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Interview: Bestial Mouths

“The newer material is very personal in nature as it directly relates to the experiences and emotions I had been going through and feeling. Those experiences set the direction for the album title and cover art.”

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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Review: In Death It Ends – 'VVDV'



IN DEATH IT ENDS
'VVDV'
SELF-RELEASED


Porl King's In Death It Ends project has become a prolific beast. Tapping into witch house, proto-industrial, new wave, post-punk, and early goth he has released albums, EPs and free downloads at a rate that would make most other artists struggle to sustain for a year, let alone over the course of three consecutive ones. Best of all, the former Rosetta Stone and Miserylab founder shows no signs of letting up any time soon, nor is his particular brand of progressive, dark and mainly instrumental style of music.

The latest release from IDIE is another free self-released download in the form of 'VVDV'. Harking back to the more experimental releases in the projects already substantial back catalogue, such as 'Forgotten Knowledge', 'Analog Witch', 'Restorative Art', 'Analog Witch Trials', and 'Shrines'. The nine-track download sees a more minimalistic and experimental blend of darkwave and subtle industrial taking the centre stage.

Kicking off with the simple rhythms and bass line that accompanies so many IDIE releases the first track explores strained ambient strings and pads to weave a slightly discordant but utterly beguiling web of sound. The second track lets the bass take the lead for a more gothic rock flavour that builds with the introduction of the synth elements for a nice and cold groove. The third track has a more frantic rhythm and a tenser synth line that ups the tempo slightly and injects a little more energy into the track list. The fourth track keeps the tension that it's predecessor built and brings the bass groove back to the fore for a more minimal and atmospheric approach. Track number five then goes into a more twisted and psychedelic path with its melting bass and steady rhythm slightly permeated by hanging synths every so often.

Track number six is the most up-tempo bass groove yet and with it's blend of simple synth leads and steady dance pace it is by far the album's most approachable and dance-friendly cut. Track seven follows on nicely with it's Soft Moon style groove and rhythmic interplay before introducing more experimental synth elements to the mix as the song progresses. The penultimate track on the album strips things back to the core with a very simple bass, rhythm and subtle use of electronics to create a delicate mix. The final track on the album by and large covers the same ground as the previous few songs, however like the other tracks it is entirely unique and its steadily droning synths, simple lead and light distorted beats add an extra dynamic to the song which makes for a fitting closer.

As with all previous IDIE releases the production creates the illusion of low-fi without actually being so. The minimal nature of the songs allows King to craft a great sense of space in the mix, while the retro sounds hark back to he experimental beginnings of genres. Yet the quality of the recording is as high as you could want in a modern release and it continues to show off Kings skills as a producer.

This is another great and very individual release that will appeal to fans of IDIE's more minimalistic sounding releases, but still keeps that appeal that makes it approachable for those just dipping their toes in the water. It goes to show King can still keep things fresh and interesting despite the heavy release schedule.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Book Review: Jonathan Moore – 'The Poison Artist'



JONATHAN MOORE
'The Poison Artist'
ORION


Jonathan Moore may not be a household name just yet, but judging from the first part of his “neo-noir” trilogy, 'The Poison Artist', it won't be long before the Bram Stoker Award finalist is. A sensory-exciting psychological thriller, 'The Poison Artist' exudes film noir atmospherics deep, dark, psychological mystery and disturbing detail. His style has the straightforward story-telling of Stephen King, around which the dark and demented details of Thomas Harris, and the dynamic tension of Hitchcock build a compelling universe of gripping prose.

The story follows
Dr. Caleb Maddox, a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. After a hard break-up and a chance encounter with an absinthe drinking woman named Emmeline, he becomes caught up in a hunt for a diabolical serial killer who is torturing his victims and dumping them in San Francisco bay. The closer he gets in the search for the mysterious Emmeline, the deeper he becomes involved with the investigation into the murders, and with every new revelation the more danger he finds himself in.

The prose is detailed, elaborate and rich in its depictions of everything from food and drink, to the sights and smells of the city. Surprisingly it lacked the level of gore that I was expecting, but this isn't a bad thing. It progresses at a nice pace, speeding up and slowing down like the score to a film in order to build tension. It is utterly compelling to read and the more we delve into the investigation and Caleb's search, the more disjointed and obsessive his point of view becomes. It genuinely feels as though you are following him on the path to a nervous breakdown, all the while very real dangers threaten to end his search prematurely.

One downside to the novel is the heavy focus on Caleb's obsession. Which is compelling and really pulls you in to the story. However he does come off as a little two-dimensional, and overly self-pitying at times because of it, and he could do with a little more fleshing out. The author does leave some things vague, and also there details of the plot can be somewhat obtuse as well and did require a little re-reading to grasp them.

Despite these, 'The Poison Artist' was a real page-turner. It's atmospheric locations, and the detailed story really portray the visuals that the author was trying to get across. It is a strong first outing for this trilogy that promises more great writing to come. And with its dark film noir style, hopefully a film adaptation won't be out of the question in the future as well. Definitely recommended if you're a fan of Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter books.  

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

TOTAL GOTHIC KO!



With the embers in our fireplaces being stoked on a constant basis and the country wrapped in a seemingly never-ending gloom (when will I be able to wear my shades again, exactly?) it's only right we get in an appropriately dark mood. But as an endless procession of storms shakes Britain to the core we also need something to get excited about, too. So, the big question – the one on everyone's lips, the burning issue of which nothing in the entire world is more important (not really) – is this: is it time to resurrect the Gothic novel?

