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'


Thursday 26 May 2016

Review: Cynical Existence – 'Through My Eyes'

'Through My Eyes'

Cynical Existence started out as the solo project of Menschdefekt and Project Rotten's Fredrik Croona and has slowly grown into a full band. Keeping one foot in the harsh ebm and aggrotech of the project's birth, their new release 'Through My Eyes' sees Cynical Existence continue to grow and tweak it's sound with elements of edm, dark electro and metal coming to the fore.

The three-track single builds nicely on from the band's last EP 'Echoes' complimenting the slower, darker pace while injecting the kind of big club-filler feel that a single should have. The title track is a nice mixture of hard beats, catchy synth leads, hard guitars framing Croona's tortured vocals nicely for a heavy but still dance-friendly assault. 'Static' from the afore mentioned EP gets a nice new club edit that sees the originals full dance potential teased out a little more. Finally a remix contribution from Benajmin's Plague again for 'Static' gives the song a completely new twist with darker intro, throbbing bass, hard kicks and still maintaining the metallic guitars for a great mix that will surely find favour on dance floors.

In therms of production the single is nice and solid with an emphasis on the dance-friendly elements of the band's sound. It hasn't moved on too much from 'Echoes' and still doesn't quite have that spit and polish you'll find on a lot of releases these days, but it is gritty and nasty where it needs to be and that attitude is what counts for a lot.

This is a great single with some very nice remixes that builds on the recent EP and shows a band continuing to grow and diversify while still keeping the core appeal of their sound intact. Any fans of harsh ebm or aggrotech will enjoy this.  

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Review: In Death It Ends – 'Servitors'


In Death It Ends is an incredibly prolific project. Wrapped in secrecy and with a minimum of information ever released about any releases the project from former Rosetta Stone and Misery:Lab man Porl King has created a unique monster from parts of classic post-punk and proto-gothic/industrial and melded them with modern witch house elements. The project has kept a steady visual aesthetic through artwork and limited merchandise as well that has reinforced the intrigue amongst fans.

'Servitors' is the latest in a long-line of free releases from IDIE that recently have become a get it while you can offer through the band's website. These releases vary greatly in style with some more experimental, and some more raw and punk in construction. But each one feels valid and complete and not just something release for the sake of it.

The new EP delves into experimental electronics with the five tracks – 'Kritanta', 'Sephtis', 'Morana', 'Valdis', and 'Lefu' – built around a similar formula of a core of steady rhythms and bass lines with retro analogue synthesizers breaking up the the entrancing rhythms. The result is a nice retro flavoured new wave feel that feels dark yet futuristic but characteristically haunting atmospherically.

The production is great as usual. King maintains a wonderfully low-fi feel to the recording but simultaneously gives the album a nice sharp and modern edge with a nice sense of space expressed by every track.

Again this is another solid if short release from King that will appeal to long-time fans as well as anyone into retro-flavoured post-punk with a minimalistic experimental slant. It may be free but it is still a high-quality addition to an already burgeoning back catalogue.  

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Wednesday 25 May 2016

Review: Angelspit – 'Cult Of Fake'

'Cult Of Fake'

Angelspit return with their sixth full-length album and first on new label Negative Gain Productions. 'Cult Of Fake' sees Zoog and co return in ambitious form. The album is locked and loaded with dancefloors firmly in its sight. Yet it retains a deceptively complex construction that sees their signature crunchy electropunk style revisit samples used in earlier recordings and working them into a fresher and more modern sound. The lyrical content is as witty and full of punk rock attitude as ever and there are so many potential club tracks to choose from that long-time fans will find this an easy album to get their teeth into.

Songs such as 'Thanks For Your Cooperation', 'Cult Of Fake', 'New Devil', 'Out For Blood', 'Happy Murderland', and 'Disaster Porn' are crammed full of big beats, dirty synth bass, sing-a-long lyrics and nasty leads. While the likes of 'Breath', and 'My Little Blade' delve into real old school 80s territory with 'My Little Blade' particular resembling Fad Gadget to add a different slant to the track list.

The production is tight and fresh, geared up for dance floors. B ut it is also a very listenable record. The lyrics are great and meaningful, and the vocals remain nicely mixed throughout so you still get the full benefit of their impact. That's something that sometimes can get lost in albums with a strong dance agenda but in this case it has balanced well.

'Cult Of Fake' is a great album, easily one of the best Angelspit releases so far. There is a great balance of industrial dance and vehement punk rock attitude balanced out quite nicely across all the tracks. Long-time fans will be able to pick this up with ease and it will undoubtedly still attract new fans through casual listeners purely on the strength of the songwriting and composition at work here. Definitely a must have for industrial fans.  

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Tuesday 24 May 2016

Review: Katatonia – 'The Fall Of Hearts'

'The Fall Of Hearts'

Ah the sweet sound of Scandinavian misery. There is something about countries like Norway, Sweden, and Finland that just means they can do melancholia so well. Katatonia are one of those bands. For 25 years they have been exploring dark forlorn musical realms. Taking their initial inspiration from the British Doom bands Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, Sweden's Katatonia quickly became a force to be reckoned with and by the turn of the millennium albums such as 'Viva Emptiness' and 'The Great Cold Distance' saw the band realise their full potential by diversifying and progressing their sound beyond metal and cutting into the heart of woe.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the band's tenth studio album 'The Fall Of Hearts' is upon us. Building upon their consistently strong and affecting recent output, the band continue to blend doom metal with progressive elements, post rock and ethereal atmospheres to reach deep into the soul and tease out the emotions.

