February will see the release of Ontario artist, Herr Nox’s second album, Where Shadows Fade. Nox explained to us about his style, “I find myself (going) into strange musical territories. Too heavy for some, too soft to others. But I try to venture into more experimental waters so I guess that’s expected“.

HERR NOX

Welcome to “Doomsday“, which is the first track off the album and our introduction to Norwegian, Jørgen Munkeby on saxophone. Have to admit sax has never sounded so smooth to me until now. Munkeby for the record is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist as well as a singer, songwriter and producer in both the jazz and metal scenes.

Where Shadows Fade” is not only the title track but also the first single to be released and quite deserving so. Munkeby’s saxophone delightfully duels with the guitar in the interludes, especially helping build up the tension for Nox to hit you with his vocals.

Old school new romantic synth graces us in “Black Butterfly“. Nox partners up with Lindsay Schoolcraft of Cradle Of Filth fame for a song about falling for the type of girl who is broken and yet still beautiful. The music goes between driving guitar rock and synth wave but it works so well.

Just the very title of the song, “The Art Of Noise And Silence“, struck as something Japan could have written in the 80’s and it does not disappoint, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Schoolcraft’s beautiful vocals fly above all else, almost unearthly and angelic, whilst the guitars and synths are a cacophony below. This might make the near beseeching Herr Nox, the velvet tongued devil.

It had to happen, the sleazy, sexy sax intro. “Gotta Light?” has that intro and this is an instrumental piece featuring the talent of Munkeby with the sax front and centre, making you think of Casablanca style, cocktail bars, low lit with a haze of cigarette smoke.

Would you “Kiss The Butcher’s Hand” and give them your neck? Maybe some souls would. A good high paced rock’n’roll number that makes great use of lulls for Nox to seductively whisper to you before knocking you back on your arse.

Heads Will Roll” is a much heavier number, growled out vocals by Nox with Schoolcraft in sweet accompaniment. That line alone conjures visions of Alice in Wonderland and her nemesis the Red Queen.

The last offering is “The Burning” and it starts with a sombre cello, joined by strings which brings in the drums and wonderful jangly guitar. Herr Nox most certainly had a flare for the dramatic as this quickly graduates into an episodical that soars with emotion. There are always electronic bits popping up where you might not expect it, which is delightful.

I hear so many influences within this album. Nox’s style of singing runs the gauntlet of David Bowie, Davey Havok (AFI) and Ville Valo, yet it is still very much him singing.

There are classical leanings, rock and roll, gothic rock, 80s electronica and even a bit of glam, all stirred in to make this a rather tasty affair. Where Shadows Fade is new and yet it borrows and reshapes the past influences into something exciting and not a rehash, so I hope you find some time to indulge in Herr Nox as it is worth your time.

https://herrnox.bandcamp.com/music

https://www.facebook.com/Herrnoxofficial/

Fancy a little gothic Christmas? Nothing says cheer like a carol and Vazum have released for those that aren’t inclined to listening to the regular fare, an EP of dark, tormented odes to the Yuletide, Vazumnacht. If you are unfamiliar with Vazum, they are a gothic/deathrock/shoe gaze, two piece made up of Zach Pliska and Emily Sturm, who are based in Detroit.

VAZUM – ZACH PLISKA & EMILY STURM

There are three numbers on this EP, starting with “Carol Of The Witch“. This is a parody of the traditional song “Carol Of The Bells“, which is instantly striking from the start, done as guitar riffs but after the beginning, this become a gothic dirge of pagan proportions. Discordant guitars sit with Pliska’s almost groaned vocals, while Sturm’s singing, storm through like light breaking through darkness. There are resurgences of the original tune but it just ties it all in.

Me thinks a bit of devil may care is a foot in “Unholy Nite“. Like a chant to summons the dark lord, this shadows “Holy Night” with references to the dark saviour and sulphur.

The synths almost feel off beat in comparison to the guitar, giving an off kilter sensation to “Bark The Hellhounds” and yes this is a nod to “Hark The Herald Angels” but done in the creepy, hurdy gurdy style that Vazum excels in.