It's not like interest in the genre has gone away, what with Guillermo del Toro's gothic blockbuster 'Crimson Peak' meeting critical acclaim and with classic novels such as 'Frankenstein', 'Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde' and 'Dracula' still being revived in every medium. Isn't it time we communed with the Divine Ham inside and brought the Gothic novel back in from the cold?

The key elements of the genre are now neglected, timeless tropes: isolated castles, houses or monasteries; windswept moors; moustachioed tyrants; dungeons; virginal girls who are constantly fainting; ghosts bent on a mission of revenge; the encroaching darkness of corruption and a satirical depiction of hypocritical authority. And surely there is something in the air in bleak midwinters such as these which makes such elements all the more appealing?

Granted, the genre has a chequered history. The widely acknowledged genesis of the Gothic novel, 'The Castle of Otranto', is essentially the literary equivalent of a text-based adventure on the ZX Spectrum. In fact it might as well be written in Basic for all the sense it makes. But aside from that it still established the roots for a more poetic form of popular fiction, including all the soon-to-be cliches above, as well as dry sense of humour and a death by a falling giant helmet – and nothing gets more metal than that.

But at its best it could be a marvellously evocative experience – such as the classics mentioned early, and especially Lewis' 'The Monk' which combined a dry wit and skilful literary touch with a delightful, Sadean cynicism, making that tale of religious corruption and hypocrisy possibly the best of the entire genre. No wonder it has been only recently adapted into a movie starring movie arch-cad Vincent Kassell.

And, of course, let's not forget the hundreds and thousands of gothic romance potboilers that have emerged in the centuries since the genre emerged – many of them doused in a kind of sub-Mills & Boon fragrance of sepia and cheese, and nearly all of which had covers depicting a beautiful woman running away from a castle. Or a house. Or a monastery.

So like all creative journeys return to the source to regain originality, isn't it time we put some more ham, cheese, spooky, mist, and bleak haunted space into our lives? Let's all put on our frock coats and make 2016 the year the Gothic novel returns. Go to the periphery, to the coast or moors or mountains or hills and be inspired be the sheer bleakness of your surroundings. Write, imagine, plot. And throw open the dusty doors of your mind, exorcise your personal demons, and let in some light in 2016.

Merry Xmas, readers!

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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Review: Alien Vampires – 'Drag You To Hell'



ALIEN VAMPIRES
'Drag You To Hell'
ALFA MATRIX


The Alien Vampires return to planet Earth with the intention of dragging us all to hell along with them. The band's fifth full-length studio release sees the duo of Nysrok Infernalien and Nightstalker going straight for the jugular with perhaps their most well-rounded offering to date. The album blends the familiar black and death metal elements with dark electro and industrial to create harsh but ultimately dance friendly tracks.

'Drag You To Hell' may not completely reinvent the band's sound. But it does show a lot more maturity and variety in its execution. The duo play with those familiar elements to create a more unpredictable ride than usual. With songs such as 'The Divinity Of Solitude', 'Drag You To Hell', and 'Psycho Bitch' delving to the more metal end of the band's sound. While the likes of 'She Owns The Nite (Lillith)', 'All The Fakes Must Die', 'Sworn to The Lust', 'Dark Energy', and 'Better Enemies Than Friends' are clearly setting the club scene in their sights with a nice combination steady beats, strong leads and some really nice hooks.

The production is really nice with each song having a lot of power behind it. The band have often overused the distortion in the past meaning the vocals have faded into the mix, but this has been corrected on this album and the result is an album where the different elements still have room to move around each other.

'Drag You To Hell' Shows Alien Vampires on top form. The song writing continues to mature and develop. The band's sound, while not radically different in terms of the elements at work, feels a little looser and more at ease with itself, which in-turn allows them play with the audiences expectations and as a result create a more unpredictable album. Throw in some great contributions from the likes of Attila Csihar and Charles Edward of Mayhem fame, Ministry's Sin Quirin, and Nero Bellum of Psyclon Nine and 'Drag You To Hell' shapes up to be one of the strongest offerings int the band's discography to date.  

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Monday, 14 December 2015

Of Yule, Death & Life, and the true meaning of Christmas



Something happened to me this year.
I got better.
Something about the bees buzzing around me all summer. Everytime I'd go outside to relax and write by the water, about a dozen bees would show up, and stick around until I'd leave. They didn't disturb me, and would actually force me to make a point of being even more calm.
I watched them, busy-beeing themselves on gathering every drop of clover flower nectar they could get, and that's all they cared about. Their work. Their purpose. Getting that nectar.
Bees can be so focused.
In minding the bees, I understood the importance of focus, and work, and through that, I came to understand a lot of things about myself.
And this Self of mine changed.
Like I'd been waiting my whole life for something outside myself to make my life better. Like it was time I realized, truly and fully, that if I wanted to live, and love, and make my life what I want it to be, I'd have to do it all by myself.
So I figured out how to change, and I got better.

I recently agreed with a friend, in conversation, that Everyone's Crazy, really. We all have struggles with the way our brains work in conjunction with our hearts VS the World. There are these books that put word-labels on series of symptoms and human behaviours, words like Anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder, Bipolarity, Manic Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissism, etc.
We're all a little crazy, and once we acknowledge that, usually, we're one step further to Getting Better. Things are always a lot easier when you understand how your brain works.

