Soundtrack to... 1985: In 20 Albums

Come with us now, back in time, to the year of Live Aid, Wrestlemania, and some of the best bands and albums the 1980s had to offer. Enjoy our countdown of 1985 in 20 albums...

Review: Lindemann – 'Skills In Pills'

LINDEMANN 'Skills In Pills' WARNER MUSIC GROUP

Review: Cocksure – 'Corporate_Sting'

COCKSURE 'Corporate_Sting' METROPOLIS RECORDS

Book Review: Lewis Carroll – 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland...'

LEWIS CARROLL 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland: 150th Anniversary Edition' PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS

Review: Chant – 'Brave New Apocalypse'

CHANT 'Brave New Apocalypse' WTII RECORDS

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Book Review: C J Skuse – 'Monster'



C J SKUSE
'Monster'
HARLEQUIN


Ah, the girl's boarding school. It's the ideal setting for a good horror story really. If it's not the very real terrors of tyrannical teachers, or the verbal and physical violence perpetrated by hormonal teens locked away in a regimented environment, then the sheer ambience of an old stately home-turned school should be enough to set the imagination racing to things that go bump in the night. The girls boarding school setting may be a little higher in profile in the public mind a the moment thanks to series three of American Horror Story. But in 'Monster' instead of witches and ghosts, C J Skuse treats us to a modern tale of isolation, social politics, adolescence... and a large sinister beast roaming the snow covered countryside disembowelling animals and people.

It's a tried and tested backdrop maybe, but Skuse is a masterful storyteller whose writing style is bang up-to-date and very accessible for the younger reader. With the emphasis more on the thriller aspects of the story, the horror elements as a result become more mysterious and atmospheric.

The book is written in the fist person through the eyes of potential head girl Nash. Her brother is missing in South America, her parents have had to leave her in the old boarding school over Christmas with her rival Diana, her nemesis Clarice, a young “pup” called Tabitha, the “weird girl” Reagan, and her new found ally Maggie, all of whom are under the watchful eye of the school matron until they are picked up by their parents.

The book really hooks the reader in the first few pages as Nash spies a beastly shape in the snow that almost hypnotises her. From that point on the plot evolves through Nash's internal monologue and the conversations with her peers, with the occasional grisly death and louche character coming in to add twists. It's a book that does a good job of keeping you guessing until the end, which is an increasingly hard thing to do these days.

Skuse is a great descriptive writer who makes small observations and details speak volumes about a character or place. The teenage girls interact and speak as you'd expect a modern teenage girl at a boarding school to do, and their observations will undoubtedly ring true for her target audience. While the well-placed use of humour and wit serves to ground the story nicely.

One thing that did stick out in the novel though was the heavy referencing of pop culture. Referencing thing such as Snapchat, Britain's Got Talent, Vernon Kay, and Harry Potter grounds the story quite firmly in the 2010's. But as pop culture can move on quite rapidly, such references may inadvertently date the text so that in five years time, the next wave of readers may find less relevance in those cultural citations. If those references were a little less specific, the time of the story could be a little more vague and enjoy a bit more longevity.

'Monster' is a fast-paced, dramatic, endearing and often tense book that is just as much about the characters as the potential horror lurking around them. As far as young adult novels go, this is a gripping and satisfying read that has everything needed to become a best seller and will endear itself to readers beyond their teenage years.

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Friday, 31 July 2015

Review: Primitive Race – 'Primitive Race'



PRIMITIVE RACE
'Primitive Race'
METROPOLIS RECORDS


There are super groups and then there is Primitive Race. Boasting members of acts such as Pop Will Eat Itself, Peter Murphy, <PIG>, KMFDM, Ministry, Tricky, Nitzer Ebb, Combichrist and others in its ranks the group headed by Chris Kniker evoke everything that is great about industrial rocks past, present and future. The sound is hard to pin down though. It is a hard mix of industrial rock and ebm, but here are so many different flavours that bubble to the surface courtesy of the revolving line up of musicians and vocalists on every track. It's a veritable smorgasbord of world class talent coming together to do what they do best.

Songs such as 'Follow The Leader', 'Cage Rattler', 'Acceptance Of Reality', and 'Below Zero' favour a rockier blend that melds chugging guitars, and filthy bass with a steady dance pace, and fist-in-the-air sing-a-long moments. While the likes of 'So Strange', 'Addict Now', 'Taking Things Back', 'Platinum Balls', and 'DJFH' bring the electronics higher in the mix to create some hard, nasty, but dance friendly cuts for the clubs. But no matter which direction the song goes it is hard to find a bad example of their collective song writing or performances on this album. The line between rocking and dance-friendly is a fine balance that is executed with the ease that you'd expect from an experienced roster such as this.

