Midnight Wire by A Perfect Error

When Re:Mission Entertainment sent me an advance copy of A Perfect Error‘s Midnight Wire, I was intrigued by what I read in the press release. It touts of a record that bridges the gap between ‘cyberpunk to mainstream pop.’ And sure enough, it does exactly that.

This is the esoteric brainchild of Toronto’s Cory Gorski; his conscious effort to bring dark electronics under a digestible, radio-friendly umbrella. And these ten songs deliver everything you would expect to hear in an electronic pop song, even if – at times – it’s put together differently.

The best way I can describe these songs is to say they have a “layered minimalism” to them. By that I mean that the songs seem composed of simple electronic elements combined with even more simple electronic elements until something more complex evolves. The end results are songs that seem as though any single aspect of them would be interesting but combined are even more compelling.

It seems like there’s as much sonic exploration as there is songwriting on Midnight Wire. Clever elements interplay with one another and sometimes the exploration leads the listener down a rabbit hole of textures and soundscapes.

I recommend listening to the record in its entirety in one sitting. I don’t think any one song gives you a complete picture of the ground Midnight Wire covers. Just kick back and let this record take you where it may. But if you put a gun to my head, I’d say that Hold On, Hang Up stood out in my mind with it’s sexy-yet-creepy saxophone accompaniment. Midnight Wire‘s whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

https://remissionentertainment.bandcamp.com/album/midnight-wire

The Black Rose by Black Angel

Black Angel would have sounded right in place along side such powerhouse English alternative 80s acts as The Cult and The Sisters Of Mercy. Their sound even brings to mind acts from this side of the pond such as Screaming Trees and Mary My Hope. And that’s okay because this is album takes me back to the 80s in the GOOD way.

The Black Rose was released on April Fool’s Day but there’s nothing to laugh at on this record. These rhythm-oriented songs are nice and ballsy and incorporate the darker elements of bar rock. The gothic elements are there present. This record digs deeper to give you something that sounds like a backcountry balladeer set against a wall of guitar riffs. And the bass on songs like All Or Nothing conjure images of the tipsy dancer in the bar who refuses to sit down until her song on the jukebox ends.

Take Me Down is more solemn and the lyrics flow like an old singalong folk song. I caught myself singing along to the chorus. The lyrics on Look Me In The Eye carry the recurring theme throughout the album; as though addressed to a lady of dubious intention who’s done wrong, or maybe about to be done wrong. The same is true for the subsequent track, Sinner. Carnival Man opens with a dark organ and sits you down to tell the tale of a festive killer.

All in all, The Black Rose satisfies. This album works in a goth club, a biker bar, or on your car stereo.

https://blackangelmusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-black-rose

In addition to the review Jaret had a chance to interview Matt of Black Angel 🙂 Please enjoy

Jaret : What inspired ‘The Black Rose’?

Matt: Good question, there wasn’t anything specific, I just have to keep writing, as soon as I finish one album, I get right into the next one. With Black Angel I knew there would be a five album progression for sure and I had all the names of the albums mapped out years ago, so it just felt natural when I finished Prince of Darkness to start on The Black Rose. I always tell myself to give myself a breather for a few months but I can barely get past a few days.

Prince of Darkness | Black Angel (bandcamp.com)

Jaret: Who are your influences and what did you take away from those artists?

Matt: My influences are 100% Goth acts from the 80’s – to be specific, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, Bauhaus, Killing Joke, and The Damned, those are my keys influences, they wrote the best Gothic music – and in my eyes that has never been surpassed. Before I start writing I tend to listen to the these guys, in fact I just listen to their music all the time anyway, whether I’m writing or not – and each of them has something a little bit different – for example Billy Duffy from The Cult is my guitar hero, Peter Murphy is a vocal gymnast, Siouxsie has this fantastic intricate song writing ability, The Damned are just all out hundred percent top bollocks and energy and The Sisters of Mercy, especially on Floodland just encapsulated what Gothic Rock really was for me.

Billy Duffy (The Cult)

Jaret: Do you draw inspiration from sources outside of music, per se?

Matt: I guess life…. Most of my songs in someway are about relationships with people – and of course we are always learning, so there is always something new to write about on each new record. When I write it’s always about personal relationships, I have no interest in politics or anything like that it’s always about life experiences, and they say that is the best thing to write about, what do you have experienced yourself.

Jaret: Please describe a typical day in the studio. What is the chemistry like?

