Red wine and a shining moon. Here I sit once again after a long and chaotic week. I reach out for the solace of other peoples dreams and thoughts in music. The world is waking up from a long nightmare. The scene is wonderfully awash with exciting new talent and ideas. Here are some of the glorious sounds I am hauling into my boat.
Chiasm – Missed The Noise – Always excited to see amazing art created by a fellow Michigander like Emileigh Rohn. This album is arranged by legendary producer John Fryer. There is nothing better than two top talents forming a bond and producing something better than the sum of the parts. Emileigh has a voice that gives you a gut punch of energy with every phrase. This feels like the montage scene in a film where our heroine levels up her power. It feels like actualization with every electric build and feint. The music is so finely honed, each song a story that digs it’s hooks in and allows the charisma of the vocals to shine like a beacon.
Noise – The glorious workout of crackling electric light. This song just blasts in wave right out of the gate. The vocals are power animal bright light. If I had to pick one word to describe, inspiring.
Missed – A total shift to darkpop drifting glory. The opening chimes and quacky sounds. I think you strangled my sweet mind. This is such a dynamic and visual sound. Windblown flowing silk in a posh apartment watching the worlds spin past. This song really puts on display the powerful teamwork of these musicians. Again with the powerful mantra of self actualization. Those deep vocal contrasts really add a noticeable line between the experience and viewpoint.
Overall appeal: This is a album for everyone. It has lots of delicious pop and feminine power with an expert craft and emotional energy. Highly recommend.
Hide Tepes/ Blakmoth – Filther – The back and forth rocking sonic duel of our own Hide Tepes and Maryland’s Blakmoth. A wonderful collaboration of oily sonic darkness. There is a wisdom achieved at a certain point in life where you realize you can no longer walk the journey of those making music at the absolute cutting edge of modern music. If you listen though, you still know when you hear it. That difference when someone is truly taking the adventure for you and exploring new and terrifying ground. That’s the feeling inspired by this subtitle and and creeping Synth driven psychological terror. It’s music that grabs your hair and smashes your face in a mirror. Leaving you exposed to gasp at the bloody mess and the terror in your own eyes. This is not a casual listening album. It’s a test of your empathy and fortitude.
Overall Appeal: This is not a pop album for easy listening. It’s a blending introspection of abstract thought and feeling. Enter at your own risk. If you do find yourself of a courageous heart and an open mind. This is the cutting edge music of tomorrow.
Nuclear*Sun – Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself – So cover albums are a tricky thing, often you are getting someone at a lower experience level trying to find new space in an established song that meant something to them. Tal Kliger has brought a talent and hungry energy to covers of friends as well as inspiration. The overall sound razor skates that place between EBM and Industrial with a highspeed light footed agility. Bouncing vocals skipping between a growl and a ringing clarity. You can really hear the love and devotion to the musical process in these tracks. it’s blazing heat and energy that captured me and left me hungry.
February War – A cover of Rabbit Junk. This was driving punk rock stinging beats and glitchy vocals. Stabbing and edge of control flavor. I love the guitar bends and smashing drums. A poignant assault on the senses and emotions.
Insurgence – A cover of Sean Payne but with smashing and razor sharp execution. Grab a bat and start smashing. Hard leaning Front Line Assembly vibes full of high concept and obliteration. I loved the parking lot fist fall energy and dark streetlight tone.
Overall Appeal: If you like it hard and nasty with a familiar feel this is your jam. Fans of Industrial/EBM/ Metal edge will find red burning glory here.
Bow Ever Down – Lost In The Woods – Kimberly Kornmeier sizzling darkpop from 2020 which left me swaying and captivated. The synthy star sparkle spins are a wonderful atmospheric journey. Their voice is an icy and bracing powerful clarity. They have a honesty and power that rings forth with every delivered line. It’s vulnerable and indomitable at the same fine. The music has a soulful and serious tone. A shattering crystal castle of faced disillusionment growth and regret. I also love the use of samples to set stories that allow the vocals to show the emotional range of the story portrayed.
Bury my Body – This song is full of that glorious smashing glass effect. It’s as beautiful as it is cruel. A challenge with sharpened blade to anyone that would dare step inside this protected circle. Kimberly’s voice is emotive and clear as ice.
Grey – More raw wound self introspection. Intense and powerful vocals delivered with beauty and subtilty. The concepts are timeless and modern. “I’m a monster and I’ll kill you from the inside out”
Overall Appeal: Definitely pop hook appeal. Definitely has soul. A nice organic quality added by the vocals. If you like darkpop with a strong female protagonist these are stories you can relate to and drive down a dark road summoning your strength.
