Colorado goth band, Plague Garden formed just over three years ago, with members Fernando Altonaga and Angelo Atencio, and in that time, rather impressively, have released an album a year. The latest was unleashed on Halloween of 2022, named Blue Captain on the label Bleeding Light Music.
The bass conjures thoughts of The Damned or The Cure, as the album starts off with “Tonight” and breaks into a cool barrage of post-punk jangling guitar. The vocals echoing in the beautiful shadows of nightfall with a drum machine punctuating the thick air. The serpentine winding of “Land Of The Free” is a commentary that not everyone is so free in a land where money and privilege can buy you everything. The single “Blue Captain” has the tendrils of The Cure’sPornography curling all over it from the curt beats to the wandering guitar that graces your ears, and it almost seems you can hear the waves of all hope lost, washing up onto shore. So we descend into the depths, with tones of early 80s Sisters Of Mercy in the intro, to be “Bathed In Fire“, a holy baptism by flame. The rhythm pickups in the mood ridden “We Will Be Forgotten” with it’s fusion of gothic roc\k with electronics, which is perfect to set up the last track “Cry” in its sorrowful lament, though you cannot truly be so sad when you hear that twisting guitar.
You can’t deny hearing the musical influences for these two gentlemen but at the same time they are not trying to be those bands, rather paying homage and building their own music from what they love. Plague Garden have gone for creating beauty from simple good writing and that always gives the music more heart. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue…. this is Blue Captain.
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.
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 SacredHearts 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.
“The Precious Ones” sounds like it could be from Lord Of The Rings, however, it is the single that deathgaze rockers, VAZUM, dropped on the 18th of November. Emily Sturm and Zach Pliska are gearing up for an album drop next year, called V Sessions, but in the meantime you can listen to the new single with it’s complimentary two b-sides.
Pliskais the main vocalist this time for “The Precious Ones” and venomously spits out the lyrics, while the guitars are violently loud, rolling like thunder in their discontent and the drums emphatic. Sturm’s vocals wind around the chorus almost stealing it. “Actor” really slides into deathrock mode with the buzzing guitar work, that occasionally breaks out then returns to the fold. The way the rhythm moves is very snake like. The last track sees both the vocalists sharing the duties, screaming out guitars and what feels like intense pressure in the build up for “Skooge“.
I actually had to look up “Skooge” and it was in the urban dictionary as basically describing an idiot. These tracks definitely have a common theme running through all of them…..pretty much go fuck yourself and go fucking die. I mean I could be wrong but I don’t think I am. “The Precious Ones” is a dig at a scene that often is constantly looking backwards at what has been, rather than the new music there is now. Many, many moons ago, I used to run a club and if you played all the classics, you were guaranteed a full dance floor. Introduce something new but great, suddenly the floor was clear. If I go out, I still hear all the same music….it is boring and like going back in a time machine. Plus, I guess there are probably certain musicians today that will have everyone pandering to them, while others will miss out on coverage even though they deserve to be heard. In the meantime, the single and extra tracks are fantastic. I love the furious guitars and VAZUM being all prickly has made this all the more interesting. Watch out for “The Precious Ones“…….
In South Carolina, if you listen carefully, not all is banjo music. The gothic/deathrock explosive power of Orcus Nullify is back baby, with a new single, “All The Way“, released on the 11th of November.
From the drums through to the guitars, this is all Nullify. The guitars soar and Bruce’s vocals derisive of the old guard, the far right in their inability to accept anything other than their own narrow view and that if they aren’t right then it should all be left to crumble into anarchy. Discordant deathrock from Orcus Nullify with a message and a mosh worthy chorus.
Down in the crypt, somewhere in the United Kingdom, someone cobbled together a monstrous label called We Are Horror Records, knitting and stapling punk, deathrock and psychobilly. Their first abomination is the compilation, Horror Punk’s Not Dead! Vol 1. with a whole 27 tracks to give you the heebie jeebies and this unholy of unholies was given life on Halloween.
“The reasons behind this compilation are clear! To pay homage to the “Punk-o-Rama” series, and to showcase the best modern Horror Punk, Death Rock, and Psychobilly bands in the world! To quote 5¢ Freakshow.. “We may be freaks, but we are not alone…” The Horror is here!” (Dan P., creator and host of the Horrorpunk’s Not Dead! podcast.)
