At The Heart Of The World are a duo from Portland, Oregon dealing up electronic, industrial music and February 18th saw the release of the EP, Inosculate. Seven tracks makes this a solidly packed EP with everything written, recorded and produced by the band, mixed by Derek Moree at Diamond Drive and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege. Special mention goes to Andrew Gomez IV for the wonderfully ghoulish artwork.
From the beginning of “Retroject” you can tell this is going to be a great ride. Screaming aggrotech to transcendental vocals as the electronics lurch forward to ensnare your senses. The low-key swirling synths of “Synchrony“, match the feeling of disjointed dreams and reality never meshing and playing tricks on your mind. The music with its beats is near trance inducing. “Etheric Visions” is slow to start with off sync beats echoing vocals, that grow with angst, then drop away to build again, over and over. It is a sonically wonderful piece.
The manic rhythms feels like it is heralding the dogs of war in “Pain Demands Attention“. Between the booming fuzz tones and synth crunchiness, there are these delightful twittering sounds. When it comes to “Multiply The Stillness“, it is oppressive and cloying, lyrically castrating the living. The beginning of “Reflect/Reveal” could be an industrial homage to Bjork’s, “Army Of Me” but then the only similarity is probably the sentiment of inner struggle. When people judge their worth on being loved and without it, they feel they cease to be them. What better way to finish than being “Mocked By Death” and the vocals skim along the cyber synths, which is joined by some lovely glitching and crunchy electronics. It is absolutely brilliant.
Though the music can be harsh. with pounding beats and growling vocals, the lyrical content is beautifully written, a little like descriptive poetry. It paints feelings and internal torment with a fine brush, all the while using electronics to get you moving to the infectious rhythms. At The Heart Of The World have a mother load of talent so check out Inosculate.
X-MARKS THE PEDWALK for some of us was the music on the dance floor in the early 90s, that was so very attention grabbing. The band has come a long way since then, with their sound changing and maturing, going through future pop, becoming the synthpop power house we have today and with that talent and touch for electronic music, has culminated in the album, New / End. This husband and wife team of SEVREN NI-ARB and the lovely ESTEFANIA, so very graciously gave us a chance to talk to them about family, the music industry and of course the latest album.
Welcome to the dark side of our world, here at Onyx, dear ESTEFANIA and SEVREN NI-ARB of X-MARKS THE PEDWALK.
Estefanía: Hello Adele, thank you for inviting us to Onyx.
The band has in essence been around since around 1987 and seen changes in personnel, style and even been on hiatus. Did you ever think you would still be so well received and still going well over 30 years later?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Until the longer hiatus we had released 5 albums with XMTP. Since the comeback in 2009, 6 more have been added to date. I released another album of my side project (SN-A) and created the soundtrack series “MUSIC.FOR.BOOKS”. I also founded my own label meshwork music and in addition to a few remixes I also produced the two albums of my son Luis Maximilian (LMX). Another one is in preparation. To be honest, no – I didn’t think it would be that extensive. But what we are overwhelmed that we still have such a great fan base and that so many new fans have joined XMTP over the last few years. This is a huge motivating factor.
Your last album, “Transformation”, was released in 2020 and now you have followed it up with the fabulous “New / End”. What has it been like creating and releasing albums during a pandemic?
Estefanía: Especially in the times of lockdown, music was of course a wonderful energy booster and a welcome “refuge”.
Sevren Ni-Arb: Otherwise the production processes have remained the same. With “NEW / END” I was extremely disciplined and efficient with my resources this time.
What is behind the title “New / End”?
Sevren Ni-Arb: “NEW / END” closes the conceptual framework of our last three albums. While “Secrets” is primarily a look inside, something closed and reserved, “Transformation” deals with barriers, people and behaviors that constrict us emotionally. It´s about recognizing one’s own weaknesses in order to convert them into new energy. In “NEW / END” this energy is the core. It´s about determination and personal strength, to make conscious decisions, to shape your life differently. “NEW / END” marks the end of a process of change, to take new directions.
It has been stated that the themes are determination and strength through hardship and loss but would you say, that the common theme throughout this latest album is having faith, whether that is in one’s self or in others?
Sevren Ni-Arb: Yes, above all trust in yourself and your own feelings. Expressing and acknowledging these feelings clearly. This allows you to realign yourself emotionally. Accordingly, there are also melancholic moments of pain and loss on the album.
“Firestorm” is definitely a standout track but I also really like “Sacred Ground” for its sweetness and a slightly magical quality. Are there any standout tracks that you particularly love?
