This is a really exciting new traditional goth release from Louisville KY band Scary Black. I love the return to early roots I am seeing in the scene as of late. Rich and flowing with that Sisters of Mercy fender jazz tube amp guitar sound. Filled in with delicate and impact heavy synth lines. The album is diverse and places a huge emphasis on lyrics and poetry. Singer Albie Mason has a powerful and deep bass voice that really holds in place all the high end moving parts. It has the quality of a large moving glacier full of ice and magnitude crawling towards you with cold beauty.
I found myself in love with the ability of the songs to be modern and direct. Then switch hard to a campy Anne Rice Vampiric romanticism. I’m a huge fan of bands that can go over the top without losing meaning and credibility and Scary Black really drives that stake through the heart. A lot of bands these days can create a beautiful sound that pays homage to the past. It seems the harder task is to have poetic lyrics that capture that same level of meaning as The Cure and Sisters. That to me was the true magic of this record.
This is a complete album (One that made me upset I had already completed albums of the year when it released). Here were some stand out tracks.
Stay in Your Lane – Those beautiful muted guitar lines with sinister delay. Albie’s voice sinks to the lowest register and bellows out a powerful whisper full of menace and beauty at the same time. The synth lines are gorgeous with a very New Order feel to add a New Wave feel.
A Few Things I Hate – Holy creeping through the cemetery drinking a bottle of Merlot and smoking clove cigarettes. This song really transported me back in time. A horror movie soundtrack feel full of foreboding atmosphere. The vocals whisper a secret you have to reach for and it creates a powerful effect.
Are you Afraid of The Dark – The title track is such a beautiful break from form. Those creeping pan pipes sound build a lead in with a melody that sticks with you. Then the trademark delay sliding guitars. This one has so much of that overt vampire novel feel. It tells a story and one I am here for.
Overall I was immediately drawn in and in love with this record. It’s lovely, layered, and will require many more listens in the coming months to unpack. I questioned bringing this up but I think it is important to acknowledge. The Goth rock genre can feel fairly underrepresented by people of color and I love when an album of this quality also brings a perspective to this scene which hasn’t been heard enough. I really look forward to hearing many future releases from Scary Black.
So I just did the piece on new Industrial which I admitted is a bit out of my wheelhouse these days. However the modern resurgence of Post Punk is right smack in my center. So we have had a lot of great releases in the past few months so I figured I would also catch up on some quick reviews of these. Post Punk is so rooted in the past. Sacred mainstays of the 80’s still rule this scene. I think a lot of the new bands I love pay a lot of respect and homage to that. However what we have in terms of technology and access to good recording has really opened the door to push this genre further than ever before. Here are some examples of people taking that post punk sound and cranking it up to hyperspeed for 2019.
Kicking off with a review far overdue. Norwegian Post Punk all stars Antipole released “Radial Glare” in September of this year. I have done glowing reviews of Karl Morten Dahl’s last two albums. He is a true post punk historian who has an intimate understanding of Post Punk roots. The tones, effects, and mood are perfectly constructed in the vein of Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, and The Church. I don’t say this lightly but i feel like the clarity and texture of what he achieves goes beyond what those legends had at their disposal. This newest offering is pure frozen crystal that conjures such beautiful images of icy castles of fantasy rising against a desolate land. The vocals from frequent contributes Paris Alexander, Eirene & Marc Lewis charge to the front in a way Antipole never has before and I feel like it was the final piece in the evolution of this band. Karl is an artist that loves listening to music as much as making it. It really shows in the art he makes. If a writer wants to write better they read great writers. Karl is a great song writer because he is always listening to great songs. This album is available in a mint green limited Vinyl and it is 100% the way to hear the nuanced layers he has constructed.
Next up are those beautiful boys from Texas Twin Tribes and their new album “Ceremony“. This is the sophomore offering from one of the fastest rising stars in this genre. Their first album “Shadows” was basically the reason I started this review page. It was going to be a tough act to follow, but they have not missed a beat. The perfect ritual like intimacy of these songs reminds me so much of The Cure. The connection between their instruments of Joel’s driving foundation on bass creating a floor for Luis’s nimble fingers to dance on with guitar. I found an instant connection to the lyrics on Shadows but Ceremony has really focused on a poetry which might be the hardest thing to recreate of early Post Punk. Each song is beautiful, sorrowful, and unique. These lads are truly destined for greatness and if you haven’t heard them drop what you are doing and get them in your ears now.
