What Are They Up to: Interviews with Vanity Kills, Ashes Fallen, and Black Rose Burning

Vanity Kills

[Photo Credit: Cameron Rhys McNamara]

Vanity Kills is the intense, cyberpunk-industrial band of Joe “Crow” Aaron. S&S has already covered them on several occasions: an interview from 2019, a review of album Chapter 2: Enemy, and a shoutout in the Halloween Compilation Release.

The band has been a friend of S&S for years. But where are they now? I reached out to Joe Crow himself to figure out what he’s been working on since the release of his last album. In the works are: 1- a third chapter album, 2- a B-sides album, and 3- a collection of covers.

The covers are being release intermittently on YouTube with the intent to compile them on Bandcamp upon completion. The B-sides, which are, according to Crow, “a collection of songs that didn’t make it on to the last album, alternate versions of previously released songs and remixes,” most likely going to be released in March. Chapter three’s release is as of now still uncertain.

Onto the topic of the B-sides and third chapter, do you see yourself exploring some uncharted creative territory?

Definitely. The b sides record is definitely a product of experimentation. There’s some more mellow moments there, some really dark stuff and some stuff that’s just outright weird.

The third chapter also tonally different to the second and first. It feels kind of like a 90s industrial album with modern production techniques. Sort of going back and taking influence from the places that first got me into the genre when I was in my teens.

It’s likely the B sides record will be a Bandcamp exclusive as a companion piece to Chapter 2. So everyone who has that will receive it automatically and be included with future purchases.

Regarding production, have you indulged yourself in any new equipment?

Nothing too extravagant. Picked up a Roland r8 for a bargain and a tb303 clone. I’ve also invested in a good amount of software instruments. As much as I’d love to get into more hardware it’s just not feasible at the moment and the ability to create new patches without routing audio and midi each time helps me stay in the zone with my limited attention span.

So, on your previous album and in a previous interview, you cited bands like Stabbing Westward, Ministry, and even Prince as having influenced you. Since the third chapter is going to be comparative to a “90s industrial album,” is there any new set of artists behind its inspiration?

Well all of those are there, probably more than the last record. As well as things like My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Circle of Dust, Nine inch Nails early material, through to the more electronic rave artists like the Prodigy, Underworld etc.

Gosh I love that early NIN stuff

Pretty hate machine and the broken EP will always stick in my mind as my personal image of NIN. I love damn near everything else but those are 2 I can go to any day in any mood.

Any closing remarks for your fans?

The support we’ve had for this album has been immense. I didn’t expect it after so many years if inactivity but old and new have come out in support and I’m eternally grateful. We’re going to finish off the album cycle with videos for every song from chapter 2 and swiftly onto the next chapter. So there’s plenty still to come. With some surprises along the way and one day more shows. Thank you so much and stay safe.

Ashes Fallen

Ashes Fallen is a California-based gothic rock band composed of James Perry (lead vocals, guitar), Jason Shaw (guitar), and Michelle Perry (vocals, percussion, keyboard, art).

S&S has previously reviewed their album Ashes Fallen as well as Thy Will be Done.

Their most recent release, We Belong Nowhere, was put out this august.
So, what have they been up to since then? I reached out to member James Perry to investigate.

Recently, they were part of the ARG (Anti-Racist Goths) streaming festival. It took place on January 1st, but you can watch their segment of it here.

“It was a real honor to be a part of it,” member Perry tells me. “Davey Bones and company are great.” The band performed their songs “We Belong Nowhere,” “Blood Moon,” and “Unrequited.”

How has it been adapting to virtual/streaming instead of live concerts?

I guess the main thing I’d want to add around that is just that the fact that we’ve been able to put on virtual performances has opened some doors for us and enabled us to participate in some really great events including being on the bill with some acts we really love and that influenced us, so while it’s unfortunate we can’t get out there in person, the situation has also presented some great opportunity for us. I don’t see livestreaming as a “replacement” for in person live shows, just another vehicle we can use to create and get our music out there. Michelle has always wanted to be able to design stage shows for us but it’s just not practical when you’re going on second out of four bands on a Tuesday night and you have 10 minutes to set up, but when we’re performing at home, we can have all the time we want to make something special visually! Last September, Michelle and I moved to a turn of the 20th century converted church and have made that our home base for the band, and it’s been a great space for online performances!