So much choice here. There is the soulful harmonics of Silent Horror with “Astrofiends“, the utterly oi oi stylings of Damage 66 and their ever so eloquent track “Fuck You (If You’re Not Bruce Campbell)” which is honestly a sentiment I can completely get down with. You can bounce around to the delightful rock’n’roll psychos, 5 Cent Freakshow with their self titled track, listen to the goth-a-billy sweet lads, Evelyn’s Casket and their ode to checking out of life, “Evelyn“, maybe suffer some electrifying goth rock at “The Asylum” from TheDeathtones or be mesmerised by the cover of The Dickies song, “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” by Ghosts On Tape.
Get your hatchet face on because this thing is bubbling with talent and oozing with tracks to murder for, as you party with your fiends in the nearest and dearest graveyard. There is also the delightful intro to the compilation which you really should have a listen to. Like most serial killer bad guys in the horror movies, I am going to have to stop, though luckily I didn’t need to be stabbed, incinerated or buried in a well. But I will be back, because as the title says, Horror Punk Is Not Dead! Vol 1, which means………you children of the night better be ready for some more juicy horror punk.
In the dark alleyways, underpasses, subways and clubs of Chicago, you might run into the Glampire pack of Plasmata, lead by Trent Jefferies. 2021 saw the release of the five track EP “Portraits Of Pain” which we reviewed back then and now Plasmata are releasing three remixes off the EP, starting on the 23rd of August, with the single “Leviathan” which has been given the treatment by William Faith (Faith And The Muse, BellweatherSyndicate, Christian Death).
The guitars swirl in a vortex lifting you higher and higher, a solid wall of twanging wonder which compliments the vocals utterly. There is even the added whip like beats in this (which was a thing in the 90s and made me giggle a little). Faith’s playing is sparkling and reminds you what a great guitarist he really is, while Jefferies vocals going from growled to sensually smooth, are just the jewel in the track.
You could knock me over with a feather with this mix. It retains the basis of the song but it literally has become the monster, beautiful, guitar filled and hauntingly sinister. The original was a industrial hybrid and Faith has turned the track into the gothic maelstrom. Good grief. Love it. You need this in your life.
Detroit deathgaze duo, VAZUM have their latest single, “Angel“, awaiting your pleasure. Dropped on June the 24th, it can be found on Bandcamp for name yourprice.
There is a harkening back to a 90s sound, but my goodness, those guitars sounds so incredibly good. I do like it when they have the dueling vocals through the chorus and the lyrics speak of a person who acts self righteous, however, lacks moral fibre and blames everyone but themselves when caught in a lie.
This might be my favourite song yet by VAZUM. Zach Pliska is the lead vocalist this time and Emily Sturm does a stirling job at backing vocals. There is a heavier accent on the deathrock influence here. It’s hard to describe but the feeling is that VAZUM are becoming ever more comfortable and confident. A cohesive ease so to speak. Beware of any “Angel” as they might beguile you with their light and betray you with a kiss.
Australia’s deathrockers, SeaLungs, have launched the new single, “Truffle Pig“, as of the 27th of June. Out on the Sydney label, Mantravision Productions, this sees vocalist and lyricist, Andi Lennon with composer Jarrad Robertson, mixing & mastering by Mantravision’s Ant Banister (Sounds Like Winter). These gentlemen are scholars of past empires and though this seems like a commentary on the child labourers, as young as five years old, in coal mines during the Victorian Era, aka, the Industrial Revolution, it is also looking towards our modern times and the erosion of worker’s rights and dismantling/banning of unions.
The thing that hits me the most to begin with is the rhythmic pattern that is like being in a boat, continuously bobbing up and down, pounded wave after wave but never swamped, as Lennon’s vocals call out over the top as the tether. The guitars crash down, condemning, onto those who don’t learn from the past, in wonderfully poetic prose.
“Truffle Pig” just proves that Sea Lungs are going from strength to strength, creating a diverse catalogue of tracks, with which they are honing their sound. It is deliciously dark, melodic and has a political beating heart, so you need your serving of “Truffle Pig“.
There is a lot of deathrock out there and not all of it is good, but LA band, Black Heroin Gallery does great gothic/deathrock and they wish to weave a tale out of the darkness for you. This year saw the unleashing of their album, Feast Of Bats, which is also a feast for the ears, Eyajo December Joseph is the founding member, main songwriter, keyboard player and lead singer, so we were very lucky to be able to talk to Eyajo about the band, the album and all good spidery things. Also a confession on my part…I too have a great love of the New Romantic music of Duran Duran and if you want to know why, then you better read on!
Welcome to the enveloping darkness that is Onyx, dear Eyajo December Joseph of Black Heroin Gallery. Join us as we have a tea party, in the moonlight of a graveyard, dusted in motes of mist.
