April 1st saw the release of the single “Your Last Kiss” from VVMPYRE, which features both the vocal and lyrical talents of Boston based musician, Maverick.

Maverick is going to beguile you with her vampiric touch, which may be your last. Her vocals drip promise and sexual delight to an electronic backdrop of beats and synths, with that occasional interlude of horror inspired organ/harpsichord.

VVMPYRE are threatening us soon with a good time in the form of an album. With the connections he seems to have in the industry, I can see it being a blood suckers favourite dance track.

https://vvmpyre.bandcamp.com/

Vvmpyre | Facebook

Berlin based, Paradox Obscur, are soon to drop a new album, MORPHOGENESIS, on May, 6th but the first single has been lifted, called “Animal Reactor“, out on Metropolis Records. A video directed by Sheng-Yang Su in what looks to be in one take, has been unleashed, which to my mind is very much in Paradox Obscur’s style.

From the very beginning this grabs your attention and you feel it in the pit of your chest. There is a brilliant array of electronic sounds that assault your senses and make you want to move your body. Fingers of synths drag across your senses in a scintillating fashion.

The duo from Paradox Obscur, Toxic Razor and Kriistal Ann, pride themselves on playing everything in real-time, which means no sequencers and the like. A cross of synth pop and dark electronic music which culminates in an absolutely delightfully danceable track . Bring on the album!

Morphogenesis | Paradox Obscur (bandcamp.com)

Paradox Obscur | Facebook

David Lawrie is The Royal Ritual, an Englishman living in the U.S., taught music from a young age, now involved in the goth/industrial scenes as a composer and producer. He kindly spoke to us about his project, the new album, film making and what inspires him.

Welcome David Lawrie to the darkside of the rabbit hole that is Onyx. The Royal Ritual is a new project for you. What inspired you to go on this solo journey?
The last time I had performed in an industrial outfit was with my friend Chris Coreline in 2008-2009 – when we played a string of shows, starting with the inFest Festival of 2008. It was so much fun. Since that point I have been mainly writing for documentaries, doing audio post production for film, and producing EPs/albums for various independent artists under my birth name. 

Fast forward to Coldwaves 2018, where I was in the audience with Dustin Schultz who, the night before, had performed with ohGr. It made me remember how much I wanted to get back into the fold. I mentioned this to Dustin, and we started working together in 2019. With the pandemic looming, it became more of a solo project in early 2020. Ultimately Dustin contributed significantly to two songs on the debut album, but without the initial collaboration with him, I don’t think I would have pushed forwards with the project.

As the lockdown clamped down harder on us all, I continued to work on the album. The name “The Royal Ritual” came to me on a cross country road-trip, in December 2020.

I would like to talk about the two singles you have so far released. “Pews In a Pandemic” is an observation of how commercial religion can be both controlling and coersive of their flocks, then married with the music that is harsher in sound.  Can you say what roused you to write this and influenced the choice in sound?
Firstly I don’t want to be insulting with anything I write. Whilst it is probably very obvious that I am fundamentally anti religion, I do not hold hostility towards the majority of religious people. It is no secret that I am atheist (and as close to “a-deist” as can be), but I also understand that a belief in a higher power brings comfort to a great many people, and I wouldn’t want to take the comfort of belief away from so many. 

Where this breaks down, at least for me, is in the boldness of a select “holy” few who not only claim that they have a direct communication with a deity, but they can disseminate a deistic message to a congregation – a move that, to me, is a parallel with divine dictatorship.

In the decade I have spent in America, I have really seen how bizarre things can become when religion makes good business, and the social fallout from that is a topic of great inspiration in my writing.
As for the overall sound, this was not the first song I wrote for the album, and as such, it was arranged to fit in with the already fairly solid palette of the other songs that had been written.

“Empires” is the second single and a comment that many English hark back to the ‘good old days’ when the British had a huge colonial empire which was at it’s peak during the Victorian era, with the British Raj in India, the jewel in the crown. Your song writing takes on a more classical quality and evocative of something exotic, maybe even forbidden, referring to the the line ‘when I was a little girl and you were a little boy’. How did this piece come about?
I do hope that the irony and sarcasm in this song is obvious. I also hope that my exclusion of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in the proclamation of “England” and not “Britain” is not dismissed as ignorance on my part.

I wouldn’t want it to be said that I am not proud to be English, because I do love the country. Whilst its history is turbulent, it is a history from which there are many lessons to be learned. I genuinely hope that as we move forward, these lessons will inform positive change.

