David Bowie

Obituary: David Bowie 1947 – 2016

“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I've got left?” – David Bowie

David Bowie Blackstar Album Review

Review: David Bowie – 'Blackstar'


Critics Choice best of 2015

Critics Choice: Sean's Top Albums Of 2015

It's time once again to look back at the releases of the previous year and try to decide what were the best releases.


Obituary: Lemmy Kilmister 1945 – 2015

“Death is an inevitability, isn’t it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don’t worry about it. I’m ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn’t complain. It’s been good.” – Lemmy Kilmister

Blood Pack Vol. 3 Released - Free!

Intravenous Magazine 'Blood Pack Vol. 3' Released

The big day is finally here! Our third birthday as a webzine and our third free download compilation is now available from our bandcamp page.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Review: Z'ev – 'Eleven Mirrors To The Light'

'Eleven Mirrors To The Light'

Z'ev is an artist with an imposing discography. A long-standing and dense collection of tribal, industrial, and experimental works that seem dense and endless. But for those daring to step into them they are ultimately rewarding. Z'ev has long been considered an pioneering artist, whether through his music or his other works, he paved the way for the likes of Test Department, Einstürzende Neubauten and many other rhythmic acts over the past 30+ years.

'Eleven Mirrors To The Light' completes a trilogy of albums that began with 2009's 'Sum Things' and projects perhaps one of the most obscure sound pallet in the artists history. Long and winding metallic drones permeate the hearts of the tracks walking a fine line between ambient and noise. Metal on metal, mechanical and organic at the same time as if it is a recording of some cyclopean biomechanical city echoing in the dark corners of the cosmos.

Tracks such as 'Aina', 'Eadrom', 'Speil', 'Mirall', 'Golau', and 'Kathreftis' provide the album with its most enthralling points but the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. And when listened to in the context of the preceding albums in the trilogy it feels like a grand exclamation closing a long and arduous journey.

With its focus on textural sounds and the interplay of harsh noise and hypnotic ambiance you'd think the production would be an afterthought. But it isn't. It has a crisp, modern sound to it that pulls even the deepest sounds out from the midst of the cacophonous mix.

'Eleven Mirrors To The Light' is not easy listening in the least. Rather it challenges you to listen deep and find the beauty in the din. And it is there. There is a definite hypnotic and meditative quality to the album, but nonetheless one that encourages an active listening process. It's not one for everyone but long-time fans of experimental music and Z'ev will find this captivating.  

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Review: Clara Engel - 'Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss'

'Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss'


Pulling together contributions from fourteen collaborators, this record manages to become a fully formed organic entity, the third mind in action. There is no info on whether the contributors recorded their part in person or if they sent their tracks in via the inter-tubes, but from the first second the ambiance gives a vivid impression of the sounds having been captured in a bare room in an old house. The way this creates a space in which the listener hovers like a ghost is quite extraordinary.

Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss starts ravelling its threads from the first second of 'Swans', a sound poem of slow motion disaster enveloping like an inescapable dream. The beauty of the experience only serves to make the horror all the more poignant and profound. "Uneasy spirit let go of me" Clara Engel sings on 'Uneasy Spirit', but its grip is tight and cold, even as the sound is as hot as the breath of the hell-hound on our trail. The arrangement is deceptive in how it leaves so much space. Two guitarists, backing vocals, percussion and ambient sounds are layered the way a master painter will layer dozens of layers og glazes to create graceful and flowing image. On 'Swallow Me' Clara Engel's vocals hover above the martial pulse and portentous drone like an angel intoning promises that come across equally as threats as assurances. Salvation or perdition, what is held out to us, and which brings the greatest ecstasy? We don't know. The symphonic swell of violin, flute, saxophone, marimbas and vibes that build to the end impel the listener onward like fate.

Life on earth is a temporary, miraculous impossibility. Even the presence of life itself is a blip in the forward motion of space-time. 'I Love An Evil Queen' encapsulates the human condition using the  light of this thought in projected shadow puppet forms of handed down folklore. Our existing is impossible, humans plan and god laughs. In the wreckage even a malevolent monarch is loved. Herein is the promise of redemption that is eternal and wield a might even the expansion of the universe can not match nor outlast. Owls symbolize mortality in many cultures, and the sound of an owl is said to warn of imminent death or to bring messages from the realm of death. We feel this keenly from 'Once A White Owl'. The ghostly bird flies in and opens up the mind's eye to revelation. This is the last step in this world and the first step into initiation. Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss comes to an unsettling, eerie conclusion here, the following silence heavy with its echoes.

The space inhabited by this album acts as a power centre of intersecting ley-lines of disembodied stories that whisper into the ear of the listener. The characters weave through the shadows of the space, desiring to be heard. Also intersecting here in this quiet space are the traditions born in the Mississippi Delta and the Ozark mountains, feeding a powerful, slow burning creation. It is within the economy with which every aspect is built that repeated listens reveal the treasures the contained in the songs. Listening feels deeply personal while also gorgeously apocalyptic.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Review: Negative_Crush – 'Invisible_Weapons'


Tyler Newman is perhaps better known for his work with Battery Cage and Informatik which released albums on Metropolis Records. The producer and musician's new vehicle Negative_Crush sees him return after four years in the studio, on his own with a doom, shoegaze, and post-metal infused industrial rock sound reminiscent of acts such as Jesu, Nine inch Nails, and My Bloody Valentine. It's bleak, low-fi and gritty. It's also very catchy.

