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...

Sounds and Shadows Top Postpunk/Synthwave/Darkpop albums of 2020

Part 3 of this series might have been the toughest to write. There was such a wealth of great new albums in this genre I found myself at a loss to pick and choose my favorites. However tough choices need to get made. These are all records released in 2020 and not singles. I feel like everyone on this list did something very profound.

Black Rose Burning – Open the Gates – George Grant is doing amazing things using stripped down elements of dark post punk concepts. His voice has this scintillating David Bryne expressive lilt. It harnesses such energy with an acoustic guitar and a percussive gate. It’s romantic, not like a relationship, but the way Star Trek is romantic about the love of stars and exploration. I find myself constantly lost in the beauty of it.

https://blackroseburning.bandcamp.com/album/open-the-gate

SceniusEnough Fears – I found this album at the very end of the year but I have a feeling this will be on my heavy rotation the next few months. The Leeds band is a bending maze of emotion and turns that I found myself deeply immersed in. The vocals from Fab Nau were so original and cutting. Perfect dark trance resonance and endless builds. This is a band I will be paying close attention to in 2021. I feel the beginning of something beautiful starting.

https://scenius.bandcamp.com/album/enough-fears

Vlimmer – XIIIIIIII – This series of albums reaches it’s conclusion in glorious and staggering fashion. Alexander Donat has an amazing gift to take emotion and transfer it into sound seamlessly. Taking a tiny burning ember of idea and gentle blowing on that fire until it swells into a blaze. Truly a criminally underrated talent in modern artistic expression through sound.

https://blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com/album/xiiiiiiii-18

White Mansion – Human – Arkansas brings us this strong front to back traditional post punk. I love the bold transitions here and open air vocals. I think the name Human was perfect for this record because it is all about relationships. You can really follow the story. It’s organic, full of heart, and makes a connection.

https://whitemansion.bandcamp.com/album/human

The Secret French Post Cards – Colors – More glorious post punk darkness this time mixed and mastered by Pedro Code (Iamtheshadow). This record is so understated and comes at you in subtle ways. Olli Ohlander has a ringing and smoky delivery that chews up scenery like a master actor. Blended reverb and echo makes the guitar build tension that pulls you into the moment. Paint a picture in your mind with this record. Another Cold Transmission band.

https://thesecretfrenchpostcards.bandcamp.com/album/colours-2

Danny Blu – The Pale Horse – Crackling energy and neck grabbing hooks from NYC. Personal soul threaded into club kid sleek trance. This record is everything cool I want to give off. The smoky saxophone trills add a beautiful contrast note. The cadence they lyrics are delivered with are an extra percussion and rhythm. It leaves me longing for more.

https://dannyblu.bandcamp.com/album/the-pale-horse

Elz and the Cult – Bloodlines – Elz is one of those beautiful and unique humans that takes their internal light and bleeds it into every track they make. It has such a genuine and soulful flavor which modern darkpop is so hungry for. It is a record of personal intensity that stands out in the landscape. A true gamechanger record that everyone should experience. On Cold Transmission Music.

https://elzandthecult.bandcamp.com/album/bloodline

Korine – The Night We Raise – Philly based band that is taking the scene by storm for good reason. They have such a glamourous beauty. While the lyrics are full of edge and venom. They truly have mastered the idea of taking two things you wouldn’t think would make sense together and then synthesizing it perfectly. It’s elegant, profound, and makes you feel like you are on the inside of secret. Also it has that glorious shake that ass factor. You will dance to this record all night long. On Born Loser Records now.

https://korine.bandcamp.com/album/the-night-we-raise

Panic Priest – Second Seduction – Chicago based Jack Armondo finds himself once again on my albums of the year. This sophomore album uses his rich and powerful baritone to great effect but softens the edges of the guitars in the first album. Putting the synths forward really captures the neon industrial aspects of his city. I love the way he captured the concept of isolation in the middle of a populated concrete jungle that became so relevant to us all in 2020. An impressive offering both in connection and execution on Negative Gain Records.

