Enhanced humans are running awry in New Jersey, making electro-gothic music. The father/son combination of Greg Bullock (lead vocal and synthesizers) and Brydon Bullock (drums/percussion, backing vocals), respectively, are the core of Cyborg Amok and towards the end of 2022, they released the album Etiam. There is also additional musical help from Adam Vaccarelli, playing bass on all songs (except “Wicked Close“) and Frani Lugo with guitar on “(Some) Sleep Tonight.”.
Did you know that the 1975 David Bowie single “Golden Years“, off the Station To Station album was originally written by Bowie for Elvis Presley, who turned it down and gave Bowie one of his highest charting singles in the USA? More fool him we say and the first track from Cyborg Amok is a cover of this classic, and this version is slower and a little more introspective, like an internal soliloquy. Join the shamanistic ritual for “(Some) Sleep Tonight” for those who are deprived of such things, thronged with foreboding bass and heavy guitar, while “Wicked Close” is definitely more electro/industrial flavoured with a leaning to science fiction, the synths creating a soundscape and yet there is a very funk based bass line that invades the lulls.
Chiming intonations break into guitars and a goth rock phantasm of love lost in “Black Well House (a ghost story)” with a chorus to get the chills. Now, any track with the title “Fire Dance“, instantly makes me think of Killing Joke, but this is not that song. Twinkling keyboard notes and lyrics about a rain of fire from the heavens above, creating chaos. “Toxic 1’s” has a creeping air about it with the disturbing guttural gurgling in the background in comparison to the clean vocals. The guitars with the changing drum rhythms are definitely a brilliant addition to keep you on edge. So the last track, “Iron Clad Heart” is languid and serpentine in its execution, biding its time, as you slip over the edge.
There is indeed a interesting dichotomy at work here. Each track seems to have it’s own blend of styles, not overwhelming but rather enough hear those influences merge with each other to create something you can attribute as Cyborg Amok with mixtures of gothic rock, synthwave, industrial and even a bit of glam. Giving a voice to these mixtures takes a bit of skill, so have a listen to Etaim,,, your inner cybernetic humanoid will thank you for it.
Always exciting to see a band releasing their debut single and hearing their style. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, is the darkwave duo Now After Nothing, with the single “Sick Fix“, out on the 27th of January. Vocalist Matt Spatial and drummer Michael Allen are Now After Nothing and they are joined by the guitar virtuoso, MarkGemini Thwaite (MGT). Just as impressively is the having the mixing done by Carl Glanville, who has worked with U2 and Joan Jett, and the mastering by John Davis, with names like Placebo, Jesus & Mary Chain and Suede under his belt.
A deluge of guitar and bass hits your ears, both raucous and refined at the same time. It is a punk like fevour that grips and further enforced with the vocals from Spatial, MGT’s guitar work and the synths moving together in a sinuous dance, fluid and whirling in a controlled tempest, while Allen gives us the drumbeats that keep this thunderous rhythm gracing our ears.
I was at one of the lowest points of my life and without a musical outlet. I was damaged, defeated, and deflated. One day in New York City, riding through Central Park with earbuds in place, I rediscovered a band that didn’t initially resonate with me. Hearing them this time was different though – I felt the spark. That emotionalconnection to a newly-discovered piece of music was the proverbial kick-in-the-ass I needed to ‘crawl out of cracks below.’ When I arrived home, I dusted of my studio gear and opened up files of previously unfinished song ideas, one of which was a rather bare recording of just a single bass line. It caught my ear and by the day’s end, Sick Fix was complete from start to finish. Listening back to it, I felt alive again. I felt the same spark I had felt that day in Central Park that inspired me and reminded me I had more music inside of me. I wasn’t going to let myself wither away. Though the band name came later, Now After Nothing was really born on that day, which is why Sick Fix undoubtedly needed to be our first single.”- Matt Spatial
So, there is great energy in this track and yes there is definitely a hat firmly tipped towards the old school post-punk such as Bauhaus, but I also hear strains of Alien Sex Fiend and Virgin Prunes in that maelstrom. Yes, originally I believed these guys were actually British going on sound alone, with their wonderful synergy and enthusiasm but don’t think you are getting some old rehash. “Sick Fix” is a wonderfully modern track and I am eager to see what Now After Nothing bring to the table next.
