In the past 4 years German based label Cold Transmission has been responsible for amassing and growing some of the greatest talent in the modern darkscene. Andreas and Suzy Herrmann have created a music label experience that feels like family. With a hawk’s eye for talent and a focus on growing creative expression. They have built up an amazing roster of talent around the world. Here in their second compilation to celebrate their releases you can experience some of the best and brightest for one low price. Mastered by the talented Pete Burns of Kill Shelter and featuring artwork of Yvonne Kiel this CD is a who’s who of the modern darkscene. In addition to the amazing music compiled, a portion of the proceeds is donated for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine. I wish I could review every track on this stellar offering, but I will shine a light on a few highlights.
IAMTHESHADOW – On Winter Leaves Embrace – Pedro Code has a once in a lifetime voice. The Portuguese darkwave artist is the flagship of Cold Transmission. An emotive passion sailing a turbulent sea of beauty and melancholy that moves the heart of everyone who hears it.
NIGHT NAIL – Co-Morbid – Our dear friends in Berlin the abstract shadow rock of Night Nail. I love the complex and unique beauty with a focus on emotional impact over hook. Dynamic and courageous changes with interesting instrumentation. Night Nail treads fresh ground like protogoths Bauhaus while creating a style solely their own.
Camlann – I’m Nobody – The ridiculously talented young folk from Indonesia. How I wish that I sounded this way when I was their age. It is sleek, passionate, and overflows with a unique darkness. This band has such a bright future set out before them.
The Ending Nights – A Landscape To Die – Another project of Pedro Code. This a apocalypse death disco offering to sum up the last few years. Precision , Execution, Beauty, Passion, swirling in a violet fog. A transcendent art piece to speak to turbulent times.
PALAIS IDEAL – Age Of Intransigence – Netherlands post prog rockers John Edwards and Richard van Kruysdijk continue to create some of the most dynamic and intelligent science fiction thought rock in the scene. This is music that displays technique and ability while challenging you to higher thought.
MARY – Devouring Me – I genuinely feel this 2020 release from Toronto is one of the most underrated records in recent time. Driving and intense basslines that cast rippling waves is a crystal pool. I love the cadence and timber of the vocals. This feels like 4 clashing brilliant minds carried out by one train of thought. I really hope we get another album from Mary soon.
Mark E Moon – Hearts Keep Bleeding – From the Isle of Man this track is a demo version of the crooning old school goth style of Mark Sayle. Their album Old Blood in 2021 was a true opus for one of the strongest examples of trad goth in the modern age.
DEAD LIGHTS – Plastic Girl – London based sinister synths that recently had a top single on the S & S darkscene charts. It is dance and deadly with captivating vocals that lift your feet off the ground. The type of glamourous dance floor beats that cannot be ignored.
Dead Astronauts – She Haunts Me – Seattle dark synth stars continue to sound years ahead of their time. 2021 album Silhouettes is a memorizing conversation of internal dialog and duet relationship that sends the listener on a journey. I highly recommend that journey.
Death Loves Veronica – Burn – The Texas demon lounge smoky vocal tendrils paint sinister pictures with visceral imagery and stained glass synth walls. The German label supports many American talents and Veronica continues to grow and impress.
I could have easily talked about several more bands here I love. The point is this compilation and this label are offering a gate way into some of the best darkscene music the world has to offer. 38 tracks for 15 dollars is an absolute steal.
Another Wed in mid November and I have the Oscura Festival fast approaching. This may be my last chance until December to write some reviews of the glorious new music that is being released. As always these are darkscene bands that have caught my attention and need to be shared. If you have a release we need to hear hit us up on Sounds and Shadows.
Modal Citizan – Idolatry – The lads from Virginia beach have released a new 4 song EP. Have you ever wondered what if NIN “The Downward Spiral” and Clutch engaged in unholy union to spew forth a jagged baseball bat rolled in broken glass and started taking wild swings at an unsuspecting populous sounded like? Now you need not wonder. Horror film builds and chaotic drum beats, thunderous funk metal bass from Sean Waff, and screeching heart string vocals from Ryan Jones. I love the tight turn into electronic dance beats from their November 2020 album “Control Alter Deplete“. They really comprehend the power of dynamic contrast to tell a story. Adam Fueston unleashes slashing electro whip guitars that pick just the right moment to sear their impact. It’s mean, it’s jaded, it’s rowdy.
Favorite Track: Expanse – A true emotional firehose that encapsulates the anger and aggression while baring the quiet emotional turmoil of keyboards and poetry. Jones goes deep into character thrashing and jerking like a person processed by a demon riding a bull.
