This will be my third review of the Steven Archer project Stoneburner. I’m lucky to be in close contact with Steven who is a bit of a pioneer not just in music and art but also in his interaction with fans. When it comes to allowing you an inside glimpse behind the curtain of his artistic process and an active effort to engage with thoughts and questions he sets the standard. As someone who has followed closely the releases of this project I continued to be impressed by the way each offering reveals a new head of this hydra breathing a new kind of energy. Red in Tooth and Claw does this with a rolling thunder of napalm. In parallel to April’s release Massdriver , this EP follows the story of a world destroyer. This time taking the form of an enormous rampaging wolf.
This record gets back to the core concept of industrial sound for me. It is heavy breathing machinery powerful and hydraulic. I feel the struggle of two clashing forces. The rampaging fiery beast, and the indomitable will of the modern world. Building sounds and textures on top of each and releasing the tension at that essential moment are trademarks of Stoneburner. I feel the fresh element here is how clean and isolated each of those parts are as they fit into the world that was created. Instead of a blending buzzing chaos, here my ear is drawn to shining aspects, only pulling back to see the whole picture in revealing moments of power. It is music that sounds like my mind would process data.
Red in Tooth and Claw – Open with the teeth and meat. That’s just what this EP does. The creature stalks forward, slow and deliberate. Waiting for the moment to charge. Stevens vocals ring with a clarity until those slashing claws of distortion crush down on concrete and feel the crumbling buildings give way beneath their weight. Just like an attacking animal the onslaught is furious and abrupt drawing back to view the damage.
The Wolf World – Here the beast is running fast, closing the distance, in full flight or fight mode. You can feel the muscles, and sinew expanding and contracting. The wind rushing through fur. The hunger on the breath. The vocals build in chanting cadence with the pounding guitar in a Psalm 69 feel. Unbridled aggression and boundless freedom.
And All Things End – Here the heavy breath of post battle. I see a broken field of bones and ruin. A chance to observe the destruction of a world and the birth of a new one. The simple but powerful beat change really changes the tone and matches the vocals with a more melodic and introspective quality.
My Love is Never Ending – I love the change up to a dance beat feel. Again taking ideas and sounds which are familiar in old school industrial. Just taking that armor plating and giving it spikes and flamethrowers. This song has what i think of as night driving power. That song you put on when you are rolling down Woodwood avenue in Detroit at 1am with the window down feeling the wind hit your face. It’s a drastic break from the other songs on the EP and one that adds a needed contrast. Something to sharpen the other edges.
I’m Not Done – Who is the Alpha? What is made of cloth? How do you say you’re sorry? And there’s nothing to be afraid of
This is a cover of Swedish band Fever Ray off their self titled record from 2009. It’s a powerful closer where the drums have an intricate use of sounds that hold melody beyond the percussion. Steven uses a seldom heard vocal style with an almost Peter Gabriel quality. For this in spite of being a cover it ended up being such a powerful track for me.
In closing Stoneburner continues to find a way to make me more of a fan with every release I hear. This is no small feat. At the rate Steven is putting out art and music the true fear is stagnation. So far I see nothing but a boundless energy to charge in new directions at full steam. I feel envious whenever I hear a new Stoneburner release because it seems to never feel like the last offering was enough. Always reading, researching, refining, growing, that hunger inside Steven to find a new story and a better way to feel it never gets quenched. As long as that keeps being true, I will keep telling you that you need to buy this record. You need to buy this record.
A while back a friend of mine said to me “you got all the lucky breaks.”
And I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Because my immediate thought was ,”no I haven’t.”
But I wanted to do my due diligence and really think it through.
So I went way back in time… In high school my Junior and Senior years I was good enough at art to enter a program where they shipped me across town three days a week for three or four periods a day to take art at a vocational school. The year between my Junior and Senior year I took a “portfolio development,” class at Corcoran in DC. Where I would eventually return and get my Bachelors if Fine art (painting).