Do you have plans to take part in any more online streaming festivals?

We will be playing at Virtual Temple 3 at the end of January (January 30th, at 7 PM Pacific / 10 PM Eastern), hosted by Temple in Salt Lake City. We’ve been lucky enough to be invited to perform at all three of their “Virtual Temple” events and they’ve been great, a lot of fun. We go way back with DJ Mistress Nancy, she’s a good friend. Hopefully someday we’ll get out to Salt Lake City to perform in person, and get to meet all the new people we’ve met online through live-streaming performances and virtual club nights and everything! That’s all we have scheduled for now though. We’ve been working hard on writing our next album, and we’ve decided to take a break from performance to allow ourselves time to get it finished.

I’d like to hear more about that next album. What new creative directions are you exploring with it?

We were a brand new band when we recorded and released our new album, and most of the songs were songs I’d already written and had performed as a solo artist, and we’d only played a few shows together. We all think our sound has evolved some, although I don’t think people who liked our first album will be disappointed or anything! We’ve made a conscious decision to simplify and strip down our sound somewhat. The arrangements aren’t nearly as busy. We’re still very much a gothic ROCK band with two guitar players, but we won’t be relying on thick, metal-type guitars so much of the time. Michelle and Jason are both contributing more to the songwriting this time out, and Michelle’s going to be doing more singing on this album.

As far as subject matter goes, the last couple of years have given us an awful lot to talk about! We’ve got songs in the works about the political situation in this country, letting go of the past and moving on, the pandemic, as well as the passing of my mother just a few months ago. She was the sweetest person you could ever hope to meet and my first inspiration to become a musician. We’ve also got a song in the works about Maila Nurmi, better known as Vampira. Michelle really wanted us to record an ode to her, and it should be a fun track! It’s not so much about the Vampira character, but the woman who created her, and how she created this amazing legendary vision that was so influential, and yet she had her creation essentially stolen from her, and then lived in utter poverty and isolation for decades before finding some modicum of recognition in her final years.

Wow, that sounds like a lot to look forward to. Any estimate on when it’ll be released?                               

It’s a little hard to say. We haven’t been able to get together as often as we’d like because of the pandemic and because “real life” gets in the way so often! We’re just about done writing it though, and just need to spend some time getting it all together. I’m hopeful we can have it out the first half of the year.

The singles we put out last year, “Thy Will Be Done” and “We Belong Nowhere” will be on the album too, and hopefully they give some indication as to where our sound is heading.

Thanks! Last question- any closing remarks for your fans?

Thank you all for your support and please stay healthy! We can’t wait to be able to perform in person again and dance and celebrate the darkness together again.

Black Rose Burning

S&S has written about Black Rose Burning before in a review of Open the Gate, listing it as one of the “Top Postpunk/Synthwave/Darkpop albums of 2020” at the end of December. High compliments! Open the Gate was released mid-November.

So, what have they been up to since then? I reached out to instrumentalist and producer George Grant for more information. Plan to expect, if all goes well, the release of a second record in spring.

Are you diving into any new stylistic territory or techniques on this new record?

I think it will retain my signature “sound” which I think is mostly my voice (I don’t hear too many – if any- like it in the genre, and I’ll probably be relying on a more synth-based production this time. A bit more experimental? Probably. Still infused with heavy hooks? Definitely also. I don’t think I’m ready to write my version of something like Pink Floyd’s Echo’s yet. But I will at some point.

You released a cover of Red Skies- The Fixx in the past. Any plans for more covers, potentially on this new record?

I have a few floating around on my drive – the one that looks most promising right now (if it ever actually happens) is what I think is a cool version of Buzzcocks “Ever Fallen in Love”. Anything else I’ve been toying with hasn’t gone far enough to even count yet.