Sapphira Vee – Breath of You – I always love a new single from Sapphira, I especially love it when it goes to such an important cause. Cat Hall, a cervical cancer survivor, agreed to collaborate on this single, as well as our good friend Jim Marcus of Go Fight contributing a remix, having lost his mother to cervical cancer. This single is being released in the month of October, in observance of Women’s Cancer Awareness Month. The track also has remixes from frequent contributor Melodywhore, Ratio Strain, and Federico Balducci. Sapphira shows a Cheshire cat grin to her voice. The deep buzzing pad synths move like columns of stone while the chanting words preach a resilience and vulnerability. Each version creates a vastly different tone to the core concept. Another spot on powerful offering blending dancefloor accessibility and personal trauma.
Favorite Track:Breath of You ft. Cat Hall/Dissonance – The blending of two powerful woman producers/vocalists will leave me floored every time. Add onto that the warrior princess delivery and subject matter and you have a cocktail which is smoky, burning, and filled with introspection.
Rohn – Lederman – Venus Chariot – My love for Belgian composer extraordinaire Jean-Marc Lederman is deeply known on this page. His previous work includes ( Fad Gadget, The The, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Weathermen) as well as some of the most thought provoking higher tier concepts in electronica music of the past 5 years. Teaming here with COP International and exceptional producer/Vocalist Emiliegh Rohn of Michigan they blend into a poetic electrified katana of grace and fury. I have spoken of this record in the Sounds and Shadows group but was shocked I had yet to write a formal review. When I hear someone of Jean-Marc’s pedigree say “This might be one of the most important albums I have ever released” it tends to make your ears perk up. This album is full of endless fusion energy both in the intricate hair splitting craft of the music, and Emileigh’s power whisper beauty. it’s the record I reach for whenever I need to force my body into action. A well of strength at your fingertips for these draining times. Greg Rolfes provides cover art to set the tone of this runaway stampede of electronic elegance.
Destruction and More – This is a faster paced defiant and layered builder. The music keeps stepping forward a heavy foot at a time through gale winds. Ending in a fist raised chant of war. A true tribute to Athena in it’s brazen energy and feminine power.
The Ending Nights – A Landscape To Die – Pre-Order available for the newest offering of Pedro Code (IAMTHESHADOW) of Portugal on Cold Transmission Music. A definingly dark apocalyptic disco drive produced and mastered by Pedro for a soul wrenching personal explosion. Jagged glass drenched in rainbow oil and water. How do you take one of the most distinctive voices in modern goth/darkwave when you find a way to make the steaming disco beats the star of the show you have really broken ground. This is a record that creates a world. Grime and desolation, the remaining survivors of a broken world follow the electric pulse of a melody from within. A perfect anthem for these fractured times.
Favorite Track: No Light – Hearing something so melodic and pure as Pedro’s voice swimming through a channel of filth and grit that is beautiful and terrifying. This macbre nightmare of insomnia and slow grinding destruction. Another layer of depth and complexity for a proven talent.
Curse Mackey – Lacerations – Brand new single and remixes from legendary Texas Industrial artist Curse Mackey (Pigface, My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult, Evil Mothers). Featuring remixes by Twin Tribes, Steven Olaf, and Chase Dobson. I love the concept shift from gothic electro ritual on “Instant Exorcism” into nihilism Tokyo drift shadow synthwave. A effortless cool grinding prayer as the world crashes down and leaves you nothing to lose.
El Clan – Somos Nuestro Peor Miedo – New album from legendary Mexico City dark rockers El Clan. There is something distinctive and powerful with true shadow swirl ritual rock delivered in Spanish. The fluttering trill of the guitar. The heavy strikes on backbeat snares. Gustavo Perez Ramirez has such a unique and dynamic range to his vocals. Rumbling growls, silver shining melodies, and sand swirling blasts of power. El Clan continues to encapsulate a burning flavor and haunting sound that puts them on a pinnacle of Mexican darkscene .
Favorite Track: Dios Universo – The opening light touch driving guitar riff set a tone of danger and action. Gustavo growls out a opening salvo of edge and anger. Then quickly changes lanes to a sorrowful melody. It’s a perfect homage to historical hard rock feel and modern dark progressive.
