Dear Cold and Desolate Land, What Hot New Releases Will Spark My Joy?

This weekend I was suppose to be in Boston for the Dark Spring Festival. Enjoying the warm embrace of meeting new friends and swaying in rhythm to music. Instead here I sit in Michigan at the computer eating curried mash potatoes alone. I do have a tether to this distant world. New music to conjure dreams of adventure from the ether.

Icy Men – Low Light I’ve been taking in snippets of this album leading up to the release today. Another strong offering from Cold Transmission. This Ukrainian band gives me a tie to a world far away. It’s the perfect sound to capture the isolation I am fighting. Everything sounds so open and full of negative space. The songs resonate with grey concrete and oppressive darkness. I am in love with the striking drums and the powerful delivery of the voice. It’s the weight and power of each track that strikes your mind and demands reflection. Dedicated to the victims of medieval inquisition this is not background music. It’s a forceful reflection of the human condition. I couldn’t turn away from how I could not understand the lyrics, but I felt the meaning.

Favorite Tracks : The Captain , Uninhabited Buses, We Shall Be Together

https://icymen.bandcamp.com/album/low-light

Sawtooth – Hostile Design – Massachusetts sinister EDM Sawtooth unleashed this ferocious team up of several guest vocalists each swinging sword cut glitch sounds and boot stomping snare beats. The most challenging aspect of EDM music can be finding range of sound and emotion when releasing an album of 13 tracks. I really enjoyed the different cadence to the poetry spoken lyrics. A real roller coaster of rises and falls.

Favorite Tracks: Devoured, Venomous Whispers, Miss America (Echo Haus remix)

https://djsawtooth.bandcamp.com/album/hostile-design

Iza Grau Vastness Hurts – Italian Post punk full of sharp edges and driving precision from Cleopatra Records. The growl and burning anger just beneath the surface of these vocals really give a fresh feeling among the mellow and blending style of most Darkwave Postpunk. Not that they didn’t find a shade of beauty with tracks like Burn Everything. This was an album I stumbled on but I am really glad I did. It’s ability to twist, turn, and surprise me has left me hungry for more.

Favorite Tracks : Burn Everything , The Grace within Nocturnal Animals, Inviolate.

https://izagrau.bandcamp.com/album/vastness-hurts

FIRES – BitchCorona – Aedra has done it again. It’s a huge swing from her previous album. Complete chaos incineration that really taps into my feelings of frustration of being home bound. It’s just one track, but it’s fun, it’s fierce, and it makes me want to run outside and scream while I spin in circles in my backyard.

https://firesnashville.bandcamp.com/track/bitchcorona

UIU – Acid Joe DavolaSo I am a long time fan of Perth Austrailia’s synth wave wizard Greg Weir. However nothing could prepare me for this bizzaro Kraftwerk style dance jam. An express train to the underground. It’s good to have new music from UIU.

https://uiumusic1.bandcamp.com/album/acid-joe-davola-isomixx

Black Nail Cabaret – No Gold – New EP and Video from my favorite Hungarian electronic band. Emese’s voice is one of those things that brings me joy anytime i hear it. Another track with beautiful pop dance sensibility but such a rich soulful vocal delivery and powerful lyrics. Their videos are such high art as well. They can really do no wrong in my eyes.

https://blacknailcabaret.bandcamp.com/album/no-gold

Antipole – Perspectives II – Karl Morton has returned with the second in the series of his remix albums Perspectives II. For this offering the songs have a vastly different tone. Away from post punk and into a more avant garde texture. Outstanding re imaginings by bands like SYZYGX, Crying Vessel, The Coventry, and European Ghost. I love the feeling of cold remembrance here, the songs have become a spectral haunt of intention that adds such contrast to Antipoles driven and concise style.

https://antipole.bandcamp.com/album/perspectives-ii

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Sometimes the best in what is new feels quite familiar.

Working from home has left me stir crazy with too much time alone. What a perfect time to fire through some quick reviews of what I am listening to at the moment. Tonight I went digging through Bandcamp recommendations for some new sounds. I have been a bit disenfranchised lately with the idea of nostalgia and retro. I’ve been wanting to hear fresh new ideas and not have the same conversation about the same records I’ve had before. Partway through as the things I was hearing had a very retro vibe I remembered. Avoiding the past can be just as bad as staying trapped in it. These record all had something very old and familiar in them. At the same time, the reason some ideas come around again, is because they were great ideas.

