Concrete Doves opens with a relentless deathrock bass riff and then militant flash bang drums that trigger my panic response. Feels like getting followed into a dark alleyway and getting the shit kicked out of you by a malevolent spirit. Guitar and undead vocals devoid of any feelings fill out the mix and make for a very disorienting and visceral start to Swansect’s debut.
What follows the musical equivalent of running the gauntlet but the aggressors have razor blades, chunks of concrete, and live power lines. The album utilizes multiple “styles” (industrial, deathrock, sound collage, drone) but is held together by the thematic anxiety of the whole work. There is an overwhelming sense of impending tragedy only buffeted by small bursts of apathy in reference to the destiny of the human race.
The last track to me seems like a meditation on the futility of it all, a sort of peace despite all the destruction and devastation that we’re exposed to everyday, in real life and on the news. Peace stemming from the acknowledgment that some things are just out of our control.
The Tacks is more than a Goth band. They’re a loud, dark, Goth, post-punk band from Christchurch, New Zealand. This five-piece is raw. The self-titled album that was released in early April is riddled with angst and passion. The driving drums and the lo-fi tone mixed with an incredible female punk-rock vocals establish something familiar while creating something unique.
I stumbled upon The Tacks on Bandcamp and was elated to find their album in the top six bestsellers under the Goth category. I gave their song “Merivale” a listen and fell in love with it pretty hard. The EP has four songs and is less than 10 minutes long. Each song is a fast-paced rocker that will get those angsty fires lit within you.
I can imagine being at their show, thrashing and sweating with the crowd, shouting the lyrics along with the band. I remember going to shows like that when I was younger and healed from mosh pits faster. I remember the thrill of being in the middle of everyone, being pushed around like the crowd was a giant wave pool. The terror I’d feel falling over only to find unexpected kindnesses all around me as people pulled me back to my feet. Those were the time’s shows were the most fun. When I didn’t know what to expect from the band but knew it would be a night to remember forever. As I listened to this EP, I got to live in that nostalgic thought.
Some favorite tracks
How Many Times– This song starts with a bang as group vocals shout “How many times?” The energy stays high throughout as a story is told about being let down by someone and wondering how many times they’ll get caught up in their own life only to let others down. Group vocals sing every chorus to emphasize each word and make it impactful. It’s a short song, but it’s oozing with familiarity.
Merivale– If you go to The Tacks’ page, this will be the first track that you hear. It’s a banger. This song has the most post-punk feel with tinnier guitar tones and chord changes that tug on your heartstrings. The chorus has group vocals and is very much a punk chorus, but there are other elements involved. For example, between overdrive and distortion as guitar effects, there’s a chorus pedal that gives it more old-school Goth vibes. Once again, this song isn’t a big-time investment, but it’s very fun and filled to the rim with energy.
Overall, I really enjoyed this entire EP. It reminded me of punk bands I loved as a teenager like The Distillers and X. There were just enough post-punk and Goth influences to make me excited and really look forward to this band’s future.
This one is special. The first album with a new label Cold Transmission. Pedro, Victor, Herr, these aren’t just a band, they are friends. IAMTHESHADOW is one of the first bands I discovered in my goth renaissance and I have a deep knowledge of their catalog. This album has a story with it. A triumph over adversity, a celebration of reaching a scarred hand up to pull yourself over the ledge. I wanted to start this review by being honest of what this album was to me before I hit play. Now that you know the magnifying power of this lens I am listening through I am going to set it aside and tell you a story about the pure passion and beauty in these 12 songs.
IAMTHESHADOW: Pedro Code – Voices, Guitar, Synthesizers and Programming Vitor J. Moreira – Synthesizers Herr G – Bass
All songs produced, mixed and mastered by Pedro Code Design & Artwork by Yvonne Kiel
Music is a magical thing. Like a relationship. It has a lot of parts and means a lot of things in different moments. I want to give a little background to help you understand this moment. Portuguese band IAMTHESHADOW are a synth driven darkwave sound which builds around Pedro Code’s voice. It is one of the most expressive and passionate instruments in the current dark music scene. The type of old school crooning black silk that would be just as much at home 30’s jazz as it is today. Since 2016’s Everything Is Nothingness this band has stayed true to an immersive core of feeling driven poetry stretching skyward from rich soil of driving rhythm. Embracing the Fall from 2018 took that raw concept to a new height of exposed Nick Cave style narrative with tender dark ballads and the addition of Antipole’s Karl Morton Dahl adding guitar accents. Pedro and team then turned to other projects like The Dream Collision until signing with longtime friends Cold Transmission Music. It was in Cologne Germany for the Cold Transmission festival I witnessed IAMTHESHADOW live and fell in love. When you love an album you expect to hear a band bring it to life on stage. Those special bands find a way to play those songs with new intensity and passion. To open your eyes wide like the first time. So it was in a distant land on a small stage in Cologne.