A Cloud of Ravens – Another Kind of Midnight – New album from Brookland band ACOR, which has left me immediately captured and ready to dive into this deep pool. This record is a perfect blend of the homage to the past and the modern construction of the future. Well deep power and resonant vocals carry these stalking shadow woven songs. It’s concrete wilderness and Peter Murphy poetry. Ringing guitars and driving basslines carry a heroic journey through a desolate land. The power of this story is to make the situation always seem so bleak but leaves a glimmer of hope in every song. We have an interview coming out soon that provides a glimpse behind the curtain to this emotional hand quivering delivery.
Overall Appeal: Fans of old and new school goth will find a beautiful blend in this release. I feel into it’s grasp deeply and had a huge replay factor.
Mark E Moon – Old Blood – Old and sinister music and vocals from Cold Transmission and the Isle of Man. I have been a fan or Mark E Moon for a while but this new record is a huge step forward in shadowy transmission and feeling that rips open your skull and pours raw unhinged emotion directly to your mind. It’s stomping, unforgiving and full of truth. I picked this record up and couldn’t find a way to put it down. Released on April 2nd you can get two tracks now with preorder. It has a sense of poetry and theater that has been lacking in the modern goth scene. It rides the line between beauty and grit. I can’t remember the last time I heard a band take such a monumental step forward from a previous album I enjoyed.
Overall Appeal: Huge, if you love goth and darkwave this is exceptional execution with poetic and romantic lyrics. It’s fresh and furious with driving guitar lines that set a standard for future genre releases.
Ash Code – Fear – Dark and dangerous new EP from the always impressive Italian act Ash Code. More racecar raw energy and city slick metro tone. I also feel a lot more edge in these tracks that the warmer synthesized last release. This just dropped yesterday and already is calling to me for constant playtime. Wonderful blending of vocals and sound. I hate to use another car metaphor but when you have a perfectly tuned engine and everything is humming just right. That is the sense of craftsmanship and streamlined beauty of Ash Code. The movement and transitions are effortless and graceful. It’s an effect that feels perfect in a club or at home over a bottle of wine. On top of that they pulled out all the stops having the songs remixed by top name artists like Clan of Xymox, Molchat Doma, and Forever Grey.
Indifference – Beautiful whispered vocals behind rapid fire heavy bass line. The rising synths are walls of color on a grey ground. I find myself getting lost in the beauty of construction. Listening to Ash Code makes me feel cooler than I am. That’s the true power of this band. To transfer some of their effortless appeal just by listening.
Overall Appeal: Immense, this is for fans of Post Punk/Darkwave/Synth but really has a relatability to fans of any dark music. It’s just well done. This is a band at the top of the game in their genre.
If you follow this page at all you know our close relationship with Cold Transmission. They are a new kind of label for a new wave of dark music. They have continued to compile top talent and provide them with artistic freedom to make the albums they want to make. Now they have released a label sampler which features those talents with exclusive tracks from Kiss of the Whip, iamnoone, IAMTHESHADOW, Control Room, and Mark E Moon. Also featured are remixes and several previous tracks from their diverse stable. This two CD set is a great way to know the Cold Transmission family as well as get a round view of the current branches of dark music.
CD 1: 1. S Y Z Y G Y X – Kill the Pain 2. ELZ and the CULT – HORRIFIED 3. Kiss of the Whip – Put You In The Past (exclusive) 4. HALLOWS – Subtle 5. Bedless Bones – Split 6. La Mécanique – Dernier Voyage 7. DILK – Pluto 8. iamnoone – Stranger (exclusive) 9. ICY MEN – Полупустые автобусы (Uninhabited Buses) 10. White Mansion – Clear Your Head 11. Iamtheshadow – Off My Hands (exclusive) 12. Clone Culture – You Are The One 13. Control Room – Are We All Alone (exclusive)
CD 2: 1. The Gathering – Trying To Call (Colibri Mix) 2. Palais Ideal – Erase (Original Mix) 3. Mark E Moon – Dancing (With The Lights On) (exclusive) 4. MARY – Frantic 5. The Bluebeard’s Castle – Plunge 6. The Secret French Postcards – Out Of You 7. Vestron Vulture – Hair On Fire 8. Silent Runners – Forgotten 9. Push Button Press – Mire And The Sea 10. Carlo Onda – Kopf oder Zahl 11. ROSI – Tanzen 12. Monographic – Addicted 13. Paradise Cove – Lost 14. Reconverb – Hem
So obviously a lot of ground to cover here. I’m going to try and give you a quick impression of some of my favorites 🙂 Needless to say this is a great value and a way to turn yourself into an instant expert of the current scene.
S Y Z Y G Y X – Kill the Pain – DC based electronic duo full of slither and sex appeal. Luna’s husky whisper is both tantalizing and full of imagery. Beautiful synth sizzle and ass shaking dance beats. This track is great because it has a duet vocal from Josh that really shows the beautiful relationship on feature in this band.
