I continue to see the importance of putting out this monthly chart. One that is unique in our scene. I hope other people appreciate the songs chosen here for their quality. Every track here is voted on by Dj’s, Bands, Reviewers, and Superfans that represent the pulse of modern dark music.
Leathers – Runaway
Black Angel – Look Me In the Eye
The Cassandra Complex – Old Boys Network
HexHeart – Erase Yesterday
Moris Blak/Daddybear/GrabYourFace – Crimes Of Passion
Vaselyne – Shame
Iamnoone – The Need
Sever The Servants – Get In The Grave
Iamtheshadow – Remind Me
Kill Shelter (Feat: Agent Side Grinder) – The Necklace
LEATHERS – Runaway – Another gorgeous smash hit from Shannon Hemmett of Vancouver. As part of the darkscene darlings Actors this synthy dreamwave project continues to grow and impress with every release. Masterful execution with a personal delivery.
Black Angel – Look Me In The Eye – We have an upcoming interview with LA transplant Matt Vowles about the band putting the rock back into gothic rock. I love this slow grooving The Cult style flavored single with some sinister smokey backup vocals from Manheesha Jones. Absolute banger.
The Cassandra Complex – Old Boys Network -After 20 years the pre goth legends The Cassandra Complex dropped a new album and a scathing punk rock rebuke of modern post capitalism. This song has been sitting the top of the DAC chart as well all month long.
Hexheart – Erase Yesterday – Seattle WA sleek voodoo synth had this single to set the road for their 6/17/22 release “Funeral Flowers“. I love the smooth electronic soft serve retro feel. The lyrics have a wonderful Ducky in the rain poetry. This album will be a day one buy for me.
MORIS BLAK x DADDYBEAR x GRABYOURFACE – Crimes of Passion – Three heavy hitters of modern EDM/EBM who have teamed again to take our singles chart by storm. Each time they have gotten together it is an absolute banger offset by Marie’s crime croon vocals. This belongs on dancefloors everywhere.
Vaselyne – Shame (PJ Harvey Cover) – Early single release for the 6/3/22 EP “The Sea Says” is a cover of the mistress of raw alternative PJ Harvey. I love the percussive twang present throughout. The Dutch duo on COP International do a lovely vocal volley. I love the dusty humidity of the tone in this homage. Leaves me excited to review the album.
Sever The Servants – Get In The Grave – Another song on this chart from the partnership of Hide Tepes and Mike Nolan on their horror hue nightmare fuel project on Produkt 42. Normally I don’t answer orders to jump into the grave soil, but this charismatic call gets under your skin.
IAMTHESHADOW – Remind Me – Another gorgeous underground bop from the best baritone in modern goth Pedro Code. The Portuguese darkwave act continues to be the flagship of Cold Transmission. A darkwood ship rising and falling on synthetic waves.
Kill Shelter – The Necklace ft Agent Side Grinder – Finally the eagerly awaited master producer and composer Pete Burns returns to form with a single from the upcoming July album “Asylum” using guest vocals from the Swedish Synth star Johan Lange of Agent Side Grinder. This is an emotional tidal wave and leaves me ravenous for the full release. Pete is a wizard of drawing the best out of already talented people.
The power of a fierce front woman of a darker bent is a sight to see and a joy to hear. To be able to see two in one night, backed by amazing bandmates, is a rare treat. That’s what occurred at Crucible, in Madison, WI, on a recent spring night in April 2022. Pixel Grip and Patriarchy dueled it out with full sets, supported by the lovely Previsions.
From the moment Patriarchy’s Actually Huizenga stepped on to the stage, a huge American flag hanging upside down behind her and bandmates, something very special began. Actually’s stage presence is incredibly self-assured… she exudes the sensual confidence of a prowling cat surveying its prey. Actually and her bandmates, The Drummer and The Guitarist, presented a collection of delicious fever dream songs focusing around their album, Asking for It, which was co-written by Actually and Andrew Neams of 3Teeth.
Their sound is a mad trip through heavy darkwave industrial melodies led by industrial drumming and guitar riffs. At the helm is Actually, a once wailing then airily purring siren with a gorgeous mezzo soprano voice that gives her full control over the room.
Actually clearly doesn’t suffer fools… and her lyrics show a woman fed up with the system and the dehumanizing moments we are still forced to navigate as women, and human beings, in the 21st century. Their set was sexy, knowing, while carried by a refreshingly feminist bent harnessing the anger and frustration of women who exist, struggle, and flourish within and despite of the basic tragedies of our world. Songs like the titular Asking for It and Sweet Piece of Meat showcase all the dark sexual energy one could ask for. The song, Don’t Fuck the Drummer, was a moment of great fun. The following videos, clips from Sweet Piece of Meat and new single, Lockjaw, show the capture the energy of the Patriarchy experience.