Then it becomes about what you choose to do with that understanding. You can go through life saying Oh, I'm This, that's why I need to do This, or Can't Do That, or Take This Drug, or Drink Every Night. It's easy to give a seemingly-very logical explanation to behaviors that are self-destructive, or in essence, that are not about figuring out how to take care of yourself and love yourself properly, when you just open the latest DSM, find the page with the label that fits you the most, and stare at the words going Well, that's me.
Victimization. You'll get there eventually, if you haven't already been there. Maybe you're still there. Or maybe, like me, you've finally realized how to get yourself out.

We all hold inside the Power to Get Better. It's a matter of Effort and Focus. How much energy are you willing to spend on yourself to be the Best you can Be, to evolve and keep evolving?

I had a diagnosis at 15 years old.
I started yoga at 16, and therapy at 18.
And I still meditate every night, or as much as I can, and I now see my therapist once a month. It took a while to get there. For a long time, I'd see her every week.
And I've studied archetypes, and mythologies and cultures, and I observe a lot.
And whatever's going on inside me, I can always hear loud and clear. So I listen, and I care.
Because it's always mattered to me to Get Better.
Because my 15-year struggle with chronic nihilism and recurring thoughts of suicide taught me that if I'm here now, alive and healthy, then I should do everything I can to celebrate this Life. My Life.
It took me 15 years to understand the meaning of the word "Celebrate" used in that context.

Born in 1985, I was still very young when Kurt Cobain killed himself in the name of Righteousness and Rock 'n' Roll. I do, however, remember growing up with the consciousness that there was some sort of strange glorification regarding this suicide, almost like Cobain was a Rock 'n' Roll-kamikaze.
And then, there's this weird fascination people have with artists who die of drug abuse or withdrawal. To name a few: Jim Morrisson, Janis Joplin, Hillel Slovak, Cobain, and more recently, Amy Winehouse, and even more recently, Scott Weiland.

N°4 by Stone Temple Pilots was one of the first albums I ever bought. Scott Weiland was one of the first performers to ever inspire me. I remember watching STP videos and live performances, and observing my experience of the charisma and talent of Scott Weiland. He was raw, sensual, and real -the embodiement, to me, of the Freedom to be Alive. Watching him, I knew that this energy was the one I would want to channel as a performer myself. I would, in time, learn how to draw people into my universe inside -by freeing myself through the mastery of my art as a musician, a writer, and a performer.

Scott Weiland was, and still is, in many ways, an inspiration to me, the music chick coming from the alternative rock generation. In time, of course, I came to know of the rest of Weiland's life, especially after reading his autobiography, Not Dead and Not For Sale.
I was re-reading it on Friday night, and  it was like every word weighed a thousand pounds. Weiland's story is that of slips and slides, and rollercoaster rides and rises.
I remember reading the book for the first time soon after its release, finishing it and telling myself Well, this man is an inspiration to me, and has always been, and this book is another recording of Ways to Fight the Monsters In Your Head, by a true artist.

I learned of Weiland's death in the morning of December 4th, and wasn't surprised that it was an overdose. I felt disappointment -as a fan, but also on this weird etheral level, as another human being, struggling with living alongside the monsters in my own head. And then I thought about the meaning of the word Inspiration, and realized that this artist's death inspires me to stay alive, and not give up on myself.

Reading Mary Forsberg Weiland's open letter from herself and her children opened my eyes to that strange concept I mentionned above -that of glorifying these suicides, turning them into pop-tart culture mystical tales. Tragedies like this shouldn't be glorified, they should be analyzed, and somebody somewhere, or everybody everywhere, should realize that Yes the World is Fucked Up, and It's About Time We Did Something About It.

But, as I've come to terms with recently, in order to be able to Save the World, you have to start by figuring out how to Save Yourself.

The thing is that we all hold the power inside to Get Better, and we all can achieve that, through relentless efforts, focus, and above all, the Will To Live.

If you are longing for Death, then you are not happy to be Alive. But before Death, there's an array of Ways out there to Get Better. The thing about the modern-day society is that we are conditionned to distract ourselves from thinking and evolving. It takes effort to do that, much easier to sit in front of a TV and forget. And then there's the fear we all have of facing ourselves, of realizing that we're not that great of a person, and there are things to fix about ourselves.

I once asked a former boss of mine "What does the word Love mean?"
She told me to close her office door and to sit down. Then she said "Love is when you can look in a mirror, and be completely, absolutely and utterly happy with what you see". It took me a while to be able to look at myself in a mirror, and not feel hate, or anger, or disappointment. And that's every human.

The thing is that there are resources out there -an array of them. If you're curious enough, and willing enough, you'll eventually find the ones that work for you. You'll find the ones that make sense, and that are easy to understand and that you'll be happy to get into, so as to figure out how to love yourself properly and celebrate your life.
Rehab isn't for everyone. Therapy isn't for everyone. Yoga isn't for everyone. Pills aren't for everyone. AA or NA meetings aren't for everyone.
And then there's different types of rehabs, different types of therapies, different types of yoga and pills and anonymous meetings. and whatnots.

But out there lies a resource for each and everyone of us, and each and every life that is out there deserves to live itself to its fullest, and therefore, you are worth every single ounce of energy you will put out there to make yourself better -and it starts with you taking the time to find the best resource out there for yourself.

It's December 13th, and the winter solstice is coming. Yule brings forth celebrations of Light, and Life, and for the first time, I can truly understand the meaning behind these festivities, finally choosing to truly embrace the Light inside and outside of myself.