Scathing guitars, spiky drums, anguished vocals and machine noise come together in an effortless way to convey an emotional roller-coaster of angst and despair conveyed in the lyrics. However its also very catchy and accessible for fans of intelligent industrial rock.

Songs such as 'Your Punishment Begins At Home', 'Monokrom', 'Your Secret Is Safe With Me', 'Disappear Here' and 'Burning Red Sun' provide a back bone of solid riffs, entrancing synths and a steady dance/head-bang friendly pace that is utterly infectious. While the likes of 'Twilight Hospitals', 'The Ghost Of Myself', and 'Too Many Of Us Are Dying' take things in a slightly more avant garde direction playing with the song structures, and in the case of 'Too Many Of Us Are Dying', introducing acoustic elements.

In terms of production it has a noticeably low-fi and experimental edge to it. Its rough, ready and uncompromising and on the whole this works really well without the album losing much in the way of overall sound quality. There are a few instances of the vocals getting lost in the mix which can hit the ear wrong against the rest of the track, but even this imperfection still works within the whole.

'Invisible_Weapons' is a promising first step from a very interesting new project. The music in terms of its components may feel familiar to fans of genres such as post metal, noise rock, shoegaze and industrial rock in particular, but Newman has put them together in his own way, and the result is something truly inspired. Hopefully Newman will have more Negative_Crush in the pipeline to build on this release.  

Editorial: February, 2016

The period from 28
th December 2015 until... well... now... will surely be one that lives in infamy for years to come. Never before has it seemed that so many great talents shuffled off this mortal coil in such a small space of time.

In just a few weeks the world lost great musicians in the form of Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, Dan Hicks, Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Signe Tole Anderson, Colin Vearncombe, Jimmy Bain, Glenn Frey, Dale Griffen and Pierre Boulez. We also lost actors and writers including Alan Rickman, Margaret Forster, Joe Alaskey, Frank Finlay, Abe Vigoda, … even veteran Irish broadcaster Terry Wogan is no longer with us.

The death of a well-loved public figure always sees an outpouring of grief from their fans. Someone who has created a body of work that speaks to us on an internal level and helps us to come to terms with the human condition is essentially the cultural mirror in which we view ourselves. Whether it is the cultural progression of David Bowie, the innovative acting of Alan Rickman, or the wry humour of Terry Wogan they inspire us, comfort us and most of all entertain us.

Over the past month we have primarily saluted the legacies of Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie, primarily due to their sizeable influences on rock, punk, heavy metal, goth, and industrial. Lemmy with his uncompromising realism. And Bowie with his artistic otherworldliness. Both were very different men, but both have left massive holes in the world.

But that's not to say the others mentioned above will not leave holes. The late Terry Wogan will forever be intertwined with his dry and sarcastic commentary for the Eurovision Song Contest as well as his long stints on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show. Paul Katner's psychedelic Jefferson Airplane became one of the defining acts of the psychedelic era whose influence can be felt in acid house, indie, and heavy metal. Even Maurice White of Earth, Wind, And Fire may not be the usual name that appears on this site but as an innovator of funk and disco and the influence those genres have exerted on popular music his talent is nonetheless to be missed.

On the flip side there is also a culture now of, like everything else in life, publicly bemoaning other people's displays of grief when a well-loved celebrity dies. Some people may not feel the same way about your idols as you do, and that's fine. But let's respect other people's feelings and not engage in the public sniping and back handedness that seems to be growing on social media.

Telling people on the internet to respect each other? I may be a dreamer...

In more positive news though, our free download compilation is just waiting for you to head over to our bandcamp pageand get your free copy. Once you've done that, why not then send the link to a friend? Play the tracks loud and proud and support the artists who kindly offered their hard work up to us.


And if you haven't already got them, there is also 'Blood Pack Vol. 1' and 'Blood Pack Vol. 2' still available to download for free! That's a total of 56 free songs + three PDF booklets with information on each artist!

And finally, make sure you have these links in your favourites:

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Review: Hijokaidan – 'Emergency Stairway To Heaven'

'Emergency Stairway To Heaven'

Since 1979 the Japanese noise rock outfit Hijokaidan have been prolifically spreading their brand of free improvised and often cacophonous brand. Rooted in performance art and punk rock the band's sound is anarchic in its flagrant disregard for conventional song structures. But it is remarkably hypnotic.

