Mouths.

Each remix offers up a very different take on the original with The Rain Within offering up a bouncy dance-infused mix. Decoded Feedback go into more atmospheric waters with their darker and more atmospheric mix. While Panic Lift go for an old school ebm meets synthpop construction interspersed with modern dubstep bass embellishments. Finally, Bestial Mouths give 'Same Old Madness' a suitably avant garde deconstruction that is both original and captivating.

The title track then sees two further versions in the form of a dark and sumptuous acoustic rendition that is utterly beguiling in it's dark atmospheric construction drawing on the likes of Peter Murphy. The final track descends into full-on neoclassical in the form of a cello-led instrumental rendition that is hypnotic and delicate.

There is a lot going on here from club-orientated dance numbers to avant garde, acoustic and classical. It is about as satisfying as a remix album can possibly get. It would be great to hear more acoustic/classical renditions of the Noir repertoire on future remix albums, perhaps even a dedicated album. But for now this is a tantalising glimpse into the depth and versatility of Noir while whetting the appetite for album number two, which will hopefully be round the corner. 

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Review: Angelspit – 'Black Dog Bite'



ANGELSPIT
'Black Dog Bite'
BLACK PILL RED PILL


After last year's ambitious outing on 'The Cult Of Fake', Angelspit return with 'Black Dog Bite', which sees the band crank it up to 11 with their classic blend of ultra-brutal beats, machine-gun sampled guitars, massive dirty synths and scathing vocals bludgeoning the speaks.

Whereas 'The Cult Of Fake' presented a deceptively complex construction dressed in their classic electro-punk style. 'Black Dog Bite' is a vicious and straight-forward assault that doesn't take any prisoners. Dance-friendly as ever, but cynical and overflowing with punk rock attitude this album is a blistering ride from start to finish.

Songs such as 'Satanic Aesthetic', 'Sexy Tragic Muse', 'Hidden Knife', 'Dead Man talking', 'Post Truth Wonderland', 'V Is For Voltage', and 'I, Weapon' provide he album with a back bone of electro-punk madness comprised of crunch glitches, hard dance beats, super-processed vocals, throbbing bass and jagged leads. While the stunning 'Scorpio Machine' veers off in different directions making for some truly standout closing track.

It's dense, pulsing and low-fi 90s sounds are just what initially endeared Angelspit to the cyber audience and this album will definitely appeal to fans of their early work, while not taking any steps backwards. It's music to smash smartphones to.

Production-wise, with it's old school and low-fi inclinations it would be easy for this to sound dated. But Zoog's expert hand keeps the grit, the nastiness, and the bile flowing without compromising on quality. It's not the cookie-cutter modern dance production. But it is high-quality. Hard but dance-friendly. And says exactly what Zoog wants it to.

This is a strong album. Perhaps Angelspit's strongest so far. It feels so well rounded. It's angry and punk at it's core but while the music is old school and low-fi, even downright experimental in places, it is still fresh, approachable and easy to dance to. 'Black Dog Bite' shows that Angelspit are serious hitter in the electronic music world and are still innovating with the best of them.  

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Review: Ludovico Technique – 'Absence'



LUDOVICO TECHNIQUE
'Absence'
METROPOLIS RECORDS


It's been a while since the impressive debut from Ludovico Technique, 'Some Things Are Beyond Therapy', and it's companion EP, 'We Came To Wreck Things' were released. But that time away doesn't seem to have been misspent as the latest single 'Absence' can attest.

Whereas the band's debut showed a harder more aggrotech infused sound, the latest track is a darker and more sensual affair. Deep, clean vocals drive the song forward while the dance-orientated ebm meets electo-industrial backing with it's subtly spooky leads, big beats and gritty guitar riff come together for an undeniably catchy slice of goth infused industrial.

The single features four remixes from Grendel, Shiv-r, Massive Ego, and Leaether Strip, each of whom add a different spin to the original with a lot of success. Grendel keep things dance-friendly and play up the ebm elements a little more. Shiv-r set the bass and the beats to max for an absolute banger. Massive Ego strip things back a little for a more atmospheric turn that erupts into big choruses. While Leaether Strip again play up the ebm elements with an old school flavoured interpretation.

