Tomorrow April Bandcamp Day embraces us. I returned from a desperately needed weekend getaway to see Actors at Smalls. Out at a bar, seeing one of my favorite bands playing live. With my friends around me, dancing, smiling, drinking. Ok the drinking got to be a bit over the top and I got sloppy gushing to Jason after the show. I think you take my point, it felt like fun was in the world again. Feeling locked away for so long. Work, isolation, trying to finish an album, seeing so much music come sailing over my head at the speed of light. Wanting to share but not finding the spoons to write reviews. Kicking the can down the road until tomorrow. Seeing that show though, it reminded me why I started. This new album was a progressive step forward for Actors, the excitement of a new member, music into energy, into joy, into energy returned. I came home reminded I needed to stop. Stop pushing myself to write because I had so many bands to share, so many friends to send my love to, and just stop. Stop and listen to music. Write about it after. It would be done when it was done. I might not finish for Bandcamp Day. When I do finish, I will tell you about the songs I stopped to listen to, alone in the silence.
Gasoline Invertebrate – Cracked Wax Battery – Brian Gaupner (The Gothscicles, Space Couch, TigerSquak Records) holds a special place in my heart. I feel a bit of twin spirit in how he approaches music. That feeling that music is an experience better shared. The visual of a Cracked Wax Battery is such a striking image. That bleeding yellow goop pouring out of an old battery carcass. Bringing in great artistic names that are also friends of a mutual vision like: Gopal Metro , Ed Cripps, Zoog Von Rock, and MORIS BLAK. A plasma whip of electronic dance beats cracking the air with aerobic intensity. Brian takes some of the jovial madness of Gothscicles off his voice and replaces it with hissing menace. The NES throwback energy of these synth lines are a nerdcore street cred of belonging. Gasoline Invertebrate always makes you feel inside the curtain.
Fav Track: Please Rate Your Pain – This song is everything the album is striving for, distilled down into a concentrated idea. The samples which raise a gallows humor poke at society. The rippling checkered cloth of constant motion. Brian’s continuous chant against the monetized concept of pain Olympics in modern society.
silver walks – tear me down – Dan McCullough the recent New York resident has continued to blow me away with every thread he slowly unravels for this album. This latest single out 4/8/22 is a super band level support cast to bring the shimmering sand swept race through grains of time to life. Coral Scere delivers a breathy elegant leaping vocal performance. In fact this single features an all star cast.
music written and arranged by Daniel Mccullough vocals and lyrics by Coral Scere backing vocals by Tim Heireth additional noise loops – Steven Archer
all tracks mastered by Eric Oehler at submersible studios, Wisconsin artwork by Steven Archer silver walks logo by Jim Marcus
I really feel this in my bones. Dan has been taking his time to hone each song to perfection. The attention to detail and craft show. This is special.
Panic Priest – Second Seduction – So this is a 2020 release from Chicago synth crooner Jack Armondo, one of the best baritone voices in the modern darkscene with an amazing ear for melody and construction. This album released on Negative Gain was a forceful step forward for the artist. It has a cavernous echo of isolation which was so relatable and present for many in 2020. The guitar work was an ever twisting glass staircase of builds and contact. Adam Black of Midnight Mannequin Records took on the mission of bringing this powerful album into vinyl format with this re release. The expansive warmth really deserves this hand held delivery. Looks like I need to buy this record again.
Black Angel – The Black Rose – Dark rock deity Matt Vowles has released another new album, honestly I don’t know where he finds the depths and time to keep churning out this much material at a high level. Where 2021 Prince of Darkness had a very LA hard rock 90s flavor, The Black Rose goes back even further with a modern gothic slant on early devil rock like Black Sabbath. It creeps in like a dream with slow stinging drums, deep lacerating guitar riffs, and a staggering vocal melody somewhere between Ozzy and Lane Staley. Someday soon a wise label is going to snatch up Black Angel and push them to the moon.
All tracks written, recorded and produced by Matt Vowles on behalf of Solid Recordings Publishing 2022 Vocals by Corey Landis and Maneesha Jones Album cover by Eshmoon DM
Vaselyne – Here To Begin – New 2 track EP out from Amsterdam based new members of the COP International family Yvette Winkler and Frank Weyzig (ex Clan of Xymox). I love the forceful proclamation of a title “Here To Begin”. All sales from this EP will be donated to support The Ukrainian People in their struggle for freedom. I’m always an enormous fan of bands that step up for their beliefs. The music has a travelers sung story around a crackling fire feel. Faces wreathed in shadows with distant pounding toms and blended finger pick acoustic and slushy growling wolf guitars. It builds like a spell into a gorgeous blown glass solo. I love the warmth and organic construction. This begins an intriguing new sound for the diverse COP roster.
Latenite Automatic – Statues – So I am standing near the merch booth at the Actors show in Detroit, and Jason introduces me to this handsome young rake and says “Ken, this is Scott, you need to check out his band”. Well I am always going to take that recommendation. Thus I was led to Canada based Latenite Automatic. I was struck first by the dangerous blend of club beats and rock and roll attitude. The vocals are a dark growling vibration sitting under the surface of the mix. Breaking the water in parts to create tension and intensity. The solo of this track sets the fretboard on fire. You have my attention gentlemen, time to dig through the back catalog.
Stoneburner – Contracting Iris – I know, Ken, you are always talking about Stoneburner. Well, have you heard Stoneburner? There is a reason. A new 2 track EP based on the science fiction story by Peter Watts. I love the ambitious artistry of this concept, where music is inspired by the written word, they find each other and build a stronger broader idea. The story now has an audiobook version with Steven’s score and Donna reading. I hope Steven has pioneered another idea that catches on in the scene. The music conjures images of Lynch “Dune” with it’s post apocalyptical chaos and danger, set against a background of high leather fashion. I kept picturing Sting doing a knife dance in a pit of unworthy opponents.
Sever The Servants – Nowhere – Second single from the powerhouse team up of Hide Tepes and Mike Nolen. A mechanized iron lung terror track. A shambling chant of desperation and quest for meaning. I love hearing two artist I am a fan of individually finding ways to smooth each others edges and improve the effect of both. Now on Produkt 42 a new label getting big steam in the scene.
PSY’AVIAH – Bittersweet – Massive new 42 track release from Yves Schelpe led project Psy’Aviah. This is bursting with guest talent like Claus Larssen (Leætherstrip), Mari Kattman (Helix) , Cat Hall (Dissonance), Kimberly (Bow Down Ever) and so many more. I don’t have time on bandcamp day to give the true deep dive of justice this release deserves. It is glorious higher thinking trip hop electronica with a poets soul. A robust and soulful stew of Portishead, Suzanne Vega, with modern spice and production. I’m honestly floored by the world building ground covered in this single release. It feels like 3 albums of contrasting and quality material. We should all pick this up and explore it deeper together.
This year has had the release of so many amazing albums. I’m a bit at a loss of how to do a Best Of List. I have so many records I loved after I made a list, then a list of another 100 I loved. It caused me anxiety thinking about how to categorize or order them. So instead I am going to treat this like a montage in no particular order. Just thinking about all the things that brought me joy in this dark year fills my heart with hope for the future. These are not singles, EPs or Full lengths released in 2021 with all genres mixed together in a blender like the Darkscene gods intended.
Actors – “Acts Of Worship” – This album is going to change the standard. Rather than think of it as an album out of time. Hear it as the type of puncturing emotional thought pieces we talk about as nostalgia from a previous era. I choose to see the hope it promises. To be a place where those that remember the past, and those that are blazing new ground in the future meet. Where they say this was the moment where the music we talk about twenty years from now with a new generation is remembered. It’s a powerful feeling that you can be apart of now. This is my album of the year. The second time I have given them this award.
