Posts Tagged ‘dark’

Cleopatra Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Well, this is pretty fucking intense. Released to promote the duo’s new album, ‘Hear My Call’ is a beast. The verses are queasy, ominous with a hushed, almost strangulated tension. In contrast, the choruses are utterly pulverizing in their weight and density: there’s nothing hushed about them, and the tension is released in a chthonic snarl. The vocal transition is remarkable, as Lilith gears down an octave at least and flicks from anguished to a raging demon spewing toxic flames from the very bowels of hell. The crossover between electronica and black metal is almost schizophrenic, but Luna 13 render it in such a way that it’s perfect, that switch that happens at an imperceptible trigger lands with eye-popping precision, and the video, directed by Vicente Cordero (Stabbing Westward, Filter, 3TEETH) is a magnificent visual reflection of the music.

For a start, there’s splattered gore galore, as Lilith Bathory sloshes around in a bathtub that’s initially brimming with rose petals but before long it’s a streaming splatterfest where said tub is brimming with blood. She twitchily dials the telephone… and it transpires she’s not calling The Samaritans, but instead she connects on a hotline to Satan, and it cuts, and she’s a roaring, horned demon, and to the side, Dr Luna yanks a huge phallic lever that seemingly drives this whole whorl of chaos that’s blackened beyond black, the sound of scorching incineration.

A lot of so-called ‘occult’ and ‘Satanic’ shit is – well, shit – corny, half-baked, a bit laughable, at least to anyone not already invested, and you wonder how people take so many of these bands seriously. Not so Luna 13: this shit is truly terrifying. There’s no denying that some off the elements are perhaps cliché; masks, blood, and so on and so forth, but it’s all in the execution. Sonically, and visually, they’re full-on, and fearsome.

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Darkness treads light as a feather. The voice of despair gently wafts through the air. Delicate pain wrapped in radiant beauty pierces the heart slowly yet without hesitation. The sinister yet beguiling images that DARKHER aka Jayn Maiven paints with her ethereal vocals, guitars, and added strings conjure iridescent cinematic scenes in which it becomes hard to tell whether there lies beauty in darkness or if it is the other way around.

With her sophomore full-length "The Buried Storm", the guitarist, composer, lyricist, and producer has clearly succeeded to even improve the beloved alchemic musical formula that was firmly established on DARKHER’s debut album "Realms" in 2016. Her mostly eerie and at times even outright sinister sonic storytelling comes refined on every level and with sharpened contrasts that reflect the ongoing learning-process of their creator. 

DARKHER were conceived as the sole brainchild and solo-project of Northern English singer and guitarist Jayn Maiven in 2012. The dark and melancholic yet also massively heavy sound on the self-titled debut EP "Darkher" (2013) combined with the distinct vocals of the shy pre-Raphaelite beauty caused an audible buzz – particularly in the doom scene and brought DARKHER a quick record deal, which led to the following EP "The Kingdom Field" (2014) appearing via Prophecy Productions.

Despite not even having an album out, DARKHER were invited to prestigious festivals such as Roadburn in Tilburg, The Netherlands and Prophecy Fest in the Cave of Balve, where the English delivered widely celebrated performances. In 2016, the highly anticipated debut full-length "Realms" was finally released to much praise from critics and fans alike. Press compared DARKHER’s music with a wide range of highly individual acts such as CHELSEA WOLFE, ESBEN AND THE WITCH, SÓLSTAFIR, LOREENA MCKENNITT, and PORTISHEAD.

In the meantime, Jayn’s long-time drummer Christopher Smith, who already contributed to earlier releases, live shows, and again on "The Buried Storm" has been added as permanent member to the line-up of DARKHER.

"The Buried Storm" gives shape to the darkness lurking at the edge of consciousness, hidden from plain sight but patiently biding its time to strike out at the heart. DARKHER have delivered another frightening masterpiece that easily transcends musical boundaries with its broad appeal to friends of dark sounds regardless of genre. "The Buried Storm" captivates its listeners with deceptive sweetness – only to bind them tightly within a thorn-spiked nocturnal beauty forevermore.

Watch ‘Lowly Weep’ here:

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Image: Kathryn Pogue

Oregon-based electronic act, Luscious Apparatus has just unveiled their debut single, ‘Infiltrate.’

‘Infiltrate’ is about domestic violence, the kindness of strangers, and helping someone escape from an abusive relationship. The lyrics were triggered by an article that offered an excruciatingly detailed account of the horrors inflicted upon one of the victims of Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson.
The song speaks to the often terrible and destructive power wielded by abusers. It attempts to inspire hope and strength for anyone who has found themselves in an abusive situation and are trying to find their way out of the fog.

