The Dark Electro act, SPANKTHENUN charged the scene in 2019 from Dallas TX, releasing their first EP with remixes from Assemblage23, LaeatherStrip, Slighter and ESA – produced by IVardensphere. 25 releases later, this latest Chrome EP brings what appears to 3 remixes from Exitize, Gutenberg and Psyence Fiction from an upcoming release “From the Bunker III” – the original being listed as “Version II”. A slow brooding stomp, this one seems to bring some alternate EDM flavors you might not normally find and an industrial release but instead on some early Knife Party, along with some hip-hop scratching. But don’t get me wrong, the sound is pure dark electro with vox reminding me of KMFDM – no idea why, its not in German, but still growly and visceral. 4 versions appear on this EP, my favorite being the Exitize version. Gutenberg mix brings the beat upfront with more varied beat, not as easy to dance to. Version II is also more hip-hop style beat, and takes more time to get going, but ends up being a stomper. Psyence Fiction rounds it out with a short version that is slow, gruff, and adds some dissonance as it ends it with a bang.
Event: M83 “The Fantasy Tour”
Date: May 6, 2023 (SOLD OUT)
Venue: The Ogden Amphitheater, Ogden Twilight series concerts.
City: Ogden, Utah
In a world where we are all so connected by technology, sometimes you have to just “Be there” to connect. The French Electronic rock band “M83” will do just that. They are an atmospheric “Dream-Pop” band, that covers so many genres of sound, riding somewhere between New Order and Tangerine Dream, whilst venturing into Vangelis spacescape territory. You have heard plenty of their work for the better part of 20 years in some of the strangest films, “Oblivion”, “The Gambler”, a perfume commercial, and even the zombie comedy film “Warm Bodies”. Like the friendships in the song “Temptation” by New Order, you have no place for them in your life, their music is never invited, but always welcome.
Utah is a “High Desert” mountainous territory, that is usually dry. May 6th was a very cold, and rainy day in Ogden, sitting at 5000 feet, with snow still coming down just 2 miles away. That set the atmosphere for M83 to give deliver in an almost torrential downpour, and honestly, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Sitting in the 4th row was the supporting act, Jeremiah Chiu, just hanging out with friends. He then just walked onto the stage and started playing his analog synthesizer. It was really cool to see, in a “Wendy and Walter Carlos” kind of way. As he played, he switched out cables and turned knobs to make his music, while delivering a “pre” Depeche Mode type synth sound, reminiscent of Kraftwerk, and Yello. He did a Kraftwerk cover, and didn’t sing a word, but reminded us all of the early 80s video games.
The stage had a “Stranger Things” motif for a very “Sci-Fi” feel, but we were still unsure what we were going to experience. The intro piece for any show is incredibly important, whether it’s an atmospheric intro song by another band, an audio clip, or a speech, the mindset and mood you need to be in are so important for the rest of the show. For so many bands, the performance begins before the set, often before the band even takes the stage.
The band came to the stage while Kaela Sinclair in a dress with the funkiest clash of colors began playing a synth line to “Water Deep” that the rest of the band plugged in and started playing on top of as an intro with Anthony Gonzales on vocals, he managed to keep the focus not just on himself, but to blend in with the rest of the band. The rain was pouring down on the punters, with beautiful seascape background lights until everyone was in position with their instruments. Suddenly there were “Red Alert” lights flashing, showing the entire band onstage, and the drums kicked in, synced with the lights, we were now into “Oceans Niagara”, the fog and the mist from the rain added to the ambiance coming from the stage. The band were in hoodies and it was so cold you could see their breath in the air. The lights illuminate the stage and at the same time leave only the silhouette of the musicians.
They went from atmospheric to danceable as they rolled into “Amnesia”, a very joyful sounding tune you would have found easily in the new wave clubs of the 80s, mixed with synth and bass lines of Ultravox and a Flock of Seagulls. This is just “Feel good” music with a great atmosphere.