There is a nice gritty side to the production that compliments both the guitar driven tracks as well as the electronic ones. It is identifiably classic industrial but it doesn't try to replicate the familiar Nothing and Wax Trax! albums of yesteryear. Instead it feels appropriate for 2015 with a nice mix and mastering job that preserves the grittiness without any loss of fidelity.

Primitive race may be a new moniker, but it's members are some of the most respected names associated with industrial, ebm, and gothic music of the last 30 years. As such, this first full-length outing feels fully formed and actualised without any straining to find a niche. Fans of classic acts such as <PIG>, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb, Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails will feel right at home with this. While those just taking their first steps into the scene will find this album sits comfortably on the shelf next to modern acts like 3Teeth, Youth Code, Caustic, and Project F. As for album number two, the collective will need to work hard to top this.  

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Soundtrack to... 1985: In 20 Albums



Ah 1985, the mid eighties is now officially three decades ago, it was an eventful 52 weeks... It was the year the Internet’s DNS was created. The year Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union. The year of the first Wrestlemania at Madison Square Garden. And the year of the first Live Aid concerts in London and Los Angeles which raised more than £50 million for famine relief.

It was also a good year for music that saw a slew of classic albums released in every genre in alternative music be it post-punk, goth, rock, metal, or electro and took their artists to international fame. There were so many in fact that this list could have been a lot longer. But we decided to keep it to just twenty LP/EP releases that stood out and set the standard for that year.

As with most of these kind of articles this is by no means the definitive releases of the year. Rather a cross-section of classics and other gems celebrating their 30th year. So sit back and relax as we take a trip back to 1985...



 Cocteau Twins – 'Tiny Dynamine' EP

1985 saw the Scottish ethereal rock outfit Cocteau Twins release three separate EPs in between full-length albums. All three had never really originally been intended for release and as such provided an opportunity for the band to indulge their more experimental sides in ways that would ultimately culminate in the stunning 'Victorialand' the following year. However all three EPs offer plenty of great tracks to get stuck into, in particular the second of the year's releases 'Tiny Dynamine'. The EP boasts four stunning cuts of pure richly layered ethereal joy with the rare instrumental 'Ribbed And Veined' being a highlight, as well as the opening number 'Pink Orange Red' which is a perfect summation of everything the band had been doing up until that point.




The Sisters Of Mercy – 'First And Last And Always'

After a run of independent singles and EPs caught the attention of the public and music journalists alike in the preceding years, The Sisters of Mercy unveiled their full-length début album in 1985 and secured their spot as the kings of goth. Moody atmospheres, icy guitars, throbbing bass, the mechanical beats of their drum machine Doktor Avalanche, and of course Andrew Eldritch's baritone croon combined to create one hell of an album. It's a formula that endeared them to a generation and provided a template that is still going strong 30 years later. The album is crammed full of essential hits such as 'No Time To Cry', 'Marian', 'Black Planet', 'Walk Away', and 'Nine While Nine'. Although the band would split into three entities with Eldritch carrying on the Sisters moniker, and guitarists Gary Marx and Wayne Hussey going on to form Ghost Dance and The Mission respectively, 'First And Last And Always' remains a key album in the history of gothic rock.




Slayer – 'Hell Awaits'

We lurch now toward the USA and the distinctive satanic thrash metal of Slayer. Now considered legends for their horror influenced heavy metal and paving the way for more extreme forms of metal to emerge from the underground. However in 1985 they were a young band who needed to follow up their début. The result of their efforts was the far more powerful and assertive 'Hell Awaits'. Continuing to develop from the previous year's début, 'Show No Mercy' the band upped their game with a much more professional sounding recording, as well as much tighter song writing and vocal performances. Tracks from the album including 'Hell Awaits', 'Kill Again', 'Praise Of Death', 'At Dawn They Sleep', and 'Necrophilliac' have become essential to cover for many up-and-coming (as well as a fair few established) metal bands in the years since. Although the band's subsequent output may eclipse their sophomore outing, it is here that Slayer truly came into their own.




