Blood Pack Vol. 6.66 released!

It's that time of the year once again! A new year and a new compilation album celebrating our 6th birthday as a webzine.

Review: Various Artists – 'We're In This Together: A Tribute To Nine Inch Nails'

VARIOUS ARTISTS 'We're In This Together: A Tribute To Nine Inch Nails' TRIBULATIONS

Review: Various Artists – 'We Reject: A Tribute To Bile'


Review: Ritual Aesthetic – 'Wound Garden'


Review: Axegrinder – 'Satori'


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 though 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), prooved 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 though (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 it wasn't 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 actually 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 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 '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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Thursday 28 January 2016

Review: Mourning Beloveth – 'Rust & Bone'

'Rust & Bone'

Irish doom metal outfit Mourning Beloveth may have been around fro a quarter of a century, but there is no sign that their innovative and experimental approach to the genre is showing any signs of letting up. The band's latest album, 'Rust & Bone' is heavy on atmosphere and bleakness with their death-doom core augmented by an almost cinematic swell of ambience that makes this album a deeply enticing listening experience.

Across the five sprawling tracks the band incorporate doom metal, death metal, black metal and folk metal elements in varying quantities. Songs such as 'Godether', 'The Mantle Tomb', and 'A Terrible Beuty Is Born' in particular play fast and loose with the genres as well as the heavy and melodic elements of the band's sound. The end result is a rich tapestry of mood and feelings set against bludgeoning doom. While the likes of the brief interludes 'Rust' and 'Bone' provide dream-like segues from one track to another.

The production fits the earthy and atmospheric song writing very nicely. It is a little bit rough around the edges, most overtly on the quieter and more melodic sections. But when things get heavy (and they do) this is quickly obliterated by the ferociousness of the recording.

'Rust & Bone' is a brilliant example of doom metal done right. The band don't rest on their laurels and continue to push their ideas. The song writing, compositions, and performances are all high quality. As mentioned before the production is a little off in places, but nonetheless Mourning Beloveth have still crafted a stunning album here and one perfect for this time of year. 

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Review: Pankow – 'Throw Out Rite'

'Throw Out Rite'

Pankow may not be a household name but they are certainly an important band. This electro industrial act from Italy was an integral part in the early evolution of industrial music. Starting with a palette of sonic experimentation reminiscent of contemporary acts such as Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten and Clock DVA and pre-dating the likes of Coil, the band quickly enjoyed a cult status in the early movement, and have seen consistent album releases right up until 2013's 'And Shun The Cure They Most Desire' on Out Of Line.

'Throw Out Rite', the band's début album released in 1983 had only been available as a cassette at the time and has never seen a CD or even a vinyl run. Until now. Thanks to Canadian label Artoffact who continue their run of re-releases of rare but nonetheless important albums.

With a familiar early ebm sound underpinning the album it's liberal experimentation has ensured that the album still has a fresh and interesting even after 30+ years. There is a level of innovation and variety that is sadly lacking in modern artists. And while the results aren’t always user-friendly, they are still highly cerebral.

Songs such as 'Das Vodkalied', 'Rendez-Vous Dans Un Bois' (featuring Blixa of Einstürzende Neubauten), 'Zz Walhalla', 'Destiny', and 'Voce' in particular mix everything from ebm, ambient, industrial and minimalism in a way that is pretty hard to pin down and classify from a modern perspective where genres have diverged and homogenised.

In terms of production it is what it is. A re-release cultivated from an experimental cassette tape from the early 1980s is going to still sound of its era whether you remaster it or not. There's no way around that. But when presented as an artefact of an early genre still prising experimentation, innovation and the DIY punk attitude it still sounds great.

'Throw Out Rite' is a re-release that makes sense. For fans of early industrial music this is the kind of release that is craved, especially on vinyl. Pankow's legacy may have been eclipsed in recent years, but 'Throw Out Rite' shows just how integral they were to the early industrial scene. 

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Wednesday 27 January 2016

Review: God Module – 'Prophecy'


After the brilliant outing on 2014's 'False Face' God Module have returned with a brand new slice of horror drenched electro-industrial terror. The band's latest release 'Prophecy' continues to build on the fundamental God Module sound blending dark electro, ebm, techno, and industrial that mastermind Jasyn Bangert has developed since the band's inception. Despite the band's heavy release schedule over the past few years there is still plenty of inspiration left in Bangert as he keeps up the consistency and quality of the releases.

'Prophecy' is no exception to the rule. In it we find intact the hard dance beats, subtle grooves, spooky lead synths and monstrous vocals that have become synonymous with the God Module sound. Songs such as 'Wasteland', 'Secrets', 'Endless', 'We Are Legend', 'Abduction', and 'Transform' provide the album with a backbone of strong dance-friendly tracks that stead toe-to-toe with the best in the band's catalogue to date.
Courtney Bangert's vocal contribution in particular to 'Abduction' lifts the dynamic of the song to create a real standout track on the album.

The production is strong if not deviating too far from the usual script. But there are still some little surprises in there that really serve to enhance some songs and set them apart from the pack. The vocals, heavily distorted as per usual, do tend to get a little swamped in places but this isn't too much of a problem when you're being swept along by an otherwise infectious track.

With 'Prophecy' God Module continue an impressive run of releases that started with 2011's 'Séance'. Jasyn Bangert knows what he wants, he knows what his fans want and he is more than happy to oblige. There is no compromise, just the band focusing in on what sets them apart and creating a dark and dance friendly monster in the process.

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Review: Aesthetic Perfection – 'Blood Spills Not Far From The Wound'

'Blood Spills Not Far From The Wound'

Revisiting and re-evaluating older material is never an easy task but sometimes the benefit of hindsight can breathe new life into things. Such is the case of Aesthetic Perfections latest release, 'Blood Spills Not Far From The Wound'. Originally an album released in in 2007 under the now defunct Necessary Response moniker, the original 'Blood Spills Not Far From The Wound' was a foray into almost futurepop territory which was at the time the antithesis of the aggressive Aesthetic Perfection. However with the more melodic content of recent Aesthetic Perfection material and the inclusion of some of these tracks in live shows the time is right to revisit the past.

The end result is a strong blend of the two projects that blurs previous lines and adds an injection of a more self-assured expression of song writing that has been building in recent years. The album sees the mixes cleaned up and the vocals re-recorded which benefits them greatly as Grave's voice is far more confident and mature now compared to 2007, and his production skills eclipse his earlier efforts.

Songs such as 'Forever', 'Vapor', 'For Al The Lost', 'Dying In The Worst Way', 'Elements', and 'Devotion' simply sound phenomenal as they power through the speakers and bringing with them a new dynamic to the Aesthetic Perfection sound. While the inclusion of the new track 'Never Enough' over the instrumental 'This Distance' adds to the dynamic of the album.