Kaela Sinclair moved over to a sit-down piano, and they went into “Us and The Rest”, another dreamy opus with acoustic guitars and the light show slowed down to keep everyone just swaying in the rain. “Run Into Flowers” had a switch out of instruments, violin instead of guitar, and the light show animated on the screens behind them looked like some of the monsters on “Stranger Things”.
The Light show for “Gone” was reminiscent of the alien ships landing in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, so many times through the show, I almost forget that you have a band there to watch, as you are paying more attention to the lights and the screens. By this time we were unsure if that was atmosphere fog, or just from the rain. It was strange to see it this way because the backdrop looked like a very bright sun obscured by the heat shifting off the ground. We could see the effects, but still experience something so cold at the same time.
There was a vocal like “chanting” as the new age “Kenny G” sax kicked into a disco riff while they played the title track from the new album “Fantasy”, with the visuals of the face of a monster in luminescence on the screen. A scary-looking space alien, to disco music, yeah, that’s what we came here for tonight.
They played through “Lara” with a lot of saxes, “Don’t Save Us From The Flames” and then “NOISE” until they got to the one song that made me fall in love with their music “Wait”. It was a dreamy opus, that you just had to let it take you where it wanted to. It reminded you of the sound of water dripping down a deep shaft before it splashed at the bottom, and how that sound travels. They sang like you were at sea, and underneath them were the sounds of great whales carrying the music. Yeah, it was all just like that. “No Time” was the only word you could discern from the rest of the song, and that was all you needed to know. M83’s music is heavily focused on moving feelings around inside of you, more than you trying to listen to the words.
Kaela Sinclair was the only band member in the lights while she sang “Solitude”, the rest of the band was barely lit while they took us through this dreamy Pink Floyd-esque experience. This was just a science fiction soundtrack, while the violin played, the drums began to pound and I was feeling it shake my entire frame. “Teen Angst” along with “We Own The Sky” lead us to a dancy synthesizer tune straight out of the dreamy ambient numbers we had just been through. It was almost like CHVRCHES on ambient speed, it was absolutely wonderful to be seeing and hearing this carnival of light and sound.
After a high-intensity dream, M83 gave us “Midnight City” with all the power you would expect. Even the band was dancing, almost pogo-stick dancing, these guys are very energetic on stage. While the rest of us were in the cold, the drummer was stripped down to only his shorts, and Anthony the singer was out getting everyone in the audience to clap along with him, while steam was rising off the drummer. (It was a cold night). Everyone was disco dancing to “Mirror”, and since it was sold out, and standing room only, one of the guitarists took off his monitor pack and went crowd surfing knowing there were plenty of people to pass him around. Anthony G sat down on the edge of the stage and sang to everyone at eye level in the pit. If you think they would be mellow, and just play their instruments, you would be so surprised at how animated and interactive they are with the punters. The visuals were a mix of the original “Bubblicious” gum commercials from the 70s, with early 80s video game graphics, with the light show meant to distract you from even noticing the band on the stage playing the music.
They closed out with “Outro” and a blinding crescendo of blue lights, and at full volume. It was so loud, my body was shaking, and my earplugs were useless, it was as loud and as perfectly in tune as if it was a SWANS concert.
With a stage setup looking like it was from some of our favorite science fiction films growing, up and the music taking us to exactly those places and beyond, M83 is a must see performance. Even better if it is a cold rainy night.
Event: Ministry, Gary Numan, (equal time)
Supporting act: Front Line Assembly
Date: April 21, 2023
Venue: The Union Event Center
City: Salt Lake City, Utah
So, as long as any of us can remember, we all got into Ministry maybe a song or two, but REALLY got into them in 1989-1990. WHY? Well, that was when Ministry had their breakthrough album “The Mind Is a Terrible Thin To Taste”. The shows on that tour were legendary, and have since solidified Ministry as a MUST-SEE for all industrial music fans.
Before we all fell in love with Ministry, we were already devout fans of the new wave synth god Gary Numan, not just for his epic song “Cars” but that he had just been making great music since the late 70s, and we all bought his albums just because, well, we knew there was so much more to this guy than “Cars” and we were right.
So, imagine all of our delight to catch both of these bands who have been making outstanding music for 40 years, on the same stage. This tour has been something rather sensational, or at least this night was one of those more incredible nights.