Around 1990/91, Gerrie Brand, started his gothic project, Life In Sodom, which was heavily influenced by the theatrical element, though this soon became a more serious musical affair, as the Florida based band picked up attention and airplay. Over the years, Brand has been the lynch pin with the group making sporadic releases. 2022 saw the line up of Brand (vocals) Danny Heinze (guitars) and Virginia Fuillerat (female vocals) release the new EP, Fate on NutrixRecords. Other artists that have contributed to the EP include Loach (synths, keyboards, programming), Mike Vullo (drums on “Room 212“), Dennis Fuller (drums on “Lie“) and DenisEverest (electric guitar on “Heaven’s Gates“), with the recording and mixing done at MBRS Studios by Loach and mastered at Fullersound Inc.
The title track, “Fate” is a retrospective way to start the EP, the argument that are we beholden to a destiny as judged by religion or do we make out own? The vocals of Brand yearn for more, more than fate and angelic Fuillerat punctuates the beautiful simplicity of the track. There is something deliciously familiar about the wonderful “Lie“. It might be that both the singing and instrumentation remind me a lot of Stan Ridgeway (ex-Wall Of Voodoo) and his ability to incorporate a slightly Western edge, so you can feel the languid desperation, where the bass takes the lead and you can wonder where were they hiding the Mariachi band? “Heaven’s Gates” is a very sombre affair with acoustic guitar and piano, whilst in the background a crying electric guitar is in full lament. Why does it cry? Because as we age we start to lose the people around us to the ultimate end.
Changing things up, we start with Fuillerat taking the lead in the emotional filled “Restless“. The guitar is the light lighting the way and then crosses the veil, as we wait for death to bring us to the end. The last track is “Room 212“. I could be wrong but I think this is a reference to a hospital room, where family congregate to sit with the dying, waiting for that last breath, and often using their own to give up prayers to whichever god they follow. Brand’s vocals are superbly warm and entrancing, enhanced by the beautiful guitar work and drums punching through.
Have you ever listened to something and then thought, how did I ever not know about this? Utterly amazing and utterly enjoyable to the last strains. This is voyeurism at its darkest, following the theme that flesh and blood decay, such is the impermanence of life. The subject matter is treated with a reverence and care, maybe in the knowledge that they also will cease on this plain of existence. If you are a record junkie, then you will be thrilled and fulfilled with the knowledge that the EP is also out on shiny vinyl….. But I digress and will simply say that if you like guitar and vocal lead darkwave then you need Life In Sodom and to check out Fate.
Name your poison! For VAZUM, it is deadly “Night Shade“, which happens to be their next single as released on the spooktacular day of Friday the 13th of January, by the deathgaze duo of Zach Pliska and Emily Sturm.
The driving guitar is the trademark of VAZUM and “Night Shade” is laced with it. A warning that not all fawning friends and influencers, are actually going to be there for you when the chips are laid down. But they will lie to your face and make you adore them, which fits in perfectly with the contemptuous music. There is also a second track included that also follows the theme of untruths, called “Living Great” that has this wonderful shoegaze brilliance that never pauses.
Having two very different sounding tracks, even if they are on the short comings of humans, makes this release quite delightful bit of gothic rock to get your heart beating. VAZUM again have given us something killer in “Night Shade“, a killer of a track which is name your price on Bandcamp.
Miami based goths, Astari Nite, last single came out in May of 2022 and so behold there is now the new single “Bowie In Daydreams“. Inspired the legend that was David Bowie, the recent movie and his many roles that Bowie wore like a glove.
A march into the echoes of another time, guitar driven rivulets taking you into darker places. The vocals permeate the swirling music, while the heavily symbolic lyrics paint a picture, with mounting fervour.
There are references to the decadent West Berlin period, the Ziggy Stardust era and the vampiric role Bowie played in the iconic movie The Hunger. And “Bowie In Daydreams” is also a referral to the beloved track “Moonage Daydream” from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars and Astari Nite pay homage to his memory through conjuring up his spirit.
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.
Joshua Murphy is an ex-pat Australian musician, now living in Berlin and his debut solo EP, Lowlands was released in December of 2022, on the aufnahme + wiedergabe label. Lowlands is a slice of Australiana story telling in the bleak and often unforgiving outback, where loneliness, distance, scorching heat and dead cold can easily affect the human psyche. It follows in the gritty southern gothic vein of Nick Cave, where good and evil court in the dust and sweat of yesteryear’s memories, which are long in small country towns. Murphy echoes a tradition of musicians where there is nothing that quite sounds like the Aussie post-punk scene from Cave, or the laconic late Roland S Howard, or the hauntingly beautiful songs of the late David McComb of The Triffids. We spoke to Murphy about the EP, what lead to the writing and was involved in the recording. I will just say that as an Australian, this land leaves an indelible mark under your skin.
