Soundtrack to... 1995: In 20 Albums

Join us for our second trip back in time to 1995 - the year the internet opened to the common man, DVDs were announced, and some great albums were released...

Review: Zardonic – 'Antihero'


Review: Grave Pleasures – 'Dreamcrash'


Live: Amphi Festival - Köln, 25th – 26th July 2015

AMPHI FESTIVAL Köln, Germany 25/07/2015 – 26/07/2015

Editorial: September, 2015

If you/your band fit the criteria please contact us via the form on our contact us page with subject “compilation” and a link to your music (soundcloud / youtube etc). We'd need all submissions to us by THE END OF NOVEMBER if we are to keep to the 01/01/2016 launch, so please keep that in mind!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Editorial: October, 2015

It's October! And with me being the cheesy cliché that I am, I've already spent WAY too much on Halloween decorations – I'm talking quality ones though, not tinsel spiders and rubber bats!

But it is a slightly bitter-sweet Halloween this year. While on the one hand I'm stoked to actually be out and about in London for once (as it falls on a weekend), on the other my pre-Samhain run of horror film gorging has two sad notes to it. Firstly the loss of Sir Christopher Lee will be hammered home as I indulge in his Dracula films. But also the recent loss of director Wes Craven from brain cancer has spurred me to revisit some of his works including the 'Scream' quadrillogy.

Horror is a genre that has its ups and downs. For every single great movie there a dozen throwaway ones. Yet Craven made his name in horror with 'The Last House On The Left', 'The Hills Have Eyes', 'A Nightmare On Elm Street', 'Scream', and 'Red Eye' standing as a testament to his skills as a director, writer and producer. But over the years he also dabbled in lighter films such as 'Music Of the Heart' and 'Paris, Je T'aime', as well as releasing two books 'Fountain Society' and 'Coming Of Rage'.

Craven may have been guilty of a few stinkers in his time, however his style of directing and his common themes of playing with the nature of reality have still been highly influential to this day. He seemed to be able to tap into what the audience wanted and re-invent the horror genre in each decade. The ultraviolent exploitation 'The Last house On The Left' and 'The Hills Have Eyes' in the 70's. The reality-bending slasher franchise of 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' in the 80s, and the the self-aware de-constructed post-modernism of 'Scream' in the 90s and 2000s.

He was a real innovator who has left a lasting legacy on cinema and will be sorely missed by fans.

Now, a couple more bits and then you can get back to reading our reviews.

If you would like to be part of our next compilation album, all you have to do is check out last month's editorial. If you've not heard our previous compilations, I thoroughly suggest you do by going to our bandcamp page HERE.

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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Review: Human Bodies / Leather Chalice – 'Split EP'

'Split EP'

There's nothing like a good split EP. The coming together of two bands who, while often sharing some stylistic common ground, present two unique representations of their genre in one package. These can sometimes be a complete collaboration with unexpected results, or a more straight-forward A-side / B-side affair to curb the costs for the release and foster camaraderie. The new split EP from US black metal bands Human Bodies and Leather Chalice is very much of the A-side / B-side construction.

Both bands present two strong songs each with Human Bodies opting for a nice and nasty couple of cuts of raw black metal, while Leather chalice take the genre into more experimental territory.

Human Bodies two tracks 'Only The Sigh' and 'Malice Prepense' evoke the likes of Darkthrone and early Satyricon with their lean and raw guitar riffs taking precedent with a solid back bone from the drums and classic vocals.

Leather Chalise on the other hand inject a little psychedelic occult rock effects into 'Good Intentions (Coming Home Part One)', while 'Last Gifts Of Worship (Coming Home Part Two) introduces some noise elements as well.

The tracks are pretty rough and ready with a distinct early 90s feel, yet they are completely enjoyable. They have a pure, live feel to them that is devoid of pretense and full of energy.