Songs such as 'Takeover', 'Serein', 'Decima', 'Sanction', 'Last Song Before The Fade', 'Pale Flag', and 'Passer' are prime examples of the band's songwriting prowess. The vocals of Jonas Renske perfectly framed by driving rhythms, hard guitars and haunting keyboards. The album has a much more pronounced progressive rock sound than recent albums that benefits from the pop veneer of the production without losing its metallic undertones. The overall effect is not dissimilar from the late 90s output of Anathema but darker, harder and more sombre.

The production, as mentioned before, has a nice pop veneer to it and that's nothing to be scoffed at. This is an album that balances metal, with prog rock and rests a crown of ethereal atmospheres upon it for good measure, which is perhaps the band's most accessible to date. Therefore the album needs, and quite rightly gets the high quality modern production it needs to have the songs sounding their absolute best.

The band's run since 2003's 'Viva Emptiness' has been an enviable one with a consistent trend upwards in terms of quality of releases, and 'The Fall Of Hearts' doesn't break this pattern. The progressive elements sound excellent and add a greater dynamic to the band's atmospheric metal steeped in sadness and loss but more complex and free in execution. Long-time fans will not be surprised or disappointed with this.

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Review: Rhombus – 'Purity & Perversion'

'Purity & Perversion'

Two years on from their last full-length album Yorkshire's Rhombus return with a brand new EP of gothic rock anthems more satisfying than a Sunday lunch with all the trimmings. The band have been on an undeniable upward trajectory since the release of 2010's 'Open The Sky' which saw the band firmly consolidate their musical ideas which they continued to expand on the 'Anywhere' EP and 'Here Be Dragons' album over the following years. In that time there has been a lineup change, but this hasn't held them back or limited them. Instead the band push forward their ideas and build on the solid foundation they have been toiling on over the past few years.

'Purity & Perversion' – in particular the Deluxe Version – is a great example of modern guitar orientated gothic rock. The EP was originally released last year and the original tracks have been re-recorded to include the vocals of Alixandrea Corvyn and the track list expanded to include a brand new track as well as a cover of Das Projekt's 'Adrianne Dances' and a remix for good measure. It's enough to make you sweat.

Tracks such as 'Mythos', 'Shimmer', 'Daylight', 'A Moment Today', and 'Written In My Eyes' are prime examples of the band's songwriting ability and how it has continued to grow and expand, becoming more powerful and dynamic while maintaining that core of grooving bass, sharp riffs and the mix of male and female vocals. The band's cover of gothic rockers Das Projekt's 'Adrianne Dances' takes the no frills and somewhat basic gothic rock construction of the original and rebuilds it into a track that is 100% Rhombus.

The production sounds great throughout the album. The band sound huge throughout every song and it is evident that they are learning with every single release. The synthesizers and drums give the songs an epic sense of space while the vocals, bass and guitars cut through the atmosphere to drive the songs forward.

This is another great release from a band that are solidifying their legacy as one of the country's strongest gothic rock acts for a long time. Strong, powerful and most importantly high qualirt, 'Purity & Perversion' is a must have for any fan of gothic rock. Hopefully the band will be back with another full-length release in the near future as well.

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Thursday 19 May 2016

Editorial: May, 2016

I'm giving my editorial over this month just to reflect back on the awesomeness that was Joy Division. At the time of writing this it is the 36th anniversary of the death of Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis. And I thought it would be nice to take stock and look at just why this Mancunian band who were only active long enough to release a couple of albums before having to evolve into an entirely new project are so important to indie music.

Joy Division only released two albums – 1979's 'Unknown Pleasures' and 1980's 'Closer' (which came out after Curtis' death by suicide) – these two releases bridged the anger of punk music with the high art of the post-punk scene and infused the end result with tense, introspective lyrics coloured by post-industrial decay. They were a benchmark for the indie scene that was to come and were a big catalyst for what would become gothic music.

The band's use of rhythmic bass leads, subtle hanging synths, anguished guitars, cavernous sounding drums and Curtis' distinctive paranoid bass-baritone vocals have been referenced by bands ever since. Even as the band reformed and evolved under the moniker of New Order – their change in direction to a more dance-orientated sound would go on to provide the inspiration for the more psychedelic sounds of Madchester and Acid House in the late 80s and early 90s.

There was a purity to the Joy Division formula. Their two albums and the later posthumous release 'Still', which would tie together singles and other unreleased material, were complete, succinct and valid artistic statements that struck a nerve with audiences and critics. There was an undeniable raw passion at play. Both album's forward-thinking style of production courtesy of Martin Hannett have imbued the songs with a timeless quality that puts them in the same regions as Bowie's Berlin trilogy.

Altogether the band recorded 43 songs. Played 120 shows. And were in existence for around 29 months. There are many bands who were their contemporaries who outlasted them and have done a lot more to ensure their legacies in the history of music. But Joy Division have still been absorbed into the very fabric of British alternative music. Even their aesthetics – the stark photography of Anton Corbijn, and the design work of Peter Saville – provided the band with a strong visual hook that is still recognised and reproduced today.

Arguably Ian Curtis' death by suicide and the surviving members choice to leave the Joy Division name behind when regrouping surrounded the band in an alluring and tragic mythology. But mythology is only ever on the surface. The influence of the band has been so great and so long-lasting that it is hard to deny that they were just one of those acts that comes along every now and then that just perfectly sums up everything and expresses what you can't express.