In terms of production the single is a solid dance track with the different instruments coming together in a nice fresh and modern production style that does show development from the first album. The only real sticking point is with the deeper and more sensual vocal delivery comes the danger of the quieter portions becoming harder to hear. It isn't a massive issue but it is noticeable in a few spots.

This is a strong single that hints a some very cool potential directions for the next Ludovico Technique album. It's catchy, memorable and has sing-a-long potential. Basically everything you'd want in a lead single. It will undoubtedly see inclusion in plenty of club nights going forward. Hopefully a full-length release isn't too far behind.  

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Review: Marilyn Manson – 'Heaven Upside Down'



MARILYN MANSON
'Heaven Upside Down'
LOMA VISTA / CAROLINE INTERNATIONAL


Marilyn Manson was an international icon in the 90s with a string of incendiary and confrontational albums including 'Antichrist Svperstar', 'Mechanical Animals', 'Holy Wood', and 'The Golden Age Of Grotesque' seeing his stock rise to dizzying heights. Then the momentum faltered as Manson's gaze turned to art and briefly film projects, and was confounded by the break-up of his marriage to Dita Von Teese.

Subsequent albums 'Eat Me, Drink Me' and 'The High End Of Low' were lacklustre offerings as a result with perhaps an EP's worth of strong material on each of them. But then 2012's 'Born Villain' turned a corner and along with his next outing, 'The Pale Emperor', it looked as though Manson was back on track with his artistic rehabilitation.

Fast-forward to 2016 and Manson, along with long-time partner in crime Twiggy Ramirez and producer Tyler Bates also back in the driving seat as well as in the band, sees the release of album number ten, 'Heaven Upside Down'. An album that distils the strongest elements of his previous two releases and successfully channels the attitude of 'Antichrist Svperstar' into the mix. The result is a riotous journey full of cuts that easily hold their own with the best of his discography.

Songs such as 'Revelation #12', 'Tattooed In Reverse', 'We Know Where You Fucking Live', 'Say10', 'Kill4Me', 'Jesus Crisis', and 'Threats Of Romance' see the gritty and nasty attitude of '...Svperstar' blended with the bluesy elements of '...Emperor' and the punky vibe of 'Villain' with plenty of electronics featured high in the mix.

There is a palpable sense of a "Side-A" and Side-B" feel to the album with the atmosphere shifting with sprawling eight-minute 'Saturnalia', which is utterly infectious with it's pulsating beat and dirty guitar line, but dialling back the malevolence of the previous tracks. While 'Blood Honey' shifts into a dark, almost synthpop ballad direction that twists the tone of the album. The title track then falls back into an approximation of a classic rock track that doesn't really pick the momentum back up from its slower predecessor.

There isn't really a bad track on here but with the utter barrage of savagery comprised of the first five tracks, the second half seems less focussed as a result. Which is a shame as on their own they're good songs, but they could have been dispersed throughout the track list better in order to keep the momentum spread more evenly.

Those expecting a direct sequel to '… Emperor' may be disappointed, but Manson doesn't deal in direct sequels. As long-time fans will know, each of his albums is a self-contained and very individual piece in its own right. Here he may be casting an eye back to what worked well on recent albums, and trying to channel the “fuck you” attitude that put him on the map. But it is with a mature and considered eye that shows a strength in his current partnership with Bates, and ultimately it works. More so, it shows that Manson is just as relevant in 2017 as he was 20 years ago.  

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Review: Wiccid – 'By Design'



WICCID
'By Design'
CLEOPATRA RECORDS


Erie Loch has worked with some major names including Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Rob Zombie, Prong, Pig, PWEI, NIN, Marilyn Manson, and Lords Of Acid to name just a few. As well as being a member of acts such as Dream In Red, Blownload, and Exageist. His latest endeavour Wiccid sees him along with collaborator Crash blend electro-industrial, synthpop, and futurepop elements for a darkly melodic, yet refreshingly upbeat album that should find favour with both DJs and live audiences alike.