In essence, Vazum have taken the bones of three highly favoured carols and not only putting their spin on those songs but for the most part, created new songs. So darklings, get your gothic finest on and celebrate the doomed side of Christmas with Vazumnacht.

https://vazum.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VAZUMROCKS/

Norway’s Mayflower Madame, released on the 19th of November, a single off their album, Prepared For A Nightmare. It is called “Ludwig Meidner“, named after the German artist, who is most famous for creating apocalyptic landscape art pieces. Meidner wished to evoke an emotional response from the viewer and these art works were created before even the First World War, which Meidner was a participant in.

A tribute to the man, the artist and the perhaps the madness of wanting to feel more… what extremes would you go to, to get that rush?

There is a harkening back to the early to mid 80s, when post punk was evolving into goth. It is serpentine in the way the music winds with the jangly guitars. There is a healthy dose of Mission like tunefulness and the keyboard chimes in giving the song an ethereal feel.

MAYFLOWER MADAME

These guys do a beautiful blend of gothic rock beauty, highlighted with that shoe gaze swirling guitar. Guitar based post punk is in good hands with Mayflower Madame, so do yourself a favour and have a listen to “Ludwig Meidner“.

https://mayflowermadame.bandcamp.com/album/prepared-for-a-nightmare

https://www.facebook.com/mayflowermadame

The Greek gothic/post punk scene is very much alive and kicking. Lefki Symphonia are a part of the strong Mediterranean movement and last month released the single, “Black Twilight“.

These guys have been around since 1984 and you can hear that influence in the music. The guitar work is very reminiscent of Wayne Hussey, circa Sisters of Mercy period.

I could be wrong, but the lyrics might be waxing about those of a vampiric nature or at least emotional trauma that deadens all feeling, because in the end it is human to feel.

The vocals and over all feel of this number remind me of Finnish act, To/Die/For. So if you like your brooding, goth rock, then you might want to check out Lefki Symphonia and their “Black Twilight“.

https://lefkisymphonia.bandcamp.com/track/black-twilight-single

https://www.facebook.com/lefkisymphonia/

https://lefkisymphonia.gr/en/

Do you remember a classic song by the title “Agent Orange“? It might strike a cord as it was originally released by Scots, Ski Patrol in 1980. In August, Vision Video, a four piece from Georgia in the USA brought forth their version.

This retelling still has that spine tingling feel to the anti war classic. It is post punk heaven but with extra goth punk thrown in.

The original starts off far more quietly and gains speed and volume while the Vision Video begins simply and takes off yet they are more up front vocally.

Love the floating guitar chiming in that adds to the ethereal feel of the music paired with the verbose singing.

An extra added bonus is the band having Tom Ashton involved with the production of this single. For those not familiar with the name, Ashton plays guitars in American goth daddies, The Wake as well as at one point, playing with Dutch icons, Clan Of Xymox.

Agent Orange was the defoliating chemical used during the Vietnam war and the song was a comment on the lasting effects of this chemical warfare, with severe birth defects and soldiers dying from cancer.

Vision Video now uses it as a political call to rise up from apathy, to take control of our future. Good protest songs are timeless and Vision Video has done a brilliant rousing goth version of “Agent Orange“.

https://www.facebook.com/visionvideoband/

https://m.facebook.com/visionvideoband/

Mute is the stage name for the artist behind the act, King Venus, based in Manchester and they have released the single, “Inhumite“.

The start is a laconic guitar, joined by others which suddenly take flight in a sudden rush skywards with great power. The guitar flow is so reminiscent of early Tool and sounds wonderful with the Pete Steele like vocals.

MUTE – KING VENUS

There is a continuous build up of textures and layers, that create a cacophony of musical sound, all by one man, considering life, death and the insanity in-between.