Creux Lies – Goodbye Divine – October was the month of spooks, a shaky return of Halloween since the long-endured pandemic and a myriad of releases by many artists within the undead world of dark-alternative music. Among the wave of new, brooding and shadow-y music unleashed upon the world shines one LP that stands apart from the cobwebs and screeching bats in the night; ‘Goodbye Divine’, the second album by moody, Sacramento post-punkers, Creux Lies. More than three years after the band’s debut record, ‘The Hearth’, Creux Lies brings us a new collection of eight tracks packaged with an avante-garde painting by Alex Kanevsky on the LP’s cover. Preceding the release, the “New Romantic” quartet appeared in promotional images portraying them as disaffected souls in serene, open fields; a fitting aesthetic theme for the music’s despondent sonic-template. “Jungle” kicks off the record with a wave of sinister keyboards before the rest of the band commences their wall of gray, foreboding rhythms, setting the tone for the LP’s thematic statement. By track four, we are treated to the bitter-sweet, emotional “PS Goodbye”. Singer, Ean Clevenger croons against the soft-rock instrumentation with lyrics, “Mercy you, you helped me shine. Although the last, it was the very first time.” One of the most distinguishing elements of Creux Lies’ sound is Clevenger’s vocal contributions. – James Edwards
Rohn – Lederman – Venus Chariot – My love for Belgian composer extraordinaire Jean-Marc Lederman is deeply known on this page. His previous work includes ( Fad Gadget, The The, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Weathermen) as well as some of the most thought provoking higher tier concepts in electronica music of the past 5 years. Teaming here with COP International and exceptional producer/Vocalist Emiliegh Rohn of Michigan they blend into a poetic electrified katana of grace and fury. I have spoken of this record in the Sounds and Shadows group but was shocked I had yet to write a formal review. When I hear someone of Jean-Marc’s pedigree say “This might be one of the most important albums I have ever released” it tends to make your ears perk up. This album is full of endless fusion energy both in the intricate hair splitting craft of the music, and Emileigh’s power whisper beauty. it’s the record I reach for whenever I need to force my body into action. A well of strength at your fingertips for these draining times. Greg Rolfes provides cover art to set the tone of this runaway stampede of electronic elegance.
Black Rose Burning – The Wheel – George Grant of New York has taken an already amazing sound to a completely different level. This new album is progressive, complex, expertly executed emotional darkscene that permeates the skin and resonates in the chest. These vocals harken to a previous time of dripping Peter Gabriel emotion that spiral in crystal facets on top of shifting translucent hooks. It ebbs and flows through a stylistic spectrum and delivers with every memorizing tale. I continue to be blown away by one of the most criminally overlooked master songsmiths of our scene. This is a record that needs mainstream attention.
The Joy Thieves – American Parasite – This album is an opus from Chicago Industrial Superband The Joy Thieves. Dan Milligan and crew mix the best of hard thrashing rock and Industrial electronic explosion. The amount of talent and fury unleashed on this record is staggering and at no point disappoints.
Dead Astronauts : Silhouettes– A new release from our friends at Cold Transmission from Seattle WA. This record was a articulate and purposeful release that had a craftsmanship that placed it in the upper echelons. That made a lot of sense once I heard Slade Templeton (Crying Vessel) had a guiding hand involved. Florence, and Jared seem to have an instinct for where a song needs to go. Melody to melody, song to song, everything seems to flow in it’s perfect natural direction. It makes it so easy to fade away and become lost in the futuristic textures. They each have such a distinct and soothing voice. Made stronger by their combination and ability to hold the depth of a conversation instead of a monologue. The music has a lot of subtle dissonance and complex themes. What really makes it effective though is how these details are woven around straight forward pop hooks that remind me of Peter Hook’s Revenge , or Pet Shop Boys. This is a record that doesn’t need to scream to get your attention or convey emotion. It tells you everything without ever having to raise it’s voice.
I Ya Toyah – Out Of Order – I am constantly memorized by the way Ania’s star keeps growing in size and brilliance. With Out of Order she travels away from the standard rock aspects to the other spectrum of her electronic abstract. It truely feels like a fusion between robotic precision and human heart glow.
Kill Shelter & Antipole – A Haunted Place – Here it is, Pete Burns is operating on a level in modern postpunk/darkwave that is rewriting the script. Here instead of recruiting a variety of singers like his groundbreaking album Damage he takes the vocals upon himself. His voice is rich and rings with the power of a well aged bell. To build on that previous level of variety in the soulful lyrics, he has added possibly the top Post Punk guitarist in Antipole’s Karl Morton Dahl. It’s an effortless compliment which locks perfectly as a puzzle falling into place. Every track is done with such expert precision and runs the spectrum of emotion. This is an early contender for album of the year. Like an expertly honed novel I could hear this record 1000 times and find a new detail to zero in on each play through.
Stoneburner – Apex Predator – This is Steven taken off the chain and turned to 11. Unapologetic making industrial music of wild machines and wires. Spewed forth with venom to a world without a concern to how it will land. This is the true punk rock ethos driving giant steam punk construction vehicles. This is the industrial that Joe Strummer prepared us for.
Dove Tribe – All In The Waiting – No one is a bigger fan of the artistic exploration of sound by Hide Tepes of Carrion than me. He is on a constant journey to create some of the most cutting edge sound crafting in the modern scene. So when I heard he was doing a new project with a more rock focused old school bat cave sound I knew to expect something exceptional. The song “New Cold War” is a powerful political statement with an emotional delivery that harkens me back to 1959 by the Sisters of Mercy. A track that transports you and paints a picture of strife and rebellion. It shows Hide’s voice in a completely new light that left me spellbound. I feel like this EP has the raw power to be a game changer in a genre hungry for new sound.
Ashes Fallen –A Fleeting Melody out of a Fading Dream – The Sinister Guitar Lord of Sacramento CA James Perry returns with a long anticipated album. I’ve been a fan of the hard rock edge and dark overtones of Ashes Fallen for a while now. This new record finally fully embraces the goth aspects of the gothic rock. I feel like the scene has been so hungry for a voice of processive morals and guitar driven dark music. The other major step forward for this release is the collaboration heard on keyboard and additional guitars by Michelle and Jason. The seamless blend of these other voices in the song writing process really elevate and highlight the best aspects of James talent. The mastering by Gordan Young crackles with deep lines and definition. James voice has really found it’s internal confidence and writhes and strikes like a sea serpent bursting through phrases and throwing weight on those show stopping fretboard fireworks
The Ending Nights – A Landscape To Die – The newest offering of Pedro Code (IAMTHESHADOW) of Portugal on Cold Transmission Music. A definingly dark apocalyptic disco drive produced and mastered by Pedro for a soul wrenching personal explosion. Jagged glass drenched in rainbow oil and water. How do you take one of the most distinctive voices in modern goth/darkwave when you find a way to make the steaming disco beats the star of the show you have really broken ground. This is a record that creates a world. Grime and desolation, the remaining survivors of a broken world follow the electric pulse of a melody from within. A perfect anthem for these fractured times.
PALAIS IDEAL – Negative Space – Palais Ideal is my favorite advanced evolution of progressive post punk. A calculated artificial intelligence writing out the history of humanity in reverse. This is thinking persons post punk for a modern era.
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.
LEATHERS – Reckless – Second time on this list for 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.
The Gothsicles – Animal Songs– Brian breaks ever barrier of what we think this scene means. A pure shot of rainbow bright laser explosions telling the tale of animals while making you shake that ass. A unique voice and vision in a carbon copy world.
Bow Ever Down – Lost In The Woods– Kimberly Kornmeier sizzling darkpop from 2020 which left me swaying and captivated. The synthy star sparkle spins are a wonderful atmospheric journey. Their voice is an icy and bracing powerful clarity. They have a honesty and power that rings forth with every delivered line. It’s vulnerable and indomitable at the same fine. The music has a soulful and serious tone. A shattering crystal castle of faced disillusionment growth and regret. I also love the use of samples to set stories that allow the vocals to show the emotional range of the story portrayed.
A Cloud of Ravens – Another Kind of Midnight – New album from Brookland band ACOR, which has left me immediately captured and ready to dive into this deep pool. This record is a perfect blend of the homage to the past and the modern construction of the future. Well deep power and resonant vocals carry these stalking shadow woven songs. It’s concrete wilderness and Peter Murphy poetry. Ringing guitars and driving basslines carry a heroic journey through a desolate land. The power of this story is to make the situation always seem so bleak but leaves a glimmer of hope in every song. We have an interview coming out soon that provides a glimpse behind the curtain to this emotional hand quivering delivery.
Mark E Moon – Old Blood – Old and sinister music and vocals from Cold Transmission and the Isle of Man. I have been a fan or Mark E Moon for a while but this new record is a huge step forward in shadowy transmission and feeling that rips open your skull and pours raw unhinged emotion directly to your mind. It’s stomping, unforgiving and full of truth. I picked this record up and couldn’t find a way to put it down. Released on April 2nd you can get two tracks now with preorder. It has a sense of poetry and theater that has been lacking in the modern goth scene. It rides the line between beauty and grit. I can’t remember the last time I heard a band take such a monumental step forward from a previous album I enjoyed.