It is a short sharp shock that shows of the raw talents of two hungry sounding bands. The songs are fierce in their execution and full of passion. While the production may hamper some people's enjoyment (especially those more used to modern black metal albums), if you're able to get past that it is a decent effort.  

Review: Deadfilmstar – 'The Inevitable Rise & Fall Of Fake White &The Ill Fated Tour'

'The Inevitable Rise & Fall Of Fake White &The Ill Fated Tour'

It has been a long time coming but finally the début proper from Deadfilmstar has arrived. 'The Inevitable Rise & Fall Of Fake White &The Ill Fated Tour' has been in the works since before the previous album to have the Deadfilmstar moniker attached to it 'A.Rtistic I.Ntegrity' a sidestep into dark cyber influenced sounds that bore little resemblance to their live presentation of a dirty industrial rock band. After regrouping and setting out to consolidate their name on the live circuit with support slots alongside Mortiis, KMFDM, Gothminister, Combichrist, Orgy, and a lot of festival appearances the band have honed their songs into a conceptual free-fall into the dark underbelly of rock.

Musically it is a slow and grim barrage of dirty rock with dark gritty guitars and bass are reminiscent of 'Antichrist Superstar' era Marilyn Manson. The sound is further augmented with a liberal dose of glam metal posturing rhythms and 'Broken' era Nine Inch Nails sleazy industrial dripping from it's lips, over which vocalist Gary hisses and growls like a madman.

Songs such as 'Soiled, Spoilt & Somewhat Flawed', 'The Day We Lost You', 'Hello, Cruel World' and 'RockStarDead' will be well known to anyone who has seen them live, and in their recorded form they have lost none of that raw punch. While the likes of 'Plunged Into Morning', Fake White & A Band Called the Flies', 'A Terrible Thing And Audience Can Make You Do', and 'It's Over Superstar' break out atmospheric elements such as crowd noise, power tools, water and thunder to add an extra layer of eeriness.

In terms of production it is pretty damn good. It is dirty, gritty and raw. Yet, at the same time it is nicely balanced between the harder and more melodic elements. And despite what initially sounds like a very clear and linear direction different elements of genres begin to creep out and take the songs down new tangents while staying true to that rock core.

It has been a while, but one of the UK's hardest working live acts have finally got the album they deserve. 'The Inevitable Rise & Fall Of Fake White &The Ill Fated Tour' is a sharp, gritty look into the rock 'n' roll abyss that doesn't disappoint. Hopefully this will prove to be a launchpad for Deadfilmstar.  

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Review: Sardonis – 'III'


'III' is the third full-length release (obviously) from Belgian riff lords Sardonis. This two man atmospheric assault plays low and heavy doom that despite its stripped down construction is just as fat and fulfilling as any full size band could offer. The songs are all instrumental, but this doesn't detract from them at all. Instead there is a pure focus on the powerful riffs that is utterly compelling.

The tracks have a nice warm analogue sound that recalls the likes of classic acts Black Sabbath, Trouble, Saint Vitus, and Pentagram as well as modern luminaries such as Sleep, Electric Wizard, and Yob. The songs, despite never dropping below the six minute mark at their shortest are compelling from start to finish. Whether its slower numbers like 'Battering Ram' and 'Forward To The Abyss' or faster cuts such as 'The Coming Of Khan' and 'Ruined Decay' with their nice blast beats.

The album's finest track has to be the afore mentioned 'Forward To The Abyss' though with its sombre intro creating a beautifully mournful atmosphere with ease before erupting into a sludgy, bluesy trudge through misery with just a little hint of black metal added for good measure.

There is plenty of low-end to the band's sound and the production captures a certain rawness to the recording that gives it that classic feel. However it is crisp, clean and could easily hold its own alongside some of the big names in the genre.

This is a damn fine album. Sardonis are a refreshingly simple band that draw all of your focus to the interplay of their two instruments. They don't hide behind overly technical or progressive elements, and neither do they simply let the reverb do half the work for them. This is a doom riff master class from start to finish. There is no bullshit, or pretence. Just hard, heavy doom metal in it's purest distillation.  