Anyway, that's my meandering thought of the day on the anniversary of Ian Curtis' death.

One last thing - if you haven't already got them, go get our three download compilations FOR FREE from out bandcamp – so much free music! What the hell are you waiting for?!

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Wednesday 18 May 2016

Review: The Open Eyed Dreamer – 'Free Your Own Mind'

The new solo project from Ghost In The Static front-man and named after the band's two part 'The Open Eyed Dreamer' album and EP, Steve Fearon sets out on his own with a far more electronic path than previous. A teaser of this direction was dropped in February with a rather brilliant cover of Marilyn Manson's 'Dried Up, Tied, And Dead To The World' and the EP expands nicely upon this.

The opening track 'Press Enter to Continue' has a dark martial element to it which is a great introduction before dropping into a blend of eclectic electronics that blend elements of ohGr and modern Skinny Puppy with Infected Mushroom. There is a nice balance between hard dance appeal and playful experimentation on tracks such as 'Simple People' and 'The Last Revolution'. While the likes of 'Waiting' (which also features Mixe1 and Gary Walker) and 'The Final Photograph' show just how far the music can be pushed.

For an EP this is a nice and complete statement of intent. The songwriting is strong, confident and not afraid to play with the listener's expectations. Lyrically Fearon is at his most expressive. The songs play with influences from ebm, synthpop, industrial, rock and techno and blends them into something that feels fresh and modern.

The production reflects this as well with the tracks having the kind of sheen to them that you'd expect from any aqct packing dance floors these days. But there is also a little grit in there, something a little punky and less user-friendly that hints at the unexpected lurking just below the surface.

This is a strong first step for this project. It has a lot to offer and shows a lot of promise in the directions it could possibly move. Hopefully Fearon will follow this up with a longer release in the near future.  

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Tuesday 17 May 2016

Review: Various Artists – 'Beat:Cancer: V3'

'Beat:Cancer: V3'

Started by Mark Haigh in 2012 as a reaction to the death of a friend from lymphoma, Beat:Cancer has through it's first two compilations and subsequent live tours gone on to raise over £6000 for Cancer Research UK. Now a registered charity in its own right, the third volume in this successful compilation series returns boasting exclusive and unreleased material from 40 acts across three CDs. The album was officially released on 25
th March in partnership with AnalogueTrash Records at the final Resistanz Festival and comes in a beautiful eight-panel digipak.

With 40 bands on the album it will be impossible to comment on each one and still make this review concise, and the bands I've picked out by no way represent the only good tracks. There is a lot to explore and not much work count in which to do it!

The album pulls together a range of bands from different electronic genres be it industrial, ebm, synthpop/futurepop, aggrotech, noise and just about everything in between. Bands such as Atomzero, ESA, Freakangel, Syd.31, Cease2xist, V2A, Defeat, Machine Rox, Ruinizer, MiXE1, and Ctrl Alt Del provide great club-friendly tracks that will make this album essential for any club night.

While the likes of Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand, D.E.P. vs MiXE1, Dirty K, Jet Noir, and Tapewyrm, go deep and dark into more avant garde realms. The compilation is a fine balance of genres that shows off the talents of a range of new and established bands who all deserve public support.

Despite the range of genres and recording budgets that are on show here, the album has been mastered really well so that there is no discernible drop in quality between tracks. Also the track listing has been arranged nicely so that there is a nice flow between songs and no sudden shock as one quite track is bookended by walls of harsh noise.

This is not only an essential compilation for any fan of alternative electronic music, but it is a great cause that is visibly making a difference. This is a cause that needs the support of the scene. The enjoyment that these compilations and tours give to fans can only be repaid by putting your hands in your pocket, getting the CDs and tickets and help to beat cancer. 

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Review: Grimrik – 'Die Mauern Der Nacht'

'Die Mauern Der Nacht'

A sonic exploration of the boundaries that separate worlds, Berlin's Grimrik blend amazing synthwork with a cosmic sense of scope. The 80's retro sounds evoke Vangelis and Moroder, while the dark atmospherics harken back to the likes of Wongraven and era I Mortiis. The end result id not quite dungeon music and not quite sci-fi fantasy. It is Tolkein meets Lovecraft. The endless unfathomable void of space being harnessed atop the tower of Isengard.

In one sense it is closer to progressive electronics of Wendy Carlos and the Krautrock of Tangerine Dream as much as the atmospheric synthesizers of the black metal offshoot projects of the 90s. Songs such as 'Im Nebel', '
Der erste Kontakt', 'Vor Dem Sprung', 'Vorsichtige Schritte', and 'Letzte Zweifel' are delicate yet malevolent ambient pieces that draw the listener into a near trance of swirling and droning synths over which light melodies play in the cavernous space created. While the likes of 'Teleportiert (Reprise)', 'Im freien Fall (album version)', and 'Erlösung' add subtle beats and in the case of the final track some epic guitar work to create tracks with a little more drive and mass appeal that will entice more than just fans of ambient music.

In terms of the production it is quite retro in its flavours but still perfectly mixed and presented for a modern listener. The 80s synth sounds and electronic drums in particular sound like they have been pulled straight from a fantasy soundtrack. However it doesn't sound cheap or low-fi. If this was an 80s fantasy soundtrack it would have been a big budget one. And that's why this album sounds fresh and engaging.

This is a stunning album that anyone into progressive electronics, krautrock, dark ambient or dungeon music will not fail to enjoy. The deep level of skill in the songwriting and attention to detail in its execution make this a deeply gratifying listening experience. 

