April, 8th was the release date for the single “Montreal (Watch Me Bending)” by UK act Sean Grant And The Wolfgang, on the label Vandalism Begins At Home in conjunction with VBAH-Recordings. The single heralds the release of the new album, 333, on the 9th of July.
Maybe it is the low, ground out electronics that give this a dirty feel, which is not in complete contrast to the vocals, that purr out to you, invading your senses. It culminates in vortex of guitar fury and synths, only to become peaceful once again.
Grant has said that this track was inspired, by his being able to conquer self destructive bad habits. This has translated into a song about find yourself, rather than going along with everyone else. It is a post-punk, darkwave, synth/guitar affair, with some seriously good vocals that will creep up your spine and having you play this on repeat.
A new single from Vermont band Metamorph featuring Margot Day, called “Dream Curve” was released May 1st. The band is comprised of Margot Day (vocals, flute), Kurtis Knight (guitar/beats/keys), Anomaly (Bass) and Joe Netzel (Drum) There are bonus points for the fact that the single was produced by Erik Gustafson of Adoration Destroyed.
Dream weaver and dream keepers of the cyber synth kind. They paint a picture of a modern world trying to reconnect to the spiritual world with a dance inspired beat, joined by a subtle flute and witchy vocals.
There is the imagery of things like the triple goddess. which things like trefoils have huge symbolism for pagans, so the track is full of this style of mysticism and magical intonations. Metamorph are weaving a new chapter of gothic synth rock, meshed with their own vision of new horizons born in dreams.
Madre Teresa have seemingly, burst out of the Italian dark electro scene. We do not know who they are, other than a duo and that the EP, Dentro Sono Cremisi, released on April 22nd, could be their debut….maybe. Dentro, Sono, Cremisi basically translates to Inside, I am, Crimson. I would also like to point out, the EP cover picture is a booby-licious demon lady who is waving around a keyboard, a skull, a chalice and a mother loving lightsabre, so it does not get too much cooler than that.
“Dentro” most definitely has a serpentine flow to it, as it seems to be about snakes, rapid temperatures, storms and six, six, six. There are changes in tempo that throw you slightly off kilter as the female vocals prettily keep you off guard and the synths happily twitter away. The way the electronics hit you like looped waved is quite wonderful in “Sono“. Madre Teresa might be the Antichrist or a projectile but really they are poison and death the only antidote. The groove through this very catchy.
“Dentro” has such lines as Dal silenzio oltre il nero penetra nella mia carne or From the silence before the black penetrates my flesh (or about that) and you have to the embrace the techno bleats and delightful self duet within. A hypnotic affair. There is also a bonus instrumental version “Cremisi” that creeps its way along in a space odyssey way.
The lyrics, if my Italian was a lot better, seem to be full of symbolism and written for descriptive effect, rather than a narrative but that is only the half of it. The music jumps out at you for not being typical synthwave, engulfing you in the (en)chanting vocals, the synths going from melodic to sexy dark with extraordinary little, added jangle bits. Really there is something quite breathtaking in the way they compose and play music… so now you have the opportunity to go have a listen to Madre Teresa.
What do you do when you are handed a release from a project called =^._.^= ? You damn well listen to that sucker!! This is the EP, D3M0N5, from Seattle’s =^._.^= (pronounced catface), which was dropped on May the 5th. Don’t know anything about this project other than they wrote and recorded this between 2018 – 2022 and, I quote… ‘Under the influence of Alec Empire, Richard D. James and Trent Reznor‘.
The first thing you get is “SP!T“, which is the screaming of electronic alarms in a trap stew. The glitching of the languid “Bl4cK P4nth3R“, as it stalks you to your untimely squeaking end with all those lovely fuzzy notes. “y o w l” is a sassy little track with a nice little heavy bass beat and it out on the prowl.
Through all the feedback you can hear the synths lurking and biding their time in “H3llc4T“. The fuzzing tones leasing into a faster rhythm, leaving you wondering if the hellcat might suddenly spring. Swirling electronic glitches bring a little drum’n’bass to the party in the deceptively heavy “TH3 R!S3N“. The zombies are coming to get you and may the heavens help you if they are zombie cats. The asthmatic wheeze of “p u r r” pervades your senses with tortured digital sounds that wind down to dead silence.