The only place that the changes perhaps don't work is on 'Spilling Blood' which is a shame. This was perhaps the only example of a track not really needing too much tweaking but the end result has left it flat compared to the original.

On the whole the new mixes and vocal performances create a much more dynamic and exciting record than the first time round. Graves has a more confident voice and hi tweaks to the production have brought the album right up to date. The result of which is a strong album that feels at home in the Aesthetic Perfection catalogue.

It is great to see this material, which was in danger of becoming a footnote in Graves' career, be reclaimed and given the treatment it deserves. Fans of the original may be a little bit prickly and guarded in how they approach this new version, but an open mind may find more positives than negatives, while those new to the album will find this a comfortable development in the continued evolution of Aesthetic Perfection.  

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Tuesday 26 January 2016

Review: Quasimodo – 'Kiss Of Death'

'Kiss Of Death'

Leeds' Quasimodo are tearing up the live scene in the spiritual home of gothic rock. Since the release of their 'Liberty, Equality, Atrocity' EP in 2013 the trio of Joel Heyes (ex-Action Directe), David Frampton (ex-Rome Burns), and Emma Hedley (Dawn of Elyzium/ex-Action Directe) have quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with sharing the stage with a range of acts including Last July, Zeitgeist Zero, Rhombus and Luxury Stranger.

The band's newest offering, 'Kiss Of Death' is a triple threat of electronic tinged spiky post-punk and gothic melodrama complete with Heyes' own witty lyrics. It is immediately evident that the band have continued to hone and sharpen their sound well on the stage and this translates nicely into the recorded version of the songs.

'Kiss Of Death' hits hard and fast with an almighty clatter of post-punk guitars and snarling vocals for a srtong and catchy opener. While the electronic opening of 'J'accuse!' coupled with the low-fi vocals and steady dance beat presents the band with one of the strongest tracks in their arsenal to date. Finally the band's sensual take on the classic “Screaming” Jay Hawkins track 'I Put A Spell On You' gives the song a definitive gothic rock makeover.

As with the previous two releases there is a no nonsense / no frills kind of feel to the songs here retaining that classic post-punk / proto-goth vibe. The tracks feel dynamic and energetic and have captured the band's live energy well.

The EP is a strong statement from a band who are quickly establishing their name as one to keep an eye on in both Yorkshire and beyond. But now with two EP's and a single under their collective belt, it would be nice to hear how they would approach a full album.  

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Review: Byronic Sex & Exile – 'Crimes Of Passion'

'Crimes Of Passion'

With tongue firmly planted in cheek Byronic Sex & Exile crawl out of the aristocratic netherworld of trad goth to drag you back to their dilapidated opium den on a (dark) wave of steady mechanical beats, old school guitars, synths and melancholic vocals.

'Crimes Of Passion' is an EP dripping in nods to old school goth acts such as Dead Can Dance, Gene Loves Jezebel, Flesh For Lulu, Rose Of Avalanche, Rosetta Stone, Children On Stun and Love Like Blood. The ever present drum machine beats, cheesy but atmospheric synths, and jagged post-punk guitar lines root the songs in the 80s peak of the gothic rock movement while the clear production and self-aware irony running throughout 'Crimes Of Passion', 'Cruel Beauty', 'Fausthaus', and 'Leviathan' gives it 21st century hindsight.

Despite it's tongue-in-cheek approach the music contained within the EP is still pretty damn good. Not a parody of gothic rock but a loving and knowing homage. In fact if you rewound the clock 25 years a song from this EP would easily have found its way onto any contemporary gothic compilation album. It is music that has been done lovingly and more importantly it has been done very well.

All the sounds are right for that classic coming together of sounds that makes this unmistakably trad goth. But at the same time it is mixed and produced to a digital standard which gives it fresher and less rough sound than many of those classic acts produced in their heyday.

'Crimes Of Passion' is a fine exercise in old school gothic rock that can't quite hide its knowing smile. It's the kind of work that if you were approached by a film maker to provide for a soundtrack about the 80s then this is what you would give them. Decadent, melancholic, classic goth.  

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Friday 22 January 2016

Review: Mortiis – 'The Shining Lamp Of God'

'The Shining Lamp Of God'

Mortiis is back with his second free to download single from the forthcoming album 'The Great Deceiver'. 'The Shining Lamp Of God' picks up where the previous single 'Doppelgänger' left off. His own particular blend of boisterous and dirty industrial rock that was fostered on albums such as 'The Grudge' and 'Perfectly Defect'.

Hard guitars, frantic beats, anguished vocals and dance-friendly synths create a nice blend of club friendly and mosh inducing formula that recalls a hint of Wax Trax! and Nothing records. It is a great track that confirms the direction 'Doppelgänger' hinted so strongly at.

The remix this time goes in a completely different direction to Wumpscut's 'Smell Of Rain' style remix of 'Doppelgänger'. Instead we get a KMFDM level of ultra-heavy beat industrial rock where the rhythms and guitars are pushed harder and heavier than the original. It isn't a million miles away from the original but different enough to inject a more metal vibe to the mix.

Again we get a nicely produced and heavy offering from Mortiis that is still approachable and dance friendly. It's a good combination that confirms the direction of the album nicely and promises that this will be one of Mortiis' strongest outings to date. 

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Review: Ca†hedra – 'Doomsday'


The second self-released EP from Mexican electronic producer Ca†hedra sets out to explore the essence of rave culture as filtered through his own unique vision. The result is a heady mix of psychedelic electronics, thick and sinister bass lines, and solid dance beats with a liberal sprinkling of dark ambient atmospheres. There are nods to genres such as hip hop, trance, acid house, industrial and witch house which give 'Doomsday' a wonderfully esoteric and yet richly familiar vibe.

Songs such as 'Agony', 'Nightwalk', 'Sudden Death', and 'Dead Inside' provide the EP with a backbone of steady, down-tempo and melancholic dance tracks. The songs draw on a very similar pallet of sounds but this doesn't get repetitive in any way. Instead utilising the same lead synth sound throughout the EP ties everything together nicely and gives the release a unified feel. Even the remix of D3ad Sky's 'Cult' included at the end, despite lacking that distinctive lead still feels like a part of an album rather than something tacked on to the end.

The EP's stand-out tracks however are 'Falling' featuring Masha Petrova and 'Funeral Pyre' featuring Shine Brida. Both of these utilise vocals in a way that adds a greater sense of atmosphere to the recordings. Masha's vocals on 'Falling' are utterly haunting and beautiful against the forceful backing'. While Shine Brida's contribution to 'Funeral Pyre' is a darker, almost spoken/rapped performance which emphasises the hip hop leaning of the song and creates a much more sinister narrative.

The production is very slick. There are some quite overtly low-fi sounds and elements at work, but the production is still held to a high standard and maintains a polished feel throughout. Therefore it doesn't fall into the trap of the mix getting over saturated with distortion that many witch house acts seem to suffer from at some point in their releases.