ELZ and the CULT – HORRIFIED – Turkish sassafras sensation rich with pop hooks and slithering nightmare delivery. Gorgeous visuals and truth saber delivery that always leaves you wanting more.
Kiss of the Whip – Put You In The Past (exclusive) – Baltimore Synth lords bring a sweeping club collapse in a snow storm. They really turned the edge up for this track along with Tristain’s lovely new wave vocals cutting through the din.
HALLOWS – Subtle – Brand new signing from Seattle WA this duo is bringing a post punk stripped down stark haunted energy. Vanee and Dom do a wonderful switch off vocal intensity which feels like a conversation in a room of smoke and prism.
Bedless Bones – Split – My favorite band from Estonia. This track has a ringing tribal ceremonial feel. Kadri Sammel has such a unique vocal delivery and the EDM beats hold the reins of a fiery energy chopping the bit to break free. This is one of the most underrated bands in the scene and will be breaking to that next level soon.
La Mécanique – Dernier Voyage – This Montreal band does an upbeat post punk with a connoisseurs ear. I love the melodic French art house vocal cadence. I always say that hearing this band is like you went on holiday. They transport you with every song.
iamnoone – Stranger (exclusive) – I don’t think I have ever reviewed iamnoone before, which is a slight anomaly for a Cold Transmission band. This is one of the exclusive tracks and a burner. I love this upbeat pogo dance beat. Silky smooth vocals with a staccato quick delivery. A beautiful ice dance of cool blues and minty greens. This could have been a New Order solo project you never heard.
Iamtheshadow – Off My Hands (exclusive) – One of the flagship powerhouse bands of the label from Portugal. Another exclusive track and this one is a sizzler that rented a room in my head and will probably stay for months. Pedro Code as I often say has the best Baritone in modern dark music. This track is a synth driven croon that makes me long for the dance floor. Beauty, drive, and purpose. So much passion and power to hold such pop appeal.
Control Room – Are We All Alone (exclusive) – Another exclusive track and another band we have not reviewed from Hattiesburg Mississippi. I didn’t know they had darkwave there, but I am pleasantly surprised. This track is slithery serpent wall shadows and synth explosion. Nice low register baritone vocals and contrast. One of those cool bands with bright feel music and fallen in a well vocals and lyrics.
Palais Ideal – Erase (Original Mix) – My dear friends from the Netherlands that make post punk prog for deep thinkers. This track is a subtitle and delicious sonic wave full of winding changes and New Order Movement. It’s an Artificial Intelligence code creation of twisting layers and complex effects. Every time I hear it I think this is what creating on another level feels like.
Mark E Moon – Dancing (With The Lights On) – Isle Of Man dark wave dreamer with another exclusive track. This one is a racing wave with a darkabilly backbeat the rides the front of the crest. Mark’s ringing clear voice carries the action as the drums crash around him. This has a really cool U2 90’s before they sold out feel. Total ear worm glory.
The Secret French Postcards – Out Of You – Swedish post punk crooners unleash this lovely Echo and the Bunnymen dreamy dance ballad. It’s full of cascading waterfalls of sound and cooler than thou vocals. Once the chorus jumps up it really sets the hook in.
Push Button Press – Mire And The Sea – Florida’s own post punk paragon’s who are soon to release a new album I have been eagerly anticipating. I love the use of harp pluck strings and 80’s killing joke complexity. I am again impressed with how Cold Transmission embraces bands who want to step outside of the standard pop mold and trust that listeners long for complex concepts and delivery.
Monographic – Addicted – German based band that does an edgy Chameleons style post punk. I love these thick smashing toms and stabbing guitar downstrokes. Cracking energy and melodic intensity
As the scene of Goth/Industrial/Darkwave/Post Punk/Shoegaze music continues to experience an amazing renaissance, live shows are becoming a haven for the masses of fans to connect. This year boasts a boatload of amazing festivals where bands and fans can meet and share their love of this scene, so I will try and put together a guide of some of the great ones so you can plot a trip full of memories to last a lifetime.
Dark Spring Festival– (Boston) I am super excited for and will be at this one. This a brand new festival is anticipating its first year and they are already starting out strong with an amazing lineup including some of my favorite up-and-coming bands, mixed with long-term favorites. Great town with a cool scene. *Best New Festival
Dark Spring Festival Berlin – This brilliant festival inspired the aforementioned Boston one. It was started by Christian of Golden Apes and features Swiss darkwave act Hapax, Finnish Goth Rock elders Two Witches, Russian New Wave quintet Brandenburg, and French No Wave duo Dear Deer. Lots of Representation from Switzerland’s ‘Dark Nights’ label.