Killing Joke – 'Night Time'

Five albums in five years may seem like a killer schedule for any modern band, but for the most prolific post-punk group of the 1980's it seemed effortless. Killing Joke by 1985 were already and established force with their hard, post-punk attitude and aggressive execution finding favour with the public. 'Night Time' saw the band balance this earlier antagonism with a more refined pop sensibility, and as a result saw the album become one of their biggest hits. Complete with the stunning singles 'Eighties', 'Love Like Blood', and 'Kings And Queens' the band left an indelible mark on the musical landscape of the mid-80s. 'Night Time' is the high water mark of the band's 80s output, and although it could be retrospectively looked at as the first step in the gradual softening of the band before they ultimately swerved back into heavier territory in the 90s, it is nonetheless and perfect blend of accessible dissidence.




Skinny Puppy – 'Bites'

The début album by Canadian electro-industrialists was a game changer when it was released in 1985. Prior to its release industrial had been distinctly more abrasive in the hands of acts like Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, and Einsturzende Neubauten. Born originally as an experimental side project for composer cEvin Key while working with new wave band Images In Vogue, the band would quickly evolve to incorporate dark electro-pop elements into their sound and as a result developed a strong dance potential. The band's début album 'Bites' immediately spawned club classics such as 'Assimilate', 'The Choke', 'Deadlines', and 'Last Call' as well as providing an influence on acts such as Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and many more. Although the band would find success with the breakthrough albums 'VIVIsectVI' and 'Rabies', 'Bites' remains a cult classic for all of the right reasons.




Laibach – 'Laibach'

With the release of Laibach's 2014 album 'Spectre' it seemed as though the musical intelligentsia had finally caught up with the pioneering Slovenian group's manifesto that had been laid out on their challenging 1985 eponymous début. Provocative, ambiguous, clever and always memorable, the band blended martial industrial with folk elements on this artistic and cutting edge release. The album may seem primordial compared to subsequent releases 'Nova Akropola' and 'Opus Dei', which refined the band's early industrial menace before exploring more electronic and rock orientated territory in the 90s. However its rawness amplifies its ferocity and menace, and despite its age the band still regularly return to tracks such as 'Država', 'Brat Moj', and 'Panorama' for live performances. To this day it continues to exude a gravitas that few early industrial albums are able to, and for that reason it remains essential listening.







Bathory – 'The Return......'

Bookended by the iconic albums 'Bathory' and 'Under The Sign Of The Black Mark', Bathory's second album 'The Return.....' is somewhat overshadowed. Yet it remains a highly influential album that would help to shape the growing black and death metal scenes in Scandinavia. The album is constructed almost like an epic poem with the track list leading you on a journey that ultimately reveals the full title of the album on it's penultimate track. Raw thrash metal and first wave black metal influences combine to create a visceral assault on the ears as the guitars and vocals screech around thunderous rhythms. It's production may be pretty lacklustre by today's standards but with tracks such as 'Total Destruction', 'Bestial Lust (Bitch)', 'Possessed', and 'Sadist (Tormentor)' still finding favour among fans of extreme metal, time certainly hasn't dulled its edge.




Talking Heads – 'Little Creatures'

The New York based quartet Talking Heads had been pioneering new wave music for nearly ten years by the time they released their sixth album 'Little Creatures'. Already a firm favourite of the iconic David Bowie, the band had by this point enjoyed a fair amount of commercial success. But it was this album that proved to be the highest selling in their back catalogue. And with singles such as 'And She Was', 'The Lady Don't Mind', and 'Road To Nowhere' (as well as their MTV-friendly promotional videos) it isn't hard to see why. David Byrne had perfected his blend of art rock meets new wave meets pop formula and had well and truly hit his stride as a producer by this point. The end result of which is a sublime journey into the idea of Americana at the end of the 20th century. 'Little Creatures' remains a classic album and a testament to the enduring legacy of the band.







Megadeth – 'Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!'

Fuelled by a desire for revenge on his former bandmates, ex-Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine set about trying to outdo them in every way possible, but especially in terms of speed and heaviness, the result of which was the 1985 début 'Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!'. Despite the aggressive thrash metal content of the album, it received positive review even from non-metal/rock publications and established Mustaine as a song writer in his own right. The album may not be as well rounded as the band's follow up offering 'Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?', but the anger and passion with which the tracks are performed has contributed greatly to it's longevity and ensured that fan favourites such as 'Killing Is My Business...', 'Rattlehead', and 'Skull Beneath My Skin' still get a regular airing on tour, and why this album still features among the greats of the genre.