If you haven't had the chance to check out Ca†hedra, then 'Doomsday' is a great place to start. It is a strong and concise record full of catchy leads, dark atmospheres and addictive beats. For a project that has only been around for four years Ca†hedra has fast become a shining example of how to do underground electronics right.

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Wednesday 20 January 2016

Critics Choice: P. Emerson's Listening Obsessions of 2015

2015 was a year here I immersed myself less in new releases than I had most of the preceding decade, so I'm bringing together a short list of the albums that I kept coming back to until the vibrations re-arranged my DNA. This was a year in which I binged on Bach cantatas, an exploration of Czech composer Leoš Janáček compelled by reading Haruki Murakami's novel 1Q84 and finding I could not shake the feeling that we're in 2Q15, classic and more underground funk and a year-end orgy of wallowing in records and live video of The Damned. What follows are the releases that marked the releases that marked points of coming up for air and a waking up to the musical present amid the musical gluttony of which I was guilty.

The Ancients – 'Mind'

More than two decades after their debut album Fred Schreck & Co. return with a varied and beautifully produced followup. I found this out only after I heard their entry in the superb For The Bats III compilation. Upon finding their track I had to go find them online an exercise I had tried before, to no avail. This album would sit confortably next to the young bands a few years back who were plowing the post-punk furrow while courting the fashionable and steering clear of goth circles. The Ancients have better choruses than any of them, though. I never thought there would be more to come from this band, so this feels like getting an extra unexpected gift.

Killing Joke – 'Pylon'

Fanboy alert: any year in which we get a new Killing Joke release is means they have a place in my year-end roundup. The sound is a monstrous and aggressive thing roaring out across the charred landscape of the omnipresent pan-Atlantic military/industrial/surveillance/prison empire. Verily the soundtrack for staring down the billion eyes of the panopticon. Post-modern paranoia no a step closer to Anonymous than theories cribbed from Alex Jones (Fema Camps)as we found on MMXII. Geordie's guitar is an orchestral tour de force throughout, and enhanced with orchestration on New Jerusalem, the effect is glorious. Think tanks and the corporate propaganda machine aims to make us feel powerless, but it's impossible to give in to despair with Killing Joke raging the catalogue of their crimes and subterfuge at us. This is the sound of the unbreakable outsider. As the comliant middle manager and bourgeoisie is immolated, the outsider is most of humanity.

Attrition – 'Millions Of The Mouthless Dead'

The teaming teaming up of two such immense talents as Martin Bowes and Anni Hogan can only raise expectations to cosmic heights. This is not a product, this is a work of art comparable to Picasso's Guernica. We encounter much dark music, but rarely does a work take us to such dark places and express the horror of a human finding himself standing in the path of  unimaginable destruction and carnage. The mouthless dead are given voice and they speak with humanity and eloquence to the heart of the listener. The listener is left feeling a heartrending compassion for those who lived through the war while being overwhelmed by the harrowing and evocative beauty of the music. Contained in the tracks of Millions Of The Mouthless Dead are by far the most intense and stunning pieces of sonic art it was my privilege to experience in 2015.

Tech N9ne – 'Special Effects'

There are classical elements weaving in and out of the beats as hard and raging vocals, flavored more like an infernal chamber choir than the cinematic tendencies of RZA. Special Effects is another in a string of albums from Tech N9ne that shows immense growth, standing as a testimony of an artist's dedication to his art. There's nothing in mainstream hiphop that can approach this. Thois album may also be the most gothic thing I heard all year without being horrorcore. Where the lyrics blend the defiant stance of a survivor with frank exploration of personal pain and frailty is where this album is most powerful in its expression.

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Tuesday 19 January 2016

Review: Spawn Of Psychosis – 'Ministry Of Transition'

'Ministry Of Transition'

Kent electro-industrial rockers Spawn Of Psychosis are not taking any prisoners on their latest album ,Ministry Of Transition'. Taking their punk meets industrial rock formula with its nods to the likes of Dope Stars Inc. and KMFDM the new album is packed full of big beats, hard riffs and chant-a-long vocals. There is a solid progression from their earlier works that is evident not only in the quality of the compositions but also in the quality of the recording. This is the album the band have always been threatening to make and now that it's here they are intent on beating you round the head with it.

Songs such as 'Martyr', 'Capitalist Courage', 'Femme Fatale', and 'Digital Degenerate' tap into the frenetic digital hardcore influenced industrial rock that the likes of Be My Enemy have been successful with. But the band add an almost drum 'n' bass feel reminiscent of early Shellshock which serves to further elevate their sound. While tracks such as 'The Reason', 'Ministry Of Transition', 'Purge Hate' and 'The Damage' flit between slower sludgier industrial rock, and more experimental leanings to give the album much more depth. However it is the album's ten-minute closing track that shows off the band's true skill. Starting with a discernibly more stripped back and daring new wave sound that evokes early Killing Joke it slowly mutates into a harder hitting metal sound that keeps the Killing Joke vibe intact but sounds bold and uniquely their own. It's a strong and clear parting shot that promises a hell of a lot more to come.

The production has improved greatly from previous releases and the instrumentation and vocals sound much more distinct and well mixed. There are still occasions when things sound a little saturated, however the pluses easily outweigh the minuses and the album is stronger for the changes they continue to make.

Spawn Of Psychosis have found a damn good balance to their sound. It has plenty of variety and experimentation, but not at the cost of a linear unifying vision or quality. It is evident the band's hard work and dedication is paying off where it matters, in the quality of their work. Therefore 'Ministry Of Transition' could and should represent a turning point for the band that will see their status elevated further in the scene.  

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Review: Viet Bong – 'Total Doomedelic Freakout'

'Total Doomedelic Freakout'

With a name like Viet Bong and an EP called 'Total Doomedelic Freakout' there is a certain level of expectation that this Leeds based project will deliver some really nasty psychedelic doom metal. And that's exactly what you get. The EP is an official bootleg so it isn't great quality, but it is a damn gritty and solid expression of stripped-back doom metal with a strong dose of 60s garage rock thrown in for good measure with a nice live feel to it.

With only drums and guitar in the mix you'd be forgiven for assuming the duo have sacrificed any power or bottom end to their sound. But they haven't. Thundering, almost tribal rhythms meet walls of distorted guitars that brings to mind Ron Asheton of The Stooges playing through a lysergic nightmare before being dragged to hell through his own kneecaps. Throw in some disjointed horror and a lot of tempo changes and you have the kind of demonic freakout that would give Kenneth Anger a satanic stiffie.

Across the four songs 'Black Magic', 'Death Mass', 'Rising Son', and 'Requiem For The Devil' the duo keep things simple but interesting with solid drum grooves and addictive guitar riffs powering through each track, varying the tempos and the attack as they see fit.

