Posts Tagged ‘Nine INch Nails’

Blind Mice Productions – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

As the liner notes to Australian electro-industrial band SHIV-R’s fifth full-length album explain, ‘there is a Zen teaching that if you meet God on the road, you must kill him… What the killing of God means to each listener will be a unique and personal revelation. In a world full of gatekeepers and figureheads whose only interest in you is to tell you what to do, illusions will need to be shed and those who profess to have all the answers will need to be confronted’.

The title track launches the album with some harsh metallic guitars pitched against a pounding technoindustrial groove, where beats and synthesized bass are melded together perfectly. And while a lot of bands in this vein – even the likes of KMFDM to an extent – peg the guitars back in favour of pushing the synthesised elements of the instrumentation to the fore, to give a harsh, but ultimately slick, digital vibe overall, SHIV-R to crank up the guitars, and they punch hard, providing a strong counter to the danceable, mechanoid beats and throbbing low-end.

While growly or distorted vocals are common to the genre, it’s often strained-sounding or raspy, whereas Pete Crane has a rich, full-throated metal roar that has real depth and proper guts. That said, on ‘Spark’ and ‘Promises of Armageddon’ where they slip into grinding electrosleaze mode, evoking Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails and mid-90s PIG, Crane shows a cleaner tone that’s poppy, but dark – which is a description that fits the slower pace of the Depeche Mode-like minimal electro of ‘Blue Turns to Black’. It’s well-placed at what would conventionally mark the end of side one – and highlights another strength of Kill God Ascend: it feels like an album in the classic sense, with ten tightly-structured and concise tracks that are sequenced in such a way as to drop the tempo, and conversely, slam in with an absolute banger, at just the right time. More than anything, it’s reminiscent of Stabbing Westward’s debut – but at the same time, Kill God Ascend is very much an album with its own identity.

Sixth track, ‘Empire’ is exemplary, kicking off virtual side two with a dark stomper on which Crane snarls, “I’m on my own path. Get the fuck out of my way.” He sounds like he means it, too.

There are some solid hooks, and Kill God Ascend sustains the angst from beginning to end – even when they bring it right down for the brooding penultimate song, ‘Valley of Death’, it’s as a prelude to the epic finale, the dark, slow-burning ‘Turpentine’ that’s gnarly and hefty and brimming with twists, turns, and glitches, a track where the machines finally devour the human components in a mangles mess of rust and dirt, blood and guts. And it’s at this point, you realise that god is indeed dead.

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Warm Gadget, the recording trio made up of multi-instrumentalist/ producer Colten Williams, bassist Austin Williams and vocalist/part time instrumentalist Tim Vester has self-released a brand new alternative metal/industrial E.P. entitled Rituals.

The Rituals E.P. showcases five brand new, original songs, as well as remixes by notable electronic artists such as SNOWBEASTS and WITCH EYES. This  E.P., which features the band’s signature blend of industrial and alternative metal, was released in digital format exclusively to the WARM GADGET Bandcamp page.

This new release, Rituals is filled with the band’s brand of hard-hitting songs, electronic beats, synth melodies, un-melodic synth chaos and hook-laden, crushing guitars. It also showcases the longing, bleak, dismal yet aggressive lyrics and deliveries that the band has perfected. Colten Williams has topped everything off in the studio by producing an album that sounds crisp, heavy, and intense. The Rituals E.P. also marks the band’s return to writing & recording together after a 3-year hiatus, showing that they have violently shaken the dust and cobwebs off and have come out swinging.

With strong hints of NIN and Filter, they’ve unveiled a video for ‘If Only I Could’. Watch it here:

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Empty Quarter – 1st June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest instalment in the reissue series of albums by oddballs Photographed by Lightning is something of a departure from its predecessors – but then, each album marks a different departure, and if one thing this contemporary appraisal of their back catalogue highlights is that they never stated still or retrod ground, which each release existing in a completely different realm from those which came before.