Headlining were Pixel Grip, a fast-rising trio from Chicago. The band is made up of Rita Lukea on vocals, Tyler Ommen on drums, and Jonathon Freund on keys. A vocal improvisationalist, Rita commands a voice so uniquely beautiful it is hard to think of exactly how to describe it. Having been classically trained, Rita takes her voice in and out of tones and characters with extreme confidence, all the while presenting a playful, at times even jazz-scatting, flair. This was the second visit to Crucible to support their second album, Arena, since the reopening of venues began in summer of 2021. They describe their style as a collection of “avant pop, EBM, and minimal wave” (pixelgrip.com). The various genres melt together beautifully and, just like the previous year’s visit, made the crowd extremely eager to get their bodies moving.
Rita is a powerhouse onstage, cutting a commanding figure while expressing a muted rage couched in cool tension. This was especially true on Alphapussy, a royal reclaiming of femme power. She works the stage with an expressive knowing that embraces all the weirdos convening to escape the realities of the world. They know that she, and Pixel Grip, will tell it like it is.
Pixel Grip kept the bodies moving with massive club hits like Demon Chaser and Soft Peaks, as well as the powerfully touching Double Vision. Few bands today can produce such incredible club ragers and delicate ballads on the same album. But then few bands are Pixel Grip.
If you are lucky enough to have either band come to do a show anywhere vaguely near you, get tickets immediately. Neither band should ever be missed.
If I could describe Black Agent’s ‘Industrial Ruination’ with two words they would be, “HELL YEAH!!”; the beats, the cacophony, the lyrics, I could go on. In a world of Skinny Puppy soundalikes, Black Agent manage to carve out a unique sound within the industrial music world with songs that combine intelligent songcraft with solid production. By the time you get to ‘Dying Time’, the second track, you’ll know you’re in for a sonic treat. But the tone of this album isn’t all fun and games.
The album addresses subjects ranging from poverty to politics to police brutality to COVID to Jeffrey Epstein. However the lyrics on ‘Fallen’ seem to delve into the existential with such verses as:
Through the inside Pain then nothing more Flowers For the fallen Break the silence Don’t close the door
But what remains? What are we here for? What are the signs that you were ever here?
Parenthetically, I’ve been very impressed with the output from Re:Mission Entertainment, especially as of late, and this record is another feather in the cap for this noteworthy record label.
‘Feedback’ is an instrumental that smacks of Front 242 with a grating distorted guitar hiding deep in the mix.
Things take a turn for the funky with ‘Strange Like Me’, a danceable jam with moments of lyrical existentialism of its own:
Are you a stranger Stranger than me Or are we just the same
Are you strange Strange like me Or are we playing a game
Track 9 is ‘Murdering Truth’ (presumably the song about Jeffrey Epstein), a track with EBM-style arpeggios over a relaxed beat and comfortable tempo and the title to ‘Everything’s Wrong’ tells you everything you need to know about the tone of the song.
‘Hindsight’ is a strong closer, going all out with the creepiness and bombast to leave you feeling thoroughly pummelled.
All in all, these 13 songs are very satisfying musically with an appropriately gloomy outlook on life in the COVID years.
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:
The world is a bit scary right now. A lot of giant dark clouds hang over us. What is happening to the people of Ukraine is first and foremost in many minds. Art/Music has always been a means of expression for the suffering of the world. As well as a way to give hope. So as reports started coming in several bands in the darkscene released singles with proceeds going to support humanitarian efforts. I will share some of those now
Lifeline International – Come Together – So I will age myself here, but back in 1985 the famine happening through out Africa gained public attention when pretty much every popular star in music came together to preform a single called “We Are The World”. When I heard this Beatles cover electrified and amplified by Christian Petke (COP International) and Legendary producer John Fryer my heart stood on it’s edge in that same way as in 1985. This track features : members of Faith No More, Stabbing Westward, Rammstein, The Hardkiss (Ukraine), Revolting Cocks, Filter, Pigface, Agnostic Front, Basement Jaxx, Gravity Kills, The Cassandra Complex, Mesh, blackcarburning, The Joy Thieves, Deathline International, Vaselyne, and Black Needle Noise. I know that might not feel like Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and Kenny Rogers to the rest of the world. To Goth/Industrial fans, it’s pretty close. Massive fuzzy funk riffs, earth shaking percussion explosions, vocals that deliver distinctive sounds and seamless overlap. The opening track of Abbey Road which was supposedly written for Timothy Leary’s attempt to become Governor of California has always struck an emotional chord of counter culture rising up for change. The addition of Queen’s We Will Rock You at the end is a fitting signature to the journey. There is a VERY good reason this has remained the number one seller on Bandcamp in any genre.