Oh I absolutely love that song!

I also may be doing a collaboration with Scary Black closer to spring as well. We’ve talked on it – but haven’t made solid plans as of yet

That would be cool, I love Scary Black

Yeah I dig him a lot too. As a writer/musician and just as a person too

Now for a hardware question- have you treated yourself to any new gear in preparation for your upcoming music creation?

A LOT of software. I’m always looking for new sounds. The more ammo – the more sounds. As far as gear – I have so much already I couldn’t even think of what more I could need. I even dug out the theremin to see if I could use it on the new record! The recordings could easily turn into a free-for-all.

Yes! A theremin! I’ve got a kinda-theremin of my own, and it’s definitely great for weird noises. Can’t wait to hear you potentially use it. Any last thing you can tell your fans about the new album without spoiling too much?

If they liked the last one – this one will be even more epic. The first record was my training course...

Bandcamp Day was a smashing success. What was hot?

So during the current pandemic when artists are taking a hit from an inability to tour and play out, Bandcamp the music distribution platform that seems to actually care about artists waived their fees for a day. Honestly the fees they charge are pretty fair but anything to get people excited to support bands. So here is some of what caught my fancy on the first day of May.

Panic Priest (Second Seduction) what a strong second offering from Jack. This album really took the sound in a sleeker, stronger, synth driven new direction. His voice remains one of the strongest baritones in the scene but here it is piled on layer after layer of textural experience and the experience is amazing. Extra Credit for the cool fan sourced music video on the single Lonely City.

https://panicpriestngp.bandcamp.com/

Blood and Dust – (Compilation) This is such an awesome comp put out by out by TG Mondalf of Venus Aeon. I was just talking to Brandon of Sonsombre on the podcast about the connection of southern sound and goth…which i call Outlaw Goth. This comp is absolutely jam packed with fire tracks of some of the hottest names in new goth rock doing southern style. October Burns Black/Sonsombre/Black Angel/Raven Said/Cliff and Ivy/Guillotine Dream and many more. A cool concept and great execution.

https://venusaeon.bandcamp.com/album/blood-dust-a-gothic-western

Delphine Coma(Secondary Eyes) Long awaited EP from Ashe Ruppe. Two tracks and two remixes with that true deep darkwave sound. Rolling baselines and Ashe’s deeper than then earths core voice ringing icy and clear. Yes please.

https://swissdarknights.bandcamp.com/album/secondary-eyes

Orcus Nullify – (Pandemonic ) A poignant track for the current situation. Much more stripped down and electronic feel for doom rocker Bruce Nullify yet holding true to that buzzing noise sword guitar. This one strikes hard and takes no prisoners.

https://orcusnullify.bandcamp.com/track/pandemonic

Vlimmer(Pulmo) Shadow Sound architect Alexander Donat continues to spew forth such a steady stream of quality material at a rate that defies imagination. Here he stays between tighter lines than some of his more psychedelic offerings. The drum beats are tight and the guitars are cold vibrating lasers cutting through the dark din. I really like how the bass walks in track two Sonnenspeer.

https://blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com/album/pulmo

The Black Capes – (Lullabies For The Dead) Old school gothic rock from the land of history Athens Greece. Like a big black wolf snarling and writhing these crushing beats and vicious growling vocal delivery is the sound of night creatures baying. It has tender moments of light strings and contrast. Another band embracing the glory of the past to create a dark future. The sound put me in mind of the wild rural parts of my home in Michigan. The land of Iggy Pop.

https://theblackcapes.bandcamp.com/album/lullabies-for-the-dead

Ashes Fallen(Thy Will Be Done) Sinister guitar lord James Perry put out a new single today full of a lot more menace than the last album. I feel like Michelle and Jason have really had an effect on the tone for this single. The guitar and baselines still include a lot of movement and technique. The keyboards fill the space to give those hard down strokes more accent. The vocals are not a clean alternative romanticism I heard and enjoyed on the last record.. They are dark, full, gritty, and not what you want to meet in a dark alley. Love the direction.