Check ‘Infiltrate’ here:

Luscious Apparatus blends cinematic soundscapes, synths, shoegaze textures, and syncopated percussion, to create a sound best described as Electrogaze or Noir Pop.  Founded by Jack Norton as a studio project in 2019, the Portland, OR based act evolved during the great plague of the early 2020s with the arrival of Sandi Leeper on vocals. Catherine Hukle, a guitarist from Seattle, moved to Portland, providing the band’s signature walls of sound. Daniel Henderson joined on drums in late 2021. All members are active in writing and producing for LUSCIOUS APPARATUS.

Luscious Apparatus’ roots are spread wide throughout the post-90’s post-punk scenes. They incorporate everything from goth and industrial to indie rock, electronica, and trip-hop. Influences are broad: from Nine Inch Nails to Garbage. Joy Division to Massive Attack. Gary Numan to My Bloody Valentine. Frontline Assembly and Delerium.

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3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

If there’s ever been an emerging theme across music of all genres in the last year and a half, it’s isolation. Yes, if a global pandemic has achieved one thing, it’s brought everyone together in their feelings of isolation.

And so it is that we learn that the tracks on Graceful Isolation ‘address the feelings of isolation and coming to terms with new norms that the past year has brought. The title is derived from the fact that over the course of the album, none of the collaborators were ever in the same room.

One could counteract that in creating an album featuring numerous collaborations (notably Kimberly Kornmeier of brooding orchestral electro goth act Bow Ever Down on vocals on three songs, but also a slew of remixers), Dave McAnally has been far from alone despite being forced to work in physical isolation, yielding an album that demonstrates that distance is no object and geography is a state of mind, even if it is no substitute for proximity.

‘Poison My Skin’ makes for an atmospheric opener, with stark, minimal synths and drum machine providing a cold backdrop. ‘You’re never gonna touch me again’, Kimberly croons in a detached, robotic monotone, with subtle hints of Siouxsie, while giving voice to the thoughts that have echoed around my head that there are likely many people I have seen, heard, and been in the presence of for the last time in my life. I don’t miss the office, I don’t miss the people I used to work alongside in that artificial, uncomfortable, unnatural space, and yet… well, none of us expected that way of life to be curtailed, and certainly not in the way it was, an instant switch-off. March 2020, on being told to go home to work, I never anticipated being away more than a few weeks. And here we are… people have moved on; people have left; people are no longer with us. It’s been a long and painful couple of years.

‘All the Pieces’ and in particular ‘Impossible Dreams’ are stripped-back and sparse in their arrangements – not quite demos, but certainly skeletal, with stuttering drum machines providing the brittle spine to the songs. The lack of flesh on the bones is integral to the appeal here.

‘Drowning in the Past’ and ‘Illusions’ are tense, queasy in their taut atmosphere. McAnally resumes vocal duties, and said vocals are pegged low in the mix, compressed, accentuating the dislocation and distance. The former pegs a particularly expansive guitar solo to some nagging synths and comes on like a proggy James Ray, and it’s some good shit if you’re on the market for dark, gothy electropop.

My only niggle – surprisingly or perhaps not so much – would be that the thirteen tracks on the album consist of only five individual songs, and with three mixes of ‘All The Pieces’ slap bang in the middle, in addition to the original version, plus three versions of ‘Drowning in the Past’ it’s does get a little bit repetitive, and it may have worked better as an EP and a remix EP rather than a full-length album in its own right. Put another way, I’d play the grooves off the EP, but would probably only spin the remixes every now and again – not because they’re poor remixes, but because the original cuts hang together so well, it feels like a fully-realised document that requires no adornment.

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Blighttown Records – 31 December 2021

Christopher Nosnobor

Australian metal act Hadal Maw emerge from lockdown with an EP that threatens ‘four tracks of uncompromising and confronting aural violence whilst also introducing new members Liam Weedall (Dyssidia) and Jarrod Sorbian (Départe)’, adding that ‘Musically the four track EP delves further in to the more visceral aspect of their sound and composition while maintaining the technical wizardry that the band established on previous releases’.

Metal comes in so many different shades, and while the more commercial end of metal is alright for banging heads to, it’s kinda tame, espousing nice production values. Hadal Maw, however, exist at the more raw and gritty end of the spectrum, and plough a dark furrow and plough it deep with some furiously gnarly abrasion.