'Emergency Stairway To Heaven', released on Cold Spring records, is a four-part improvised piece that is almost jazz-like in its expressiveness but with copious amounts of screeching distorted guitars to send shivers down your spine. Each part runs to roughly five to ten minutes in length and plays about with lead instruments and styles as it goes along – part one for example is an in-in-your-face jazz infused freakout, Part two recalls the more experimental end of Bauhaus in its minimalism, Part three is an anarchic feedback saturated breakdown, and part four is an all out noise assault.

The EP also includes two live tracks recorded in 2014 which cover two full live sets of improvised madness the first of which is a far more rock centred affair, while the second focusses more on dirty electronics.

The album will not be for everyone. Even those who appreciate noise music will be able to take their pick of which tracks they can comfortable cope with. But noise music isn't about comfort. Its about uncompromising self expression and Hijokaidan have nearly thirty years of that under their belt. The album is an acquired taste, but it is nonetheless an pure expression of madcap improvisation and reaction that takes serious skill to pull off with any effect.  

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Review: Der Noir – 'A Certain Idea Of Love'

'A Certain Idea Of Love'

The italiabn trio known as Der Noir are one of those delightfully unusual bands. their latest offering 'A Certain Idea Of Love' is a curve-ball of an EP that sees the band create an experimental infused collection of cold wave instrumentals that is just rather cool. Spiky guitars, throbbing mechanical beats, icy cold synths, and cavernous atmospheres come together to create some contemplative listening.

'An Idea Of Love' opens with a steady martial beat dominating the track while the post-punk guitars and cool synth embellishments give it wonderfully dreamy edge that pulls you in. 'Cold Kiss' sees Simona Ferrucci of Winter Severity index contribute abstract vocals and guitars to a bend of spacy synths and minimal beats to create a modern take on psychedelic krautrock.

'Antarctica' is a luscious centrepiece of minimalistic beats and swirling synths that recalls Jean Michel Jarre, Philip Glass and Vangelis in its construction. 'Albatros' follows on with a more industrial leaning sound that breaks out more distorted sounds and yet retains a psychedelic ambiance as well. The final track 'Blue' swerves into Enigma territory with its echoing choral vocals, watery synths and early 90s beats.

The EP has a nice minimal sound with all the elements sounding clean and distinct from each other, which gives the songs a greater illusion of space. There are a few sounds used that sound a little outdated by modern electronic standards, and it is fairly standard cold wave in some parts but it is still an interesting exercise.

'A Certain Idea Of Love' may not reinvent the wheel, but it is a solid enough EP from a very cool band that attempts to move out of their comfort zone. It may not quite succeed, but where they do get it right, it makes for a very enjoyable experience.  


Well, fuck you very much 2016. We hardly need to go into the devastating losses of creative forces we have seen so far this year, and especially of those key cultural presences that we thought would always be with us – and two in particular. So rather than choose which is more worthy of tribute first, I intend to deal with them in chronological order.

The death of Ian 'Lemmy' Kilminster is a massive loss for the entirety of rock and roll; but it also contains a strange kind of triumph. It seems almost bizarre that we are somehow surprised that this 70-year old man who had lived one of the longest and most prolonged periods of excess in modern history would eventually pass on; his declining health had been signposted for a long time and the smart money was on Motorhead's January UK tour being his last, but nobody appeared to have been prepared for the inevitable. Lemmy had been a constant presence for over 30 years and he had become a key pillar for alternative culture. Yet there is still something vividly relevant about his legacy, which if anything has become even clearer with his death. So, what can we learn from Lemmy?

The first thing I would suggest is that he represented a real link with a counter culture that is in real danger of vanishing entirely. From his roots in the hippy subculture of squats, collectives and lock-ins that Hawkwind represented to the greasy spoons and punks of Ladbroke Grove, to the bikers and rockers and goths and crusties and hitch-hikers, of every service station, free festival, alternative nightclub, and live music venue – this was the world that Motorhead came from. Whilst we may have become used to Lemmy as a kind of mainstream media darling he was still liable to do all sorts of strange left-field things, such as his role as assistant spy Spider in the anti-Thatcher cult movie 'Eat The Rich'. Traces of that world are virtually extinct now – so what are we doing to continue such a universal renegade, alternative ideal?

The second observation I would make is the musical contribution that Motorhead made; a stripped-down, primal aggression that reduced rock to it's core elements and removed all traces of ideology. The basic neutrality of their philosophical approach was on occasions ('Orgasmatron', '1916', 'Voices in the Sky') actually quite profound: anti-religion, anti-war, anti-politics, anti-government, anti-authority. Musically and conceptually they maintained a kind of integrity and purity that most bands have either lost or never had.

Thirdly, his doctrine of liberalism and libertarianism was essentially empowering and based on consent. Personal responsibility was key – if you didn't hurt anyone else and were ready to take responsibility for your own actions then you could (and should) do what you want. Ready to condemn racism, violence and heroin, everything else was fair game. Lemmy's legendary personal excess was a logical expression of this, and although it may have ultimately knocked years off his life who can say it wasn't worth it?