During that time I started showing and selling my work a Sci-Fy conventions, and later bars, clubs, bookstores, galleries and anywhere else that would let me toss my shit on their walls.
Eventually I got married, we started the bands, and I came under people’s radar that way.
We got our first record deal because we played out enough that the record label came to us.
Donna, my wife, and I both got our publishing deals because the publisher happened to once have been in a band that opened for us early on, and we knew them casually. And it all come together because of that.
Both D and myself have a STACK of rejection letters (back when you got physical letters for such things.)
I started working with Weird tales magazine, because I had made plans to do a 365 days of Blasphemous horror, as a way of hopefully driving traffic to my various pages. We were at a convention pimping our books and they were right across the aisle from us. So I literally just walked over there, told them my idea, showed them my work as a way of making sure they knew I had my chops, and we started the next week.
All of this happened because I stuck myself out there and I practiced making the things I need to make, and put them out into the world in any way I could. I wrote people I made them aware of what I do, and I followed through with all of it.
The only break I can really think of, is my amazing mother who never said ,”this art thing is a bad idea,” and put me through school. At no point had a hand reached down from heaven and said ,”because you are you, I’m going to elevate you to the exclusion of others.”
Every other “break,” has been the result of my ridiculous work ethic and not being scared to put myself out there and say “hey! Let’s do this thing!”
Eventually enough people thought I was good enough that now sometimes people come to me and say “hey! Let’s do this thing!” And we do the thing.
Of everyone I know in the industry… I cannot think of one person who got “the big break.”
Occasionally you may end up under the right persons eye at the right time. But if you don’t have the chops that eye will pass right over you and move along never to return.
So even if you end up in that situation. You have to have done the work or it just won’t matter. Full stop.
There are no big breaks, there is just work. And if you are putting all your eggs in this basket your work ethic, is the Only thing you can count on.
And while I’m at it…
Being good doesn’t mean people will care about what you make. You can do all this work, and nothing may come of it. So if you’re doing it because you want recognition then you are in for a long slow painful rude awakening.
The only reason to do this, is because it is what you do. It is more important than anything. Including your own comfort and happiness.
So, there you go. No breaks, no comfort, no Easter bunny, and no uncle Mikey…
These tiny beings that we let into our lives change us in ways we cannot imagine. The relationships we build are the supporting blocks of our existence. That which gives it perspective and texture. When my three year old cat Freyja was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer in her leg the full power of how much we invest in our tiny companions really struck me. My fear of a future without her and the big questions of how to proceed. What that would mean weighed heavy on my soul. Cats were once worshiped by the Egyptians and many cultures as deities. There is no other creature save humans that truly embodies the idea of pride and love. When I created the review page Sounds and Shadows I found in my love for new music the power in hearing and understanding the lives of the artists who make it and shared that with people around the world. In these dark moments with Freja’s life hanging on a knife edge these artists who I had woven a connection with reached out to me and ask “How can I help?” This was an affirmation which touched me to my core at a time I needed most to believe in the importance of those around me. From around the world they came together in collaboration and kindness to offer their time, their art, and their charity. Freyja required an amputation of her leg which was successful and I am happy to announce saved her and left her the same glorious, loving ball of warm energy as she was before, albeit on three legs. The cost of her operation was quite substantial but it was a sacrifice worth making for my tiny goddess. Buying this compilation of songs contributed by dear friends is directly funding Freja’s care and operation. Any additional funds beyond direct medical costs will be donated to a non kill shelter charity to help other animals in need. A special thank you to Pete Burns for the immense task of mastering the compilation. Cate McFarland for the wonderful cover art which I feel really captures the concept. Slade Templeton for releasing it. Collin Schipper for being my rock and helping me put it together. As well as William Zimmerman for helping me promote. To anyone who has ever written a song, recorded it, and released it, you know how much effort goes into each one. How much love I have for all the artists below is hard to put into words. I never could have imagined something so beautiful and powerful could arise from this dark event. I hope it’s power touches you and reminds you to pay a special homage to your tiny God today.