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The Human Culture

The thing about cultures is that they seem to divide, yet intertwine to become one and the same: the human culture.

It's something I kind of always had subconsciously understood, but never actually truly witnessed until my grand-mother's funeral last Saturday. The funeral home had a chapel, and in the chapel stood flag posts depicting every religion of the world.
Sort-of a multi-purpose room/chapel.

It dawned upon me that what mattered is not so much the place where the service occurs. What matters is what's in people's hearts. To each culture their own way of saying goodbye. But then, we're all saying goodbye.

Each culture has its rites, namely birth, the introduction of a human being in a family, a community, a culture; marriage, the union of 2 beings through love, bringing families together; and death, the ultimate rite of passage, bringing the human being into its next plane of existence.

What makes for the divide is the words used, the clothing worn, the gods worshipped, and the traditions observed. In other words, the richness of the diversity of the world. And then, true to the nature of humans evolving, we come to make our own traditions within our families, our friends, and our communities.

As I grow older, and observe the world itself growing older alongside, I often feel like the world, and human evolution, is at a crossroads. Like we're halfway between traditions that were there before the eldest people alive were even born, and a completely new world and human state of mind, with no points of reference to be found anywhere else but in the visions of the future from old sci-fi movies.

And then on one hand, you've got people embracing the concept of putting computer chips inside human bodies, and on the other, we've got more and more parents refusing vaccines for their children, claiming they do more harm than protection.
Halfway between grassroots and space station vacations.

Cultures everywhere are blending, or more like, anyone living in one of the major cities of the world is likely, at some point or another, to pick and choose elements of all the other cultures surrounding them, and make it their own. Figuring out what rings true inside, and what doesn't, and in the midst of all these cultures, finding who we really are.
Such is the core of human culture.

We breathe in life for the first time, and before we breathe it out for the last, well, we spend our time discovering ourselves, as individuals, in a culture, through a community, a family, a society. Our culture defines who we are, or rather, we define ourselves through the many cultures we choose to embrace.

So whether you're goth, punk or rockabilly, embracing practices in paganism, Buddhism or Hinduism, or which ever culture that strikes a chord inside, what matters is that through these, you find yourself and stay true to your heart.

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Thursday 12 May 2016

Review: Rob Zombie – 'The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser'

'The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser'

For thirty years Rob Zombie has been presenting his nightmarish vision of a sci-fi, horror, b-movie Americana nightmare set to industrial electronics and metal guitars for thirty years. First as part of alt metal darlings, and then as a celebrated solo artist. Classic albums such as 'Astro-Creep 2000', 'Hellbilly Deluxe', 'The Sinister Urge', and 'Hellbilly Deluxe 2' have assured his place in the canon of modern metal heroes. He's also a pretty good horror film director on the side.

His latest album, 'The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser' picks up where 2013's 'Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor' left off with it's White Zombie manic psychedelia and acid rock influences intermingling nicely with his mass appealing industrial metal side.

Songs such as 'Satanic Cyanide! The Killer Rocks On!', 'The Life And Times Of A Teenage Rock God', 'Well, Everybody's Fucking In A UFO' (where the band do their bast Primus impersonation), 'Medication For The Melancholy', 'I
n The Age Of The Consecrated Vampire We All Get High', and 'Wurdalak' fit into the Rob Zombie discography with ease with their big beats, hard riffs, crazy use of samples and sing-a-long vocals and addictive grooves courtesy of easily the strongest musical line-up Mr Zombie has ever had in tow.

In terms of production it is top-shelf standard as you'd expect from a major label artist. It has it's gritty crazy bits that hark back to the early days but overall it's pretty crisp and modern in its execution.

This is what Rob Zombie albums should be. Long-time fans will have plenty to get their teeth into and new fans will have a pretty good starting point from which to explore his earlier solo efforts or dive back further into the White Zombie years. There may not be the out and out classic cuts here that could compete with 'Dragula', 'Superbeast', or 'Living Dead Girl' but as an album it holds it's own against the strongest offerings in his back catalogue and what is on offer here will certainly find spots in his live set for a while to come. 

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Review: Adoration Destroyed – 'Carnal Dirge'

'Carnal Dirge'

from the mind of Erik Gustafson of 16 Volt fame comes the dark electronic pop act Adoration Destroyed release their sexy new single 'Carnal Dirge' on Cleopatra Records. Blending modern edm influences with elements of synthpop, darkwave, industrial, and ebm, the band present a fresh, dark and sensually dance friendly sound that will appeal to fans of classic acts as well as newcomers to the genre.

The title track is a smouldering blend of steady dance beats, grooving bass and rhythmic dance leads that will play well to dancefloors around the world. The second track is a cover of Til Tuesday's 'Voices Carry' which has a great rhythmic intro before going into a nice bass-heavy, dark dance anthem. The single is completed with a remix of the title track from their previous single, 'In Elegant Decay', courtesy of Cynical Existence which adds a nice blend of harsh and melodic to the original .

The production is tight. It is dark, dance-friendly and the songs sound nice and modern while keeping an air of classic appeal. To be honest though it is the level of skill that you would expect from a project featuring members of 16 Volt and Black December.

This is a great single featuring three great tracks with instant appeal. The future looks bright for this dark electro-pop project. The trio have the skill and the songs have the quality they need to grab people's attention. Adoration Destroyed will be one to watch.  