Absolution Fest– (Tampa Bay, FL) Located in Tampa’s legendary club The Castle, this festival started last year and works closely with our friends at Obscura Undead. Tampa Bay has an outstanding scene, and this lineup is off the chain. I mean, fucking Drab Majesty! This one was spectacular last year and every band who played it told me how inspiring it was. Plus, you’re in Florida heat at one of the most renown goth clubs in the US. *Best Value
Cold Waves– (Chicago) – So we went to this show last year and it was a life changing experience. The scene, the venue, the cause, the history, this is everything you hope for from a top-notch music fest. This one has been doing it right for a long time, and the lineup is absolutely stacked. Phenomenal mix of goth and industrial, old and new, plus the fact that Chicago, as a city, is so deeply entrenched in music history. Finally, Jim Marcus is doing a DJ set and I am here for that content! *Best Lineup
Convergence – (Louisville KY) Interesting new venue for this long running festival. Amaranth applied for this one but sadly didn’t make it this time. Maybe next year. However when I look at this boss lineup I can’t feel mad. They packed this show with top talent in lots of genres. *Great lineup Fresh New Scene
Cold Transmission Fest – (Cologne Germany) – Our dear friends at Cold Transmission records started their first festival last year and we had the opportunity to cover it. It was amazing. The way people traveled from all over the world to come together and share a passion for great music. After the success of last year Suzy, Andy and team have expanded and have another wonderful lineup and more to be announced. My heart will be with them again. *Great Lineup, Intimate show
ASH CODE BEDLESS BONES IAMTHESHADOW MARK E MOON DILK
Dark Side of the Con – (Parsippany NJ) – Another long running festival I hear everyone rave about year after year but I’ve never attended. I need to get this on my list. This year it is a who’s who of 3rd wave goth and industrial. Big line up with lots of established acts. If this time period in goth was your jam you can’t beat this. Plus it has a convention feel with a lot of things beyond the music (panels, art, DIY, access to bands)
Out From the Shadows Fest – (Portland) – Another festival I have heard wonderful things about from a great music city. This lineup is stellar and really runs the entire frequency of music styles. Great focus on fresh bands doing 3 stacked nights of music. Huge lineup with a lot of bigger named acts blending well with fresh faces. Plus Portland is just a great place to have a vacation if you are goth.
SYZYGYX (Wash. DC) FEARING (LA) KOMRADS (Rochester NY) LOVE HATE AFFAIR (Austin) THE ELECTRIC WEST (LA) PHYSICAL WASH (PDX) RITUAL VEIL (PDX) – TBD –
BODY OF LIGHT (Arizona) AUTOMELODI (Montreal) SSLEEPING DESIRESS (SF) MAYFLOWER MADAME (Oslo) PUSH BUTTON PRESS (Tampa) V.E.X. (members of MOIRA SCAR) (Oakland) VERSARI (Paris) WE ARE PARASOLS (PDX)
RITUAL HOWLS (Detroit) TEARFUL MOON (Austin) KORINE (Philadelphia) ASTARI NITE (Miami) SICK WISH (Boise) SEVENTEEN AT THIS TIME (Paris) MR WRONG (PDX) LIES WE WERE TOLD (PDX)
San La Muerta Festival – (Austin Tx) Austin is probably one of the best cities for goth industrial in the US. The list of bands currently out of this town is staggering. Great DJ support. I imagine this party is off the chain. They boast a monster lineup from all over the globe. The Vanishing doing a reunion and Shes Past Away.
San La Muerte Fest 2020 Sept. 17th – 19th Austin Texas
-This year SLM proudly presents: from Spain ANA CURRA (formerly of Paralisis Permanente, Alaska y Los Pegamoides, Los Seres Vacios) Ana Curra will perform Friday Sept. 18th, 2020 in Austin Texas Venue: TBA Tickets available now on SLM website
-SHE PAST AWAY One of the best current Darkwave Post Punk bands. Only Texas Show! All the way from Turkey! Sept. 19th with The Vanishing Elysium Austin Texas
-THE VANISHING (San Francisco) 20 YEAR REUNION! Only Texas Date! The Vanishing will be playing Saturday Sept. 19th alongside She Past Away! Venue:Elysium Tickets available now on SLM website
Dark Malta Festival – (Malta) Great mixture of Euro darkness. Some big names in goth/Industrial/ and metal here. Plus it is in Malta in April which i imagine is gorgeous. If you have the means, I highly recommend checking it out, so choice 😉
2019 has been quite a year for my dream. It has found it’s tar dark wings and started flapping them to places I never imagined it would go. I have new writers like Collin, Katy, and Adrian. I have 4 times as many followers. Made new friends which I have come to love and value. Traveled to distant lands. Started a podcast. In general it gets me excited for the future that so many people all over the world have shared with me this love of what is happening in modern music.