As mentioned before the EP is a rough bootleg with a very live feel to it, but that doesn't detract from it in anyway. In fact it gives it a strange allure. As though this is some long lost and recently uncovered treasure from a band that people should have rightly heard of.

The EP shows a hell of a lot of promise with an accessible psychedelic sound, strong riffs and groovy drums. The sound could maybe do with being underpinned with some thick bass, and it would be interesting to hear one or two of these compositions with vocals to see what dimension that would give them. But even in this stripped-back and minimalist form there is plenty for doom fans to get their teeth into. Hopefully a longer and clearer recording will appear before too long.  

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Monday 18 January 2016

The Art of Vaudeville - Of Traditions in Alternative Arts

Unoccupied, a dressing room is just a big room, or a big room holding many smaller, half-closed rooms. A set of counters, mirrors and lots of strategically-placed lights, along with chairs and coat racks, set the tone for its purpose. In a dressing room, you will dress down, and dress up -and dress down again, and back up, into the many shapes of your Self.

A dressing room is a place of transformation, and will become as lively as the people who will come into it, and turn their Everyday Selves (or in my case last night, turn their Everyday-Montreal-Winter-Selves) into their Stage Selves, their Show Selves, their Passion Selves. Their True Selves.

And so, when put together in a dressing room in 2016, a group of artists performing in a New Style Vaudeville cabaret will turn the said-dressing room into a place of traditions, rituals and secrets, and a place of focus, rehearsals and the shaping of stories. People, half-dressed and half made-up, will drop in and out of conversations as often as they'll drop in and out of rooms, and it is as common to speak of sage and mythology as it is to speak of glitter and online crowdfunding campaigns.  

The day before performing for the very first time in a Vaudeville-inspired cabaret, I wondered of many things. I wondered of the experience of the dressing room, but mostly, I wondered about the Art of Vaudeville.

When looking at its history, Vaudeville comes across as this open form of entertainment, where any talented, well-rehearsed and above all original performance artist could see a way of presenting his or her act to the world. The glory years of Vaudeville were seemingly the 1890s, and its decline began in the early 1910s with the rise of cinema, along with its new standards of beauty, its dictation of what culture should be, and what it should be represented by. Soon enough, the culture of modern society would be taken over by the imperialism of Hollywood, thus losing every sense of break-through authenticity and social reflection.
On the surface, of course.
On the clearly visible, glimpse-of-the-eye surface, when looking at the forest and not the trees.

One of the things about humans is resilience, for if some of us or even just one of us believes in something, we will keep on standing, fighting and living for what we believe in, and eventually associate with like-minded folks, creating a solid and ever-expanding community that will keep a flame strong. And then, one of the things about life is balance, and therefore every surface has its depth, and every cultural movement has its counter-attack. In other words, pop (tart) culture could not be defined as it is if there was no alternative culture.

Vaudeville thus never truly died, and indeed has been experiencing a beautiful, refreshing revival since the early 2000s. This revival stands as an evolution, not a mimic, for the means used to both produce the show, and promote it, along with the messages and stories behind the performances, are very much in tune with the times. Computers are used to create and generate lighting effects and playlists from music downloaded on USB key, magicians tell tales of gamblers playing the family's income and savings for a TV in a traditional Tarot card and coins trick, and burlesque performers of every size, shape and gender (or lack-of) are likely to strip to the sounds of dubstep.

However, the beauty of its underground form remains. In true, alternative culture fashion, these kinds of New Vaudeville shows will be presented in smaller, often second-floor or basement venues and cabarets, and will only be advertized on social media, within a very solid, supportive and tight-knit community of performers and aficionados of every possible kind of alternative art form out there. And of course, there will not be any kind of interest in funding available from the government, or advertisement by major labels or production companies. These shows are organized and funded by the artists themselves, who will more often than not have one or many jobs on the side in order to be able to keep doing what they're doing.

And the main reason why the beauty of its underground form remains is because Vaudeville never truly died, for generations upon generations of so-called side-show acts, circus performers, burlesque dancers, occult magicians, unfathomable drag kings and queens, and uncensorable singer-songwriters and actors have continuously been opening up to each other, sharing in inspiration, feeding off each other's art. Exchanges like these are usually witnessed in dressing rooms.

After all, we owe it to each other to keep the traditions of the alternative arts strong -starting with the Arts themselves.

So what makes us alternative artists hold on to these traditional alternative arts?
Possibly, if not absolutely and irrevocably, the mere sight or sound of anything related to pop-tart mass-media culture. For every movement has a counter-movement, and every blonde pop star will have an industrial-dark cabaret raven-haired nemesis. Every "proper" form of art has its dirty side, and its dirty side is usually where its core lies.

And then maybe, just maybe, it's not so much that we, the artists, are the ones holding onto the art form. Maybe, just maybe, it's the art forms that are carefully selecting, and holding on to us -the Us, You or Me that you're likely to meet in a dressing room.

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Friday 15 January 2016

Review: Fragile Weapons – 'Fugue State'

'Fugue State'

Seattle in Washington state USA has produced some very interesting bands over the years, and new upstarts Fragile Weapons look set to join that long list. The band blend dark rock, jazz, metal and gypsy elements to create a creepy avant garde sound reminiscent of the likes of Russian Circles and Dirty Three. Thick distorted basslines, piercing violin leads, doomy drumming, and haunting vocals come together in a wonderfully unique way.

The band's first release 'Fugue State' is a bold and atmospheric statement of intent that is somewhere between rock and a film score. Songs such as 'Intimate Enemy', 'Terminator', 'Lullaby', 'Godzilla' and 'Flight' convey the band's strongest expressions of their formula with dark and dreamy atmospheres enticing the listener deeper into the compositions.

The album is mainly instrumental, but it holds the attention well. The trio are adept at expressive performance and it is captured here very nicely. There is an intimate, live feel to this recording that is very organic and almost improvisational, as though it has been captured during a gig, but retaining the polish of a studio recording.

'Fugue State' is a very promising first step from this band. For those into avant garde rock, dark folk, and haunting instrumental music this is definitely worth checking out. It will be interesting to see how they develop their sound on future releases. In the meantime, someone please give them a horror film to score.

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Wednesday 13 January 2016

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.

This year Intravenous Magazine scribes Dokka, Joel Heyes, End: the DJ, P. Emerson Williams, and Dominic Lynch, as well as myself count down our personal favourites individually over the course of the month. And today we kick things off with my top 20 albums and 10 EPs (in no particular order) that got me hot under the collar last year.


Caustic – 'Industrial Music'

If 'The Golden Vagina Of Fame And Profit' was Matt Fanale's club album, and 'The Man Who Couldn't Stop' was his grand concept album, then 'Industrial Music' is a return to his roots. After another successful Kickstarter campaign, the first full-length Caustic album in three years – and the début on new label Negative Gain Productions – sees Fanale making a stand and embracing the industrial tag. Returning to the big distorted beats, crunchy synths and aggressive vocals that characterised his Crunch Pod years, but adding the skill and experience that made 'The Golden Vagina...' and 'The Man Who Couldn't Stop' such must have albums. With this album Fanale continues to take risks and they continue to pay off for him. It is not an album that takes any steps backwards. It continues to push forward and in doing so reclaiming industrial music as a tag to be proud of. 

