Posts Tagged ‘Dramatic’

Prophecy Productions / Auerbach Tonträger – 13th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who tells you Germans lack a sense of humour probably doesn’t have one themselves. Many of the Germans I’ve had contact with have been wry wordplayers and incredibly droll. Who could deny the humour of a nation that gave us Die Toten Hosen? And so it is that St Michael Front showcase a certain tongue-in-cheek amusement, and while their debut album revelled in the preposterous, their latest, which also happens to be the first in their native tongue, exploits the disparity between drama and drollery. For a band who play small venues domestically, and with a minimal setup beyond the projection of movie clips, their sound and presentation is very much a cinematic widescreen and 5.1 sound that’s bold and ambitious – and not just a little self-aware of the pomp and extravagance of their songs.

I have to confess that the arrival of ‘Knochen und Blut’, the second single from Schuld & Sühne completely skittled me, and I immediately found myself somewhat obsessed by the song, and its accompanying video. The song is so magnificently poised, balanced, dramatic, theatrical, while the video… the video is weird. Lifting clips from vintage movies is nothing new, but there seemed to be a certain revelling in the brutal here, and it cut a path from the previous video, suggesting that these guys have something of a fascination with clips of people pummelling or shooting the crap out of one another and scenes of destruction by fire and extreme weather. I’m actually reminded a little of Home Alone, and can picture them glued to all the old black and white gangster movies.

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Schuld & Sühne seems to revel in being overtly German, in the way that Rammstein are – yes, I know – more German than German (although it was Hanzel Und Gretyl who took this comment on the Jewish community prior to WWII and the label ascribes to architectural historian Niklaus Pevsner for his dubious support of the Nazis as a song title for a technoindustrial banger). St Michael Front are a hell of a lot more subtle than Rammstein, and a lot more fun, too: it’s far smarter than ‘Amerika’, but no less German, and no less bold or steeped in pomp.

There’s more than a hint of Sparks or even Pet Shop Boys here, and St Michael Front clearly ‘get’ the essential dynamic of the quintessential pop duo: impassive, static, stone-faced guitarist Bruder Matthias is the perfect deadpan foil to the subtly flamboyant and vaguely campy trenchcoat-wearing Bruder Sascha, and the interplay between the two across the songs is entertaining. They build drama, and there’s a keen theatrical element to the songs.

It helps that St Michael Front don’t resort to force, lyrically or sonically. Instead of bludgeoning the listener, Bruder Sascha has a knack for an expansive gesture, a raised eyebrow that’s arch and disarming, vaguely absurd, and knowingly so – and it translates beyond the videos – you can actually hear this coming through in the songs themselves. At times incongruously jaunty, at others giving a knowing nod, there’s a dry comedic element to the performance.

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Schuld & Sühne is at times brooding, at times breezy, even borderline cheesy (none more so than third single ‘1000 Namen’) – but for all this, there is something aching and beautiful about so much of it that makes it a magnificent and really quite special album.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Vampyre is the third album from Washington DC’s The Neuro Farm, following The Descent (2019), and Ghosts (2014). If the album titles suggest dark and haunting, it’s fitting for a band who harvest influence from the field that contains Joy Division, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sigur Ros, Chelsea Wolfe, Portishead, and Rammstein.

Comprising Brian Wolff (guitar, vocal), Rebekah Feng (violin, vocal), DreamrD (drums), and Tim Phillips (synth), the violin and synth contrive to bring rather less standard instrumental elements to the format, particularly with the absence of a live bass. That’s certainly no impedance (the only people who bleat about synth bass ironically seem to be fans of The Sisters of Mercy who haven’t move on from 1985 – because drum machine = cool, synth bass = not cool). Meh. They’re wrong.

Vampyre is a concept album, which they explain as follows: ‘Our titular heroine, lured by the promise of immortality, is given this curse by the egomaniacal leader of a vampyric cult. But within the cult there is a growing sense of disillusion, and she builds her own following. Eventually, she spurns her maker, rebelling against him and his decaying institution. She says a final farewell to her mortal husband, turning away from humanity and embracing her new nature. She slays her former master in the “midnight massacre” and declares herself queen.’

Now, as much as I’m an advocate of albums over random collections of songs, I do sometimes struggle with concept albums, in that following a narrative is often quite a strain. Too much narrative can be tedious; too little, and you’re lost, wondering what the fuck is going on. It’s a thorny territory to navigate under any circumstances.

‘Cain’ makes for a bold, theatrical introduction, the brooding drums that roll and roil providing a stoic backdrop to some theatrical, dramatic vocals. Feng isn‘t just operatic in her delivery, but she’s backed by a full choral arrangement, and then the violin sweeps in and the cinematic scale of the composition truly reveals itself in all its grand enormity.