=^._.^= are doing some pretty funky, experimental trap and industrial noise. It is fairly easy to listen to and actually rather fun because you are trying to discern if there are cat noises or slinky, shifty hisses. More to the point…..IT’S A KITTY and that was enough to hook me in. The Onyx cats completely agree with me that you need to go check out the Bandcamp page, which is name your price! Meow.
Merely mentioning the name X-MARKS THE PEDWALK, conjures up the visions of dark sweat soaked dance floors and now in 2022, we have a fresh new album called New / End. Released 29th of April on Meshworks Music, with founder SEVREN NI-ARB (synthesizers, computers/programming and vocals) and ESTEFANÍA (vocals), the husband and wife team based in Münster, Germany.
“Sailors At Dawn” is the first track and a single to boot, with ESTEFANIA at the helm in a piece about surviving the darkest moments to meet the light. The track is filled with those synths that wind up through your soul. And if that isn’t good enough, the second track is also another single in the shape of “Firestorm” this time with SEVREN on vocal duties with again those purposefully electronics and yet there is something very delicate within. You can see why this and “Sailors At Dawn” were singles.
There is a kind of sexiness, not only vocally but also in those jaunty synth lines in “Wonder“. “Kill Me Tonight” is a smashing track with those rolling beats that you instantly find yourself bopping around to. So smooth and delicious. I find myself inextricably draw to the track “Sacred Ground“. It resonates so keenly with me, on so many levels lyrically and mood wise. A truly good track can do that. The power of the rhythm and great whirling tunes reminds us of “Yesterdays“. A little Euro disco sneaking in? Love it and it very much a fact we are made up of our yesterdays but waiting for our tomorrows.
Really like hearing both SEVREN and ESTEFANIA in “Miss Me“, a really classy piece about wanting the other to miss them because they feel down, Miss me I’m a fool. “Into The Light” is a perfect piece of future pop style that would be great on any club dance floor. The electronic flutter down falling stars on magical night waiting for the dawn. Lucky last is “I’m On Your Side” and the synths and vocals convey such pain and yet such powerful message of support no matter what happens.
“Abbatoir” was a track that we danced to in the early 90s and even listening them now, it brings back warm memories of X-MARKS THE PEDWALK in the clubs. It feels strange to say that New / End is their eleventh studio but there it is and time seems to have flown. So time and growth have molded them into a tight and beautifully formed synthpop/synthwave group, that can write these superlative tracks to stir the imagination and capture your soul, which is exactly what New / End has in spades.
Esoterik released their latest album, Alchemy, in March. Dubbed as pagan-synth, this US duo of AllisonEckfeldt and Brady Bledsoe, have created an album which has mystical folk tendrils, spliced together with electronic synths and rhythms. It is beautiful and danceable with a spiritual centre, calling back to a time when our ancestors were more in-tune to the world they walked in and the earth was far more listened to. So we decided that it was time to ask the band themselves about the new album and Esoterik.
Welcome Esoterik to the druidic grove in which Onyx thinks deep and perplexing thoughts.
The project, Esoterik, came into being in 2013, so how did it all happen?
Allison: I’ve felt a strong pull to create music, perform live and tour since high school but never had things line up to where it could happen… I ended up asking Brady if he would like to join together in a project after I had tried out as bassist for a different band he was in.
Brady: My musical tastes have always been all over the place and love creating soundscapes in different genres. Allison and I were sharing some of our favorite artists so I decided to take some of the elements I love most about those and just push it through my normal songwriting process to see what happens. I showed her a couple of demos and before we knew it, we had enough material to call it an album.
What were you both doing musically before Esoterik?
Allison: I was mostly playing on my bass guitar on my lunch breaks from work… and singing/recording covers of artists I was inspired by.
Brady: Directly before, I was playing in a project with some friends that I guess you would call Power Pop and also doing a lot of solo gigs with my acoustic, a synth and a looper pedal. I’ve dabbled and participated in projects across a wide array of genres over the years and I think that’s something I’ll always do to scratch the creative itch.
People might not know that the band is comprised of a husband/wife team. So, do you find it easier or harder being married to your bandmate?