Recorded in 2002 and released in 2004 and considered by the band to perhaps be their strangest offering (and it’s got some tough competition), it lists as its inspirations the works of Kenji Siratori, Friedrich Nietzsche, Suehiro Mauro, Georges Bataille, J G Ballard. I’m often particularly intrigued when a band’s citations are literary, or otherwise non-musical, perhaps because in some respects, while there is naturally much crossover between all creative disciplines, literary influences tend to be more cerebral, ideas or concept-based over sonic. When a bands say they’re influenced by Led Zeppelin, you can probably hear certain stylistic elements in the composition: but you’re not going to hear elements of Ballard in the guitar technique of any band – although with a substantial catalogue of releases to his credit, Kenji Siratori is a notable exception to the rule, particularly as the experimental Japanese polyartist’s forays into extreme electronica and harsh noise in the vein of Merzbow actually do very much resemble his literary works also as a brain—shredding sensory overload.

This is certainly a fair summary of the experience of this album: the title track, a mere intro at under two minutes, is a blend of scratchy, synthy noise with extraneous elements collaged here and there.

‘The Embryo Hunts in Secret’ and ‘Putrid Night’ are both a sort of psychedelic new wave collision, and with the wandering basslines that veer up, down, and everywhere amidst treble-soaked chaos, the effect is disorientating dissonant, as if everything is slowly melting or collapsing in on itself. Everything is murky, dingy, kinda distant-sounding and discordant. Take ‘Kundalini Butterly’ – a spiralling kaleidoscopic mess or scrawling feedback and a bass that sounds like an angry bee bouncing around inside an upturned glass, coming on like Dr Mix covering Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’.

Blood Music is noisy, but it’s not straight-ahead guitars noisy: instead, it’s a mangled menage of bits and bobs hurled together – not clumsily, but then, not delicately, either, with pulsing washes of rhythm throbbing and crashing all around. It gets weirder and darker as they plunge into ‘My Hole’, where the bass bubbles and throbs beneath a continuous stream of trilling distortion, synth whistles and wails, and there’s a lot of overloading, whupping distortion that derails the helicotoptoring synths and froth and foam that sloshes around at the lower end of the sonic spectrum. ‘Dark Sun’ goes kind of industrial with a hefty, thunking beat, with a relentless, distorted snare, low-slung, booming bass and heavily treated vocals, and there’s chaotic piano all over the place: the emphasis is very much on the dark here.

Dave Mitchell’s lyrics are, we’re led to believe, to have been inspired by whatever he was reading, but buried low in the mix, bathed in reverb and given a grating metallic edge, he sounds like a malfunctioning Dalek chanting incantations. To be clear, that’s by no means a criticism.

Final track, ‘Frame’ is more overtly ambient, but dark, with a certain industrial hue as it shifts to pound out a relentless beat against braying sax and a whirlpool of aural chaos: I’m not about to suggest that PBL were going through any kind of NIN phase, but there are hints of parallels with The Fragile in places here.

Everything about Blood Music is seemingly designed to challenge, to present the music in the least accessible way possible – and it’s far from accessible to begin with, for the most part. The dark density of the sound is heavy, and there’s something quite deranged about the album as a whole, in a way that’s hard to define… but deranged it is. Which seems a pretty fitting summary of the band’s catalogue as a whole: the only thing you can really predict is their unpredictability.

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Cleopatra Records – 23rd April 2021

James Wells

Ahead of their debut album, set for release on longstanding industrial / goth-leaning label Cleopatra Records – who will forever be a favourite with me for their releasing Rozz Williams-fronted Christian Death albums in the early 90s, although their catalogue is impressive in its depth and breadth – Handsome Abominations deliver their debut single, ‘Slave’.

The band are pitched as purveyors of ‘sleaze industrial’ – but then, isn’t that so much industrial? Leading exponents of technoindustrial, like Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, and PIG are aaaaaall the sleaze, and NIN – probably the biggest name in the field – are hardly clean and family friendly (‘Closer’, anyone?). This kind of grind has long associations with dingy nightclubs, latex, and S&M, and Handsome Abominations are all about that scene here.

As Baron VonSchnell says, “When I heard the strong, primeval beat that Tufty Hacka had programmed, I instantly knew that we had to write a writhing, sleazy anthem that would suite a fetish club.” And that’s precisely that we have here: ‘Slave’ is grimy, sweaty, slippy, heaving with all the wrong desires, and it’s clearly pitched at a specific audience.

