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.
French darkwave act, Distance H, have released their debut single “Bitch 16”, as of the end of April and it features Saigon Blue Rain’s chanteuse. Ophelia. She will also be featuring on the soon to be released EP, Intimacy, by Parisian, ManuH, who is the producer behind Distance H, which endeavors to have different female vocalists on tracks.
The guitar chimes out, programmed drum machine keeping the beat and Ophelia’s vocals seductively slipping like silk across the music. darkness and light of growing up, where everything starts off bright and optimistic, then with experience and growth, comes the realisation that life is murkier the more you let people in.
There is a tremendous balance between vocals and music here where one never engulfs the other. The guitar work is delightful, weaving throughout the whole piece, while the vocals capture your attention with Ophelia’s beautiful performance. Really it is a darkwave track, worthy of attention and if the EP is this quality, then it is going to be fantastic release from Distance H!
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.
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.
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?
Jamie Blacker is ESA, also known as Electronic Substance Abuse, and we are going to talk about the album, Designer Carnage that came out on February 14th of 2022, on Negative Gain Records. But I will digress with a little background information first. ESA is a UK project that was formed in 2002 after Blacker, who had been involved in the black/death metal scene, started to experiment in and became drawn to the sound of harsh, rhythmic industrial noise, which he has in all essence become a relative master of. The first album was released in 2006, Devotion, Discipline and Denial, then releasing albums very regularly ever since.
Straight off the bat, “LaudanumDance” is like electrodes connected straight into the brain, sparking with glorious fuzz and beats. Like a fever dream, Blacker yells his discontent. Yet, hark it that a harpsichord? Classical piano which is a gorgeous oddity, played at a decent pace to be suddenly broken by the female vocal sample of Konstantina Buhalis and break beats, that descend into the stomach wrenching, bellowing tones. Those beautiful harpsichord keys again trill away, as they and the piano are played by Frederic Scarfone. Frustration and anger are swirling in the charged track “One Missed Called” which is about repression and fear stopping one from getting further in life. It is powerful with the female sample, of again, Konstantina Buhalis, screaming how much she fucking hates the person who puts her down. The rhythms circle and pounds down, enforcing the angst.
The use of noise and techno is near perfect in “I Detach“, when out of nowhere…ragtime music. Yes, weird and yes unexpected, but it works. The ticking of a clock, alien like electronic warbles, the ragtime and Blacker’s voice just culminate into this bizarre, dreamlike world of movement. The title track, “Designer Carnage” exudes electronic smut and grime. Fantastic! The music grinds while samples repeat the title. It speeds up towards the climax like there is no getting off this ride, only to drop you and drag you along again. Bara Hari is the guest vocalist for “Disruption Only” and it just pounds away. as a good, well lubricated industrial machine should. The rhythm is a drug that you can’t get enough of while in the static, you can hear angry voices. BaraHari joins in and it becomes something otherworldly while those hammered beats carry on regardless, stuck in a groove.
“Come And Find Me” again utilises that ragtime sound throughout in a myriad of stomping beats and electronics. A hallucination induced nightmare which translates to smashing yourself on a dancefloor. Curiously addictive and no we cannot get enough as it builds apon itself in a downward spiral. Saxaphone is by Matt ‘Chops’ Thompson and female vocals by Hellsea. For the track “Hyena“, all the vocals are credited to Pee Wee Pimpin, as he goes from cajoling to viciously snarling, the synths cackling as they track you down in your last moments, but what a way to go/ “Whom Then Shall I Fear?” features Pee Wee Pimpin, as he raps which works ever so well with the heavy electronics in the background. In fact, it is almost like listening to Public Enemy’s, “Bring On The Noise” but they were all industrialised and updated. It is an amazingly strong track.