As I end perhaps the most personal online post I've ever done, I stare at the Christmas tree in my parents' condo. Mostly, I see its pretty lights, golden and bright. I watch my step-father playing piano, and my mother and sister making dinner. I look at the computer screen showing me the words I've written that compose this editorial, and I spot my little Alex Robshaw avatar. I think of her, this naked lady on a Wurlitzer, and I think of the people around me, and know that I've locked down my understanding of the importance of Not Giving Up.

This Christmas, celebrate Life, Love, and Light, for they are all one unique, magical, wonderful gift -and we all deserve to live.








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Friday, 11 December 2015

Editorial: December, 2015



The Krampus is a mythological creature from Germanic/Central European folklore that is the antithesis of Father Christmas. Instead of delivering presents to all of the good girls and boys at Christmas, this demon instead stalks the night beating bad children with birch twigs or abducting them altogether. In the world seemingly as materialistic and spoiled as it is, it's no wonder that this dark figure is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Films, parades, artwork and pop culture references featuring the Krampus have been increasing in recent years and it is a welcome return.

Having been born in Germany in the 80's I was vaguely aware all my life of the Krampus, but in the UK it was not part of the Christmas folklore and it was pushed to the back of my mind. But what a wonderful thing the internet is. About ten years ago... perhaps a little more... to kill a dark winter evening I was researching pagan Yule traditions and who should appear on my screen but the hairy, horned figure of the Krampus.

I'm probably not alone in thinking it's a wonderful idea that there is a dark side to what is a very jolly season. While I've always approached Christmas from a more pagan direction (which isn't hard to do if you simply drop the nativity) it is still very easy to get caught up in the modern greed-good will-more greed cycle of the modern holiday, which lacks any real tangible moral comeuppance... and that's why I love the Krampus. What child is going to be taught a lesson by a lump of coal in their stocking? No the threat of a pre-Christian alpine demon stealing you in the night has far more terrifying ramifications for spoilt brats and greedy parents.

As I said before the Krampus is enjoying more exposure in wider pop culture with appearances in shows such as The Venture Bros., Grimm, and American Dad, as well as films such as A Christmas Horror Story (2015), Krampus The Christmas Devil (2013), Krampus (2015), and the forthcoming Kevin Smith film Anti-Clause, as well as in print media such as the Krampus! Comic series.

With appearances like this increasing and videos such as the one below of the Krampus parade, it won't be long before the sinister figure of the Krampus will hopefully become more entwined with the modern traditions of Christmas.


But enough dark and demonic goings on from me. I have one last update regarding the annual compilation. As of this Sunday, submissions will be closed and bar those which I'm just waiting for from some acts that I really REALLY am looking forward to adding to the track list, I'll not be adding anyone else and will begin creating the A4 download booklet. I have some extra time in the week before Christmas so I will be doing the bulk of the work then and straight after Christmas and before the release date I can email all the contributors a copy.

Right that's it for 2015 from me personally. We'll be having out top tens appearing here soon, so keep an eye out for those, as well as more reviews and interviews. Don't forget that if you've not heard our previous compilations, you do so by going to our bandcamp page HERE.

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


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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Review: Dark The Suns – 'Life Eternal'



DARK THE SUNS
'Life Eternal'
INVERSE RECORDS


Dark The Suns were one of those criminally underrated bands that were gone way before their time. The Finnish quartet blended melancholic gothic-doom metal with enticing piano leads that created an entirely unique sound. Across four albums from 2007's 'In Darkness Comes Beauty' to 2010's 'Sleepwalking In A Nightmare' the band continued to hone and perfect their sonic formula, creating some memorable tracks in the process. And then in 2013 the band announced they were no more. However, fast-forward to 2015 and the band's posthumous 'best of' compilation 'Life Eternal' sees the light of day thanks to Inverse Records.

The band's typically gothic-doom core sound is reminiscent somewhat of the likes of Amorphis, Swallow The Sun, The Eternal, and Misery Inc. but with an emphasis on both whispered and growled vocals, as well as those ever present and always stunning lead pianos to compliment the hard and aggressive riffs, the band's sound became something much more distinctive.

Songs on the compilation such as 'The Sleeping Beauty', 'All Ends In Silence', 'Alone', 'Unbroken Silence', 'Reflections', and 'Rimed With Frost' are excellent examples of this formula at its strongest and despite the fact that each of these songs is pulled from a different album it shows how well their unifying concept ran throughout each album and allows for an almost seamless flow on this compilation.

The production and mastering is of a good quality throughout. Despite the songs coming from several different releases the band always aimed for and maintained a good level of production that is reflected nicely here. The track list has also been constructed in a way that doesn't emphasise any linear presentation and instead lets each song compliment the one before and after it instead.

This is a nice final breath from a band that quite rightly deserved more than they had. One could only hope that at some point in the near future a reformation could happen and live dates based on this album performed. But in the hear and now this is an excellent epitaph of an all to brief existence. 

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Review: Tonttu – '6: Also Sprach Gnomethustra'




TONTTU
'6: Also Sprach Gnomethustra'
PANIC MACHINE


Finnish band Tonttu in their own words make Anti-gnomenmartialindustrialneofolkmetal. What that means in real terms is some wonderfully dark, often uneasy, but altogether strangely alluring music with a heavily anti-gnome stance running through it. Blending elements of martial industrial, neofolk, and metal, Tonttu craft and utterly discombobulated sound that is no laughing matter. Chapter six of the band's ongoing conceptual apocalyptic folk saga presented in visual, literary and musical form '6: Also Sprach Gnomethustra' continues the Lovecraftian concepts and further develops the band's sound with more of the electro-industrial sounds coming to the fore.