https://ashesfallenmusic.bandcamp.com/track/thy-will-be-done?fbclid=IwAR3BuaA3tjcyuKJLP42cPJspG6gQeMmdYw3vbS_lY30355dxCup4ZqGT5uo

Pilgrims of Yearning(Forsaken Land) – Pre release of the June 5th album offers a first track and single The Visitor. Juls Garat has a clear and slicing voice which knows how to shine light through every crack in the dark and driving bass wall. This was a taste that gets me excited for the whole meal and the future of an exciting sound.

https://pilgrimsofyearning.bandcamp.com/album/forsaken-lands

Plague Garden – (Left in The Grave ) – Ok important question, how the fuck did I not know about Plague Garden? Paul Barker of Redwing Blackbird (who i love) is involved in this project. This is gorgeous, sinister, old school artistic almost Tones on Tail lo fi drone goth. Great use of changes and making every sound count. Goth with clinical efficient effect.

https://plaguegarden.bandcamp.com/releases

Caustic(The King of EBM) So if Matt Fanale has a new EP and the title sounds like a play on Run DMC best believe I am here for this. Of course it is just what you would think. Look it is not an overstated boast to say The King. Infectious beats drive your body like a bolt of electricity from the sky awakening dead flesh. It’s Alive! It’s Alive! It’s blue collar, it’s high ideal, it’s everything I love about punk, and EDM and nothing I hate about either.

https://caustic.bandcamp.com/album/the-king-of-ebm

A Cloud of Ravens(The Earthen Call) New York darkwave duo with a new single out. I really want to listen to this while doing ritualistic magic in a secret underground lair. Not that doing that doesn’t sound cool all the time, but to this song in particular. Love the walls closing in guitar for an otherwise traditional darkwave song. Gave the whole feel flaming wheels.

https://acloudofravens.bandcamp.com/track/the-earthen-call

Raven Said(Beyond the Darkest Hour) Ok, I have a confession/moment of self reflection on Raven Said from Russia. I have had 3 reliable people all tell me to listen to this record and just hadn’t gotten to it. I get a little full of myself sometimes from writing this page and start to think if it was really that good I would have found it right? Holy shit this is good. I hate myself for the moments I wasted not knowing about it. It’s driving through haunted woods chased by a ghost luxury automobile full of specters and demons on a foggy night. It bounces on tight coils like post punk but it has the soul of really spooky quirky bat cave. So don’t be dumb like me, buy this immediately.

https://ravensaid.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-the-darkest-hour

From The Mouth Öv Belial(Defied and Devoured) Have you ever wondered where modular synths go after they die if they have not lived a good and pure life? Adrian can show you. This is disturbing sonic nightmares given flesh. In fact I might have to write one more review just so this isn’t the last thing I hear before I pass out. Honestly he should have wrote the soundtrack for the Suspiria remake instead of Thom York.

https://fromthemouthovbelial.bandcamp.com/track/defied-devoured

Mindless Faith(Insectual) Washington DC based electronic robot invasion music that makes me long for humanities inevitable collapse at the hands of our metallic superiors. I suppose it is easy for me to think of Rick Furr as part of Steven Archer’s posse. Here with Jason Sevanick, Paul Green and Chris Sevanick they have unleashed soulful energon cube filled landscape of precise mixing and slapping beats. I got half way through writing this and realized it came out last year, but somehow skipped past my notice. An endless tide of automation integrating your mind.

https://alterculture.bandcamp.com/album/insectual

Well I didn’t come close to writing about everything I listened to this Bandcamp day (My new favorite holiday) I wrote a lot though. It’s a strange and scary world full of uncertainty. Listen to new music. Support the artists who make it. I suppose it is time for a little shameless self promotion.

Tiny Gods Who Walk Beside Us – I made a compilation, to save my cat. Beyond that it is really good. I honestly astounded how good. If you like Goth/Industrial/Post Punk/Darkwave/Coldwave A lot of the hottest new talent is here. $10 for 25 songs.

https://theamaranth.bandcamp.com/album/tiny-gods-who-walk-beside-us