So for a life lived with clarity, passion and a creditable lack of sentimentality, as well as a musical approach which was uncompromising and seminal, Lemmy can give us a few indicators of where to go next. But even more vital for us all is to try to rediscover and rekindle that unique British counter culture and spirit of rebellion that we are in danger of losing altogether. So play 'Overkill' loud, get some drinks in, and try and find it again.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Critic's Choice 2015: Joel Top 5 of 2015

Intravenous Magazine contributing columnist Joel Heyes gives us his top five releases of the previous year.

1) Ghost – 'Meloria'

In years to come this album will be considered the moment when all the notions of Ghost being a 'novelty' act with a Satanic 'gimmick' were laid to waste. Following on from two albums which built both a remarkable catalogue of killer tracks but also a meticulously maintained image and schtick, 'Meliora' delivers an almost spiritual substance to back up Ghost's burgeoning reputation. The stand-out tracks here – 'Spirit', 'Cirice', 'Deus in Absentia' and the superlative Satanic AOR anthem 'He Is' – were the best tracks released in 2015 by far. The attention to detail and craftsmanship on display here both in terms of song writing and concept is staggering. This is the bar, and Ghost have just raised it.

2) Killing Joke – 'Pylon'

Something very strange has happened to the Joke these past several years, in that they have managed to do something relatively incredible – the reformed original line-up has been able to actually build upon enhance their considerable legacy. 'Pylon' manages to break a few records for the band, not only as it gave them their highest chart placing in decades but it is also the first time they have had a stable line-up for three albums since 1986. Strange then that one of the most notoriously unstable bands of the post-punk era has now settled into a formidable, brutal relevance. 'Pylon' shows the band remain at the cutting edge and are actually enhancing their reputation for a whole new generation of fans.

3) Zeitgeist Zero – 'Ghosts of Victory'

Always fiercely uncompromising and armed with a crystal clear vision of their sound and concept, Leeds' goth vanguard Zeitgeist Zero surpass themselves here with a perfect, modern classic. Mining a deep vein of personal turmoil and coming up with a brilliantly written and exquisitely packaged album, the guys and girls of Z0 have maintained one of the best quality control operations in UK goth with their most definitive statement yet. Some bands just know what their doing, and Zeitgeist Zero are on of those bands.

4) Lucifer – 'Lucifer I'

It's very rare that a band appears more or less fully formed, with an almost immaculately groomed sound and image, but Lucifer did just that. Formed from bands of such pedigree as Cathedral and The Oath, Lucifer spin an almost dreamlike spell of melodic doom rock here on their eponymous début, with Johanna Sedonis' vocal depth and song writing chops on prominent display. The album also promises just slightly more than it delivers, leaving the listener willing to follow the band down their psychedelic rabbit hole. Hopefully the best is yet to come!

5) With the Dead – 'With the Dead'

In terms of sheer throwaway brutality, this collision of former Cathedral singer Lee Dorrian and former Electric Wizard unit Mark Greening and Tim Bagshaw cannot be beaten. Put together under strangely furtive circumstances, With The Dead came up with a seminal slice of doom riffola on their eponymous début which will rank amongst the greats of the genre. The question inevitably was whether the band would be a one-off supergroup curio or whether it could become a going concern? Well, with the line-up already fracturing and transmogrifying into a live band it appears that all bets are off.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Interview: Neurotech

Built to last...

Well I am schizophrenic when it comes to music and I get bored really easily when it comes to doing and repeating only one thing. When I've spent a lot of time on particular style of music it's natural for me to move on and explore new territories.“

Slovenia's Neurotech, AKA multi-instrumentalist and composer Wulf, is a music connoisseurs dream. Since the release of 2008's 'Transhuman' EP, Neurotech's brand of cybermetal has grown to a dizzyingly high standard. A standard that puts a fair few major label industrial metal bands quite frankly for shame. In addition to this, Neurotech has expanded into cinematinc intrumentals that can only be described as soundtracks to sci-fi epics that haven't been filed yet. Perhaps the best summing up of these two sides to the project can be summed up in last years releases 'Stigma' and 'Evasive – both of which Wulf has released for free (as he has done with all of his material).
Intravenous Magazine caught up with Wulf to discuss the evolution of Neurotech's sound, why he opts for the free music model, and his process as a songwriter.

Intravenous Magazine: First of all, for those unfamiliar with Neurotech can you explain the origins of the band and how you got started as a musician? 

Wulf: I started with Neurotech in 2007 with an intention to write music by myself. I was a drummer in metal bands for many years prior to Neurotech and wanted to do more electronicly driven music. So having bands and after years of experimenting of making mainly trance music in a cracked version of Fl Studio, I said to myself in 2007 to focus on only one thing and do it solely by myself.

IVM: You've recently released two very strong albums – the industrial metal 'Stigma' and the cinematic ambient 'Evasiv
e'. How has the reaction been to the albums so far? 

Mainly positive. Both albums are not for everyone, but for those who like this kind of mix loved it.

IVM: Why did you choose to release two very different albums in such quick succession?