Twin Tribes – Altars – The beautiful lads of TX have released a remix album. Now I will always buy anything Twin Tribes put out sight unseen. I have to say this collection of remixes by some of the hottest names in darkwave was a special treat. The songs were big departures from the standard Twin Tribes style, but Luis voice still kept each song familiar. It included tracks from both previous albums placed lovingly up for sacrifice on the Altar to be transmuted and given back to the world.
Hueco – Canciones de Oscuridad y Desaliento – One of the most important Mexican darkscene bands of the past few decades. Hueco brings forth a unique flavor and tells sinister ghost stories in a universal emotional impression. I love the Iggy Pop “Raw Power” driving wilderness rhythm section. A must own record.
Helevete Inc – The Inevitability Ov Nothing – This is a new rerelease from Helevete Inc. We recently had the opportunity to interview them, so keep an eye out. I feel in love with the hard old school style of this band. This album was such a drastic departure and really shows the range they have. A rich and meaning drenched darkwave goth sound. TION shows a gripping and introspective melodic aspect of their voice. These songs have such a powerful authenticity of someone stepping outside of their wheelhouse, uncertain where the music would take them. Confronting the fear and darkness of that reality. I feel so deeply in entranced by this record. It showed me something, it had glorious imperfections which revealed the artists and left you gripped by the connection. The album also has fierce and snarling beauty in the form of guest vocals from Jenny Rae Mettee. This is one of the most underrated finds of the year.
unitcode:machine – Themes for a Collapsing Empire – Dallas TX Industrial artist has been on my radar for a while. This new album hits a whole new gear. I remember being at Cold Waves this year and hearing person after person in the know say “Holy shit have you heard this album”. This is a masterclass in marble statue precision craftsmanship in electronic music. The vocals are melodic and driven in a way that haunts your head. I love how clearly the poetry of the lyrics rings out beyond music that fills every wall of a dance club. It follows the template of classical industrial while finding a tone distinctly it’s own. People need to know about this, it needs to be appreciated.
Bootblacks – Thin Skies Remixed – Remix follow to the break out record Thin Skies. A who’s who of the modern darkscene reimaging an album that shook the foundations of the scene. Hear something you loved though a different lens.
Angelspit – Diesel Priest – Well this new Angelspit album is not pulling any punches sonically or politically. Zoog Von Rock has returned with an army of cyborg technicians of revolutionary destruction. Stomping machines of punk rock anti establishment zealots rolling on tank tread speed. It always leaves me stunned how something so fueled by chaos can fit in such a tight refined space. With every building track you never know where the creature will go next or who will be brought down in the explosion. I think the greatest power here is how the lyrics effect 16 year old me as long as 44 year old me with both the passion and intelligence. This album is an experience that hits on so many levels
WINGTIPS – Cutting Room Floor – I saw Wingtips this year and they had the best performance at Cold Waves. That is really saying something for this show. This record was the perfect storm of edge and refinement. It’s so explosive, beautiful, and tragic. So much is conveyed with two amazing humans in perfect harmony.
Dread Risks – Trauma Ties – Texas extreme crushdustrial band has taken several years of evolution and compressed them into a truly unique fury of sound. Music to smash your enemies with a sledge hammer with.
Helix – Bad Dream – It surprises me I don’t think I have reviewed the powerhouse team up that is Mari Kattman and Tom Shear (Helix). I will rectify that now. Bright, bold, and teaming with energy. Mari has an elegance to her voice that feels like a bird of prey gliding on an air current. This is music that makes my legs pump with a desire to concur the world. I’m genuinely mad at myself I haven’t listened to them more before now. Track 2 Slip has a gorgeous triphop backbeat that captures the idea of movement on ice. I love the subtle changes in the vocals cadence, everything happening in the same volume and range, yet creating movement with tiny variations. Masterful songwriting and execution.
HAEX – Aethyr Abyss Void – This is one of the meanest chaos cannon grimy warehouse fireballs I have heard in a long time. A forceful ritual of madness and terror pop sensuality. This is the soundtrack to your next Hellrazer Barker themed dance party. Inspired wall smashing guitar work and apocalypse chant vocals. I want more and want it now.
Lorelei Dreaming – Future Fables – Long have I awaited this 6 track EP complete with wonderful remixes by Chicago dystopian pop princess Laura. It’s so clear and textured from their previous release. Laura’s voice breaks through the wall and takes it’s rightful place on center stage. The album opens with an absolute banger in Of Stars. I’m loving the rippling synth sounds to add a fantasy feel. Each song is a striding step forward for an armor clad paladin facing down the demons surrounding her. This album was so worth the wait and every song is an adventure. The remixes are a brilliant contribution with the likes of Kanga, Sawtooth, Eva X, Angel Metro, and more. I love seeing so many top tier ladies involved.
MORIS BLAK – Irregular Revisions Vol. II – Brand new remix album from Boston EDM wizard Brian Blacknoise. Powerful reimagining from 2019 The Irregularity of Being. This album is a epic dance journey where sounds are sculpted from chaos into form. A masterful job of enlisting vocal performances from the likes of Alicia May, Luna, and Pete Crane to add layers that elevate the intent and narrative. Finding a fresh image in songs you have previously done is no easy task, but this remix album cracks the standard code. It’s a collaboration that takes something wonderful and fires it through a prism.
Dead Animal Assembly Plant – Bring Out The Dead – Another bone jarring hit from our friends at Armalyte Industries. This album is venturing a little closer to the metal aspects of industrial/metal than I tend to go. Sometimes in life you just need music to smash shit to, and that’s what the Portland band is bringing with rapid fire whole sale destruction. What leaves me impressed isn’t the moments it hits hard, it’s in the subtitle intelligence where pulls back and lulls you into a false sense of security just to swing the bat at you again with reckless abandon. Another great highlight is the cover of the folk song “Gods Gonna Cut you Down”. They say when Johnny Cash covers a song he makes it his own. Sometimes though you need to rip it out of his hands and shake the shit out of it with blistering guitars and fiercely whispered vocals by Time Bitch.
Push Button Press – Black Swan – This is a long awaited album from our friend Jim Walker and Cold Transmission record. The title really sets the tone for an amazing artist which has been a bit misunderstood and on the fringe. Writing music that was visionary and a bit progressive for some audiences. Right from track one The End of Time we are pressing our foot steady on the gas and gaining speed with clarity and purpose. I am feeling a lot of smooth spreading bassline and Jim has a stabbing staccato. That blend calls to mind early Psychedelic Furs. I think the thing that strikes me most in track 2 Trace are the crisp and driving drum beats. It really adds a powerful element of rock to the post punk concept. Title track 6 Black Swan lays open the the heart of the band. For every truth there is a black swan. The transitions here are so abrupt but maintain a silky smoothness that create constant motion. The guitar work here has a lot of early punk elements with heavy rhythm guitars. It feels like jumping across fast moving water from stone to stone. Always a sense of danger and concentration.
Stabbing Westward – I Am Nothing – Ok this was only an EP, but the amount of nostalgia and lightspeed rockdustrial perfection was impossible not to mention. Chris Hall is a voice that keeps getting more impressive by the year. Listening to this record can take 10 years age off your swagger.
Long After Midnight – Painkiller – Really liking how much rock is mixed into this Industrial Rock. The mastering was done by Jules Seifert so everything is smooth as an Aston Martin’s fender. Ross Martin’s vocals are crisp and powerful to cut through the progressive hard edge of the music. Mike Nolan is juggling a lot of moving parts here to give the music a sense of complexity and movement. Really exciting taste of more great things to come. I need to play with these cats once shows start again.
The Cult Sounds – Death of a Star – A haunted carnival of opaque modern rock sounds and blistering originality. This album felt so fresh I had no idea how to categorize it beyond being firmly in the camp of yes please. It’s dirty, mean, and dangerous with a cult energy I want to join up with.
Red Meat – Homo Vulgaris – Manchester UK’s dancetastic hard edge industrial is a album every DJ needs to download and use to blow the walls apart of every dance club in the world. Rhys Hughes has that filthy Uncle Al sex voice which makes you want to shake your body harder and meaner than you ever have before. It’s that perfect mix of glam and grime skirting a razors edge of the danger you want to stick around for. I love hearing music that isn’t my style, but is delivered with such quality I can’t help myself being drawn in by it. This whole album is pure club magic that makes me long for sweaty bodies spasmodically jerking in time while the crumbling walls of a filthy warehouse thrum in the darkness.