Also Here is the podcast Part 1 where we discuss the first 8 tracks
I wanted to do a quick breakdown of all the artists who contributed a song to save my baby. When I look at the list of the amount of talent here it is a bit staggering. We had submissions from all over the world and quite a few collaborations of people who never knew each other before this project.
Lorelei Dreaming – (Edge of the World Dj Senseless mix) Chicago based dystopian electro dance. Comprised of Laura and AJ remixed by Madison WI’s Dj Senseless. This song is such a different sound for Lorelei Dreaming, it was the perfect opener with it’s emotional swell.
2. Amaranth – (For Freyja) Goth/Industrial/Synth Rock from Kalamazoo MI. That’s us 🙂 I had some really deep emotions that needed uncorking with this song. Collin wrote a great song way out of our normal wheelhouse including Derick on a mandolin and Kam with some very delicate brushwork. It’s the loudest I ever screamed in anguish on a song. Hope you enjoy it.
3. A Covenant of Thorns the lovely sweeping romantic goth synth from near Chicago. What an amazing voice with this song remixed by Chicago Rock/Industrial super group The Joy Thieves. This is my favorite ACOT song and I don’t know how I could have liked it more. Enter Dan Milligan, this remix found another level of what I already loved in beauty and clarity.
4. Corlyx – England by way of LA and Berlin glitter grunge electronic duo remixed by EDM Industrial noise mechanics Electronic Substance Abuse (ESA). This song Deform is such a wonderful combination of both styles. Caitlin’s voice is ethereal and airy, floating through the void when the creeping digital build starts burrowing into your mind.
5. Antipole – Norwegian post punk revivalist of Karl Morten Dahl. Ft Paris Alexander and Eirene are experts of taking what is glorious of the past and making it rise again into the present. They are the most reviewed band in Sounds and Shadows history and true masters of the music craft. This song is such a different flavor for them and one I immediately fell in love with. That same signature Karl guitar but with this crisp sizzling dance beat. Together with Eirene’s smokey sultry voice it’s a real burner.
6. Ego Likeness – Maryland dark rock industrial duo of Steven and Donna have been such an important part of this scene for decades. This Dräcos Deep remix by Sombre‘ of the song Darkness really places a cool highlight on Donna’s voice and a crisp dance beat.
7. Machinery of Desire – Traditional goth rock of Adrian Auchrome. I trade music back and forth with Adrian often. I say as no light sentence I think this is the best song I ever heard from them. I was touched beyond belief that they shared it with me for the compilation. The vocals really cut loose and highlighted their unique and romantic darkness. Gentle crawling guitar lines of piercing intensity.
8. Adoration Destroyed – The glamour gloom stars of Austin TX remixed by Philly’s Authentic Impulse. I really liked the way Erik’s voice sits on the bouncing glitchy effects and pounding drum beats. AD does such a great job on remixes themselves it was really cool to see what William was able to do with their song.
9. Crying Vessel – Swiss dark glam star Slade Templeton gets a double credit here. Both for this amazing song remixed by Dead Agent, but also for helping me release the compilation. Ed Finkler (Dead Agent) did a sizzling breakneck dance song and let Slade’s voice ride on top like the crest of a wave. Such wonderful movement and balance. This was a beautiful team up that happened for the first time on this compilation.
10. I Ya Toyah – Chicago’s one woman sonic explosion Ania has been remixed here by Arcontas Blank for her single Code Blue. This sizzles with her intense soul and some intricate and beautiful synth pad work. I really love how varied and dynamic the different sounds used here are.
11. Twin Tribes – (Dark Crystal) The lovely princes of Texas darkwave. Twin Tribes was the first band we reviewed for Sounds and Shadows and they remain one of the bands that inspires me in the modern scene. This track is a beautiful, swirling ritual of emotion and pageant. The future is so bright for this band.
12. Radiograph – (Catnipped) This is the solo project of John Edwards Palais Ideal in the Netherlands. I love this sizzling disco prog synth with a early New Order guitar line. Palais Ideal is always finding ways to step outside the box of what post punk could be.