Spectres – (Nostalgia ) – The Vancouver band recorded by Jason Corbett of Actors at Jacknife Studio. Brian Gustavson was not trying to be subtle with his intent on this album. It’s like catching a whisper of a bunch of songs you know well, that stick on your head. They aren’t those songs though. Bernard Sumner rips his mask away to reveal it was something else all along. Beautiful and precise in the recording. It’s contagious and familiar in a way you can’t quite hold in your grasping hands. For those of you that want New Order and The Smiths thrown in a blender and spun on REM but don’t want to hear the same album for the 10 thousandth time, this is the jam for you.

https://spectresvancouver.bandcamp.com/?fbclid=IwAR3pE74uVVy34l2l9zOeU3VimY3v69RYbZ0gj0Yc5iXcU59plvFlnpJxAyY

Panic Priest – (Nighthunter) – Ok I love Panic Priest debut album. Jack’s deep rich baritone is the thing of dreams. This new single is a whole new level though. He has found such a cannon of range with his voice and the perfect blend of synthwave and his magnificent rock style. Hearing this song is like being the hero in your own coming of age story in 1984. It’s raindrops on my face and a twitch in my hips. I can’t wait for more.

https://panicpriest.bandcamp.com/track/nighthunter-single

Caustic(Quarantine Tracks) – Matt is back at it again blasting out furious beats to keep us shaking in our bunkers. Some cool low key grooves here as well like Cardiac Unrest. As always from Caustic a great mixture of percussion not found in the standard sound bank that build and rise with a grinding energy. This EP definitely feels subterranean with a unique unlit blend. Have you ever wanted to drink four pots of coffee, and play VR Dig Dug in a warehouse at 2am? I never really thought about that until I heard this album.

https://caustic.bandcamp.com/album/quarantine-tracks

The Birthday Massacre(Diamonds) – So there is a reason that The Birthday Massacre is one of the biggest names in new goth. It’s because it’s bloody brilliant. I admittedly have never written much about them but it isn’t from lack of listening. Maybe I just felt like I was needed more elsewhere, this album is a burner though. Chibi has a vocal style full of such captivating energy and is a master of making goth fun. I think that can be a real challenge because dark sounds don’t make people naturally get up and jump around. These basslines are freight train speed, and the guitar riffs have retro hotrod power. I hear this album and just get lost in it like a labyrinth of subtle turns and walls of sound.

https://thebirthdaymassacre.bandcamp.com/album/diamonds

PHAZER AXE(Synths & Tapes) – What would you hear from a record called Synths & Tapes? About what you would guess. I think this had some really masterful drum fills and keep the feel spicy. This all musical pixel smashing space journey is a fun and glitchy time slide.

https://synthesizer.bandcamp.com/album/318-phazer-axe-synths-tapes

Boy Harsher – (R.O.V. New Beat Edit:Part Time Punks Session )– Two things I love are Boy Harsher and everything PTP puts out. This song is a sleek and sexy ooze across the floor of the club, under the door, and into the night. It’s stripped down and full of crackling menace. I love the powerful Grace Jones feel of their voice here. An inspired oily concept and I am here for it.

https://boyharsher.bandcamp.com/track/r-o-v-new-beat-edit-part-time-punks-session

Loveblind(Sleeping Visions) – Holy fuck this album is a vision plucked out of time and raising the bar of music in 2020. I might be a little bias as this band features Josh Garman (Ex Amaranth Guitarist) as part of it’s super band lineup. However my journalistic integrity need not be swayed because this album is a game changing synthesis of 90’s shoegaze, flowing ethereal modern dream pop, and dark electronic club extravaganza. It’s Ice, it’s fire, it’s sonic texture you can chew on. This album is a filling meal of beauty and heart wrenching human emotion. It’s an early contender for top 10 albums of the year. Must have.

https://saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-visions

If you want to be featured on Sounds and Shadows reaching out to me or one of our writers is a great way to make that happen. We love new music.

Sounds and Shadows Podcast #14 Feat Steven Archer (Ego Likeness/Stoneburner

 Steven is a Renaissance man who is has been involved in several important music projects in Goth/Industrial in the last 2 decades. Ego Likeness, Stoneburner, ect. Also a writer and visual artist. I speak to him fairly frequently online , however I think this was the longest verbal conversation we ever had. I think it was a wonderful glimpse into the details of his artistic process and his journey though music and art. Links below for some of his work.

