Posts Tagged ‘theatrical’

15th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Lately, being goth isn’t so much of a cause of derision, since everyone has been facing some existential angst about isolation and death in some form or another. It may sound a shade facetious, and the truth is, it is, but the point stands: circumstances have forced many people to reflect differently on life, and to experience a kind of alienation, as a result of separation and distancing in the most literal of senses.

And it is upon this thought that Johnathan|Christian singer/co-writer, Christian Granquist reflects when considering this new EP: “Unlike previous releases, the lyrics and inspirations on this one is a bit of a paradox” he says. “Some of our ‘usual’ vocal topics like loneliness, isolation and of course death have become so much more relevant during the pandemic. And for the exact same reason they appear less relevant, as they become less metaphorical.’

This EP may only contain four tracks (which feels like the optimal EP set, corresponding with vinyl 12” from the 80s), but does showcase some considerable stylistic range.

With ‘My Dying Words’, the duo spin a brooding goth tune that’s in keeping with the second wave style, and would be quite at home on a Nightbreed release. Lyrically, it’s one of those ‘big ego’ protagonist songs ‘You’ll never meet someone like me again’, he bombasts in the chorus.

The title track is a piano-led piece, that brings with it a certain theatricality and some moody strings. With live-sounding drums, the feel of the production is quite different, too. Recorded as a duet, it works well, presenting as a dialogue that plays out the themes of absence and missing, and the way those feelings can interplay, and drag on the soul.

After the brief string-draped interlude if ‘My Beautiful, Broken Butterfly’, ‘Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face)’ pitches a drably spoken-word vocal delivery against a sparse backdrop of spindly guitars and a remarkably danceable beat, coming on like a goth Pest Shop Boys and building to a majestic finish.

A strong EP doesn’t only have strong songs, but is also sequenced in such a way as to have a flow, and Together, We’re Alone very much has that. It feels like more than simply four songs in the same space, but a self-contained unit.

AA

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SPV / NoCut and ADA / Entertainment One

24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

And we’re back once again in the divergent and varied field of what’s come to be goth in the 21st century, and it’s a very far cry from its post-punk roots. The late 70s and early 80s saw the emergence of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, The March Violets, Christian Death and a slew of bands who would subsequently be labelled as ‘goth’, and who were subsequently joined by the likes of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Cult, Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission, etc., etc. The fact of the matter is, there was little commonality between these acts, and that goth was something of a media fabrication. What about the fans? Let’s not confuse the fans and the artists, or a subculture with its icons. So what was a scene that never was morphed into an evermore diffuse group of subcultures, with an ever-broader range of bands who had little or nothing in common beyond their shared fanbase. After metal, there can be few labels that provide an umbrella for a greater range of styles.

So here we are, presented with The Book of Fire, the eleventh album by German goth-metal act MONO INC. And while it’s goth, it’s not really my kinda goth, and couldn’t be further from the dark post-punk or art-rock stylings of the first wave of bands. Is this evolution, or dilution, cross-pollination and contamination? I suppose that’s a matter of perspective.

The album’s first song, the title track, is over seven and a half minutes long. It begins with a slick guitar that almost manages to sound like a harpsichord, and then it glides into some kind of Celtic folk metal and it very soon starts to become uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because such buoyant energy is more the domain of the hoedown knees-up. The folk-hued power-metal of ‘Louder Than Hell’ brims with positivity about strength and stuff, and explodes with crisp synths and choral backing vocals and it’s fun enough, but it’s also pretty cringy: it’s the kind of thing Germany might enter into Eurovision.

Then again, ‘Shining Light’ has such a massive chorus and a hook so strong that it’s hard to resist even when you’re hating it: it has that uplifting surge that lifts you and carries you away on the tide from the inside.

The euphoria swiftly dissipates with the next song, ‘Where the Raven Flies’, which is the definition of theatrical cliché melodrama. And herein lies the problem, which I accept is entirely personal, at least on a primary level. In short, I think it’s cheesy and naff.

On a secondary level, and one which is more objective, what The Book of Fire represents is very much a commercial take on the genre; theatre and drama don’t necessarily equate to an absence of depth, but this is good-time party goth, and any emotional sincerity is polished away under a slick veneer of pomp and overblown production. In this way, it’s as credible as examples of either folk or goth as Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ or Doctor and the Medics’ rendition of ‘Spirit in the Sky’. It displays all the trappings, but none of the authenticity. For all the theatre, there’s a woeful absence of substance, the brooding is third-rate thespianism rather than the anguish of tortured souls.

Elsewhere, ‘The Last Crusade’ is riven with choral bombast, but is little more than an obvious ‘This Corrosion’ rip-off, that once again leans heavily on Germanic folk tropes, and ‘The Gods of Love’ similarly brings together Floodland-era Sisters with Rammstein. I’m sure plenty will view this as a good thing, but they’d be wrong, so wrong. ‘What have we done?’ they ask repeatedly on the final and suitably epic finale track ‘What have We Done’, and it’s a fair question: whatever it is, it’s not good.

In fairness, it’s not quite ‘Rocky Horror’ bad on the spectrum of play-goth, but it’s not far off, and while it’s sonically ambitious, creatively, it’s depressingly derivative.

AA

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