Posts Tagged ‘Metropolis Records’

Metropolis Records – 4 February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

For years, I’ve had the rage. There is, after all plenty in this world, this life, and no doubt beyond, to rage about and against. iVardensphere focus that rage through sound rather than verbally, through an album that articulates darkness and tension through the language of sound.

‘A Whimsical Requiem for the Fey’ is appropriately titled; being a breezy, neoclassical assimilation of light-as-air plucked strings and soft, accessible melody. As such, it does nothing to prepare the listener for the instant plunge into the darkest of depths brough with the growling churn of ‘The Maw’, which features Jesse Thom. But it’s on the title track that the album really hits its stride. Tribal drums dominate a gloomy soundscape, weighted with dense bass tones, but also the portent of soaring vocals. And while the jagged strings add to the tension, the drums simply build and build and batter your very being. This isn’t rage, it’s the unleashing of vengeance via the hammering of the soul.

The individual compositions are each dramatic and powerful in their own right, and the attention not only to the details of the arrangement, but the sequencing of the album stands out, and the ambition is clear without the explanation that this is ‘a sweeping, cinematic album, equally suited as the next evolutionary step of iVardensphere, and as the film score to a post-apocalyptic motion picture.’ It’s dark, stark, and atmospheric, and thunderous rhythms evoke ancient mysticism, and scenes on barren hilltops and sweeping moorlands; tribal rituals, burials, spiritual ceremonies of great import. And there are moments when those rhythms step up, pounding harder and more intensely, so as to be all-encompassing.

As the accompanying notes outline, ‘Traditional percussion from all corners of the world, Taiko, Surdo, djembe, timpani, and more are deftly intermixed with all manner of sourced percussion sounds. Hammers and anvils, slamming doors, even the sound of a dumpster being kicked are sampled and folded into the sonic melange.’ We’re in Neubauten / Test Dept territory here, but there’s a subtlety to so many of the compositions that go beyond these comparisons too: the graceful sweeps of ‘Indomitus’ stray from anything industrial towards progressive / post rock territories, and Seeming’s vocals are almost rock.

The electronic elements are remarkably restrained in the main, with only occasional incursions, such as the bending blasts of bass on ‘Varunastra’ (which features Brittany Bindrim’s vocals); elsewhere, ‘Draconian’ brings the drones, and a low, serrated throbbing. Then, it also brings glitchy danceable beats, which evolve into another crashing assault that batters away relentlessly.

Then there’s the straight-ahead thump ‘n’ grind of ‘Orcus’ and the mournful trudge of ‘The Age of Angels is Over’; these tracks conjure very different atmospheres, but in the way the album unfolds, they develop a sense of significance. If ‘Sisters of the Vipers Womb’, with Brien Hindman’s vocals, seems a little too cliché in its sinister stylings, it sits in the broader context of an expansive and immersive work that has a trajectory through ever-changing moods, and to powerful effect.

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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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Ahead of the release of their new album, Fascination, released 18th February 2022 on Metropolis Records, The Birthday Massacre have unveiled ‘Dreams of You’.

Listen to ‘Dreams of You’ here:

A Canadian darkwave ensemble who incorporate elements of electronica, goth and new wave into their lush and atmospheric dark pop sound, The Birthday Massacre have enjoyed success over the last decade with albums such as ‘Hide And Seek’ (2012) and ‘Under Your Spell’ (2017), both of which charted at home and abroad. The early spring of 2020 then saw the release of the brooding and mystical ‘Diamonds’, just as the onset of the global pandemic curtailed extensive touring plans to promote it.

The group has released a brand new single entitled ‘Dreams Of You’ today as an opening taster from their upcoming ninth album, ‘Fascination’, which is out on 18th February 2022. Expansive sounding yet intimate feeling, TBM’s signature blend of captivating electronics, aggressive guitars, cinematic melodies and beautifully bewitching vocals are on full display, while the album shows that the magical world they have created with their music has grown ever more captivating.

The Birthday Massacre commence a 30 date US tour the week after album release, with a similarly extensive set of dates in the UK and mainland Europe to follow later in 2022.