I love this fucking song so deeply

https://egolikeness.bandcamp.com/

https://stoneburnerngp.bandcamp.com/

https://www.etsy.com/shop/egolikeness

A Example of the paintings for sale on the above link

http://www.egolikeness.com/writing/

Literary Work, link above

Steven Archer Rants #6: You’ve Got To Reach Down and Pick the Crowd Up

A call to arms for artists…and everyone else

We are at war…

Hopefully not with each other yet but with a virus. Our medical professionals, remaining retail outlets, national guard, truckers are all on the front lines.

The rest of us.

We are their support structure.

What does that mean for us the artists?

We do our jobs.

We work in the entertainment industry. Show biz.
We are all in the USO now (or wherever you are, insert country as appropriate.)

After Katrina one of the first and most important things rebuilt was the Superdome. For which the city got a ton of flack. But during times like this, identity and moral matter.

Because we, artists, this thing we do?

While generally from a societal standpoint it’s important, but from a “surviving the apocalypse” (this isn’t but it’s a good dry rub) what we make are luxury items. In the wasteland, the main use for my art will be making walls for your shack.

We are at the bottom of the pyramid of need as far as real world horror goes from a practical stand point.

We are krill. We are ubiquitous.

But krill drive the entire food chain.

Not as individuals but as a group.

*Before someone gets needlessly pedantic this metaphors only works so far, unlike krill we hopefully won’t end up being eaten.

Many of us are setting up methods for streaming which is awesome.

But a GLUT of this will be coming down the pipe. You think there’s competition now with bands in the same genre? Just wait until everyone with a guitar or a laptop starts consuming bandwidth to try to make a buck.

But I digress.

The point I’m trying to make is this. We, krill, down here at the bottom keep doing what we have to do, because it’s what we are built to do. We have to send that energy (not in a woo woo spiritual sense, but it’s a convenient word) up.

To quote a magnificent bastard “you’ve got to reach down and pick the crowd up.”

Well… the crowd is now the entire world.

We need to do what we can to keep people stuck at home At home. So that they don’t go out, pick up the disease and bring it home to others. So that EMTS, nurses, doctors, truckers etc all have music to get lost in. Stories to read when they are home.

All of us will need escapism more than ever before.

And that’s our job.

All of us.

And as the Internet clogs with “competition,” try to remember that those people need money just as much as you do. And more to the point, we are all working towards the goal of keeping the wheels moving.

You need to say humble, artists.

You aren’t owed an audience.

You can’t sit back and put music out, expect someone else to promote it, and then go out on tour expecting an audience to be waiting for you.

Those days are on hold.

You’re going to have to work your ass off if you want to make money doing the thing. You’re going to have to sing for your supper.

I’m not saying sell out. Because there’s an audience for whatever brand of single note drone death metal folk trap you write. But you’re going to have to bust ass to find em, and once you do, you’re going to have to bust ass to keep em around.

Use this time. Because if you can create things that matter to others in the darkest times, they will remember what got them through. And when shit gets rolling again that audience will still be there.

It’s not a zero sum game. Look around, help your fellow artists out. Give what you can to the world in whatever way makes sense. Teach. Get online and bullshit and talk to people. Do whatever you can do.

Or don’t.

That’s cool too.

Because that makes just a bit more room for those of us who bleed for the things we create. For those of us who have spent our lives learning to do what we do.

And for you non artists, the “we’re all in this together,” thing applies to you also. Do what you can to help feed us krill.

And if you see someone giving an artist shit because the are “begging for money,” shut them down. Because without the krill the entire food chain withers.

Stay strong.

You guys got this.

Happy Bday Mike Johnson, the hardest working drummer in Goth/Industrial

Mike Johnson has been a familiar face in so many important bands in the goth Industrial scene over the last few decades. For his big 60 I thought it would be nice to talk about his career and what he has meant to music for so many people. Drummers are such a rare and glorious treasure but even more so those who can play along to electronic music. Mike has used that to get snatched up by anyone with a synthesizer and a tour to travel the world bringing energy and precision to music fans everywhere. The list of bands he has been a part of is long and storied. Today lets celebrate his amazing contributions.