Unlike last year when I did a top albums review all alone I know had a wine drenched democracy of shouting voices sitting in a room and debating what had moved them in this years music. It was an amazing feeling I had forgotten. I wanted to make this list hold weight. So we made hard cuts and decisions to get our list down to 4 genres and 10 albums per genre. Everyone had input and voice and no one 100% agreed. I love that. This was never suppose to be about me but about the celebration of art. I hope you find something new here. I know I did and it fills me with hope for places a song or album can still move me. We split it into 4 parts 1) Post Punk/Goth 2) Industrial/EDM 3) Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave 4) Wildcards
First up is Post Punk/Goth. This one is my primary wheelhouse so I took point here. There has been a true resurgence in this genre and this was a hard list to choose. The albums listed here are all amazing but we fought long and hard to try and pick some form of order. Here is what we found.
10) October Burns Black (Reflections) – London superband and Traditional goth act from London put out this amazing record this year. James Tramel (The Wake) has composed this album with Rod Hanna (Vox), Lars Kappeler (Guitars) and Tommy Olsson (Guitars) Simon Rippin. It is so full of flowing sinister goth sounds. It really holds true to the sounds of yesterday while forging new ground. Every song is an emotive blast.
9.5) Ritual Howls (Rendered Armor) – I know, i cheated. I just can’t leave this record off. We debated and argued so hard to get this list to 10. This album is just such a world beater. It’s Nick Cave putting on the armor of Echo and the Bunnyman. They are even Detroit fam. They are keeping a flame burning for a sound that cannot be forgotten.
9) Frozen Charlottes (Wax Venues) – Santa Ana post punk doom weavers Frozen Charlotte released this beautiful album in November of this year. I have been in love with Chandler Grace, Janell, and Sky’s savagely dark spit and vinegar punk goth style since their previous incarnation. With Wax Venus they really found a way to refine that edge to a razor point of intensity, Waxing and waning like the moon in a flowing dance around the fire witchcraft ritual.
8) La Me’canique (Dernier Voyage) – This is such a lovely record from Cold Transmission that really embraces the post punk ideals. It’s wide, flowing, and full of landscapes. It feels large and comes through the lens of a distant camera. I think of 80’s Duran Duran and the way they transported you to another place while listening to the songs. A vacation in musical form.
7) Mark E Moon (Refer) – Another exceptional album with a lot of traditional goth elements. Another Cold Transmission band on this list who has a wonderful vibe of old Peter Murphy but with a modern edge full of poetic lyrics and Mark’s deep resonant vocals. Lots of balance and pop hook in this record. I want to peel the layers of this onion and find the core of it’s art.
6) Crying Vessel (Illusions) Slade Templeton is bringing the glam razzle dazzle back into dark music. His dark rich voice climbs and slide around an impressive range. I found it in my heart, and building a place in my head. I had the wonderful opportunity to see them live in Germany this year and it really gave this record another plateau of range. A perfect mixture of previous styles and modern technology this record is a must have.
5) Golden Apes (Kasbek) – Berlin based post punk Golden Apes have been making music for a long time. To find an album of this power and depth of idea deep in a storied career is a noteworthy achievement. Peer Lebrecht has a voice so full of soul and power that it wraps you in it’s world. The music is a masterclass in what post punk can achieve in movement and embrace. I will finally get to see this played live in Boston this year for their first US tour. If you don’t know about this record plunge head first into one of the genres most exciting artists.
4) Antipole (Radial Glare) – Karl Morton Dahl of Norway holds the distinction of being the most reviewed artist on Sounds and Shadows. I feel moved by every album he has made. This one found a way to hit a special new level for me. Antipole is everything you love about post punk music like Joy Division and New Order. Karl is a true historian of the genre, but finds exciting new ideas about how to use modern technology to make the concept sharper and more intense. This record was such a wonderful tribute to his homeland. A record that transports you to that reflected, glittering place of dark ice. Paris Alexander and Eirene of Young and Cold records have added perfect vocal compliments to create one of this years stand out records.
3) The Dream Collision (The Certainty of Forever) – This album from Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW was a piece of art that left me changed and moved. Pedro has possibly the most beautiful and sensual voice in modern dark music. This record was so stripped down and exposed I found myself unforgettably moved. It is powerful and tender like Nick Cave but with the beauty and elegance of Ian McCullah. A truly moving offering.
2) Twin Tribes (Ceremony) – With their recent transition to Negative Gain Joel and Luis of Twin Tribes hold a special place here at Sounds and Shadows. Their Debut album “Shadows” was the inspiration for this webpage. They are bringing the concepts of spiritual post punk into the modern era. This sophomore offering was not a lull but a leap forward in concept, depth, and power. Rich and full of energy each song is a ritual to summon forth an intimate experience in the listener. You probably need this one on vinyl. Also they do a must see live show, find them in your town and bare witness.
Part II is the best Industrial/EDM – I grew up on industrial. It was my punk rock. My scream at the world release. Somewhere along the way i just drifted to other avenues. This year was a huge one for me to rediscover Industrial. Adding in Adrian and Collin to the family who are both stronger on Industrial than me have really helped me find this world again. The albums that have come out this year and bringing it back front and center for a lot of people. These were our top picks.