The Birthday Massacre formed in 2000 in Ontario and were originally known as Imagica, their name taken from the title of a novel by Clive Barker. Having relocated to Toronto, they renamed themselves The Birthday Massacre just before the release of their debut album, ‘Nothing & Nowhere’, in the summer of 2002. The ‘Violet’ EP was issued in 2004 and then made available in expanded form as a full album via Metropolis Records, a label with whom the group have remained ever since.

The next two TBM albums, ‘Walking with Strangers’ (2007) and ‘Pins and Needles’ (2010), plus the EP ‘Imaginary Monsters’ EP (2011), were followed by 2012’s ‘Hide and Seek’, which enjoyed a warm critical reception and a measure of chart success. The group turned to their fans to help crowdfund their sixth album, ‘Superstition’, which appeared in late 2014 and was supported by major tours in North America, the UK, mainland Europe and Brazil.

A compilation of early four-track demos entitled ‘Imagica’ (2016) preceded ‘Under Your Spell’, released in 2017 and which made a strong showing on multiple US charts. Three years later, the band celebrated their 20th anniversary with ‘Diamonds’, its release seeing new drummer Phillip Elliot and bassist Brett ‘Bat’ Carruthers join the band’s ranks. The latter is also the frontman of alternative rock band A Primitive Evolution.

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Raymond Watts aka PIG began his musical crusade in a Berlin basement in the shadow of the Wall back in the mid-1980’s. Perhaps it was the terror and turmoil that  lends a certain sense of menace to the trademark decadence of his group’s sound. When the Wall fell, our salacious saviour set out into the desert on a journey that has spawned countless albums and projects….not only PIG, but some of KMFDM’s finest material and numerous other collaborations that have included scoring for Alexander McQueen shows, as well as installations and exhibitions.

Our sacred saint of all seven sins has now delivered a new divine declaration in the form of Pain is God. Fourteen tracks of swine and swagger, it is an exegesis of excess – glitches and guitars, allure and libido, danceable decadence – and the weaponised word of the Lord of Lard, here to save your skin from the wages of sin.

A single from the album entitled ‘Rock N Roll Refugee’ is out now. A delicious taste of electronic rock, Watts describes it as “the demon seed of glam and electronica stirred to an apotheosis of ejaculating guitars and lamenting vocals. A song that’s loose enough for your vices and tight enough for your virtues.” The hook heavy song features backing vocals from Michelle Martinez to add an extra touch of soul, and also sees Watts reunite with guitarist Steve White on record for the first time since PIG released albums via Nothing Records and Wax Trax! in the 1990’s.

A video for ‘Rock N Roll Refugee’ (directed by E Gabriel Edvy) is a decadent dive into Pop art influences, but can be seen as more of a nod to the Fluxus movement and the likes of Nam June Paik or George Maciunas rather than the mainstream Warhol-ian aspects of the genre. The song and video interplay as a homage to Intermedia, filtered through the mind of the Swine.

Watch the video here:

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Metropolis Records – 23rd August 2019

In my world, The Legendary Pink Dots were just that: legendary. Heard of, often, heard, never. I’m embarrassed by this, but also accepting. There’s simply too much music and too little time, and when confronted with a band with an output as vast as theirs, where it’s impossible to know where to start, it’s easier to simply give up without starting. It’s a hurdle I overcame with The Fall in the early 90s, and maybe, just maybe, it’s time to make the first attempt at an inroad into The Legendary Pink Dots.

The album’s first cut, ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ is structured around a shuffling beat and some sparse, echo-soaked guitars. It’s got a vaguely psyche edge, but having spent the last decade immersed in some of the most far-out avant-garde oddities emerging from all corners of the globe, it seems pretty tame and safe to my ears. This is largely true of the album as a whole, although it does have some more interesting moments: ‘Junkyard’ sounds like it could be a recent Foetus outtake, and ‘Neon Claculators’ plasters scraping electronic pings and quacks and parping sax over a bubbling Donna Summer synth rhythm track before drifting into some kind of avant-jazz spacerock oddity, and ‘Itchycoo Shark’ at least had a vaguely amusing title, but sounds a bit David Tibet only minus the pseudomystical bollocks, and ‘The Photographer’ is yawningly neofolk.