Me being the “little girl” in this scenario harks back to mockery in the playground, where physical weakness and displays of emotion were “girlish” traits, whereas physical strength and the “stiff  upper lip” were “boyish” traits. I’m very glad we are gradually evolving past this nonsense.

The video for “Empires” is simple and yet beautifully directed by HARUKO. How was the experience making this video?
I try to separate out my different creative outlets, and HARUKO is my visual artwork pseudonym. I have been fascinated by filmmaking for many years, and in 2013, purely out of necessity, I made my first videos with just me, a camera, and some lights for the music released under my birth name. I learned a great deal very quickly, and since then I have continued to add to my equipment and skillset. That enabled me to do the first two videos for The Royal Ritual completely isolated from other people (I had some help carrying lights deep into the forest for my cover of Phildel’s “Glide Dog”).

For “Empires” I wanted to work with actors to tell a story, and I knew that I needed to put the cinematography in the hands of my good friend, and long-standing filmmaker colleague, David Diley of Scarlet View Media. He and I have worked on films for many years, with me taking care of audio post production in many of his projects. His expertise, along with his knowledge of my general vision, meant that I could focus on the direction and project management of the “Empires” video – trusting that it was being captured to a very high standard.
I have directed videos for other artists in the past, but this was the first time using actors. A full production, if you will. I am very proud of the outcome!

As an Englishman in the U.S., do you think being away from the U.K. gives you more perspective and also a different view while in the States? Kind of a stranger in two worlds so to speak.
I have always felt like an outsider, so I am used to that feeling of being a “stranger” – I think most people who work in the arts probably feel it too!

What I have found about splitting my time between the two countries is that it has opened my eyes to layers of odd logic on both sides of the pond, and it has also left me much more humble and less opinionated about subjects on which I am not well versed, as well as being more interested in learning.

Whilst I know that my transatlantic travel leaves a large carbon footprint (which I try to offset with the food I eat, minimising the waste I create etc.), I do feel that travel is key to us all understanding each other. Until you see the “other side” for yourself, you never really know how it compares to your own situation – and I think that being able to compare makes you not only more grateful for what you do have, but also more compassionate towards other people in worse positions. Experience, not hearsay, is key to progress.

You are a sound engineer and  you do musical scores for documentaries etc. Could you tell us about these and how it has influenced how you have approached creating music with Royal Ritual?
Working in audio post production/sound design for film came about almost accidentally, even though in hindsight it makes perfect sense. Using found sounds as percussive (and even melodic) elements of my music has been something I have done since studying my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Field recording is one of my favourite pastimes.

When David Diley asked me to work on the audio for his film “Of Shark And Man” in 2012 (the film was released a few years later), it was a really exciting challenge. He told me that the main character of the film was not the sharks, nor the interviewees, but rather the water itself. Creating an almost musical sound for the water was a very rewarding exploration – almost the reverse of what I had been doing to create elements of my own music.

David Diley also asked me to compose the opening theme for the film, which helped me to develop my own way of mapping out a piece of music to visual cues.
With regards to The Royal Ritual, every single song was written with a very strong visual in mind, using techniques I have developed in both my musical and audio post production worlds. 

What can we expect from the full length album MARTYRS?
“Pews In A Pandemic” and “Empires” paint the musical extremes for the album. There is a lot of darkness, but also (I hope) a lot of light in there. As much as I focused on creating sound design elements for the musical side of things, I also spent a long time working on the lyrics – something I hope translates and resonates well with people. Words have always been important to me, so I made sure to take my time with the words on the album.

As I mentioned before, the album has something of a sonic “palette,” so whilst the songs have a lot of variety in their songwriting, I think their arrangements are tied together by a general “sound” (for want of a better term).

I am so glad that the singles seem to have been well received so far, but I feel like they make more sense in context with the rest of the album. I pieced it together with two sides of a record in mind, and I am very much looking forward to holding and spinning the vinyl myself!

What music first set your soul on fire when you were young and who do you enjoy or still fans that fire?
That question is always going to open Pandora’s Box, as far as I’m concerned, so I will try to keep it short.

The influences that jump to mind right now are Erik Satie, Pink Floyd, Arvo Pärt, Tool, Henryk Gorecki, Aphex Twin, Philip Glass, Björk, David Sylvian, Nine Inch Nails, Tears For Fears, Nitin Sawhney (and I could go on and on…)

The most perfect piece of music to me, however, is “High Hopes” by Pink Floyd. There is a long story behind that choice, but I am certain that it was that song which served as the catalyst for me truly wondering about how modern music was put together.

