The night(mare) before Christmas, came in the form of the track, “The Snow Queen Is Coming” by New ZeroGod. This is the first release from the four piece post-punk band since 2019 and their lead singer, Mike Pougounas, is a stalwart in the Greek gothic/darkwave scene since the 80s.
The best description would be a sinfully sumptuous amount of jangly guitar with the vocals delightfully crystal clear. A precautionary tale to not let the Snow Queen steal you away, for otherwise, you will never see another day.
I remember Mike from the MySpace days, when we would talk of music and he sent several pictures of Athens covered in snow, which is something a lot of people don’t realise, that it actually gets that cold in Greece. The snow looks pure and beautiful, but in essence, she will slowly freeze you until your heart stops. This is the Hans Christian Andersen queen of snow, as the song says, though the title made me think of the witch queen from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. For those currently in the grip of winter, will know her icy touch but can enjoy a warm dance to this fabulous piece.
November 21st saw the Norwegian’s Dødsmaskin, release their sixth full length out on the ant-zen label. Based on the master and slave morality theory of Friedrich Nietzsche, the album is divided into two parts to represent both sides.
Have you ever started to listen to an album and had to instantly stop doing anything else, stunned into silence? Rare occurrence, but I found myself slightly slack jawed as I played the first 30 seconds to “Trusselbilde“, suddenly turning off the music thinking, ‘I must play this when I am alone, so I can turn it up as loud as I want!‘.
Okay, almost every track has a Norwegian title, but I don’t see the point of looking up the meanings, as the music will speak for itself and it most definitely does. “Trusselbilde” is the single and it is brutal. Super heavy rhythmic noise and yet there are these points of synth lightness where you can ‘breath’. It doesn’t seem possible and yet the noise grows and consumes, until it’s abrupt end. The sludgy “Døpt IBensin, Renset Med Ild“, feels ancient and full of portent, while “Imperium” is on the move, ready to mow you down. There is the perceived horns of war, hammers of destruction and waves of domination.
This is just the first three tracks off the album and that quality is throughout the whole release. Dødsmaskin are known for their crunchy rhythmic noise, but this release seems heavier and even darker, intent on searing your nerves and probing your brain with a javelin. If harsh rhythmic noise is your thing, then you must listen to Dødsmaskin and experience their album,”herremoral | slavemoral“.
Down in the crypt, somewhere in the United Kingdom, someone cobbled together a monstrous label called We Are Horror Records, knitting and stapling punk, deathrock and psychobilly. Their first abomination is the compilation, Horror Punk’s Not Dead! Vol 1. with a whole 27 tracks to give you the heebie jeebies and this unholy of unholies was given life on Halloween.
“The reasons behind this compilation are clear! To pay homage to the “Punk-o-Rama” series, and to showcase the best modern Horror Punk, Death Rock, and Psychobilly bands in the world! To quote 5¢ Freakshow.. “We may be freaks, but we are not alone…” The Horror is here!” (Dan P., creator and host of the Horrorpunk’s Not Dead! podcast.)
So much choice here. There is the soulful harmonics of Silent Horror with “Astrofiends“, the utterly oi oi stylings of Damage 66 and their ever so eloquent track “Fuck You (If You’re Not Bruce Campbell)” which is honestly a sentiment I can completely get down with. You can bounce around to the delightful rock’n’roll psychos, 5 Cent Freakshow with their self titled track, listen to the goth-a-billy sweet lads, Evelyn’s Casket and their ode to checking out of life, “Evelyn“, maybe suffer some electrifying goth rock at “The Asylum” from TheDeathtones or be mesmerised by the cover of The Dickies song, “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” by Ghosts On Tape.
Get your hatchet face on because this thing is bubbling with talent and oozing with tracks to murder for, as you party with your fiends in the nearest and dearest graveyard. There is also the delightful intro to the compilation which you really should have a listen to. Like most serial killer bad guys in the horror movies, I am going to have to stop, though luckily I didn’t need to be stabbed, incinerated or buried in a well. But I will be back, because as the title says, Horror Punk Is Not Dead! Vol 1, which means………you children of the night better be ready for some more juicy horror punk.
You might think that a song title like “Oh My God My Chemical“, might be from, say, Alien Sex Fiend but no! It is the title of Portland group, Hovering Shrikes new single released on the 26th of August.