Black Rose Burning – The Wheel – George Grant of New York has taken an already amazing sound to a completely different level. This new album is progressive, complex, expertly executed emotional darkscene that permeates the skin and resonates in the chest. These vocals harken to a previous time of dripping Peter Gabriel emotion that spiral in crystal facets on top of shifting translucent hooks. It ebbs and flows through a stylistic spectrum and delivers with every memorizing tale. I continue to be blown away by one of the most criminally overlooked master songsmiths of our scene. This is a record that needs mainstream attention.
Favorite Track: An Anthem For The Strange– When the title says anthem, they are not exaggerating. These drums are rolling and trance building. George’s vocals ring through with a clarity and power that convey emotion. A warm and glowing starlight that wraps all of us freaks and outliers together in a sparkling blanket of togetherness.
Part 3 of this series might have been the toughest to write. There was such a wealth of great new albums in this genre I found myself at a loss to pick and choose my favorites. However tough choices need to get made. These are all records released in 2020 and not singles. I feel like everyone on this list did something very profound.
Black Rose Burning – Open the Gates – George Grant is doing amazing things using stripped down elements of dark post punk concepts. His voice has this scintillating David Bryne expressive lilt. It harnesses such energy with an acoustic guitar and a percussive gate. It’s romantic, not like a relationship, but the way Star Trek is romantic about the love of stars and exploration. I find myself constantly lost in the beauty of it.
Scenius – Enough Fears – I found this album at the very end of the year but I have a feeling this will be on my heavy rotation the next few months. The Leeds band is a bending maze of emotion and turns that I found myself deeply immersed in. The vocals from Fab Nau were so original and cutting. Perfect dark trance resonance and endless builds. This is a band I will be paying close attention to in 2021. I feel the beginning of something beautiful starting.
Vlimmer – XIIIIIIII – This series of albums reaches it’s conclusion in glorious and staggering fashion. Alexander Donat has an amazing gift to take emotion and transfer it into sound seamlessly. Taking a tiny burning ember of idea and gentle blowing on that fire until it swells into a blaze. Truly a criminally underrated talent in modern artistic expression through sound.
White Mansion – Human – Arkansas brings us this strong front to back traditional post punk. I love the bold transitions here and open air vocals. I think the name Human was perfect for this record because it is all about relationships. You can really follow the story. It’s organic, full of heart, and makes a connection.
The Secret French Post Cards – Colors – More glorious post punk darkness this time mixed and mastered by Pedro Code (Iamtheshadow). This record is so understated and comes at you in subtle ways. Olli Ohlander has a ringing and smoky delivery that chews up scenery like a master actor. Blended reverb and echo makes the guitar build tension that pulls you into the moment. Paint a picture in your mind with this record. Another Cold Transmission band.
Danny Blu – The Pale Horse – Crackling energy and neck grabbing hooks from NYC. Personal soul threaded into club kid sleek trance. This record is everything cool I want to give off. The smoky saxophone trills add a beautiful contrast note. The cadence they lyrics are delivered with are an extra percussion and rhythm. It leaves me longing for more.
Elz and the Cult – Bloodlines – Elz is one of those beautiful and unique humans that takes their internal light and bleeds it into every track they make. It has such a genuine and soulful flavor which modern darkpop is so hungry for. It is a record of personal intensity that stands out in the landscape. A true gamechanger record that everyone should experience. On Cold Transmission Music.
Korine – The Night We Raise – Philly based band that is taking the scene by storm for good reason. They have such a glamourous beauty. While the lyrics are full of edge and venom. They truly have mastered the idea of taking two things you wouldn’t think would make sense together and then synthesizing it perfectly. It’s elegant, profound, and makes you feel like you are on the inside of secret. Also it has that glorious shake that ass factor. You will dance to this record all night long. On Born Loser Records now.
Panic Priest – Second Seduction – Chicago based Jack Armondo finds himself once again on my albums of the year. This sophomore album uses his rich and powerful baritone to great effect but softens the edges of the guitars in the first album. Putting the synths forward really captures the neon industrial aspects of his city. I love the way he captured the concept of isolation in the middle of a populated concrete jungle that became so relevant to us all in 2020. An impressive offering both in connection and execution on Negative Gain Records.
Soft Kill – Dead Kids R.I.P. City – Portland postwave glory with gorgeous and rich vocals and rainy flowing waves of synth sound. This record is so efficient and full of intention. This is one of those records it’s never a bad time for. It has that voice of a generation The Smiths sound but with a speed and energy of the modern era.
Idles – Ultra Mono – I love this album for the punk side of post punk. It’s intelligent, political, smash your fucking teeth in complex blasting rock. It has the true core of Fugazi. I wasn’t quite sure where to put this under but it belongs on some list.