There is something wicked and it comes this way in the track, “Vast Accept“. Off kilter and deranged, on a psychopathic mission only it knows. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security as it awaits to pounce while you are off guard with those techno beats. The final track is “Saturnalia“, which is full of blast beats, raging guitar and the deep, growling Blacker vocals, that start to fritz in and out. There are also these wonderful science fiction sounding synths and classic flamenco guitar by Frederic Scarfone, that lend themselves to a western touch, while Matt ‘Chops’ Thompson gives us that sleazy saxaphone. With wailing female vocals, it all crescendos, only to die away.
I knew this new album had come out but a friend, whom is also an industrial DJ, thrust it under my nose and declared that if I was to review anything this year, it has to be this album, Designer Carnage. In all honesty, he was completely correct. If this is not in people’s top 10 industrial releases for the end of the year, then I am going have to say that your taste might be in your arse. Jamie Blacker is able to experiment with so many different styles and mould them into something cohesive, with lashings of wicked heavy rhythms, filthy grinding electronics, inject music of past eras, whilst screaming near bloody murder at you. Really can’t much better than that other than you can dance to all of it. I dare you not to find yourself bouncing to the beats. You definitely need some Designer Carnage in your life, so let ESA be your dealer.
There is something quite alluring about a national identity, steeped in memory, myth and lore, which naturally bleeds into their music. Lia Hide could be mistaken for a Greek goddess, however she is a very talented producer, musician and singer, who has been creating music since 2013. With her style of dark pop/post-punk mixed with ancient wisdom, she has released her fourth album, The Missing Fourth Guest and we could help not help but to jump at the chance to talk to the charming Lia about this album and what has lead up to it.
Greetings to you Lia Hide. Please join us in the Onyx boudoir.
Lia Hide is a woman with many public faces. You are a dancer and a performing artist. Was this inspired by family through your childhood or something you were drawn to at an older age?
I’d love it if I were a dancer, but dancing is one of my weakest points.. Unless if I drink an extra or two, that might do the trick! I was drawn to acting from a younger age, though, and did take acting lessons when I was just 10 years old, and performed often back then, but once I got to my teenager years, I was utterly fixated with music. And yes, music was always a thing in the family: my dad played the guitar, my grandpa played the bouzouki, although he was a blacksmith and fisherman (!) and my mom would always sing traditional weeping Greek songs while cooking, she missed her home village and mom, badly. So, it felt natural, in all ways!
Was music always a big part of this artistic expression?
Yes, I was always bold and fierce in a social group, but I would never, and still don’t, express my fears or sadness, to anyone.. So I wrote them down into music and songs!
What is your role as a music educator?
I am a popular music vocals teacher, I am a London College of Music collaborator, and have been teaching also, Musical Theatre, Pop and Rock Ensembles, Modern Music History, and piano! I simply adore my students, they my fountain of youth!
Recently, I have spoken to a few Greek artists, and it is interesting to get their perspective on the music scene, especially in the capital, Athens. Do you think the dark alt scene is flourishing and has it changed since you first started your professional musical career?
Actually, I don’t know of any other dark alternative artists, but us, although there is a substantially growing darkwave and post punk and synthpop scene, and of course, lots of metal and hip hop. I think alternative music was a bit stronger a few decades back, newer and more minimalistic genres seem to flourish at the moment.
Lia, you are releasing your 4th full album, called “The Missing Fourth Guest” and this is based on a story by Greek playwright, Plato, where philosopher Socrates is a main character. Can you tell us more about this concept and how it relates to the album?
Timaeaus dialogue (by Plato) seems to be happening in an evening of wine and philosophy, where three people joining the conversation are eagerly trying to explain and discuss the person in the society, the man in the cosmos, war and defeat and the origin of the universe. So all these were ideas that were puzzling us, while we were stuck in these two horrible quarantines of Covid19. Socrates as a figure is a very strong influence for us and so is Plato’s Republic’s teachings!
You released the single “Dinner” in March with a beautifully made video, shot in a movie noir style with rich reds and sepia tones. How was it making the video and what is the premise behind “Dinner”?