They are consumed by a women whom wore a different perfume on every body part. Vocally, there is a Bowie like resemblance, though maybe a little off kilter at first and it builds from the meeting and gallops full force in to the affair prompted by the wiff of the chemicals on a lady or is the scent of love?
It is storytelling within a song, quirky with a sense of humour and I appreciate that. The Hovering Shrikes obviously write tracks that they find interesting and have fun with because that really comes through. They remind me a bit of S.P.O.C.K. and that is never a bad thing, so I say “Oh My God My Chemicals“.
Estetica Noir are darkwave/post-punk group, founded in 2013 in Turin, Italy and they released their second album this year on the Red CatRecords label, called This Dream In Monochrome. The band is comprised of founding members Silvio Oreste (vocals-guitars-programming) and Rik Guido (bass), as well as Paolo Accossato (drums) and Marco Caliandro (synth-programming-back vocals).
There is something beautifully serpentine about the track “Room Of Masks“, as we are introduced to Estetica Noir and their lead vocalist’s ringing tones. Basically if this is the quality of what is to follow, then the whole album is going to be a treat. The second single off the album is “Sweeper” which is simply a divine myriad of guitars, synths and vocals. So utterly catchy.
“Striate Body” has a harsher tone to it in the beginning but that all melts in the chorus, only to return for this song, that was the first single released. The contrast of abrasive vocals and sweeter singing is quite delightful. The rain greets you in “Autumn” with unaccompanied keyboards, building a soundscape where if you listen carefully enough you hear the heartbeat. I still suffer from the pain of hearing the old internet dial up sound. “N.U.” uses this effect within the track. There is a cyber coldness as you feel the icy tendrils of the synths.
Such a wonderful build up of guitar in “Dawn Of Pluto” that drives it along on a sonic wave and echos throughout the whole piece. Do you have a strong preference for the night or darkness? You might suffer from “Nychtophilia” and the track is sexy with a soaring chorus about those that inhabit the shadows. “X” could mean a kiss in this spine tingling track. Smooth and slick with the breathy chorus. In the next number, a short instrumental, truly feels like it is on a precipice and maybe that is why it is called “The Fall“. We hit the last track, which is the retrospective “Climbing Up The Loneliness“. Such a superb balance of vocals with the haunting instruments backing up the lament of never being satisfied,
This is perfect darkwave music. Expressive, melancholy with great bass lines and lyrics that grab you by the heart strings. Throughout there are the wonderful guitar lines that ring out and the synths that create a beautiful synergy. I love Oreste’s vocals, a really strong singer who seems to very competent in his role. Each track has this beautiful dark crystal sound to it, smooth and clean on the surface but smoky beneath that shine. EsteticaNoir’s “This Dream In Monochrome” should be on your have a listen list, so what are you waiting for?
What happens when you mix New Zealand’s Robots In Love with Sweden’s JA/VI? You get a dancefloor remix of the single “Good Cocaine“. Elenor Rayner is Robots In Love and formerly, half of Australian act, The CrystallineEffect with Pete Crane (Shiv-r) as well as performing in Snog and Soulscraper. JA/VI is an emo/pop singer as well as producer who has molded “Good Cocaine“.
The track is catchy with the beats and synths that erupt with fire going into the chorus. An undercurrent of raw sexuality, oozes through, with JA/VI’s vocals in a most pleasing manner. It is an interesting premise that love is like cocaine, addictive and that is great, thought the other side of the coin is cocaine is addictive…..so will love kill you? What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, so they say. What is addictive is this song, so you might want to heart Robots In Love.
Beauty In Chaos are one of the super groups to emerge in the last few years in the gothic/industrial scene and boast a plethora of very well know names. They are soon releasing their second album Behind The Veil but before that has happened, there has been a single lifted off it. Kirlian Camera’s Elena Alice Fossi is the vocalist on “Kiss Of The World” which was released December the 2nd. The common denominator for BeautyIn Chaos is guitar whiz MichaelCiravolo who is also a music producer and engineer, who has performed with the likes of Gene Loves Jezabel and Human Drama.
The slow burn at the beginning has the delicate guitar but the whole thing hinges on Fossi’s vocals drawing you into her world, until the spark that launches a fury of blooming sound, which repeatedly returns to the somber quiet. Though of course we know this can never last. The guitar solo is a lonely affair before lifting Fossi’s vocals again on a wave. Are these the words to a past lover or friend who has slipped into less than pure ways? It very well could be.