There’s a whole lot happening, and a whole lot to unpack and discuss. ‘Slave’ is, without doubt a quintessential industrial disco cut that combines that low-down groove and blends it with some less than subtle lyrics that are all the sleaze. Of course it does. Nor would the blurb be justified in promising a song where ‘a sleazy, groovy musical orgy breaks out’ if it didn’t.

But at what point does the world of S&M fantasy stray into something that’s uncomfortable? I’m no advocate of trigger warnings, especially having run into trouble over an absence of them when referencing suicidal thoughts at a spoken word night a couple of years ago, but sometimes it’s possible to wander over lines in the name of ‘provocativeness’. So when Mistress Misha moans ‘Tie me down and rape me’, it sends a prickle. What is the message there? I suppose the question may ultimately come down to an understanding of the scene, in that rape fantasy is an entirely separate thing from the reality of rape, and the rape culture under discussion in the media right now, although it’s likely difficult to understand the distinctions and nuances of the scene for a straight. It isn’t the job of Handsome Abominations to explain this, and nor should art have to justify itself: it’s just difficult to draw distinctions in the current climate. But one thing is without contention, and that’s that ‘Slave’ is a cracking tune.

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Chicago-based industrial rock band Nuclear Sun has released a new single/visualizer clip covering the iconic Nine Inch Nails  hit, "Head Like A Hole."  The track appears on Nuclear Sun’s new tribute release, Couldn’t Have Said It Better Vol. 1, available digitally via Bandcamp and all major streaming services.

Watch the video here:

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Fierce Panda Records – 24th February 2021

Here we are: it’s the end of February 2021, and COVID-19 isn’t still a thing, but just a few weeks short of a year after the first lockdown was announced here in the UK, it’s pretty much the only thing, and it dominates and dictates our lives in ways we could never have predicted back then – or, arguably, even in September, or at Christmas.

In a time when the music industry isn’t as much in crisis as halfway on its knees and wondering what the actual fuck to do while touring remains off-limits both home and away on account of the pandemic and Brexit meaning the future of the foundations of musicians’ livelihoods is in question, while at the same time the debate over the equity of streaming services for artists has stepped up several notches, the need for an indie label like Fierce Panda seems even more vital. They’ve never gone with the grain and have continued to carve their own niche, focusing on single and EP releases.

The Covid Version Sessions EP is a classic case in point: bringing together a selection of artists you probably haven’t heard of alongside a selection you really ought to have even if you haven’t, it showcases six standalone cover (Covid) version (boom boom) releases, recorded during the pandemic by acts striving to find ways of working together while apart or otherwise unable to operate as normal.

It’s an eclectic mix, with some interesting takes on some well-selected tunes. While we’ve already given praise to National Service’s stripped back, haunting take on The Twilight Sad’s ‘Last January’ (released this January), it’s Moon Panda’s slick, sultry jazz-tinged cover of ‘Call it Fate Call it Karma’ by The Strokes that raises the curtain on the EP. It captures the essence of the original, but somehow manages to sound more authentic, perhaps because of the lack of self-consciously ‘retro’ production.

I’ve long had a soft spot for Pulp’s This is Hardcore album, not least of all because of the admiration inspired by their apparent commercial suicide in following one of the biggest albums of the Britpop era with such a desperately dark pop record. But also, because it has so much more depth and resonance. Desperate Journalist have an ear for drama, so their covering ‘The Fear’ is pretty much faultless: again, it’s a straight rendition, but magnificently executed. The same is true of Jekyll’s rendition of Japan’s ‘Nightporter’, which captures the understated, brooding theatrics of the original.

After Johnny Cash, is there any point on covering ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails’? Ghost Suns arguably step back closer to the original with electronic instrumentation, and in fact swing more to the other side, landing in ambient / synthwave territory. It’s not as good as Cash, and nor is it a good as the original, but then, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking and yes, it stull brings a lump to the throat – because it seems no matter what spin you put on this song, it is a classic that can’t be contained or twisted to be anything other than a blow directly against the heart.