You’ve been playing in Los Angeles glam/punk, deathrock, blackmetal and underground bands since the late 1980s. You and drummer Tony F. Corpse were both members of the brilliant Astrovamps, as well as gothic blackmetal band Willow Wisp. What was it like playing with those bands, and what was the Los Angeles scene like back then?
EYAJO: The scene was thriving and crazy for better or worse back then. Astrovamps were fun and we definitely left a mark on the deathrock scene. We played with a lot of notable bands, including opening up for Rozz’s original Christian Death for their last live album before he died. We were there for direct support. An awesome band called Praise of Folly also played and they went on before us. This was in 1993 at the Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Tony started recording with us in 1993. And played drums for us on and off in the beginning, but soon became a more frequent/basically permanent member. Willow Wisp was his main band, so he played with us when he could. Yes, I joined Willow Wisp as keyboardist, many years later, for a short while and it was fun and crazy, but I found it hard to concentrate on both bands and besides, I think Willow Wisp needed a more classically train keyboardists and my minimalist technique with synth/keyboards probably wasn’t the best fit for them.
Does the LA scene still have the same vibe in some ways, and in what ways do you find it has changed?
EYAJO: Some of the vibe has remained, but there have been changes. Not as many goth clubs playing live bands as there use to be, but there is hope, 2022 has brought a lot of the underground out and there seems to be promoters popping up all over LA and Mexico, booking Goth, Deathrock, Metal and Post Punk bands. It’s very exciting, so we’re looking forward to playing more venues this year to support Feast of Bats.
What do you think being in Astrovamps taught you about the music industry that you have taken with you into your other musical projects?
EYAJO: Astrovamps taught me how to be a good live musician and live band, it also inspired me to write music and not just lyrics. That’s why I founded Black Heroin Gallery.
Black Heroin Gallery was originally created by you in 2007 with Tony following you soon after. What drove you to start up this project?
EYAJO: Well, Astrovamps wasn’t going as dark as I wanted it to, so I knew I had to start some kind of side project for that dark deathrock music I wanted to write and release. That manifested as Black Heroin Gallery. Even though I loved what the Astrovamps were doing and I loved co-writing some of the songs as a lyricist. I knew I had to have my own thing where I was Chief songwriter, musically and lyrically. Then Astrovamps broke up and were no more. So I had complete focus for the new project. Not as easy as I thought, many false starts, a number of member changes and a singer that didn’t work out. I knew I had to learn guitar to write the songs that I wanted to write and take over vocal duties or we might end up spending wasted years looking for a singer. Tony and my old bassist Kevin kept telling me to take over vocal duties, I’m glad I finally took their advice.
How would you describe your musical partnership with Tony?
EYAJO: Good and enduring. Tony is a very creative drum composer and I’ve been lucky to have him stay the test of time and stick it out with me. Tony is the metal influence in the band, so sometimes we butt heads, because I’m a minimalist with music and songwriting and Tony likes more detailed Drum compositions. So over the years, we’ve come to a creative compromise on the drums. I let him go off the rails sometimes and for me, he pulls back sometimes. Perfect. My favorite drum styles are the classic deathrock tribal sound. And this style will always be part of our sound in one variation or another. Not every song, but still a favorite color of mine on the palette.
You have three other band members, so can you introduce them to us please?
EYAJO: Krystal Fantom is our guitarist and he also co-wrote two songs on the album with me. Dracul Grotesque is our Bass player and he joined a few months ago, just in time to record on Feast of Bats with us. Lastly, we have Sky Lee Vague, our new live keyboardist.
In Astrovamps, Eyajo, you were the keyboard player and now with Black Heroin Gallery you are not only the keyboardist but also the lead singer. How much of a change was this for you, and do you find vocals easier or harder?
EYAJO: The change was needed, I’m glad I never looked back. I played a little keyboard live on stage, but mostly focused on the vocal performance, but we are grateful now to have Sky take over and play keyboards live, now for the first time in years, we’re gonna be able to perform with our full sound. I will still always write and record the synth parts, but Sky brings it to life for the band on stage and from time to time he adds a little of his own fills. I’m ok with a little improv from the guys on the songs live, as long as the main sound and chords that make the song are there.
Your new album has the unusual title, ‘Feast of Bats’, can you tell us the story behind that name?
EYAJO: It’s actually the name of a short dark fairytale that I wrote and was illustrating. I loved the title, so I thought it would work well for the album. And the cover art I drew is from the illustrated story as well.