Songs such as 'Intro – Gnomen Est Gnomen', 'Tonttumarssi', and 'Outro – Alea Gnomen est' favour programmed martial beats, manic black metal flavoured vocals, metal guitars and liberal use of electronics to create a manic but strangely accessible sound that encourages the listener to join in the chant against the gnome scourge.

The likes of 'Saunan Tonttu' with it's neoclassical instrumentation, and growled/spoken lyrics, and strangely creepy electronics of 'Kolossus, Tontut ja Korpit (Kunnioittaen Ethernalia)' take the centre of the album into an unexpected and heavily lyric-focussed tangent that adds to the narrative concept of the album.

The production has a nice low-fi tone to it, but that doesn't mean that it is low quality. Everything feels DIY and hands-on, however it tries to present the music and the elements within in a clear way that doesn't hide behind over distorting everything in the mix in a misguided “necro” style.

'6: Also Sprach Gnomethustra' is a strange but addictive listen. The five original tracks are addictive in an unexpected way, and the remixes on the end of the track list further expand the esoteric nature of the recording. If you like your music fun but challenging and, most importantly, your gnomes dead, then Tonttu may very well be up your street.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Review: Dead When I Found Her – 'All The Way Down'



DEAD WHEN I FOUND HER
'All The Way Down'
ARTOFFACT RECORDS


Portland-based electro-industrial act Dead When I Found Her continue the wave of recent bands that manage to blend the old with the new in a successful way. Taking their cues from bands like Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, Nine Inch Nails, and the more melodic and accessible end of Coil's repertoire the band blend gritty old-school flavours with a modern twist that keeps the spirit without trading off the quality. The band's third album 'All The Way Down' continues to see Dead When I Found Her, AKA Michael Holloway, expand his palette of layered dark electronics this time in a softer and more methodical direction than his previous outings.

The opening track, 'Expiring Time' is a malevolently atmospheric introduction to the album that recalls Skinny Puppy at their most sinister and instantly grams your attention with its slow and considered execution. The likes of 'The Unclean', 'Gathering Fear', 'Downpour', and 'Blood Lesson' go on to form the back bone of the album with a blend of steady intelligent rhythms, richly layered electronics, samples, and old-school electro bite that retain their dance-quality while still going deep. While 'Threadbare', 'Misericordia', 'Seeing Red', and 'At Rest' descend into darker and more intricate realms of song writing.

The production is excellent. It has an undeniable old-school dimension in terms of its influences and atmospheres, however it isn't hampered by retro for the sake of it production. Instead we get a clean clear mix that is as thoughtful as the song writing. The vocals don't get swamped by the electronics and despite the multiple layers everything retains a sense of space and doesn't just amalgamate into a wall of sound.

'All The Way Down' is a great album that will appeal to both older and newer industrial fans. It has those nods to classic bands yes, but it is very much its own beast. It's an intelligently put together that builds a sense of intensity and tension without resorting to outright aggression and instead becomes record that you can easily get lost in.  

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Review: Shiv-r – 'Eye Of The Needle'



SHIV-R
'Eye Of The Needle'
BLIND MICE PRODUCTIONS


Following on from last year's album 'Wax Wings Will Burn', Shiv-r released a surprisingly strong remix EP as a follow-up. Now remix albums can be a mixed bag as we all know, but 'On Blackened Wings' was a nice and diverse offering that put a different slant on what were already hefty songs. Fast-forward and the band are back with another remix release, this time in the form of 'Eye Of The Needle'.

The EP is a result of a remix contest and despite featuring only one song as the source material, the artists involved have thrown out a wide variety of sounds, in some cases creating majorly radical overhauls.

The snuff remix takes us into a brief and beautifully haunting acoustic introduction that immediately sets out the manifesto for the album. The likes of Basszilla’s with their anthemic electro-house mix, Nigen with their trap flavoured offering, Restriction 9’ with their ebm-leaning take, and the hard psy-trance of Valkrye X provide a nice core of club-friendly offerings. While the likes of Cold Therapy, Snuff and Cursed Earth Corporation veer into more left-field territory.

The additional remixes of 'Pharmaceutical Grade', and 'Lingerie' keep that left-field feel running with their imaginative reworking of the songs that sound both esoteric and accessible.

The production is solid and the more club-friendly tracks could easily stand-up to the band's previous output, while the more interesting versions lend themselves well to more intimate listening effectively.

Despite the majority of the EP featuring remixes of the same track, it is a great and varied showing of talents. The remixers create a rich palette of sounds and draw on styles both old and new to hold your attention with ease from one track to another. It may be a remix EP, but it is definitely home to a few gems and worth checking out in its own right.

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Monday, 7 December 2015

Introducing... The Sweetest Condition


Name of Band: The Sweetest Condition
Members: Jason Reed Milner (music + synths) and Leslie Irene Benson (lyrics + vocals)
Year Formed: 2012
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
“Moved by the words of Neil Gaiman: “Writers cannibalize everything they are,” and his fearless, punk cabaret partner-in-crime Amanda Palmer, we find that the best fuel for songwriting stems from our personal stories. Some songs are reflection pools, slightly distorted but still based in realism, while others tether to dreams, or even nightmares.”


Pulsating beneath the heart of Music City, not far from where the Man in Black planted his boots, there’s a deep vein of electro-industrial synthpop music bleeding to the surface. It is here that The Sweetest Condition has chosen to sanctify its ghosts, carving its niche into a growing underground community for artists from all walks of life.