Beauty Queen Autopsy – 'Lotharia'

The uniting of Unwoman's Erica Mulkey and Caustic's Matt Fanale promised to be something special from the very beginning. Combining simple mechanical post-punk beats, minimalistic synthpop electronics, and prominently placing Mulkey's seductive post-grunge vocals high in the mix Beauty Queen Autopsy present a deceptively straight-forward but undeniably infectious formula that is both intimate and dance-friendly. The album has a wonderfully gritty 90s sound to it in so much as it evokes, the best elements of the Nothing Records, Wax Trax! and Warp Records catalogues of the era but maintains a modern dark sound that is both dark and strangely pop-friendly. 'Lotharia' is quite simply a wonderfully strong full-length début from the duo. This a subtle, but varied album that leaves you hungry for more. If this offering is anything to go by, Beauty Queen Autopsy are going to be a name to watch over the next few years as they can only grow from here. 

iVardensphere – 'Fable'

iVardensphere are one of those acts that seem to just get better with every release. Their last full-length studio outing, 2013's 'The Methuselah Tree', was a high-watermark for their tribal infused rhythmic industrial formula. The band proved they could be experimental, cinematic and club friendly all in the same breath and set the bar high for this year's follow-up 'Fable'. It is immediately obvious though from the stunning opening of 'Million Year Echo' that the band are continuing to push themselves. The band's global rhythms are reflected in a cinematic style of production that even with such heavily layered tracks they sound beautiful and expansive. The lessons the band learned in creating 'The Methuselah Tree' have been built upon. They've not rested on their laurels and have written an absolute stunner of an album that in its diversity still remains cohesive and focussed. If their previous album was a game changer for the band, then 'Fable' should cement their spot as one of the most interesting and unique bands at the top of the industrial pile.

Chelsea Wolfe – 'Abyss'

Chelsea Wolfe's blend of shoegaze, goth, doom and neofolk infused art rock has quite rightly seen her quickly amass a strong following. Thanks to albums like 'Apokalypsis' and 'Pain Is Beauty' she has a rich palette of esoteric songs that are utterly bewitching, but with her fifth full-length album, 'Abyss' she looks to go a step further. Wolfe has always incorporated elements of black and doom metal on her albums, but 'Abyss' goes much further than previous albums dared. The end result is a bleak and nightmarish journey permeated by blissful melodies and crushing atmospheres. The end result is her darkest and most honest album to date, one that pushes the boundaries of her songwriting further than ever before and reaps the rewards because of it. Chelsea Wolfe may have been a rising star in alternative rock, but 'Abyss' is an album that will definitely establish her as a creative force for years to come. 

Paradise Lost - 'The Plague Within'

'The Plague Within' is one of Paradise Lost's heaviest offerings to date harking back to the ground-breaking second album 'Gothic'. Nick Holmes' death vocals are front and centre backed-up by a bludgeoning doom metal barrage tinged with gothic symphonic elements. It's the kind of album that long-time fans will be yearning for. The production is cold and bleak, recalling the likes of Ulver and Swallow The Sun. It's the band at their melancholic best brought out by the capable hands of producer Jaime Gomez Arellano. A partnership that will hopefully continue onto future releases. 'The Plague Within' is a magnum opus for the band. Uniting 25 years of melancholic evolution while pushing their sound forward once more, they exemplify their own past and future. The album is heavy, dark and full of doom metal influences executed with the skill and attention to detail that you would expect from a veteran band of their status. The album is a proud declaration that signs acknowledges their roots but gazes towards the horizon.

Swallow The Sun – 'Songs From The North I, II & III'

Since the release of their riff-laden début 'The Morning Never Came' Finland's Swallow The Sun have been a shining beacon in the ever gloomy world of doom metal. Blending death doom with funeral and ambient elements and liberally sprinkling with memorable riffs they have quickly built an enviable discography. The band's newest album is an almighty slab of everything to love about their style. Split into three albums 'Songs From The North' takes the listener through their accessible death doom on the first album. Brings us through a head mix of acoustic folk and doom on the second album. And finally unleashes monolithic slabs of pure funeral despair on the final album. The band have taken their time, indulged their whims, and made a gamble that has ultimately paid off in a big way. This album is the definitive Swallow The Sun statement. It feels 100% complete as an album as well as a perfect distillation of what is truly great about doom metal in general. There is a lot to process but it is one of those rare albums you can truly loose yourself in.

Neurotech – 'Stigma'

With two great albums out last year it was a tough choice to choose between them but in the end the more accessible 'Stigma' won out. The Ljubljana based multi-instrumentalist Wulf, has been crafting strong albums that utilise elements of future pop, new age music, symphonic electronics and metal. The latest release, 'Stigma', marks the first full-length studio album since 2011's raucous 'The Antagonist' and it aims to make people sit up and take notice. Recalling in particular the work of Peter Tagtgren with his projects Pain, and to a certain extent Lindemann, Wulf presents a highly polished individualistic project. The production is pretty good with a nice fresh and modern sound to the whole of the album. With each track getting a solid mix down. Neurotech have created another strong album that is dance friendly enough for club play, but has the right amount of heaviness to give it a broader appeal amongst metal fans.

Killing Joke – 'Pylon'

Picking up from the band's previous two outing ('Absolute Dissent' and 'MMXII') Killing Joke's latest studio album 'Pylon' is another uncompromising blend of industrial electronics, post-punk venom and metal riffs that will not fail to satisfy long-time fans of the band. In the 35 years since the band's eponymous début, music trends have come and gone, politics has come round full circle, technology is choking humanity and a dystopian malaise has set in. It's no wonder then that the anarchic and apocalyptic fire of Killing Joke is just as relevant and needed as it has ever been. The new album (number fifteen and counting!) recalls not only the band's most recent works 'Absolute Dissent', 'MMXII' and 'Hosannas From The Basement Of Hell' etc, but it also looks back to the likes of classics such as 'Pandemonium' and 'Democracy' for its musical and lyrical inspiration. 'Pylon' shows that after 35 years Killing Joke still have a lot to say and they know how to grab our attention. The band sound stronger and slicker than ever – the song writing is punch, the musicianship is solid throughout, and Jaz Coleman's vocals are sounding powerful and full of conviction. This should be an easy album for both long-time and new fans to get into as it showcases both the band's melodic and heavy sides almost equally within each song. 'Pylon' continues the band's latest and perhaps greatest run of album and promises much more to come.