https://panicpriestngp.bandcamp.com/album/second-seduction

Soft Kill – Dead Kids R.I.P. City – Portland postwave glory with gorgeous and rich vocals and rainy flowing waves of synth sound. This record is so efficient and full of intention. This is one of those records it’s never a bad time for. It has that voice of a generation The Smiths sound but with a speed and energy of the modern era.

https://anopendoor.bandcamp.com/album/dead-kids-r-i-p-city

Idles – Ultra Mono – I love this album for the punk side of post punk. It’s intelligent, political, smash your fucking teeth in complex blasting rock. It has the true core of Fugazi. I wasn’t quite sure where to put this under but it belongs on some list.

https://idlesband.bandcamp.com/album/ultra-mono

Kiss of the Whip – We’re Not Here – Baltimore is doing some amazing things in the current scene and KOTW are near the top of that list. There is an amazing feeling when someone has such a wizardry of an instrument that it transcends and lefts everything in the song around it. That’s how I feel when Tristan Victor plays keyboards. The wide open textures and landscapes that flow through your mind at razor speed. His melodic whisper growl vocals really draw you in and let those complex synth changes do their work. I continue to be impressed with every new growth.

https://kissofthewhip.bandcamp.com/album/were-not-here

Spectres – Nostalgia – Sometimes I want a record that really pushes the edges of a genre. Sometimes I take comfort in bands that do a familiar sound with perfect execution. This album is so full of feelings that transport me back. Each song is original and new but the pallet of colors is brilliant with New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. The heartfelt homage to the music I grew up on cleaned and washed and sent straight to my heartstrings.

https://spectresvancouver.bandcamp.com/album/nostalgia

Loveblind – Sleeping Visions – What happens when a traditionally shoegaze label like Saint Marie Records puts together a superband of Shoegaze talent to make a darkpop album. In this case what happens is one of the most textural beautiful records of the year. Dorian Electique has a stunning and haunting vocal quality that floats on the waves of slushy wave crash guitars and striking drum beats. Every time I play this record I picture silk scarves flowing in my wake. it just makes life a little more beautiful.

https://saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-visions

Black Nail Caberet – God’s Verging On Sanity – This band from Hungary has been on my constant playlist. They had an album in my top list of 2019 as well. I love that they don’t sit idle and instead explore a new aspect of darkpop. Emese has a remarkable strength and depth to her voice that reminds me of Annie Lennox. The dance beats are a force to be reckoned with and are like a shot of energy in the arm. When I need to find a little something extra within myself this is the record I reach for.

https://blacknailcabaret.bandcamp.com/album/gods-verging-on-sanity

Algiers – There is No Year – If you have never witnessed Algiers live, once the world reopens that should be the top of your to do list. They are the best live show I have seen in the past 20 years. It’s breathtaking to behold. They are another band hard to put in a box in the most amazing away. Notes of Motown/Gospel/Post Punk/Electronica. It’s all thrown in the blender and spun to a smooth creamy glory. The lyrics are poignant, fresh, and delivered with a voice sorely lacking in this scene. This record is such an up and down journey through culture, injustice, and personal revelation. I really can’t stress the importance of this band enough.

https://algierstheband.bandcamp.com/album/there-is-no-year

Then Comes Silence – Machine – Swedish based dark rockers put out this album in March and I listened to it many times in it’s entirety. The single We Lose the Night is such a perfect jam it has to be my most earworm song of the year. Just walking through the world I found it constantly popping into my head. This record has what I think of as true Post Punk vibes. The bass is thunderous and driving. Vocals are enchanting and full of warm and captivating feeling. Also the track Ritual feat: Karolina Engdahl is a perfect duet to blend beauty and razor cuts. I was an instant fan for life.