It’s all going on with ‘Purity, a slow-builder that slithers through Rozz-era Christian Death gothness via trudging stoner rock to crescendo-blasting post-rock over the course of its six-and-a-half minutes.

‘Maker’ brings the bombast, to something on a part with Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, and transitioning through various passages of grandeur. It’s a lot to take in. The spacey prog-rock of ‘Enthralled’, the gloopy electro industrial of single release ‘Confession’, the brass-laden brooding of the metallic ‘Decay’. The piano-led, echo-heavy title track is something of a gothic masterpiece, dark, shadowy, with soaring vocals and it’s brimming with epic qualities that touch the emotional centres as it blooms in a glorious cascading sunburst finish that’s peak goth and post-rock in perfect concordance. It feels like a finale, but the three remaining songs continue to cast forth rich and resonant atmospheres, with ‘Midnight Massacre’ landing a gloom-tinged glam-stomp unexpectedly near the end. This is proper gothic rock, perfectly realised.

More often than not, anything that proclaims to be ‘goth’ or ‘gothic’ and goes down the ‘vampire’ route’ tends to be awkward, corny, and cliché, but for all of its ‘conceptual’ leanings, Vampyre is none of these; instead, it’s like a darker, more gothic dip into the domain of early iLiKETRAiNS. But above all, it’s varied, imaginative, dramatic, and really quite spectacular.

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The Neuro Farm recently unveiled their new release, the goth-rock Vampyre.

Vampyrism is a curse dating back to biblical times. Our titular heroine, lured by the promise of immortality, is given this curse by the egomaniacal leader of a vampyric cult. But within the cult there is a growing sense of disillusion, and she builds her own following.

Eventually, she spurns her maker, rebelling against him and his decaying institution. She says a final farewell to her mortal husband, turning away from humanity and embracing her new nature. She slays her former master in the “midnight massacre” and declares herself queen.

They’ve produced a lyric video for one of the tracks, the dramatic, operatic dark electro ‘Confession’, which you can watch here:

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AdderStone Records, the label started by internationally acclaimed composer and virtuoso cellist Jo Quail, have announced the deluxe vinyl reissue of her 2016 album ‘Five Incantations’ on 20th November. Jo comments,

‘With the original CD format being sold out for a few years, I am delighted to be able to now present to you a very special edition of Five Incantations, this time as a beautiful double vinyl with two colour variants to choose from. The detailed sleeve and inserts feature photography by Ake Tireland, and includes a special bonus track of ‘The Breathing Hand’ recorded live with the choir of Cappella Gedanensis and Alicja Lach-Owsiany (cello) in Gdansk. The lyrics of this track are written by Mohan Rana, as a direct response to the original piece of music, and are included in the sleeve in Hindi, English and Polish.’

The origins of the album began to emerge in the spring of 2015 during Jo’s fourth tour of Australia where she felt especially connected at that time to a vital or spiritual source, opening her mind to wonder from both a personal and archetypal understanding. Jo adds,

‘Whether practically this was due to an intense focus on music minus the day to day existence, the remoteness of being a mum away from my family, or myriad other reasons I cannot guess, but I felt swept away by this sensation and immediately began to write what became ‘Five Incantations’. The album is a suite of interlinked movements, each individual yet essentially drawn from one theme. It has been recorded and will be performed at 432hz. Each movement describes a personal reflection on one of the four cardinal points, with the fifth aspect being Spirit.’

‘Five Incantations’ is the 2nd release on AdderStone Records which was originally set up in 2019 with the initial aim of reissuing Jo’s back catalogue on vinyl. The first being a release of her 2018 album ‘Exsolve’ which led to Jo picking up the Limelight Award at the Progressive Music Awards last year.

Over the past few years Jo has been touring extensively across Europe performing alongside the likes of Boris, Emma Ruth Rundle, Amenra, Caspian, God is an Astronaut, Myrkur, MONO, Årabrot, Battles and Winterfylleth. Festival performances include ArcTanGent, WGT, Dunk!, Tramlines Festival, Handmade Festival, Hellfest and Damnation and two separate concerts at the invitation of Robert Smith for his curation of the Southbank’s Meltdown Festival. 

To support the release Jo Quail will perform an exclusive limited capacity live streamed show from The Black Heart on Hotel Radio’s Pay-Per-View platform on 19th November. More info and tickets are available here:

Streaming tickets: www.hotel-radio.com/pay-per-view

Live show tickets: http://ourblackheart.com/

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2nd November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Not so long ago, I began a review by saying I felt sorry for Jo Quail. That was no slight on her musical output, but an observation that as incredible performer, it seemed wrong that she should be put on so early that her set was a third of the way through before the doors even opened. On listening to Exsolve, my awe of her musicianship is greater than ever, which only renders the injustice worse. To get the point: this is an incredible album, a triumph of musicianship and vision in tandem to create something not only greater than the sum of the parts, but beyond imagination.