Clan Of Xymox – 'Clan Of Xymox'

Dutch gothic/darkwave act Clan Of Xymox had their finger on the pulse of the emerging gothic rock scene when they released their self-titled début on the influential 4AD label. The album is full of icy guitars, throbbing synthesizers, and ethereal atmospherics that blends the melancholic aura of Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures' with the accessibility of The Cure's 'The Top'. It sweeps between eloquent guitar driven tracks that beg for live performances to electronic dance anthems to hook the club scene. The production may sound dated by today's standards, but the likes of 'Cry In The Wind', 'Stumble And Fall', '7th Time', 'Stranger', and 'A Day' are still strong gothic rock tracks that can be heard in clubs around the world and whose influences can still be felt in bands such as The Last Dance and London After Midnight.







The Damned – 'Phantasmagoria'

The Damned had already been a firm favourite of the punk, and post-punk scenes in the UK from 1976. But 1985's 'Phantasmagoria' took a much gloomier turn building on the themes of their previous two albums while focussing heavily on vocalist David Vanian's deep voice. The end result is a heavily gothic infused pop-rock sound that provided the band with their highest charting release. Songs such as 'Shadow Of Love', 'Sanctum Sanctorum', 'Grimly Fiendish', and 'Is It A Dream?' are stand-outs in an already influential discography and remain firm fan favourites to this day. Sadly the follow-up album 'Anything' was the beginning of the end of their run at the top, but 30 years later the band still tour and air tracks from 'Phantasmagoria' in their set lists. The album shows the band at their peak and their most well-rounded writing effort.




The Cure – 'The Head On The Door'

In the early 80s The Cure had steadily grown from morbid post-punks to having some hit singles with the likes of 'Let's Go To Bed', 'The Walk', and 'The Love Cats' all doing pretty well in the charts. But it wasn't until the band released their 1985 album 'The Head On The Door' that international success became attainable. Walking a fine line between the band's most gothic inclined album 'Pornography', and their optimistic psychedelic pop of 'The Top', the album balances everything the band had been up until that point. The album produced two hit singles in the forms of 'In Between Days' and 'Close To Me', but also contained such gems as 'Kyoto Song', 'Six Different Ways', 'A Night Likes This', which are fine examples of the band's writing during this transitional period and paved the way for their superstar status that followed.




Christian Death – 'Ashes'

Christian Death were a band that have always courted controversy, no less amongst their own fan base. The debate still rages on as to whether it is Rozz William's Christian Death or Valor Kand's that is the true band. But no matter which side of the fence you fall on it is clear that together they created two classic albums in the form of 'Catastrophe Ballet' and 1985's 'Ashes'. This album was the last to feature founding vocalist Rozz Williams (before he resurrected his own incarnation of the band in the 90s). The album builds on the romantic and dada influenced themes of it's predecessor, honing them into a flurry of sensual and dramatic gothic anthems such as 'Ashes', 'When I Was Bed', 'Lament – Over Shadows', and 'The Luxury Of Tears'. All of the latter fallout aside both 'Catastrophe Ballet' and 'Ashes' are stunning albums that hint at a partnership that could have yielded so much more.




Kate Bush – 'Hounds Of Love'

Prior to the release of 'Hounds Of Love' in 1985 Kate Bush's previous offering 'The Dreaming' had received a lukewarm response and it was evident her fifth album would need to be something special. The result was an album of two halves – the first featuring five stunning pop songs, four of which found instant chart success – while the second half of the album sees Bush in all of her conceptual glory weaving seven beautiful romantic prog-pop songs into a continuous whole called 'The Ninth Wave'. Some of the synthesized elements, may have dated over the years but the relentless moods and atmospheres they evoke are just as powerful as ever after three decades. 'Hounds Of Love' is a masterful exercise of both commercial and conceptual song writing by an artist at the top of her game and saw her secure her place as one of the most influential women in pop music.




Gary Numan – 'The Fury'

 Having long since moved away from his synthpop roots, Gary Numan had become artistically more eclectic and gradually more maligned by the media. 'The Fury' sees Numan combine elements of synthpop, funk rock, new wave,industrial rock, and darkwave into a morbid pop record that utilises heavy amounts of sampling. It continues the harder edge from the previous 'Berzerker' album and as a whole album it did quite well in the charts (and remained his last top 30 charting album until 2013's 'Splinter'). However it's supporting singles didn't fair so well due to lack of radio airplay. Yet it is a fundamentally great pop album with a much more industrial edge. Songs such as 'Call Out The Dogs', 'Miracles', 'Creatures' and 'I Still Remember' are worth the price of admission alone, and thirty years later it is long overdue a re-evaluation from the media.