Songs such as 'Ash', 'Torn', 'Inhuman Nature', 'Tomorrow Without Fear', 'Lights', 'The reconstructing Gods', and 'Prey Predator' see the album gain a solid grounding with their blend of dance-friendly beats, grooving bass lines and infectious melodies. There is an undeniable pop-twist to the songs but they still retain a darkness and aggression that channels itself into an uncompromising but methodical aggression.

In terms of production the album is incredibly polished for a first outing from a new project. Typically even veteran musicians when embarking on a new project tend to lose focus in places while trying to consolidate the direction of a band on the first release. But there's no issue like that here. It is sharp, focused and thoroughly modern. It balances heavier and lighter elements with ease, never sacrificing it's pop sensibilities, but without shying away from harder sounds.

This is a great first release from a band that should well be one to watch. They're already on a big tour with the likes of Lords Of Acid, Combichrist, En Esch, and Christian Death, and with songs like these they can easily hold their own against that lineup. Hopefully we'll see a follow-up release soon that capitalises on the great work ere.  

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Review: Fredrik Croona – 'This Is Goodbye'



FREDRIK CROONA
'This Is Goodbye'
ADVOXYA RECORDS


Fredrik Croona, the man behind acts Menschdefekt, ex-Project Rotten and Cynical Existence returns with his third solo outing in the form of 'This Is Goodbye'. Croona may be more well known for his more aggrotech orientated projects, but his solo work has seen him explore styles such as futurepop, trance and ebm as well to create far more diverse offerings and sowing off a wider range of songwriting skills.

'This Is Goodbye' sees the return of those familiar elements but at the same time twists them into darker territory than on the previous two releases. The effect of which as a more mature and actualised feel than the last two outings.

Songs such as 'As I Opened My Eyes (Feat. Ruined Conflict)', 'Leave Me Behind', 'Lies (Feat. Adoration Destroyed)', 'This Life', 'Lida (2017 edit), 'You're Never Alone', and 'Diabolical Intent (2017 Edit)' provide the album with a backbone of polished melodies, strong dance beats and a mix of clean and distorted vocals that nicely switches up the feeling of the album.

However, the instrumental tracks that bookend the album – 'Into The Unknown (Feat. Worms Of The Earth) and 'This Is Goodbye (Feat. Cold Therapy)' – as well as the central track 'My Bleeding Heart', are just as interesting as the more club-friendly core tracks. They set the pace for the album with their more ambient elements mixed with purer electro-industrial to create a more ominous atmosphere that reverberates through the rest of the tracks.

In terms of the production this again sees a nice development from Croona's previous solo releases. Although his heavier work with Cynical Existence is arguably more polished, this album takes more risks and the production responds well to keep things going in the right direction.

This is perhaps the most solid solo album from Croona to date. One that continues to see his scope and ambition grow beyond the realms of the genre constrictions of Cynical Existence and alows him more room to experiment. It's an experiment that is going really well and hopefully the title isn't an indication that he is saying goodbye to his solo work when it begins to hint at yet more interesting directions to explore. 

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Review: Bell Witch – 'Mirror Reaper'



BELL WITCH
'Mirror Reaper'
PROFOUND LORE


Sometimes epic is the only word that can truly do an album justice. And this is one of those cases. Bell Witch return with their third full-length album 'Mirror Reaper', comprised of one single track spanning 83 minutes of sludgy yet ambient funeral doom with added emotional weight from the untimely loss of Adrian Guerra, who died during the writing process. The album is a monolithic beast that requires time and dedication to give it the attention it requires, so perhaps not one for those whose dedication to songs wanes at the ten minute mark.

'Mirror Reaper' is a heavy, numb and exhausting album. It's like a journey into the underworld – cavernous yet claustrophobic. The song evolves and twists throughout it's journey eventually with the second half reflecting back on the previous bulk of the composition. It is a rewarding experience without a doubt, but one that definitely requires stamina from the listener. Atmospherically there is a warmth to this album, especially when the organ and the vocals come through above the guitar and drums that makes this very poignant yet comforting to listen to.

There are some portions that could have been potentially trimmed back for times sake that wouldn't have effected the overall atmosphere and power of the piece. But when you go over the 60 minute mark, what's the point in compromising.

