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.
Melbourne’s Snog, with David Thrussell firmly at the helm, stole a place in our industrial hearts, from the first time we heard “Corporate Slave” back in the early 90s. Now in 2022, a new EP, Jaded has been released on the Australian label, Lightarmour Editions, in both digital and limited coloured vinyl. The track “Jaded“, was previously released on the album Eight Offerings ForThe Undead, but now you get to hear it remixed, with others, rounding the EP to six tracks.
“Jaded” is a bit like rant poetry but with an electronic twist. Thrussell airs his grievances about a world that had left him more than a little dusty. Hushed tones creepily balance over the music. Brisbane based, Nam Shub Of Enki remixes “Jaded“, with his style described as grimecore, though I like to think mad man let loose and having a damn good time. Nam Shub lays it down with his signature tones and enthusiastic rhythms. One last remix by Sir Real, of “Jaded“, gives us an almost darkwave feel with those synths mixed with a modern tribal beat, lulling you into a trance.
Oh my, it’s the “Spaetzle Machine” the DiscoMachine RMX!. As expected, one machine mixing another is going to result in a robotic love fest. The Morpho RMX of “The Sweet, Sweet Treacle (Of Surrender)” trickles through your senses, the electronics burying into your brain. Last track has a near magical aspect to it. The Theme to “The Great Reset” has never been released. Brooding and languid, it runs at its own pace, which highlight the brighter synths that meander. It reminds me very much of work the late Vangellis.
I might be a bit biased as Snog gave the Australian electronic and industrial scene a good kick, back in the 90s, showing that world leading quality music was not something just from Europe and the USA. Thrussell has been at the forefront of some pretty kick arse albums since then and this special edition EP proves he’s still forging ahead with some powerful allies.
Finnish industrial act, The Fair Attempts, have a new single out called “Dark Star“. Out on the Starwing Digital Label, Friendly Timo is going to bring you his vision on the future of mankind using his electro/industrial ways.
The surprising thing is that this track is very darkwave with the synths and wandering piano. Timo’s vocals are low and near whispered, as he informs that your thoughts are killing you.
Electronic foreboding in a catchy darkwave style, though I’m not sure how friendly Timo is (sorry Timo). What does the future hold? Well stay tune to this channel, listen to The Fair Attempts and feed their “Dark Star“.
From the island of the long white cloud, what could be better than one musical Muse? Me thinks two and we are bringing you the premiere of the new single “Walking On Air“, from New Zealand songbird, Justine Ó Gadhra-Sharp’s EP, Sidhe, with the extra added bonus of the remix done by ex-pat Aussie and Robots In Love front woman, Elenor Rayner, whom is a master of the mix.
Both version are available, with the original in the style of SiouxsieAnd TheBanshees from the 90s, reflective and flowing with an emphasis on the beats, delicate and questioning.
This remix takes this track and makes it ten times sexier, looping, gliding and constricting like a boa snake. The Rayner version is smooth and yet full of reverb and hard edges as well. Sensuous and tantric until the end.
The original is sweet but the remix takes this song to a new level of va voom. Still slow but with more purpose and the ability to give you goosebumps, due to how electrically stimulating “Walking In The Air” has become. These two Muses are a worth every penny to be heard together.
“Menticide” is when you try to brainwash another person with the intent of control. It is also the new single from Miss FD released on August 5th and let’s face it, I know a fair few people who wouldn’t mind being brainwashed by the lovely Miss FD.
The unrelenting rhythm is the constant background noise that media outlets use to influence your thoughts and memories. Global gaslighting. The vocals convey the act lulling you into a false sense of security, while the electronics glitch and frizz.
A serious message within a dance track, of an era where everyone is plugged into some type of online construct, owned by a few who want to control the masses. The music is indeed hypnotic and alluring with synthpop princess, Miss FD.
July 15th with see the release of the new Kill Shelter album, Asylum, which is a celebration of over 40 years of the dark scene, but for a taste now is in the form of the new single, “Necklace:, featuring Sweden’s Agent Side Grinder. Edinburgh’s Pete Burns (Kill Shelter) composed the music while Johan Lange (Agent Side Grinder) wrote the lyrics.
From just the beginning, you know this is going to be good, the way the guitars collide and resolve, only to be subsumed by the drum machine and electronics, that play host to the vocals. It makes you want to move and dance to the thrum of the beat and guitar, whilst caught within the vocals of Emanuel Åström. It’s simply brilliant.
Such a breathtaking use of instruments, highlighting the darkness between the light. The vocals wash over your senses, not only sonorous but also pulling at your subconscious with the lyrical content because “Necklace” is about finding solace within one’s self when faced with daily abuse, be that physical and/or mental. This all ties back to the album, Asylum, which is all about the different types of havens people seek to survive.
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.
Brisbane’s HOSTILE ARCHITECT has dropped the EP, ::EX-LOG:: REMANUFACTURE ME, as of the 29th of April, on Brutal Resonance Records. This is a one man, dark industrial project by the not so hostile Mitch Kenny and this EP is the follow up to the album, LOWGRADELIFE.
This is something a little different for the hostile one. “REMANUFACTURE ME” is this amazing mix of industrial and darkwave, as Kenny goes from monotone vocals through to singing. The synths are just perfection as they skim and glide across this track with a fabulous pop sensibility. In “ECONOMIES OF SCALE” you can clearly hear the HOSTILE ARCHITECT tell tale touches but even this sound is expanding. The beats never let up and just has these incredible moments of amazing electronic noises that make you wonder how Mitch has wrangled them out of a machine. The first single, released before the EP is the brilliantly, energetic “POWER OVERWHELMING” and this is the GOLD MIX and it is a bloody amazing track that pumps along at hair singeing speed at times.
Oh yes, welcome to the “TERMINAL GRIND“, which is all stellar synths twittering at you with murderous intent in this instrumental piece. All hail your overlord, the HOSTILE ARCHITECT of techno delights. Maybe inspired by the Australian yearly heat we have the expansive “BLACK SUMMER” where the ‘Sky’s onfire and so am I‘. There is something scintillating and spine tingling about this track that makes the hairs on the back of your neck raise up. Those that have followed the releases will know that “HOSTILE THEME” was on the LOWLIFELIFE album and now there is the NYTESHAYDE RMX, Roger Menso being Nyteshade, who also did all wonderful mastering. This is the metal industrial version you never thought you would hear. Wow. I know this song so well and this was just mind blowing to hear it done this way.
“REMANUFACTURE ME” just blew me away, possibly my favourite number, from the beginning and there is not a mediocre track on this EP. Not one. Kenny always fills his music with movement and you can see his evolution of the character, the HOSTILE ARCHITECT, in the evolving sound. There is definitely some synthwave/darkwave creeping in and it sounds amazing. Mitch is a really creative and talented musician and it shows in how he crafts his tunes, so I am hoping more people pick up on this project and spread the word that the HOSTILE ARCHITECT is asking…….. IF THIS IS SUCH A BRAVE NEW WORLD WHY DO YOU SEEM SO SCARED?
April 1st saw the release of the single “Your Last Kiss” from VVMPYRE, which features both the vocal and lyrical talents of Boston based musician, Maverick.
Maverick is going to beguile you with her vampiric touch, which may be your last. Her vocals drip promise and sexual delight to an electronic backdrop of beats and synths, with that occasional interlude of horror inspired organ/harpsichord.
VVMPYRE are threatening us soon with a good time in the form of an album. With the connections he seems to have in the industry, I can see it being a blood suckers favourite dance track.