Matt: That’s another good question, I found with my writing process that if I set time aside and I sit down and decide ‘this is the time I’m going to write’, I can pretty much guarantee that it is not gonna happen. I am in the fortunate position that I do have a studio on my property so whenever I feel the need I can get something down whether it’s a vocal or a drum idea etc. I also carry around a digital recorder as there’s nothing more frustrating than losing that pearl of wisdom idea that you just came up with just because you couldn’t find a way to capture it. The whole process is fairly solo from the beginning, I normally write about 40 songs and then cull about 30 of those down to a good solid 10, hopefully by that point I’ve got a rough outline of how I want the record to sound if not I keep deleting and I keep writing. It’s not until the music is nearly 100% finished that I send tracks over to Corey for him to do his vocal magic.

Jaret: What’s next for you? How are you forming/adapting your plans in the age of COVID

Matt: Covid isn’t an issue for us, since then and during that time, we’ve managed to put two records out. We did think we were going to embark on a major record label deal in the near future but these things are always hugely complicated and there are a lot of ramifications to think about, so that’s not gonna happen for right now. We are still interested in getting our music out to a wider audience so we will still be seeking a publishing deal with a label somewhere. We would also like to play some festivals, it’s tricky for us to tour right now as with our individual careers there are so many commitments that are difficult to get around – but! – we would like to play, and we are hoping that more people will invite us to do so. It’s defo on the cards and will happen for sure.

Jaret: What is your take on the current state of the dark music “scene”?

Matt: The good thing is that people can easily create and release music, and that is amazing in itself. The other side of that is I do think the music industry, Gothic and Darkwave / Post-punk included, that maybe there is so much music out there – is that good or bad? Only you can decide. If we were to specifically look at Gothic music, well, when I got into it, that started over 30 years ago and everything had a certain sound and a certain flavor, the ‘goth’ umbrella these days seems to have grown a little bit wider, but I’m certainly not a gatekeeper and things do change and develop. I would say that I was a fan of the whole process in the 80s where a band would be groomed and produced and the music that they put out is what we consider as the classic Gothic music of today – and frankly no one has even come close to surpassing that.

Black Angel (blackangelmusic.com)

Jaret: Any final thoughts? (Impressions, opinions, funny thoughts, etc.)

Matt: I surely appreciate you reaching out for this interview and helping to keep the scene alive at Sounds and Shadows, I think this genre of music is really special and anything we can do to keep it going can only be a good thing…Black Angel will continue to do so for sure……

Mark E Moon “Lux Vindictae”

New lineup, new sound, and explosive delivery from Isle of Man shadow croon gothic rock Mark E Moon on Cold Transmission Music. A blazing light of vindication as the title states. The first single Blacklight bursts through a wall with shaking intensity. The drums pound relentlessly as Mark delivers confident sadness tinged with raw fury. Phil is spinning barb wire distortion in precision loops. The black mirror reflection of Shelly Rourke on vocals as contrast Mark’s cavern shaking Eldrichesque power. As the engine roars down an unlit highway this album swerves in tone and style without warning leaving you always on your heels. Mark really throws his soul into the vocal delivery. The tracks are all pure heat and poignant, each under 5 minutes.

https://markemoon1.bandcamp.com/album/lux-vindictae

I think two main changes stand out in contrast to 2021 release “Old Blood ” 1) the extreme nature of the peaks and valleys in tempo and style. This album runs the spectrum where Old Blood worked to perfect a singular idea. 2) Rourke’s vocals have really found a sharp and resilient force to break the power of Mark’s tide. In particular track 4 Drowning is a gorgeous ballad of imagery that highlights the new sound with strongly defined lines. It shows a passion and maturity of song writing that portrays subtle differences in depth as you sink below ever darker waters. I love the panning synth lines. The background to those glimmering delayed guitars flickering through the pressurizing water.

I rarely get that feeling in the goth scene always driven by nostalgia that someone is ascending with every release. That every new album finds new colors and expression. It makes me wonder where the ceiling for Mark E Moon is. This is hungry music, to revel in, but never to sit comfortably with. It’s an energy that is always stalking over the next hill. Searching for a deeper more visceral pain.

Rough Dimension by VR SEX

(NOTE: This is a follow-up to the VR SEX live review that is already posted and available here: https://soundsandshadows.com/2022/04/01/vr-sex-live-at-the-casbah-san-diego-ca-3-24-22/?fbclid=IwAR3hsseQi621MviCpFXdpH0P6IJS4Ard3cP-M3hHH6Vuo71aMCT1FwVzkic)

Imagine a band that encapsulates everything you love about music; a band that seems like an amalgam of almost every style that caught your ear as a kid when you heard it on the radio for the first time. After a VERY LONG spell of cynical indifference, my faith has been restored courtesy of VR SEX.

Rough Dimension is the band’s second full-length and fourth release overall and it shows no sign of the band slowing down from it’s barrage of cerebral ear-candy. These nine songs will take you down the dark seedy side streets of LA at night, but you may not be sure if you’re the prey or predator.