The Burying Kind – The Burying Kind – Ok, do I have a personal stake in this album ? Sure. It was still something I always reached for all year long. One of my favorite modern goth singers Scott-David Allen and Industrial musicians Dan Milligan coming together to make the best Shoegaze album of 2021. What is not to love about this entire concept. It’s passionate, it’s expressive, it’s perfect. You need to give this album a try, it will change you.
LINGUA IGNOTA – AGNUS DEI – Every time I think we as a species have hit the wall of new kinds of music we can make, someone surprises me. This year that surprise came from Lingua Ignota. It you took the hair wrenching sound of a morning party on an Italian cliffside at midnight and blended it with Peter Murphy doing electronic performance art. You might be in the ballpark. This record isn’t easy listening. It’s hard, glorious, mind expansive listening.
Death Loves Veronica – Chemical – The first album from the glorious union of the Texas siren and Cold Transmission Music. I love the crashing tide synth drive and the contrast of warm whiskey sliding down the back of your throat. A ritual incantation and self realization. Every time Veronica announces a new release I am left wondering what new territory her voice will take me. Pre Order is currently available with the first two singles “Burn” and “Spindein”. The power of this album is how instead of you studying the painting while listening. The stalking control and awareness in the eyes of the music is staring back at you. You are the one on display and the tendrils of the music creep towards you and wrap you up.
LA electronic songsmith producer with another powerful release. Colin Cameron is an absolute maestro of riding the razors edge between drifting spaceship on the edge of the known galaxy and that hook that gets stuck in your mind for days. The true modern day composer commanding a symphony of expression at the tips of his keyboard. The aptly named Void is a lost soundtrack of space horror like Event Horizon. Cameron has a sexy whisper voice that leads you like a siren into the unexplored darkness. Brilliant use of guest talent like Vocals on “Spill Blood” by R.A. Desilets. Proving again to be at the top of the game while drawing far outside the lines. I continue to be impressed by LA song crafter Colin Cameron. He takes an approach to music akin to graphic design. Every weighted aspect seems to bring contrast and focus to both the positive and negative space within a sound wave. This track is the perfect journey track to travel the stars on an extended tour of the universe. A hit of peace, a hint of madness, drifting into the beyond behind the hum of subspace engines.
Dogtablet – Pearldrop Blue – So many amazing elements in one place that connect all the tiny synapses in my mind and unleash a flood of dopamine right in the brainstem. Scene legends Martin King, Roberto Soave, and Jared Louche, have teamed up once again to bring out all the best in each other and we are reaping the sonic benefits. I’ve had a hole in my heart as Jared has been quiet lately. Hearing his mad prophet poet spinning spiderweb dreams again takes me on a fantastical journey
MALE TEARS – Trauma Club – LA synth stars who captured my heart with this slithery filthy synthwave sin. It’s the old effect, but in the modern light. James voice rings bright and tortured with beautiful poetry and anguish you can feel in your bones.
Jean-Marc Lederman Experience – The Raven – The living legend keeps finding ways to show me there are whole other levels of composition and concept us mere mortals have only begun to scratch. Another concept album where he uses guest singers to express a central theme he has written. This one the Poe infused macbre holding court in the modern electronic era. The list of contributors is a fitting testament to the brilliance of the composer.
Sapphira Vee – Duets – NY siren Sapphiria uses another great talent beyond her production and vocals. She draws people to her with her light. In this case a plethora of industry greats to place their voice next to hers in a duet. Mike Reidy, Jim Semonik, Chris Connelly. Turning the monolog into a glorious dialog.
Batavia – Mythos – Ed and Terri Cripps have found something between medieval bard and smashing industrial noise. I don’t know how to put a finger on it but I don’t ever want it to stop. It’s so gorgeous and original. It’s full of hope and inspiration. This is what I listen to when i need to be inspired to write music.
Black Angel – Prince of Darkness – It’s so good to have the ROCK back in gothic rock. La sleezy thrashing darkness that reminds us where we came from in this genre. It’s pumping hearts in barb wire and leather. Feel undead in the anarch LA streets of darkness.
Vision Video – Inked in Red – Glorious throwback 80’s glory full of The Cure/Smiths/ sad beauty you want to follow the violet winding star beam into the night to. Creeping comfort of a dream I needed to remember.
Bedless Bones – Bending The Iron Bough – My favorite band from Estonia. The wind rustles gentle through purple grains. The chant grows in electric power and swirls with spiritual majesty. Another one of those fresh sounds that sparks the heart with exploration.
There has always been an unspoken aspect of creating great music and finding a way to promote it to people. They are two completely different skill sets required to be successful often taken for granted. Just like playing guitar, singing, ect, connecting and promoting music is a skill. It can be learned. It also comes much easier for some people than others. In 2021, in a social media, boutique record label, streaming-platform world, this is more relevant than ever. I see my social media feed everyday full of people saying, “Why do I not get noticed?”. I am not a public relations expert. My band, Amaranth, is not a household name. I have been able to take my music review page Sounds and Shadows from nothing, to a webcasting Facebook group with global viewership in three years, which has drastically effected the bands popularity and impact. So I would like to share some of the things I think could help you and your project. In addition to me, Sounds and Shadows has put me in contact with some of the most successful bands in the dark-scene. True innovators who each have done something original to get noticed in the modern era. Some have graciously offered to share some of the secrets that helped them garner attention and propel them on the international stage. My hope is this article helps lift all ships and propels the scene I love to it’s greatest heights.
You have to make something great in this day and age to stand out
There is so much amazing music being made. As a reviewer it truly feels like a tidal wave of astonishing stuff all the time. The fact that everyone has access to decent recording equipment in their home at a price below $100 an hour means the doors are open to creative expression in a way they have never been. It also means you can get out there before you find yourself, or hone your craft to what you are capable of. Having something that truly stands out is REALLY hard. The good news is information on how to get to that level is readily available. Every sound is there for you to practice with and create the exact vision in your mind. There is even a niche to find in the world for the cutting edge you are imagining. You do need to have a realistic goal of what you want to achieve and how much you are willing to compromise to reach that size audience. If you want to do this as a lifestyle, be prepared to work really hard at it.
2. True fans, the ones you need, first need to believe in a concept, not just a song
If there was ever a time when writing a good song and being a great musician was enough, it isn’t now. The truth is people have never cared about the glorious hot licks you can play. They want to be associated with an idea, an image you portray on stage. It was true for the Beatles, The Stones, Bowie, and Joy Division. It is just as true today. I’m not saying you need to be pretty, aloof, or anything else. You need to know who you are, do an intense projection of that, and be willing to share it. What’s more, the days of the asshole, I’m above you Rockstar are done. There are too many talented people making music. Requiring you not to be an a hole is not a big ask. Appreciate your supporters, be something worth believing in, make your music and lyrics something real. if you don’t want to put in the effort, you likely won’t generate excitement.
3. You need to act like you don’t need this shit, then you get the shit for free
if you are doing this for fame, you are in the wrong game. Every time I see a post that says, “why is no one paying attention to me,” you are really saying everyone pay attention to the fact that what I am doing isn’t catching on. Instead you need to focus attention on why people should. We all experience moments of doubt. If you make that your focus, it looks thirsty. Instead ask yourself: Am I reaching out to the right people? Am I sharing myself in the right way? Is this ready to blow people away?
4. If you want others to be invested in you, be invested in them.
I can say definitively that doing a music review page/Webcast/Facebook group has made our band Amaranth 10 times bigger than we have a right to be. Lifting up others in the scene, commenting and sharing DJs/reviewers/bands forms a connection. People know you and when you lift others up it makes a statement about you. If you really believe in the music you are making, invest in yourself by reaching out to bands who have more time in and are more successful than you. Get a remix done; sometimes that costs money. Contribute to a compilation. Share and review other bands. Go into Dj shows (join the Twitch chat, say hello). This gets you involved with the people who drive the scene. When you have something come out, they know your name. Reach out to Djs/review pages personally. Don’t send a form letter to 300 people. Get to know the show/page. Reach out to ones that fit your sound. Send them a personal message that shows you follow and know them. Tell them you have a Bandcamp code for them because you know they have great taste and would like this. Same with bands. Take a moment to tell someone they matter to you. You would be surprised how much it matters. They may do a solid for you some day.