Allison: I’ve only really known this formula so I can’t comment on if it is easier or harder… It isn’t hard though; It’s a lot of fun. It’s work too just like anything else you would like to improve upon. Lots of practice, listening, learning and growing. I’ve taken part in a lot of team-oriented projects so I approach this band the same from the same professional standpoint
Brady: I don’t know who told you that, but it’s a secret that was not to be revealed. In all seriousness though, I find it much easier and it’s pretty magical to be able to share the experiences of life on the road. You often hear about musicians having trouble being able to maintain relationships due to a lifestyle that requires a lot of traveling so problem solved there. In my opinion touring is one of the most gratifying and difficult things you can do as a musician and it can wear on you after a while. However, there’s a bond that forms out there in very little time and strangers become family. That experience with my partner is only amplified each time we get out there. I also always know where to find her when it’s time for rehearsals.
How do you both contribute to the creative process of writing songs?
Allison: I usually will write lyrics and pass them to Brady… I have my most fun sprinkling in ‘off the script’ takes during vocal recording however. The song starts to form its’ shape and I get really excited to add in flare where it feels right.
Brady: Our songwriting process varies depending on how inspiration strikes but it usually starts on an acoustic guitar with me working out chords or a melody that pops into my head. Once I have a general arrangement that seems solid, I’ll then go into the studio and start transposing and building out the skeleton. For lyrics or vocal melodies, we usually bounce ideas off each other or Allison may have lyrics already and we clean them up to fit the phrasing with the music.
Your latest album is “Alchemy” and alchemy was the precursor to modern science but still very much in the pseudo science realm, mixed with ideals of magic, and this reflects the album for me. Magical with its roots deep in the earth. What does the album mean for you?
Allison: It’s a journey to reconnect with myself. Take back all the pieces of who I am that I had let get away from me… The songs are introspective, empowering and full of affirmations. This album to me is basically a diary of my past three years doing shadow work. Un-learning and re-learning to live again.
Brady: The concept of Alchemy has transformed and evolved over time but regardless of the focus, the fascination to me from a physical perspective would be how the elements from the earth interplay with our bodies, which are also composed of some of those elements. The practice also plays well into the realm of spirituality and the power of intention. The process of making music to me feels very alchemical with taking ingredients that have a very defined character or texture alone but when combined created something unexpected and seemingly new. The individual songs on the new album have been crafted with purpose and intention to represent the element or compound titled.
Each of the singles on the album were also released as remix EPs, with guests doing each mix. Could you please explain why you decided to go this way and who you invited to do your mixes?
Allison: We invited a lot of our friends and acquaintances to join in on the single releases. We thought it would be a really fun way to send the songs off into the world. I’m really happy with every track and it was so beyond amazing to be able to listen to everyone’s own take for which direction they wanted to take the soundscape into.
Brady: The way people listen to music is constantly evolving and regardless whether or not as an artist you have a preference on how your music should be consumed, I feel like you have to give your music the opportunity the most airtime you can and spreading those releases out with additional content is sometimes the only way to reach who really wants to hear what you’re creating. In terms of the artist selection, we’ve been lucky to cross paths with a lot of talented musicians over the years and it’s a very tight knit community where you start to lean on people you trust and respect.
Some are very big names, so was that both exciting and nerve wracking?
Allison: Everyone who agreed to take part in our project we have met on tours and through mutual friends. Fortunately, nothing was nerve wracking because everyone who took part, I feel very calm around. I’ve never felt judgment from these individuals and have only had good conversations with them. When you can fully be yourself around creative partners, really beautiful magic can flourish.
Brady: It’s always a bit nerve wracking for me no matter the artist, but also super gratifying to hear your music re-imagined and often elevated to another level. There are a few remixes on the EPs where I seriously contemplate whether their interpretation is actually a better fit than the studio track, which is a great predicament to come across. We are really grateful and honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with such amazing artists and even better to call some of them good friends.
The latest single is “Tria Prima”, which in alchemy is represented by a three sided triangle and is the bringing together of three elements. Can you tell us about this concept and about the music video?
Allison and Brady: Tria Prima takes listeners through the underbelly of the mind and highlights the importance of self-awareness and the balance necessary between mind, body and consciousness. Our minds can be a very ugly space to explore and will run wild if left to their own devices. The mind is flawed by design but with focus and intention, freedom from our self-imposed shackles is possible and always waiting.