10) Klack (Introducing the 1984 Renault Le Car) – Matt and Eric are workhorses. They had a Daddybear album, Null Device, and another Klack album all this year which could have easily made this list. This album rose to the top for me. It’s perfect blend of retro and fresh feel with dance beats and unique concepts has become a go to for my listening parties. New ideas for the new industrial.
9) Lingua Ignota (Caligula) – I just found this through Adrian. Wow. It was like nothing I have heard. This is a sound so frightening and intense it gives The Goblins nightmares. It is the sound of a priestess ripping out her own eyes and bleeding from the sockets. Do not listen right before bed unless you want to be haunted by disturbing dreams. I speak from experience.
8) Kid Saint Nothing (Above_Below) – What a treat that I get to add a dear friend from Kalamazoo MI to this list. They belong here. This album is a raw heartfelt therapy session scream set to catchy dance beats. It’s wide and intense and needs to be played constantly on your listening device.
7) Dogtablet (Feathers and Skin) – Industrial music lords Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King have worked with others to create this massively powerful record of animalistic spirit totem sounds. It feels like a creature speeding free under a moonlit sky. This album came late in the year but has been my constant companion ever sense.
6) FIRES (All My Dreams Are of This Place) – Aedra is a force of nature. Her intensity and vocals have really pushed the edges of the Industrial genre. This album has a tight mixture of early 2000 emo and electroclash force. Whenever I need to find my inner tiger to face the day this album is where I reach first.
5) Moris Blak (The Irregularity of Being ) – This album is a force of creative expression and cyber blending technology. Lots of amazing guest vocalists like Pete Crane, Amelia Arsenic, and Angel Metro. A true tapestry of electronic sound woven and blended with dance hall beats and shattering brash power. This needs to be in heavy rotation of every club you shake your ass at.
4) Curse Mackey (Instant Exorcism) – Curse has been a huge part of the industrial scene for a long time as Evil Mothers, Pig, Pigface, ect. This album represents his first solo offering and it is nothing short of breathtaking. This album has such a focus on lyrics with a true William Burroughs literary quality. Full of slashing beats and laser focused vocals. I own it on LP. You need it on LP.
3) Bones UK (Bones UK) – More of a big label offering but a straight burner. This album is on the top of Collin’s list this year. I love the ladies getting representation in this genre and this album cooks from front to back. Lovely pop hooks to really add some mainstream club vibe, and we unapologetically love that.
2) Stoneburner (Technology Implies Belligerence) – This record changed the game for me. It made me fall back in love with Industrial music. It has that same old school flavor, but takes such incredible chances. A thinking persons industrial with a concept and follow through. Steven Archer of Ego Likeness has unleashed something transcendent and powerful and managed to save enough in the tank to follow the record with another this year “Massdriver”. Both are incredible pieces of art you need to explore but you never forget your first love. This record was that for me.
Go Fight (Anthem) – Jim Marcus and Die Warsaw were a part of my first obsession with Industrial music. A titan in the genre and one of the great humans who holds this scene together. This record is all covers of the 80’s songs that helped build his musical life. It’s perfectly crafted. It’s full of soul. It finds a way to make something of the past connect with my present. I mean any time i can hear two of my favorite things in this life Go Fight and Shriekback happen simultaneously consider me hooked. Nothing on this record doesn’t immediately send my body into motion. This is the work of a master crafting a love letter to the things that built him.
Next up is Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave: Another brutal list to try and widdle down to 10 albums with everything wonderful released this year. As genres have expanded and new ground was broken the resulting art which is dreamy and beautiful has grown with it. This is a list of our favorites.
10) Lilith My Mother (Her Fall) – Beautiful dance magic with clear pop beauty infused with midnight dark lyrics and fallen angel vocals. Every song fills me up and has me asking questions. Do not sleep on this amazing artist.
9) Corlyx (In 2 the Skin) – Sexy LA sludge grunge is my weakness and this album is the cure. It’s sensual, powerful, and forces your body into motion. Caitlin has a voice that wraps around you and stirs that hairs on the back of your neck. Doesn’t your party deserve to be this hot?
8) Standalone (Standalone) – Steven Seibold of Hate Dept has unleashed this solo project so delicious and stripped down with beautiful synth sounds crafted with a wizards touch. It’s so personal and easy to relate to at once. The vocals are smooth and elegant and hold your heart with tender timing. So underrated.
7) Boy Harsher (Country Girl Uncut) – The feels of this record. It’s a smokey dimly let exclusive club that would turn me away at the door in music form. It’s efficient in the use of layers and sounds and has gorgeous imagery in the lyrics. I love everything about the crafting done on this record.