5) Tell a story, don’t just beanother link spam.
Social media is part of the job now. There are a lot of platforms and ways to do it. Ignoring it is not an option in 2021. Investing some money in advertising something important like a video/album/single/tour is a solid idea. The most bang for your buck is a well thought out google add with the right tags and marketing. Not everyone has cash for that, it’s not the only way. It does help though. Facebook groups/Reddit/Twitter are another way to beat the algorithm and get reach. Again it is about genuine connection. There is no shortcut. You need to be involved in groups. Not just show up only to post links to your band. Also when you post, give people something to engage with. Tell the story of why this song matters, ask a question to engage with, spill a little poetry that gets people excited. No one wants to feel like a faceless number. If your post feels like that, you don’t have anyone’s attention.
6. Be a subject matter expert
I don’t remember who said the quote to me, “If you want to be a great writer, read great writers”. It is the truest thing in the world. The same is true of music. If you want to make the best music possible, listen to who is doing it well. I don’t just mean the classics (Although that never hurts). I mean who is leading the charge today. Even when you don’t know you are learning, you are learning. Watch Interviews, hear what successful artists have to say, try new techniques, if you don’t know them, watch a youtube video. This goes for production, playing and instrument, or doing promotion. We have a wealth of information like never before. Drink it in.
7. Run up and say hello.
GO TO SHOWS! (Or Livestreams in a pandemic). If you want to be seen, you have to go see. Say hello to touring bands, Local Djs, be useful to them. Tell them why you enjoyed the show, get some merch. Then, tell them what you do and are about. Word gets around, bands talk. If you establish yourself as someone invested in growing the scene, who knows, you may just find yourself getting some opening slots for touring bands. You still need to be the one to bring it and turn heads once you get the slot. Being known as a positive energy person in a local scene goes a long way. Join Facebook groups like Sounds and Shadows, just don’t be the one to treat people like you just stopped by to promote and leave. Be involved. Get the lay of the land and comment on other peoples posts. Start a list of DJs and review pages. Bandcamp allows you to print a spreadsheet of codes. Sending a personal message with a code to these influencers is worth their weight in gold. Again the key is having a personal message, not a form letter spammed to hundreds of Djs.
8) Be nice, throw the doors open and let people connect.
This takes effort. It takes spoons. Sharing a part of yourself. Leaving a Bday message. Saying hello when you see someone on your feed is high or low. Basically make sure people know they mean something to you. If you treat them like consumers, then expect them to share, comment, give a shit about your band. You may find yourself in a lonely place. The same goes for shows (does everyone remember those). Both your own, and other peoples. A moment of your time and energy can increase exponentially when you let someone know you appreciate their support.
These are all tips I genuinely believe in. Who the fuk am I though? 🙂 So I have reached out to some artists who have all done something unique and special in the modern era and ask about how they stood out using techniques available to you now. Listen and learn, these are all people who managed to turn heads by doing something creative.
Jason Corbett – Actors – Vancouver based post punk stars have sold a lot of albums and toured extensively. Rising to the top and redefining the genre. The are also Canadian and REALLY friendly. Forming a connection with fans around the world.
Ken: You have toured extensively around the world, forged connections which led to fans and opportunities. How has this been effective for you, and what have you done to make each show so memorable for fans?
Jason:We played over 150 shows in support of our debut album. It was exciting and exhausting. We made sure to make each show count and never lost sight of why we were out on the road. When the chemistry is right you run with it. We wouldn’t dream of someone spending their time and money to come see us and us not giving our all.
Ken: Your Facebook fan group The Academy has really become a beacon for what fan interaction can be. Like the recent memes on the album cover. How have you built a fan experience here and on other social media that makes a lasting impression globally?
Jason: Wherever we toured fans would comment to us that we were friendly and outgoing. I realized that we didn’t have to conform to any preconceived notion of what it meant to be a band. We could just be ourselves. The bonds with fans just started to happen naturally and that carried through to our online presence as well. Of course Kym Pop who started The Academy on Facebook does an amazing job of keeping the conversation happening. I’ve been a musician for a long time. I’m genuinely grateful for all the support we’ve had and I don’t take it for granted.
Ken: What do you hold as the greatest factors in you making the transition from Vancouver to global recognition?
Fans who listen to music like ACTORS are typically close knit and supportive. Our self-released singles slowly garnered enough attention online that Artoffact Records approached us with a record deal. That record deal brought us to the attention of wider audiences and we continue to grow month after month. I believe there’s an honesty in our music. People connect to artists that are coming from their truth.
Isaac Howlett – Empathy Test – British based electronic songsmiths who have shot to amazing heights in the past 5 years through amazing songs, extensive touring, and a non stop effort to DIY determination and fan connection.
Ken: What are some of the DIY techniques you used to gain momentum when starting out?
Isaac: Okay, well, when Empathy Test began, we were complete unknowns in the music world. We needed to build an audience fast, to get noticed. The main tools at our disposal were SoundCloud, Facebook and Twitter. Obviously, the best platforms for an artist to use to promote themselves change regularly, and the rules that govern how you use those platforms, the algorithms etc. change even more regularly, so it’s all about keeping ahead of the curve. Back into 2014, I came up with a system that really worked. It involved a lot of leg work, but I’ll tell you one thing for sure, if you want success there are no shortcuts. Perseverance and hard graft are always at the heart of most people’s success. So…step one, assuming you’ve got a quality, radio playable or streaming product, otherwise known as music. That’s the real step one. And press shots. And a good bio. Then you need to ascertain your target audience. The easiest way to do this is to basically think, what other similar acts to us are there whose fans we can most easily steal? I chose Chvrches because they were doing well at the time, using 80s synth sounds, and making intelligent pop with emotional depth. So, I downloaded a free app which allowed me to easily follow hundreds of fans in a matter of hours. I plugged in Chvrches’ Twitter handle, up popped their followers and – tap, tap, tap. Follow, follow, follow. Then, I used a feature that allowed you to send an automated message to anyone who followed back. Something cheesy like, hey do you like synthpop? Check out our tunes on SoundCloud [link] and follow us on Facebook [link]. After that, it was just a numbers game. Out of every 100 accounts I followed, 20 would follow back and maybe 10 would follow the links, and 1 or 2 actually engage with you. Anyone who didn’t follow back, after a week you’d unfollow them and follow 100 more people. Of course, you’d get a few angry people along the way, but I just had to ignore the rage and keep going. At the same time, I began targeting small labels and blogs. I kid you not, within a month we had interest from a small independent label in NYC. A month later, we’d recorded a second EP and signed a deal with that label to release it. In terms of the promo technique, Twitter soon put a stop to that kind of thing and we rounded off at over 10,000 followers before I then unfollowed thousands of them to see how many would stay. It dropped to around 8,000 before it began rising organically again. But obviously now, Twitter is old news and you want to be looking at Instagram and Ticktock to pull similar kind of stunts in different and new ways. But the key is identifying your audience and taking the product to them, and social media is the best tool to do that yourself, for free.
Ken: How has touring helped you gain connection and loyal fans?
Issac: Touring was really the next step. I quickly realized that no one was just going to pop up and book us a tour without management and a label (I learnt a lot from the label but after six months we reached an agreement to leave and take our music and rights with us). So I came to one of the most important realizations of my music career so far. If you build it, they will come. Essentially, if you sit on your arse and wait for people to turn up and do shit for you, it’s never going to happen. Do it yourself. Because as soon as people see you working your ass off and having any kind of success, they want a piece of it. The trick is then to only work with the ones you trust. So I booked a few local gigs of our own, met a like-minded band making similar music and we booked and crowd funded our own co-headline national tour. We didn’t even use promoters, we hired the venues ourselves. It doesn’t matter that we only just broke even and barely anyone showed up, because we were making a statement and learning the ropes of touring. And lo and behold, the next year, we were on a European tour with Mesh and Aesthetic Perfection courtesy of our new booking agent, Jan Winterfeld of Pluswelt Promotions in Germany. And on day two, Daniel from Aesthetic Perfection offered to bring us to America. We made a batch of 100 CDs originally, just copied ones with a design printed and a card sleeve. We sold them and reinvested the money into buying more. For the first four years, we took no money from the band, we just reinvested everything while working day jobs. Then we branched out into t-shirts and eventually 7″ vinyl. We performed with older, more established bands, anyone that would have us basically, and then stole the hearts of their fans, and sold them our CDs. Every night, as soon as we’d broken down our kit, we’d be at the merch table meeting fans and signing whatever they wanted signing. For as long as we were wanted. We owe so much to Mesh, DE/VISION, Covenant, VNV Nation and many more amazing bands. But it was our polished music, professional and hardworking attitude that meant suddenly everyone wanted us as a support. We started having to turn down support tours after a while, to focus on doing our own.