You are a member of Crime And The City Solution but you have taken the time to write and record your debut solo material, in the form of “Lowlands”. What prompted you on this solo journey?
I started working on “Lowlands” alongside Producer Martin J. Fiedler in 2019. It was a sort of re-introduction to creation for me after a 5-year break. It was later that I met Simon and was asked to join Crime & The City Solution. Martin had started working with the band on their new record, and I was asked to add some guitars. Which later turned into playing some shows with the band and then joining, but joining Crime came as a result of making “Lowlands”, not the other way around.
Being the sole composer and decision maker, have you found it easier or harder?
There is something very freeing in having full creative control. I knew what kind of record I wanted to create, so having the autonomy to make decisions just meant that I could arrive where I already knew I wanted to go. It is important to say that I wasn’t alone in the process though, I had a great ally in Martin J. Fiedler, who produced, recorded and mixed “Lowlands”. Martin sat with me at the piano, in his home and listened to the sketches of songs as I was writing them, and always gently pointed me in the right direction when it was needed. He helped immensely to sculpt and realise this record. Though I wouldn’t have been able to make “Lowlands” in a band formation, its songs are singular, and deeply personal. I wouldn’t have been able to go there if the focus was one of creative exchange, this wasn’t about that.
“Lowlands” is a gritty a dark release, with many comparing it to the works of Nick Cave, where you can almost feel the dust on your tongue and it does have a lost in the open spaces of the Australian landscape quality. What compelled you to write “Lowlands”?
I’m happy if it makes you feel that. I wanted to write a record that forced, or helped, (depending on how you look at it), me to reflect and confront a lot of the things in myself. I wanted it to sound like my home of Australia, specifically the rural areas where I grew up, with that vastness that can make you feel both connected to something, and completely at its mercy. I was compelled to write a record that felt like me, both lyrically and musically.
Joshua, you make reference to ghosts or tormented spirits, which evokes images of violent and lawless times…. where did you draw the inspiration for the imagery?
“Littered with Ghosts” is about lies and the idea that living within your own fabricated reality gives birth to ghosts, manifestations of lies told, physical companions serving as constant reminders. Specifically relating to the lies we tell ourselves, which is possibly one of the most violent things we can do. To lie to ourselves, distorts everything we are, and everyone around us. The inspiration is drawn from my life, from mistakes made, and from wanting to free myself from the companions I gathered along the way.
There is something of the story teller in Joshua Murphy, so is this something you enjoy in music?
I’m a huge Country, early Blues and Folk music fan. I see these three genres as very similar, just presented by a different people, at a different time. They all speak of truth, they tell tales, there is an imagery and story to their songs, they are generally set over very simple chord progressions, and centred around a singular truth. Love, loss, regret, joy. That’s always been what songs are about for me, the centre, the tale, the music and melody are just there to relay that centre, that story, that truth told.
Do you have a favourite track off “Lowlands” and if so why?
That would be “The Fault Was Lain There Too”. I remember having the idea for the song, and the story that I wanted to tell, but I don’t remember working on it. Generally my songs go through 3 or 4 versions, a sketch, a draft, taking form slowly over time. “The Fault Was Lain There Too” was written in one sitting, recorded into my phone, put aside, and forgotten about. My friend Jesper Munk found it in my phone one night when we were showing each other song ideas. I had this song I was showing him, he kind of shrugged and started searching through my phone for other sketches, finding “The Fault Was Lain There Too”. I very clearly remember us sitting there, listening to it, and laughing about the fact that what we both believed to be my best work so far had been put aside and forgotten. I’m very thankful for that night.
As a multi-instrumentalist, what instruments were used to create “Lowlands”, especially some of the more jarring sounds that give a harsher effect?
I decided on a list of instruments before starting to record “Lowlands”, the idea being that limitations would help retain the narrative of the songs, and also create a narrative in the production of the record itself. Between Martin, Jonathan Dreyfus, and myself, we played all the instruments on “Lowlands”. The voice, piano, guitar, synthesiser, double bass, cello, voila and violin. Anything you hear on the record is made using these instruments, including the percussive sounds. Some of those harsher effects are synthesiser, or the sound of the instruments themselves being hit in a percussive manner.
There is a seductive beauty about dark places whether that is man-made, natural or in the minds and hearts of men. What draws you to the darkness?
