Posts Tagged ‘Nine INch Nails’

1st June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It shouldn’t be a deal, really, but it is: Glytsh are a rare thing, namely an all-female industrial duo, comprising French singer Jennifer Diehl (aka Luna Blake) and Swiss guitarist Claire Genoud (aka Hella Sin). Like so many ‘rock’ and metal-orientated genres, industrial of all shades, from the electro to the metal end of the spectrum is depressingly the domain of the white male.

In this predictable, recycle-heavy world of white male angst, Glytsh are a breath of fresh air. But Glytsh aren’t a breath of fresh air because they’re women: they’re a breath of fresh air because they’re fucking exciting. While ‘(Hard)core memory’ still works with established tropes, their debut single, a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’ set out their stall and managed to draw a fair bit of positive attention in the process. On the one hand, it was a pretty faithful cover, but also had enough of a slant to it to show that they’ve got game. And now, with the arrival of ‘(Hard)core memory’, Glytsh prove that they’ve got both style and substance, meshing together both electro and metal elements in an explosive three and a half minutes.

From a low, bass-heavy electronic intro, ‘(Hard)core Memory’ starts slow-grinding and sultry before tearing into a lumbering rock riff with screaming metal vocals, a collision between Rage Against The Machine and Marilyn Manson. It’s pretty full-on, and that’s before the Slash-style guitar solo blasts in near the end.

‘(Hard)core Memory’ has got the lot, and yet I somehow suspect that Glytsh have got a lot more to offer yet.

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Greece has spawned countless instances of criminally underrated music acts in diverse genres ranging from black metal to electronic to avant garde pop music, and the sophomore album of modern progressive metal act Playgrounded titled ‘The death of Death’ is yet another striking example.

“Where did this come from?” you will find yourself wondering, while absorbing the stunning intensity and musical prowess on display. From the perfection of the production and the inherent innovation in defining heaviness by means of not only downtuned guitars, but also elements of electronica are the pillars of an intriguingly idiosyncratic, incredibly mature sound.

Hailing from Greece, but spending most of their time in the Netherlands, the musical pedigree of the members of Playgrounded is quite unprecedented in the metal/rock underground. Main composer and producer Orestis Zafeirou is a graduate from the Institute of Sonology of the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague, a department focused on electronic music education and production research. Additionally, he works in a synth factory. Vocalist and co-producer Stavros Markonis graduated from the Amsterdam conservatoire and is an award-winning composer for film and TV. Bass player Odysseas Zafeiriou and guitar player Michael Kotsirakis both work as computer engineers, while drummer Giorgos Pouliasis is a graduate from the Rotterdam Conservatoire, as well as a drum teacher and a popular session musician in Greece as well as in the Netherlands.

Starting out in 2007, Playgrounded have been together for over 15 years, playing both national and international tours, while also opening for bands like Riverside and even Nine Inch Nails in Amsterdam. Their first EP Athens (2012, Casket Music) portrays an already mature band playing modern prog rock influenced by Tool and Deftones. Their debut full-length In Time With Gravity (2017) shows the band in full flux, experimenting with extended compositions as well as influences from influential contemporary electronic music acts like Modeselektor and Moderat.

Playgrounded’s sophomore album lives up to the aspiration of its lofty album title. The death of Death is music that results from mastery rather than lacklustre exploration and experimentation. The album was recorded at MD Recording Studios by Nikos Michalodimitrakis, long collaborator of Stavros in film productions. Mixing was handled by C.A.Cederberg (Leprous, Shining, and more) in Kristiansand, NO, while the album was mastered by George Tanderø (Madrugada, Satyricon, Jaga Jazzist, and more) in Oslo, NO.

Guitarist Michael Kotsirakis comments on the album’s title track which the band shared today,

"The death of Death" is a study of unity in opposition, a disclosure of contradictory aspects of reality, an expression of their mutual relationship.  For the occasion of sharing this first taste of the album with the world we worked closely with director Dimitris Anagnostou and director of photography Yannis Karabatsos, the duo that we came to know from the award-winning short film Mare Nostrum for which Stavros composed the score.  The director’s idea about a "study of movement" using early cinematography techniques drew inspiration from Orestis’ dialectically composed lyrics and was eventually adapted into the clip’s script. We felt that Karabatsos’ sinister photography was the perfect means to explore the song’s contradictions… black and white, direction and diffusion, alienation and struggle, stillness and life.”

Watch the video for ’The death of Death’ here:

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Demonstrating a profound understanding of the glitches they produce, Playgrounded evoke a sense of the uncanny closely related to the cut-up movie fragments of sound artists like the German Orson Hentschel. “We start with dynamic sound design structures, most of the times initiated by Orestis,” explains guitarist Michael Kotsirakis. “We then work in pairs expanding the musical space and creating variations and flourishes. Sometimes the lyrics and vocals will dictate a change in quality, other times it’s one of the instruments. After many ideas are on the table Stavros and Orestis sit together and propose a song structure. After this loop has been repeated over and over we have a very good idea of all the parts. That’s when we hit the rehearsal space and refine the details.”

The result is a collection of songs that reveal Playgrounded as composers in the act of decomposition. The memorable guitar riffs and vocal melodies serve as gateways to a deeper layer of glitchy synth textures and liquid drumming, until the perspective of radical decomposition consumes one whole. “The shortest sound units become extended themes,” explains main composer Orestis Zafeirou. “Steady rhythmical blocks interact with unstable ones. Noise becomes tone and melody. Sonic grains gather to form masses, masses dissolve into a single entity. With every repetition, comes change.”

On The death of Death, Playgrounded analyse and take apart their surroundings, reducing reality to its smallest components, subsequently converting them into sound to create a new platform – a representation of reality from which they build their artistic vision. In essence The death of Death is dialectical, a study of unity in opposition. A disclosure of contradictory aspects of reality, an expression of their mutual relationship. From these contradictions the band manages to construct a brooding world of dark magnificence. The death of Death has the appeal of a film score that slowly starts to haunt you as the movie progresses. The more you listen to it, the more its sublime beauty becomes apparent.

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Danny Elfman and Trent Reznor have joined forces to deliver a brand new version of ‘True’, one of the standout singles from Elfman’s acclaimed new double album Big Mess [ANTI- / Epitaph Records]. Released today, the reimagined single showcases a sonic collision of two of music’s most iconic artists, melding vocals from Reznor and Elfman with vicious industrial percussion, cinematic piano flares and walls of feedback.

“This is the first duet/collaboration I’ve ever done in my life, so to do it with Trent was a real surprise and a treat,” says Elfman. “He’s always been a big inspiration to me, not to mention he has one of my all-time favorite singing voices.”
Today, Elfman has also debuted a new music video for the reimagined single of ‘True’. Directed by Aron Johnson, who contributed visual effects to the Sarah Sitkin-directed music video for the album version of ‘True’, the piece features warped imagery and retro VHS aesthetics that capture the song’s intensity. Combining segments of Sitkin’s archived footage along with brand new 3D modelling, the visual serves as a remix in itself of the original music video, reinterpreted through the eyes of Aron.

Watch the video here:

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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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