Ego Likeness – I got to see Mike tour with the Industrial Passion Rock band Ego Likeness a few years back. The husband and wife duo of Steven and Donna Archer play an intense and immersive stage show. This requires A lot of moving parts and a focused rhythm section.

Rick Furr added “As an artist and a person He’s a good cuddler in the bed”

Donna ““In addition to being an excellent drummer, Mike is the only one who will talk to me when I’m on my 17th straight hour of driving, just to make sure I’m not delirious. We should all thank him for that.”

https://egolikeness.bandcamp.com/album/songs-from-a-dead-city

Spider Lilies– The beautiful phantasmal electronic dream weavers off Jim Semonik’s distortion productions. I love the swirling cyclone blend of hard hitting industrial beats and Stacey Campbell’s ethereal lilting vocals. They have a sound that puts me in mind of Sunshine Blind and Switchblade Symphony in the 90’s. Lots of layers and complexity held together with Stacey’s clear ringing vocal melodies. If I ever find myself in a magical garden full of dangerous plants this is the soundtrack I hope to hear. They have a new track out on the Electronic Saviors compilation called “Witness” that is a must hear.

I ask Stacey what it was like to work with Mike:

“I feel very lucky to have Mike as a part of Spider Lilies, but he’s also a great friend. As a band mate, his positive outlook and dependable work ethic helps everything go so smoothly. You have to admit, he looks really cool wearing his sunglasses on stage! When touring, you can be sure he’s always got an emergency jar of peanut butter, just in case, which is smart. When things get tough, he’s someone you can talk to openly and he’s never one to judge. He’s a great hugger and shoulder to cry on, if needed, and then he can usually summon up some quality dad jokes to lift the mood.” -Stacey-

Mike Johnson with Spider Lilies

https://spiderlilies.bandcamp.com/

Stoneburner – One of the most frequently reviewed bands here at Sounds and Shadows, but for good reason. Steven Archer is creating some of the most dynamic and exciting new music in the Industrial genre. This band pushes the boundaries of artistic expression using electronic elements and percussion which often includes a need for a extra drummer.

https://stoneburnerngp.bandcamp.com/

Red Lokust – Pittsburgh Industrial mainstays Red Lokust have had Mike tour with them for live performances. This is high energy smash the war drums and stomp the concrete until the foundations shatters old school industrial. Often socially political and consciously aware. This band shatters rooms with it’s intensity and needs a fierce intensity from it’s percussion. It’s led by Jim Semonik who also does the Electronic Savior’s compilation

https://redlokust.bandcamp.com/

https://metropolisrecords.bandcamp.com/album/electronic-saviors-vol-5-remembrance

FIRES – Mike has also done live drums for the electronic sonic explosion that is FIRES. Aedra is a fiery force of nature unleashing stabbing intensity and lifting beauty. Organic guitar riffs and pounding snare snaps drive her energy in her expressive live show. I have a complete review of the album on Sounds and Shadows.

https://firesngp.bandcamp.com/

We all look forward to hearing new recordings from LINDA his new rock band in the near future. Watch for them here:

A lot of focus and credit goes to the singers, guitar players, bass players, of the world. I think anyone who has been in a band can tell you, having the right drummer is truly the glue and the heart of making music happen. Mike has had a career that has crossed so many paths in this scene and made a difference. Happy Birthday to a vampire I honestly cannot believe is 60. He makes 38 year old me look like shit.

Some other quotes from important musicians in the scene:

Neska Lapicki : “you are super epic awesome, i was gonna make joke about you farting in the van, but then i thought it was probably rick. happy birthday!!!”

Erik Gustafson (Adoration Destroyed/Grendel) :

“I’ve been on three national tours, that Mike was playing drums for the headliner.

Mike is just so full of positive energy, and is always smiling and happy to be there.

As you know, touring life isn’t for everyone, and it’s not all fun and games. It can be very stressful. Mike is just the picture of calm and content,
and was a pleasure to travel with. The only thing I don’t like about him…is that he doesn’t share with the rest of us, his magic youth potion!” 🤣🤣😂😂

Laura Bienz (Lorelei Dreaming) :

Every time our paths cross when touring and playing cons, it is immediately a dance party. We became instant friends and the dance party continues

💜

Here’s to many more years!”