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Wednesday 11 May 2016


'Baphometh' - Painting by Marilyn Manson

Rarely does an urban legend become a cultural trope and then become a major behavioural paradigm, but the Faustian myth did just that. Beginning with the legend of a Renaissance necromancer in Germany who reputedly sold his soul to the Devil in return for magical powers, only to have the Devil reclaim him on his death, the myth has become the standard all-encompassing story of the 'Faustian Pact' - doing business or working with the forces of moral evil for power, influence or riches, and losing your integrity, soul or purity as a result. But in many ways the story is even more important, representing the fundamental break on which all modern counterculture is based.

The orgins of the story are, in an appropriately modern way, rather confused. As many as three different Faustus' were at large at the time, and the legends were attached to a lesser degree to all of them; likewise his birthplace, career and death are all subject to much conjecture. But the most comprehensive account of the real Faust (Leo Ruickbie's excellent biography 'Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician') explains that the behaviours assigned to him were really just the posthumous inventions of a jealous contemporary rival. So in one way, Faust was simply the victim of an epic diss - or a flame war, albeit one involving actual magicians and one therefore more likely to involve actual flames.  

It could be argued that Adam and Eve made the first Faustian pact in the Garden of Eden, in a rather raw deal involving a snake and an apple. But the difference is that whereas the concept of 'the original sin' is based upon a loss of innocence and a perpetual tendency to corruption, the Faustian ideal is about turning your back on the mainstream, on conformity, on 'virtue' as it is perceived at the time. As Czech film director Jan Svankmajer put it: "Sooner or later, everyone is faced with the same dillemma - either to live in conformity with the misty promises of institutionalised 'happiness', or to rebel and take the path away from civilisation, whatever the results". And it is this notion of rebellion, on turning your back on society and going your own way, which is at the heart of alternative culture; from Robert Johhnson's alleged deal with the Devil at the crossroads, to Led Zeppelin doing the same, to punk rock and goth and even the 'God of Fuck'. So yes - basically, Faust invented rock & roll as we know it.

The founding myth of the Satanic roots of the blues, the fear of the 'devil's interval', the threat of sex or violence or drugs or perversion; all of them are based on the Faustian rejection of a mainstream mentality. Who didn't make their own Faustian pact when they first applied warpaint, torn clothes or spikes, and in some way made a silent commitment to the 'dark side' - that daunting concept that they were scared to travel towards?

But there is a harder edge to the myth, too - that of the imperative to betray. Anyone can build a vast reserve of social capital from 'doing the right thing' (whatever that is), or being dependable, or by having integrity; but maybe this only makes sense when you throw it away. Don't we all have those moments when we think 'fuck it' and walk away, or walk on in? Maybe it takes a certain kind of idealism to seize the chance to sell out, to surrender to corruption, to invert our personalities. The true cultural creations of the Faustian myth are Don Giovanni, the Nietzschean ubermensch, Don Juan, Dracula, the supervillain, the megalomaniac, and the rock star - the Faustian that steps out into a blank, nihilstic void and creates themselves anew.

The Faustian ideal is really just us opening the door of the church, peering into the sunlight, and going out to play...with a cruel glint in our eyes.

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Review: Surgical Meth Machine – 'Surgical Meth Machine'

'Surgical Meth Machine'

If you've never heard of Al Jourgensen, you're either supremely well adjusted, or have just been living under a rock since the early 1980s. The man of many bands and aliases has been the driving force behind legendary acts Ministry and Revolting Cocks (amongst others) for over thirty years and has been a big influence on a range of industrial/metal acts around the world. Uncle Al is back with a new project and album in the form of Surgical Meth Machine – a project conceived with engineer Sam D'Ambruso in tribute to the late Mike Scaccia whose distinctive shredding coloured the post 9/11 Ministry sound.

Blending industrial metal, speed metal and even psychedelic rock 'Surgical Meth Machine' is an uncompromising album that plays fast an loose with elements of Jourgensen's considerable discography while successfully crafting its own identity.

There will always be strong comparisons to Ministry as Jourgensen's vocals are distinctive and his penchant for breakneck speed, machine gun beats and bombarding the mix with samples are all present and correct. However with SMM it all sounds unburdened by the weight of expectation that came with a long-time commitment like Ministry. The end result is a clear-headed, focussed and streamlined barrage that shows off some of Jourgensen's strongest writing in years.

Songs such as 'I'm Sensitive', 'Tragic Alert', 'I Don't Wanna', 'Smash And Grab', and 'Unlistenable' give the album a fast and strong backbone of uncompromising riffs angry vocals and general Jourgensen-style craziness. Then after a nutty cover of Devo's 'Gates Of Steel' things descend sharply into psychedelic waters with 'Just Go Home' and 'Just Keep Going' providing a blend of Wax Trax! Era crazy electronics mixed with dub which leads you into the slow and unexpected come down that is the quite frankly brilliant 'I'm Invisible'.

The album is bipolar in it's construction but consistent in its execution. The rapid speed freak metal is sharp and aggressive, and the slower and more electronic orientated tracks have a laid back and casual feel to them. While being at opposite ends of the spectrum these different sides to the SMM still manage to keep some kind of unity.

'Surgical Meth Machine' is a brilliant first step in what will hopefully be an exciting new journey for Jourgensen. This album is his most diverse in his career to date and the unexpected twist at the end shows he still has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Hopefully Surgical Meth Machine will be a going concern well into the future.  

