Ever had The Blackwater Fever? They say it does strange things to a man but in Brisbane it happens to be a three piece, dark alternative, bluesy rock’n’roll band. Previously, we have reviewed a few singles, but as of October 27th, the new album came out containing these and so much more. Temptator! is the album and the band consists of Shane Hicks (vocals, guitar, bass, keys, percussion), Trevor Gee (drums, percussion) and Jed A Walters (bass, keys). If Jed’s name is familiar, you might have come across his other fantastic project, Chiffon Magnifique.
Some albums are hard to review. Not because they are bad….well some are, but there are others that when you listen, it kind of feels a little wrong to be taking it track by track. Instead I am going to tell you that The Blackwater Fever never leave their blue roots but they do indeed traverse a lot of styles. A mixture of imagination and soul, woven around real experiences of love, loss and betrayal.
The rock’n’roll of “Love Is Strange” about a beguiling female or the bayou slow blues of “The Hurt” are examples of burning resentment of being badly treated, smouldering and flamed by pain.
Weaving immersive stories like “Ode To Ol’ John Doe“, the dumped human remains in a body of water, just below the surface, for no one to mourn as the creatures below slowly consume them or there is the gothic stirrings of “The Highway” in a world gone mad.
And one always needs at least one track about love and lust. The dulcet Stone Temple Pilot styling, of absolute need in “My Weakness” that gets you in the throat, heavy and tangible obsession with those amazing, stirring vocals. There is so much depth within Temptator!, and The Blackwater Fever dances with dark themes that make for interesting music, melded with such passion, you might find you really do have the Fever.
It can’t rain all the time but sometimes it “Feels Like Rain” which also happens to be the Signia Alpha single, released on the 11th of November. The band is made up of singer/lyricist Harris (yes just one name like Prince), multi instrumentalist composer Matt Webster (drums, guitar), flaunting his flute style is Chris Walsh, along with jazz master Keith Jafrate on sax and some bloke called Paul Gray who normally plays bass in some kitch band called The Damned.
Every time I have listened to this, I think Paisley Park, as in the 60s. Could be the use of the flute or the happy go lucky vibe of the music, though not all is as it seems. Lyrically it is about poverty and how it sucks away all until you only live under a constant weight and greyness, which is not living.
The Bradford area is in the North of England and since the industrial revolution, suffered high levels of poverty and unemployment. A breeding ground for musicians who are great storeytellers. “Feels Like Rain” rolls along just like the days do but with a social concious.
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.
Beware, there is something in the air, in the night breeze. The Contagion Collective are a group of dark alternative musicians and producers, from around Australia, under this banner for the purpose of supporting each other and the scene. Their first compilation came out on the 22nd of October, titled Outbreak Vol. 1, which indicates that there is a lot more to come. This has all been facilitated by Brisbane label Viral Records but all proceeds will go back to the Contagion Collection, for they are legion.
I am not going to breakdown the whole release because there are thirteen tracks but also I want people to get curious and have a listen as they won’t be disappointed. From New South Wales musicians, Cheap Coffins, with his glorious metal infused industrial track, “Liminal Self” and ALUCVRD’s “Nail Fetish Hate God” with those drum and bass drops.
Queensland is well represented with dark rock juggernauts Killtoys with “Come Alive“, the amazing electronics in “Black Summer” by HOSTILE ARCHITECT and eat the sensual “BrainCandy” on offer by Jerm. Other artists include Dirt Factory, DisfiguredMistress, Isserley, NyteShayde, Shadowbox, The Grey, Vargil and ZCLUSTER. This lot pack a punch and like assorted chocolates, not all will suit your taste but some will become firm favourites.
You might notice that you can’t buy individual tracks on Bandcamp and there is a good reason for this. First off, if you really like a song, then you have the chance to go to the band’s Bandcamp page and purchase it directly, perhaps even checking out more of their stuff. Secondly, the compilation doesn’t cost that much and you are getting a big slice of music to sit down with, possibly finding new favourite acts to follow. That’s called winning.
This is something close to my heart and kudos to Viral Records having put a lot of effort into the compilation. Australia literally has a plethora of talented darkwave and industrial musicians but often they go unrecognised both overseas and even in their own country.
We are putting you on high alert, raising awareness, raising the stakes. Catch the infection and give it to your mates. The is the ContagionCollective and this is only the beginning.
7th of October is the date, for the release, of the single “Alien Jewelry“, by Gold Coast band, Atticus Chimps. These rock primates can be found in the Hinterland of Mount Tambourine, named Sam Bray (songwriter, guitar/bass & vocals) and Daniel Briffa (drums).
There is a sonic climax as Sam delivers a furious guitar filled frenzy, while Daniel gives us the storming beats that carry this track along at a terrific pace. The lyrics speak of a wonderment of space and if we are but the ornaments of extraterrestrials, with Sam delivering them with conviction.
