Soooo, fancy a bit of gloom with your goth? I may have the answer to your lachrymose prayers, in the shape of Sacramento duo, Venetian Veil and their EP, released on November the 11th, called The Lands Of The Living And The Dead, on the Dune Altar label. That title alone should have peaked your interest dare I say. The EP was recorded by Jim Willig in the Sinking Room between 2020-2021, and then mixed & mastered by Patrick Hills at Earth Tone Studios.

First we must be “Asleep In The Land Of The Living“. The guitar strums delicately over the droning noise, an electric guitar in sonic overload in the maudlin atmosphere. The shotgun drum machine rhythm and understated synths in “Quiver” really harken back for me to the early 80s. So simple and so effective, especially with the male vocals. There is something so utterly gentle about “The Lamb“. The soft, feminine vocals, the low and controlled bass belie a great sorrow and shame, for the blood of the Lamb was supposed to wash away the sins.

Awake In The Land Of The Dead” is the instrumental bridge and the mirror image to its sister, “Asleep In The Land Of The Living“, where now most is quiet but for the strumming guitar. “Treeline” offers perhaps the view point of a soul leaving it’s earthly bonds, heading for the void. Slow and thoughtful, with stirring vocals. The Cure like “Phantom“, tinkles with those sweet guitar notes and sweeping synth chords. The lyrics are not so much sad but almost an acceptance of something that can never be.

I hear the experimentation and in a way, it greatly reminds me of the early 80’s when The Cure created Faith, 17 Seconds and Pornography, albums that truly pulled you into their misty, Victorian era like, dark and tragic romanticism. Light the candles, a drink of what you please and settle down to the Venetian Veil, as they take you to The Lands Of The Living And The Dead.

The Lands of the Living and the Dead | Venetian Veil (bandcamp.com)

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In 2009, Lisa Hammer released her first solo album, named Dakini, which in the Buddhist belief is a female spirit, be this a goddess or a demon. Before all this, Hammer had already made a name for herself as the lead singer for the deathrock/goth rock band Requiem In White and then the more medieval based Mors Syphilitica. Since then, she has thrown herself endlessly into many different projects such as writing, filming, acting and producing both television shows and movies, but the music has always been there as well.

French label, The Circle Music, has joined forces with Lisa to re-release Dakini this year, with beautiful coloured vinyls and also three extra bonus tracks. The album features Hammer’s heavenly operatic vocals, which can dissolve, almost, into chattering demonic verse, and that is the great thing about Dakini…it is not formulaic but rather a spiritual journey you are following, that experiments with sound and voice, in a difficult time. With this in mind, we have the opportunity to ask Lisa about what has lead her up to this point in time, this re-release and what is in the future of this goddess/demon, plus you really need to know which dead people we will exhuming just for the fun of it.

Photo by LiAnn Grahm

Lisa Hammer, welcome to the lands of Onyx that time forgot… which is really a house and the lands my rather overgrown garden of scary delights.

Hello!

Born in Salem, did you grow up there and do you think it had an influence on you artistically or was it more so your family?

Definitely both. I lived next door to Laurie Cabot, the famous Salem witch. It was the 1970’s so I remember seeing her walk around in her black cape with her big black hair. She often commented on my little lamb toy I pulled along. On certain nights I could see across the alley to her window, where there would be a red light illuminating a group of people in a magic circle. When I moved to another state I was convinced that I was also a witch. Musically, my family always had singalongs or “Hootenannies” and everyone played and sang beautifully, especially my mother Roberta Stockton. What a voice and boy could she play guitar! We took great pride in our harmonies and beautiful tones.

A woman of many talents, musician, actor, director and writer. Which of these first brought you into the gothic fold?

TV. It was the Addams Family, and film – my grandmother and I watched a lot of old silent films together, and that is where Siouxsie and Exene got their makeup from.. I identified with them at a very young age. But then as I got older it was music, but the term Gothic had not been invented yet. We were Deathrock or Deathpunk. My roots were in Punk music, mixed with Classical/Medieval and campy 60’s Pop/Mod.

Lisa, you have been in the alternative/gothic scene for a while and the front woman for the ethereal goth rock band, Mors Syphilitica and before that in Requiem In White. Requiem In White struck me as being influenced by Christian Death, while Mors Syphilitica was tapping into that blooming period of medieval/renaissance style music. What drove you to create these styles of music and do you feel it was a time of musical awakening, so to speak?