Thank you for your time and we can’t wait for the album MARTYRS.
It has been a pleasure – thank you!

https://theroyalritual.bandcamp.com/

The Royal Ritual | Facebook

You may have heard of Plasmata, in the goth and industrial scene, from around 2007 to 2011, when they suddenly dropped off the radar. This was due to lead, Trent Jeffries, having a brain aneurysm that interrupted everything.

We do say interrupted, as Jeffries never gave up on regaining the ability to play music, which has resulted in the release of two singles in 2020, as well as a remix of their most famous track, “Lifeblood“. Now the Chicago Glampires give you the single, “Leviathan“, off the unleashed EP, Portraits Of Pain.

TRENT JEFFRIES – PLASMATA

There is the wailing of guitars, the distorted plus clean vocals and enough high energy to light up a small city, possibly ruled by the children of the night. Something dark and ravenous wants to spill your blood in the grimy clubs and poorly lit alleys. This is the “Leviathan“.

Even Vincent Price would be proud of “The Vanishing“, with its slightly good time, gothic boogie woogie and a modern synth overlay. He can handle the gruesome but is bereft when you just disappear.

Plasmata is the preacher of terror and also the monster in “Ten Bells“. Two of Jack The Ripper’s victims were connected to the Ten Bells Pub, in East London and indeed the song reflects a drunken, slightly spinning pace. There is the unsettling, single finger piano Interlude thrown in, with Aly Jadas giving a sterling performance on backing vocals.

The Enlightenment” has a more industrial feel and it commands your attention. A divine message of redemption by giving all your cash to the religious order. I love the sound of near heavenly hosts mixed with demonic electronics. The exquisite heavenly host vocals are by Carmen Vizin-Esquivel.

The last track of the EP is far slower, a cyber western duel waiting to happen, to see who will flinch and draw first. “Death Of Hope” is an apt name as it trudges along the dusty night road, no dawn of light at the end. Heavy, doom filled guitars heighten the whispers, sighs and angelic ah’s of Vizin-Esquivel, giving the impression that God no longer cares.

William Faith of Faith And The Muse and Christian Death fame, produced, recorded and mixed “Portraits Of Pain” at his Studio 13. Jeffries has a definite love of the vampire/horror genres, taking that visual aspect and mixing it with the musical component, giving life to the monster that is the “Leviathan” or a monsterous human in “Ten Bells“. The glam/ goth rock aspect fuel’s the terse, gritty industrial portions. This is a nice strong release from Plasmata and I guess we await in the dark what comes next…. with anticipation.

https://plasmata1.bandcamp.com/album/portraits-of-pain

https://m.facebook.com/plasmataband

https://plasmataband.com/

While we wait for the release of the much anticipated Attrition album, The Black Maria, Martin Bowes has given us a second single to immerse ourselves in called “The Alibi“, which was recorded, mixed and mastered at The Cage Studios in Coventry.

A child’s musical, wind-up toy, plinks away the warbly wedding march of “Here Comes The Bride“, by Wagner. The ensemble warms up before we are plunged into the warped electro world of Attrition, accompanied by violins, piano, guitar and cello. The ladies sound like angels and Bowes forever is the devil, gutterally vocalising in your left ear. A mix of soprano and spoken word with maybe some gypsy inspiration that drive home the chorus.

Cannot help but think that a woman who might not be the perfect bride but the perfect alibi, possibly is a major temptress. Bowes is always pushing his art, combining elements that clash and grate, yet also end up complimenting each other. As we await the new album from the avant-garde electro-industrial juggernaut that is Attrition, taste the forbidden fruits of “The Alibi“.

https://attritionuk.bandcamp.com/album/the-alibi

https://www.facebook.com/ATTRITIONMUSIC

Are you partial to some post punk- gothic goodness? If that’s the case, Norwegian band, Painted Romans have released a single in January that will warm the pit of your dark heart called, “The Cold Delight“.

Mats Davidsen is the original Roman who delivers lead vocals, guitar & drums programming, with Jan Ottar Nystad playing keyboards and Thomas Sejnæs on bass, joining around September of last year.

I have to say I rather enjoyed this a little too much. It’s dark and morose just like all good goth songs can be and yet full of movement and life at the same time. There are hints of The Cure, Clan of Xymox and March Violets. Could easily be played at a goth club mixed in with older classics.

This takes me back to early 80s, when bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs and Simple Minds were blowing us away with their wonderous guitar/synth filled, forlorn brilliance.