The Sweetest Condition emerged in 2012, comprising composer Jason Reed Milner (formerly of Nimbus, Form 30, and Seven Mile Radius) and singer/songwriter Leslie Irene Benson (Burning Veda). The duo released their 5-song 'Truth & Light' EP in 2013. Most recently, they teamed up with producer and sound engineer Joel Lauver of Burning Bridge Recordings to produce their debut LP, 'Edge Of The World'.

Dual-parts sinful and sensual, hopeful and bleak, 'Edge Of The World' is an 11-song commentary on humanity, anti-conformity, self-loathing, and dream chasing — a danceable catalyst for transformation. The album reveals visceral stories, lashing synth riffs, chorus hooks, and stabbing guitars, paying tribute to iconic sounds of the ’80s and industrial muscle of the ’90s. At its core, the music is raw, unforgiving emotion.

'Edge Of The World', the début album by The Sweetest Condition, was released independently worldwide on 28th August 2015. Since its release, the music has been featured on radio programs around the world. The Sweetest Condition was recognized by GEWC (German Electronic Music Charts) in September, and Dark Horizons Radio named the band Artist of the Month in October 2015.


Intravenous Magazine: Who are you and how did the band come to be formed?

We met in 2004 on the underground club circuit. Jason was touring in industrial rock band Form 30, opening up for national artists like Razed in Black, Shiny Toy Guns, Haujobb, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and The Last Dance. Leslie was working as a music journalist who had just launched a goth/industrial magazine called Echo Immortalis. We formed The Sweetest Condition in the flat fields of the Midwest in 2012 and moved south a year later in pursuit of new opportunities.


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

The Sweetest Condition has been described as melodic synthpop with an underlying industrial edge. Long before we had a name for it, we experimented by writing a track called 'Watch You Fall', a far cry from the piano-based songs we recorded in 2009 with our former project, Irene & Reed. As The Sweetest Condition, we rekindled our darker electronic music roots, pulling heavily from influences such as Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and others. For our first LP, we revisited 'Watch You Fall', re-recording it in our Nashville studio, along with ten other original tracks, and released it on our début album, 'Edge Of The World', in 2015. With a second album on the way, we’re gradually stepping away from the optimistic synthpop anthems of 'Edge Of The World' and heading into a more intense and ambitious direction.


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

For this project, we invoke inspiration from Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Front 242, Razed in Black, Ministry, VNV Nation, Shiny Toy Guns, The Birthday Massacre, and others. But we’re drawn to musicians and literary heroes alike. Moved by the words of Neil Gaiman: “Writers cannibalize everything they are,” and his fearless, punk cabaret partner-in-crime Amanda Palmer, we find that the best fuel for songwriting stems from our personal stories. Some songs are reflection pools, slightly distorted but still based in realism, while others tether to dreams, or even nightmares.


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

After wrapping up our second full-length album, which is currently in the works, we plan to launch our first tour sometime in 2016. Fans will be able to find future tour dates on our website at TheSweetestCondition.com.


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

Our début full-length album, 'Edge Of The World', released in 2015, is available as digital downloads from iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon MP3 and other digital music stores. You can order the physical CD from CD Baby. To preview or stream the album, follow us on Spotify.


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

In various capacities over the span of our music careers, we have been fortunate to meet and learn from some of our biggest inspirations. Ronan of VNV Nation taught us the importance of humility and honesty. Romell of Razed in Black taught us fearlessness and foresight. Kristy of The Azoic taught us perseverance and self-reliance. And every day, we learn something new from the other talented musicians we admire and from those by whom we are so fortunate to be surrounded.


IVM: What are your plans for the future?

In 2016, we hope to release our second full-length album. We hope to travel and perform live in support of the first two albums across the states and countries where our fans have been so supportive. We’d love to meet and get to know as many of our fans as possible, and make new ones in the process. You can help by following us on social media and sharing our posts and music with friends.


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

We moved to Music City not only for the access it gives us to some of the best recording studios and sound engineers in the country, but also because people here value a wide variety of art and creativity. We can appreciate the beauty of many music genres here, and pull ideas from everywhere — even from outside our industry. The bar has been raised high in Nashville. You either go big, or go home. And we love all the challenges each new day brings.

We are grateful to all the fans that have taken a chance on our music and have become part of our big crazy family. Thank you to all the DJs and journalists who have spent time with our album and played or reviewed our music. Thank you for the amazing bands out there who keep us raising the bar. Thank you to our friends and family for having our back and bringing us up when we are down. Thank you for never letting us give into our fears, and for giving us hope.

The best part about living in Nashville is the undeniable feeling of HOPE that thrives here. With hope, you can do anything, and become anyone.


LINKS:
Mailing List (Get FREE Music!): http://thesweetestcondition.fanbridge.com



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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Review: Hocico – 'Ofensor'



‘Ofensor’

Pour the blood of Andy LaPlegua, the bones of Chris L and some HCl into a cauldron. This would be my culinary interpretation of Mexico’s contribution to the alternative music scene. Hocico has been a needle of electronica on the nerve of agile rage for many years, since its birth in the 90s. The cousins between themselves have places in side projects of the lighter industrial ‘Rabia Sorda’ & the industrial dance-hungry ‘Kriminal Minds’. This year has been met with EP releases of ‘In The Name Of Violence’ & ‘Forgotten Tears’, both two harsh opposing contrasts of each other.

The introduction prepares you for the smiles of Mexican horror to come, and ‘Relentless’ begins telling you that the nightmare is not coming from the Tequila. The thumping of the second track is indeed the time whereby the bass is keeping you far from reality, and you are not about to wake up any time soon.