6) Agent Side Grinder (A/X) – Oh the delicious post punk infused stabbing drum beats. The dynamic vocals have a dark tone and emotional delivery. It’s full of songs that always feel like they are moving faster than they are. It’s that energy and crackling synth pad sound that makes ASG have such a unique sound. This album builds on everything that makes them one of the biggest names in the genre.
5) Sweat Boys (Nervous Prayers) – This record off of Give/Take strikes a special chord with me. Sitting in my room listening to Yaz “Upstairs at Erics” was such an impact on me. Waiting to hear a synth driven album that captured that same purity and exposed feeling has been something i have searched for a long time. With this record my search finally ended. It’s beautiful, electric, and makes me jump up and down like only a 260lbs man on a pogo stick can. If yuo care at all about synth pop you need this in your ears.
4) Drab Majesty (Modern Mirror) – Drab Majesty off Dais records isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. Knowing the exact amount of every sound to use to get a perfect blend is such a difficult art form. The harmonies, and flowing lush beauty. They are like aliens operating at another level from us common music plebs. This album is staggering and unique in it’s beauty and darkness.
3) Mr.Kitty (Ephemeral) – 31 tracks, all of them good. Take that in for a moment. This album was such a memorizing accomplishment. It’s an artist exposing themselves and making it sound lovely and pure. I played this record so many times this year I feel like I have a personal relationship with the artist and I have never spoken to them. If you don’t have this you need to make that a priority.
2) Hante (Fierce) – The soundtrack to a film of a better life lived than mine. Just listening to the gorgeous vocals and visual sounds on this record fill me with hope. The creative force unleashed here is an epic achievement. It makes you think, it makes you believe.
Wingtips (Exposure Therapy) – Look I can tell you what I love about this music. To me the real power of this album is that so many great musicians I know all talk about how much this record meant to them. It has been mentioned and picked on our podcast by almost everyone we have interviewed. It’s perfect, nostalgic, fresh, and full of texture and intensity. Every track is a banger. Every line is a poem. This was our combined number one pick out of one of the hardest categories to judge.
Final Catagory Wildcards: This was all the things too far out of the box to fit anywhere else. In a way I feel like it made it really exciting and definitely some of my top overall picks.
10) Scary Black (Shadow Dwellers) – Kentucky sinister darkness Scary black released this shadow storm full of familiar elements and fantasy sparkles. It’s full of dangerous dreams and lovely rich vocal melodies. I really look forward to their future.
9.5) Vlimmer (XIIIII) – German sound wizard Alexander continues to spew forth the most gloriously textured collections of sounds with pull heart strings like a horses reins. It baffles me how good every single release is.
9) The Purge (Rain) – Strange winding electronic storms. This album feels like weather shifting and changing. It has a flavor of trauma and young love lost. Thomas does a beautiful job using his vocal range to tell stories and build tension. It’s my sad rainy day music.
8) Girl Band (The Talkies) – Strange twisting and powerful. I really liked the chant of this band and the abrupt changes. This one came courtesy of Katy. Really intense sound.
8.5) The Joy Thieves (This Will Kill That) – Again a little bit of cheating here but this EP needs to be on the list. Such a perfect blend of hard rock and industrial with some of the biggest vocal talent in modern industrial. It’s smash everything in this room music because you are happy. I first described it as Clutch beating the shit out of Stabbing Westward with a baseball bat and I stand by that.
7) SYZYGYX (Fading Bodies) – One of the fastest up and coming bands in the scene. On both Negative Gain and Cold Transmission Luna and Josh are a sonic experience full of sexy dark disco grooves you would find in David Lynch’s private club at 3am. It breaks every mold and is always in my rotation.
6) The Ghost of Bela Lugosi – Ok technically not an album, but my house my rules. Australian based Vin Price has released about 12 singles this year and everyone of them is straight fire. It’s so punk rock, so raw, but so melodic and beautiful. It touches every part of every genre and I am here for all of it. It won’t play by the rules and that is part of it’s power.
4) Hide (Hell is Here) – Sheer unbridled power with a meaningful message. This is like nothing you have heard. Raw, intense, full of power tools. The vocals have more spit and acid than most metal. This album changed my world view
3) ELZ and The Cult (Psychodrama) – Visually, sonically, sassily, there is nothing about this album that does not completely enthrall me. It’s filthy, beautiful, it’s a horrible dream of a broken world that i can’t escape or look away from. I find a new layer to it every time i listen. You must have this.
2) Palais Ideal (Pressure Points) – I have been waiting to make this one of my top albums of the year all year long. This record broke all the boundaries of post punk. It’s thoughtful, precise, unique, and tells a story of some of the best science fiction I read in any novel. A thought provoking example of the power of music. Have this on LP and feel it’s warmth and glory as it was meant to be spun
Mesa Luna (Feel Nothing) – This one came to our attention courtesy of Jason Corbett (Actors). We didn’t have enough shoegaze representation here and this album was a stunner. #1 pick from Katy. It’s haunting, diverse and full of life. Take a journey with this record.