As I listened, something was poking my brain about what this reminded me of, Then it hit me. A rock opera. This song definitely has that big energy of something classical. Fossi still sounds so incredibly good and looks equally amazing. She is a talented lady writing this track, along with Ciravolo and Michael Rozon (bass/synths). Gothic rock for the modern era seems to be these collaborations which is changing the way the music sounds by giving it more diversity and this can never be a bad thing,
A project called HOSTILE ARCHITECT was launched just over a year ago, with Brisbane based MitchKenny, finding himself being picked up by local radio programme, Dark Essence with Josh Guinan, followed hotly by international shows such as Scott Durand’s Dark Indulgence and then being signed by the recently created label, Brutal Resonance Records with Steven Gullotta at the helm. Most recently the debut album LOWGRADELIFE was released and the ARCHITECT’s first venture onto a live stage, in a showcase of Brisbane industrial acts called Factory Reset.
Welcome to the rabbit hole that is Onyx, Mitch Kenny. We have been watching your progress since the first single from HOSTILE ARCHITECT was released with great interest and now there is this wonderful debut album.
Did you find the process of creating LOWGRADELIFE easier as you went along and is it a different mind set than writing singles?
Hey Del, thanks for having me! It’s actually funny, I started the project with the express idea that I wanted to release a serial album in small chunks and never actually compile it into a full release. But that was when I was fully expecting to release the music into the aether and have no one really listen to it as per what I was used to with my other project; so much so I didn’t even intend to have separate social media accounts for H/A (HOSTILE ARCHITECT). Obviously I changed tactics a little bit when people started getting behind the project and I realised I should probably take this a little bit more seriously than I wanted to at first. You can see it most prominently in the title track, the original single version of the track is fairly static and more EBM influenced but after releasing “SEMTEX” and it being my most popular track I knew LOWGRADELIFE needed to be retooled to include the elements that drew people to “HOSTILE THEME” and “SEMTEX“. It’s definitely been a learning process!
You also belong to another electronic act called Abelisk. What or who drew you to electronic music in the first place and what was the inspiration to go solo with H/A?
Abelisk has only been a two person project since the most recent EP, before that it was always a me thing. Some of the songs on my first album were written when I was still in high school so for me it’s something with legacy, but only for me I guess. That was really the biggest thing that made me want to get a new project going with H/A, it was just super nice to not have my own expectations and plans weighing me down. H/A was just me trying to make the music I was into at the time and not really worrying if it fit a self imposed ‘brand’ that no one but me gave a fuck about. To answer your actual question though, I think the stuff that got me into electronic/industrial in the first place is a bit generic but definitely NIN or Marilyn Manson. Project’s like that really got me into the idea of rock and roll mentality with weirdo extra instrumentation and strange FX timbre.
It is always hard to pin down influences but who do you feel now gets your creative juices flowing?
I definitely wear my influences on my sleeve with H/A I think. The whole project was born out of frustration that I couldn’t connect Abelisk with an audience so it was a bit of a back against the wall fuck it attitude that had me specifically targeting a genre that I thought I could have fun with and then cosplaying as bands I like in that genre. The best example of that would probably be “EVERY FOLLOWER A BOT”, which was my best attempt at ripping off the vibe of a Blush Response song. It legit sounds nothing like Blush Response but I’m not too bothered because it ended up being one of my favorite tracks on the LP; who really cares if I didn’t hit the mark exactly. I think I’ve settled into more of a groove with the H/A sound now anyway, I know what I’m aiming for when I start a new song more so than a year ago. Likely the next single will be in the vein of “SEMTEX” and “HOSTILE THEME“ but have more than one stanza of repeating lyrics which might be a nice change of pace!
It must have been thrilling to hear yourself on local radio and international podcasts. Brisbane in Australia isn’t a huge city but how do you percieve the local music scene?
Legitimately getting airtime on Dark Essence Radio back in June last year was an earth shattering experience for me, it definitely gave me the confidence to really go whole hog with this project and helped connect me with everyone else in the scene here, honestly I wish I got out of my own bubble much sooner! Getting to work on remixes and having people remix my work has been really rewarding too, everyone’s in the same ballpark of interest so it’s super easy to get something going and the results have been universally awesome in my opinion. The ‘Ozdustrial’ scene has a seriously bright future and I just can’t wait to see what some of the local Brisbane projects have got up their sleeves coming out of these uncertain times.
