Sean Cook, a rare veteran of the 1990s Arkansas darkwave/industrial scene, has released music as Clusters of Fornication (a sly reference, that name!) in recent years. His fourth EP, Loss For Words, refines Cook’s vision, moving forward and reverently looking back.
Kicking off the EP, “Hate is a Carnivore” is a good example of the CoF sound – insistent beats, icy synths, and brittle, introspective vocals.
The opening moments of “Pandemica” marries an electro pulse with truly of-the-time subject matter – the rage and sadness that has tarnished the idealist’s vision for America.
“A God in the Reflection” is an effective condemnation of organized religion, with a beat reminiscent of The Cure’s “A Hundred Years”. The house-style bass supports the beat while remaining understated.
The EP proper wraps up with the minimal Kraftwerk-esque “Moscovium Element”. The beat diverges from straightforward mimimalism – like something Front Line Assembly might sample for their own work. Loss For Words concludes with a short demo called “Each Time”.
One’s first impression might focus on classic reference points – the high drama of the best Sisters of Mercy tracks, the foreboding of Clan of Xymox and contemporaries like Void Vision – but further listening will reveal contemporary relevance. It’s ponderous and simultaneously comfort food for darkly attuned ears.
I have been thrilled to watch as the Goth/Industrial community grows more diverse. Hats off again to Bandcamp for really putting their money where their mouth is to support both bands and the rights people of color. I will go through some of the things I am currently listening to so you can add to your list and support a great cause.
LEATHERS – Reckless – The long anticipated EP from Shannon of Actors. A unique departure from her other projects and really highlights her essence which is more collaborative in Actors. It’s sleek, it’s beautiful, it’s as light as an angel dancing on a pin. I love the silky billowing synths and how they flow off the shoulders of her voice. The sound is such an immersive dream which slides along the borders of reality. I spend moments dwelling on how something so beautiful manages to remain so relatable.
Favorite track: Take your pick, but I will go with Missing Scene. Something about this swooping shoegaze LUSH 4AD vibe. Her voice is reverberating like a tuning fork yet ringing so clearly. I hear this song and even on earbuds I feel like I’m in an old opera house with a towering sound system feeling wave after wave wash over.
October Noir – Cover Type O Negative: Love You To Death – Loving the sound of this band. Does it emulate the band they are covering in a lot of their sound. Yes. Type O is an amazing sound though. It’s ultra bass Steele vocals. It’s crunching power chords. It’s chest pounding bass guitar. This cover is rich with extra layers and complexity. It feels like a love letter to a band now beyond the veil. You can really feel the time and dedication placed on taking apart and reanimating every aspect.
Dea Decay – Magic Lantern – This is a beautiful fun romp from Florida artist Dea Decay that came out in December 2020. A spicy club crashing electronic explosion. No vocals but instead a steady stream of adorable wicked anime samples. It’s non stop energetic explosion of adorable imagery and and surreal colors.
Favorite Track: Catronica – A little secret here, when the new netflix She-Ra came out I was blown away. It’s so wonderful and pure. This song really captures that energy and highlights my favorite character Catra. It’s sharp claws bounding around with reckless abandon.
SHIV-R – Kill God Ascend – Brand new album from the Australian electronic apocalypse know as SHIV-R. I love the expansive fantasy metal destruction fed into a machine brain and turned loose on an unsuspecting populous. Pete Crane is a force of nature in the industrial scene and has a glorious gift for poetic imagery in his lyrics. If you are a fan of the violent industrial power of Front 242 and shaking your body in dangerous convulsions, this is your jam. I’m also impressed by the range shown on tracks like Spark, a truly lovely brain infecting track of pop industrial glory. Or Black Turns Blue a downtempo marching chant of a ballad. This record is a journey. Crane’s voice is one of those charismatic characters that feels at home in every setting the music places it. This is the wonder of modern industrial.
Black Angel – Prince of Darkness – I am LOVING this modern trend of returning to guitar driven true gothic rock. Matt Vowels has done it again. This is sizzling and sensual dark driving glory. I just don’t get to make this comparison enough but this album holds that emotive blistering power of Love and Rockets. Deep brooding rich vocals, whip snap percussion, but it always comes back to the V8 power of these guitars. Everything is foot to the floor speed and slides. It’s a non stop action flick of adrenochrome and dark intent.