Opening the night (at barely 6:45 pm) was Vancouver Canada’s Front Line Assembly, veterans in their own right, they are a fantastic way to start the evening off. They were tight, and very interactive with the audience. The guitarist had “SALT LAKE CITY” painted on his instrument, and he was playing it, tight up to his chest, almost vertically at times. The main drummer was standing at a very scaled-down drum kit, and was wearing a masque, that, well, could have been worn for an apocalyptic look effect, or just a covid precaution, either way, it was badass. They opened with “Angriff” and you just felt the real guitar lines pounding through the PA system as the guitarist was whipping his white dreads around, almost looking like that scene in Jedi when Luke took off Darth Vader’s helmet.
I caught the first 3 songs in the pit, and as I was leaving, they enlightened us all to the point that we were going to be having 80s new wave hits on the menu. They did this by playing a cover of Falco’s 85 hit “ROCK ME AMADEUS”. I will be honest, I was never a huge fan of that song, I love Falco’s other work, I lived in Germany for several years, and he is revered as a musical God to the Germans. However, this evening, and the way Front Line Assembly delivered it, IT WAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. The lead singer also played drums off the original drummer, just for some great effects.
Front Line Assembly set the mood for the rest of the night, and the only complaint I had about their set was its brevity, really we all could have easily enjoyed four or five more from them. Tight, intense, and fun, but only 7 songs, closed out with “Mindphaser”.
As the switch out for Gary Numan was happening on stage, the venue was almost full, and the gaps in the crowd were getting smaller. Why? BECAUSE IT’S GARY NUMAN THAT’S WHY.
I have been shooting at this venue for years, and the only time I have ever seen it packed to the doors was for Echo & The Bunnymen last year. Now, well, I guess there was enough draw, cause you couldn’t fit a razorblade between the punters this night. The final count from the bouncers was just short of 4 thousand.
As the stage went dark again, there were plenty of strobes flashing and the band took the stage, again looking like a dystopian post-apocalyptic movie, but more like Krishna monks.
They started with a throbbing humming keyboard line, straight out of the engine room of a large starship. Then the drumming commenced, the slow pounding of “Intruder” from the new album of the same name, while the band cranked up the atmosphere with their guitars and keyboards. Then the spotlight was on Gary as the stage lit up, and he began to take us through this set. He was dressed like he has been in the last several years, looking like a survivor of a space-age apocalypse with painted tribal red lines going down his face, almost like tiger claw marks. Only, cooler.
He gave us “Halo” and “Pure”, as we were expecting them for the evening. Gary Numan has put out so much music over the years, and the genres have all kind of mixed and clashed. Though these songs might have been written in the last 20 years, they sound as fresh and current in the direction Gary has wanted to go, a long way since the magnificent albums “Dance”, or “New Anger”, Gary seems to have found a sound that makes him very happy, and, thus, he manages to make us all very happy too.
He laid out the epic “My Jesus” from the album “Pure” and we still can’t believe it was released in 2001, and still has “It”.
I am amazed at the amount of energy he has on stage after going on 50 years, starting with the Tubeway Army back in the 1970s. Gary was swinging the mic stand around, playing different guitars for each song, jumping back to the keyboards to play, he was all over that stage, while his guitarists and bassist were just as animated. I got up close and can say that the man has not aged. He looks like he did when I first met him almost 30 years ago.
He gave us “CARS” and that was his new wave hit contribution to the evening, everyone was expecting it, but he could have played another 40 songs in its place and gotten no complaints. Gary is mechanical, and powerful and makes sure to deliver all he has.
With “The Chosen” and “My Name is Ruin”, especially live, you can see there is a totally different stage persona than say his “Blade Runner influenced” epic live album “The Skin Mechanic” from the “New Anger” tour. Gary Numan has so much to choose from for his live sets, and when he plays something from even the 70s, his electronic metal sound puts a fantastic new “edginess” to the music that always feels like it was released last month, and you are hearing it for the first time.