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Review: Mortiis – 'Doppelgänger'


It has been five years since
Håvard Ellefsen AKA Mortiis' last outing on the 'Perfectly Defect' digital only album, and over ten years since the last physical full-length studio album proper 'The Grudge'. But there is light at the end of the tunnel with a new album in the form of 'The Great Deceiver' announced for release early next year, and to celebrate Mortiis has unleashed a new single in the form of 'Doppelgänger' to whet our appetites.

The single caries on the industrial rock formula that characterised 'The Grudge' and 'Perfectly Defect' with a combination of hard guitars, anguished vocals and a steady, near dance-friendly beat liberally sprinkled with darkly groovy synths.

The single also includes a remix courtesy of Wumpscut which reworks the track into something that would be quite comfortable on 'The Smell Of Rain' album, which is never a bad thing.

Mortiis is making all the right noises with 'Doppelgänger'. In terms of the production it sounds nice and fresh and stirs in a little of that 90's Wax Trax! / Nothing Records flavour for good measure.

This is a promising single that hints at a nice and heavy, yet approachable industrial feeling full-length album to come. Throw in the fact that the download comes with a copy of the cool accompanying promotional music video, and this release is well worth checking out.

Review: Dope Stars Inc. – 'The Saw Saga'

'The Saw Saga'

Victor Love has been damn busy this year. Between a new Dope Stars Inc. album, his new solo project and all his other projects, he's now delving into the archives to create a definitive anniversary edition of 'Neuromance' as well as this EP which features one unreleased song plus the band's tracks that were featured on the soundtracks to the Saw films. It is clear that Love is a man on a mission at the moment and long may it continue.

'The Saw Saga' may not have much in the way of new material, but as a free release it is one that still has plenty of meat on its bones. The previously unreleased 'I Won't Feel' is a solid quiet-loud track that is solid single material that for some reason didn't see the light of day along with the rest of the 'TeraPunk' material. 'Make A Star' was one of the best cuts from the 'Neuromance' album with it's big single feel. While 'Getting Closer' is a harder and more riotous anthem that spikes the adrenalin. Finally Beatcrusher' from 'Gigahearts' injects more of the synths for that unmistakeable cyber feel that Dope Stars Inc. have perfected.

Despite the tracks coming from different album sessions they all flow together quite nicely. The quality of the production is pretty constant and this feels like an EP of new material rather than a trip into the archives.

It may be one for the fans more than anything else, but this is still a pretty solid EP by anyone's standards. There are three tried and tested great songs, and one brand new one that arguable deserved to be released sooner. But best of all, it's free and it begs the question as to what gems Love has unearthed for the anniversary re-release of 'Neuromance'?

Review: Coil – 'Backwards'


If any album was the epitome of a difficult birth then it was Coil's 'Backwards'. First conceived 23 years ago as the follow-up to 1990's seminal 'Love's Secret Domain', the album was in a production limbo originally slated for a 1993 release on Torso Records, but then after further studio sessions it was earmarked for a release on Nothing Records. The demos eventually emerged as a studio bootleg, but the album proper never appeared. The music saw release in a heavily altered form on 2005's 'The Ape Of Naples' and then as the remixed and reworked 'The New Backwards' in 2008. Finally though, thanks to Danny Hyde, the album sees an official release as originally intended.

With its heavily experimental and dark ambient leanings the album is a bridge of sorts between 'Love's Secret Domain' and 'Music To Play In The Dark'. The album sees a stunning collection of vocal performances from the late Jhonn Balance which are simply haunting. Tracks such as 'Backwards', ‘A Cold Cell’, and ‘Fire Of The Mind’ will be familiar to fans having appeared on 'Live Three' and various compilations respectively. But this release showcases the tracks as they were supposed to be heard.