For two years I waited to see the next place Pedro, Victor, and Herr would take me. Just as the album was nearly completed a tragedy befell with Pedro being robbed of his laptop, and more importantly the masters of the entire album. Huge sections would have to be completely re-recorded. We would all be waiting a little longer for Pitchblack. It was well worth the wait.
The change in tone from the previous offerings is apparent right away. This record does not build itself around the best baritone voice in modern goth. It uses it as an arrowhead propelled towards your heart on silky flowing movement. Part of the glory of the previous three records was using a recipe of stripped down driven passion in a world of ultra produced post punk. Here that passion is just as present but layered inside an intricate and dynamic musical backdrop that gives each concept a voice of it’s own. Additional vocalist Diego Merletto (The Frozen Autumn), Kadri Sammel (Bedless Bones) Yvette Winkler (Vaselyne) were brought on to do vocals. I can say from experience of being offered a duet with Pedro it is an intimidating feeling. Putting my voice next to his sounded panic inducing. Here it is taking something already beautiful and captivating then placing it in a rich sensual frame.
This album cooks. IAMTHESHADOW has always had the ability to move you. With swelling slow turns and blood given form. Pitchblack is striking percussion. Walking slide foot bass lines. Cascading synth sounds rippling in endless alternating progressions. Here the passion is not tender, or heart wrenching. It has teeth, gravitas, and attitude. More of a Depeche ModeMusic For the Masses .These songs are for dancing. For fine red wine. For staring into the eyes of the one you love.
Lets talk about some of those tracks:
Always– Track two leans in with that slashing motion and crisp snare snap. The keys here take center stage and Pedro’s vocals lift and support them. “When you realize, don’t wait”. It’s this urgency of both lyrics and the music. Crackling energy that ignites passion and stirs longing.
Shivers – I’m not sure if this song will end up being a single but i fell in love with it from the start. It has a lot of that classic IATS feel. The train getting further from the station delayed guitar riffs. Pedro’s voice strides to the forefront and is larger than any room I could image. “I played my hand, hoping faith would last” I would dance through the rain on a street full of watery explosions while this song played forever.
Ouroboros (Feat: Kadri Sammel from Bedless Bones) – So Bedless Bones from Estonia is a criminally underrated band. As I said I can’t imagine the giant brass stones it takes to sing next to Pedro. Ouroboros is a perfect name for this track because the voices blend so perfectly it is hard to tell where one starts and the other stops. “Face down on the floor, you are my shadow” Powerful EDM flavor meets traditional darkwave. This song is a dance floor giant.
Awake & Asleep (Feat. Diego Merletto from The Frozen Autumn) – Another weaving smoke tendril that you can’t quite grab a hold of. To have a weapon like Pedro’s voice and to leave it in the background to craft a song this strong is such a bold choice. It really breaks up up flow of the album in the best way. This chorus is such a bold change and hard hook.
When you love something and it still finds a way to surprise you, that is true power. That’s what Pitchblack was for me. The anticipation of knowing something you were going to love was coming. Building the expectation beyond what could be met. Then being amazed when it passed that expectation. This is already the #1 selling darkwave album on bandcamp on day #1 and there is a really good reason for that. Take this journey. Fall in love with music that has soul. This is a record that makes you feel something. That stirs that ancient instinct inside our hearts.
So this has been an eagerly awaited release for me. Due out 5/22/20 on Cold Transmission records. I have in my hot little digital hands early so I can go through and give some impressions. Elz is a dear friend and all around amazing human. This Turkish based project is breaking new ground in the abstract dark pop genre for the last few years. We had Elz on our podcast to discuss this record when it was still coming together, please enjoy at this link:
Songwriters; ELZ, Sharon Engelhardt, Nigel Strong. Produced and performed by Taner Yücel. Mixing by Taner Yücel. Mastering by Görkem Karabudak. Vocals; ELZ, Eylül Deniz, Efe Akıncıoğlu, Taner Yücel, Sharon Engelhardt, Görkem Kasal, Deniz Aksoy & Ayça Sarıönder. Photography: Berk Çakmakçı Art Direction by StudioPul
Recorded at Taner Yücel’s homestudio & Mayday Studios, Istanb
I feel like Bloodline was an amazing creative step forward for Elz to really explore the creative brilliance that was always inside them. It is such a beautiful amalgamation of sexy over the top 80’s pop with a soul like Madonna fused with sinister Geiger like sonic imagery. Right from the first track it is dancing with ballet dexterity on giant metal spider legs in intricate patterns while screaming the injustice of it’s existence. This record never stops moving and it drips with dark sex appeal and the blistering drum beats are a jolt of energy that make your capillaries pop in your circulatory system.
The lyrics are true Oscar Wilde style slash open a vein and spew your essence at the listener. Elz has genuine front person star power and a captivating voice that guides your hand as you apply your make up at the mirror. It’s one of those sounds that has the ability to make the listener associate with the singer and infuse their attitude on you. I genuinely believe listening to this record will make you hotter.