Yes, we all loved Christian Death and were so happy to open for them a few times. Requiem in White was considered Death Rock because of the hard guitars, we thought we were Black Sabbath with an opera singer, Black Sabbath being one of my favorite bands of all time. With Mors we wanted to explore as many alternative styles as we could, there are heavy rock songs, but also very lovely

Most of this was happening in New York, so what was it like living in that period of time and what was the scene like back then for you?

New York in the 90’s was so fun. There were so many music venues to play, you could draw a crowd any night of the week. Rent was cheap and time was unlimited. We played CBGB and The Limelight more times than I can remember. We all hung out a lot – no one really needed to work 80 hour weeks, we were free to create music, film, whatever we wanted. I remember one night at the Limelight very fondly. We were opening for Type-O Negative, at Peter Steele’s request. The club was so packed they had to lift me and carry me over the crowd to and from the stage! I remember looking up during our set and seeing Peter on the balcony with Kirk Hammett from Metallica watching us perform. The audience were writhing to our music, some were kissing, some crying, some lost in meditation. I will never forget that night.

In 2009, the first solo album, “Dakini” was released on the famous Projekt label and now in 2022, it is seeing a revamp in the form of beautiful vinyls and three previously unreleased tracks. What was the reasoning behind giving “Dakini” this new lease of life currently?

The Circle Music approached me about re-releasing Dakini, remastering it, and they asked for bonus tracks. I had recorded Alte Clamat Epicurus during the pandemic lockdown and thought it would make a great bonus track. That song is another one of the 12th century Carmina Burana Codec songs written by radical monks. I love vinyl and couldn’t resist the color vinyl!

When you brought forth this album, how important was it for you?

I recorded it and finished it while both my mother and my guitarist of Radiana/childhood friend Steven Deal were dying. The music is dedicated to them. I was too full of grief to fully enjoy or even promote the CD back in 2009. But now, years later, I feel like dedicating my music to them even more. I can see with more clarity and enjoy moments of celebration. It is hard to keep making music without them, but I have to push myself to do it. Especially after having cancer myself in 2016. Everything is harder now, but more urgent and important to me.

The production is flawless and the music certainly feels as fresh as when it was first recorded. Do you feel a certain amount of pride that it has weathered so well?

Yes, thank you. Every artist I know is full of doubt about their music. But the original recording by Dan Kohler (with Steven Deal on guitars) is already so lush, and the genius re-mastering by The Circle Music and the gorgeous artwork has renewed my pride. I credit the label with reviving my spirit of creation.

For me there seems to be influences such as Dead Can Dance and Autumn Tears through to Diamanda Galas, mixed with a spiritual searching, would you agree?

I have never heard Autumn Tears, never really got into Diamanda even though she is insanely talented, and I remember hearing Dead Can Dance’s first album being played at Newbury Comics in Boston, getting really mad because Requiem in White was exploring this neo-classical style and they beat us to it, lol. But eventually they won me over and I became a big fan. Dakini is a mix of my influences, it is a hybrid of classical, folk, world music, experimental and ambient.

How important is spirituality to you?

I am fascinated by spirituality, it is really fun to explore. But I don’t claim to know anything – how can we know until we die where we will go? Is it spiritual or is it science? Is my mom in another dimension or is she in heaven? It is mind-blowing to contemplate, I even get chills looking at photos of outer space, does our consciousness float around and get sucked into black holes then spit out again? I DO believe she is somewhere nearby, as my aunt is a spiritual medium and received messages from my mom that she would have had no knowledge of unless they were directly from her.

Why did you decide the 3 unreleased tracks should see the light of day?

They were requested by the label.

Who or what bands and musicians first got you into this dark and beautiful scene?

Black Sabbath, Klaus Nomi, Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich, Christian Death, The Sisters of Mercy, The Damned… Too many to list.

Who do you find yourself listening to now?

Still going strong with Black sabbath and the 60’s-70’s classic rock bands (Radiana even did a Kink’s cover song for WFMU and now for Wicked Opossum Records) All my old Punk favorites, Opera, Indian and Nepali Classical, lots of Shoegaze and Britpop, King Crimson (Just saw them perform last year!) all the Gen X indie rock from The Pixies to Stereolab…Black Metal, world music, ska, campy 60’s pop – whatever mood strikes me that day.

Your vocal talents on this album are powerful, beautiful and on occasion….terrifying. Is there one particular track that you are particularly proud of the vocals?

