Electronic Substance Abuse (ESA) are among a short list of modern industrial acts that are consistently great, particularly with their most recent releases Burial 10, Eat Their Young / The Scorn EP, and the single “I Detach” coming within the last two years. Between the concussive snares, the powerful production, and the wide range of vocals – whether they’re provided by mastermind Jamie Blacker or by guests such as Caitlin Stokes of Corlyx – ESA is a project that rarely, if ever, misses.
It is with this sort of reputation that the project sets forth its most recent studio effort, Designer Carnage, released on Negative Gain Productions on Valentine’s Day. Using buzzwords and phrases such as “modern decadence” and “be the envy of your peers,” the marketing for this album is on-the-nose anticonsumerism done ESA style. As part of the pre-orders for the record, they offered ESANCE, a line of cosmetics and wellness products that will shock your system and lead you into the new year looking and feeling your best, price tags be damned.
ESA might best be described as “progressive industrial,” insofar as the influences and the backbone of the album may change from track to track, or even multiple times within a track. This album’s opener, “Laudanum Dance,” is a prime example of this. It starts off with a build towards an aggressive, “sweep the premises” tone. The first half of this eight-minute saga feels like a nod to The Prodigy and the grungiest of UK house, before giving way to a dizzying piano solo by Frederic Scarfone. By minute six, we get a marching, stomping beat that lets the power this opening track has carry on through the ending.
We then get a dance floor destroyer in “One Missed Call,” whose first round of vocals come from a sampled voicemail from a very disgruntled woman. On one hand, there is something to be said here about “anything you say can and will be used against you,” particularly with the lines:
“This is a message to stop you from getting far
Because no-one knows what I know and you’ll never be a star.“
It’s a damn fun track, and it’s no secret why it was one of the tracks released ahead of the full record.
Then we get to the powerful, wub-heavy “I Detach,” which we got as a single last May. The jazzy little interlude might be a bit of whiplash for those unprepared, but it does help break things up with this limb-ripper of a track. The title track comes next, and if Jamie doesn’t play “I Detach” followed by this, I don’t know what he’s doing. These two songs are the perfect one-two punch and compliment each other so well.
“Disruption Only” stands out for a few reasons, namely the symphonic and orchestral elements. The tempo gets turned up, but the three-note melody keeps things in EBM territory, albeit with a twist. It is a simple number, but it makes seven minutes (6:49, to be exact) feel like nothing. During the next song, “Come and Find Me,” I came to realize why there were so many big band, jazz-type moments in this album. Designer Carnage has a theme of advertisement, of unabashed entrepreneurship, and back in the day, commercials, especially radio or television, were whimsical while also a bit insidious. It is in this aggressive marketing (the industrial/EBM elements), paired with the whimsy (the big band interludes) where we get the duality of advertising.
Or maybe Jamie just makes good goddamn music and I’m reading into things too much.
“Hyena” is classic ESA, with aggressive percussive elements and an overall tone that will turn a ravegoer’s brain to mush in the most fun way possible. This is perhaps the most club-friendly song on the record next to “I Detach.” “Whom Then Shall I Fear?” features the lyrical flow of Pee Wee Pimpin, and man, does his voice do something for this track. His flow is smooth, the low voice almost chanting over the production. It’s swagger but not to the point of self-parody. It’s aggressive to the point of believability. Burial 10 had its share of industrial hip-hop moments, but Designer Carnage has a hell of one with this track.
“Vast Accept” is purely hypnotic, the kind of track to put on and lose oneself to. The staccato strings and the glimmering synths over a pounding bass make for a dream of a song. The album’s closer “Saturnalia” may divide some folks, as it leans back on Blacker’s roots in the extreme metal scene. If you like the idea of industrial black metal (and lord knows I do), you’re going to love it. The first minute plus is blast beat o’clock, while things go in a more electro direction as the track progresses, all the way to an acoustic interlude around the halfway mark. We circle back to the black metal beginnings of the track as the curtain falls on this epic, spanning closer.