I can’t believe this is the first review I am writing about the shadowy melancholy dream that is Chicago’s Wingtips. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing them at this years Cold Waves festival and their stage show is a powerful vision. The new album Exposure Therapy off Artoffact Records is the type of romantic beauty and chic attitude I miss in this genre. They tell luscious stories that are intense and self involved in a way that speaks truth. I think it is this genuine anguish that makes it feel so authentic and nostalgic. This is an album that you listen to in your living room and feel like the artists have joined you for tea. Trust me you want Hannah and Vincent at your next tea party.
Ok to be fair this album from Iceland’s Kælan Mikla released November 2018 but somehow I never reviewed it and that is a freaking crime. I feel like they have a lot of the check marks of post punk. Driving basslines, dark themes, rising keyboard leads, slushy guitars. This album Nótt eftir nótt is so hard to put in a genre box. I can’t understand the lyrics so it feels like placing your hand on a burning hot rune stone and summoning a pack of raging Scandinavian Fae who assault you with powerful rebukes and Peter Hook bass lines. Maybe I’m not painting the picture of how glorious that is but it is an effect I have never heard replicated and an amazing one. If you ever feel like no one is breaking any new ground in post punk music you need to dive into this band deep. Trust me you haven’t heard it before.
Closed Mouth is the amazing project from Yannick Rault who put out an album titled One on Cold Transmission in May. It was mastered by the amazing Pete Burns (Kill Shelter) who also mastered us. I think what is so ambitious and wonderful about this record is the scope of it. It has a very Killing Joke feel, but all the incarnations of Killing Joke at once. The synthwave, the post punk. It drives, it grinds, it’s a shimmering adventure of sonic possibilities. It’s one of those albums you can pick up anywhere in the 14 songs and always get a different feeling. Yannicks vocals are distant and haunted and reach you from a million miles of painted texture. This album is a deep dive.
October Burns Black is a bit of a supergroup with James Tramel of (The Wake) they definitely delve more to the darker Chameleons side of post punk. The newest album “Reflections” is a master class in dark, sinister, emotional groove. I love the slow winding power of these expertly crafted whispers pulling you down the river Styx. High on my list of must see bands.
I could go on all night about the wonderful post punk resurgence happening right now but i have to draw a line somewhere. If you have a favorite I have not listed or reviewed please leave it in the comments below.
Code – voices, guitar, synthesizers and programming. Vitor
J. Moreira – Synthesizers. Herr
G – Bass, guitar.
All lyrics by Pedro Code, except “Remembrance” and “Flowers come winter” (Poems by Friedrich Holderlin). All songs by IAMTHESHADOW; Guitars on “The skin” by Karl Morten Dahl Spoken voice on “Remembrance” by Chris Göllnitz. Mixed and mastered by Pedro Code. Artwork and photos by Butow Romey.
Wow, this album absolutely blew me away. I don’t say this lightly. I keep listening to it over and over and I truly don’t know when I will hear enough. As we all know by this point I am an absolute sucker for a truly exceptional vocalist especially one that writes engaging lyrics that capture the darkness of the human spirit. Pedro Code’s voice is like a perfectly cut silk suit hanging on his form. Dripping with sensuality and beauty. It’s one of those sounds where you can truly hear the aesthetic of the artist just in the music before you even draw a picture in your head. It is deep and rich. It folds on you with it’s warmth and strength. I am reminded so much of Peter Murphy’s solo work by the effortless androgynous beauty of the melodies and high brow dancibility of these songs. Honestly if the music had been mediocre I still would be drawn in by this band. THE MUSIC IS NOT MEDIOCRE! Victors keyboards are creative and lovely. Wrapping the music in textures of Tones on Tail, Bauhaus, and more modern aspects like Bella Morte. The drum beats are tight and fierce. Herr G’s bass lines are driving and structured. I am honestly hard pressed to think of any of these aspects that are not firing on all cylinders. You can tell these are peak musicians who know and love each other because of the seamless communication happening in the song writing process. This is dynamic music that swells and falls through emotion but with an effortless simplicity of leaning against a pillar smoking a cigarette and just looking cool.