I have seen Gary Numan many times over the years, from Paris in 1998, to Boston in 2001, to the recent set of shows he has played here in Salt Lake. He knows that he will always sell out the venue in Salt Lake City, because of his rabid fan base here. Could I say this was the best performance that I have ever seen? No, is it the worst? No, I really can’t gauge them, they have all been at the same level of spectacular. (Though he insists that the Paris gig I saw really was not very good, I LOVED that night, and since I’m the one writing the review, I’m right). You will get the best live show Gary Numan has to offer if you saw him performing “Telekon” in 1981, or “Intruder” this week.
After seeing a band like this eleven times over 33 years, one can appreciate the fact that no matter what Al Jourgensen has come up with, he is still full of surprises.
I have come to expect insanely loud, fun, crazy industrial metal with great social commentary sucker punched in a vegan eggplant sandwich right between your eyes.
The Stage was adorned with the “industrial Grade Steel ” Metal Cross, lit up like one of those back alley way churches serving the less fortunate in a poor part of down town. It has kind of become the token image for Ministry shows the last few tours. It even has a pulpit for Al with several mics mounted to it. Yeah, after all it is “MINISTRY” . The band took the stage with AL coming in late making a fashionable entrance while they opened with “Alert Level”. Now, I have known Al’s work to be often loaded with sarcasm, and this evening was no exception. Maybe his being a general cynic, or skeptic, or just funny, but he was playing over the speech by the jaw-dropping idiot “GIVE ME MILLIONS OF DOLLARS” personality the “On Air” preacher Kenneth Copeland, you know the guy who says god wants him to have really expensive airplanes to preach the word? That guy. Well, Al managed to splice into his first couple of songs the Kenneth Copeland speeches where he declared by the word of god that “Covid Shall be Banished from God’s Earth”. I remembered watching that speech and thinking “What a freaking LUNATIC” and then here we are 2 years later, and Ministry has that same speech as the background track for the new album. That was enough reason to go to this show, the sheer wit behind it had me smiling through the song while I got photos.
Pieces from the same sound bytes were playing into song two, “Good Trouble” off the recent album “Moral Hygiene”, then they played “Disinformation”. Leaving the pit Al said “Hey everyone, we are going to do a cover of an Iggy Pop tune, called “Search and Destroy”. I yelled at Al “And Yesterday was Iggy’s Birthday even..” Al Smiled and said off the mic, “YEAH”. They played a cool version of the classic, I mean, we all LOVE IGGY.
I got up to the balcony and they played “Believe Me” which was bizarre because the background graphics were like a psychedelic trip trying to hypnotize ya. They gave us “Broken System” which had graphics of AR-15s and various political figures flashing up on the wall behind them. The token message, is that you don’t need to ask “What does he mean by this?”.
He said “This is the 2nd time we have ever played this one, and I’m sure you’ll like it” and they gave us the song “Goddamn White Trash”. Now, whatever you expect from Ministry in a song like this, you would be right. Flashing pics of the KKK, visuals of NAZI icons, and just general redneck culture, Ministry’s disdain for all things TRUMP were present in this song… and he was right, we did like it, a lot. During this part, a woman who had been in the pit with us taking pictures with her phone, and obviously part of the tour, walked onto the stage with an acoustic guitar and played in with the band her name Ani Kyd Wolf (a favorite artist over on Alternative Tentacles and plays in the band THOR). Her contribution was great when the stage got crowded for a few songs.
By then the mosh pit was insane, and Al was thrilled to be feeding off everyone’s energy, and the feeling was mutual from the punters.
Al said, “Ok, you have all been patient and great for this new stuff, we’ll give you all some of what you came here for.” They broke into “N.W.O.”, then “Just One Fix” and then “Burning Inside”. Imagine the video from the “In Case You Didn’t Bother Showing Up” performance in 1990, well, it was just as fun and crazy, with a crowd of punters several times that size. Al stopped to thank us all and say “I don’t know what it is about you in Salt Lake, but you are one of the top 4 most enjoyable cities to play for”. As he continued goading everyone having a good time, while he was giving a very tight, and solid performance.