The trouble – if ‘trouble’ isn’t too strong a word – with sustaining such a lengthy career as an ‘experimental’ outfit is that all too often the hunger to innovate fades, and the songwriting gradually falls to formula. I can’t think of many artists who’ve become weirder, wilder, and more challenging over time, especially not over a career spanning almost 40 years.

Angel In The Detail is 50% atmospheric and interesting, 50% tedious and pedestrian, subscribing to too many well-worn ‘experimental’ tropes, which the band themselves were instrumental in establishing. It’s ok, and given their reputation, fanbase and career place (over 40 albums and counting), is likely to be just what the fans are after. And fair enough: they’ve nothing to prove at this juncture, and questions of relevance are ultimately irrelevant.

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Legendary Pink Dots – Angel In The Detail

Metropolis Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Dark, slithering atmospherics – the sound of a postindustrial, postapocalyptic, Bladerunner cityscape, with twitching broken cables fizzing sparks showering into anonymous alleyways – mark the opening of Nero Bellum’s solo debut. A low, gut-churning bass grinds in against hefty beats – not snare drums, but blasts of distorted noise, and as such, ‘Another Prayer to Lucifer’ sets the tone.

Representing two years’ work, with each piece being recorded live, ‘improvised, with no overdubs, and without the use of computers in the creative process’, NFRNº marks a clear departure from the industrial metal of Psyclon Nine.

It’s still got an industrial feel, but it’s about atmosphere rather than brutal attack. Everything is dank, murky, indistinct, and while many of the arrangements are sparse, there’s an oppressive density which permeates the album as a whole. Monotonous, hammering beats thud dolorously, pounding relentlessly against whirring electronics with serrated edges, and each piece bleeds into the next to forge a sprawling mass of discomfort. The album’s impact stems not from its range, but precisely from it’s lack, bludgeoning the senses with trudging repetition and tonal similarity. There is next to no light here, only varying shades of darkness and inhuman bleakness.

‘An Angel’s Offering’ hints at some sort of redemption, with blooping, skittering interloping synth lines that venture into (comparatively) accessible dance territory, before ‘The Beauty in Something Broken’ offers the first pang of melancholic yearning from amidst the relentless stream of emotionally-desensitised machine-made noise.

The reprieve is but brief, though, and ‘Stranded’ wavers back down the path toward darker territories, casting an air of uncertainty and trepidation with its quavering drones. The closing pairing of ‘A Candle Once Burned’, which is more the sound of hope being extinguished rather than light, and the onset of a purgatorial emptiness, and ‘Never Good Enough’ wanders in shadow, formless, with no sense of closure as it fades to nothing.

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Nero Bellum – NFRNº

Metropolis Records – 8th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

In a sense, I was raised on so-called ‘industrial’. It was the very early 90s and I was in my mid-late teens: Ministry had broken through to the MTV major league with ‘Psalm 69’ and I worked weekends in a second-hand record shop. The other hired hand, who worked when the owner wasn’t around and drove the van carrying the shop’s contents to record fairs on Sundays, was around 15 years older than me, and was massively into all sorts, but particularly punk, new wave, and industrial shit. He’d feed me stuff like Pigface and Lard. Records and CD had a pretty rapid turnover, so recent releases often landed with us for resale within a few weeks of release after a rush of ‘mistake’ purchases off the back of reviews in the music press, and at record fair, it was possible to swipe Wax Trax! remainder12” – which included albums, often still sealed – for a pound apiece.

The fact there was a certain similarity of sound across many of the releases was, in a sense, part of the appeal: the uniformity of industrial civilisation and its attendant culture, reflected in musical from echoed a blank nihilism that simultaneously accepted and confronted the grim harshness of daily reality.