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Review: The 69 Eyes – 'Universal Monsters'

'Universal Monsters'

Helsinki's The 69 Eyes have been doing their part for good ol' fashioned goth 'n' roll since 1999. The sleaze-glam-turned-goths have enjoyed international success as one of the genre's most visible bands since their RoadRunner records debut 'Wasting The Dawn'. Now in 2016 the band return with 'Universal Monsters' a move back to their more overtly gothic rock sound after a few years dabbling with their early glam influences. The new album sees the return of producer Johnny Lee Michaels who previously worked with the band on their most definitive albums 'Blessed Be', 'Paris Kills', 'Devils', and 'Angels' that coupled with the evocative Boris Karloff-like portrait of vocalist Jyrki on the cover and it will be obvious to fans where the band are going with this one.

Musically the album bears a strong resemblance to 'Devils' with a mix of hard guitar riffs and sombre gothic atmosphere punctuated by Jyrki 69's deep vocal style. There is a mix of Danzig, Type O Negative, The Sisters Of Mercy, and The Cult running throughout which gives the band a lot of room to play with.

The album kicks off with the singles 'Dolce Vita' and 'Jet Fighter Plane' which both feature great riffs and catchy choruses that will compliment the band's live sets nicely. Songs such as 'Miss Pastis', 'Shallow Graves', and 'Rock 'n' Roll Junkie' follow suit giving the album its up-tempo accessibility for fans of their most recent albums. While songs like 'Blackbird Pie', 'Jerusalem', 'Never', and 'Blue' push the gothic elements right to the front again.

The production has that luscious edge that the band's definitive releases kept intact. The harder and more metal elements still sound within the keeping of the presentation of the album, whereas on the past couple of albums their focused came off as a little more confused.

It would still be nice to hear a bit more of that slow and thick gothic sound that made albums like 'Blessed Be' and 'Paris Kills' such attention grabbing releases. But with 'Universal Monsters' The 69 Eyes find a nice balance between their different influences in a focused and consistent way that shall please almost all of their fans.  

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Tuesday 10 May 2016

Film Review: Nine Inch Nails – 'Broken'

Dir: Peter Christopherson

The 'Broken' movie is one of those mythical artefacts of modern alternative culture. Never officially released and widely bootlegged in various incarnations the explicit film accompaniment to Nine Inch Nails' 1992 EP of the same name was a holy grail amongst fans. However in the post broadband world of the 21
st century web it has periodically become available to download and distribute electronically. First to the net came the digital rips original early versions derived from existing bootleggs that missed the odd piece of footage. Then came the torrent by the anonymous “Seed0” (widely believed to be the NIN front man himself Trent Reznor due to this post on the band's site "12/21/06: Happy Holidays! This one is a guilt-free download. (shhhh - I didn't say that out loud). If you know what I'm talking about, cool.") who also freely gifted a number of rare treats such as the 'Closure' DVD version to fans through The Pirate Bay. This version of the film released by "Seed0" appears to be complete and in DVD quality which saw a resurgence in its distribution in the NIN fan community. And now the short film has found its way onto the time seems right to review it.

So what exactly is the 'Broken' movie? Well it is a short 20-minute long film shot partly cinematic and partly in the style of found VHS footage which connects the promotional videos from the 'Broken' EP (directed by Eric Goode, Peter Christopherson, Serge Becker, and Jon Reiss receptively) with a vague but graphic narrative. It' doesn't sound so bad does it? We've all now seen the videos for 'Pinion', 'Help Me I Am In Hell', and the universally banned 'Happiness In Slavery', and while dark and explicit by music video standards, they're no more un-watchable than a lot of horror films out there. The 'Broken' movie does take things a few steps further though.

The director is credited as Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle/Coil fame, and aside from a brief cameo appearance by Trent Reznor on the television scree, the other actors identities are conjectural. The film opens with a manically grinning character about to be executed by hanging and as the trap door opens the footage cuts to amateur looking film of someone driving around. The “n” from the EP cover and the title “Broken” are shown as a glass overlay on the footage. The car approaches a young man and the film cuts to him tied to a chair gagged and being forced to watch a TV as the video for 'Pinion' plays.

The scenes begin to escalate in severity between and sometimes in the middle of the music videos with the young man being forced to drink from a jerrycan, being revealed with a dark substance smeared on his face, implied sexual violence. The finale of the film sees the killer finally mutilate and kill the young man in a frenzied manner while footage is shown of two cops searching the premises uncovering a previous victim and a sign saying “Trespassers Will Be Eaten” set to the music of 'Gave Up'. The footage cuts back to the execution as the character of the killer drops with an very long rope down a black shaft until the rope tightens. We then get the “n” from the EP displayed again and after another 30 seconds of black screen we see the killer's head comically flying across the screen.

The violence shown is sadistic and graphic, but the effects are very much of their time and reminiscent of the low-budget video nasties of the 1980s. The film as a whole frames a darker narrative that can't help but affect future listening of the musical content of the 'Broken' EP. And while the sexual slant to the on-screen violence is certainly cringe-inducing, many Hollywood films in the years since have shown much more crude and visceral scenes.

Nine Inch Nails completeists will no doubt already have this release burned to a DVD already. But for those of a curious nature, this isn't some great mystery that underpins the 'Broken' and 'Fixed' EPs in any significant way. It is a dark oddity, a curio, and morbid footnote. The eerily shot amateur style VHS footage with it's rapid glitches and washed out colours is a strong counterpoint to the slick shot cinematic monochrome that frames it. From a technical standpoint it is a very well shot and well-edited piece of film, though the interstitial footage's reliance on graphic depictions removes any need for deeper analysis beyond what is seen. As a horror-exploitation film it is as an interesting piece with limited appeal. But as a lost/unreleased part of Nine Inch Nails' crazy early years it will always have a draw for their considerable fanbase. 