Marilyn Manson – 'The Pale Emperor'

At one time it seemed as though Marilyn Manson, the self-proclaimed “God Of Fuck” could do no wrong. The former Brian Warner began his transformation into America's worst nightmare in the Florida underground rock scene in the early 90's before getting signed to Trent Reznor's Nothing Records imprint and releasing a slew of critically and commercially acclaimed albums including 'Antichrist Superstar', 'Mechanical Animals', Holy Wood' and 'The Golden Age Of Grotesque'. Fast-forward to 2007's 'Eat Me Drink Me' and 2009's 'The High End Of Low' and Manson appeared to have lost the spark that had won him legions of fans. And indeed the man himself seemed to be on course for his own public breakdown. We then pick up the story with the latest chapter 'The Pale Emperor', which is principally a collaboration with producer Tyler Bates rather than with his long-time musical confidant Twiggy Ramirez. Musically the album carries on the spikey post-punk characteristics of its predecessor and swamps it in nods to the likes of Nick Cave, Bauhaus, David Bowie and Tom Waits as well as some cinematic atmosphere for a “black and blues” slant on the Manson sound. As with 'Born Villain', 'The Pale Emperor' is good as an album and sees Manson continue the conceptual momentum as he draws the listener into his Faustian tale.

Zardonic – 'Antihero'

Following on from the thunderous 'For Justice' single that went off like a bomb earlier this year, was there ever any doubt that Zardonic's next album was going to be one to watch out for? His unique blend of bass-heavy electronic dance music genres melded with extreme metal has lit a fire under the edm scene. In the ten years since its inception, Zardonic has become one of the hottest DJ acts in the world today with not only his original tracks being released to acclaim, but also his remixing skills in demand from a range of notable artists. With a certain amount of anticipation behind it, 'Antihero' is an album that needs to hit hard, fast and leave a lasting impression. And that is exactly what it does. Drum 'n' bass, glitch hop, electro, darkstep, industrial, breakbeat, and hardcore techno collide head-on with extreme metal across eleven original tracks that will appeal to fans of Cubanate, Be My Enemy, Atari Teenage Riot, The Berzerker and the latest work from Combichrist. If you haven’t encountered Zardonic before, or are approaching his work with any degree of cynicism, then this should convert you. With 'Antihero' Zardonic has truly found his sound... and it kicks serious ass.

Grave Pleasures – 'Dreamcrash'

Under the moniker of Beastmilk, the band that is now Grave Pleasures instantly seared itself into the rock landscape with a stunning EP release in 'Use Your Deluge' and the follow-up full-length debut 'Climax' Blending post-punk, proto-goth / death rock, and elements of black and doom metal giving themselves a lot to live up to. The band then had a re-shuffle, changed their name, signed a new record deal and have hit even harder with their latest output 'Dreamcrash'. It's arguable as to whether is is in essence a debut or a sophomore album, but that minor complication is by-the-by. 'Dreamcrash' consolidates all the effort the band made under the Beastmilk moniker, expands on it, and focuses its gaze on the horizon. Icy cold atmospheres, sinister jangling guitars, tribal drums, palpitating bass lines, and the distinctive emotional evocations of vocalist Mat “Kvohst” McNerney come together in such a perfect way. There is nothing forced or contrived. 'Dreamcrash' is an album that has successfully surpassed expectations. Any worries about the line up change and subsequent re-branding of the band are instantly dispelled and all that is left behind is some of the best gothic-tinged post-punk released in years.

With The Dead – 'With The Dead' 

Given the past relationship between Rise Above Records (owned by former Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorrian), and Electric Wizard (whose founding rhythm section comprised of Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening) having been a tempestuous one, the coming together of individual members of new doom metal trio With The Dead seemed like one of those “when hell freezes over” prospects. But nevertheless it has come to pass and the end result is a heavy dose of real doom that sees the distinctive voice of Dorrian set to the rhythmic talents that gave us 'Dopethrone'. With such accomplished work in every member's respective discographies, it is evident that With The Dead is a band that has nothing to prove and is free from the shackles of everything that has come before it. Yet this isn't about resting on their laurels. With The Dead want to craft their own identity and have one hell of an album with to do it. The album is grim, heavy, eerie and crushingly brilliant. This is a stunning début from three veterans of the doom genre that acknowledges their past work, but seriously amps it up. The eerie atmospheres, use of samples, and that ever present pressure from the guitars is a simple but wonderfully effective combination that has set the bar just that little bit higher. Hopefully With The Dead will become a mainstay of the doom genre for years to come. 

Mr Kitty – 'Fragments'

Forest Carney AKA Mr Kitty returns with his fifth full-length studio album and the first since the conclusion of his acclaimed “Dark Youth” quadrillogy that encompassed 'Death', 'Eternity', 'Life', and 'Time'. The new album 'Fragments' sees a much more open and vulnerable side to Carney's song writing coming through. Musically the icy synthpop and trippy witch house elements that characterised the first four albums remains at the core of the album, but with an air of stark and clinical futurism that recalls turn of the millennium ebm. The album is a deeply satisfying of melodic synthesizers, throbbing bass, steady dance beats and soaring vocals drenched in delay. It feels delicate and brittle, but altogether more hopeful and optimistic than his previous albums. This is another great and solid album from Mr Kitty that heads in new directions with ease. It is more emotional, measured, and instilled with a strong sense of purpose that sees him firmly close the door on the quadrillogy and look ahead to a very bright future.

Primitive Race – 'Primitive Race'

There are super groups and then there is Primitive Race. Boasting members of acts such as Pop Will Eat Itself, Peter Murphy, <PIG>, KMFDM, Ministry, Tricky, Nitzer Ebb, Combichrist and others in its ranks the group headed by Chris Kniker evoke everything that is great about industrial rocks past, present and future. The sound is hard to pin down though. It is a hard mix of industrial rock and ebm, but here are so many different flavours that bubble to the surface courtesy of the revolving line up of musicians and vocalists on every track. It's a veritable smorgasbord of world class talent coming together to do what they do best. Primitive race may be a new moniker, but it's members are some of the most respected names associated with industrial, ebm, and gothic music of the last 30 years. As such, this first full-length outing feels fully formed and actualised without any straining to find a niche. Fans of classic acts such as <PIG>, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb, Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails will feel right at home with this. While those just taking their first steps into the scene will find this album sits comfortably on the shelf next to modern acts like 3Teeth, Youth Code, Caustic, and Project F.

Cocksure – 'Corporate_Sting'

One year on from their full-length début album, the duo of Chris Connelly and Jason Novak return with their sophomore outing under the Cocksure moniker. The band's second album 'Corporate_Sting' sees the duo continue the big beat orientated industrial mayhem of their début across ten brand new tracks that evoke they 90s heyday of the Wax Trax! sound. Hard gritty beats, throbbing bass, heavily distorted vocals, and an anything goes attitude come together to blend old school sounds with modern execution. And once again it just works so damn well. There's certainly nothing corporate about this album, but there is plenty of sting to it. 'Corporate_Sting' is another great release from Cocksure, and fans of both old school acts as well as modern bands such as 3Teeth, Project F, Öhm, and Youth Code will definitely find plenty to enjoy here. Connelly and Novak's musical partnership is fast producing some of the strongest and most memorable material of their respective careers, and long may it continue.