What if the universe we occupy, was actually contained in a piece of jewelry, which sparkles with the whirling solar systems within? I seem to remember this was touched upon in the movie Men In Black and in some ways, it is a question that cause some to quiver and have an existential crisis yet not Atticus Chimps. Their heady mixture of heavy rock and punk pop smarts gives “Alien Jewelry” an enticing sound that will drag you in and then leave you wondering why it all stopped.
April saw the fourth Black Angel album released, named The Black Rose. The unashamedly gothic project is the brain child of Matt Vowles, a Brit living in the USA, who is the writer, producer, mix/master and musician extraordinaire, with actor Corey Landis, giving Black Angel it’s voice. The album harks back to the the period of time in the mid 80s when goth rock bands such as The Cult,Sisters Of Mercy and The Cure were at their zenith but with a modern twist. Vowles is a very busy fellow, but luckily for us, he found the time to answer some dark and burning questions.
Matt Vowles, welcome to the bowels of gothic central, where black is the absorption of all colour, and therefore superior!
Young Vowles, cut his teeth on the post punk fare of the 1980s, in England. What was it like for you growing up in that era?
Very exciting, this was all new, punk had come and gone and had pretty much left a big exciting scar so it showed that the music industry wasn’t necessarily just dominated by the large record companies, maybe there was something more, and there was. It still baffles me how without the technology of the Internet that we have today, how did so many people know about the new Gothic bands that were coming along and being played in clubs. Every week in Bristol at a club called The Whip that would be something new, some new Gothic or Gothic rock tune that the DJs would play, along with the staples of the time already established like The Sisters of Mercy and The Cult to name just a very few. Along with the fashion and the lifestyle it was a very exciting time to be a 15-year-old.
When we are young, we tend to listen to the more popular acts i.e. The Cure, Sisters of Mercy etc., but as we look back, we gain a new appreciation for other artists. For me these are bands like Play Dead, Danse Society, and such. Which acts did you latch onto as a kid and what did you find yourself getting into later?
Yup, absolutely that, it started with The Cure and then progressed into The Cult, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned, Bauhaus, and then over the last three decades, although I do listen to more obscure Gothic- and I do listen to current up-and-coming Gothic rock acts – I still return to and favor the staples, there was a reason they were huge at the time and that’s the reason I still listen to them now.
But you did not stick with the post-punk genre as your followed music as a profession. Can you tell us about your music career before Black Angel?
That is true, after I went to film school in Manchester I spent a couple of decades just listening to very different music, I guess it was held together by 80s new wave and new romantic but my Gothic rock playlist as it were was one of many and not my main focus. As I worked and still work in the film and music industries you are exposed to a very eclectic bunch of musical styles and genres, being from Bristol, I followed the trip hop path for a while and had some success with a act called ‘Interstate Royale’ and got a whole bunch of streaming and TV and film placements. But my heart wasn’t really in that, it was more for financial rewards so one day I decided to just pack it when and just do something that I wanted to do for me, whether anybody liked it or not, and that’s how Black Angel was born.
Did you find that the foray into more mainstream music and film left you with a larger skill set?
It did for sure, I find that as a sound re-recording mixer and sound supervisor, and mastering engineer, you are learning still every single day – and all of that experience helps, and sometimes in the smallest way, but, it’s great to have that wealth of experience and be able to apply it to what I do now. I am very fortunate to be able to work with some of the most incredible engineers, mixers, and composers in the industry and all of that rubs off and it’s a very privileged place to be.
You have moved to the US, setting up a studio there and in 2019, Black Angel brought forth the debut album The Widow, which was very well received. How exciting was it to know people were hungry to hear your music?
It was quite a surprise, I set out with this project to do something that made me happy and if it wasn’t well received, it didn’t really matter.
When I started on “The Widow” I spent many months head scratching and wondering just how I could come up with music that had influenced me in the past with the Gothic rock genre, but sometimes it’s very easy to overthink it and that’s just send you down the wrong path.
So when “The Widow” came out I was very surprised how it was received and it was more like it made me feel as though I was part of a club of people that just appreciated this music and I was able to share it with them.
The singer on “The Widow” was Robert Steffen but by the second album, “Kiss Of Death” in 2020, you had changed leads to Corey Landis. How do you think this changed the sound of Black Angel, if at all?
It change the sound very much, after the widow I wasn’t happy with many things, this included the music and the production values so having Corey come along for “Kiss Of Death” just really help slot things into place and says out in the right direction.
Can you tell us how you met Landis and became the voice of Black Angel?
After “The Widow”, I wanted to make a change and so I started talking to the local Gothic rock community and stretched out across the world as far as I could and nothing happened, then one day, after I pretty much given up, Corey reached out to me out of the blue and as they say, the rest is history
In quick succession, there was the third album, “Prince Of Darkness” in 2021 and the newest, “The Black Rose” released April 2022. You guys are really pumping out the albums, so are you aiming for an album a year?