Mute has added extra notes as well as a booklet, about his working on this and other pieces and admitted that he had written “Inhumite” quite a while back, describing it as his Frankenstein’s monster. You can hear the different persona singing to you with their vocal forms which are all the creator’s, King Venus.

A guitar and art driven roller-coaster of a monster song indeed with a big nod to Tool but also quiet acknowledgement to far more goth groups such as The Cure and Bauhaus.

There is no YouTube video but there is one on Instagram with the link below. So where has King Venus been all our lives, because if this one song is anything to go by, I’m looking forward to what comes next. Shine thine light through the hallowed halls and bring us “Inhumite”!

https://kingvenus.bandcamp.com/releases

https://m.facebook.com/kingvenus

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

The 3rd of August is the release date for British duo, Unquiet Dead’s new single, “Burn My Head Down“.

Jason and Lora have created a video piece, featuring the world’s only chain rope aerialist, Californian, Drago Nesa, who also does firebreathing as well, hopefully not at the same time. Spectacular talents indeed.

As always, you can hear that 70’s glam sound bubbling up through this number. Previously I mentioned Marc Bolan’s TRex maybe being a big influence on Unquiet Dead, just as they were on the post punk scene.

This single is the protest song of getting your freedom back when you are being oppressed and kept down. There are the outburst of adrenaline/anger and more emotional acceptance within, all washed down with that driving enthusiasm.

The video, though made in this time of isolation, is just as energetic and absorbing as the song itself. I’m still wincing at the whole swinging around on a metal chain thing which is done so elegantly by Drago Nesa. Immerse yourself in the experience of Unquiet Dead’s Burn My Head Down“.

https://unquietdead.bandcamp.com/track/burn-my-head-down

https://m.facebook.com/unquietdead/?_rdr

July has seen the release of the EP, Unicorn Bones, by Chicago duo, Karen Righeimer and Ivan Russia, also known as Bellhead. I can definitely say the rhythm section for this band is tight. Both Righeimer and Russia both play bass, low and high respectively, both share vocal duties, though Ivan is very much the lead singer and are backed up by their dependable drum machine.

The band in their bio, make reference to their influences from goth rock legends, Bauhaus to the alternative rock royalty that is the White Stripes to the gothic/post punk stylings of She Wants Revenge, yet truthfully, they definitely have a sound that is very much their own.

BELLHEAD -KAREN RIGHEIMER & IVAN RUSSIA

Snuff Film 1974” is straight off the bat with it’s thumping heavy rhythm that grabs your attention before dragging said attention to the graveled out vocals of Russia and the disturbing lyric content about a small female child murdered in film for others entertainment. This is the only track not written by Bellhead but rather penned by Sheriff Michael Scabs of the Sheriff Scabs band of which Russia has also been a member of. A thing of nightmares.

Really dig “Unicorn Bones” as it is a very nonchalant, grooving number that just has that keep on trucking feel. The vocals play tag as they paint a vision of glittering violence and sad demise of those that live in the shadowed, dangerous places. Sinister and sleazy.

A song about a conman or less than reputable fellow, trying to stay one step in front of oblivion but wanting to take to take one last stab of having the person they have always loved. A final last chance is of happiness is “Always (Running After The Sun)“. This is a far more poignant track, slower and thoughtful with intensity.

Annnd serial killer/psycho time. “Knife” is sexy whispers with the intent of maiming and destroying. Low and distorted noise backs the bass just for that extra creepy ambiance.

Sidewinder” has a more rock flare about it, but it’s all the dirty bits of rock. The low and high bass building the sound up in such a manner that it feels angry and greasy, finishing off the EP.

The choice and use of high and low bass without any regular guitar is an interesting marriage of instruments but works well for Bellhead. Bass brings on the rhythm and produces a rich, big sound.

So if you fancy the darker, more nightmarish side of the industrial, gothic rock genre, then do catch up with Bellhead and their not so sparkly but equally intriguing, Unicorn Bones, with none of the guitar bull.

https://bellhead.bandcamp.com/album/unicorn-bones

https://www.facebook.com/bellheadband