Well I didn't consciously choose that, it all sort of happened. Stigma was written fairly quickly, I'm getting better at keeping my conscious mind away from writing and let my inner auto-pilot steer the boat. So I knew what it was supposed to be and I finished it without too much second-guessing. 'Evasive' was a whole other deal. I was writting down-tempo instrumentals pretty much from the start of Neurotech's career. By the start of 2015 I had over 30 songs which I thought I will use for my instrumental album. But after Stigma, I didn't use any of those songs. I opened up a blank canvas and was inspired and I had a vision for an album for more many years of what I wanted to hear. And because it is quite different from Stigma, it was fresh and new so the momentum kept rolling.

IVM: What were your motivations and inspirations when approaching both albums?

The same with all my previous albums - a desire to create, experiment, trying something new. Essentialy doing an album that I personally would want to hear in that particular moment in time.

IVM: You also released the epic 'The Ophidian Symphony' at Christmas. Again what inspired this piece and how has it been received so far?

As much as I love doing standard pop structure type songs, I also like doing long instrumental pieces which incorporates lots of different styles. The concept behind symphonies is that they are a mash up of orchestral, electronic & metal music and are quite long journeys which start at one place and end in another. Reception was also positive, it has become some sort of a Neurotech's Christmas tradition to end the year with something more challenging to listen to.

IVM: Considering the fact that Neurotech has so many distinctive elements to it, how would you define it as a project?

Well I am schizophrenic when it comes to music and I get bored really easily when it comes to doing and repeating only one thing. When I've spent a lot of time on particular style of music it's natural for me to move on and explore new territories. Neurotech is a vocation of my musical personality which is broad and I like to keep it diverse and interesting.

IVM: As a solo artist/composer how do you typically approach creating a song?

I do lots of demos and lots of sketches which are written fairly quickly. Mainly with synths & drums & then I add a vocal melody mumbling some gibberish into the mic to get an idea of the whole song. For an album I write around 20 - 25 songs and then narrow the selection down to around 10 songs and then spend a lifetime on them and refine & polish them until they are done. Basically what my process is like is that I write lots of material and when I've an idea of what is the main red line between some songs, I choose those who represent that era the best and I threw away the rest. It's like a sonic diary which represents the best bits of what I create at a certain time.

IVM: You've made all of your releases so far free to download through your Bandcamp. Why have you chosen this model and how has this worked for you in the the current music market?

Well it all started with the notion that I am only one guy, from the middle of nowhere, which is Slovenia, with no backing from any label or agency, the only way was to put my music out there for free and that made it easier for people to discover it and give it a shot at hearing it. And year by year, album after album, financing everything from my own pocket, a certain following started to emerge. The whole idea of name-your-price method is based on my personal experience - yes I also sometimes ilegally download albums if I don't know an artist or whatever, but if I like what I hear, I'll buy it. So I brought this whole mindset in my musical career as well. It has been doing okay for the last couple of years, now when everything is also on Spotify and Youtube and so on, the decline shows. I'm giving it another year to see if this is still a viable option, otherwise I'll change it to something else.

IVM: Would you consider signing to a label in the future?

Never say never, but in the internet era, where everything is digital - it's pointless in my opinion. Small labels can't do much more than I can do by myself at the moment, and big labels are now more or less just an extension of booking & publishing agencies and PR firms which are still much needed for the big artists who do lots of touring & press have a considerable amount of radio airplay. For small artists, we have our own distribution platforms which are rock solid and we can manage them ourselves.

IVM: As a solo artist in the studio how easy is it for you to transpose Neurotech onto the stage?

I've done the whole band thing with hired musicians and it does not work. Sonically it doesn't sound good to me. My albums are not played by people, they're constructed in the computer, bit by bit, where everything is layered and polished and heavily electronic, so I guess I'll have to find a way how to translate that into a electronic one-man show someday. But I'm still putting the whole live thing on hold for now.

IVM: Can we expect to see any live dates in the future?

No plans at the moment.

IVM: Your first album is eight years old now. Looking back at 'Transhuman' is there anything that you would have done differently?

I would leave it exactly as it is. The production is not good, but the songs are still okay to me. In a way its a statement that you have to start somewhere and keep evolving and improving yourself. When I listen to Transhuman now I cringe at certain moments but in a way I am still proud of it. I gave it my best shot in that particular time, with the limited knowledge of production / songwriting and general lack of experiences.

IVM: With two full length albums and a symphony under your belt last year, what does 2016 hold for Neurotech?

I am currently writing a new album which will be released in parts, the way I did with 'The Decipher Volumes'. Other than that, I like to keep my options open to any cool projects that may come along.

IVM: Is there anything else that you'd like to add?

Thanks for the interview & a big shout to all my fans!

Neurotech's latest albums 'Stigma' and 'Evasive' as well as 'The Ophidian Symphony' are available to download for free from the Neurotech Bandcamp page. For more information on the band including new release information, please visit the Neurotech Facebook page.