Ken: What have you done to stay true to the art in your heart while branching into a wider spectrum as an artist?
Issac: I think as a DIY musician you have to wear many hats, and feel comfortable wearing them. The toughest part is remembering to keep putting as much time and effort into the music, because it’s easy to forget about it while you are busy selling it, and yourself. One thing that works for us is just separating the art and the business. I have to write songs because I want and need to write them, not because I need another product to sell. If I try and write an “Empathy Test” song, and it doesn’t work. Adam, the invisible producer member of the band, takes no part in the business or performance side of Empathy Test at all. That allows him to think outside of what will sell, what the fans want, or are expecting or asking for, what other bands in the scene are doing, and always deliver a sound which is a surprise and a challenge to our listeners. Also, by having one person writing the songs on an acoustic guitar (me) in any style they want, then a second person (Adam) translating that into a completely different style with different instruments, usually initially both in isolation, you’re always going to keep things different and fresh. When I heard Adam’s demo of our new track, Moths (release TBC), I was blown away. It was so completely unexpected, while simultaneously so exactly what we should do next. I felt exactly how I’ve felt with pretty much everything we’ve done to date. Bringing in fresh influences, for example, Oliver Marson on keyboards, also helps keep things fresh.
Steven Archer – Ego Likeness/Stoneburner – Steven has been a true DIY master creating some of the most progressive industrial sounds propelling the genre into a new era. He has incorporated a stunning visual and stage element to remain on the cutting edge of the modern scene. In addition he is an artist through social media that actively engages and shares his process with videos and discussions how he creates both sound and image. A true master of pulling back the curtain and letting the fans inside.
Ken: How has the use of a multimedia experience been effective in creating an artistic experience fans are drawn to ?
Steven: I don’t know. I do believe that the more realized any given piece of art is, the more the audience will get out of it. And because of my fine arts back ground nothing I do is one dimensional. Songs have imagery that goes with them, paintings tell stories which influence the music etc. It’s very rare that I create any piece of work that is a stand alone thing. My goal whenever time permits is to get over realize an artistic vision as fully as possible and make all of those components available to the audience in hope that they get as much out of it as I do.
Ken: Your live show is a massive and memorable production even in a smaller venue, how do you achieve this effect without a $50,000 stage show ? Why does that matter?
Steven: Thanks! The key is spending my entire life poor, and deciding that was not going to stop me. Which ultimately means that I have to put the time in and do all of the work on my own. I am my infrastructure. Fortunately we live in the future so it’s totally feasible to have your own projection equipment, or run your entire sound setup from an iPad on stage, do your own editing, make your own stage clothes etc. It just takes time and the will to do it. I don’t write anything close to pop music. Not even within our tiny genre. Most of what I do isn’t made to dance to. None of my bands have ever been HUGE. But we write songs that matter to the people they make sense to. And they matter to us. So, even though both bands are in great labels, there is a very limited reach as far as promotion goes. Getting the word out, building an audience, it’s all on our shoulders. And if I’m going to go out on stage. I’m going to use as many tricks as I can think of to keep the audience engaged. To tell a story, to make it an experience. Someday, what I would really like to do is surround the audience with projections. Put them in the show to a degree. As to how I do it inexpensively? Lots of planning and research. Lots of problem solving and visualizing around corners. Whatever goes on stage has to fit in our minivan along with the gear, personal shit, merch and people. So that’s one hard limit. The other is that it needs to be able to be set up and torn down quickly by one or two people. To that end I spend a ton of time figuring out how to wire things up so they are easy to connect and disconnect quickly.
Ken: You give an interactive fan experience with your social media, sharing technique, videos, equipment, how does letting your fans behind the curtain add to connection with your art?
Steven: Historically many bands have been able to keep that wall up between their fans and themselves. We can’t afford to that. We do a ton of different thing from music to art and writing. And down here on this level with independent publishers and record labels, you have to be able to sell your product. You have to be able to make people excited about what you do. And the best way to do that is to show your own excitement. We figured out real early on that our product isn’t X band or book or whatever, it’s us. Steven and Donna. The idea being that if you come across us as musicians than that will hopefully lead you to the art or writing or whatever. So there’s that aspect of it. Also, D and I are both natural teachers. We love what we do and love talking to other people about it. I’ve taught art privately for 30 years, so it’s only natural that would become part of our social media presence. And the longer we were on social media the more we saw that there was a need for an ongoing dialog about mental illnesses, so over the years we’ve spent a decent amount of time talking to our fans about that as well. The nice thing about it for me, is that I am not a social animal, so talking to people online when I’m in that sort of place is great. Because it’s just accepted that people pop on and off when they are available. So it doesn’t interfere with the rest of my work. It’s also a great way to make sales directly to your audience. And post pictures of your weird ass cat.
Karl “Zoog” Learmont – Angelspit – LA Electronic Industrial Punk star has really been a touring star with an ability to really connect with fans. He does a weekly Twitch stream/group where he discusses recording and music techniques with other musicians. Instead of hoarding his knowledge, he truly lives the punk rock socialist ideas of lifting up everyone around.
Ken: 1) You have really used your community through remixes, artist workshops, and community hype to grow your name. What is the importance of this? How did you make these connections work to lift all ships?
I’m blessed to be in a position where I can build a community to teach and encourage each other. I’m fortunate enough to have a degree in music, so I can freely share knowledge with people who are not in a position to study music….but I am always the one learning from the workshops (!!).This is not a marketing device – it’s a way for me to give back and make an investment into the future of our community. I’m hoping these workshops will lift the bands involved. The ultimate aim is to help them produce and release a track, get it to their audience and get their video onto
Ken: You have a genuine connection with your fans, how has social media allowed you to let fans behind the curtain and be a part of your art?
Many fans have become friends. I have produced some of their releases. Sunday’s Art Of Rock has become a group of friends. They encourage me and keep me going. I talk to many online, and have spent many hours meeting and drinking with them at clubs and gigs. We are all in this wonderful tribe and we are all equal. People get to see the songs-in-progress via Angelspit’s Patreon, plus the free Art Of Rock meet-ups.
Ken: You create music that has a true punk rock ethos of political intensity in a time when the world seems more divided than ever. How do you use this genuine perspective to motivate fans and expand your ideas?
Karl: It’s hard…partly because I’m a bastard. I won’t tolerate anti-LGBQT, sexist, racist, radical-right-religious views….fuck those guys. Within our bubble there are many things that could divide. Some of these are important, some are trivial. It’s important to listen to others and grow. You’re only right half the time – but you never know which half that is. Lyrics are a great way to truly shoot your mouth off. I quote a lot of people I respect, and some I don’t. I’m currently getting a lot of feedback about the album – some ideas are agreed, some are not. I listen with an open mind some ideas I adopt, some I respect, some I reject. I encourage people to put their thoughts into lyrics, music, poetry, art – make something beautiful with your passion. The world needs to hear your thoughts. Someone, somewhere is going through the same thing you are – your art might be the things that makes them feel like they are not alone. ROCK!
Matt Fanale – Caustic / Klack / Daddybear –
Ken: The merch you make is very distinctive and creates a buzz around all the music you release, what connection does this make to your music and how do you make it relevant ?
Matt: I keep a really simple aesthetic with most all of my merch to keep it recognizable. I used KMFDM as a model for utilitarian branding. I wanted people identify a Caustic shirt within seconds in a club or at a show. It’s served me well. I got booked for a festival a long time back because the booker saw my shirts all over the fest the year before. I also try and give my merch the personality of my music. Caustic started out as this snotty, punky powernoise project. I tried to be funny as a way to both entertain and distract people from the quality of the music (not kidding:)). I’ll say what other people won’t say sometimes, which is never meant in a mean way, but the STOP SAMPLING FULL METAL JACKET shirts got me on everyone’s maps. The SURE, LIKE NINE INCH NAILS shirts were a big hit, too. I just know that if I’m having fun my audience will, too. With all that said, sometimes I think I’ll be remembered more for the shirts than the music, but I guess anything works.