The Covid Version Sessions may not offer much cheer: in fact they’re draped with sadness and remind us of all we don’t have – but they also remind us that we’re not alone in being alone, that it’s ok not to be ok, and that sometimes, the solution is to just take some time out, listen to some haunting melodies and remember that tomorrow is another day, and that for better or worse, nothing is forever.

28th January 2021

James Wells

This seven-tracker follows the same format as previous EP releases from the past couple of years, and features Dissonance’s collaborative duel with Melodywhore, ‘Damage: 1st Assault’, augmented with six remixes.

The remix package very much has its roots in the field of dance, from whence the work of Cat Hall – aka Dissonance – has emerged – although, as her bio notes, it ‘incorporates elements from industrial, pop, and alternative rock’ which has seen the project ‘compared to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Curve, This Mortal Coil, and Information Society.’

Coming together with Melodywhore has facilitated the exploration of the darker, harder-edged leanings of the Dissonance sonic palette, which places ‘Damage: 1st Assault’ very firmly in NIN territory, with an erratic stop-start beat dominated by a whipcrack snare driving a bubbling synth bass, which in turn underpins some dark atmospherics. It lands somewhere between Pretty Hate Machine and the electrosleaze of ‘Closer to God’, and it’s solid.

The remixes – being remixes from a selection of guests – accentuate different features, with Joe Haze’s CF2 remix pumping up the bass and beats to create a driving, dense backdrop to the backed-off, breathy vocal (which also highlights the Curve comparison), while the more stripped-back Machines with Human Skin Corrupted remix comes on more like the original Pigface recording of ‘Suck’, but with soulful backing vocals that owe more to Depeche Mode.

Steven Olaf’s remix is dirty but also beholden to 80s robotix synth, and so it goes. The REVillusion Revision Remix is a spaced-out stomper that goes for the slowed-down anthemic vibe.

The one thing that’s conspicuous is how the remixes stay fairly true to the original form and structure: there isn’t one reworking that takes the song somewhere entirely different, and there’s nothing as daring or brain-mangling as, say, JG Thirlwell’s radical remixes of Reznor’s cuts, and there’s nothing wrong with that by any means – it all just feels a little safe and reverent. And without any of the versions doing anything particularly radical, it does get a shade monotonous listening to the remixes back-to-back.

Still, it’s a decent enough tune, and if you’re prone to playing songs on a loop, this will save you hitting repeat.

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“It seemed to make a lot of sense to strip it back of all the industrial electronic sounds and leave it with just a guitar that sounds like it’s lost in an empty void, because that’s pretty much what’s happening to every town and city around the world right now”

For Sky Valley Mistress the lockdown couldn’t have come at a more challenging time, you see March 20th was the release date of their debut album Faithless Rituals an album that had already had a rocky road to get to the finish line and as momentum grew and everything started to fall into place the reality that the world would soon be standing still and for a period of time the band would have to sit back and not be the centre of the universe albeit for a short time has been testing. With all promotional duties and tour commitments shelved and working out the challenges of lockdown Sky Valley Mistress have simply just got on with it.

Seeing the band live is a sight to behold and the real frustration is that the “Faithless Rituals Tour” and the preparation that went into it hasn’t happened and when it does it can’t help but be different from the Pre-Covid version, we know venues and live music arenas won’t be the same, but we also know as a band Sky Valley Mistress won’t be the same, they haven’t really took to or got the luxury of performing streamed shows but instead have been putting together enough material for a second album and even though its all been done from a distance the band have never been closer and when the time is right they’ll be working in the studio.

To begin their lockdown endeavours and armed with Trent Reznor’s Tambourine which Max & Kayley required live from a Nine Inch Nails Scala show in 2013 they have recorded a version of ‘Everyday Is Exactly The Same’, each part has been performed, recorded and mixed remotely and strips back their usual sound to create a sombre version of this 2005 NIN classic, accompanied by a video created, directed, edited and featuring Kayley filmed in Isolation.  