I had a lot of fun with Alte Clamat Epicurus. The singer is overindulging in wine and food and by the end of the song is completely debauched. I love the hymns, I love singing the Indian classical ragas (I studied with Michael Harrison who was a disciple of Pandit Pran Nath).

You have definitely made the arts your life in a way, pursuing many aspects such as creating the Blessed Elysium Motion Picture Company to produce German Expressionist styled films, writing movie scripts and even voice acting, with one of your most famous characters being Triana Orpheus on The Cartoon Network’s Venture Bros. Is there one of these things that adore over all else or do you need all of it?

I think right now I’m more obsessed with film-making, but I also really need the music. Voice acting/acting is not my favorite. I was just doing it because I was married to Doc Hammer. Now I make films and music with my husband Levi Wilson. We are working on several film and music projects all at the same time. We need to take a break but we can’t stop ourselves.

We have heard on the grape vine, which creates a fine wine, that a new Lisa Hammer album is in the works as well as another album for your other project, Radiana. Is this true and what can we expect?

You heard correctly. The Circle Music has asked me to record a follow-up album to Dakini for next year, which is 1/3 recorded, and they will be releasing all of the Requiem in White music on vinyl, possibly Mors Syphilitica as well.

I am also halfway done with the new Radiana album, which, without Steven Deal’s indie-pop sensibility, is going to be much darker and post-punk-shoegazey than our debut album. For both albums I will be working with musicians from Wheatus, Late Cambrian, Paul Ash will be appearing again (Unto Ashes), a tabla player from the Nepali group Sur Sudha, and my husband Levi.

If you could make a music video anywhere, where would it be and whom would you get to direct it (we don’t mind digging up famous corpses or going back in time)?

I insist we dig up Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali and make them direct my music video, in the spirit of Un Chien Andalou.

What else is in the future for Lisa Hammer?

A TV series called Great Kills, where we portray documentary filmmakers who follow a hitman around Staten Island, NY as he does his jobs, callously ignoring the pleas of the victims – Streaming soon. Our film “Luke and Emma” which is in development, we have a short excerpt film in post production now and will submit to festivals. More and more music, and hopefully live shows in Europe, starting in Greece where our record label resides. So many projects, I hope we have time and energy to do them all.

Thank you Lisa for joining me in the garden of good and evil for this chat. Be careful of the ley lines on your way out! 

The ley lines should be careful of ME on THEIR way out 😂. And thank YOU for supporting indie music artists and keeping the dark passions alive.

(What is there not to love about this fierce demonic goddess?! ❤ )

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Covid decimated the music festival scene, around the world for 2020, 2021 and a good chunk of 2022. Things are coming back to normal and in fact, you can add a new festival to endeavour to attend. Dark Force Fest will kick off in 2023, over three days, March 31st to April 2nd, in New Jersey, USA.

The event is being run by VampireFreaks, at the Sheraton Hotel, in Parsippany and this is not the first time the venue has been used by the VF crew. The hotel was built like a castle, including crenulations (just in case you find yourself in a siege situation with all those goths).

There will be over 100 vendors, to buy things that make your little dark heart happy, clubs, costume competitions and sideshow performances. However, the most important thing is the music… there will be 30 plus bands/artists ranging from darkwave through to industrial. A chance to see pioneers such as Das Ich and Suicide Commando, big hitters Combichrist, Solar Fake, HEALTH, Empathy Test and ACTORS plus brilliant acts like MORIS BLAK, Third Realm, Bootsblack and Rabbit Junk.

That is a whole lot of music and an amazing line up, so you are spoilt for choice. As the inaugural show, you want to be able to say you were there for the first ever…. unlike myself, stuck in another country, half way around the world, who will have to live vicariously through others, and the buckets of fun they are having. (Insert gothic weeping).

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November 15th was the one year anniversary for the creation of Lunar Paths, so to celebrate, they have packed up their five singles, into an EP. Appropriately, they have called the EP, Fused, which includes the single “Rise“, that we featured previously. The group consists of Diane Dubois and Kevin Hunter, whom in the 80s were bandmates in the goth rock band Cold Dance. Life moved on, Dubois living in the US but a year ago, technology reacquainted them and Lunar Paths was the result.

From the beginning, “Dérive” is star struck with the keyboards twinkling. When the vocals arrive, the track becomes ethereal and beautiful, slowly consuming your will to escape with siren song. Hmmm, I could tell you that “Rise” has a Middle Eastern tone but then, you could also go read my previous review or more wisely, listen to it.