I don’t really have a definitive answer to that. Musically I know that I like the sensuality of darker music, the chords and progressions used. I like the violence of the attack, and tension in the instruments played. The danger of the rhythms, the fact that everything sits on the back foot rhythmically, and when done correctly, I find it all to be, as you say, seductive. Although lyrically I’ve always been drawn to hopeful stories. The coupling of dark delivery and hope is something I find to be very human. That sentiment that even though we might be at the bottom, we are looking up. I believe people are hopeful, even if a little dark at times. “Lowlands” is a hopeful record.
For myself, Australian post-punk music has a certain sound or aesthetic you can hear that sets it apart. Do you think this is the case?
I do. I’ve thought about this a lot over the last years. My friend and Producer Martin always comments on the Australian touch, or sound. The chords we use, the way we approach songs. He describes it as uniquely Australian. Beautiful, yet violent, equally sad and hopeful. I’ve come to agree with him, I think it comes from the country itself. Australia is a very unforgiving place, both in the climate, and the people. It can be very harsh and desolate, isolating and lonely, it’s people can be quite rough and violent. On the other hand, It’s also visually stunning, it’s full of impossible landscapes, beautiful and endless. I think it’s the combination of this violent, rough isolation, and the most beautiful, peaceful and endless landscapes I’ve seen, that must take root in us somehow, and ultimately shape the way we play, and this Australian sound.
The German label, aufnahme + wiedergabe is heavily associated with the German post-punk, industrial and dark arts scenes. How did you end up signing and are you still pinching yourself being on their label?
Philipp Strobel (the head of the label) is my best friend. We’ve known each other for 10 years, and have spent a very large portion of that time together. While I was making “Lowlands”, we would sit together, speak about the record and listen to the demo’s, rough mixes and final mixes. The idea was never actually to release on a+w, I actively told him many times through the process, this is not for the label, I just need your opinion on something. It got to the point that he had to sit me down as the record was being finished and say to me. I know you don’t want to release on a+w, but I want to release the record. We both laughed a lot that day.
You have said that the beauty of music is the most important thing on this EP and that it can change for the live shows. Can you explain that a little more?
I think you may have misunderstood me here. What I actually said was that I think that the songs are the most important thing on the record. Everything begins and ends with the songs. Making everything else, whilst it should be beautiful, ultimately interchangeable. What I mean is that, the lines, the instruments, they should be beautiful, and they play a huge role in the delivery of the song in that specific recorded form, but the song exists with or without those elements. These elements can, and should be changed for live shows. I’ve done shows where the songs have been played on an electric guitar with a sampler and loop pedal, I’ve done shows alone with an acoustic guitar. I have played them many times alone on piano, at different tempos, in different keys. I love the music we created for the record, I’m proud of it, and I think it’s very beautiful, I enjoy listening to it very much. I don’t plan to be tied to it though, not in the same way I am tied to the songs. A song is a living thing that can change as we change, it would not serve the song to present it, night after night as some sort of rehearsed theatre piece. A song is not that.
The EP is written from an Australian perspective but do you think in a way, living in Berlin inspired that Australian Identity?
That’s a really good question. I think it has. There are some things about yourself that you don’t see until you look at them from afar. This was certainly the case for me in relation to music and living overseas. That distance in living on the other side of the world for the last decade has shown me that I am fundamentally, whilst I don’t see myself as singularly Australian, I am, in fact an Australian Musician. The parts that come out of me musically, are, at their core, Australian. I’ve also realised that I like that part of myself. I am drawn to an Australian musical Identity.
You have made your life in Germany currently, but do you miss Australia and do you ever think of coming back?
I’ve lived in Germany since March 2013, I have loved my time there, but I don’t think I will stay there forever. I don’t know exactly where I will go next, but I don’t plan to go back to Australia. I loved living in Australia, but I’m not a nostalgic person, I don’t miss it, and I probably won’t miss Germany once I leave. I try to be very involved in what I’m doing, and where I am while it’s happening. Once it’s over I try not to reside there anymore.
What music/bands inspired you when you were younger and have your tastes changed since then?