https://thencomessilence.bandcamp.com/album/machine

Bootblacks – Thin Skies – NYC post punk stars took a giant leap forward in their evolution for this album. It truly takes it’s own life and direction. Adding on Jason Corbett (Actors) to chisel and magnify a sound that already had such a unique and dangerous flavor. It is sleek, mysterious, and is my number one soundtrack if I ever pull an elaborate jewel heist and car chase in the heart of New York City. I think the most magnificent part of this album is that it really took “Post Punk” someplace new. It’s easy to get hung up on nostalgia, and there is some of that here. There is also a sound so sensual and fresh. I can just smell the musk of this album. You need to feel it on your skin.

https://bootblacks.bandcamp.com/album/thin-skies

Our interview with Bootblacks

Empathy Test – Monsters – This album was my most played on bandcamp this year. I just couldn’t stop coming back to it. It holds a beauty and quality that touches on so many genres. It’s personal and full of imagery that transports you into a movie. Isaac has one of those once in a generation voices that speaks right to your heart. This record just struck a chord inside me like the first time I heard Radiohead The Bends. That feeling of dramatic intensity that makes me think of youth while the refined craftsmanship spoke to my changed perspective. This is a young band, and their potential to grow and make art on another level seems limitless.

https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/monsters

Our Interview with Empathy Test

What am I thankful for this November? Bandcamp Day!

As the world tilts and tumbles and the chill settles into the land. What is the new music that I am feasting on this Bandcamp day? I just did the review and interview with Raymond Watts and I am a bit star struck and over the moon. You all know S & S for new up and coming bands so lets talk about what just came out.

Death Loves Veronica : Our dear friend from San Antonio has not been idle during the pandemic. Another new single and one with a totally different feel from her previous material. Lovely grinding old school industrial with her slow whisper burning ember voice. I love the gentle drone and build. A very David Lynch broken mind story. Veronica keeps finding ways to deliver and stay fresh.

https://deathlovesveronica.bandcamp.com/track/lies

The Unquiet Grave: This amazing compilation really needs it’s own review. I think Amaranth was set to be on it at one point. 32 Tracks with a huge variety of goth styles. Put together by Athan Maroulis this is the best value you are going to get in goth music. A great way to find 10 new bands you are into for $10.


1. Shadow Assembly: Languish
www.facebook.com/ShadowAssembly
2. A Cloud of Ravens: The Tempest
www.facebook.com/acloudofravens
3. Ships in the Night: Lost Times
www.facebook.com/shipsinthenightmusic
4. I Ya Toyah: Glass Eyes (The Joy Thieves Remix)
www.facebook.com/IYaToyah
5. Blood Bells: Destroy
www.facebook.com/bloodbells
6. Double Echo: Remains
www.facebook.com/DoubleEchoTheBand
7. The Kentucky Vampires: Holy Heretic
www.facebook.com/thekentuckyvampires
8. Null Device: And I Fall
www.facebook.com/NullDeviceMusic
9. Ghost Painted Sky: Cleansed
www.facebook.com/ghostpaintedsky
10. The Mystic Underground: The Ugliest Duckling
www.facebook.com/themysticunderground
11. Eva X: A Softer World
www.facebook.com/evaxband
12. Funeral DJs: Kiss of Death
www.facebook.com/funeraldjs
13. Red This Ever: Man Up Now
www.facebook.com/redthisever
14. Double Eyelid: Dead is Better
www.facebook.com/doubleeyelid
15. 51 Peg: Cut the Wire
www.facebook.com/51peg
16. Evil Symbols: Fascination (feat. Bat Kalaayan)
www.facebook.com/Evilsymbols
17. Dispel: Modal Consequence (The Threshold)
www.facebook.com/scott.doland.3
18. The Shyness of Strangers with Rhoneil: Return to the Ground
www.facebook.com/shynessofstrangers
19. ItheVirus: Obedient Delusions
www.facebook.com/ithevirusmusic
20. Ghostfeeder: Fascia
www.facebook.com/Ghostfeeder
21. Dead Blood Cells: The Candles, They Flicker
www.facebook.com/deadbloodcells
22. The Skeleton Closet: The Fine Line
www.facebook.com/SkeletonClosetMusic
23. Grey Gallows: Enemy
www.facebook.com/greygallows
24. Jaka’s Story: Dream-Land
www.facebook.com/JakasStory
25. Blood Dance: Child of Fear
www.facebook.com/BloodDanceBand
26. No Exits: Noticed
www.facebook.com/NoExitsLA
27. Rituel Encens: Passions
www.facebook.com/shellstorefr
28. The Horror Diaries: I Get Low
www.instagram.com/horrordiariesmusic/
29. Dead Souls Rising: Overthink
www.facebook.com/DeadSoulsRising
30. Cables For Clouds: Rain On Your Day (Radio Edit)
www.facebook.com/CablesForClouds
31. The Unquiet Void: Song of My Soul
www.facebook.com/TheUQVoid