Is this Jamie throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks? If so, very little is falling off. Surround thyself in only the finest of Designer Carnage by streaming and/or purchasing the album:
It’s been a really tough week for me. It’s been hard to find the motivation to write or do much of anything. Today was a little better. I haven’t found myself listening to less music, just finding it harder to hear the words to describe it in my mind. Today was the first time I had felt like I could talk again. So I have an enormous backlog of music to write about. Lets get some of that out now.
ESA (Electronic Substance Abuse) – “Eat Their Young” If ESA’s latest album Burial 10 was a barb wire wrapped bat beating the shit out of you with electronic destruction. The new EP Eat Their Young is the same effect with a razor sharp sword. It has a purpose and intent with it’s execution. Back again is Corlyx Caitlin Stokes adding a sensuality and velvet glove to the relentless destruction. Power and Beauty in equal measure in this must have EP from London England. Also the video for the single is a masterclass in modern music/image synthesis
Corlyx – “Together Apart” – Speaking of Caitlin, her and band mate Brandon Ashley are back for a follow up to their album “In2 The Skin” 1st single is out now for a Sept 15th release. It’s another burner. Porcelain Skin brings that same darkpop flavor of broken glass candy and ghostly light. Caitlin has a beauty and truth with crawls under your skin and infects you with a cracked mirror of perception. Can’t wait to hear how the rest shakes out.
MelodyWhore – “This Is How We Were Taught To Pray” New single release from electronic sin wizard MelodyWhore out of Texas. This single was written as a charity donation for BLM. Jimmy called in some of the top names in the scene to contribute with remixes and vocals. The song is a powerful hymn of equality in a call to take down an unfair establishment. This one gives me chills with it’s intensity and soul shaking faith. I was lucky enough to contribute myself on the Gothic Tabernacle Choir remix. A Great cause and outpouring of talent forged together into one of the most spine tingling singles of the year.
Carrion – “The Tempest” Swirling ash and oblivion from Norway’s Carrion. A new single of slow fuse creeping doom that shows you the horror to come and leaves you chained waiting for the inevitable destruction.
Hallowed Hearts “Into The Fire” I really like the way this album bends the line between goth and post punk with a slight lean towards goth. It’s emotional and flows like a rippling black ribbon. The melody lines are captivating and seamless. Some beautiful guitar rock elements with gentle curves to match the tight post punk base lines. Impressive.
Stoneburner – “Dark Ambient Album” Steven Archer is always twisting the joint to find a new position. Never comfortable in one concept he is an ever moving force. This new 6 song EP steers away from the vocal driven industrial of the last few albums into texture sonic painting. Full of strong effects and video game soundtrack pastels. From one mountain many rivers may flow.
EchoBeryl – “The Awakening Of The Mutant” From Cold Transmission this French synthtrance retro dance dream keeps the imagination flowing. The album is an homage to 50’s and 60’s sci-fi drama. It’s a modern concept through a retro lens. Set to release Aug 21st currently 2 tracks are available for pre order and both are a teleport beam to both the past and the future.
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.
ESA – are an English dark industrial / electroclash project by Jamie Blacker, which started in 2002. This new album is called Burial 10and features vocals from Jo Hysetria (Massenhysteria), Caitlin Stokes (Corlyx), and Lecture.
So right out the door this album is coming at you like a speeding train through a tunnel. It’s driving pistons and screeching metal furiously charging down your throat with reckless abandon. It would be easy to feel like that was chaotic because that is the emotional response it summons. This is a focused and precise weight of speed and power with intent and form. I feel like i am describing a high end automobile not a record, but this is the feeling of Burial 10.
ESA has been around a good while and gone through different styles. I feel like this album ran a bit of that spectrum on it’s own. It twists, writhes, and thrashes like a cornered animal. Unpredictable and fierce. Great use of guest vocalist like Jo Hystaria and Caitlyn to add more surprise twists to this story. The pulsating beats are a relentless onslaught which attack from so many directions. Gentle synth tones carefully placed expose the belly of the beast and add style and craft to this fierce creature.