Covid has really caused a lot of heartache for musicians and those whose livelihoods are connected to the scene, however do you think there have been positive outcomes as well if any?
I’m hoping that when everything starts getting back to normal the music scene in general will bounce back. Factory Reset the other week was a good indicator that people in Brisbane definitely want this kind of music out there and are willing to support it when they can so hopefully it was a good litmus test for future industrial/EBM/dark electro gigs in our sleepy little city. I know Metalcore in Oz is having a bit of a moment right now with seriously amazing albums coming out what feels like every week since the start of 2020 so I’m hoping the isolation and the rapidly approaching end of the world will do the same for niche goth dance music.
You just had your debut live show which we have to say was most excellent. What was this like for you and how do you perceive live events in the future?
Thank you so much for saying so! It was definitely an experience that’s for sure. I think I’m just very lucky I was in an extremely supportive environment that was happy to overlook the myriad technical issues I had during the set. I know we joked in person about it being an impromptu harsh noise remix but damn in the moment up on stage my brain was definitely melting down that I couldn’t do anything to fix the problem. Overall it was a really great experience and I know where my weaknesses are now. I can take that back to the studio and prepare for H/A Live 2.0 which will probably involve a laptop that was made this decade!
We can’t finish the interview without asking who is the ARCHITECT and why is he so HOSTILE? Is this a character or a side to Mitch Kenny and WHY IS HE ALWAYS YELLING?
Yes, definitely, ‘THE ARCHITECT’ is a character! People seem to always think I’m yelling too but honestly I always envisioned it as more of a ‘constantly above speaking volume Ohgr impression’ mixed with the way The Board speak from the game Control. The more weird and detached from normality the character seems on social media the funnier it all is to me. Not sure if other people find it as fun as I do but I plan to get more into the character angle on future releases so I hope it doesn’t turn off too many people.
Thanks so much for your time Mitch and we wish you all the luck in the future.
POP. 1280 is a novel by Jim Thompson, published in 1964 and it contains a tale of deceit, coercion and murderous intentions. POP. 1280 is also a three piece band from New York, who have revealed their single, “Brennschluss“, from their imminent new album, Museum On The Horizon, which is on the label Profound Lore Records.
The beginning is intriguing with it’s sequenced drum machine and synths, but then they dragged me in with those guitar chords. The vocals from lead singer, Chris Bug, are bleak and flow into the dirge of the guitar, whilst the drum machine forges on regardless. The synths almost paint a soundscape behind all this, vast and a little dark. A narrative, describing a kind of first-contact-gone-wrong, influenced in part by Fiasco by Stanislaw Lem, is how POP. 1280 explains the lyrics.
It is hard to quantify POP. 1280’s sound. It is most certainly post-punk that reaches back to Joy Division and like Joy Division, what seems abstract is completely danceable, yet that industrial/noise is also there. Maybe that’s the point that they are not in a pigeon hole and there is something satisfying in that. Brennschluss is German for end of burning. This normally refers to when a rocket is in flight and reaches the point when the fuel runs out or is cut off, leaving the rocket to the mercy of only gravity. POP. 1280 have definitely not reached the end of their fuel supply and you should definitely check out “Brennschluss“.
June saw the release of the debut single, “Rose+ Crown” for AMMO as a solo artist. AMMO, located in Los Angeles, has previously been in bands such as Black Flamingo and currently with Brass Box, as well as pursuing artistic outlets such as film making and photography.
The title track starts with a lonely guitar which is highly reminicent of start of the New Model Army piece, “Wonderful Way To Go“, though that is as far as the similarity goes. This is light and airy, with jangly guitar within an epic swirling sound scape. AMMO’s voice sits comfortably at the centre, luring you to sit and listen longer. This is shoegaze without the brashness of overt walls of noise.
The ‘b’ side is “TotalRecall“, written originally by Adrian Borland of the legendary 80s British, post punk band, The Sound. It was already a wonderful track and AMMO brings a sweetness to it. A song of longing and being out of time, that is achingly beautiful, especially with the knowledge that Borland suffered mental health issues which eventually lead to his suicide.
Along with drummer, Alex Posell, a former bandmate of Black Flamingo, who helped co-produce and record, AMMO is creating lush sounds that may at first seem bleak, but warm the soul. Mourning Sun Records, which is AMMO’s label, plans to release a future album called, The Great Chaos however the meantime enjoy “Rose + Crown“.