Watch the video here:

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Pretty Ugly Records – 13th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So I stumbled over Sex Cells by practically sticking a pin in last year’s Live at Leeds programme, and it paid off. Ok, that’s not quite true: while surveying the schedule, they looked interesting and probably worth a punt, so I took a gamble it paid off, with the their tense industrial-edged electronica that reminded me of Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails, only weirder and sleezier. Coupled with the duo’s slightly oddball, even vaguely awkward, presentation, it was compelling. The same has been true of their releases to date, which lead us to this, their debut album.

The album’s cover is a bizarre watercolour-style tableau of the pair, and on the one hand, it’s naff (and I’m being polite: the more you look at it, the more awful details reveal themselves. Like, is the cat really supposed to be licking her nipple? What’s that on his dick?), but on the other, it’s a perfect encapsulation of their perverse, quirky style. They don’t play by the rules. And if their name is a play on the adage and Soft Cell, then it’s entirely fitting. If it isn’t, it maybe ought to be.

The headline here should perhaps be that David M Allen is the lead producer here. Renowned for his work with The Human League, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Depeche Mode, The Psychedelic Furs, Wire, The Associates, and The Chameleons, little more probably needs to be said here, beyond the fact that in terms of production, ‘That’s Life’ sounds like you’d probably expect.

‘That’s Life’ bridges the gap between The Human League and Nine Inch Nails, and doesn’t include any of their previous single releases apart from leader ‘Deranged’, which crashed in with a suitably salaciously shocking promo video in March, demonstrating their tenser, harder-edged side while at the same time nailing everything about the band into a box of two-and-a-half minutes.

Opening song, ‘Shimmer,’ is dominated by a low-slung oscillating bass and trudging drum machine that provides the backdrop to Matt Kilda’s monotone spoken word vocal and Willow Vincent’s lost, demented banshee shrillness that calls to mind Skeletal Family, early Siouxsie, and early Cranes.

‘We Are Still Breathing’ is a neatly-crafted reflective electropop tune. It’s got hooks, melody, and a dreamy quality. Things take a dark turn on the next song, ‘Human Costume’ a spiky post-punk electrogoth stomper that screams Hallowe’en and horror, with some pretty barbed lyrics that turn the mirror on society and the human psyche. And it still packs a killer chorus, too.

They go full death disco with ‘Cruel Design’, and Willow coms on all breathy and ice witch in the vocal department, bringing a contrast between the vibrant energy of the instrumentation and the cold detachment of the voice, in a role reversal between human and machine. It’s a complete contrast to the final song, ‘Hang the Flowers’, which is a sparse, folksy number that ripples dappled shade to fade.

The combination of shock tactics and neat dark-edged electropop is a well-established tradition that can probably be traced back as far as Suicide, but really became a thing in the 80s, and as such, Sex Cells should by rights be a yawn, their edginess predictable, their material laden with well-worn tropes, and the metaphorical shrug of a title does nothing to raise expectations. And yet they make it work, and make it exciting.

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4th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having just completed a major tour with 3Teeth, which found Raymond Watts and co performing live in the UK for only the third time in their 30+ year career, PIG announced a new EP for release in June. And then, seemingly from out of nowhere, this landed at zero notice – a collaboration with John Fryer, who the press release reminds us is a ‘legendary producer and artist in his own right’ (and there is no escaping the fact his resumé is beyond incredible), the form of ‘the latest offering from his Black Needle Noise project.’

When it comes to both BNN and PIG, ‘industrial’ feels too limiting a term for artists who’ve expanded the territory with a rare imagination, not to mention a sense of grandeur, equally matched by a certain postmodern knowingness, humour even, particularly in the case of PIG.

For all the US and mainland European leaning of the genre, it’s perhaps the Englishness of these two artists which sets them apart and makes them stand out. It’s difficult to pinpoint, but it’s a factor.

‘Seed of Evil’ is a proper technoindustrial banger that’s reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails circa ‘92 and, er, PIG from around the same – the time when they toured supporting NIN on their Downward Spiral tour. It’s all in that distorted digital snare sound that sound like ‘Reptile’, the bubbling bass synth, the, cyclical repetition.

Even its very title revels in cliché and its seedy to the core, as Watts delivers a quintessentially grimy vocal, part gasp and part growl, over a gut-trembling synth bass, and it all explodes into a stomping chorus. In short, it’s got the lot. Get down.

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