Lets talk favorite tracks: This 12 song album is a complete work with no throwaways. Of course i have favorites
Ultraviolence: Ok these songs are glorious on their own. The videos though are masterworks and an enormous amount of effort goes into the aesthetic concept matching the music. So always watch those. This song is bracing, it hits hard and the chorus is a razor chain lashing around the room. It also has such detailed construction and perfect pop beat. Every floor of every goth club must one day shake with it’s power.
Horrified: The husky come hither whisper of these vocals make the hair on my arms stand up. The chorus is a sky opener and it really captures the idea of something being both beautiful and horrible at the same time. It’s hard to imagine how something so shocking and intense can get stuck in your head like a pop hook but here we are.
Safe Zone: This is what I call a car chase song. That perfect mid tempo that feels like night driving through a city in decay. I really like the vibrating voice effect used here. Tight corners and slippery shadows. Lets hope we all make it home alive.
Masturbate About You: Glorious pace changer, ramps up the tension. This is a edgy concept and expressed perfectly. The chorus unleashes a raging demon of emotion which hits a new height just to be pulled away again. A real roller coaster through a dark tunnel.
I feel like this whole album is pushing the boundary that the modern dark scene needs pushed. It crackles, it frightens, and it highlights all the things beautiful about the current dark revolution. I really want to realize the dream of seeing Elz and The Cult live. This record is out for pre release now on Cold Transmission and you are going to want to snatch it up and be on the cusp of the next wave.
A week from this last Friday was the second day Bandcamp waived their artist fees. Since then, there’s been a burst of new music posted that ranges from one-off projects bred from quarantine boredom to albums that have been in the works for the last year.Some artists have re-released old albums that were never released digitally while others have chosen archived songs that aren’t new but haven’t been released before.
I’m pretty much saying Bandcamp is rad right now.
There is so much great music out and more coming out every day. It was hard to pinpoint my top favorites, but I’ve spent the last day narrowing my latest playlist to my top six favorite new releases.
I’ve always been taken aback by Mogwai’s soundscapes. There’s a vastness in their music that can create such a sad, lonely feeling in my gut. It’s crazy how without words, they can say something so well that it brings tears to my eyes. ZEROZEROZERO is the score to the show on Amazon Prime with the same name exploring the inner workings of the cocaine trade. This album gives the story light as it creates action and tension with massive builds and soundscapes.
When X announced last January that they were going to be releasing a new album, the punk scene stirred. What would the first album release in 27 years by an iconic punk band be like? Great news, everyone! It’s awesome. X spent the last 18 months writing and recording 11 new tracks that are relevant and hype to hear. When the band hit the scene in 1977, they quickly become prolific for their unique sound. Duel vocals, an homage to multiple rock genres at once, ripping guitars, and attitude. That’s X. This album was released on April 22, 2020.
Vlimmer is a music-making machine! This album is dark and ambient with a drive behind it. Though it’s utterly haunting instrumentally and vocally, it’s breathtakingly beautiful simultaneously. Instrumentally, you’ll hear sounds that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand, but then there are these huge vocals and harmonies that hypnotize you. There’s chaos built into the structure of the songs that give you that feeling of tension without pushing you to discomfort.This album was released on May 1, 2020.
When I heard the song, “Dissolve” by Secret Shame, I felt refreshed and excited for more. I heard homage to bands I love like New Order. It literally felt like I was listening to a song by The Cure recorded for 33 1/3 rpm but played at 45 rpm. This is the perfect cross of post-punk and goth rock. You can feel how much fun the band had creating this EP. It’s because of this that the music that creates a deeper connection with the audience. I’m very excited to hear the other half of this EP when it’s released June 5, 2020.
In 2019, four 15-year-olds came together in Melbourne, Australia to form the rad indie-grunge band, Tabloid TV Darlings. The group is heavily inspired by ‘90s alternative rock, specifically grunge. The singer sounds almost exactly like Kurt Cobain, but the band has melodic feel with fuzzed-out guitars and cool vocal harmonies. This group of teenagers has me jealous of their songwriting ability and has me super excited for their future releases. This album was released on May 3, 2020.
Dummy from Los Angelas, CA is a dreamy shoegaze band that echos the sounds of legendary groups like Kraftwerk, Stereolab, and Cluster. Their marriage of rock genres ranging from krautrock to post-punk is enough to give it a unique sound. They take a minimalistic approach to their work but build huge soundscapes within the composition. Each song has it’s own range that builds the album into somewhat of a cinematic-feeling piece overall. This album was released on May 1, 2020.
Favorite Track: Slacker Mask
I know I was a little late to the game by writing these days after Bandcamp waived it’s artist fees, but there’s still amazing music being released every day! There is so much to still be excited about on Bandcamp. Whatever support you can offer to your favorite new artists is always appreciated even if it’s only $5.
I’ve been hearing so much great music these last few weeks and look forward to the time when we’ll all be able to go to shows again and experience music together. Until then, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Katy’s ‘End of Days’ Playlist”.