First of all, Rough Dimension is a rocker. Track one, Victim or Vixen, is evidence of that, followed by Glutton For Love, which really drives the point home. Rocking or not, the synths make strong showing on Glutton For Love and Snake Water. And some experimental noise cleverly sneaks its way in with Cyber Crimes.

Is it wrong that a punk song made a middle-aged cynic like me want to cry? Walk Of Fame, both in its lyrics and overall tone, just really grabbed me in a way that so few songs do. Not since Chris Reed of
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
have I heard a droning baritone voice convey such emotion.

The guitar progressions throughout Rough Dimension have to be some of the most fresh and original I’ve heard in long time – especially in a genre that I was convinced was past its last gasp. Even the simpler ideas are well-conveyed due to good ol’ fashioned musicianship.

Even if I wasn’t already a fan of VR SEX and biased as Hell, I’d still put Rough Dimension among my top picks of 2022 so far. This would have been a fantastic full-length debut album; the fact that it’s their sophomore effort makes it even more impressive.

https://vrsex.bandcamp.com/album/rough-dimension

Rammstein’s “Sehnsucht” Hits Its Silver Anniversary, Still Golden After All These Years

To know Rammstein is to, at the very least, know the megahit that is “Du hast.” Whenever I tell someone that I speak German, especially in a club setting, I get asked if I know what the song is really about, or what the singer is actually saying. It’s at this point that I usually inform them what “Mein teil” or “Bück dich” is about. But we’ll get to the latter of those later.

After the success of their debut album Herzeleid, the Berliner godfathers of NDH (that’s Neue Deutsche Härte, or new German heaviness) had to go bigger. Truth be told, the album wasn’t as massive of a seller as one might think, but the band’s live performances helped to garner attention amongst a growing industrial metal scene. Think back to 1995, when Herzeleid was released. This was one year after The Downward Spiral, Ministry’s Psalm 69 was already three years old, and Rob Zombie hadn’t quite gone solo yet. Industrial metal was very much alive and well, but it was about to go to the stratosphere in the year of our lord 1997.

What brought them to the dance? Herzeleid has plenty of the threads that we would see in the later years of Rammstein, but it is far from the theatrical, over-the-top showmanship and lyricism that we would see on Sehnsucht and beyond. It’s very much an industrial record first and foremost, though the guitar gets plenty of workout. There are even guitar solos on tracks such as “Weisses Fleisch” and “Du riechst so gut,” and the ballad “Seemann” has one of the best bass guitar melodies this side of Primus. The grandeur comes in on “Heirate mich,” with a larger concept and lyrical storytelling. We know that Rammstein gets X-rated better than most, and we need look no further than “Das alte Leid” and the aforementioned “Weisses Fleisch” for examples of good fuckin’ songs (emphasis on “fuckin’”). 

Thematically speaking, the band was just getting warmed up on Herzeleid. The success of the album in their native Germany got them festivals such as Pink Pop, took them stateside for tours with Project Pitchfork and Clawfinger, and allowed the band to support The Ramones for eight shows on their 1996 “Adios Amigos” tour. David Lynch’s surreal Lost Highway also used “Rammstein” and “Heirate mich” on its industrial-heavy soundtrack. To say that the sophomore record was highly anticipated may be putting it gently, and that’s not a word that usually comes to mind when speaking of Rammstein. 

In November of 1996, the band traveled to Malta and entered Temple Studio with producer Jacob Hellner to record the follow-up to Herzeleid. By the beginning of April 1997, the band had a single in “Engel,” featuring vocals from Bobo singer Christiane Hebold. Bobo’s drummer Sascha Moser previously played with Rammstein’s guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe in the funk-metal outfit Orgasm Death Gimmick, reinforcing ties from ODG’s origins in the early Nineties. Prior to release of the iconic “Du hast,” the band remixed Korn’s song “Good God,” as well as released a Fan Edition of the “Engel” single, featuring two non-album tracks in “Wilder Wein” and “Feuerräder,” the former of which was a staple of the band’s live performances. The month of the album’s release saw both Herzeleid and the “Engel” single read Gold certification, and on August 25th, 1997, Sehnsucht was unleashed upon the world to rave reviews.

The artwork for the album was done by Gottfried Helnwein, who drew inspiration from his own work on the cover of Scorpions’ Blackout some fifteen years prior. Using surgical implements from surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch, six different covers were made for the album, one for each member of the band. While many different versions of the album have made their way out, I will be focusing on the standard 11-track version for the purposes of this retrospective.