The Ghost Of Bela Lugosi: (Poisoning of Every Seed) Another scorching new single from Vin. It really rattles my mind just how different every new track sounds. Everyone is a masterwork. This is a flowing newwave disco jam with 80s Depeche Mode flavor and punk rock sleaze. Vin lets the shining beauty of his voice gleam through on this one with more polish. Another genre shift, another hit.

https://ghostoflugosi.bandcamp.com/album/poisoning-of-every-seed

Blindcopy: Hot new single “Blacklight” from Memphis electronic artist Jack Alberson. Loving this bopping Information Society style with some southern soul. The way this track keeps bobbing and weaving you can never quite grab hold of it in the best possible way. The motion and energy created is hypnotizing. 5 remixes one from our dear friend Melodywhore.

https://migrainerobotsounds.bandcamp.com/album/blacklight-single

Caput Medusae – Dreamy new single from German darkwave artist called “Kiss Me Deadly” This track is always lurking around the corners and moving through the shadows. Tina Mar has a voice that is always in your periphery but always surrounding you. This is music I want to hunt ghosts in a abandoned mansion.

https://caputmedusae.bandcamp.com/album/kiss-me-deadly-single?fbclid=IwAR1O7XcG_gfeVSHbLtQNkZl28A9CArqjixVwQq0-HLjFhAwiUppu3HgBclI

White Mansion : Speaking of haunted mansions, Cold Transmission’s Arkansas post punk stars have a lovely new synth driven single “Alone”. The song has a lovely isolated New Order “Movement” feel. The bassline is a thrumming pulse and the vocals convey a loneliness and you can taste on your tongue. Wonderful single but I would be remiss to not mention the remix by label mates Kiss of the Whip . Tristian took that dark moody power and refracted it through a prism to highlight all the best elements.

https://whitemansion.bandcamp.com/album/alone-single

Black Rose Burning: (Open The Gate) I just need so much more of this style and quality. NYC artist George Grant released this gorgeous EP of ultra dark acoustic singer songwriter jams with a true goth aesthetic. His voice is so passion Peter Gabriel but that ever driving percussion acoustic rings like The Cure “Wish”. Sometimes to find the next evolution you need to strip the concept down to it’s bones and I am drinking deep of the marrow of BRB.

https://blackroseburning.bandcamp.com/album/open-the-gate

Actors: Last but certainly not least is a new single from Actors called “Love U More” and holy shit. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but this surpassed whatever I had in my head. We did a live reaction of the video which I will post soon. It’s all the things I loved about “It Will Come To You” and more. Jason’s vocals are blended perfectly and float on a cloud city of synth glory. Shannon’s vocals are brought to the front and make a perfect contrast. The tone is much darker and has a force of soulful pop with a deep message. I really can’t stress enough that you need this. This band is the future and I am here for that future.

https://actors.bandcamp.com/track/love-u-more