This album takes me back with it’s nostalgia but it also propels you forward. It has delicious pop hooks over the top of that thick bass lines. As a singer it is so difficult to have music with this deep romantic style and not sound cheesy, this album manages to transcend that cheese and have a truth that teeters just on that edge of too much. To attack the dark beauty observed in life with such reverence and passion. IAMTHESHADOW manages to stay just this side of a very serious concept without losing sight of itself. Understand how much respect I have for what was done in these songs. I’m truly at a loss right now. You always want to be moved and feel something . Add on top of this already amazing sound the the distinctive guitar sound of Karl Morton Dahl on “The Skin” and you have a memorizing creation which steps outside of itself and pushing the feelings within you.
The Skin – I am absolutely enamored with what is happening on every track here. However this song features Karl Morton Dahl of the incredible band AntiPole. His trademark textured guitars rich with notes of New order Movement/Reeves Gabriel – The Cure sound are plucking away like a gentle hard while Pedro is crooning a dark melody “Regressed I killed silence inside you, our flesh meets.” It’s romantic, it’s heartbreaking, it’s an intense wash of beauty.
Remembrance – The spoken word on this song is frightening in a Alester Crowley slippery drawl. The keys rise and swell. This is a deep cut that truly cuts with it’s emotional impact and sliding melody. Victor shows his ability to create subtle textures with keyboard lines and strike you with an avant garde style reminiscent of old Bauhaus tracks. Pushing you further into the place beyond your understanding. A place of imagination.
Closing – This is a dance hall burner with a falling minor key tone. It creates tension while the drum beats make an early New Order sense of loss and movement. Then Pedro’s voice is filling the space, filling your mind. During the bridge the song brightens and opens up with a dramatic flare. You are filled with a sense of hope dream like state. This song is the full gambit of emotion.
Overall this album is so strong, I know you can hear the gushing tone of my writing hear. I was moved by these songs. Shaken by the depth and the intensity. Pedro has a voice that is deep, sensual and beautiful. I needed this album, needed to hear it over and over. Buy this album and embrace what is possible when darkness touches the truth of artistic spirit. I can’t recommend this enough. In July I will get to witness this preformed live at the Cold Transmission festival in Cologne and I look forward to a transcendent experience.
Great new EP of Philly based Michael Sky of Sys2Matik Overload called Lust for Nothing. It’s a short album, 4 songs, but it has some real burners here and it is something you haven’t heard before. As someone who does a bit of this himself I am a total sucker for music that greatly contrasts the lyrics and vocals. This album really casts a night and day picture between the dark intense topic in the lyrics, and the bright fiery energy of the music. Sky doesn’t have a beauty to his voice. It is dark, deep, rich and really holds a rough sad edge. It’s odd, off-putting even. Yet it holds a true gothic bygone ring in the lower register. You can feel the emotion in his driving monotone chant. A bit of Ian Curtis and Peter Steele with a hint of an accent I keep waiting for him to say “Listen to the Children of the Night, what beautiful music they make” The lyrics call out of love lost and clinging hope. It is endurance and strength in the face of a bleak world. It is the sound I now associate when I think of Philadelphia. I spent a lot of time on the vocals but again the true uniqueness of this band is the musical contrast. These songs are bouncy, light, reminding me of The Church. They dance and fill your mind while Michael ties iron chains around your wrists. The push and pull of this effect is both unnerving and captivating. The keyboard lines are a beautiful anthem chorus and the bass lines are a driving pulse of an over excited heart. Neko’s drum parts are crisp and fierce and an ever present piece of order in this emotional tale. The songs really range widely in style but Sky’s ever present voice ties them together in a continuity that makes sense out of the chaos. There is a coolness factor to this music. You know the real deal when you hear it and this band sounds like they look, like they are. It makes the music ring true. Nothing I love the sound of more than genuine emotion cut down to the bone and blasted through an amplifier.
out tracks could really be any but I’ll speak to a few.