Many of the song titles, while obviously inspired by gothic horror themes, also have a quirky playfulness about them, reminiscent of Tim Burton in some ways. Is Burton a source of inspiration, and is there an element of tongue-in-cheek dark humor, having fun with tropes of the goth genre?
EYAJO: Yes, I would say that there were some of those influences in my writing. My main influences are fairytales and poetry. I like dark and tragic romantic themes. Dark things in general, Dark humor or satire does also play a part in some of my writing and lastly myths, witchcraft and philosophy I find very inspiring too.
There are a lot of references to death and her darkness in the lyrics. Do you find comfort in the beauty of the macabre and grotesque?
EYAJO: Yes, I most certainly do, it’s a recurring theme in all my arts. Poetry, Music, filmmaking and illustration. Death is my loudest muse.
There are also multiple mentions about God and demons. Is this for lyrical effect or something deeper?
EYAJO: Oh, it’s definitely not for any effect. I would say, deeper is probably a better description. Most of those references are from parts of the bible that the church removed or banned from the public. These stories inspire some of my work and the others are just my own mythos that I create.
As the lyricist and composer for the band, is that an added pressure and do you find writing music easy or a heartache?
EYAJO: Yes it can be both, but it’s very rewarding as well. Especially when you’ve reached that moment where the song is done. Krystal co-wrote two songs with me on this album and Tony added his drums and Dracul the bass. Then I added keyboards and Synth after the song had the basic instrumentation recorded. I usually write with guitar, then show it to the band and they learn it and then we work out all the little arrangement issues that may or may not come about. I’m lucky to have such talented and creative musicians working with me. Of course, I have to mention that this album would not have come out as great as it did, if it were not for the producing/mixing/recording and engineer artistry of Roman Marisak.
The band has been around since 2007 but this is your third album. I also noticed that some tracks have been around for a few years, often found in live videos. Do you like to try and test songs before you commit them to an album?
EYAJO: Yes, there were some formative years to say the least. Actually, Feast of Bats is our second album. My Rotting Flower was an EP. I have learned that it does help us out if we play the song live for a few shows. But that’s not always the case. I can say with almost certainty that our future albums are gonna be closer together in release times, probably every 2 years. For as long as it makes sense to me. I’m already working on the art and music for those future releases.
Do you find the acts of writing music and live performance a catharsis of sorts?
EYAJO: Yes, most definitely.
I do adore your version of “Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes The Bogeyman”. Do you have a favorite track off the album at all?
EYAJO: Thank you, that little gem was arranged and brought to us as a potential cover song by our guitarist Krystal Fantom. I loved his guitar arrangement on the song, so it made the album cut. For my favorite? Well It’s hard to choose, because I definitely put my heart and soul into all of the songs in one capacity or another. So if I have to pick, I would say, “I cover her horns.” There are many reasons why I like that song, but the main one from me is the story it’s telling and the very haunting musical arrangement.
When the young Eyajo was getting into darker music, what or who were your gateway drugs?
EYAJO: Well it was Duran Duran, who inspired me to make music and get into a band, but the dark path with me started after I heard Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours” for the first time. I fell in love with the song and then the band. Then I continued to find more dark gems, like Skinny Puppy, Gene loves Jezebel, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Sisters of Mercy and Virgin Prunes to name a few.
Are there new acts you’re really getting into now?
EYAJO: Not really, but it’s not because I don’t like them, it’s more like, I just haven’t paid too much attention to new bands this year. Because I was working on Feast of Bats. Ask me that question a year from now and I’m sure I will be listening to some then.
If you could have a lovely tea party in a cemetery and the option to bury someone there and bring them back, Pet Cemetery style, would you do it and do you know who that would be? 🙂
EYAJO: The tea party sounds like fun, but I would probably pass on burying someone to bring them back. Because it more than likely wouldn’t end well.
Onyx symbolizes renewal, change and more than likely, my little black heart. What do you feel in your little dark heart, is next for Black Heroin Gallery?
EYAJO: Oh Hell, where do I start…Let me see, oh yes… We’ll be headlining a World Goth Day festival, May 14th in Mexico City, Mexico. Then we will concentrate on some music videos by June and continue to play as many live shows as we can. Also, remix and master the first album. Record 2-3 new songs for Feast of Bats vinyl release. Write and prepare songs for the third album. So needless to say, we’re going to keep busy.
Thank you Eyajo for joining us and chatting as we dance between the graves, like there is no tomorrow.
EYAJO: Thank you very much, it has been an honor to talk with you.