The Chameleons – 'What Does Anything Mean? Basically'

Mancunian post-punks The Chameleons were one of the great "what if?" stories of the 1980s. With four albums under their belts they were just on the brink of international success, when it all unfolded after the death of their manager. But that doesn't mean that their music didn't find a loyal audience (one that counts the Gallagher brothers and The Verve among its members). Introspective, anthemic, aggressive and haunting, the band ticked all of the right boxes, and their sophomore album sees them come together in stunning style. It may have only launched one single in the form of 'Singing Rule Britannia (While The Walls Close In)', but 'What Does Anything Mean? Basically' is an archetype of 80s indie perfection. It may have lost the raw impact of their début, but with tracks such as 'Perfumed Garden', 'Return Of The Roughnecks', 'Looking Inwardly', 'One Flesh', and 'P.S Goodbye' it provides a treasure trove of delay drenched gems and a real career highlight.




Love And Rockets – 'Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven'

The 1985 début album of Love And Rockets saw three-quarters of the legendary gothic pioneers Bauhaus reunite for a decidedly more upbeat direction that saw them fuse psychedelic pop and alternative rock with great effect. 'Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven' is a tentative first step in a newer, brighter future. It is on the one hand hopeful, but on the other still somewhat unsure of itself. But with songs such as 'If There's A Heaven Above', 'The Dog-End Of A Day Gone By', 'The Game', and 'Haunted When Minutes Drag' are genuinely profound moments of song writing that are different to what came before, but no less powerful. Along with the single 'Ball Of Confusion' the band's first release provides a solid base that kicked off a decade run of great releases.





The Cult – 'Love'

In their time, the once darlings of the post-punk underground known as Southern Death Cult, then as Death Cult, and finally The Cult, quickly evolved into internationally successful hard rockers thanks to their Sophomore release 'Love'. Complete with the singles 'She Sells Sanctuary', 'Rain', and 'Revolution', the band became an international name thanks to their combination of post-punk grit, psychedelia, and guitar hero riffs. Their sound found favour with fans of hard rock, indie, goth and post-punk. The band would build on the success of this album until their brief split in the mid-90s derailed their momentum. But 'Love' remains a firm favourite among fans with its singles still getting regular club play and ultimately providing the purest snapshot of the band's song writing talents.





Celtic Frost – 'To Mega Therion'

Celtic Frost is a name that is both infamous and influential in the black metal and doom metal scenes. Injecting a heavy dose of gothic atmosphere into their extreme metal anthems, the band have never been afraid to experiment with their sound, which has over the years made them very difficult to classify. 1985's 'To Mega Therion' however is a mighty mix of primordial thrash, death and black metal heavy on atmosphere and menace. The album is focussed in its direction and executed with Wargnerian power and determination on tracks such as 'Innocence And Wrath', 'Circle Of Tyrants', 'The Usurper', and 'Eternal Summer' showing how far the band had come on not only in terms of song writing, but also in performance and production since their début 'Morbid Tales'. It's easy to hear why 30 years down the line 'To Mega Therion' is a classic extreme metal album.




The Jesus And Mary Chain – 'Psychocandy'

Riding the success of their first single 'Upside Down' Scottish alternative rockers unleashed their début full-length outing 'Psychocandy' and immediately struck a nerve. Raw walls of noise, post-punk attitude, and pop melody culminate in a uniquely visceral but accessible sound that serves as a precursor to shoegaze. The album received rave reviews upon release in the music press and placed highly on end of year top picks. In the decades since it has continually been lauded as one of the best albums of all time by many publications. Spawning the three singles 'Never Understand', 'You Trip Me Up', and 'Just Like Honey' that each made a decent impact on the charts, the band quickly developed a strong following that would last throughout their career. 'Psychocandy' is a raw and intuitive album, but it has aged surprisingly well and is still influencing bands to this day.