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Friday 6 May 2016

Review: Ancst – 'Moloch'


Berlin's Ancst have been flying the flag for blackened crust since 2011 and their new album 'Moloch' is a fine muster point for believers to rally behind. With elements of black metal, crust and post-hardcore simmering the band present a frantic and urgent sound that grabs you by the collar and spits venom at you. The band's strong anti-fascist, anti-sexist, and anti-religious themes set their sights on the politics modern living and eviscerate them with savage disregard.

Ancst may have only been around for a few years but they have already amassed a treasure trove of releases to dot, so they certainly know what they're doing here. The band can be compared to the likes of Iskra, Cara Neir, Downfall Of Gaia, and Tragedy in certain respects with the strong blend of hardcore punk and black metal intertwining with melodic moments but still with a pointed ferocity.

Songs such as 'Moloch', 'Skies Of Out Infancy', 'Strife', 'Human Hive', and 'Lys' typify the band's strongest combination of elements – the blasting drums, heavy riffs, tortured vocals and flailing grooves – which sound absolutely fierce and propel the album along.

In respect to the production it does favour the treble which makes the drums sound a little thin in places and allows the bottom end to become swamped. This is a fairly standard issue though that occurs throughout crust and black metal though and it its just a matter of preference that doesn't detract at all from the songs themselves.

'Moloch' is a short, sharp attack that means business. It is relentless in it's aggression and crammed full of the kind of tracks that will have you starting a pit in a supermarket. The band have honed their sound well and the performance and execution of this album is seriously tight. This will be an act to keep an eye on over the years.  

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Thursday 5 May 2016

Live: Desertfest 2016 - London, 29/04/2016 - 01/05/2016

London, UK
29/04/2016 - 01/05/2016 

With classic lack of foresight I upgraded myself from punter to critic whilst travelling on the East Coast mainline to London without having even the vaguest outline of which bands I wanted to see. But, undeterred I dropped my bags off at my Kings Cross dive hotel and headed out to Camden to feast my senses on the Desertfest 2016 experience.

First up were Egypt at the Electric Ballroom, with the American power trio so keen to start that they had to be told to leave the stage and come back on 15 minutes later! When they eventually began the crowd were treated to a feast of bluesy riffage, starting with 'Valley of the Kings' and ending with a ten-minute wig-out of the raunchily upbeat 'Dirty Witch' by way of the standout track of their set - a wonderfully mellow 'Queen of All Time', which went from smokey lead lines to heads-down doom stomping.

Following that were another trio, Sweden's Asteroid. Less compressed and overdriven, their sound distinguished by clearer riffs and hectic fills, the suitably attired chaps had a cocky and exuberant blast as they romped through a divine demonstration of stoner rock, ending with a gorgeous rendition of 'Time'.

There then followed a sudden change of musical gear as the rather heavier Crowbar took the stage for a brutal but musically sparse set, demonstrating fierce riffola and a monochrome delivery that impressd the crowd at the increasingly rammed Ballroom. Following them were Friday's headliners Corrosion of Conformity, whose blend of desert rock and hardcore hit the right spot. Rather a minority interest in their heyday, CoC can now command a room full of devoted (and young) followers - your correspondent was lectured by a young fan in the toilets asking if I'd heard anything by 'Corrosion' ("only 25 years ago", I replied) - and on the strength of this performance, deservedly so.

Saturday kicked off with Leeds' very own Bong Cauldron. Now, I may be rather biased having seen the lads play so many times (and I'd probably go to Tory Party conference if they were on) but their performace to a packed Underworld was simply extraordiinary - slower and heavier than a supertanker, and full of killer riffs such as 'Bury Your Axe in the Crania of Lesser Men', Bong Cauldron are surely on their way to bigger and better things in the world of Doom.

Back at the Ballroom, Conan collectively tore a hole in the cosmos with their incomparably brutal set. With old classics like 'Hawk As Weapon' mixing it with newer, faster cuts such as 'Foehammer' and 'Revengeance', they appeared to be exactly the act Desertfest was made for. Battle Doom? Yes please!

Meanwhile over at the Dev, one of the least spoiled corners of Camden's former gothic splendour, My Project Ghost were just wrapping up a set of much juicy extremity.

Sunday kicked off with the rather mighty Witchsorrow at the Ballroom. With a set so crunchingly loud that it got my skull shaking, they served up one of the best performances of the weekend - droning low riffs and hard delivery, wrapping a bleak message of hopelessness and doom, this was the closest I'd seen them match the power they promised at Damnation 2012 all those years ago. A set which boded well for their durability on the UK doom scene.

Blood Ceremony, however, were even better. Having been on tour for weeks they were professional as Satan and polished to a shine, showcasing material from their new album 'Lord of Misrule' as well as lesser-played tracks like the sublime 'Drawing Down The Moon'. Singer Alia O'Brien's vocal virtuosity as well as her skills on organ and flute elevated the set firmly into the occult stratosphere, the crowd lapping up a sound that combined retro doom riffing with gothic ham stagecraft.

And then it was off to Koko with all the stampeding doomy hordes for Electric Wizard. As difficult as it is to analyse a sound so immense and dense as the Wizard's, it would appear that in contrast to their punchy and punishing set at Damnation their sound was slightly looser, fuzzier, and trippier - the result being a deliciously accessible and entertaining mammoth of sludge which had the crowds in doomy rapture. No encores given (in classic Wizard style) but none required, as all were fully satisfied and probably stunned by their full-on sonic assault. Peerless.