Lindemann – 'Skills & Pills'

The coming together of the musical maestro behind Hypocrisy and Pain, and the vocalist and lyricist of Rammstein was always going to yield interesting results. Peter Tägtgren's blend of addictive industrial metal that he perfected over the years under the Pain moniker melds perfectly with the twisted humour of Till Lindemann who now treats, or subjects, his audience (depending on your position) to every filthy lyric in English. With Rammstein Till has used English sparingly, usually for comedic effect in songs such as 'America' and 'Pussy', but with his Lindemann project he drops the veil for the non-German speaking world to finally hear. Musically the album calls heavily on Pain albums such as 'Psalms Of Extinction' and 'Cynic Paradise' with its hard, memorable riffs and industrial meets symphonic synthpop electronics. All the while Till Lindemann's distinctive vocals power through the tracks to whip up huge sing-a-long choruses. It's a combination that simply works. Hardened Rammstein and Pain fans should find plenty here to get their teeth into, though casual listeners may be turned off by Till's explicit use of English, or perhaps the strong musical resemblance to Pain rather than something drastically different. However, that's not really the point of the album. It's dirty, it's fun and it's most certainly memorable.

Cold In Berlin – 'The Comfort Of Loss & Dust'

Cold In Berlin have become one of the most respectable and genuinely intriguing bands in the UK underground. The band's first two albums were stunning exercises in gritty and arty gothic tinged post punk. But the band's third album sees perhaps the biggest step in their sonic evolution thus far as 'The Comfort Of Loss & Dust' slaps a heavy dose of stoner rock on top of the bands cool gothic sounds. The fusion is a slice of sheer bliss that recalls the black metal tinged post punk of Beastmilk, and the avant garde doom rock of Chelsea Wolfe, as well as occult rock bands such as Jex Thoth and Subrosa. The Siouxsie Sioux meets Lene Lovich with a liberal sprinkle of Grace Slick style vocals of Maya cut through the cacophony of fuzz to preserve the bands gothic menace. The bass and guitar switch between doom, stoner, and punk riffs while the drums thunder above to create a thick and foreboding atmosphere of melancholia. The Comfort Of Loss & Dust' is a revelation. They've taken a gamble and it has definitely paid off for them. It mangles and distorts genres into a captivating new beast. One that will still appeal to their long-time fans but will open new doors for them with an appeal that fans of occult rock, stoner rock and doom will find hard to resist.

Near Earth Orbit – 'The End Of All Existence'

Artaud Seth (Merciful Nuns, Lutherion, Garden Of Delight) teams up with Ashley Dayour (Whispers In the Shadows, L'Âme Immortelle, Veneno para las Hadas) to usher in the end of days. The duo's new project Near Earth Orbit is an apocalyptic exercise in atmospheric gothic rock fixated on the threat of destruction from space. The album is propelled by Fields Of The Nephilim style bass lines, coupled with near ritualistic beats, washes of droning guitars, and dark ambient synthesizers which frame Seth's shamanistic vocal style. There are nods to the likes of Fields Of The Nephilim, Pink Floyd, Tiamat, Tool, and the duo's own expansive back catalogues. It's a seminal and wholly original sound that is both disturbing and utterly compelling. 'End Of All Existence' is less of an album than an audio disaster movie. Such is the scope and excellence of the execution. Seth and Dayour have crafted a fine and original work that while following the path laid out by Seth's own recent work with Merciful Nuns, still manages to create a unique and effective identity of its own. The songs are catchy and fans of both artists will easily be able to pick up this album and engage with it. It's a promising first move from a partnership that looks set to pay off time and time again.

Sidewalks And Skeletons – 'White Light'

Love it or loath it, witch house is here to stay and so is Sidewalks And Skeletons, AKA Bradford's Jake Lee who, on his latest release under the moniker continues to experiment and push the definition of the genre. 'White Light', the follow-up to last year's 'Future Ghosts', incorporates the classic trappings of witch house but pushes beyond them as well and even goes as far to infuse metal elements into some of the songs. It is an album that is set on expanding the palette of its creator and the experimental scope of the genre. 'White Light' is hands down the strongest Sidewalks And Skeletons release to date, and perhaps one of the best witch house-related releases of the year. The songs are aiming for another level and more often than not reach it. It has aspirations to stay true to its roots but at the same time redefine what they are and can encompass. This is an album that should hopefully capture a lot of people's attention, and quite rightly so.

Chant – 'Brave New Apocalypse'

Chant, AKA Bradley Bills, sounds like one of those projects that has been around forever... despite only being on album number three. Chant's high profile North American and European tour supports with the likes of KMFDM and Die Krupps has seen Bills spread his tribal infused industrial sound far and wide and gained an international following in the process. Drawing on influences such as Nitzer Ebb, Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, and KMFDM there is something classic about his sonic formula that creates and instant familiarity. The third album from Chant, 'Brave New Apocalypse' sees Bills further refine his rhythmic industrial manifesto and brings in a fresh take on the classic industrial rock style of the early 1990s. 'Brave New Apocalypse' is a great stylistic turn by Bills and should play well to new fans looking for something to rock out to, as well as older fans who will feel a pang of nostalgia for the days in which industrial rock gained some mainstream traction. It is full of potential club-friendly hits and will ensure a healthy live repertoire for future live shows. But most importantly it should continues to see Bradley Bills song writing talents strengthen and his position solidify as a name to be reckoned with.


Wik▲n – 'Nightfall'

Sheffield's Wik▲n may be flying the flag for the witch house scene, but there is so much more to their sound than that. Their newest offering (their eighth EP since 2010) 'Nightfall' includes ambient, drone, noise, dark electro, and even neofolk as well as drag and witch house to create haunting soundscapes and experimental grooves. But no matter which direction they choose to go, the songs remain epic in their scope and rarely drop below seven minutes in length. Wik▲n may not be a common name in the UK underground scene but they should be. 'Nightfall' is a mature, engrossing and deeply fulfilling listening experience. The band prove they can turn their hand to anything and everything here and still make it sound like a cohesive whole. This is definitely an act to keep your eye on.