Friday, 29 January 2016

David Bowie in the 90s: A Cyberspace Oddity

"I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring." - David Bowie, 1997
After the shocking passing of perhaps one of the greatest contributors to the zeitgeist of every decade since the 1960s, the mainstream music media has been flooded with career retrospectives of the late David Bowie. One area that is universally brushed over is his work in the 90s which is generally lumped in with the artistic plateau of the mid 1980s. And I think it is time for a re-evaluation of the output during this time.

The 1980s saw a high-watermark for Bowie in terms of popularity, however there were only really two albums in this period that screamed of any flair and originality; 1980's 'Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)' and 1983's 'Let's Dance'. The subsequent albums of this period may have sold well but they were infused with a sense of disinterest from their creator who seemed to be having more fun working on films and their soundtracks than focusing on his main albums.

Fast-forward to 1988 and David Bowie does a complete u-turn by forming a band called Tin Machine. Although this wasn't an unprecedented move in Bowies' career, he had gone on tour as Iggy Pop's keyboard player in the '70s, this was however his first democratic band since the 1960s. The band's eponymous début received mixed but overall positive reviews. But Bowie's low profile in a band that had four equal members, who contributed to the writing and as a result reaped the rewards equally, provided a sticking point for fans of his high profile solo performances. Gone were the theatrics and in its stead was stripped back rock 'n' roll. However this was he first and most necessary step on the road to an artistic rehabilitation.

1. 'Tin Machine II'
In 1990 Bowie's solo career took precedent as he embarked on his only "best of" tour which was dubbed Sound + Vision. This was accompanied by a retrospective box set of the same name and then followed-up with a compilation album 'ChangesBowie' with its new remix of the song 'Fame'. It was apparent Bowie was simply treading water. But in 1991 Tin Machine would return with 'Tin Machine II' giving Bowie his first original studio album of the new decade. It was less successful than it's predecessor but still charted well and showed progression in song writing and style – particularly on the part of guitarist Reeves Gabrels – who would go on to colour a lot of Bowie's output for the rest of the decade.

Reviews of the album were less favourable this time around despite some inspired tracks such as 'Baby Universal', 'If There Was Something' (a Roxy Music cover), 'You Belong To Rock 'n' Roll', and 'Shopping For Girls'. Retrospective reviews have been much kinder to the album and when listened to in isolation from Bowie's solo back catalogue and in conjunction with 'Tin Machine' it is a much stronger album than most gave it credit for at the time.

Gabrels begins to add an industrial edge to his guitars thanks in part to a personal obsession with Nine Inch Nails' 'Pretty Hate Machine'. Bowie's presence isn't diminished and there is a greater sense of fun in his performances. The band as a whole sound more confident in their compositions and performance than on their début.

Sadly, depending on your point of view, the band's second album would be their last. A live album 'Live: Oy Vey Baby' would follow in 1992 but this was universally panned by critics and plans for a second live album were shelved. Yet Tin Machine had achieved its main purpose at least and re-energised Bowie. Going back to his roots had rekindled his inspiration.

2. 'Black Tie White Noise'

Re-energised from his work with Tin Machine and inspired by his recent marriage to supermodel Iman Abdulmajid, 'Black Tie White Noise' showed a level of passion not seen in Bowie's work since 'Let's Dance' ten years prior. This was Bowie looking forward while taking stock of the past. Old school r&b, soul and rock influences shine through, as does the performance of former Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, who would sadly die after the release of this album. The David Bowie pop sound was given a more contemporary twist with electronic and house music influences coming through. And the subject matter given greater significance due to the Rodney King verdict and subsequent LA riots.

As with 'Let's Dance' it was right on the money for its time. Chic guitarist and song writer Nile Rogers was brought on board just as he had been in '83 to give it the sheen it needed. This was Bowie reclaiming the pop mantel of his first undisputed hit album, and as with 'Let's Dance' it sold well even if critics lamented the lack of pure Bowie-esque artistic innovation. But it was a further rehabilitation in the eyes of his long-time fans and even if not as forward thinking as the subsequent output of the decade would be 'Black Tie White Noise' was nonetheless an album that saw Bowie take stock and reflect with.

Songs such as 'Jump They Say', 'Miracle Goodnight', 'Black Tie White Noise', and 'Pallas Athena' were received particularly well. But what would ultimately prevent the album becoming more of a hit was the sudden filing for bankruptcy of the label it was released on. It wouldn't be until the late 90s when it would see a re-release. Also Bowie didn't tour the album so as a result its profile inevitably shrunk.

3. 'The Buddha Of Suburbia'

Not a true Bowie album in the sense of the rest of this list, but worthy of inclusion all the same. 'The Buddha Of Suburbia' was the soundtrack to a four-part television series based on the Hanif Kureishi novel of the same name and initially broadcast on BBC 2 in 1993. Despite the fact the album was conceived as a soundtrack it is more of a conceptual piece due to the fact that only one song was used in the programme. For the actual score of the series Bowie worked on the same motifs but reached different end results in order to musically colour the actual show.