Almost Anything – Holy shit this song sounds like the greatest club hits from Erasure or Yaz. The keyboards are entrancing and lovely. The rise and swell. They tickle and drive. Then Michael’s voice drops and it’s a heart wrenching cry. He would “Give you almost anything of what he had to face” I find myself at a lost with how to compare this feeling. Almost like the Mysterian’s 99 tears in how what you are hearing and feeling separates from the lyrics and messenger.
One Last Goodbye – When the music starts if I didn’t know better I would think I was hearing pop punk from the 90s. It’s warm, it’s welcoming, the drums are pounding away. Then Micheal comes in with a beautiful lilting series of lines about hope in the face of desolation. “We cried 100 tears between us, I hope you enjoyed the show” It’s an anthem and I want to pump my fist and cry at the same time.
This EP was too little for my taste. I wanted 10 songs of the enormous range and possibilities. However it is always better to leave them wanting more, and I definitely want more. Get this album. Rock it in the morning after a night spent too long in abuse. Howl at the moon with it and dance. I’m really excited to get a chance to play with this band and watch the energy of a crowd feed off of them. They are raw, they are real, they are Philly goth made flesh.
There is so much beautiful and nostalgic to hear. What if you made The Cure Disintegration but gave it razor sharp teeth? The drums had more snap. The guitar lines had that same entrancing delay but with more motion. Ean Clevenger has an obvious Robert Smith quality to his voice, yet where Smith focused more on a tongue and cheek sass. Clevenger is bringing a piercing intensity and higher range of New Order Movement feelings of being lost. The driving bass , the rising synth phrases, those crisp bark beat snaps. It’s like hearing every album that got me through my formative years but done with the precision production of the modern age. Every song makes me want to fall in love but never find the courage to express it.
Lets talk a bit about what isn’t nostalgic, because there is plenty of fresh takes in this offering. Beautiful guitar leads full of textural slush in a shoegaze slither. This record bleeds of layered sounds so thick you want to run your fingers through them. Intricate drum beats with a symphony conductors precision control the movement of each track. Just like most albums that touch me deeply it usually comes back to a vocalist that can make me feel something. Who can take me on a journey with words and feelings and this album left me shook. Every phrase drips with tortured honey and sorrow. Sometimes as an older listener who has lived a bit you hear something that makes you feel young again. In the case of Creux Lies it is not with energy and power. It is by reminding you of how deep you used to feel things before the world tempered you. Hearkening back to The Cure again this album is full of pop hooks. Strong ones that grab the lapels and shake you. It’s hard to define when you hear something that is similar to plenty of music I am hearing, but has something extra, has IT. I’m at a loss on how to express it but I do know it when I hear it. I heard it.
There really isn’t a weak track on this
album, but I’ll pick some favorites.
Portals – This is the obvious single, but it is that way for a reason. The beautiful New Order keyboard melodies are absolutely captivating. The lyrics “Did you fall in love with a killer at your door, while waiting for a lifetime to begin” pure poetry. The vocals in this track are a masterclass in sliding between the cracks in the wall of sound around you. The build on the end is a perfect tension and release. Staggering.
Virginity – This is such a gentle caress of an opening, that effectively smashes you in the face with a giant crashing wave of sound when you least expect it. The slow crawling tempo makes you sway like a leaf on the wind. It feels like the terrifying lack of control at a first love so powerful you don’t yet have a frame of reference for it. Clevenger reaches into some sky splitting notes in this one and laser burns them into your heart. Slow dance with yourself in this moment.
Aine’s Song – Tom fills, give me all these tom fills. Tiny dancing pin prick guitar lines doing a duelist routine with the bass and rhythm, “I saw your face again, I want to take you home” That feeling of being struck. We have all felt it but to blend the music and lyrics so seamlessly to express it. I love the whispered secret in between chorus. I love the world drops out breakdown. You built me up and then pulled it all away. Just so those toms could drive right back into me.
Overall this album is an emotional and powerful offering. It’s also full of energy and fun though. It shows me how the past can pave the way for something new in dark music. I was an instant fan for life and you will be too.