You can find the single on Bandcamp as well as other previous releases. Painted Romans are developing a rich, flavoursome sound and that only bodes well for the music to come. So turn down the lights, ready the candles and have a dance to “The Cold Delight“.

https://paintedromans.bandcamp.com/track/the-cold-delight-single

https://m.facebook.com/paintedromans/

https://paintedromans.com/

Electronic Boston band MAN1K1N, made up of singer Johnny Veil and drummer Cristian Carver, have released a single in November called, Into The Wounds. Turns out this is, in my eyes, like a double A side of sorts with the songs, “Into The Void” and “Wounds:.

Veil’s voice is very reminiscent of Marilyn Manson’s timbre but that’s where the comparison ends. Darkwave electro is a very apt description with a trip hop influence, making this such an interesting style that is very pleasing to the ears. This is almost a parody of those in the gothic subset that push for an ideal look of beauty but within can be rotten to the core.

MAN1KIN

Wounds” is a swirling maelstrom of uplifting electronic synths and beats coupled with brutal, angst ridden lyrics, which works. I can only best describe the feeling as wanting to dance without limits but you know your heart is breaking. This is the remix by Big Time Kill, who have lent their distinctive fingerprints.

Into The Void” is a good, solid number and the Big Time Kill remix of “Wounds” sounds glorious. You can find Into The Wounds on Bandcamp and it’s name your price, so you should go check out this offering from MAN1K1N.

https://man1k1n.bandcamp.com/

https://m.facebook.com/MAN1K1N

New Orleans conjures for many of us thoughts of Mardi Gras, voodoo, vampires and now you can add the band, The Palace Of Tears, who released at the end of October, their debut album, Of Ruination.

The band is comprised of vocalist and lyricist, L.V. Darkling and Erick r. Sheid who pretty much plays and programmes everything else you hear.

THE PALACE OF TEARS

The slow, wind swept, instrumental void of “Terra Ephemera” or loosely interpreted, a land that was never meant to last, introduces you to the album. With graduating synths, the vale is lifted and hints of a tribal beat come into play.

Dark and imperious is the beginning to “Thy Womb Is Full Of Black Nectar” before we are acquainted to Darkling’s sonorous mezzo soprano vocals which are delicate and dripping with sensuous lyrics.

In a case of art imitating life, “Masque L’Intrigue” seems to be a result of the need for wearing masks to stop the current contagion. This is bitter sweet in its sentiment and like a reflection in obsidian… dark and cool. The synths and vocals entwine smoothly.

Tears Of The Moon” is slightly more hard edged, with buzzing electronics, yet still so ethereal just as the light of the moon is. This is eloquent and beautiful.

One does not think normally that “Cold Dead Skin” as romantic prose however it is used in effect to give contrasts of symmetry of the divine and the grotesque. The music feels like it is rising heaven bound with black gothic wings.

Shadows Of Whispering Phantoms” is the perspective of one whom has just lost the fight with death. Brooding in tempo as the spirit questioningly implores of they can be seen or heard by their loved ones as they pass beyond the vale. The guitar is almost hidden amongst the rising synths and there is something heart squeezing in the gorgeous sentiment.

The screaming angst of Scheid’s guitar marks the last song, “Of Ruination“. This is a wall of noise with the eloquent Darkling, cutting through with that magnificent voice. The swirling heavy guitar with the light electronica just make this truly breathtaking.

Ambient, dark soundscapes that are created here by Sheid are fabulous but it’s definitely Darkling’s vocal talent that takes everything to a higher, ethereal realm. It’s a bit like listening to Dead Can Dance if they were darker and more modern. So I say, go unto The Palace Of Tears to listen to the sweet seduction Of Ruination.

https://thepalaceoftears.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/thepalaceoftears/

This year has been a big one for Jacksonville based duo, Batavia. Earlier in 2020 was the release of their first EP, Graveyard and since then, they have been signed to Tigersquawk Records with the new EP, Quite Mean Spirited.

Terri and Ed Cripps tell true historical tales of the grotesque through their music, bringing them to life. With this in mind, this EP is the story of a young woman who was taken away to an island, somewhere in Russia, a prison that she never deserved to be incarcerated in. She was assaulted and raped by the guards and then her fellow prisoners did not offer help nor comfort but rather murdered her and cannibalised the corpse.

The title track is also the first cab off the ranks. “Quite Mean Spirited” thumps in with one Charles Bukowski’s spoken word soliloquy about ‘people are not good to people‘ before Terri brings forth her sweet vocals.

Upside Down” hits you full on with its up beat rhythm and grungy guitar plus distorted vocals. This is a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain song and it is a rollicking, industrial interpretation.