If you had to pick a track off the album that would be your favourite to play live, which would it be?
Allison: Salt; I really look forward to performing this one live… The vocals are so fun; and there’s such a variety of moods I get to tap into. The whole song really paints such a nice atmosphere for me to vibe with.
Brady: I would have to say Tria Prima, it’s very high energy and I love the dual vocals.
The cover art for the album is really quite exquisite! Who created it?
Allison and Brady: We had a photo session with some very talented artists Neisha T. Ford and Eugnell, who specialize in what I’d call modern Renaissance style shoots. We didn’t really have any direction on cover art at the time, but after seeing the proofs we knew that one in particular just had a feel that was striking and timeless. We collaborated with another amazing artist, Vlad McNeally (Kallisti Design), who has designed for pretty much everyone in the business and he knocked it out of the park with bringing the vision to life.
For 2 years, Covid has created havoc with the music industry, especially with touring. How did it affect the recording of the album and also your ability to play live?
Allison: It benefited the recording process; as we were stuck home the entire time. We had all that extra time to record and just be creative in general. Performing live was nonexistent during the pandemic…so we had no live shows for quite some time except performing for friends. I’m really looking forward to hitting the road once more. Being able to do live shows is such a huge part of the lifestyle that it feels really uncomfortable when I can’t make those in person connections with listeners.
Brady: It was absolutely wonderful from a creative perspective; we were able to finish up the last half of the album without any distractions. We’ve actually only played a couple of shows in almost three years now so we’re really jonesing to 1) be able to perform for an audience and feel that energy exchange and 2) play a new set with the tracks from Alchemy.
Your style was described by a fan as dark pagan, I feel due to your earthy tones rooted in a darker past, would you agree with that interpretation?
Allison: We were coined ‘Pagan-Synth’ by a fan on YouTube after ‘Spirits light the way’ was released and I instantly fell in love with the term. Blending spiritual, spell rooted songs with synth. In the future, as we grow with our sound; I would like to blend more Folk pagan into synth heavy beats. I would like to find a way to blend in some progressive guitars as well.
Brady: We definitely resonate with a pagan path and for me, it’s really about our connection with the earth. When we take time in nature, we feel more connected to everything and that goes a long way for anything that ails you. Some of that inevitably bleeds into the music we create from a lyrical standpoint. However, there’s nothing ancient sonically in what we’re doing at the moment so it may just be a marriage of the two.
What music/bands, first got you into the alternative scene?
Allison: That’s pretty hard for me to pinpoint… I grew up on ‘alternative’ 70’s music and then around 2002 (I was 12.) One of my older brothers, Kyle, burned me a mix CD with Static-X, Fear Factory, Drain STH, Black Sabbath, Gravity Kills and others. The two songs I would put on repeat off of the CD were ’Sold my Soul’ by Zakk Wylde and Drain STH ‘I Wish’. The Zac Wylde song brought me a lot of peace and comfort when I was no longer able to see my older brothers until I was around 16. Just that opening guitar of the track hit me right in the solar plexus. Some of the lyrics I really felt deeply but the melody itself was so healing to me. The Drain STH song felt like the anthem to my existence during my early teens… The lyrics really spoke things I couldn’t vocalize. I found myself going back to that track when I was in a really low spot.
Brady: My first taste of the scene was in the early 90’s and was mesmerized by the melodies and catchy hooks of New Wave and Synth Pop artists like Depeche Mode and New Order. Although when I started actually composing music I was on a steady diet of grunge and industrial, I knew I’d always come back around.
Are there any acts or albums that you are into now?
Allison: I absolutely love Eivor, I’ve seen her twice live and I am in absolute awe of her creativity, vocal range and overall musical portfolio. I own all her CDs and feel such a deep connection with what she writes. I’m also in awe of iamamiwhoami; I can listen to their albums front and back without getting tired of a track… I usually listen to them while I’m drawing or painting. Each track hits me right in the heart.
Brady: There’s so much great music right now thanks to the downtime everyone had with the pandemic. A couple that come to mind though are Haex and Pixel Grip. They both have such a unique spin on the ground that others have walked before. One’s heavier and one is more on the dancey side but I highly suggest checking those two bands out!