They come blasting out of the traps with a magnificent amalgamation of discord and groove on the snarling blast that is ‘Fetishize Consumption’, and if firing nihilistic fury at the capitalist machine may be an obvious choice, it’s something that simply can’t be done too much, because excessive consumption isn’t simply the dominant culture, it’s the culture. And if you’re not against it, you’re part of the problem. Clearly, this is a simplistic reduction, which leaves little room for the fact it’s hard to escape the problem without going off-grid and living on roots and shoots. Living within the parameters of this contradiction – whereby digital technology and the use of social media is a necessary evil when it comes to disseminating any kind of message or output – isn’t easy, but channelling rage and(self)-loathing through catharsis can help, and Oblique Order demonstrates thar Hadal Maw are kings of catharsis.

The title track, which features ‘guest vocals from three of Australia’s most accomplished vocalists; Karina Utomo (High Tension), Luke Frizon (Growth) and Antony Oliver (Descent)’ gets darker, dirtier, with strangulated rasping vocals grate and grind over a low, slow, booming bass, which contrasts with the messy scribbly scratching guitar work. It’s turbulent and traumatic, in the most powerful, visceral way. It’s a low-end growl and chug that drives ‘Future Eaters’, a soundtrack to the darkest of all dystopias, and featuring a magnificently textured and detailed guitar break in the mid-section before everything comes crashing down hard.

The last track, ‘Vile Veneration’ could well be the soundtrack to this year’s honours list here in England. After a slower, quite intricate and evocative introduction, the drums power in and it’s a descent into the inferno from thereon in, with everything firing on all cylinders to truly punishing effect. It’s as heavy as hell and full of fury. The slowed-down, vaguely proggy midsection still packs weight as the band trudge, lumberingly through the final assault.

Oblique Order is a triumph not only because it’s relentlessly heavy, but because it’s clearly crafted and is remarkably varied in terms of tempo and tone. The band pack a lot into its duration, making for an EP that’s massively dense and hits like an asteroid on collision course.

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17th December 2021

James Wells

Pieces is the second in a projected series of five EPs, and on the face of it, it’s an immense undertaking: this release contains five tracks, and its predecessor four. Across the project, that’s a full two albums worth of material… until you clock that half of the tracks are remixes. Not that that’s a criticism per se, and I won’t revisit my eternal remix peeve yet again here, because no doubt readers are as sick of that as I am of remixes as a thing.

So ‘Pieces’ is in effect a single, comprising of ‘Disease of Kings’ and ‘Failure Principle’, bolstered by a brace of remixes of the former and one of the latter. ‘Disease of Kings’ is a in some respects a surprising choice of lead song, in that it’s a slow, brooding cut with expansive, cinematic synths casting an arena-wide vista over the reflective mood. It’s well-executed and emotionally charged, but the vocal treatment – namely a fuckload of autotune on the verses – is perhaps a little overdone and reduces the impact of the song’s kick-to-the-chest sincerity. It’s a fine choon, but maybe a fraction too produced and polished and even a little bit Emo, where a slightly rawer edge would have bitten harder.

‘Failure Principle’ is geared toward the mid-tempo, with quintessential dance tropes in full effect, with nagging synth loops rippling over and over an insistent dancefloor-friendly beat. While still featuring the core elements of techoindustrial, it carries a keenly commercial style.

The Assemblage 23 Remix of ‘Failure Principle’ is a standout by virtue of the way in which is accentuates the track’s danciness and general catchiness, bordering on euphoric dance which seems somewhat at odds with the lyrical content. But then, the medium is not necessarily the message, and there’s something to be said for slipping darkness in under the cover of light. In that sense, it works, although the extent to which suggesting any song by an industrial act has mainstream crossover potential and a broad appeal is questionable.

Rounding off the EP, the KALCYFR Remix of ‘Disease of Kings’ beings some fuck-off dirty great guitars and grinding bass to the party and comes on way more Nine Inch Nails, and tempers the vaguely emo leanings of the original and GenCAB remix.

The ‘limited-edition PANIC LIFT FACE MASK to accompany you on your journeys through the current post-apocalyptic landscape’ is a nice touch, too – because we need some nice things to help us navigate living through the reality of all of the dystopian fictional futures becoming reality all at once.

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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Cruel Nature’s release schedule for December is heavily snake-orientated, with Cavesnake’s eponymous album emerging on the same day as Mitternacht’s The Snake, although the two serpents are very different beasts.