Right, that's our countdown of 1985 in 20 albums. We hope you enjoyed it and we're sure you have your own picks to add to the list. If you want to make your voice heard leave a comment on this post on out Facebook page. We'll be back with another countdown soon, next time fast-forwarding to 1995 when alternative rock had the MTV generation by the balls.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Review: Victor Love – 'Neo Tokyo Underground'



VICTOR LOVE
'Neo Tokyo Underground'
SELF-RELEASED


It's pretty safe to say at this juncture that Victor Love doesn't give a fuck about what he's expected to do or how he should do business. The man behind cyberpunks Dope Stars Inc. has been happily pirating his own band's music for years and giving the music business the middle finger while he is doing it. Now his new solo musical project sees him throw away the conventions of his band in favour of a more minimalistic approach. And with one EP already released in the form of 'The Network' it looks like it will pay off for him.

To capitalise on the release of his début solo EP, the Italian multi-instrumentalist and producer has unleashed another solo release in the form of the club single 'Neo Tokyo Underground'. The instrumental anthem blends techno, ebm, electro-industrial and distorted dance beats to create a compellingly grooving track that is pure dance-floor gold. In it's scathing synths, groovy bassline and simple beat it evokes the atmosphere of the kind of apocalyptic rave you'd expect the clubs in the world of Akira, Ghost In the Shell, and The Sprawl Trilogy to be spinning.

As with the EP before it, the track is more straightforward in it's approach than long-time fans of Love will be used to with his more guitar driven main project. However it is just a strong as anything else in his back catalogue and produced and mixed to the same high degree you'd expect from him.

This is another great offering from Victor Love and one that once again cries out for him to explore this direction on a full-length album sooner rather than later. Hopefully with another Dope Stars Inc. release scheduled for this year he will be able to balance the two projects and continue to deliver on both.  

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Review: XSRY – 'Dream Vehicles'



XSRY
'Dream Vehicles'
CRL STUDIOS


Hailing from Canada, this electronic project has been releasing EPs since 2006 before finding a home on the CRL studios roster. The project headed by Aldo Ferrusi and blends electronic, industrial, ambient and metal elements together to create rich atmospheric music that walks the line between sci-fi soundscapes and dance-floor assaults. The band's full-length début on CRL Studios, 'Dream Vehicles' is a rough but promising collection that draws on influences such as MDFMK, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, and even Pink Floyd.

The album kicks off with the darkly demented ambience of 'Stained With A Colour And Marked By A Number' which brings those 80s sci-fi tones to the fore right away. The album then plunges headlong into a slew of up tempos old school techno influenced ebm that is often relatively simple in construction, but nonetheless effective. Tracks such as 'The Black Hole', 'Morpheus Rising', 'The Witching Hour', and 'Eye' show off the best of the band's club potential. While the ambience of 'The Mysterious Stranger' and 'Turn A Stone' show the true depths of the ambition for the project.

The album has a pretty rough around he edges construction that isn't that particularly detracts from the song writing, but in more than a few places it does make it sound rushed and a little incomplete. Which is a shame as there is a hell of a lot of potential in the tracks here. On the upside though, with the minimalistic style of construction of the tracks there is no danger of the mix becoming over saturated, and as such it does convey the feeling that the band would be able to replicate this easily on stage.

'Dream Vehicles' has a lot of promise, even if the execution is a little off. There are some great club tracks here that are quite memorable, as well as some luscious ambient interludes that show a real skill behind the project. However there is work needed to really up their game and live up to their potential. Hopefully full-length album number two will smooth out those rough edges and give the music the polish it deserves.  

Review: Cocksure – 'Corporate_Sting'



COCKSURE
'Corporate_Sting'
METROPOLIS RECORDS


One year on from their full-length début album, the duo of Chris Connelly and Jason Novak return with their sophomore outing under the Cocksure moniker. The band's second album 'Corporate_Sting' sees the duo continue the big beat orientated industrial mayhem of their début across ten brand new tracks that evoke they 90s heyday of the Wax Trax! sound. Hard gritty beats, throbbing bass, heavily distorted vocals, and an anything goes attitude come together to blend old school sounds with modern execution. And once again it just works so damn well. There's certainly nothing corporate about this album, but there is plenty of sting to it.

Kicking off with the addictive stomp of 'Porno Drones' the album is a continuous assault of old school flavoured dance anthems that drip with seedy electronics, filthy bass, and infectious rhythms throughout. Tracks such as 'Severance Package', 'O.C.D. Got Game!', 'Cold Dick', 'Razor Invader', and 'Hi Talez' provide the duo with their strongest cuts, but everything on here is so well-formed and confidently executed, any song could be a potential future classic.