After they tied it up with “So What” on an encore, he said, “Really, you people are the craziest fans ever, I just love playing here”. They walked off stage, and then after a minute or so, the house lights came up, and then people started to leave. Then Al ran back out on stage and grabbed the mic “NO !!!! DON’T LEAVE YET!!!!”. He explained that they had one more to play, and asked them to turn the lights off, and everything ramped up again. Al was NOW going to give us his 1980s new wave contribution, he said “This is our cover of a 1980s new wave song by a band called “FAD GADGET” called “Ricky’s Hand”. This was as far as I know the first time they have played this since 1986, and thus, the punters were thrilled.
They finished the cover, Al and everyone waved and said “Good night” and the event came to a close. I talked to the guitarist for a few minutes, he has been on previous tours, and he said they were having a lot of fun changing all of this out for this tour. I have always seen Al Jourgensen as a hard-partying, intense, and sometimes over-the-top guy. You always know where he is coming from, and he has had more humor and just good times vibes in his performances lately, that you just enjoy the whole experience. After a ministry show, you feel some sort of euphoria having released all kinds of negative feelings and energy because the music does that for you.
All in all, this was one of the best Ministry gigs I have ever seen. I hope you all can get into one soon, the merch table was getting sacked, and even the Front Line Assembly stuff was running short by the end of the night, once you see any of the bands on this tour, you will know why.
Yes I know this is coming very late. I unfortunately got wrapped up in my own bullshit this month and didn’t release this in a timely matter. Nor opened voting for the month of April. However, better late than never, these are the top 10 songs voted on by our group of Artists/Djs/reviewers/Lables/and Superfans released in the Month of March. No pay to play, just your votes on great darkwave music.
- Lockjaw – Annihilove
- Dead Cool – Stranger Kind
- Giant Monsters On The Horizon – Secret or a Lie Featuring Arden and the Wolves
- Unitcode:machine – Undone (Aesthetic Perfection Remix)
- Eva X – Virtualsexual (Braindance Mix)
- Kill Shelter and Death Loves Veronica – Sex Tape
- En Esch – Push –
- Ritual Howls – Dark Ceiling In Tennessee
- Self Titled Album – Economic Housing Anxieties(STA Mix)
- Dread Risks – Machine Identity (in the walls mix by God Module)
- Lockjaw – Annihilove – Excited to see a band new to the group and from Milwaukee grab the number one spot with their first single on the chart. Look for an upcoming interview I did with Medavon we will release soon. I was drawn in right away by this lean wolf, untamed wilderness goth. It has a wonderful stalking hungry Iggy Pop feel synthesized with electronic beats. Lockjaw has had some previous success playing with some big names in the scene. Returning with a vengeance of hard rock riffs and recklessly revolving percussion I will be paying close attention to the project going forward.
2) DEAD COOL – Stranger Kind – Wilmington death pop duo makes their return to this chart with a sizzling new retro trance song with 8bit major motion digital drive and Johnny’s wide beam vocals and lyrical painting. I love the brushstroke of Angela’s phonograph spoken word line.
3) Giant Monsters on the Horizon – Secret or a Lie Featuring Arden and the Wolves – Glorious across the continent collaboration from St Louis to California. Cyberpunk electronica band Giant Monsters On the Horizon lay down a FILTHY beat that twists and writhes to lay a pathway for my favorite vocal performance by Arden. Something about their voice always feels like lashing motion. The dynamics and venom of this glowing green delivery make every line hit home. Total Banger.
4) unitcode:machine – Undone (Aesthetic Perfection Remix) – Texas native Eric Kristoffer has been on an absolute tear this year. Singing with COP, releasing this instant classic hit with 3 legends doing remixes. Daniel Graves absolutely crushed this slowly unspooling the story and highlighting a premier vocal talent in the modern scene. Pay attention to this future star.
5) INSULIN SHOCKS – Eva X – Virtualsexual (Braindance Mix) – British Colombia Cyberrave single featuring Gaby of Eva X. She delivers this lovely terrifying AI choir you expect to hear right before the machines take over. Let yourself be assimilated, resistance is futile.