Favorite Track: Serene – What a gorgeous highway 51 desert hard hitting ballad. The vocals croon and tantalize as the dust rolls by on an empty stretch. I love song for outlaws.
PALAIS IDEAL – The Art of Crashing – I’ve been waiting for the follow up to the 2019 release Pressure Points with baited breath. I was disappointed only by the fact it was three tracks and not twenty. This release is a perfectly blended sound of quality crafting, unique flavor, and infectious hooks. It’s one of those releases I can’t imagine who I could play this for and have them not enjoy it. It really has a universal appeal. It feels kinetic, like Depeche Mode “Construction Time Again”. I always enjoy John’s voice, but this EP really highlights how many different things he can do while sounding distinctly himself. It’s the true mark of a singer who has found his themselves and are owning it. The other greatest power of PI is, like all great prog genre, the two components know each other and their instruments so intimately. It really feels like two blended minds working without barrier. It makes the guitar and bass lines dart, bend, and twine together in perfect syncopation. I will be playing this…. A LOT.
Favorite Track: You can’t go wrong but Results is damn near perfection. From the opening guitar riff, the workout routine bassline, and John’s drive and grit. This song feels like an instant classic from out of time I somehow didn’t hear. It also holds the higher concept lyrics and hope PI always wins me over with. 10/10
It was a long hard week for me. Time to lose myself in someone else’s head. Who are the songs transporting me to another place?
FIRES – Changeling – New single from Aedrea. The title here really tells the story. Such a bold metamorphic shift in sound. In particular the vocals have this wispy Chelsea Wolfe quality full of fairy fire flickering promise. The music is a shifting fantasia, almost an entire film score journey in five minutes. Tender raindrop keys, crushing storm front guitars, and bisecting buzzsaw percussion. A cacophony of sound and beauty. As an added bonus it contains a Bside called “exit/Void” with a spoken word poem surrounded by sinister overtones. Another glorious example of the captivating burning mind.
hallowed hearts – Ruins – NYC’s Hallowed Heart have a new 5 track EP. I love the opening concept of ruins. The things we left behind. The memory of who we were for future strangers to find and wonder at. These are not songs for the dance club. An energetic medium tempo darkwave for walking the dark streets. Pulling the collar of your coat up to stave off a bracing wind. A grey and bleak musical tone offset by the courage of Alex Virlios vocals that cover a wide range and spew forth challenge to cast light on the sullen path.
Supernova – A lovely beckoning open with locomotive punching guitar sounds. Virkios vocals start by painting a rich baritone at home in the post punk style, but then crackle with energy for the chorus. I loved the punch and diversity of sound here. Real feelings of introspection and self discovery.
Circle – Beautiful firefly rising ballad to break the pace of the EP. I love the way the guitar lines push forward and guide the voice here. It’s a beautiful and maudlin song of spiritual longing. Two minutes in the ballad takes on real power and teeth.
Overall: This is an album that takes you to very specific moments and paints a picture in the mind. It’s a journey worth taking and a moment worth looking for.
IAMTHESHADOW – Everything in this Nothingness [Still] – I have waiting long for this release on Cold Transmission Music. A re-release of the Portuguese darkwave darlings debut 2016 album. Pedro and company have been tantalizing fans with rich passionate heart bursting serenades. Getting to return to the opening stanza of their journey and combining it with the years of experience and musical wisdom is an experience to waken the ears and minds of their fans. The music is a crystal pool of water on an autumn night. Beautiful, bracing, and teeming with life. I’m going to now repeat a sentence I have uttered in every Iamtheshadow review I have written. “Pedro Code has the best baritone voice in modern goth/darkwave.” It is a force of nature that moves the heart like a poem by one of the great masters.
Wait, thats not all. In addition to the album, they released a companion remix album and it is such a brilliant homage by some of the top artists in the scene….and me 🙂 It Includes Kill Shelter, Thewalkingicon, Antipole, Crying Vessel, The Frozen Autumn, and yes Amaranth.