The album still walks that fine line between old school grit and modern polish, perhaps with a more focussed execution than its predecessor. It still sounds wonderfully heavy and belligerent, but the mix isn't over-saturated with distortion and doesn't try to out and out replicate the production of the classic albums. Just like 'TVMALSV' before it, it has the vibe, but still sounds refreshingly up to date.

'Corporate_Sting' is another great release from Cocksure, and fans of both old school acts as well as modern bands such as 3Teeth, Project F, Öhm, and Youth Code will definitely find plenty to enjoy here. Connelly and Novak's musical partnership is fast producing some of the strongest and most memorable material of their respective careers, and long may it continue.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Book Review: Lewis Carroll – 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland: 150th Anniversary Edition'


LEWIS CARROLL
'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland: 150th Anniversary Edition'
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson better known to the world by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll has by way of his most famous creation 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland' enchanted and subverted generations for 150 years with his psychedelic fantasy of anthropomorphic animals literary nonsense. It is no surprise that Princeton University Press have decided to publish a new edition that not only presents the classic text, but also forgoes the original illustrations by John Tenniel that accompany most print runs in favour of the rarer, and arguably stimulating artwork from Salvador Dali.

The new edition begins with an insightful forward by Mark Burstein president emeritus of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, who dissects the impact and influence of the book, as well as analyses its surrealist credentials which ties the Victorian fairy story with the subversive post-Dada art movement of which Dali is the most renowned member. Burstein goes on to look at Dali's own links to the classic book by way of his collaboration with Disney and the recurring motifs of his own work.

This is followed by further elaboration on the genius and eccentricity of Dali by Thomas Banchoff, professor emeritus of mathematics at Brown University. Banchoff looks deeper into the process of Dali's work and in particular his use of mathematics in his iconic works, as well as detailing his own meetings with the artist which provides an intriguing insight into the enigmatic figure.

For those who have never read the book, the story follows the character of Alice, a seven-year-old girl who follows a white rabbit (who is curiously wearing a waistcoat) down a rabbit hole and is transported to the bizarre world of Wonderland. In Wonderland she encounters the strange and half-mad inhabitants that populate it and attempts to keep hold of her own sanity as logic becomes more relative in comparison to the regimented world of Victorian values from which she has come. It encompasses themes of childhood rebellion through imagination, as well as playing with the ideas of logic, proportion, time, and the blurring of reality and dreams... as well as some of the best wordplay in the English language.

The book presents the original text in an unabridged format and preserves the original formatting for a faithful reproduction throughout. This coupled with the juxtaposition of the vivid watercolour prints by Dali combine to add a a far more abstract leap of the imagination that serves to show how a children's story has gone on to influence adult artists, musicians and film-makers such as Salvador Dali, Marilyn Manson and Tim Burton.

The real beauty of this edition is that it makes the Dali illustrations affordable as they had only been published by Random House in a rather expensive manner once in 1969, putting them out of reach of most Alice/Dali fans. Even if you own one of the recent hardback reprints of the book with the original Tenniel illustrations, this is still a must have for its sheer beauty and intelligent insight into both the life and works of Dodgson and Dali. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Review: Cloud Rat – 'Qliphoth'



CLOUD RAT
'Qliphoth'
MULTIPLE LABELS


Cloud Rat are not your typical grindcore band who serve up copycat blasts of angst that refer only to Napalm Death, Brutal Truth and Carcass for inspiration. Yes the band can blast through the album's seventeen tracks in under half an hour. And yes the majority of the album still barely sees the individual tracks break the two-minute mark. But scratch below the surface and you get a lot more than you'd expect.

The band's sonic formula is heavily informed by classic grindcore, and vocalist Madison Marshall's throat-shredding screams dominate each track. But the band make interesting use of tempo shifts, bringing the songs back into doom influenced waters, as well as adding elements of black metal, classic rock, drone rock, and post-rock into the mix to create a surprisingly diverse palette. This is perhaps best exemplified by songs such as 'Raccoon', 'Udder Dust', 'The Killing Horizon', 'Hermit Interstice', 'Thin Veil', 'Bolt Gun', 'Friend Of The Court', and 'Chrysalis' which toy with the listener's expectations expertly.

The production is pretty simple and straight-forward. The sound is pretty much what you'd expect the band to sound like live, albeit with a little studio spit and polish for good measure. But on the whole it is a clean, crisp and no-nonsense production style that lets the band's performance do the work.