Ken: You have a close connection to your fanbase, offer multiple projects and twitch streams to interact with fans, how do you use this to create a buzz around your songs?
Matt: I mean when it all comes down to it it’s connecting with people on a simple level. I don’t do everything for “Branding” (trademarkcopyright), but it’s pretty great just knowing you have something in common with other people, and it’s even cooler if it’s because of something creative you’re doing. The Twitch streams started with the pandemic as a means to get out of my head for a few hours, but I’ve really enjoyed diving into genres I didn’t ever DJ in the clubs, like my old school hip hop night. I think all the nights just give people an excuse to hang out online, chat, and enjoy the music. A lot of (significantly more successful) Twitch DJs talk a bunch more than I do on their streams, but I’m literally just using Twitch as an excuse to chill with folks and practice the craft. The pandemic sucked, but I’m a better DJ than I’ve ever been, and I’ve been doing this 20 plus years.
Ken: You have been very successful on the festival scene, what helped lead you to this success and how does it help your music gain recognition?
Matt: Before I did music I did improv comedy for a decade. When I get on stage I’m there to entertain, and festivals are perfect for Caustic as you get a certain subset of people that are ideally fans and know what I do, and then plenty of people who have no idea about me or maybe don’t care. Something I think I do that a lot of other artists don’t is really trying to make Caustic sets memorable in that setting. There could be a few dozen other bands on the bill, and I’m rarely the headliner, so from day one at the first festivals I performed I made sure people wouldn’t forget it. Sometimes that would be me reading real life stories of people dealing with psychotic exes during a song to having people smuggle ugly underwear into the show and getting pelted with a hundred pairs during a track. I also like bringing people on stage as guest stars. At Mechanismus in Seattle a few years ago Dan from Continues/Babyland joined me to sing my cover of Babyland’s Worst Case Scenario, which I think was the first time he performed it since they broke up (I played that show with them, too). That meant the world to me, as did later on in the set when we did a Stromkern track with Ned on vocals. In terms of the sets themselves I plan them for maximum impact. I try to build the energy as high as possible so when we leave the stage I want the next band to be nervous to go up. Whether this happens or not I have no idea, but my job is to entertain the hell out of everyone and afterwards have people hear about it and wish they were there. That’s the only way to do it in my mind.
Dusty Gannon – Vision Video –
Ken: You more than anyone have been so effective connecting with fans on tik tok with the Goth Dad character to shine a light on Vision Video. How did you make this transition and what has it done for your band?
Dusty: The character of Goth dad is ultimately a composite of my goofy personality and my penchant for poking fun at the sometimes ridiculous level of seriousness that’s espoused within the goth subculture. I never expected it to blow up in the way that it did, but I now understand why people enjoy and find value in that character so much. While it does bring attention to Vision Video as a band, it has taken on a life of its own in a different way. Occasionally I will draw attention from that character to the fact that I’m in a band, but it’s a lot of work and you can’t constantly badger people about listening to your music because it becomes patronizing. TikTok like any other social media platform is a tool that can be used effectively to tell your story and to get the word out about your art. At the end of the day, I think that’s the most important aspect of social media, is connection and commiseration through your story and what makes the core of your art meaningful and worth recognition.
Ken: You are so effective at combining your aesthetic and personality with the music you make. How important is this in the modern era and what tips would you give to bands trying to find their look?
Dusty: I think the goth scene for me has always been a confluence of music and fashion. I grew up as a teenager finding my truest self in that scene and was able to express myself as thoroughly with music as I could with fashion and makeup. That being said, I draw a lot of influence from a variety of places that are near and dear to me: much of my aesthetic is rooted in my experience in the military, where I like to use things like ammunition, casings and torn, rough, nearly post-apocalyptic clothing. I also take a lot of influence from the legendary performers of the past like Lux Interior or Johnny Slut. An insane amount of trashy B movie and horror film influence goes into my aesthetic (A goth who loves horror, geez no one has heard of that before ) In the makeup realm, I grew up wanting to be a special effects makeup artist for movies, but ended up joining the army instead. And that’s why I’m able to do what I do: I’m completely self-taught, and to be quite honest if I’m capable of teaching myself all of the stuff I do with makeup, quite literally anyone can do it because I feel like a complete moron most days. As far as finding your style or aesthetic, my only real recommendation is spending a lot of time finding the clothing and makeup or accessories that truly speak to who you are. It’s very easy to defer to fast fashion, especially in the goth world, but I think there is a lot more value and DIY and creating your own accessories and apparel.
Ken: Your sound has a distinctive retro nostalgia vibe with a modern flare. How do you cross over what you grew up loving with what you want to present to younger fans?
Dusty: Our music is a really accurate representation of the varied tastes of the members of our band. Everyone brings a different piece that is not always necessarily under the purview of Goth or postpunk. One thing that I think is really important for musicians in general, but particular to a those playing within a specific genre, is to try to push the envelope, take risks, and do things that aren’t just a replication of the past. We get a lot of comparisons to bands like The Cure or the Chameleons, and I absolutely adore both of those bands. While I think we pay a lot of homage to them, I’m not trying to make a direct facsimile version of them because it’s already been done and it wouldn’t be in our own tone of voice to speak the message of our music. We certainly never set out to try to make music that’s more accessible to a younger audience, but I think that has occurred to a degree because we’re making music that WE enjoy and not trying to sound like anything in particular. I like accessible music that has darker and rougher edges. I think one thing that has lent well to our sound is that it’s not something that has to grow on you, it’s something that you can jump right into. Accessibility or “poppiness” can be construed as a bad thing by some (especially in the aforementioned oh so serious goth and postpunk world), But it doesn’t take away from the meaningfulness of what we are singing about. Our songs are often about my experiences in war or seeing people die horrifically as a paramedic or firefighter. I think that juxtaposition only amplifies the value of our music. In my opinion, the most important aspect of creating art through the vehicle of music is authentically speaking from the heart in order to connect with people.
Daniel Graves – Aesthetic Perfection –
Ken: How have you been successful in the world stage using the one single a month technique? How has spotify lead to your success? How does the work you put in to making sure your music is top tier and interesting to both niche industrial fans and wider audiences?
Daniel: I’m a big advocate of reading the room. That is, understanding the zeitgeist, from both a cultural and technological point of view. Once you understand that, you can figure out where your voice fits into all of that. For the 12 in 12 project, it seemed like a very natural solution to the problem of the pandemic. How can I keep people interested and engaged in a world where touring is no longer possible? How long does it take for the timeline to refresh and for audiences to crave something new? The answer to that is 3-4 weeks. It seemed quite obvious that I should be putting out new material every month in order to keep my audience, and the algorithm happy.
Ken: How has spotify lead to your success?
Daniel: A lot of people misinterpret my pro-streaming stance as a pro-Spotify stance. The truth is, I’m pro-zeitgeist. I’musing the current moment to maximize my reach and amplify my voice. As soon as streaming stops being a part of that, I will happily pivot.
Ken: How does the work you put in to making sure your music is top tier and interesting to both niche industrial fans and wider audiences?
Daniel: Again… just read the room. What is popular? What do you like about what’s popular? More importantly, what do you dislike about it? How can you use that to your benefit? How can that hurt you? How far do you push the world in the direction you want to go? How do you yield to it? A lot of people tend to read this approach as selling out, when the reality is that you’re just learning how to say what you want to say in the language that the world currently speaks. Doesn’t matter if you have the most interesting or profound idea mankind has ever seen, if you’re speaking Spanish and the audience speaks Mandarin, your words will be meaningless. The job of the artist is to bridge this gap
Collin Cameron- Slighter – LA electronic abstract texture artist who has broken through using empathy based emotional noise to get into the film/tv scene. This is one of the most difficult and effective ways to do financially effective promotion in the modern age. Combining media and music is the modern expectation to form a lasting connection in music.
Ken: You have been able to transition into TV/film soundtracks. How did you get involved and how has that brought a wider audience to your music?
Colin: My involvement started in LA, I don’t think it would have happened to me if I wasn’t there. And with luck you have to make your own. During the 2010s when I was there working with bands and making tunes I made connections with music supervisors and learned about music publishing and how to do it myself. And at the time it was a great way for indie artists to get on TV soundtracks if you took control of your music in that capacity. Exposure on national television is great, but people still have to go and find you after watching! So there’s no guarantee of built in fans from it. But always nice to have someone come around and say “I loved that song from FOX’s Bones!” and the paychecks that brings to allow me to make more weird music.