I think what was so impressive with this was the extreme level of talent, as well as a deep personal admiration everyone involved had for Iamtheshadow. There is nothing more engaging for a remix album than when you can really hear a reimagining full of love for the source material. I’ll be selfish for a moment and say getting to sing a duet with Pedro was a dream come true and a terrifying challenge. Collin did a masterful job remixing the song as well. Again hard to choose a standout track, because every song was a passionate love letter to an artist we deeply respect.
White Cauldron – Nine Hells – Wicked release from last year that somehow fell through the cracks on me. The nearby Colombus Ohio band is really hard to place in a box. Sharp spinning blades of Industrial, clashing with jittering witchouse, textural keyboards, and a coven choir of misty swirling vocals. Throwing so many elements together could cause you to be lost in the miasma, but the mix is precise and razor blended to let every element find a voice. I’m not sure how many members the band has beyond Bess but the ultimate power of the release is that feeling of 20 clashing minds swirling around and finding focus like a spectral eruption in a cemetery.
Empty Tomb: This song is the cacophony at it’s best. The overlapping harmonies ranging from Nu Metal spitting to banshee haunt wails are a powerful and unnerving effect I found myself captivated by.
Die This Death: This opening bassline has such a filthy stank on it. It rises and grooves like a buzzing swamp consuming a corpse. The rapped out vocals almost put me in mind of Cypress Hill. Just such a unique and conjured ritual of darkness and decay.
Overall: This is a complex listen for all it’s parts. It often rides the line between background chill and chaos dance mix. With everything going on I found myself constantly surprised how easy it was to get lost in the flow of it. I want to take this ride again.
Astari Nite – Pocket Full of Posies – Look if Astari Nite has a new single, I am here for it. That said, holy crap this is a jam. An enchanting garden of mythic colors and romantic poetry. It bounces between complex layers and stripped down emotional delivery. The vocals are that beautiful teardrop smooth Robert Smith croon which makes my heart well. This band continues to impress with every release.
Kandinsky Noir – Berlin’s speed metal intrustro dance band lead by Anto Rom have released a new video with the vision of Iya Poteshkina. The track is a percussive explosion of high speed organic drums which bleed a cut time metal feel into the gothy tones. The chanting melody paves way for a rough demon growl. The lyrics are full of subtle entertainment themes. I love this chorus ” Two chords to lie, To grip our mind, This bread and circuses, Cuts deep inside.” The ferocious impact probably skates closer to metal than I usually dare venture. I found myself lost in the torrent of blood and emotion. Crushing ballistic guitars and locomotive bass lines. This track comes on you quick, runs you down, and never stops speeding towards the next station.
The video was a simple but powerful expression of DIY effects. That haunting and gorgeous face pressed to cellophane . The cuts, red lighting, ferocious playfulness made it engaging and frightening. Make my pulse quicken and you have my attention.
How did this project start, tell me your history ?
This project started in January, as the new Lockdown in Berlin began and I could no longer rehearse with my just born 3-Pieces Post Punk Band. A bit of experimentation with Ableton and many hours of collective boredom and I was able to release my first track at the end of January, thanks to the mix and master work of Joshua Pfeiffer. I continued exploring different sounds (from EBM to Glam Rock to Industrial) until a determinate equilibrium was reached. My last two tracks Opfera and 2 Chords are two industrial metal songs, with some progressive and goth elements.
What is the theme or feeling of this video you wanted to capture?
Two Chords is a song about the relationship between art and power, trying to enhance the instance that the form is already part of the message. The video was created and based on a performance of the young Russian Artist Iya Poteshkina, where the performer herself immersed in a deep red Lynchian Chamber struggles between a seductive attitude of the partial body object and the unbearable of the wholeness. The continuous presence of the plastic film stands for the thin artificial “patina” splitting the duality between compromise and integrity. The on-screen writings in Cyrillic are quotes by Bertolt Brecht, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Theodor Adorno, Rainer Maria Rilke, Fabrizio De André: all of them tried to analyze the role of art within the capitalist society.
Tell me about the scene in your city?
The scene in Berlin is really various and EBM, Post Punk and Synthpop are loved by huge audiences. I love Detriti Records, Death Disco, The Brutalist, She lost Kontrol, Philipp Strobel und NNHMN
What are you excited for in the future?