6) Kill Shelter & Death Loves Veronica – Sex Tape – Everything Pete does will be at the top of my buy list. Add in the smokey embodiment of a David Lynch film in sonic form Veronica Campbell. You have an instant recipe for a delicious sensual club banger. The craft displayed for every subtitle detail in song writing. Veronica’s temptress whisper. Nothing better than a song that starts a conversation while slapping this hard. You need this.
7) EN ESCH – Push – Industrial legend En Esch collaborates with Gabriel Lennox newly on Give/Take with a rawkus 90’s industrial sound with a tent revival spiritual chant. I love the vocal layers and resonant clarity breaking the standard of the industrial roots. That clear breakdown at 4 minutes in particular is an absolutel gem.
8) Ritual Howls – Dark Ceiling In Tennessee – A different sound for the Detroit band. Personally I am loving this darkwave jangling spurs Violator vibe. Around 1:30 a flaming sword guitar lead cuts the tension. Paul Bancell fully embraces classic goth Baritone, which strikes the mark freshly against the digital chainsaw static. Personally this is my favorite Ritual Howls to date.
9) Self Titled Album – Economic Housing Anxieties(STA Mix) – Wonderful to see the Utah band back on out single charts. I have tried and describing Self Titled Album is always a Herculean effort. It is deeply honest and vulnerable spoken poetry in a psychedelic haze and electronic glide. A complex mixture i am glad our group reconizes and appreciates.
10) Dread Risks – Machine Identity (in the walls mix by God Module) – My favorite Doomdustrial from Texas remixed by God Module and released on Re:Mission Records. I love everything about this sentence. Jason Bangert really adds a slippery wetness to Dread Risks usually boot stomping destructive power. If your club isn’t working this into your local dance night you are being done a disservice.
Punk Icon, Music Journalist, Scene Historian, in so many ways John Robb has made a career of lifting up great music and art in equal measure to creating it. Starting in Blackpool in 1978 The Membranes walked the razor line between introspective darkness and fiery blue-collar aggression. In 2010 he started “Louder Than War” an independent website of reviews, interviews, and live shows to shine a light on the fringes of music which might never get attention from mainstream pop coverage. This aspect was personally relevant to me, by proving one person could champion a movement to share and humanize the artist of the underground. When John released his new book “The Art Of Darkness” about the history of my chosen genre “Goth” and I had the opportunity to interview him my cold dead heart fluttered with joy. A giant who paved the way for me like few others.
Things that struck me about the first read through of this book. The historical research is first rate. How could it not be, John lived this time. Loved these bands. When I hear someone talking about something close to my heart, I need to hear that same reverence in their voice. This is the voice of a true believer. The facts aren’t enough. I need a bit of novel to set the backdrop. I was born in 1977 and never had a chance to go to the Batcave, to see Joy Division live. In this book we are taken through those damp streets, smell the clubs, see the fashion. A great history paints a picture in your mind that makes you a part of what happened years later. That was the ultimate magic of this book. Finally, my beloved goth scene always wants to put itself in a box. It’s a scene obsessed with the past, the idea that what came before will always be better than what comes after. This is a book about history, but one that flexes and expands the definition and connects those bands to the future. I’ve read several books and articles about goth history. None of them sparked something in me like this. If you are a lover of dark macabre music, this book is a must have.
This interview was my longest to date. Sometimes as an interviewer you need to navigate the flow of conversation to help the person you are interviewing tell their story. John is a lot better at this than me. So my goal was just to set him up and let him move from story to story. I am proud that although I could have listened to him discuss all the amazing things he has done and people he has known, I did get him talking about how the history of this scene impacts it’s future. The interview clocked in at 1.5 hours but in the end there was so little I wanted to cut. So we have broken it into 3 parts. I really hope you find something to learn and love from this conversation with one of the foremost experts in the modern darkscene.
Learn about the past. This book is a great way to do it. Start a review page. Tell bands you appreciate them. Go to shows. Stand in front. Wear crushed velvet. Smoke cloves. Drink the blood of your enemies from a skull. There is no wrong way to appreciate and be moved by music. Just do it with all your heart and leave space for everyone.