However; maybe that rage from the Tequila is just making you ‘Sex Sick’? You can taste the flesh under the synthesiser; as the electro throws your eardrums harshly against the wall of decibels.  As the velour of harsh electronic copulation wears off, the body takes a dropkick to the jaw with ‘Bienvenido A La Maldad’ as the fun is not over yet. The composition brings muscles to a tense vibration, unleashing a sudden burst of tequila rage in the form of electro body music.

The falling of ‘El Destello En El Cristal’ visualises the metabolic failure under an intense previous two tracks. Thus with ‘Heart Attack’ you are about to have some reality touch your pretty head and show the mess you made. If the last two songs were the reality caving in; the composition of ‘Mind Circus’ would be the run from reality, and back to the heinous adrenaline.  Smiles in the background are in the 5th circle, as that taste of metal cannot be numbed by the evil in your neck.

Hocico put the sex back into evil, the detachments of reality are made quite clear, in this section of the Mexican group’s timeline. An injection of venom burns into the back of the neck, as those muscles tingle to the mental skipping in dance of ‘Auf Der Flucht’ rage that is absolute. ‘In The Name Of Violence’ from its positioning in the album marks the end of the album for me. Why? Try keeping that endurance from the beginning to the end of this album and the last track is irrelevant.

If we look at the mechanics of what ERK Aicrag and Rasco Agroyam engineered, we find the addictive rhythm seen from trance music, brought to an 8 Ball nightmare due to the addition of aggrotech and industrial. It is as it is, if you are looking to get lost in anger, rage and the feel the pain; however be brought to disregard it, Hocico is the right choice for you.

For I the reviewer, an accomplishment like this is brought in parallel with the 2008 'Memorias Atras' album. A creation that made a great impact in what anger could achieve when harnessed. But more importantly; 'Ofensor' has the same well-coordinated increase and decrease in speed; that makes tracks on the album become absorbed more easily, thus much more enticing. 

Reviewed by Dominic Lynch aka DJ LX-E




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Book Review: Isis Sousa – 'Eleanor's Gift'



ISIS SOUSA
'Eleanor's Gift'
TRAGIC BOOKS


Isis Sousa may first and foremost consider herself a visual artist, however she is already proving herself to be adept at fiction. Her latest release 'Eleanor's Gift' on Tragic Books is a short story and ode to the traditional gothic novel. Illustrated with small, delicate black and white scenes the book is great for bedtime reading or just for those who lack the time to fully commit to a novel.

The story focuses on Lord Welton, who becomes the centre of and ever increasingly dark and dangerous situation after finding Eleanor, the sole survivor of a carriage accident, and bringing her into his home to recover.

Despite the short length of the story, the text doesn't feel rushed in any place. In fact it feels very focussed and focusses on the development of the characters in order to propel the story forward. The text plays with the classic elements of the gothic novel – the historical setting, mysterious strangers, secrets, eroticism, horror, and the uncanny – in order to build a brief homage to the genre.

It is an engaging and enjoyable read. It's biggest strength and weakness is it's length. If it were longer it would certainly satisfy those who enjoy getting lost in a story for as long as possible. However it is a nice length to read on the go or if you're short of time without having to put it down.

As far as the content of the story goes it is identifiably influenced by the classics of the Romantics and English Gothic periods of the early 19th century. It carries itself well without resolving to self-knowing parody and instead creates a tense, character driven narrative that builds a sense of dread and foreboding very quickly and comes to an unrushed finale.

'Eleanor's Gift' may only be a short story, but it is well-written and well presented alongside it's small but intricate illustrations. It's a brief but satisfying serving of gothic literature that will appeal to fans of the classics.  

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Review: Monomorte – 'The Three Mothers'



MONOMORTE
'The Three Mothers'
SELF-RELEASED


Danny Ryder AKA, Monomorte, returns with a new EP sure to appeal to fans of witch house. The Liverpool-based producer has crafted some wonderfully unique releases in recent years including 'Ad Extremvm', 'Coven XXIII', and 'Douosvavvm' which have explored genres such as chillwave, ambient, old school house, trip hop and industrial to create a take on the witch house sound that is accessible, enjoyable and most importantly high quality music.

'The Three Mothers' is the latest EP outing from Monomorte and immediately dives straight in with some dark and spooky ambience permeated by a simple and addictive beat which harks back to the sound on 'Ad Extremvum', but with a noticeable improvement in quality. 'My Mirrors Are Black' follows with a more club-orientated feel to inject some energy into the release; complete with a steady dance beat, ebm style synth bass and near trance-like lead occasionally rearing up it has undeniable dance potential. The final cut on the EP is the dark ambient leaning 'The Men' which incorporates a little bit of the witch house sound but until about the halfway point where the beat kicks in it keeps the subtle. It is however one of the most stunning tracks from this artist to date and the stand-out on this EP.

In terms of production this release continues the upwards trend that Ryder has shown with every bit of output. The quality is excellent, the songs – even the more club-friendly 'My Mirrors Are Black' have and airy feel to them that lets each element shine through with ease.

'The Three Mothers' is a very, very strong release from Ryder. Its a shame it only features three tracks as it leaves you hungry for more. It shows Ryder continueing to develop and improve his take on the witch house sound, and as a result raise the quality for others to aspire to. Let's hope a full-length release is on the cards soon.  