The next track, that will be released in June, which is far more experimental, more melodic and will contain a wonderful saxophone solo on a black metal instrumental. The title is “Feeling Nothing (The Privilege of the Rope)
If you were giving a shot that would combine your DNA with an animal giving you it’s traits and powers what animal would it be ?
I love cats, I have a cat named Luzifer and would like to have his coolness and laziness at every moment, even if loud techno bass tones make the floor tremble. This are real scenes from my household
And in the distance the icons calling, We serve the purpose, master’s alibi The odd and dissonant are overwhelming Obliterated like thieves in the night
One time to sink, Two times to split the circle One time to lead, Two times to mesmerise.
Two chords to die, To soothe our eyes, To solve the conflicts, Make us blind
Two chords to lie, To grip our mind, This bread and circuses Cuts deep inside.
To wish upon a star? Who needs to see these scars?
And in the slaughterhouse of our perception We lose our senses in the masterplan Another hit, another chant to march to, Another lullaby to neutralise.
One time for fame, Two times to meet the abyss One time for crave, Two times to feed the masses.
Two chords to die, To soothe our eyes, To solve the conflicts, Make us blind.
Two chords to lie, To grip our mind, This bread and circuses Cuts deep inside.
To wish upon a star? Who needs to see these scars?
Mono-Maniac Contro-versial Ecstasy and suicide Discipline and call to arms!
A di-lemma Anti-pleasant Ecstasy and suicide Discipline and call to arms!
One million years ago before the internet it was a lot harder to find the greatest new music. We would head down to the record store and buy the latest compilation from our favorite record labels. Cleopatra and Wax Trax were mine. Streaming services made this a bit of a lost art. COP International has started a new series of comps called “Broken Hearts and Robot Parts“. I beam with pride that I got to choose the name. Christian Petke and team have done a smaller more focused spotlight on label bands and future unsigned talent. It’s great to see a label with a storied history and powerhouse producer like John Fryer take an interest in growing new bands for the sake of the scene. This is the future I have longed for where labels fulfil the promise of family and support so many of us dreamed of. Amazing artwork from Greg Rolfes ties together the concept. Let’s dig in to Part I.
The production levels of everything here are outstanding. I love that COP made sure everyone added to this comp where putting their best foot forward and highlighting each band at their best performance. The music has a diverse range but a cohesive idea of guitar focused rock music blended with electronic elements.
Johnny Tupolev – Shot In Black and White – Out the gate with a strong delivery from a COP International artist. The German performer opens with a tension building breathing vocal and then explodes into a crushing crowbar guitar riff. The vocals have expressive Mike Patton flare. I love the hard Alt rock flavor with electronic elements and a introspective message of ego death.
Suicide Queen – Swan – Truly a dripping oily black horror sound held in a white lace glove. The Oakland CA band delivers beautiful New Order keyboard melodies, washed over by Kay Dolores filthy and distinct rasping growl. It creates fierce contrast that leaves you both lulled and unnerved. This track is a rush of wind at your back, pushing your spread wings to a danger you are trying not to face.
Machines With Human Skin – Watch It Burn – The project of our dear friend Adrian Halo of Chicago. A furious cyclone of fire and wind. I love the wispy style vocals and digital drive. Great use of dynamics that cause the chorus to hit hard with fist pump and boot stomp moments. Wicked overlapping guitar solo around the 3 minute mark give an organic blast to the cold electronic swirl.
unitcode:machine – Paper Empires (Regional Adjunct Remix by GW Childs) Dallas Texas cyber wizards set loose this stop and start bleep bloop broken mechanical dance. I love the way Eric is spinning an static buzz story with his voice and the even cadence walk.
The Burying Kind – Falling Over – One thing I will never stop screaming from the rooftops is about the Chicago duo of Dan Milligan (The Joy Thieves) and Scott-David Allen (A Covenant of Thorns) . They both took the leap, trusted in each other and made one of the best Shoegaze albums I have heard in over a decade. This track in particular highlights the romantic gothic beauty of Allen’s vocals and the grey pallet tapestry of Milligan’s production. I love using this as an outro to this emotional journey.