The songs on display on 'Backwards' such as the afore mentioned three, as well as the sombre cuts 'Amber Rain', 'CopaCaballa' and 'Paint Me As A Dead Soul', the schizophrenic rhythms of 'Be Careful What You Wish For' and 'AYOR (It's In My Blood), and the near psychedelic 'Heaven's Blade' are all undeniably strong tracks that are long overdue an official inclusion in the Coil canon.

The production is kind of in keeping with the band's early-to-mid 90's output. Rough, experimental, but hypnotically beautiful. It's been mastered well but it feels very much of its era and not an attempt at a full overhaul of the original recordings. In that respect it is very satisfying and sounds right at home amongst the band's 90's releases.

'Backwards' needed an official release. Coil is too much of an important band to have great unreleased albums like this that aren't in the public arena to be listened to and exert an influence on the next generation of electronic artists. If you are a hardcore fan who has been waiting for this release to complete your collection, you won't be disappointed. Neither will you be disappointed if you are new to the band and still exploring their interplay of light and dark as this release is a fine example of Coil walking the line between experimental and commercial. Quite simply, it has been worth the wait.  

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book Review: Aidan Levy – 'Dirty Blvd. The Life And Music Of Lou Reed'

'Dirty Blvd. The Life And Music Of Lou Reed'

Musicians of Lou Reed's stature are often mythologised figures, even while they are still alive. It has only been two years since the New York singer, songwriter, producer, photographer and lyricist died from liver disease, and his career as an artist which lasted from 1964 until his death has been canonised in the annals of rock history as a voice for the disenfranchised and disenchanted to rally behind. With a legacy that encompassed trailblazing rock, ambient, experimental and noise often characterised by deep lyrics and unconventional production Reed found himself equally praised and derided by critics with albums like the noise-heavy 'Metal Machine Music', or the sexuality and gender fluid themes of 'Transformer' showing how truly ahead of the curve he was.

There have already been a few books written about Reed already – such as those by
Victor Bockris, Jeremy Reed, and Mick Wall – which have all done well to lay bare his life. However, Aidan Levy's new biography of Lou Reed 'Dirty Blvd. The Life And Music Of Lou Reed' is the first posthumous analysis of his life and dissection of the complexities of the man behind the myth. Delving into a personal life where art, heritage, mental health, and rock 'n' roll excess collide head on, the book tries to illuminate the darkest corners of Reed's remarkable life to present the man, faults and all.

Coming from a journalistic background, the writing style is engaging; empathetic in places, critical in others, but very even handed in it's depiction of both Reed the man and Reed the artist. It avoids the pitfalls of falling into the super-fan fawning that some biographies tend to do, and keeps an authoritative tone and distance that elevates it to the level of such rock bios as 'Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon' by Tony Fletcher, 'The Beatles' by Hunter Davies, 'Hammer of the Gods...' by Stephen Davis, 'I'm Your Man...' by Sylvie Simmons and 'Strange Fascination...' by David Buckley.

Levy draws on original interviews, archive materials, footage and photographs, as well as the stories of Reed's professional, personal and romantic partners to contextualise and add depth to the narrative. The book unveils an often tortured genius complicated by a cruel personality streak and contrary lifestyle that revelled in a urban-bohemianism that on one hand shrouded him in mystique, and on the other only served to sabotage the relationships in his life. From his early life, first forays into music, the formation of the Velvet Underground, his solo work and later years, everything is brought under the microscope and looked at from multiple angles to try and reveal the true story.

'Dirty Blvd. The Life And Music Of Lou Reed' may show Reed to ultimately be as complicated, fallible and fragile as any other human being. But with this all in mind just goes to underline just why Reed's music, legacy and myth has endured in the way that it has. If you are a fan of Reed, or just a fan of a well written rock 'n' roll biography, then 'Dirty Blvd.' is well worth your time. 