But it’s 2019 and many of the old bands are still cranking out the same trudging grind, and there don’t really seem to be that many emerging bands in the field, making for a genre that’s increasingly stagnant, continually cross-feeding from within itself without drawing inspiration or air from outside its hermetic grey-hued space. The additional contributors featured here is a case in point: the album features contributions from Robert Gorl (DAF), Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), and Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks, Cocksure). As a catalogue of luminaries from the scene, it’s cool, but it’s the same catalogue as you might have seen as far back as twenty years ago

Wake Up the Coma isn’t bad by any means, and it certainly has its standout moments. It’s brimming with thumping industrial-strength disco beats, bubbling basslines and stabbing synths, and in this field, songs like ‘Hatevol’ are exemplary. The minimalist slow grind of ‘Tilt’ sounds very like PIG with its woozy, grimy, stop / start synth bass and snarling vocals, fuzzed at the edges with a metallic distortion. Then again, their cover of Falco’s ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ (with Jimmy Urine) stands out for less good reasons: it’s 100% straight, with negligible deviations from the original save for a more industrial beat. And I can’t help but think ‘what’s the point?’ there have been plenty of inspired industrial covers, and I will always cite RevCo’s take on ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’ as an example of irreverent and inventive adaptation.

No-one looking for a solid Front Line Assembly album is going to be disappointed by this. And since FLA, now thirty-three years and almost twenty albums into their existence, are always likely to be preaching to the choir, they’ve delivered firmly with Wake Up the Coma.

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Front Line Assembly – Wake Up The Coma

With the release of their collaboration ‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’, out today via Metropolis Records, industrial-rock act PIG and author/singer/actress Sasha Grey have premiered the video for it via Pornhub before making it more widely available.

"I think it’s about time that people stop being ashamed and furtive in their relationship with PIG,” says band mastermind Raymond Watts about the song – a cover of the perennial classic by KC & the Sunshine Band – and video. "Being on Pornhub puts us in the mainstream and will stop the stigma that has been attached to the secret and underground world of listening to PIG. People can stop listening to us in darkened basements in constant fear of being exposed….our fans have lived in the fear of discovery for too long!"

Directed by Gabriel Edvy, the sexually-charged black and white video is a dark disco romp, shot intimately and playfully with disco balls, light BDSM and sweat. "The idea behind the video was how to bring a darker, more sinister overtone and texture to what seems to be an initially ‘upbeat’ song," says Watts. "The foreboding nature of the video is despite of rather than because of the bright shiny disco elements in the song. Although we use some imagery that suggests a good time is being had….all is maybe not as it seems, possibly a reflection on the current situation we see when looking around at what is happening today in the world. Who is it telling us that everything is better than we could possibly imagine and we are drowning in delusions and force fed lies? But whose lies? Which side of the mirror is looking through a broken lens?”

Watch the video here:

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PIG and SG

Metropolis Records – 8th June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

After an eternity on mute and with Raymond Watts seemingly in a creative wilderness, the PIG renaissance continues apace with the emergence of Risen less than two years after The Gospel and last year’s remix EP Swine & Punishment, as well as four digital / or tour-only releases off the back (bacon) of The Gospel. Risen finds Raymond Watts on fine form as he unleashes porcine pundemoneum once more.

As the press release proudly proclaims, ‘the Lord Of The Lard calls on Ben Christo, Z.Marr, En Esch, Tim Skold, Marc Heal, Phil Barry, Mark Thwaite, Anita Sylph & Emre Ramazanoglu & gets to work on bringing glam to the damned’. It is a hell of a lineup, and pleasingly, Risen is a hell of an album. It’s actually a lot less overtly glam than The Gospel and finds PIG at their eclectic best.

‘The Chosen Few’ opens and hints at a return to the darker industrial grind of Sinsation and Wrecked. But while it’s a mid-tempo slow-burner, this being PIG, it’s not only got poke, but layers: hints of gospel lace the chorus, and it builds through a sinewy lead guitar break to a towering churn, with orchestral strikes and strings adding to the sense of drama. It’s impossible to declare anything to be truly ‘vintage; or ‘quintessential’ PIG: Watt’s project has always been built on hybridity and eclecticism. But against its predecessor or releases like, say, Pigmartyr, which were more direct, paired and back and rock-orientated, Risen draws together all of the divergent elements – from classical samples to battering technoindustrial antagonism – from the beginning of the band’s career onwards. Strings bolster up-front metallic guitars and thumping disco beats, and the sleaze is amped up to 11. As such, it’s all going on on Risen, and it’s something to see PIG rebuild the momentum and exposure they achieved in the mid-90s having benefited from association with Nine Inch Nails.