Imagine falling backwards into the world of Dead Can Dance, circa Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun, and that will give you the feel and sound of “Altahilili“. Monumental and yet incredibly fragile. Next you are somewhere tropical, with the birds calling out and the natives drumming away to create “Lo Oa Soa“. Maybe the witchdoctor had you in his sights!

MetaGoth#1” starts low and bassy, while the electronics like to remind you of their presence, but then there is that magnificent guitar. Like a tether to previous era that glitches and morphs with the electronics, unable to remain in the past.

Dubois has an angelic voice and even though Lunar Paths has a modern sound, I hear a harkening back to the 4AD period, tinges of Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance merged together, on the experimental edge. They are plumming the depths of your soul, evoking dreams of shores yet to be touched.

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Moonsleep, is a solo female darkwave project from Shefield, UK and the 25th of November saw the release of a track called, “She Imagined Things“. This track is a part of a huge compilation put out by the label Coffin Dance, which all proceeds will go to the charity Mermaids, to help transgender youths.

The clicking beat heralds in the solemn synths and chirping electronics. Mellow and unhurried in the dream like state, wafting through your senses.

There is something hypnotic and very likeable about “She Imagined Things“. Probably the worst thing is that at 2 minutes and 45 seconds, it is over all too quickly, so you might have to put it on repeat. Moonsleep is entrancing, especially when “She Imagined Things“.

She Imagined Things | Moonsleep (bandcamp.com)

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Brisbane based, gothic band, Sacred Hearts have been gaining a solid following, and released the newest single “Catholic Guilt“. The Meanjin (Brisbane) trio, however, doing something a little different. Two singles, same track but done in two different styles. Nice to see Jed A. Walters (Chiffon Magnifique) doing their production as well as the talented Kyle Hallam (Doggie Heaven) .

Whom does the bells toll for? That drum machine just pops and the guitars kind of roll in light noisy motes that drown your ears in beautiful chiming. The vocals are so vibrant and in a way angelic, amidst the churning, jangling guitars.

Version two is far more what is on the slab in the laboratory style of deathrock with those hazed out guitars. The angst oozes forward, staining the air, the vocals venomous in their disgust. The Lord’s Prayer that they have used, has become a cultish chant for the disenchanted.

I get where lead singer, June, is coming from, having been in the Catholic school system. They use the religion to scare you and control you. You are being judged, if not worthy then you will go to Hell and I remember at school, being told sex was for procreation only and not for enjoyment. Yeah, let’s not even get into the creepy stuff with the priests. At some point you either stay with that stuff or you walk away. Maybe that just added to the way we turned out but it makes for interesting conversation and, indeed, topic for a single, where Sacred Hearts are stretching those dark wings and pushing their sound into new and varied territory. I think they are only going to get better and “Catholic Guilt 1 & II” are pretty damn hot.

Catholic Guilt | Sacred Hearts (bandcamp.com)

Catholic Guilt II | Sacred Hearts (bandcamp.com)

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Swedes, Hatif released their very impressive debut album Everything Is Repetition, recently via Town And Tower Records. They have now released the single “Pool” as remixed by fellow Swedes, Agent Side Grinder.

“It was fun to work with. I tried to make it more direct, highlighting the chorus and the 303” – Johan Lange of Agent Side Grinder

Agent Side Grinder have looped those beautiful Middle Eastern excerpts, twisting them marvellous into extra rhythm keepers. The vocals now have a cavernous quality, mysterious and timeless, while the electronics have become the swirling storm.

This is very much a match up, made in heaven. “Pool” was already a really great track and Agent Side Grinder have increased the dance floor appeal without removing the bits that make this track so likeable. This version is stellar and if you haven’t checked out Hatif, I cannot advise you strongly enough to get out there and do so.

Pool (Agent Side Grinder Remix) | Hatif (bandcamp.com)

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There is nothing better than introducing new music, especially when it gives you tingles down the spine. Connecticut based Jayson Munro and George Moore are goth rock/post-punk band, Midnight Psychic and their debut single is “String Of Fate“, released on the 16th of November.

There is that beautiful bass, along side the skittering guitar, inspired by Bauhaus, in the beginning of “String Of Fate“. The vocals are smooth and velvet, all the while recounting the many varied ways people past away in quite ignominious tragedies. Striking chords and sweet, mournful singing that do indeed induce those very tingles down the spine.

You know a song is either really good or really bad when it gets stuck in your head. I am glad to say that “String Of Fate” is brilliant and quite acceptable rattling around in the old noggin. It throws you back in time and the track would have fitted nicely into the gothic 80s UK scene, with the lovely guitar flourishes and unhurried, wonderful vocals. The Midnight Psychic is in session and they have foreseen your “String Of Fate“.