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Book Review: William Todd Rose – 'The Realms Of The Dead'



WILLIAM TODD ROSE
'The Realms Of The Dead'
HYDRA


Working somewhere between horror and speculative fiction, 'The Realms Of the Dead' sees the pairing of two novellas by author William Todd Rose. The first, 'Crossfades', introduces Chuck Grainger, a Recon and Enforcement Technician who guides tormented spirits into the next life on behalf of a shadowy secret organisation called The Institute. The novella is a punchy and fairly fast paced exploration of dystopian fiction with horror elements – think Philip K Dick collaborating with Stephen King, and you'll get the gist of this universe.

With an emphasis on astral projection, nightmarish dimensions, the afterlife and evil the book feels more horror than sci-fi a lot of the time, and that's fine. The narrative is heavily focussed on Grainger and his task of helping souls stuck between life and death in so-called “crossfades”. His job takes a sinister twist as he discovers a force set on coming after him.

As a novella, 'Crossfades' doesn't have a lot of room to develop the background world and add a great deal of scope to the workings of its universe. Instead the plot keeps itself fairly straightforward and even when metaphysical subjects come up it doesn't dwell on them. Therefore it is quite an easy read that can be easily picked up and consumed in little time.

The writing style is again reminiscent of the likes of Stephen King – while it is not a grand exercise in literature it is accessible, intriguing and a solid story that comes to an enjoyable conclusion.

The second novella in this volume is 'Bleedovers'. Having overcome the evil force of the first volume this stand-a-lone, but related story sees Grainger face a different challenge.

The first novel saw the main action set in the spiritual world where the supernatural horror element was incredibly lurid and tense. This second story sees this horror bleeding over into reality as the evil that faced Grainger attempts to get revenge and threatening to unleash unimaginable terrors on the real world.


The subject matter is broadly the same with similar metaphysical themes running throughout. There is more of a psychic element to this story due to the character of Marilee Williams who joins Grainger in attempting to destroy this evil once and for all. And we do get to see a little bit more of The Institute and the world in which the characters inhabit.

When combined these two novellas make for a light, graphic and easy read. It is fairly logical in its premise and would very easily transpose into a TV mini series with ease. As a work of fiction it is unlikely to make a huge overall impression, but it is entertaining and well paced. It would be nice to see Rose develop this world further, perhaps in a full-length novel that delves more into the wider context of the characters world.  

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Review: Acid Casualty – 'King Outcast'



ACID CASUALTY
'King Outcast'
BEYOND THERAPY RECORDS


Michigan, USA's Acid Casualty are a bit of an oddity. The electronic-industrial two-piece have a distinct sound that owes a lot to the 80s and 90s industrial scene. The beats are simple, the songs are fairly stripped back and they don't overindulge in the trappings of the modern sound. Instead we get a purer exploration of hardware and the interplay of groove and melody.

There is a nice seedy edge to the band's sound with the dominant synth bass permeating each track on the EP. The distorted vocals are not overly manipulated, but given enough treatment to make them sound creepy. And the heavy use of a pure piano sound for the lead melodies adds a more delicate dimension to the songs.

'UltraViolence' opens with it's swinging drum beat and simple synth bass over which the vocals and lead piano melody push the song. It's a very simple opener but one that is nonetheless infectious for it. 'King Outcast' follows on with a little more texture in the mix, but again the piano and vocals over a simple synth bass and jarring drum beat create something quite addictive out of as few ingredients. The third and final track on the album, 'Sea Of Hate' attacks with a more forceful rhythm and bass combo and adds some more synth sounds to bulk out the track more and it works well for it without betraying that “less is more” quality of the first two songs.

The production has a retro flavour to it but it isn't low-fi in any way. It is nicely mixed, and has enough spit and polish to bring the various elements of each track out. There's no needless distortion or cavernous echo like you'd expect for a band that is trying to get that rough early sound. Instead it sounds clean and classic.

'King Outcast' is an unusual EP but a surprisingly satisfying one. It may be stripped back, straightforward and quite retro in it's construction. But that doesn't take away from the songwriting talent behind it. It is at the end of the day a solid and addictive listen that shows a lot of promise from this act.  

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Review: Tor Marrock & Coco Star – 'A Christmas Night'



TOR MARROCK & COCO STAR
'A Christmas Night'
BLACK VULTURE RECORDS


Welsh doom metal masters Tor Marrock return with their first ever single in time for Christmas 2015. The aptly titled 'A Christmas Night' sees the band team up with Coco Star – who you may recognise as the vocalist behind the hit dance anthem 'I Need A Miracle' – to create a hauntingly ambient metal ballad.

The single sees the electronic and atmospheric elements of the Tor Marrock sound recognisable more from their 2007 début 'A Gothic Romance' at the forefront of the track. A sturdy bass line and drum beat add an old school gothic rock vibe to it, especially when coupled with the icy cold lead synths, before the heavy guitar kicks in for a little more power.

The interplay of the male and female vocals works especially well together with Tor Marrock's gravely, almost whispered voice underpinning Coco Star's more ethereal projections.

The production is nice and straightforward with the synths at the head of the mix to really drive that Christmas ambience home while the rock and metal elements provide a solid foundation from which the vocals can grow. It continues the build of quality from the band's last album 'Destroy The Soul', but with the added electronic elements it gives the sound another dimension.

This is a damn good song for anyone looking to shake up their Christmas play list. The use of the heavier metal elements of the band's sound is subtle, the gothic rock side is solid and drives the song forward, the vocals sound great together and the electronics have captured that dark winter atmosphere. Definitely one to check out this Yule.

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