I had about 40 more albums this year that could have made this list. Maybe I will do an honorable mentions. I’m shredded though. There is currently a glorious revolution happening in music. Be a part of it. This list is a great place to start. Happy Holidays from us at Sounds and Shadows.
I am sitting here on Thanksgiving thinking on all the great things in the last two years this page has brought me. The wonderful people I have come in contact with and now call friends. The wealth of music that has opened up for me. The way this page has grown in readership, content, and me as a writer. The podcast has been a real hit right from the starting gate and it gets me excited for the future. I have added in new voices like Collin, Katy, and Adrian. I wanted to take a moment to thank you all who read, submit, and have open minds to find and support new music. These are intense times, art and each other is what will help us get through them. All of you are what makes my future seem bright and meaningful. I hope you that believe in the power of music reach out today and show an artist you love that they are important to you. Maybe sharing something of theirs, buying their art, or sending them a message letting them know they matter to you. Here is some of what I am enjoying today.
Sunshine Blind was a band essential to my musical evolution. Caroline has been a groundbreaking voice in the goth/industrial genre since I first discovered what that meant. A women who Andrew Eldrich said was “too goth” for him to play with. Her release Liquid really opened my eyes to the broader world of possibility in dark music. (If you have never listened to it you really need to get on that right away). Recently she released a cover of The Swans God Damn The Sun which was majestic, tragic, and gorgeous. Tomorrow her new original single Need to Say drops. I was lucky enough to hear it and I cannot stress the amount of power and emotion this song summoned. It was a vast change from her previous style. A slow heart wrenching ballad so personal and tortured I found myself with wet eyes and a quivering lip. To anyone who has known a crucial loss this is art at it’s most powerful to punch a hole in your chest and hold your heart. You will want to make it a part of your collection.
Icy Men – Uninhabited Buses EP on Cold Transmission Records
Ukrainian Coldwave Post Punk Artists Icy Men have just released a new EP on Cold Transmission. I was immediately struck by how different this sounded from their other material. I think part of what makes Icy Men so intense is the mechanical urban feel of the music. I always think of subway tunnels and empty spaces. The lyrics are mostly in either Russian or Ukrainian (So I can’t understand) but the delivery and cadence of that low octave powerful drone put me in mind of Ian Curtis. The bass lines are forceful and thick. The remix of Carlo Onda is such a thumping jam of weighty low end with a sinister slashing guitar riff that crackles with electricity. The EP also features a remix of the song Raindrops from one of our favorite Philly synth wizards Kiss the Whip. Its such a surreal experience hearing the light dancing pop beats straight out of a John Hughes movie delivered with the power and brevity of Lytvyn and Den. The whole EP really transports you to the isolated streets of Kyiv. Fans of chilling dark melodies will be excited to hear Icy Men.
Swansect the project of our very own Adrian has released this new EP S/T. I know they felt a little tentative of using the page to cover their new single and EP. Luckily for all of you I don’t care about standing on such ceremony and wanted to share this with you. This album is so hard to put in a box or describe. A truly daring artistic endeavor using sounds and ambient effects to set a mood. The tone and expression of each of these 5 tracks takes a drastically different direction. It’s frightful and truly outside of genre. Adrian’s voice roars from inside a gaping chasm. The drum beats of heavy handed and pound from inside you. This is a journey into the unknown I really enjoyed.
Heavy Water Factory – Remix of Schedule IV “Fault”
Another blast from my past Jesse McClear of Detroit Industrial royalty Heavy Water Factory have come out of the darkness of the last 14 years with some amazing new material. Today it’s this remix of our friends Schedule IV. This remix is crackling purple lightning shooting out of the Emperor’s hands. Always one of my favorite Schedule IV tracks for Steph’s piercing power and sinister growl. McClear has infused it with a perfectly balanced electronic club beat sure to blow the roof off of your next party. I was smacking the steering wheel so hard to this beat I almost went off the road.
Philly’s lord of Darkness Michael Sky has just unleashed a new Lust For Nothing EP with two tracks. I was a huge fan of their first album (See Previous Review). These new songs are a huge leap forward in both emotion and production. Sky has this inane sense of the line between fiery energetic uptempo electronic and something sinister that almost puts me in mind of 1980’s The Damned. These songs will both get a lot of play in my rotation.
We were recently on a compilation with Mark e Moon and I feel in love with his imagery rich lyrics and bottom of the well rich voice. This has tones of Mission UK and Sisters old school goth. Blended with crisp tight keyboard melodies and drum beats. A little extra sizzle with my darkness is never bad. Moons voice is really what holds everything together and I am going to deep dive this album soon.