Favorite Tracks :
You are Safe Here (Feat: Caitlyn Corlyx) – I, of course, had to choose this one because it features the angelic, sensual voice of the amazing Caitlyn. This has the intense EDM drive but is tempered by her striking laser-fire voice. This is a club hit made to shake floors supporting giant speakers.
Burial 10– The title track is a driving march. I really like the bizarre off-kilter chanting sample vocals. Part of the fun of ESA is they never seem to take the foot off the pedal. Even when breaking down with the spoken word vocal sections. Lots of high energy, never-let-up Prodigy feelings.
Blessed With Bruises– A nice change up here, bringing the tempo down and the trip hop feeling up while keeping the same steady crashing waves of sound. Instead of a high-speed chase, this is a slow, smooth roll, sliding around corners, channeling Massive Attack’s effortless cool.
Overall this is a fury of intensity sure to make your club walls shake. Find the biggest speakers you can and crank this until the neighbors cry.
Caroline Blind of Sunshine Blind is back with another sizzling new single that is a cover of Goth greats The Wake. The single is called “First” and actually features members of The Wake. Does that even count as a cover then? It releases for Valentines day and is the perfect blend of old school Sunshine Blind style with intense droning power gorgeous flowing echos for vocals but with her new style of matured layered atmosphere. Get it on your spotify list tomorrow.
IAMNOONE – Italian dark Synth from Cold Transmission releases “A Primitive Trinitas” on 2/29/20. I love the uptempo bass lines blending with a background gentle chant vocal. The single is full of movement and subtle hooks.
White Mansion – Another Cold Transmission release from the States in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Big popping synths and beautiful Duran Duran style vocals. Very retro feel of slippery sensuality and emotional expression. This was a full album that released at the end of January and has been on my mix list ever sense.
STEREOCCULT – From Houston, TX, this came to me from Shayn Blaqk and I am really drawn in by the sound. The drums are a constant murderous pound of tom intensity. The vocals are a nice driving post-punk chant and make good use of harmony to make some electricity. I need to give this album a deeper dive soon.
Electronic Substance Abuse – from the UK have released an album a lot of people have been waiting on. Burial 10 is a machine gun spray of dance madness with a concise and sizzling plan. It is focused chaos full of shake-your-ass beats with enormous variety and pop sensibility. It feels like that first time you heard Underworld and thought “this is dance music?” yet so much more. Special shout-out to the track “You Are Safe Here” which features my dear friend Caitlyn of the band Corlyx. Damn that track is a burner. The whole album demands a full review but I needed to shout out about it now.
Missfit Toys – This album actually came out in December but I am starting to really absorb it now. It’s a twisted goblin scream full of terror-inducing ferocity. Yet somehow the music is such an accessible synth dance. The sheer audacity of the clashing sounds and swirling concepts make this record haunting and hides behind your conscious mind. Richie V. Suriv of Florida is unleashing a nightmare of sonic intensity and the live show features none other but Adrian Kjosnes of Sounds and Shadows.
IAMTHESHADOW – OK I know Cold Transmission is getting a lot of love in this article, but what can I say? I love them. I am so excited for this new album: Pedro and company are taking the already entrancing sound and hitting new heights of expression and dance floor grind. This new single Pitchblack is a passionate intense burner and it makes my body shake with anticipation.
Seven Federations – North Dakota industrial concept artists who are creating world beat textural Industrial with a thinking person’s swagger. I love the violins and future revolution feel. It’s heavy, it’s mean, but it expands your thought waves while making you want to break shit. I hear Front Line Assembly wave destruction with Prick vocal cadence.
Tigercide – LA darkwave band with a lovely, atmospheric trip hop vibe. Sizzling desert David Lynch driving through an ever shifting reality vibe. Lovely vocals with tender lilting emotion. I found myself lost in the brush stroke snare sounds which rise and fall as your vision melts.