Garek – 'Take the King Vol. 1'

You may have seen the videos for the incendiary slices of pop-industrial that Garek has released prior to his début EP in the form of 'Cavity', 'Save The Queen' and his cover of Katy Perry's 'E.T'. If you haven't had the pleasure yet then you've been missing out. Garek presents a satisfying blend of electro mixed with industrial rock and given a radio-friendly pop veneer that recalls the classic years of Marilyn Manson, Orgy, Nine Inch Nails, and recent acts such as Aesthetic Perfection. Throw in a glamorous presentation and a genuinely artistic idiom and you have a winning formula. The EP is brief clocking in a t just over twelve minutes in length and refreshingly doesn’t include any tacked-on remixes, instead keeping to the short but complete statement of the four tracks. But despite it's length it hits its mark with ease. Garek has a great sound that won't fail to inspire a big following and perhaps even some cross-over success down the line.

(((O))) – 'We Hate You'

Despite only emerging in 2012 (((O))), AKA Nikita Vasilyev has already developed a loyal following thanks to releases such as 'Black EP' and 'Motherland'. This year the Belarus-based artist returns with the new three-track EP, 'We Hate You'. Taking its cues from LaVey and Lovecraft it's dark experimental electronics and witch house embellishments make it one of the few underground electronic bands that can be happily summed up as avant garde while keeping a straight face. If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to (((O))) then 'We Hate You' is a good starting point. It's accessible, moody and psychedelic electronic that fans of dark electro will be able to appreciate. It would have been nicer to have a bit of a longer running time. But the three tracks feel like a complete statement, so it is by no means disappointing. However it does build up the anticipation that could be quenched by another full-length release.

The Gothsicles – 'The Nyarlat Hot EP'

After Brian Graupner and his band of reprobates embark on their most club-friendly and well-rounded outing to date with the delightfully mad 'Squid Icarus', The Gothsicles returned with a follow-up EP in the form of 'The Nyarlat Hot EP'. Picking up where they left off the band with three new songs and some bonus remixes to extend their club appeal a little further. The classic Gothsicle elements are all present such as Graupner's bat-shit crazy vocals, the 8-bit leads, and of course more nerd culture thrown under the microscope and lovingly mocked. Throw in some great remixes from the likes of  Ballpeen, Projekt F and God Module and this is becomes and addictive little taste of where the band are at. The EP may be a humble one and not exactly push new ground in it's own right, but it is a nonetheless zany and delightful appendage to the main album that still has some great dance floor moments to enjoy.

Monomorte – 'The Three Mothers'

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 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.

Psy'Aviah – 'Never Look Back' / Words' EP

Belgium's Psy'Aviah AKA multi-instrumentalist and producer Yves Schelpe, have been providing an eclectic injection into the electronic scene for a number of years. Blending elements of trip hop, ambient, pop, rock, techno, electroclash, and ebm Schelep and his now revolving door of talented vocalists the music of Psy'Aviah has always been something that is hard to ignore. Now one year on after the last full-length outing on 'The Xenogamous Endeavour' Schelpe returns with the 'Never Look Back' / 'Words' EP as a precursor to the next Psy'Aviah album. With the two lead tracks Schelpe continues to break down genre conventions injecting 'Never Look Back', which features the vocal talents of Ellia Bisker of New York's Sweet Soubrette, with a heavily trip-hop saturated direction while keeping it's fresh electro framework. While 'Words' , featuring J Ari, adds a couple of big helpings of reggae and Mowtown to Schelpe's electronic formula. This EP bodes well for the forthcoming album. If it continues down a similar line of eclectic genre blending and emotion-tugging melodies, then the next full-length Psy'Aviah album could be their best yet. 

V▲LH▲LL – 'Vi††ΞЯS†ЯåK'

Stockholm's V▲LH▲LL are an undeniably impressive act. Formed in 2012 they have fast become one of the most impressive underground electronic acts around today despite only having a few releases to their name. Their début full-length release last year on Artoffact Records, 'Leaning On Shadows' was a triumphant blend of atmospheric songwriting incorporating elements of witch house, neofolk, dark ambient and industrial. Just in time for Halloween comes the band's new single 'Vi††ΞЯS†ЯåK' which features two tracks of dissonant dark ambiance to send shivers down your spine. This is another great release from V▲LH▲LL that continues to show off their skill and diversity. They seamlessly span experimental and more accessible genres and can craft exquisitely haunting atmospheres with ease. 'Vi††ΞЯS†ЯåK' is Halloween friendly scary music in a non cliché way that shows a real mastery of sound, melody and rhythm. Hopefully the band will follow this up soon with another full-length album to show the full scope of their abilities again.

Blush Response – 'Future Tyrants'

Blush Response's last release, 2014's 'Desire Machines' was a stunning blend of avant garde electronics and intelligent dance music that consolidated Joey Blush's position as arguably one of the most exciting electronic musicians around today. Utilising modular synthesizers, Blush blends a mixture of influences gleaned from glitch, ambient, industrial, ebm and electronica to create something truly fresh and modern. Fast forward two years and the now Berlin based artist releases his latest EP 'Future Tyrants' on Aufnahme + Wadergabe. Distorted glitch elements combine with subtle dance beats and throbbing synth bass for a dark and satisfying sound that evokes the early works of acts such as Front 242, Skinny Puppy, Die Krupps, Cabaret Voltaire, and Front Line Assembly. 'Future Tyrants' is another feather in Joey Blush's cap showing him to be a true master of his art. The album is comprised of instrumentals, and that may turn off those who like a nice lyric or two to get stuck into, but it doesn't hold it back. These are four bold and forceful tracks that demand to be heard and leave you feeling satisfied. Fans of the old school sound will immediately dig it, while those newer to the classic ebm / electro-indutrial scene will still find this an accessible point of reference.

Celldweller – 'End Of an Empire – Chapter 3: Dreams'

If the previous album had been a scatter-gun affair then this time around it shows that Klayton has learned his lesson and kept to a more unified plan. '...Dreams' continues the sound-designed approach of the previous two instalments with the instrumental 'Faction' tracks taking the majority of the airtime around two central vocal tracks. This chapter shows that the 'End Of An Empire' album is progressing nicely and may even eclipse the eponymous début album. The fact it is being released in chapters is still very frustrating as it would be great to listen to everything in one sitting and take it all in properly. However it seems as though Klayton has got this one completely under control this time and we won't have long to wait to get the final instalment.

In Death It Ends – 'Protogrammaton'

In Death It Ends has maintained an intensive release schedule over the past few years with multiple album, single, EP and free download releases each year. This has already built up into an impressive and enviable back catalogue that synthesizes elements of witch house, post punk, gothic rock, industrial and darkwave into something genuinely unique. 'Protogrammaton' marks the start of the 2015 release cycle in anticipation of the next full length LP 'Beneath Eden'. Even though it is a free to download mini-album, that doesn't take away from the quality of the music it contains. If this is your first introduction to IDIE then 'Protogrammaton' is a good place to start. It provides a good cross section of the band's styles and influences in one accessible package. It isn't the most defining of the back catalogue to date, but it still holds its own.

Keep an eye out for more countdowns this month. In the meantime, what were your favourite albums off the past twelve months? Let us know on our Facebook page.  

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