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Review: The Drowning – 'Senescent Signs'

'Senescent Signs'

The Drowning are easily one of the best death doom bands the UK has produced since the early days of the Peaceville three. Along with contemporaries such as My Silent Wake, Tor Marrock, and Ghast they have been keeping the fire of Welsh extreme metal burning bright amidst the gloam. Now 2016 sees the Cardiff lads return with a new vocalist in the form of Matt Small and a new album to put their name on the map.

'Senescent Signs' is an impressive blend of dark doom and death doom that recalls the likes of Paradise Lost, Anathema, My Dying Bride, and The Blood Divine. Both hauntingly melodic and savagely brutal the band's musicianship is pushed to the extremes. Small's vocals fit like a glove and the band sound as tight as they ever have.

Songs such as 'Broken Before The Throne', 'Betrayed By God', 'House Of The Tragic Poet', 'When Shadows Fall', and 'The Lament Of Faustus' are prime examples of the strongest song-writing in the band's discography to date with great riffs, beautiful keyboard embellishments, and heavy but sing-a-long vocals coming together to create a varied sprawling vision.

The songs tend to be around the ten-minute mark in length which makes them a weighty listening experience. But the band are quite adept at holding the listener's attention and changing things up where they need to.

In terms of production the songs sound great. The bottom end is nice and thick and the vocals sit correctly in the mix no matter what style brings to the table. It's a straight-forward, no-nonsense and solid presentation that shows the band at their best.

The Drowning are a band whose name should carry more weight than it does, and hopefully this will be an album that sees their stock increase. Despite having a new vocalist, there is no sense of the band feeling things out here. They have gone in strong and executed a great selection of tracks that will appeal to any doom metal fan.  

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Review: Dawn Of Ashes – 'Theophany'


Three years on from the band's last – and for a time it was thought final – album 'Anathema, Californian industrial black metal outfit Dawn Of Ashes return with their heaviest assault to date. The break must have reinvigorated the fire in the band's collective guts as their latest outing, and second release for Metropolis Records, hits hard and fast with a blistering blend of aggrotech influenced industrial and necro black metal pushing the band to the extremities of their sound.

The aggression is front and centre to hammer home the band's now familiar blend of horror and occult themes. Searing symphonic and hellektro leads crash into maniacal guitars and thunderous drums while vocalist Kristoff Bathory hisses like a demon crawling from out of the abyss.

Tracks such as 'Tribe Of Chemosh', 'Still Born Defect (The New Breed)', 'Fire Of The Phoenix', 'Bleeding Perfection', and their cover of Nine Inch Nails' 'Last' personify the band's renewed intensity effectively and keep a strong core to the album that sees it hurtle past at break-neck speed.

While the likes of 'Rise Of The Ancient East', 'Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer Of The Witches)', and 'Valhalla' explore the more symphonic and soundscape orientated side of the band's songwriting to add more depth to the aggression.

The production is thick and heavy. The band have been ably steered by the experience of Mick Kenny (Anaal Nathrakh) who combines the band's catchy electro leanings with their all-out aggression with ease to find a balance that will appeal to long-time fans as well as those just coming to the band.

This is a great album that sees the band at their most ferocious in years. The harder metal core still holds dominance over the band's sound, however the electronics are balanced quite nicely so as still to keep their industrial legacy intact. Hopefully the band will maintain this energy into a follow-up sooner rather than later.  

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Wednesday 4 May 2016

Review: Noir – 'The Burning Bridge'

'The Burning Bridge'

Noir – the new musical vehicle of Athan Maroulis (Spahn Ranch, Black Tape For A Blue Girl) – laid out a sublime amalgamation of dark cabaret and dance-friendly industrial on his début album 'Darkly Near'. The album perfectly combined the two paths that have characterised his past endeavours and blended them with a retro-futuristic portrait of New York City, the result of which was one of the most unique releases of 2013. Fast-forward to 2016 and Maroulis is back with 'The Burning Bridge' a new EP, released in dedication to the late David Bowie, that builds on the formula of the first album and throws in a couple of surprises for good measure.

The first track 'The Burning Bridge' is a brilliant blend of dark electronics, gothic atmosphere and pure dance appeal that blends the power of latter-day Spahn Ranch with a mature and modern finesse that should dominate club playlists. The second track, 'Same Old Madness', is a cover of an obscure Ministry track that turns the original synthpop into a darker and more decadent sounding expression of post-millennial geopolitical anxiety.

'The Chauffeur', originally by Duran Duran, takes the thin and minimalistic synthpop and transforms it into a sinister and sleazy number that you can get your teeth into. The final track is a live radio performance of the utterly sublime cover of Roxy Music's 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache' that originally appeared on the début. It may not be brand new but the tight and intimate nature of the performance is a perfect advertisement to try and catch the band live if you can.

In terms of production the EP builds nicely on the foundation of the début album and adds a little more force to its more dance-orientated numbers while maintaining that smooth and subtle use of atmosphere that made their previous offering such a compelling listen.

'The Burning Bridge' is a beautifully constructed EP that shows that Noir really is in a class all of its own. The songs are strong, deliriously atmospheric and addictive in their dance appeal but maintain a stunningly intimate aura that is refined and full of the kind of skill only a seasoned performer like Maroulis can bring to them. The new covers are inspired and the title track is a perfect floor-filler. Hopefully there will be another full-length round the corner to satiate the appetites this will have whetted.  

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