Production-wise, with it's heavy ambient leanings combined with its funeral doom pacing the song could have very nearly seen elements bleed together to just become a drawn out drone track. But it avoids this and through the composition coupled with the way the mix ebbs and flows, it takes on a more prog feel to it, particularly after the 50 minute mark.

This is a stunning album that really pushes what the band have done previously. It's a fitting tribute to a fallen member and a great example of uncompromising ambition is seen through to the end. Again not an album for casual listening, but one that is genuinely rewarding if you have the time to sit quietly and see it through to the end.

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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Review: Clara Engel – 'Songs For Leonora Carrington'


CLARA ENGEL 
'Songs For Leonora Carrington' 
SELF-RELEASED / WIST REC 

The chiming and reverberating guitar is like the alternate space made immanent in Carrington's visual work. Populated by part-human part-animal characters, the stories within the lyrics of these songs echo with a magical realism that gets to the heart of the listener. The lyrics evoke imagery of the artist and writer who inspired them with an eloquence that gets more cutting the deeper one lets them sink in. 

In the body of work of Leonora Carrington surrealism and weird fiction intersect in a magical heightened reality, though she explored territories deeper and well beyond what most of her contemporary surrealists and brought soul to her cosmically unsettling scenarios. Carrington's work differed from contemporary surrealists in that her vision was less drawn from dreams and derangement of the senses, like Dali's paranoiac-critical method, but thoughts and emotions made manifest and precisely rendered in a way that feels familiar.

In a similar way, on 'Songs For Leonora Carrington' arrangements are left open and airy, arranged tightly as poems with a masterful economy of elements. Anubeth’s werecubs are birthed in the head of the listener and may just jump out in a hyperstitional proliferation. Its fictions illustrate the real on many levels, but the intent is also to populate the world with its creations. 'Songs For Leonora Carrington' is a tribute of one artist for another that stands as a testament to the strength and creative vision of both. Carrington's universe is blurred into the shadowy and incandescently luminous realm created by Clara Engel. 

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Review: Nocurnal Rites – 'Phoenix'


NOCTURNAL RITES 
'Phoenix' 
AFM RECORDS 


Swedish power metal band Nocturnal Rites comes back with an album filled with hardcore power! Released on September 29th, the band’s most recent album, 'Phoenix', presents an incredible mix between old rock and ferocious metal music, taking the best of both styles to create a highly addictive drug for our ears.

After ten years since the last time we heard from these guys, Nocturnal Rites return with a interesting repertoire consisting on eleven powerful songs, each one of them with a different side of what could be seen as the same idea: the relationship between humans, alternating the genres of classical rock with power metal.

'Phoenix' starts with an attractive duality, an appealing contrast, with the explosive 'A Hearth Black As Coal' and 'The Poisonous Seed', and softer, old-school style 'Before We Waste Away', playing their cards very well. A perfect way to introduce themselves to new audiences and gain again the heart of their old followers.

Trying a symphonic vein, Nocturnal Rites explores their possibilities with 'Repent My Sins' experimenting with more neo-classical instruments and an orchestral sound that goes with a very similar structure than their second track’s, before going back to their old styles in 'What’s Killing Me', following their successful, initial duality.

Breaking this structure, comes an epic hymn, 'A Song For You', that infuses all the will our batteries could ever want in a moment of need, perfect to rise our heads and keep going on, right before the dramatic, yet honest, 'The Ghost Inside Me', destined to be a fan favourite; I know it is among mine, along with the previous track.

'Phoenix' follows this self-help vein with the next songs, about to close the disc, 'Nothing Can Break Me', a softer hymn with electronic elements I fell in love with since the first time, and 'Flames', which could be considered the weakest track of the record, but only because it is to be compared with the rest of it.

Nocturnal Rites finishes such a wild record with two equally strong songs that touch the same topics as before, bringing a fair balance to 'Phoenix'. 'Used To Be Good' and its twin sibling, the sarcastically named 'Welcome To The End', are the right end for a long-awaited album, proving that ten years have done nothing but improve the band’s quality; definitely worth the wait! 

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