Estefanía: I’m glad you like “SACRED GROUND”. Next to “Yesterdays” and “I’m on your side” it’s a song that’s very personal and touches me deeply. It’s about the death of my father, who passed away last year. When Sevren finished the composition and lyrics, I was surprised. I didn’t expect him to confront my feelings in this way. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to freely sing the song in the studio. But in a way, it’s also part of my grief.
What would be the major influence in writing this album?
Sevren Ni-Arb: I’ve been making music for so long now, I don’t have much time to listen extensively to other artists. So I always go my own way. But sure, we are unconsciously influenced by many things that touch us, move us or leave a mark in some way that is also reflected in the music.
On Facebook, I was reading a thread, where they were talking about how people are still saying that they are surprised your sound is now electro synthpop. Why do you think this is?
Sevren Ni-Arb: We were very successful as an EBM industrial band. We were one of the first bands with this style on Zoth Ommog, the then still young, but later extremely groundbreaking label in Germany. “Abattoir” from 1992 is still extremely popular in clubs. And it’s not the only hit from the past that’s still being played a lot today. We also did provocative live shows that fit the image of a “hard” and “aggressive” band. But I’ve always changed the sound of XMTP. Change is part of XMTP’s DNA. I implemented that in my music sometimes more radically, sometimes more nuanced. If you look at our discography, you will see that from album no. 4 (“Meshwork”) onwards the sound was already extremely different from the Industrial/EBM of the early days. With the releases “Facer” and “Meshwork” I’m considered the founder of so-called future pop – that was back in 1994/1995. That was almost 30 years ago. At that time there were already different reactions. Some were excited, others disappointed. And so the disappointed fans “wake up” every time we release a new album. And that’s fine with me. Luckily, taste in music vary and are allowed to change. I understand that fans would rather hear the early works and wish we would come back to that style again. We’ve definitely lost some fans that way. But on the other hand, we gained a lot of new fans and there are so many that have stayed with us over the years. So many have also gotten carried away by all these changes, by the always new and surprising changes in the sound. It’s the very unique spirit of X MARKS THE PEDWALK.
X-MARKS THE PEDWALK is on Meshwork Music, which is your own label, catering to electronic musicians. Before Meshwork Music, you were also signed to some huge labels such as the now defunct Zoth Ommog, Cleopatra, Metropolis and Infacted Recordings that rose from the ashes of Zoth Ommog. What did you learn along the way that inspired you to create a record label?
Sevren Ni-Arb: When founding Meshwork Music, the main motivation was to work completely independently – not only musically – also to make your own organizational and financial decisions, when and how to invest in production and marketing. It is now my personal money that is used. But I am still in regular contact with Torben from Infacted Recordings in particular. He still has our back catalogue in the program. The time with him was really great! He’s one of those people in the music business that’s really on the artist side. Just a great guy!
Do you do much live touring now and would this be something you would like to do with the new album?
Sevren Ni-Arb: We played our last concert at the Wave Gothic Treffen in Leipzig – 2009. We invested a lot back then and produced very complex stage projections for this show, because we produced a live DVD. Since then there have always been thoughts about a tour or individual shows. We are often asked when we’ll be back on stage. But it is an enormous challenge for us – especially in terms of time. We’re not full-time musicians. I am the managing partner of a digital communications agency, and I have also founded another company in which Estefania is the managing director. I also have my label meshwork music. We have to plan the remaining time very carefully.
Estefanía: There’s our family, our dog, friends… Sometimes we just have to recharge our batteries and we want to spend and enjoy our time as a couple. Not to mention my fear of flying…
Sevren Ni-Arb: … so, there are no plans yet. But there are thoughts again…
I am in awe of your relationship. You are a couple whom have created music together, had a family, chosen to put music on the back-burner to raise that family and then come back to it. What is it like having that other person in your life and not just music plus are you each other’s best friend?
Estefanía: We both known each other for so long – we’ve been together for nearly 35 years now. Before we got together, Sevren was already making music and it quickly became his profession. So I took part in and accompanied all these developments, we made decisions together on how we would like to shape our lives. My involvement in XMTP has grown over time. After so many years we are lovers and best friends at the same time. We have so much in common and are still making new plans for our future together. It’s great and a wonderful feeling that the music has now also become a common part. Even if Sevren can be quite strict in the studio sometimes 😉
Sevren Ni-Arb: But only a little 😉 We have a lot of fun in the studio and when a song is finished and we hear the result together, it’s a great feeling to share this moment with the most important person in life.
I always like to ask about people’s influences, so what do you guys into the industrial/electronic scene?