Joined by multi-instrumentalist Erdal Kizilcay. Pianist Mike Garson and even Lenny Kravitz the album is a unique one in Bowie's catalogue and reconnects with his more experimental side incorporating art rock, jazz, electronic and ambient elements throughout. Songs such as 'The Buddha Of Suburbia', 'The Mysteries', 'Bleed Like A Craze, Dad', 'Strangers When We Meet', and 'Untitled No. 1' all hold their own against earlier works.

Had the album not been simply classified as a soundtrack and thus receiving barely any promotion it would undoubtedly have been received as one of Bowie's best albums of the decade. It feels raw, almost unfinished – Bowie wrote and recorded it in less than a week – bristling with a fevered energy and dynamic experimentation that pulls toward a more alternative rock formula. This was Bowie truly cutting himself loose from expectation and the end result is absolutely beautiful.

Again this was an album that was unjustly unavailable for many years with many people thinking the title track, which was released as a single, was the only true version. Thankfully though in 2007 it was re-released with a new cover and has taken its place in the pantheon of Bowie's discography. Although still unjustly written off as a mere soundtrack rather than a complete conceptual work in its own right.

4. '1. Outside'

'Outside', or to give it it's full title '1. Outside: ("The Ritual Art-Murder of Baby Grace Blue: A non-linear Gothic Drama Hyper-Cycle")' saw Bowie reconnect with producer and ex-Roxy Music member Brian Eno. The two last worked together for Bowie's famed “Berlin Trilogy” of albums which comprised of 'Low' (1977), 'Heroes' (1977), and 'Lodger' (1979). The album was a sprawling conceptual piece that was based around a fictional diary story Bowie wrote for Q Magazine in 1994. The story is set in the 21st century and revisits the dystopian themes last aired on 'Diamond Dogs' in 1974. The plot follows detective Nathan Adler as he attempts to solve a murder case bringing him into contact with a cast of strange characters. It is equal parts Blade Runner and Twin Peaks in terms of its concept, and with the improvisational techniques of Eno returning to the process it is easily one of Bowie's most intellectual, experimental and heaviest albums.

The songs veer from electronic, to alternative rock and into full-on industrial. Bowie and his band went into the studio with no demos or ideas and Eno directed the creativity using flash cards and exercises designed to break away from song writing norms much in the same way he did in Berlin. Bowie even revisits the cut up technique he showed the world on Alan Yentob's Cracked Actor documentary in the '70s.

The studio band was joined by former Tin Machine guitarist Reeves Gabrels whose avant garde take on industrial rock contributed a lot to the final sound of the album. Throw in the distinctive piano playing of Mike Garson once again and the album displays some of the most unique leads in his repertoire.

Songs such as 'Hearts Filthy Lesson', 'Strangers When We Meet', and 'Hallo Spaceboy' – the single of which was a remix/duet with The Pet Shop Boys – gained significant airplay on radio and MTV and introduced Bowie's darker and more artistic side to a younger audience already enamoured with grunge and alternative rock. Soundtrack appearances followed in films such as 'Lost Highway', 'Se7en', and 'Starship Troopers'. A now legendary tour with Nine Inch Nails was undertaken and Bowie seemed to be fully and artistically rehabilitated.

Sales were reasonable and reviews generally positive. The sprawling nineteen track long album complete with segues from the different characters made it a little hard to take for fans of his pop era. But there are some real gems here that would go on to give Bowie's live show a riotous update and would lead him to re-imagine early works such as 'Andy Warhol', and 'The Man Who Sold The World' in order for them to sit alongside the new material.

5. 'Earthling'

Bowie had intended '1. Outside' to be followed by two further albums, the second of which had been announced as 'Contamination'. But Bowie quickly moved on to newer ideas and in 1997 would release the tighter and more drum 'n' bass and jungle influenced 'Earthling'. At the same time Bowie turned 50 years old and was working and touring at the rate of a man half his age. His live band included Reeves Gabrels, Mike Garson and new bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and together they were delivering the kind of stand-out performances not seen since the 1970s.

'Earthling' was a far more linear affair that continued Bowie's exploration of electronic music and still effectively tapped into the anxiety of the last years of the Millennium. This was Bowie's first fully self-produced album since 1974's 'Diamond Dogs' and on it he channelled the same intensity as his 1980 album 'Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)'. Recorded all digitally but forsaking the sample based techniques of the usual drum 'n' bass and jungle artists in favour of recording from guitar, drums and saxophone before distorting the sounds in a synthesizer. The result is a brilliant and dynamic exploration of aggressive electronic dance music that would become synonymous with the turn of the century.

Where 'Outside' was an indulgent and experimental album, 'Earthing' was more concise in its approach to song writing. The album hits hard and fast with up-tempo numbers like 'Telling Lies' (the first ever downloadable single to be released), 'Little Wonder', and 'Dead Man Walking', while heavier numbers such as 'I'm Afraid Of Americans' and 'Seven Years In Tibet' kept the rich texturing and connection to the art rock and alternative rock of his previous albums intact. The reviews and sales were once again generally positive and the album charted higher than its predecessor. A long touring and promotional campaign ensued further elevating its presence.