We had the opportunity to film in an amazing location, the Bagkeion Hotel (and Foundation) that is a very historical building in downtown Athens, designed by the architect Ernest Chiller and built between 1980-1894, that once was a glorious luxurious hotel, that later served as a hospital for WWII. We shot from 12 in the morning till 6 at dawn the following day, and we created it with Kiss the Frog, a group of gorgeous film-makers, with their team of 14 people all together !
You also released the first single, “Proposal” which again has a very lush video and seems that “Dinner” is a continuation of a theme. The music feels so full of regret and longing, so do these two tracks and videos tie in together?
Yes, of course! Proposal and Dinner, together with Cloud (tracks 5,6,7 of the Missing Fourth Guest) put together ‘the Timeaus Sonata’ a major work, in 3 parts, in the Classical Sonata form, so Proposal is exposition and Dinner is recapitulation of that opening theme. They all discuss our questions and investigating of Plato’s dialogue.
How do you feel you have changed as a musician since, when you first released “Home” and now with “The Missing Fourth Guest”?
It seem like ages ago! I was but an inexperienced producer, and “Home” was such a huge and long album, and I wanted to make sure I fit everything in there. Now, I am more competent in producing our music, and I know when to stop and when to leave a song behind. I am also bolder and I am not afraid to state my mind, soundwise, even if people around me might suggest other ideas or suggestions, a thing I would never do in the past. I sing less, or less loud, I don’t feel the need to show-off that I am a good singer, or piano player, also.
It has been something I have noticed about Greek musicians, that they incorporate in their music and take very seriously, the tales, mythos and history of the past of your country, which is very extensive. Do you think that it is very ingrained into the Greek psyche or is it literally part of the DNA?
It is part of our education process I think. We are taught of these tales since we are very young, and we live in a country filled with Antiquities, so you can’t really …escape them, if you’re Greek!
Apart from your own musical endeavors, I last saw you on a compilation by Mechanimal celebrating their 10 years together with your version of “The Den” which was a lovely stripped-down reimagining. Can you tell us about your friendship with the guys from Mechanimal and what it means to you being on that compilation “Living With Animal Ghosts”?
I have great respect for both Mechanimal and ION and it was a great honor to be included in this compilation, and especially, with the song that we were assigned with! I tried to redress our version with lots of dark pianos and recreated a duet out of his amazing song, ‘The Den’, whose words and narrative spoke directly to my heart!
Will you be touring again soon as Covid messed up a lot of band’s schedules over the last 2 years?
We really can’t wait to hit the road again, I’ve missed it so badly! The people, the scenery, the travelling, everything!
If you could be the fourth guest at Socrates table, what burning question would you wish to talk to him about?
Actually, I wish I was but a spectator in the banquet, so I could ask, WHO this missing and so important guest, was! What if it were a she? Why is him/her so important? What did she/he know?
Sadly, we are bereft of divination but what do you see in the future for Lia Hide?
I am already in the process (deep in my head) of writing some new songs for the next album! Reality does not seize to inspire me and so many severe issues are storming around us, so I am already trying to figure out our new sound-vocabulary, while the words are already forming stories!
Thank you for being a perfect guest, Lia and we wish you all the best with this new album!
Melbourne based, synthpop/darkwave act, Suburban Spell, have released the single “Fools And Clowns“, with a lushly produced music video. This latest single, comes from the Split Levels album that was released in February and the video was shot and edited by Adam Calaitzis, of Toyland Studios.
From the very beginning there is the shoegaze electronics, that swirl and envelope your senses in a gorgeous blanket of sonic emotion. It is about being out in the wee hours of the morning and the temptation of a one night stand, perhaps also the regret of the aftermath too.
You are taken to spots along Victoria’s Great Southern Road, which is a truly beautiful trip, though I must say in black and white, can look almost menacing at times but also shot in inner Melbourne. Peter Endall has taken his song and pared it down from around six and a half minutes, to a neat, just a smidge over four, yet the track has lost none of what makes it quite beautifully tragic and is only enhanced by the video.