The water and the waves flow with the acoustic guitar and lilting synths giving “Ab Initio” a near dream like quality. A reality skewed with Terri whispering to you to be aware that not all is that peaceful.

With heavy gothic over tones, “Finis” is the beginning of the end for our heroine. Russian can be heard after the frightened breathing of the young woman. The dominant piano with the organ beneath, create a feeling of madness. A litany of the terror issues, as the noise builds on a maelstrom of desperation.

ED & TERRI CRIPPS – BATAVIA

For a awful way to go, “The Absinthian” seems so light and free… maybe it is when the flesh is no long the cage of the soul and the pain cannot be felt any more. Angels to take her away to a better place than she was.

Quite Mean Spirited” (Leæther Strip remix) finishes up the EP, which brings you full circle of the horror humans will put other humans through. Claus Larsen was very impressed with Batavia’s previous release, so he came on board to do this remix and it has the Leæther Strip lead’s finger prints all over it. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful enhancement with that industrial harshness running deep under it. Such a brilliant way to conclude.

Batavia know how to blend gothic horror with intelligent rock and industrial blends. They have created an EP with a darkness that makes the the breakout tracks shine even brighter. The Leæther Strip remix is like the icing on the tasty, gothic- industrial cake that is Quite Mean Spirited.

https://batavia.bandcamp.com/

https://m.facebook.com/officialbatavia/

https://m.facebook.com/tigersquawkrecords/

The end of July saw the release of the album, Kiss Of Death, by English band, Black Angel, a follow on from 2019’s debut The Widow.

England definitely exploded with successful gothic bands in the early eighties. Their legacy is like a ripple that still effects us 40 years later. Matt Vowles is the progenitor of Black Angel, as well as being a music producer, whom been heavily influenced by that early scene and has come full circle to the music that influenced his early years.

The start of the title track “Kiss Of Death” is like a soul crying out. Great first tune to start with as it is atmospheric and sets the tone for the rest of the album of dark desires for an eternal passion.

Animal” is the second single off the album and is heavy with sentiment that is raw with longing and wanting. The animal logic overriding all. The beat pounds and the vocals exotically call you to give all for that animalistic love.

Dirty and bass heavy are a heady mixture for “Alchemy“. A concoction of rockabilly and goth guitar sensibility make this a lethal combination that doesn’t dawdle. Voodoo, magic and love are a powerful cocktail.

Female vocals reminiscent of the Ofra Haza version of “Temple of Love“, start off and weave through “Call Of The Night” but that is where the similarity ends with this sensual ode to the gothic tribes that inhabit the dark.

Wayne Hussey would be proud of the guitar in “Hurricane” and just like the namesake, this song spins and swirls at a terrific pace.

BLACK ANGELMATT VOWLES

You think there might be a change of pace with “Want For More” and it you aren’t wrong and it reminds me of Lacrimas Profundere in their heyday. Laid back, slow burn with guitars crying out and female backing vocals to rival the later Sisters of Mercy tunes.

Put Your Lips…..” is the jaunty first single with a rockabilly beat and a very much the cowboy goth feel that Fields of the Nephilim introduced the world to, with striding footsteps and a shotgun to the Sun. the singer is sure her lips would look good on him.

The wonderfully sonorous guitars, whirl you away in “She Said“. This winds along in a languid, serpentine way as we ponder the wise words, the devil is a bitch.

Sirens ring out to herald in “Prisoner” and the guitar here reminisces of The Cult, circa Love album. But then again, with the baritone Russian choir style aaahs could be mistaken for Mige Ure’s, Ultravaox.

The last song is also a homage to the band name, “Black Angel” and you could knock me down with a feather, as this sounds so much like Bauhaus, including a sax accompaniment, which is very, very 80’s. It swirls and undulates to a rather satisfying end. We all know about the devil in a black dress……

I’m honestly pleased that this isn’t another Sisters imitation band. You can hear the influence but Vowles has found a vocalist who stays true to their own style whilst not trying to sound like someone else. Black Angel are leading the gothic rock charge with fellow contemporaries, Norwegians, October Burns Black.

Recorded and mastered at Matt Vowles‘ own studio, The Manor, Kiss Of Death is a polished production which reminds me of the bands I have loved for so long and has forged ahead with that sound instead of living in the past. Love, longing and lust are are old as mankind and Kiss Of Death is all this and a whole lot more with Black Angel giving it beautiful inky wings.

https://blackangelmusic.bandcamp.com/album/kiss-of-death

https://www.facebook.com/blkangelmusic