Elaborate videos were shot for the tracks 'Little Wonder', 'Dead Man Walking', 'I'm Afraid Of Americans', and a concert footage video was created for 'Seven Years In Tibet'. Bowie and his band headlined festivals and enjoyed a critically acclaimed world tour as well as a 50th Birthday celebration live at Madison Square Garden in New York which was broadcast on Pay Per View and saw Bowie and co. joined by musicians such as Foo Fighters, Robert Smith and Lou Reed.

While sales were still not topping his platinum years Bowie's profile was as high as it had ever been and the artist was enjoying cross-generational success with his mature and intelligent take on alternative rock and dance music. As a result mainstream media acknowledged this with  a flurry of award nominations.

6. 'Hours...'

After the whirlwind energy of the previous two albums and Bowie's place as a pioneer of the digital age was assured. With two ground-breaking albums as well as the first steps made into the world of digital downloads now behind him, Bowie closed the millennium with a more thoughtful outing. 'Hours...' kept the nods to alternative rock, dance music and electronica from the previous albums but the pace is a much more mellow affair. The cover art of a youthful looking Bowie cradling the exhausted 'Earthling' version of himself gave a clue as to the content within.

'Hours...' is the inevitable come-down after the adrenalin spike of the mid-90s. The thoughtful look back at his life as well as the previous 1000 years that accompanied the countdown to Y2K. The album kept the concise and linear construction of 'Earthling' but dropped the tempo and stripped back the textures for a more contemplative record. The result is comparable to a more polished and considered version of 'The Buddha Of Suburbia' soundtrack. It's art rock meets easy listening. The influences of Moby, Beck, and even Ryuchi Sakamoto in particular feature highly in this album, while Reeves Gabrels tones down the guitar without taking away from his avant garde flair.

The album had its roots in the soundtrack for a video game called Omikron: The Nomad Soul for which Bowie also contributed voice-over parts for a character based on him. This quickly evolved into a full album release. Bowie in the 90s was obsessed with all things digital; 'Black Tie White Noise' had included and interactive CD-rom disc that promised a virtual world to explore (though the final product didn't quite live up to that). He also dabbled digital art and photo manipulation in his own artwork as well as on albums like 'Outside'. He even launched his own ISP called BowieNet which included live casts, video streaming from his studio and even a 3D chat environment (which is still accessible http://tinyurl.com/j4yl242). 'Hours...' was no different with Bowie running an online competition for a fan to submit lyrics for a song (that would ultimately become 'What's Really Happening?'), as well as building on the ground-breaking digital single release of 'Telling Lies' by making 'Hours...' available for download two weeks prior to its physical release.

'Hours...' critically faired as well as any of Bowie's previous albums, but the sales were poorer this time. Which is a shame as the electronics may be more easygoing and the rock elements a bit more smooth yet there is still a great deal to take away from this album. Songs like 'Thursday's Child', 'Survive', and 'Seven' are fine examples of Bowie's more contemplative mood, while 'The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell', 'What's Really Happening?', and 'New Angels Of Promise' inject some harder rock. The album's penultimate track, the stunning but brief instrumental, 'Brilliant Adventure' recalls the second side of the 'Low' album and blends it with his long-standing fascination with Japan.

'Hours...' may have been a commercial disappointment for Bowie at the end of a decade where sales figures were generally fluctuating for him. But it is still a distinct and artistically valid album that would lay the foundations for his post millennial releases 'Heathen' and 'Reality' and therefore should not be dismissed.

Every generation had its own take on David Bowie and his work. For someone born in the 1980s and growing up in a 90s household where music was as import part of life Bowie's earlier works were always present. But in particular the albums of 'Outside', 'Earthling', and 'Hours...' were the ones for my generation where we didn't necessarily discover Bowie but rather he helped us discover ourselves. It's easy for someone who has made so many albums that were ahead of their time to have multiple albums dismissed as as less relevant based on their sales or exposure, but that doesn't dull their worth or lasting legacy. Bowie's vision in the 1990s was right on the money. He embraced the forthcoming digital revolution and the music he made was just as innovative and relevant as any of the new artists that were emerging at the time. As a result these albums have stood the test of time well and remain a rewarding listening experience.


Bowie – The Essential 90s Playlist:

'Baby Universal' (Tin Machine)
'Shopping For Girls' (Tin Machine)
'Black Tie White Noise'
'Jump They Say'
'Pallas Athena'
'The Buddha Of Suburbia'
'Bleed Like A Craze, Dad'
'Hearts Filthy Lesson'
'Strangers When We Meet'
'Hallo Spaceboy'
'Little Wonder'
'Telling Lies'
'Seven Years In Tibet'
'Dead Man Walking'
'I'm Afraid Of Americans'
'Thursday's Child'
'The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell'

Also check out...

Tin Machine: Live In Tokyo 1992

Nine Inch Nails / David Bowie: Dissonance 1995

David Bowie: Live At Rockpalast 1996

David Bowie & Friends: 50
th Birthday Celebration 1997

David Bowie: VH1 Storytellers 1999

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