13. Caustic – (Fuck that Fascist Beat) Silverwalks Remix – Madison WI old school Industrial/EDM brings an intense shoulder tackle political hailstorm. Remixed in a smoother synth slither dance style by Pennsylvania based Silver Walks. This track slams so hard both in your mind, and in dat ass.
14. Seven Federations – (Syzygy) – North Dakota based goth Industrial full of rolling bluesy soul and electronic glitch. I love how hard it is to classify what I am hearing. This song has a really cool sample/spoken word effect that reminds me of 90’s VAST.
15. Vlimmer – (Schnittstelle) – Alexander’s Berlin based ambiant darkwave project is a masterclass in structure and sound creation. The rate and quality of the music he puts out never ceases to amaze me. This song is a intense and terrifying well of emotion and abstract prism to twist the mind.
16. Dogtablet – (Showtime Melodywhore Slave Remix) – The project of industrial titans Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King (Test Dept) created this wondrous album based on the concept of totemism. Every track feels like a different creature embodied. This track is a sultry triphop prancing creature of grace and agility. It has a very feline quick quality.
17. Kiss of the Whip – ( The Pain is Ours) – I have been a fan of the Baltimore based retro synth weavers on Cold Transmission for a while now. Beautiful familiar feels with modern edge and a layered beauty. This track is a roller coaster of peaks and valleys gliding though a rainbow landscape of color.
18. Steven Archer – (The Showroom) – The amazing artist of (Ego Likeness and Stoneburner) appear once again showing his range in this synth prog builder. I really love how different his vocals come across in this song. Theatrical and with a Nick Cave flare. What is it he can’t do?
19. Cliff and Ivy – (Will to the Power) – Alaska’s darkest couple have been creating batcave punk fueled witchcraft for over a decade. It is raw, fierce, and intelligent. I love the drive and bloody claws of this track. Ivy and Cliff really show the power of two people in perfect lockstep making eachothers art stronger.
20. Orcus Nullify – (March of the Lost) – South Carolina’s Bruce Nullify creates a brand of unapologetic terrifying rumble of old school death rock. I love the over the top imagery and slashing guitars. I feel like this track perfectly captured that style but with a focused clarity which added extra weight and power.
21. Ritchual – (You Lied) – Austin TX based Ritch Napierkowski of Adoration Destroyed and Nimbus has done this synthwave solo project and it is absolutely lights out. This song could have been a missing track on Depeche Mode “Sounds of Faith and Devotion” Just a delicious dark ear candy jam.
22. Sister Sarin – (Split) – Baltimore Percussion specialist Hemlock has done this solo project where she weaves intricate texture and pulsing drum beats to create lovely isolated sonic paintings. This song has a driving dance beat and saber slash keyboard melodies to create an instrumental full of movement and dynamics.
23. Swansect – (Clovermouth) – Norwegian noise artists Adrian Kjosnes of Missfit Toys and writer for Sounds and Shadows unleashes this terrifying and avant garde solo project. It has this brimming intense Goblins feel of sinister noise and stealthy builds. This track is a haunting horror movie soundtrack to grab your nightmares with it’s claws and leave you screaming for more.
11 Grams – (DNA) Half Washington DC half Australia the industrial electronica dance floor lords have been a part of this scene for a long time and always bring the highest level of precision and technique. This track is a slow dark builder that crackles with life and a whisper that draws you in.
Sombre’ – French post punk with a very cool organic world beat feel. They always remind me a bit of the Happy Mondays. Cedric has a resonant and soothing voice and the baselines always really drive. Here he does a wonderful remix of Ego Likeness. I really love how Donna’s vocals are highlighted here.
Steven is a Renaissance man who is has been involved in several important music projects in Goth/Industrial in the last 2 decades. Ego Likeness, Stoneburner, ect. Also a writer and visual artist. I speak to him fairly frequently online , however I think this was the longest verbal conversation we ever had. I think it was a wonderful glimpse into the details of his artistic process and his journey though music and art. Links below for some of his work.