Ken: You have been able to generate interest while playing in some fringe genres. What are you doing to connect with fans while staying true to your vision?
Colin: I’m a perpetual outsider really, and growing up moving around small towns I pretty much just kept to myself. I wasn’t exposed to many scenes and genres locally as I did self discovering electronic music, industrial music, IDM, etc. via the those first chat rooms and message boards in the early days of the internet. Without the sort of ‘peer pressure’ of local scenes and whatnot, my taste just became very eclectic. My vision has always been to make music that subverts standard genre, and the struggle with the world today of ‘branding’ and neat and tidy boxes to fit music in does make it a challenge. I think having a ‘signature approach’ to writing music makes my stuff sound like Slighter, but I’m sure I’ve alienated a few with the journey I’m on! I think if you’re making art for self expression, that it will resonate with certain people over time. Just make eclectic your brand!
Ken: How do you connect with new fans on social media?
Colin: Word of mouth really, my background coupled with doing a bunch of high profile remixes helps to give me clout. I like everyone struggle with social media reach and I’m not very fond of the idea of being perpetually engaged with social media as it’s not mentally healthy for creative work. I schedule time to make the social media rounds and keep up with my newsletter and Bandcamp followers directly. Definitely think it’s important for artists to understand how detrimental social media is to authentic creativity, too much of it and you’re pulling punches in your work to appease what Twitter will say about it. So I think it’s important to take that into consideration while trying to grow your social media presence, don’t let it in to your studio/creative space!
My genuine hope is that people are able to use these tips and advice from successful artists to project new art to the next level. This is a skill you can learn and improve from. Give any tips you have in the comments below. Share this wide and far, it is good advice for everyone.
Recently on the Sounds and Shadows group we had a discussion about the place of “Charts” like the DAC in the modern scene. A way to keep your finger on the pulse and help DJs see what tracks are trending by people in the know. I took a poll of our group of Dj’s, Musicians, Labels, PR companies, and superfans to pick their hottest releases in Sept-Oct of the modern Darkscene. We had a ton of stellar releases that were discussed but I have taken the top 10 chosen. I plan to do this once a month.
Moris Blak – Candyman –
The Joy Thieves – Nemesis – Armalyte Industries
Stoneburner – Apex Predator – COP International
Actors – Love You More – Artoffact Records
Wingtips – Run For Shelter – Artoffact Records
Bootblacks – Thin Skies (Twin Tribes Remix) – Artoffact Records
Curse Mackey – Lacerations – Negative Gain
Angelspit – Don’t Know Zero – BLACKPILLREDPILL
Gasoline Invertebrate – Scarlet Slip feat Chris Connelly (iVardensphere Remix) – Tigersquawk Records
Dread Risks – Trauma Ties – Re:Mission Entertainment
There is a shift that has happened in modern music, of how music is released. A focus on speed and constant content of singles in the streaming world. The art of tension and anticipation between releases has become an artform which has fallen by the wayside. In 2018 Actors released “It Will Come To You”. It captured the imagination of the scene which propelled them as a modern voice for a genre based in nostalgia. Three years later that title that won over new wave of Post Punk/Synth fans has come to ring all the more true. The slow gleaming trickle of singles leading to the promise of a sophomore album have fallen like individual raindrops on the thirsty tongues of their growing fanbase. The addition of a new bass player Kendall Wooding adds another element to the chemical reaction. The patient crafting of new songs which hold that emotional connection, while growing in complexity and range. The story of Actors has always been one of communication and relationships within the human experience. “Acts of Worship” elevates that connection to explore the spiritual macro concepts which bind us together.
Going to do something a little different for this review because I am so invested. A song by song breakdown of my impressions:
Love U More – A delicate symphonic intro that opens the curtain. Jason’s voice is sorrowful and and ripe with longing. The chorus is a perfect way to display this fresh sound of collaboration. A true harmony of individual styles. Shannon’s vocal’s fire forth with a confidence and balance that leaves you looking up to the sky. I love the clear heavy footed walk of the bass. The flickering electric street lights of the guitar lead. This track is here to set the scene. To re-introduce beloved characters and place them in a new adventure. The most striking aspect is how much the concept of the song feels uncharted. The genre is familiar. The style distinctly Actors. The texture and melody feels like the future. Something we have yet to hear.
Like Suicide – It can be hard to separate an artist from art. When people hear “The Joshua Tree” by U2 these days the first thing that pops to mind is a Bono joke. The impact that album had with it’s ballads in particular. A voice so dripping with mystery and unfettered passion. A romantic beauty in a time of consumerism. That lost concept is what stirs within me in this soul barring heart dancer. It’s a catchy croon that glows with soul. That place where what is pleasing to the ear and painful to the heart go to share the struggle and triumph of life.
Cold Eyes – A forceful driver of city lights blurring as a they pass by the passenger window. Love this overlapping guitar part between muted crunch and crackling lead. The singing has a voices in your head surrealism. A hallucination effect that leaves you questioning what is real. I think this song has a classic Actors feel which helps connect “Acts of Worship” to “It Will Come To you”. This is the preservation of continuity song.
Obsession – This song felt personal for me. We all have felt this isolated time to dwell on people or things we are missing. Swirling shadows in the water, violet hues and reflected neon light. Jason’s voice takes on that airy Ian McCulloch beauty. Letting you sink within your own destructive thoughts and lose yourself between the water and the mist. One of the deepest most revealing moments of honesty. This song in particular felt like a real look behind the bands eyes.
Death From Above – What a glorious tone shift. I found myself transported like a World War 2 fighter pilot blazing towards a synthwave animated landscape. The hook and harmony of this track is captivating. The strong down strike percussion that personifies the aerial assault. The record player effect of the vocals enhanced the vintage feel to create a sharp contrast against the digital soul of the music.
Killing Time – Strong opening of magnetic fuzz on the guitars. The shifting polarities kept me bouncing around the room. The last two years has seen time slipping past us. Days bleed together and we need to force ourselves into these moments. I love the tension breaking shouts of “Hey” to stir a unity and freeze frame. An anthem to stop the push and pull of life and hold us in this moment until the pull sends us back into a volley. I am impressed by the ambition of this track. It pulls off the difficult task of complexity without sounding complex.
Only Lonely – The bouncing funky bass line of this track has huge John Taylor emotions. Jason swings into a husky whisper on vocals. A secret that pulls you in and sets you up for the call and answer chorus. A much brighter and meringue peaked dessert tone. The lyrics still deliver a pang of longing to add shape and depth to one of the most tender fashion walk singles on the album.
Strangers – Another engulfing single on an album full of singles. Strangers hits on all cylinders. The lyrics paint a picture in beautifully blended water colors. The music is that razors edge of expansive synthetic beauty and sizzling rock energy. I feel like this is Jason’s strongest vocal performance. Utilizing everything he does well at it’s highest peak. It is decisive, emotional, and resonates with a concept which relates and challenges. This is the type of powerful track lost in the modern age full of poetry and delivery. A true modern classic. My top track on a top album.
End of the World – A nice tension building intro for a cosmic journey watching the world grow small. The radio announcer crackle effect on the vocals creates weight and acceptance of a world slipping away. That progressive keyboard line pushes to center stage and sets the tone of emotional longing for La petite mort. As life hurtles towards uncertainty we take a journey of acceptance. This was one of the most musically powerful tracks. A haunting tone of post apocalyptic hope in a desolate moment.
Once More With Feeling – The ending of a journey of one of the most complete records of the modern era. To say it leaned into the epic and expansive is an understatement. This song has a true OK Computer emotional range and scope. We have witnessed the end of the world, but are left with a resurrection and resilience. To push on, to survive while towers of magma shoot into the sky of a new world. I love that instead of going out on a single, instead we are played out into a promise of future adventure. A glimpse on the horizon of a world to come.
“Acts of Worship” Is going to change the standard. Rather than think of it as an album out of time. Hear it as the type of puncturing emotional thought pieces we talk about as nostalgia from a previous era. I choose to see the hope it promises. To be a place where those that remember the past, and those that are blazing new ground in the future meet. Where they say this was the moment where the music we talk about twenty years from now with a new generation is remembered. It’s a powerful feeling that you can be apart of now.