Growing up I was a guitar player, I was obsessed with notes and that form of expression, it was all Jimi Hendrix, John Frusciante, Eddie Hazel, Omar Rodriquez Lopez. Then I started to move more towards early blues, which is guitar and song, or tale based, people like Howling Wolf, Elmore James, Lighting Hopkins. Around this time I also started to realise what a great lyricist Jimi Hendrix was, I read an article that Jimi always used to carry a book of Bob Dylan lyrics around with him, that took me down the road of Country and Folk music, and that’s when I first got obsessed with stories, what they could do to you, a song with a good story is like a book, it can be devastating, or comforting, and it’s full of imagery and worlds. People like Gillian Welch, Leonard Cohen, Paul Kelly, Nick Cave, P.J. Harvey. Finally it all came back around to people like Rowland S. Howard, who uses the guitar in the way that I love, but also tell stories and write songs, I don’t think too many people do that. That’s what I want to try and achieve, music and songs that are both parts beautiful.
Can we be expecting an album at some point?
For sure, I’m working on the next release already, I’m half way through writing the songs, I’ll keep writing for another half a year and then start recording. I’m planning to have it finished this year in order to release in 2024. That’s the plan, but I don’t want to rush things, it will take as long as it takes.
Soooo, this is the fun bit. You are asked to contribute a cover song for a compilation and you can have guest musicians on it. What song are you going to cover and which musicians are you going to include, remembering that we don’t mind a bit of necromancy here when it comes to music and are willing to dig up a few souls?
Dead Radio, featuring Rowland S. Howard!
Thank you Joshua for being a good sport and talking to us today.
French gothic rock group, Divine Shade, is finishing off a year that saw them with a remix by ex-Nine InchNails member Chris Vienna, a twenty date European tour as support for Gary Numan, with the release of the newest single “Stars“, that also features the vocal talents of Shan Moue and production by Ren Toner.
Sometimes there is a longing to go back to our childhood, a time that is meant to have a blend of safety, everything was new and dreams seemed possible, like starring at the star laden sky in wonder. In this vein, the longing in the vocals builds, with the rising of the heavy electronic influence and Moue’s singing, gently caressing the lead vocals in the chorus.
Chic cool darkwave, mixed with an electronic sound bearing the marking of 90s era NIN is how I would I describe “Stars“. Brooding and full of of wanting to be able to touch those lights in the heavens again, DevineShade, through belief and heart, are bringing you the “Stars“.
Not all darkwave heroes run around, brandishing you over the head with big beats and synth confectionery. Today, we are introducing you to German solo artist Meersein and his new single “Speechless” which is an acoustic version, and third single to date from this project.
There is such an extraordinarily palpable melancholy to Meersein’s beautifully clean vocals, only supported by an acoustic guitar and piano. His singing is beseeching to one he loves, to recognise the fact that he isn’t like other people and desperately wants to talk to them but has become speechless.
“Speechless” was Meersein’s debut release, back in around June of this year, and it was a far different track in a completely electronic vein. The Germans seem to have this affinity to take a song, break it down to the bare bones, and imbue the track with an even more eloquent heart. It made me think a lot of Lord OfThe Lost and the times they have done this with tracks or orchestrated them. A yearning heart from the dispossessed is “Speechless“.
Alexander Leonard Donat... teacher, marathon runner, musician, man behind the label Blackjack IlluministRecords, co-conspirator for several musical acts, driving force behind his own project Vlimmer and very possibly a crime fighter by night (just saying Vlimmer man has a certain ring to it!). November saw Vlimmer’s second, full length album, Menschenleere, enter the watery light of day.
The first tastes of forbidden fruit came our way in the form of the two singles, the rhythm filled darkwave tendrils of “Erdgeruch” and the wondrously 80s inspired eccentricity of “Kronzeuge“. There are such gems hidden within, such as “Mathematik” with its giddy synths that remind me so much of the electronic trailblazer, John Foxx, even more so for the fact his backing band were The Maths.
“Noposition” has a magical trance like quality within its warm embracing beats, while “Schwimmhand” leaves you not only amazed by the sheer brilliance but also experiencing tingles through your extremities. Even the title track has an ancient feel, whilst playing with time signatures. “Menschenleere” is vast and echoing in the chamber of what might not be a pained reality.
Yes you can dance to Vlimmer, but for me, there is something akin to multiple storylines. Each track is crafted just so, this one with a more science fiction vibe, another with more sombre tones and yet another with a spinning glorious shoegaze vision. All held together by Donat’s vocals, be they happy, sad or even imploring.
Vlimmer is the centre of this world he has created, and has the knack of spinning his musical tales that capture us up into this web of darkwave delights. Even better is the fact that Alexander touches back to the styles that have influenced him but he never let’s them consume him, rather experimenting to create tracks that encapsulate his music journey. Beautiful, fragile and ashened songs to drink, dance to, and watch the moon…Menschenleere(Deserted)