Cloud Rat definitley have something to them. Yes the majority of the album will be familiar territory for anyone that has heard more than half-a-dozen grindcore records in their life. But the more esoteric elements the band brings to the album definitely serves to set them apart somewhat. Though it would be nice to really hear them experiment with these further on future albums, rather than rely purely on the tried and tested to give a more satisfying backbone to the album.  

Review: Lychgate – 'An Antidote For The Glass Pill'



LYCHGATE
'An Antidote For The Glass Pill'
BLOOD MUSIC


Having only officially come into life in 2012, Lychgate are fast making a name for themselves as one of the most cerebral bands to emerge from the avant garde arm of the extreme metal scene. The band – which features a host of well-travelled veterans from acts such as Esoteric, The One, Macabre Omen, Luna Aurora, and Omega Centauri – distil a diverse range of styles and influences into a richly layered assault of decadence and malevolence. Melodic elements reminiscent of the likes of Dissection intersperse a primarily gothic-tinged black metal framework that draws on the likes of Emperor and Abigor while the dense dark atmosphere of funeral doom acts like Esoteric create a thick shroud around it.

The album ties each track together with the grandiose use of the pipe organ. Now this is something that can set alarm bells off due to the fact that there have been many acts that have used it poorly and relegated it to the cheesy gothic end of the spectrum. However, in the hands of Lychgate it takes on its full glory and is a perfect addition to the band's rich sound.

Songs such as 'Davamesque B2', 'I Am Contempt', 'Letter XIX', 'An Acousmatic Guardian', and 'My Fate To Burn Forever' show of the band's full glory as the avant garde song structures unveil blistering black metal, demonic vocals, and sumptuous melodies all in the same breath. The song writing is complex and intelligent, and the execution of each song is carried off with ease and grace.
In terms of the production, it is true that the album is dense, multi-layered, and full of little flourishes and embellishments. And while in the hands of less experienced musicians, the album would run the risk of sounding like a thick slab, Lychgate have instead kept the sense of space and distance between all the elements in the mix that are required to give it that cathedral like presence.

'An Antidote For The Glass Pill' is quite simply a must-have album for anyone that is a fan of acts such as Emperor, Ihsahn, Dimmu Borgir, Arcturus, and Esoteric, as well as anyone with a leaning towards avant garde metal. The album is a wonderfully thick and atmospheric, while at the same time unrelentingly brutal. Lychgate are definitely a name to watch if they can keep on creating masterpieces like this.  

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Introducing... Akathartos


“Love it or hate it, thanks to everyone spending a few moments of your lives listening through my first culmination of blood, sweat and tears.”

Name of band: Akathartos
Members: Samuli Reivilä
Year formed: First tried something many years ago, now "for real" since 2013.
Location: Tuusula, Finland


Akathartos is one man music project from Finland. Akathartos' Orchestral Electro-industrial music is influenced by Hans Zimmer, Suicide Commando, Wumpscut, Hocico and many other orchestral, metal and industrial ensembles.


Intravenous Magazine: Who are you and how did the band/project come to be formed?
Akathartos was formed as a way to channel composer’s anxiety through music and as a platform for creating something unique by harnessing all these dark energies obsessing human mind.


IVM: How would you describe your sound/style, and how did you arrive at it?

Orchestral Electro-industrial is used to describe the composition style. This is the result of combining the two of my most favourite music genres: epic orchestral music and electro-industrial. Metal is currently left out of the equation but we'll see what the future holds.


IVM:  Who and what are your primary influences both musical and non-musical?

Music is influenced by Hans Zimmer, Suicide Commando, Wumpscut, Hocico and many other orchestral, metal and industrial ensembles.


IVM: Do you perform live and if so where can we see you perform in the near future?

Currently no live performances are planned but some day I would like to see real live orchestral performance combined with electro-industrial backgrounds.


IVM: What is your current release and where is it available from?

New independent full length album called First Nightmare is now available at Bandcamp at https://akathartos.bandcamp.com


IVM: What have been the highlights of your career so far?

Everything had to be learned from scratch including composing and playing instruments so current highlight is finally getting further by releasing the first album.

IVM: What are your plans for the future?

Currently any feedback is appreciated because I would like to know if anyone else can enjoy this darkness disguised as music or is it doomed to forever stay in oblivion. Despite the results new material will follow because these nightmare flames are destined to burn for all eternity.


IVM: Finally, is there anything that you would like to add?

Love it or hate it, thanks to everyone spending a few moments of your lives listening through my first culmination of blood, sweat and tears.




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