Sevren Ni-Arb: In the beginning, before I finally launched my first own EBM project (“Scarecrow”) in 1988, there were a few bands and artists who absolutely moved me and played a major role in my wish to make electronic music myself. For example: FAD GADGET – especially “Back to Nature”, KRAFTWERK – especially “Computerwelt”, DEPECHE MODE – “Some Great Reward” – still my absolute favorite album by DM, THE KLINIK (“Memories”), FRONT 242 (“Geography”) , CLICK CLICK (“She´s chewing them”), TWICE A MAN, GARY NUMAN, ALIEN SEX FIEND (“Ignore the Machine”) and of course SKINNY PUPPY.
What or whom do you enjoy listening to these days?
Estefanía: Today we mostly listen to music on the side, while cooking (Sevren’s passion), at dinner, with family and friends… We listen to so many different kinds of music: pop, jazz, classical, swing, electro, dance, soundtracks…
Sevren Ni-Arb: Yes, the soundtrack to “Interstellar” by Hans Zimmer is outstanding! In general, we like to discover music in films.
If you both had to write a lyric or two, for a love song, dedicated to the other, what would be in those lyrics? (It can be anything from you make my day, to you keep my feet warm in bed)
Sevren Ni-Arb: Oh there are love songs on our new album – not that obvious. But “Yesterdays” is dedicated to my sons and my wife. When you listen to the second verse you have the lyrics 😉
Estefanía: … and these could also have come from me. That’s why I was touched from two perspectives when I heard the song and lyrics for the first time.
What is coming up next for X-MARKS THE PEDWALK?
Sevren Ni-Arb: “NEW / END” is on the market for a short time now. The reviews are great. We’re really glad. I’ll think about how to proceed with XMTP later. Now it’s time for my son’s third album. We’re soon in my studio to produce it. But I can tell you this: It’s going to be a great album!
Thank you for giving us your time and the new album is exquisite!
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.
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.
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 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.
The Drood are coming!!!! No less than with their single, “Psychic Institute“, which was dropped on April 21st. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, they have been around in different forms since 2012, but settled as a two man electronic/post-punk unit made up of original members, Nathan Jamiel (vocals, guitars and synths) and DanielWatts (drums, percussion and synths).
The playoff between electronics and guitar, The bleeps and synths have that very old school feel such as early era Gary Numan, while the guitar injects a more modern post punk feel, to a track that is a hurdy gurdy of resentment within the whirling noise.
There is the bleakness of the post-punk dribbling throughout, married to the cold industrial electronics while the vocals that are cajoling and pointing to the human error of sentimentality and erring into lies. “PsychicInstitute” is a catchy track from The Drood which I rather enjoyed quite a bit along with the video by TimNelson.
Brisbane’s Disfigured Mistress, has been releasing industrial noise for just over a decade. The man behind the project is retiring in the public eye, though in real life a gregarious hugger, who likes a laugh. With that decade under his belt and a veritable catalogue of industrial noise tracks, it seems to the perfect time to compile some of these gems into a huge 17 track behemoth called Decade Of Destruction (2011-2022), which was unleashed on April, 14th.
Just by the list of track names, you have to realise that most of this was not written to be all happy joy. There is a lot of angst, self doubt and even loathing, that is not even thinly hidden. You can bask in the pounding “SexAnd Violence” as the bass beats fracture in in ever heightened frustration or go from synth perfection into being stuck with pointed electronics in “Bleeding To Feed The Fake“.
The previous single “The Black Depths Of Hatred” is so fucking heavy, you could weight down a body with it, and it just gets better every time your hear it. Yet, it the midst of all this is the slower and ethereal, “Never FadeFrom Me” with acoustic guitar and ghostly accompaniment, that is like a breath inhaling and exhaling over and over until it is no more.. There is also the latest single, “Drown It all Out” that is overbearing and full of abrasive metalized distortion which fills your ears, unrelenting.
“In The Flesh Of Fallen Angels” has the glitching beats and the mind numbing harsh noise trying to crack your head open in “Black Mother Devourer Of All” are tracks I just need to mention because of their stellar execution and how magical they are.
The whirling “The Rage Within” is just epic and just made to murder a industrial/techno dancefloor as it screams in fury, lost in its own world. And it just goes on and the thing is that I am not trying to write about every track, because there are a lot here and yet as you listen, each one is so different in the use of synths, programming and even instrumentation. Occasionally you hear a distorted guitar that just adds to the amazing cacophony that assaults your ears, so brilliantly orchestrated.
Traditionally, it the Europeans that have this affinity with harsh powernoise but I am going to say that Disfigured Mistress could easily be just as good as any of those acts. He has a talent for weaving those electronic threads into powerful rhythms, that will touch your primal animal which lays at your core. So, there is no time like the present to immerse yourself in the Decade Of Destruction of Disfigured Mistress.