Pretty much, I’m a bit of a workaholic and I just love doing this so much it seems as though we are on target to pretty much knock out one album per year. As soon as I finish one album albeit my plan is to take a break or do something else but I’m back in the studio with a bunch of ideas that I’ve been recording on my phone was mixing the last album and I really want to try them out so as soon as I’m done I’m trying out new ideas and then I’m back in the saddle and writing the next album
Incredibly, most of this has been accomplished during all the lockdowns with covid. Did you find all that helped or hindered writing and recording?
This works fine, I’m the musician on the albums, apart from the odd session player that I might use so for me it’s just organizing my time and then Corey, as an actor here in Hollywood, his schedule is very busy so it really works well for him to work remotely. So I’ll send him over guide tracks and he’ll send me back finished tracks and then if we need any tweaks we will just get together and discuss any notes and he’ll send me any fixes so it just works out perfectly.
You must be pleased with how much love “The Black Rose” has been receiving within the gothic community…?
It’s fantastic, as I said earlier, I feel as though it’s more of a club, we are all in this Gothic rock club and I’m just sharing songs with other people that I hope will appreciate them. It is fantastic of course when people buy the album – we will still like to personalize all of our deliveries and I normally send a note or something signed or a guitar pick or a button and it’s really great when people post pictures on social media of them it just makes it more of a Gothic rock family.
Do you have a particular favourite track off the new album and why it is?
I don’t think I really have a favorite but I do feel really good that there’s not any filler on here, I’m previous albums I think there’s a couple of killer tracks and then some mediocre ones and then maybe some of that are not that good but with the black rose I feel is though we’ve got some really good bangers and then some more diverse softer material but I’m not feeling as though there’s not really any filler on there which I think when you get your fourth album can just be an easy thing to do, in fact, as we move forward I think I will be a lot more diligent that the tracks have to be better and better and the album fuller a more complete before it gets released.
How would you describe the sound of Black Angel and how would you like to see it evolve in the future?
It’s definitely Gothic rock with the emphasis on rock, we not really post-punk, I want to be able to feel the energy in the tracks, and as for the future it is definitely more of the same.
Will Black Angel at some point play live or is it a more studio-based project?
Yep, that is the plan, we would really love to play some larger festivals, even if we are the first one on the roster for that day, I’ve been in bands over the years that just tour around the place to smaller clubs, and I know that’s super important and I’m not saying in any way it is not, but, I would rather be writing in the studio and concentrating on that for right now, I’m really hoping someone will invite us to play a festival
What music inspires you these days?
It’s the old staples, I could put on Siouxsie and the Banshees “Happy House” and still scratch my head on how incredibly well written that is and wondering if I could ever write anything like that.
What is in the future for Matt Vowles and Black Angel?
Who knows, I’ll do this as long as I love it, and I absolutely love it, so I have no plans on going anywhere……soon
Spooktacular Mr Vowles. Thank you for your time and goodnight! (Promptly swishes into a bat and squeaks off)
Thanks so much for the questions, I really appreciate it when people do the homework and pose questions that are relevant and interesting so I’d like to thank you guys very much for including us.
Brisbane’s The Blackwater Fever, describe themselves as dark & moody rock n roll and that is a title well earned. July the 28th was the release for their ballad, “The Hurt“. Mmmm, ballads that hurt, so you know this could be a little wrong and yet a whole lot right, with the trio Shane Hicks (guitar, vocals), Trevor Gee (drums) and Jed Walters (bass).
The smooth, heavy bass weighs the track down and the lead guitar cries out it’s pain, ever the while, the drums hold sway, urging on the players of this affair, bursting into speed once in a while like a heart going into tachycardia and then just….stopping. Hick’s vocals are just the icing on top.
The blues and heartbreak ooze like blood from a thousand cuts. An abusive relationship they want to leave but yet they know mentally, they shall never recover from. It is the dirty rock’n’roll that moves your feet to the beat and your soul feels the misery but wants to rise with the winding notes. So tell us where The Blackwater Fever touched “The Hurt” on you?
Melbourne is one of the dark and mysterious cities of Australia, which is a place well known for it’s alt rock bands. Society Of Beggars are one of these such bands and their single, “Lick“, by the four piece, came out on the 28th of July. Yianni Michalopoulos (lead vocals), Jim Michalopoulos (guitar), Dibi (drums) and Nicoli Foulstone (bass) are the members making up Society Of Beggars.
The video for the track has band members and others wearing masks, as if they are in some otherworldly Greek tragedy, except for lead singer Yianni Michalopoulos, who is the story teller, leading you through this tale that Julie Leung, has wandered into. There is a deep melancholy to match the rich vocals and simple piano and guitar, as the music gradually builds and swells.
I think this is definitely one of those tracks that grows on you every listen. It is also going to mean different things to individuals, such as loss, lies, overcoming the seemingly impossible. The track is insistent that you listen carefully and soak up the ambiance bubbling up through the cracks. And remember folks…..once you lick it, it is yours.