The title track wastes no time getting to the stomping rhythm and monster riffage, as if to say, “Last time we kicked this off, we had to make a statement. This time you know who we are, so let’s just get to it.” And while the last record just hinted at sex in the opening with “Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?,” “Sehnsucht” is very clearly about blue balls and wanting to rekindle an old flame:

“Zwischen deine langen Beinen such den Schnee vom letzten Jahr,
Doch es ist kein Schnee mehr da.”

“Between your long legs, I search for last year’s snow,
But there’s no snow there anymore.”

Then we get to the would-be mega-single “Engel,” which I would make the case for being an industrial track with shades of metal. The guitars really only make an appearance during the post-chorus, and it’s the keys and synths that get any sort of “solo” before the final chorus. Lyrically, it’s hedonistic and anti-religion, with the baritone of Till Lindemann proudly declaring “Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein,” or “God knows I don’t want to be an angel.”

“Tier” is a song that could have easily been a thrashy, pedal to the metal banger that even starts out that way. Instead takes a mid-tempo route, and to its benefit, making for a more dance floor-friendly number. It’s one of two songs on the record that talk of incest, though the rape-revenge route that the second verse takes is at least justifiable. 

“Bestrafe mich” is not a love song, it’s kinky and downright dirty in all the right ways. The bass guitar gets a rare moment to shine, with Oliver Riedel’s tight bassline driving the interludes between verse and chorus. There are readings of this song that make it about religion, a relationship between man and God (“der Herrgott nimmt, der Herrgott gibt,” or “the Lord takes, the lord gives,” a play on the old adage “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away”), and while it’s not my place to confirm this suspicion, it does hold water, holy or otherwise.

Then we get to “Du hast,” the song that launched a million German students or more. The double-meaning in the pronunciation is worth pointing out to the uninitiated; that is, as the song title is written, it means “you have,” but “hassen,” the word for “hate” is pronounced no differently, and the band even plays with this in the lesser-known English version of the song. The main riff is iconic, the drums that precede the verse serve as a warning to what comes next, and the showmanship and theatricality is classic Rammstein.

Then we get to “Bück dich.” Just as “Weisses Fleisch” was the sex song of its record, this song is, well, something else. Its neck-snapping pace and punishing riffing fit the loveless thrusting of its subject, sodomy. This song is infamous for getting the band in trouble during live shows, as Till has simulated anal with keyboardist Christian Lorenz, complete with squirting strap-on dildo and all the tender loving care that comes with that. In June 1999, this act would land the two in jail in Worcester, MA for the night due to the city’s stricter decency laws. The song was never released as a single, but it has a reputation all its own.

“Spiel mit mir” is as cinematic as it gets for the early Rammstein records. The strings plinking away between Till’s talk-sung lines and stanzas make for an uncomfortable listen, and given this is incest song number two, that tracks. Disturbing, haunting, and thematic is the name of this song’s game, and the line “Vater, Mutter, Kind” makes for a worthy crowd sing-along for live shows.

“Klavier” is to this record what “Seemann” was for Herzeleid, a power ballad about obsession turned deadly. Slow songs aren’t Rammstein’s usual modus operandi, but when they do decide to bring down the pace, they do so masterfully.

“Alter Mann” is a rarer cut, once again more of a techno / electronic song than a metal one. Dealing in old age, wisdom, and possession, this is a creepy track for sure, unfortunately lost to stronger efforts on this album. “Eifersucht” walked so that “Mein teil” from 2004’s Reise, reise could run. It deals in cannibalism, murder, and jealousy, and it’s a song that feels like it may have been left off of Herzeleid for whatever reason. 

We close with “Küss mich (Fellfrosch),” and this is straightforward industrial metal. Samples, a heavy main riff, and more bassy goodness from Oli Riedel. Allegedly, this song has never made the band’s live setlist, and that’s a damn shame given its crowd-popping potential and accessible groove.

This album has stood the test of time for a couple of reasons. The taboo material the band wrote and played about, the blending of metal and industrial music, and a fresh sound not felt stateside in some time. Sehnsucht allowed Rammstein to tour with the likes of Hanzel und Gretyl, Skunk Anansie, Soulfly, and even a couple of Latin American dates opening for KISS. Stateside, the band found its way to the Family Values Tour in 1998, and “Du hast” landed the band’s first of two Grammy nominations for Best Metal Performance in 1999. Rammstein also earned an ECHO Award for Most Internationally Successful German Artist, and the Live aus Berlin concert film that followed went on tour, and was released on DVD and VHS. 

The band wouldn’t return to the studio to record their next album, Mutter, until May of 2000, allowing for three years of touring, airplay, and publicity out of this landmark record. Is Sehnsucht their strongest record? Maybe, though some would say that the best would be yet to come, but twenty-five years later, Sehnsucht ist doch so grausam, und wir sind dafür besser.