For Cavesnake, the bio informs us that ‘Oxgoat and Sikander Louse came together through a shared love of ugly, blown out Black Metal, achingly beautiful ambient soundscapes, and deep space horror’, and that ‘They use the interstitial zone of Cavesnake to explore themes of loss, emptiness, ontological insecurity and the righteous acceptance of the impending apocalypse.’

It’s seriously fucking dark from the opening, with creeping fear chords and dark ambience drifting slowly across the horizon.

Cavesnake record straight to tape and through a rigorous process of layering, drenching samples in reverb, re-amping guitar drones through monstrous cabinets, they force their music to hang listlessly in a void space akin to an event horizon. And dark it is: ‘Pseudohalo’ may only be four minutes in duration, but it’s a bleak and oppressive opener, although it’s nothing to the whiplash black metal mudslide of ‘Bloodless Weapon’. This is murky, dark, heavy. It growls and grinds and churns and burns, and shrieks howling screeds of sonic lesions, an aural excoriation that scrapes and drones for almost nine minutes.

The ten-minute ‘Posture in Defeat’ is a swirling back hole, a deep, dark eddy of slow collapse, the pretty mid-frequency glimmers rent by earth-shattering sonic donations like planets colliding, while ‘Vipers Dance’ which stretches and twists a full twelve minutes is serpentine, dark, ominous, bleak. Without an explicit context, it’s for the listener to place and utilise this listening experience to suit their experiences, and for the most part, for me, I find myself nervous, anxious, uncertain, as every composition is dark, oppressive, the sound of impending doom. It’s thick, swirling, a dense swirling vortex of airlessness from which there seems to bee no escape as it envelopes your entire being. You simply cannot breathe; all you want to do is breathe. The snake is constricting now, your ribs and lungs are tight. Please…

The final track, ‘Fleshware’, offers no respite, a churning grind and whisper or multi-layered noise that offers no breaks, no moments of calm, only increased tension. It scrapes and screeds and snarls and growls, and near the end, a distorted, impenetrable voice speaks, rasping the album to a close.

It’s pretty heavy, and so intense. Prepare to be bitten.

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Unique in the modern industrial-electro scene, iVardensphere began as the ambition of Canadian musician Scott Fox to fuse heavy electronics with his love of percussion from all over the world. Since releasing his debut album in 2009, his group has at times been a solo endeavour and at others a fully fledged collaborative effort, but it has always been about his desire to combine sound design with crushing rhythms while utilising his ever-evolving production skills.

Over the course of four further records, Fox and his cohorts have built a diverse and fluid catalogue on which monolithic sounding analogue synths and industrial groove-based instrumental experiments have shared space with exotic tribal drum rhythms and deep, textured ambience.

Fox now presents ‘Ragemaker’, the first single and title track of a brand new album that will be released in early February 2022. A stunning extended video for the track also incorporates his next single, ‘The Shattering Queen’ (out in mid-January), which brings the total duration of the clip to almost ten minutes.

Complex and layered, the ‘Ragemaker’ album weaves electronics with haunting vocals, orchestral crescendos and often complex rhythms, creating hymns to totemic gods of war and rebirth and to ancient goddesses of harvest and hunt, including the tragic mythos of the aforementioned Shattering Queen.
Traditional percussion from all corners of the globe, including Taiko, Surdo, djembe, timpani and more are deftly interwoven with all manner of sourced sounds. Hammers, anvils, slamming doors and even the sound of a waste bin being kicked are sampled and folded into the overall sonic mélange. The result is an immersive and cinematic masterpiece that is the latest evolutionary step for iVardensphere, although it is equally suited to be the score to a post-apocalyptic movie.

‘Ragemaker’ may invite comparison to soundtracks such as ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ by Junkie XL, ‘Midsommar’ by Bobby Krlic (The Haxan Cloak), or even the dramatic escalations of Hans Zimmer, but it can also be seen as a more driven and rhythmic slant on the wave of Nordic artists currently exploring ancient ancestral music, including Einar Selvik of Wardruna, ambient-folk musician Danheim and experimental folk outfit Heilung.

Watch the epic video here:

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Time to Kill Records (TTK) – 15th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

A good slogan or manifesto can say so much more than the words in themselves. And so it is that Vonamor introduce themselves with a bold statement that hints at Dada or perhaps the more arch and ironic Neoism in a way.

Vonamor state that:

VONAMOR is music and movement. VONAMOR is real and virtual.

VONAMOR is the end and the beginning. VONAMOR is from love, of love, for love.