The accompanying press release informs us that Exsolve is comprised of three tracks, with each one being broken down in to sections and movements across 45 minutes. Mastered by James Griffiths, himself a film composer, there is, the blurb notes, an almost symphonic quality to the album. This is true, but there is so, so much more, much of which defies conventional description: it speaks not to the domain of words, but the psyche.

The bald facts are that Jo Quail plays cello, and does so through a raft of effects to create sounds a million light years removed from the cello, looping bangs on the mic to create thunderous percussion and conjuring eerie moans and grating tempests of sound. The result is pretty heavy, not to mention intense.

Eight minutes into ‘Forge of Two Forms’, Quail is conjuring blistering interweaving prog riffs against a swirling backdrop of noise and thumping beats. Epic doesn’t come close. It sounds like a full band pushing into new realms of enormity, and with a blistering distorted picked motif that sounds like a crisply-executed lead guitar line, it’s easy to forget just how this music is made. Twelve minutes in, it’s tapered down to nothing and actually sounds like subdued, low-tempo orchestral dronings, creeping atmospherics and melancholy. The transitions are seamless, invisible, but definite as the extended soundworks transition between segments.

‘Mandrel Cantus’ sends sonar echoes across low, slow ripples of mellow cadences, and somehow builds into a monumental emulation of a guitar solo of monumental proportions. How did this happen? From whence did this immense sound emerge?

Everything coalesces on the third and final composition, ‘Causleens Wheel’ which begins delicately, builds to a rolling, roiling, sustained crescendo. It’s a multi-faceted composition, tonally rich and also moving, not just by force but by expression.

Powerful, graceful, compelling and dramatic, Exsolve is a remarkable album of rare quality.

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Jo Quail - Exsolve

Sargent House – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Chelsea Wolfe is one of those artists who seems to continually grow with every release, and 2015’s Abyss was something special: a grand, powerful, and intense musical work that reached the parts other albums cannot reach. It’s fair to say that expectations for Hiss Spun were set high as a consequence.

As the accompanying blurb tells us, ‘the album was conceived as an emotional purge, a means of coming to terms with the tumult of the outside world by exploring the complexities of one’s inner unrest’.

Chelsea gets down to conveying this turmoil from the first bars: opener, ‘Spun’, is a throbbing deluge of dense, low-tempo, Godfleshy, bass-centric grind, a seething surge of low-end noise with an overloading, freewheeling lead guitar that’s not so much a solo as an out of control rollercoaster of fretwork that heaves and lurches every which way as if uncertain of its own direction but desperate to find a route to the end. ‘Particle Flux’ is also centred around a tectonic, subterranean low-end pulsation, and builds to a multi-layered, multi-faceted crescendo.

Single cut ’16 Psyche’ has the epic qualities of some of the strongest tracks from previous album Abyss – ‘Iron Moon’ in particular – and ‘The Culling’ repeats the trick of bursting into a crushingly powerful bloom from a quiet, delicate bud. But while nailing choruses of immense scale, these tracks also pound hard, sonically and emotionally.

Placing Hiss Spin side by side with Abyss is instructive: this latest work marks a considerable shift from the brooding industrial-edged gothic folk of its predecessor toward a much more metal-orientated sound that’s not only heavier and more abrasive, but more overtly challenging and confrontational. In fact, everything about Hiss Spun is more.

Following a heavy synth drone intro, ‘Vex’ brings blistering guitar dynamics and a shoegaze atmosphere to a twisted, reverb-soaked vocal that’s simultaneously emotion-rich and curiously detached. ‘Scrape’ draws the curtain with a dark, murky grind that’s as intense as it is dense, and Chelsea’s voice soars higher than ever, wracked with desperation. Thunderous tribal drumming blasts through the squalling guitars to render an imposing finale.

The production on Hiss Spun is immense. The percussion is enormous, every snare hit an explosion, every bass thump enough to trigger an earthquake or tsunami. Every beat, every note, strikes deep into the soul and drags at the deepest levels. To explain precisely how and why Hiss Spun resonates so deeply would be to ruin its magic: this is an album which connects subconsciously, subliminally, pulling as it does between fragility and fury, and with such stunning grace, and it drives, but as a slow pace.

Instrumentally, the dynamics are breathtaking. And never has Wolfe sounded so raw, by turns so fragile and so powerful, channelling emotions to utterly devastating and bewildering effect. Superlatives are inadequate: Hiss Spun is an album so strong as to be almost overwhelming and marks, my a mile, a new career high-point.

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Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun Cover 3000x3000 300 dpi (1)