Friday, 25 September 2015

Review: Antagonist Zero – 'No Tears'

'No Tears'

With a blend of doom, death and black metal that the band have christened “catatonic metal”, Finland's Antagonist Zero set out to bring the misery with their latest EP, 'No Tears'. Stylistically they have a lot in common with acts such as Swallow The Sun, Doom:Vs, Antimatter, Katatonia and Opeth with a deep dark ambiance just beneath their aggressive metal exterior. It's slow, heavy, atmospheric, but it is by no means catatonic music. Just good heavy doom the way that only Finland seems to be able to produce.

'No Tears' is a strong nine-minute song with a great riff, subtle melodies, a nice balance of vocal styles and a nice cavernous sound that is perfectly suited for this time of year. The next track, 'Profound Oblivion' has a bit more of a defined death doom sound with its nice chugging pace and excellent lead guitars that gives way to a lighter melodic centre before bringing the heaviness back in. The third original track 'Suru' is a very nice slow track with a nice balance of light and dark, heavy and soft with a great vocal performance in their native tongue to boot.

The fourth track is a cover of Jenni Vartiainen's 'Missä Muruseni On' which originally quite a soft symphonic meets folk rock piece, but given a really nice doom make over that carries on nicely from the previous song. The final song, 'The Lachrymal Sleep' is of course a Doom:Vs cover, and a fairly straight one at that. Which is a shame as these guys have a real knack for playing soft and heavy elements so a more ambient rendition of this would have been cool, but it's still well executed in its current form.

The production is pretty spot on with a nice spacious feel to the mix that lets the guitars and vocals ring out and create a massive sense of space. It is easily to the standard that modern metal should be held to and can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with recent releases from their countrymen Swallow The Sun.

Antagonist Zero might be relative newcomers with only an EP and one full-length album to their name prior to this release. But with 'No Tears' they have used their time in a considered way that makes you take notice. Each track hits hard, and despite the lengths involved, the intricate musicianship, strong songwriting and engaging vocal performances can't fail to hook you.  

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Review: The Last Surrealist – 'Hypogean Blood Fractals For A Hypnagogic Sleep'

'Hypogean Blood Fractals For A Hypnagogic Sleep'

With a title such as 'Hypogean Blood Fractals For A Hypnagogic Sleep' you'd be forgiven for giving a tut of mock exasperation at the seemingly convoluted nature of it. But just as the title is a complex arrangement, so is the music behind it. US based one-man project The Last Surrealist, AKA Chris Romans, is a sumptuous blend of neofolk, ambient electronics, black metal, trip-hop, and drone designed for contemplative or even meditative listening that evokes a near new age aura.

It may only be five tracks long, but each one packs a punch often approaching the ten-minute mark in length. Yet the songs have a vice flow to them so the album seems like a greater whole containing movements within it. There is a dark melancholic beauty mixed with an air of unseen menace running through each song that is quite gripping as the softly sung vocals play with the trip-hop beats, folk and rock guitars underneath a veil of ambient electronics. The result is a progressive, haunting and hypnotic album. The first two tracks 'In The All Consuming Fires Of Sodom And Gomorrah We Make Love' and 'To Lie On Empyrean Shores' along with the stripped-down final track 'I Met God I The Caves Of Xibalba. She Told Me To Surrender. So I Did...' are hands down the standout tracks amongst what is a very strong release, purely for their sheer emotive power and presence.

In terms of production, it is pretty damn good. There is a very natural feel despite all the electronic elements running throughout. And while it is a little rough around the edges, with its emphasis on depth and space it sounds cavernous in its scope.

'Hypogean Blood Fractals For A Hypnagogic Sleep' may at first glance look like it will be a dense and unapproachable album, but it is a deeply rewarding one. Its mixture of dark but soft sounds, cinematic scope, and intimate vocal performances are complex but delicate. And it keeps your focus unrelentingly. If you are a fan of neofolk, ambient, or post metal, this is a recommended release.  

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