Vonamor are more than simply a band, then, and more an aesthetic, a single-act movement. They exist in the space between simultaneous contradictions, the likes of which have informed poetical works since the Renaissance, with Sir Thomas Wyatt’s ‘I Find No Peace’ sonnet effectively setting a blueprint for modern literature.

Postmodernism, and Neosim in particular positively revelled in those contradictions, taking the avant-garde idea of self-awareness and self-destruction as a means of creating anew, and this, on the strength of Vonamor’s statement, is their primary objective: to be everything, and therefore nothing: to exist, they must cease to exist.

How seriously to we take this? They look pretty serious to me, but that may all be part of the performance. The next, and perhaps most important question is, does the music validate the bravado and high art bombast?

‘Take Your Heart’ is a smart slice of stark, minimal electronica, dark pop with a gothy, post-punk leaning, a collision of Siousxie and Florence and the Machine that’s both spiky and groovy, five minutes of mid-tempo doom-disco with an industrial edge – I’m talking more later Depeche Mode than Nine Inch Nails. It’s daring in the adherence to the adage that less is more: it’s tight and claustrophobic, and this gives the song a particular intensity.

No question this is a low-budget effort on all fronts, but that’s a significant part of the appeal. This isn’t some major-label act masquerading as something cult and underground to score kudos and cool cachet; Vonamor are clearly a fringe act with big, bold ideas and a strong sense of identity, and ‘Take Your Heart’ is understated but strong.

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Room40 – RM4163 – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Field recordings are rarely something one would consider ‘contemporary’, although if you think about it, they invariably capture a moment in time in some way or another, be it the morning of the dawn chorus or the grind of machinery which is firmly post-industrialisation; the sounds committed to tape all document history in sound.

Ian Wellman’s latest release is quite specific in its focus on present times. It is almost impossible to avoid the pandemic; it has, after all, affected all of our lives, and in myriad ways. As the accompanying text states, ‘If this past couple of years has taught us anything, it is that to hold someone closely is not something we may take for granted. The bonds of friends and of family are tenuous, as tenuous as the world that we find ourselves in.’ While most attention has understandably been given to the vulnerable, the bereaved, and the sufferers of long covid, there have been long—terms and slow-evolving effects on everyone. And this is what Wellman soundtracks with subtlety and care here.

The parenthetical ‘(Police Helicopter Activity Increased – Jul 2020)’ is brief, but it’s impactful. On the one hand, it’s a simple snippet of the sound of rotors; on the other, it’s the kind of conglomeration of low-flying helicopter buzz that makes you duck and look up and feel paranoid: police helicopters hovering or circling overhead always do, right?

The final moments of ‘It Crept into Our Deepest Thoughts’ bursts into shards on abrasive noise in the final moments. It’s on ‘The Toll on Our Daily Lives’ that Wellman really encapsulates the struggle. The first four minutes are dislocated ambience, which reflects the general sense of detachment and distance, but the last minute is dominated by a rising tide of noise, a surging swell. And it speaks because it really is the sound of swelling tension and anguish. The reality is that living through this is not something that belongs to a ‘model’, there is no fix by means of re-engagement. This resonates because it speaks to and of the building anxiety, and it builds because maintaining that level of alertness, that level of fear, actually has a cumulative effect in real terms, and we’re simply not designed to process life in the now. There is nothing normal about this, old or new, and ‘The Toll on Our Daily Lives’ encapsulates this perfectly, both in its title and the sonic smog that ambulates broodingly, again growing in density and becoming more oppressive and heavy and harsh as it progresses. You feel not only the weight, but the tension. It’s real, it’s palpable, and it’s a direct reflection of life as lived.

The interludes, too, are so very visual and evocative: a cock crows and what sounds like rainfall and passing cars crackle and splash on ‘(Ash Falling on Power Lines – Sept 2020)’ (the ash of wild fires burning), and there’s a post-apocalyptic feel to ‘(Wind Against Decaying Bus – Jan 2021)’, and they all combine to create what the blurb describes as ‘a devolving diary of unsteady moments and the assurance of change as the one constant in our collective times’.

‘As The Beast Swallowed Us Whole’ veers between ominous rumbling and near-ambience and surging, cracking textured distortion that borders on noise, and there is nothing comforting about this album. Even the final track, the optimistically-titled ‘The Light at the End’ is woozy and disorientating, and evaporates into a crackle of static that ends abruptly, and feels more like the light being snuffed out. You want to be wrong… but life… it’s a killer. Swear all you like, but whether or not it’s going to be okay remains to be seen.

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