String of Fate | midnight psychic (bandcamp.com)

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In the City of Ekaterinburg, you will find gothic rockers, Raven Said, and October saw their new EP, Chants To Dissolve released by Moon Coil Media, plus they had the very talented Pete Burns (Kill Shelter) on mastering. Raven Said are Andrey Agapitov (vocals, guitar, bass, acoustic guitar) and Maria Agapitova (piano, synth, percussion).

The first track has a very interesting pulsating marrying of almost techno beats and gothic rock. There are sparkling synths with flourishing jangly guitar in “A Flowering And A Flattering“.”Transparent Sorrow” features the beautifully sensual vocals of Aeleth Kaven from La Scaltra, so very light and angelic in stark contrast to Agapitov’s deeper tones. This track reminded me of the bands coming out in the second goth wave of the early 90s.

Really amazing bass lines wander through “Except My Love For Her (Cold Desire Version)“. I dare you to forget the chorus as it pretty unique and a very sweet way to admit to being very much in love…..in a very goth way. There is such a violent life to “Srendi Vashtar“, from the guitar and the voracious electronics, to the urgently lowkey vocals spurred on by the smashing percussion. The last track is the shimmering “Immersive Waves” with the haunting guitars and vocals. The guitar work is simply delightful, tinkling like broken glass, over and over again.

Music brings us together like virtually nothing else on the planet. It can feed our souls and connect us on such a primal level. Raven Said are creating dark gothic rock that really is like broken glass, fragile and shinny but if you try to take them into your heart, you might slowly die from the way they cut you up…. or not. It is about depths you feel this style of music in your psyche. New and yet familiar to those of us that live our lives in black. Now there are Chants To Dissolve with, so the Raven Said.

Chants to Dissolve | Raven Said (bandcamp.com)

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Italian spectres of darkwave/post-punk, European Ghost, dropped their album, No Sleep, No Peace, No Shelter. Released on the label, Icy Cold Records, on September the 23rd, this is the third album for Cristiano Biondo (vocals, lyrics), Giuseppe Taibi (bass, synths, drum machines) and Mario d’Anelli (guitars, synths), with Pale And Sick (2016) and Collection Of Shadows (2018), the previous albums.

So we begin with “Stars In Heaven“, a buzzing takes your ear, leading you an anxious array of noise and powerful waves of almost rhythmic noise. “Chrematimos” has that wonderful stalwart of post-punk, the plucked bass rumbling away as premonitions are causing mounting reason for concern.

White Foals” slithers under your skin with the vocals, while the guitars make that same skin shiver in eerie cold happiness. Dreams invade your sleep. Nightmares can ruin a “Good Night“. The music is stalking you like that unseen predator. There is a space like quality to “Hermetic“, sealed away while stars are consumed in loneliness.

Guitars and electronic take turns sparkling in “Cold Lips“, twisting and turning looking for fire, whilst the vocals ring out in the void. The bass holds sway in the title track, “No Peace, No Sleep, No Shelter“, a refection within a reflection, as the guitars wander between the realms of the living, dead and despair. “Living In A Tomb” does not so much feel desolate, so much as there is a longing for the light and that longing is in the vocals and wailing electronics.

Does “The Wind That Comes From Underground” come from some dark place? This track is truly full of some tremendous thumping beats with echoes and demonic clattering, as if the devil were chasing you through a labyrinth. An air of agelessness permeates the “Garden Of Delights“, sonorous and full of promise. A lovely twisting vortex of synths that pushes ever higher. The final track is “Metropolix” with its almost glitch like rhythm and the vocals that conjor images of the movie Metropolis, where everything is cold and metallic, moving with oiled precision.

European Ghost have said that the inspiration for the album comes from the idea of dreams, often meant to be a place of escape but can turn into haunting places of terror, causing apprehension from the very act of sustaining the body and mind. For me, it felt like when dreams and death are inseparable… entering a state where one is prone and open, where sleep is almost another form of impermanent death. No Peace, No Sleep, No Shelter has this wonderful, gritty texture, abrasive, polished by those magical guitars and highlighted by the electronics. They experiment with noise, creating these glorious sonic pieces that make you feel like you are standing on the edge of the void, and vocals plunge you into that void. Get haunted by European Ghost.

No Peace, No Sleep, No Shelter | European Ghost | europeanghost (bandcamp.com)

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