If you had the gift of creation with alchemy, what would you want to create with this power?
Allison: Alchemists created such a wide variety of things chemists still use to this day… When really thinking about the question I suppose I wouldn’t be concerned with creating anything in particular. I would instead be more interested in learning and experimenting through trial and error… and from that point pinpointing exactly what path I would want to explore. I would like to spend more time learning from knowledgeable sources about Prima Materia as I think a lot of ideas could be answered there. Carl Jung had some interesting takes on alchemy actually if anyone else is interested in learning more.
Brady: In the literal sense, I’ve always been intrigued by mortality and ways that we try to avoid the inevitable so the Elixir of Life would be my creation. Like much of history though, I think there’s more metaphors in ancient practices than literal so we could very well have that gift and already created that with this album.
Dark pools of still water were considered sacred places where gifts were given to receive both luck and information. What do the dark waters tell you about the future of Esoterik?
Allison: when reading your question, I actually had a memory pop into my head… My kindred spirit Christian and I were doing a ritual by a natural waterfall at night. The waterfall is in Oklahoma at ‘The Sacred Valley of the Gnomes’ (Runestone park.). The waters at the base of the waterfall were pitch black and the forest surrounding had very little light… I offered an expensive Labradorite ring I loved and Christian offered a prize procession of his own into the dark waters to the old Gods. We sat in the darkness together under the starlight. After a bit of time had passed in silence, we both at the same time locked eyes in the sky above something otherworldly I’ve sworn with Christian to never elaborate on. The gift the dark waters gave me that night told me that the Gods will keep me and protect me, guide me and direct me. They told me magic is real and that all I need to be is open in order to receive it. I’ve held this close as my guiding light.
Brady: Much like the dark waters that present an opportunity for reflection, I believe the knowledge and intuition we seek is already within us if we’re able to focus and listen. It’s still hard for me to get too carried away with planning far out in the future. As we have come to realize through an event like the pandemic, those plans can change at the drop of a hat. My focus these days is on the one thing I can control and that’s to continually create music and art that excites me. I feel like if I can keep that going, everything else will fall into place with much less effort.
May 6th, you may immerse yourself in the single “Clarity” from The Goondock Saint and featuring the vocals of Vic Blonde, of How To Loot Brazil fame, both hailing from Germany but the former Münster and the later North Rhine-Westphalia. “Clarity” is the third single that these two have done together, the last being “LoveBoy” two years ago.
I feel like I have fallen into an alternate world where Tron and Nightrider are the prevailing soundtracks to our life, while the sweet voiced Blonde seduces us with pop prowess, though do not mess with this girl. For an electronic pop style track it is very good, in the vein of Giorgio Moroder who is a master of modular music, with TheGoondockSaint walking in similar shoes, just not disco shoes.
Nightcall is the new EP from Swedish duo, De Arma, released on May the 6th, with the label, Silent FutureRecordings. Formed in 2009 by Andreas Pettersson and soon joined by Johan Marklund, it seems these guys roots lay in the black metal scene originally, though over the years, their sound has evolved into gothic rock and even darkwave/synthwave.
If the first track is an indication of the rest of the EP, I think it is a safe bet that I will like the other two tracks. “Shame Drifter” has those programmed drum loops and synths fused with fine guitar work. There are also the dancing vocals of Pettersson with Maria Oje and the music is definitely full of passion.
“After Dark, You’re There” has a Fields Of The Nephilm feel to it with that beautiful guitar work and yet this still had a more Nordic taste, a wanderer of the icy wasteland rather than the dusty plains. Then, half way through, it hits you that you could be listening to early My Dying Bride. The remorse is almost palatable, for what could be taken as a one sided love affair, filled with yearning.
The last track is “Sunset Dreams” and I love the synth start and the fact this track features the vocal talents of Oje, along with Pettersson and it is a glorious ode to love. It seemingly drifts lightly, with no effort, on the guitar solo, which I have it on good authority, is played by Häxkapell and damn, he’s a good guitarist.