A Cloud of Ravens – The Call Up – Brooklyn NY goth rockers ACOR follow up their stand out album Another Kind Of Midnight with this shadow disco flavored cover of legendary punk act The Clash. Mathew’s vocals are a crooning whisper in contrast to the original, yet never lack for intensity. A cutting electronic veil of synths and foot stomping percussion. They are donating all proceeds to International Rescue Committee. This transitioned from a 4/4 vamp banger into a elastic and textured dance floor electricity. I think Strummer would have appreciated.
Ashes Fallen – Stand Your Ground (for Ukraine) – This single from California goth rockers Ashes Fallen was featured on their album “A Fleeting Melody Out Of A Fading Dream“. This version with all proceeds to Direct Relief for their humanitarian mission in Ukraine. It features a remix by The Axiom Divide. The original is such a mist rising from concrete dark edge call to arms banger. The remix pulls back the teeth to reveal James emotional vocal performance and subtle colliding synth streams. It adds a reflection of sorrow to the aggression of the original.
Ashes Fallen is James Perry, Michelle Perry, and Jason Shaw. The Axiom Divide is Jay Tye, Brent Heinze, and Misti Laubscher.
Warm Gadget – Lost Weekend – So this is an enormous value compilation for $12 featuring 99 tracks. All proceeds go to Vostok SOS and the Ukrainian Red Cross. An ambitious undertaking in it’s scope and delivery. With contributions from more than 27 countries: Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, UK, Ukraine, USA and others. There is too much here to go through every individual band. I will focus on this one track from Oregon based hammering hard rock synergy Warm Gadget. I always get chunky Helmet slither math vibes from them. I love the stretch and build happening here. You would be seriously hard pressed to get a better musical value to support the cause.
Thieve6 – Inside Out – Ok, this is shameless self promotion. However it is also a single with all proceeds going to Razom, a humanitarian relief charity chosen by Myah who had just lived in the Ukraine as part of Peace Corp. Those that follow Sounds and Shadows have probably heard of my fanboying for 90s Alt rocker Eve 6 and his twitter page. It has gotten to be a bit of a running bit in the Facebook group. So when Dan Milligan of Joy Thieves/The Burying Kind fame about doing a cover, Collin and I (Amaranth) went to work. We had no idea when we started what Dan would eventually bring together. I’m proud of the result, and proud to raise money for the cause it goes to. We also got to bring in the talented Whitney Flaherty to produce the inspired cover art. I’m still waiting for Max to ask me :If I like the Heart In A Blender Song“.
Ken Magerman: lead and backing vocals, clips and phrases Collin Schipper: guitars, backing vocals, wicker cabinet James Scott: bass guitar, origami Myah VanTil: backing vocals, faith in nothing Damien Faust: guitar, finalistic rendezvous Dan Milligan: drums, guitar, synths, ginger ale
Now for those of you that prefer a more direct support. I will call out some bands in our scene in the Ukraine that are suffering and could use your support.
Icy Men – Low Light – Based in Kyiv/Kiev our friends on Cold Transmission Music Lytvyn and Den Stavitskiy who we have reviewed previously do a frozen darkness coldwave that resonates in the heart. The driving bass in abandoned subways, pounding movement. Frosty breath vocals delivered with cutting logic. I fell in love with this record in 2020 and hold a good thought for the next release.
BlazerJacket – Get Out (feat. Dirty Bird 13) – Another artists from Kyiv Denis Cherryman has a new retrowave shimmering single of oil on water in the morning sun. Creating an image of serenity before the violent guitar crunch and broken glass vocals shatter the surface of the water. Without warning another change from Psalm 69 Ministry fury to hypnotic retro melody hook. I love the bold transitions, I love the message of warning. Have a thought for Denis, I look forward to his next release.
Sexual Purity – Suffer | Hope – I love the erratic percussion builds from Dnipro based Coldwave artists Sexual Purity. Anastasia has a captivating and emotionally tortured voice. It drips with animal hunger and menace. The style is very minimalist like a swirling nightmare you can’t hold in your mind. I look forward to more exploration of diverse styles in the future offerings. I was haunted and intrigued. Track 3 “In The Ocean” was a standout for me in the way the vocals took a more jagged and dangerous edge.
Music by Oleksii Donets Vocal and Lyrics by Anastasia Romanova
When the world is suffering it is often artists who put the emotions into a physical form. Here we are just scratching the surface of amazing bands that offered up their art to support the people effected by this horrible conflict. Hopefully one of these offerings inspired you to do something for those suffering. Please if you know of another artists doing a song with the proceeds going to humanitarian relief leave a link and comment below