It’s the electro aspect of Pig’s sonic arsenal that leads the swaggering groove of ‘Morphine Machine’, which echoes the ham-glam of The Gospel. The opening chords of ‘Loud, Lawless & Lost’ sound very like The Yardbirds’ ‘For Your Love’ before swerving into a lift of Bowie’s ‘Fame’. The nagging, clean guitar and funk is sort of perverse in its presence, but this is a PIG album, and anything goes. There’s always been a tongue-in-cheek element to Watts’ approach to both lyric-writing and composition, his infinite wordplay and musical intertextuality and hybridity representative of a postmodern playfulness, and it’s on display in full force here. Moreover, Watts dominates every bar with his JG Thirlwell-esque throat-based theatrics.

‘Truth is Sin’ plays the slow-burning anthem card to good effect, while allowing Watts space to spin infinite spins on clichés, and elsewhere, the solid chug of ‘The Vice Girls’ and ‘Leather Pig’ comes with instant hooks that are hard to resist.

PIG have always been about the remixes, and quite (but not entirely) unusually, have been given to chucking remixes of previous prime cuts onto new albums: as far back as 1992’s A Stroll in the Pork, Watts &co have been slipping remixes and multiple versions, and five of the fourteen tracks on Risen are remixes, while ‘The Cult of Chaos’ first appeared on the Prey & Obey EP.

None of this makes their discography any more navigable, but and it’s often difficult to describe any ‘new’ album as being entirely ‘new’, but again makes Risen entirely representative of the PIG oeuvre. And this is perhaps the most welcome addition since their return. Praise the lard indeed.

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Metropolis Records – 6th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

However much music you know, there’s always a near-infinite realm beyond your ken. Until now, German electronic crossover act Haujobb – a hybrid of electro, noise, IDM and techno, who lean toward the more mainstream electro-industrial sphere – have existed beyond my range of awareness. I can’t imagine why.

I would rarely recommend a live album by way of an introduction to any band, but then again, it was by listening to Concert that I found the motivation to explore The Cure in more detail, and it was Welcome to Mexico… which compelled me to listen to releases beyond Gub.

So, we’re presented here with ‘a career-spanning collection of the band’s most beloved songs, recorded at various recent concerts throughout Europe’, which, according to the blurb, ‘stands as a testament to the band’s live prowess and unique creativity’.

They’ve produced a vast body of work over the course of their 25-years existence, and Alive gathers 15 cuts from across it, opening with the slow-building ‘Machine Drum’. Lifted from 2011’s New World March, it’s brooding, dark, and angry. But – overlooking the absence of audience noise, which on one hand can interfere with the listening experience, but by the same token is also pretty much integral to the live experience, and I always eye (metaphorically) a live album with no audience noise suspiciously – the question of how representative it all is encroaches on the enjoyment of such a release. And sequencing matters: is this live collection in any way representative of the actual live experience? I suspect not. The sound quality is pretty consistent given that it’s a compilation culled from various shows, but then again, the slickness and uniformity mean it doesn’t feel very ‘live’, and equally, with so much of the instrumentation sequenced and preprogrammed, meaning that it’s a little hard, perhaps, to convey the band’s live prowess.

‘Renegades of Noise’ – and a fair few others, if truth be told – sounds like a Depeche Move studio offcut, as remixed by RevCo. Elsewhere, ‘Input Error’ is driven by a clanking industrial beat and a bucketload of aggression and anguish. As on ‘Let’s Drop Bombs’, The anger is palpable, while electronic stabs rain in like gunfire from every angle near the end. And while Haujobb occupy well-trodden territory, the semi-familiarity of the structures and delivery doesn’t undermine the fact they’ve got some strong songs and a mastery of driving beats and hypnotically looping sequenced grooves. In all… it’s not bad.

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