For me, “After Dark, You’re There” is my favourite but then I am a bit of a sucker for that style of guitar lead, melancholic music but that isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the other two tracks, because I did. The fact De Arma are experimenting with their sound is a pretty exciting thing and even better that they are nailing everything they do. The fact they have gone to using Korgs and Rowland drum samples like they did in the late 70s and early 80s can be heard, especially on “Sunset Dreams“. It is goth with a twist and I seriously admire that in a band.
It is not so surprising that May the 4th would spawn music of the science fiction kind. In fact, it is required and on that note, Dublin’s Circuit3 did released a single, “Future Radio“, which is off the soon to be dropped, fourth album, Technology For The Youth. Peter Fitzpatrick is the man and producer behind the project, the single was co-written with Brian McCloskey and Circuit3 is signed to Manchester label, Analogue Trash.
The synths are beautiful and sparkle as brightly as they stars they represent and the vocals are pitch perfect (just as the Irish are renowned for). Que the electronic space chatter in all the right places and there is a pop perfection to the whole thing, as the universe is your playground for stellar exploration, as long as there is music to light your way.
I feel like I have been thrown back in time to the early 80s. It is kind of this amalgamation of David Bowie’s space odyssey, “Major Tom” (though much happier), with the quirkiness of Queen circa “Radio GaGa” and the amazing “Video Killed The Radio Star” by Buggles, due to the uptempo vibe and vocals. It is full of the joy of escapism to pastures unknown. The future and the past collide to give us Circuit3’s “Future Radio“.
It doesn’t seem so long ago that the lads from the north of England, Auger, were the new kids in the gothic/industrial scene, but here we are in 2022 and they have released their fourth studio album, Nighthawks on the label The Big Chair. Kyle J Wilson (vocals, synths, writing, production and mixing) and Kieran Thornton (guitars and backing vocals) dropped the album on April 1st.
We kick off with the very deliberately slower and immersive “City Never Sleeps“. The wailing guitar on a cool breeze of electronics and it reminds me of old friends. It evokes regret for something that was lost in a time gone past. “Oxygen” just has this magnificent movement about it that presses forward. There are sparkling synths that sprinkle points of light through the darkness and an honestly sweet expression of wanting. Spine tingling could be the statement about “Forever Mine“. The guitar solo is hauntingly beautiful about a love story that might be over before it has truly started.
Depeche Mode written all over “This Pain l Compress” in the style and attitude. There is this fantastic welling of emotion joined by buzzing guitars giving it overwhelming vehemence. We hear Wilson pushing deep on those vocals in “Libra” with the wondrous spiraling chorus that sucks you in. Maybe we are talking the astrological sign and I do like the mystical Middle Eastern strains throughout. “Holding On” features Chris Harms of Lord Of The Lost and let’s face it, Harms never does anything awful as far as I have heard and this is no different. This reminds me of early Lacuna Coil and the dueling vocals of Harms and Wilson is magnificent as they intertwine and shatter against each other.
The machine is that which will consume us without thought and without remorse, so the “Sound Of The Machine” with the mechanical vocal distortion, is an anthem to never giving in. This was the first single that gave us an inkling of what this album was going to be like. Beautiful synths desingerate ,”As The World Falls Apart” featuring Imogen Evans with her lovely vocals, mixed in swirls of guitar laden waves, only broken by electronic fractures. They are roaming into dangerous waters of attraction in “Smother“. The refrains are heavy and sexually charged, then the chorus is so wonderfully plaintive and sonorous.
Another single, “Angel Dressed In Snow” and Wilson is channeling HIM in oodles. It might be the deep voice or the way he rounding his vowels, but I am pretty sure Valo would be okay if this was one of his. Thornton proves what a skilled guitarist he is and this is a song to play that person that brings joy into your little dark heart. “SharingShadows” is the final track and they are going out on a slower number and it kind of feels like a soul song in some ways. a very sad and mournful piece.
Nighthawks is most definitely Auger’s most definitive album to date. It has soaring vocals, beautiful melodies, driving rhythms and sonic affairs about love, loss and obsession. You can hear many influences pulled together with that Auger sound of guitar/synth and riveting deep vocals that are completely mesmerising. The guest vocalists were perfectly picked for their parts and each track is a carefully crafted, dark crystal piece that reflect the many fragments of a beating heart.