Kiss of the Whip – We’re Not Here – Baltimore is doing some amazing things in the current scene and KOTW are near the top of that list. There is an amazing feeling when someone has such a wizardry of an instrument that it transcends and lefts everything in the song around it. That’s how I feel when Tristan Victor plays keyboards. The wide open textures and landscapes that flow through your mind at razor speed. His melodic whisper growl vocals really draw you in and let those complex synth changes do their work. I continue to be impressed with every new growth.
Spectres – Nostalgia – Sometimes I want a record that really pushes the edges of a genre. Sometimes I take comfort in bands that do a familiar sound with perfect execution. This album is so full of feelings that transport me back. Each song is original and new but the pallet of colors is brilliant with New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. The heartfelt homage to the music I grew up on cleaned and washed and sent straight to my heartstrings.
Loveblind – Sleeping Visions – What happens when a traditionally shoegaze label like Saint Marie Records puts together a superband of Shoegaze talent to make a darkpop album. In this case what happens is one of the most textural beautiful records of the year. Dorian Electique has a stunning and haunting vocal quality that floats on the waves of slushy wave crash guitars and striking drum beats. Every time I play this record I picture silk scarves flowing in my wake. it just makes life a little more beautiful.
Black Nail Caberet – God’s Verging On Sanity – This band from Hungary has been on my constant playlist. They had an album in my top list of 2019 as well. I love that they don’t sit idle and instead explore a new aspect of darkpop. Emese has a remarkable strength and depth to her voice that reminds me of Annie Lennox. The dance beats are a force to be reckoned with and are like a shot of energy in the arm. When I need to find a little something extra within myself this is the record I reach for.
Algiers – There is No Year– If you have never witnessed Algiers live, once the world reopens that should be the top of your to do list. They are the best live show I have seen in the past 20 years. It’s breathtaking to behold. They are another band hard to put in a box in the most amazing away. Notes of Motown/Gospel/Post Punk/Electronica. It’s all thrown in the blender and spun to a smooth creamy glory. The lyrics are poignant, fresh, and delivered with a voice sorely lacking in this scene. This record is such an up and down journey through culture, injustice, and personal revelation. I really can’t stress the importance of this band enough.
Then Comes Silence – Machine – Swedish based dark rockers put out this album in March and I listened to it many times in it’s entirety. The single We Lose the Night is such a perfect jam it has to be my most earworm song of the year. Just walking through the world I found it constantly popping into my head. This record has what I think of as true Post Punk vibes. The bass is thunderous and driving. Vocals are enchanting and full of warm and captivating feeling. Also the track Ritual feat: Karolina Engdahl is a perfect duet to blend beauty and razor cuts. I was an instant fan for life.
Bootblacks – Thin Skies – NYC post punk stars took a giant leap forward in their evolution for this album. It truly takes it’s own life and direction. Adding on Jason Corbett (Actors) to chisel and magnify a sound that already had such a unique and dangerous flavor. It is sleek, mysterious, and is my number one soundtrack if I ever pull an elaborate jewel heist and car chase in the heart of New York City. I think the most magnificent part of this album is that it really took “Post Punk” someplace new. It’s easy to get hung up on nostalgia, and there is some of that here. There is also a sound so sensual and fresh. I can just smell the musk of this album. You need to feel it on your skin.
Empathy Test – Monsters – This album was my most played on bandcamp this year. I just couldn’t stop coming back to it. It holds a beauty and quality that touches on so many genres. It’s personal and full of imagery that transports you into a movie. Isaac has one of those once in a generation voices that speaks right to your heart. This record just struck a chord inside me like the first time I heard RadioheadThe Bends. That feeling of dramatic intensity that makes me think of youth while the refined craftsmanship spoke to my changed perspective. This is a young band, and their potential to grow and make art on another level seems limitless.
I’m very excited about this interview. Kill Shelter “Damage” was one of my top albums of 2018, a truly groundbreaking piece of artistic expression which harnessed the vocal talents of some of the darkest stars in the Post Punk/Darkwave genre. I tried to ask questions which would give a firmer grasp of his process and motivations in creating this monumental and personal offering. The album just became available on vinyl and is a must have for any serious collector who values this style. Link just below
(Ken) Pete this latest album “Damage” touched on so many emotions for so many people. What did this title mean and what were you trying to capture in these songs that related to it?
(Pete) Firstly thanks so much for the kind words and for the opportunity to talk about it. “Damage” was written during an exceptionally difficult time for me and there were a lot of dark thoughts and emotions that influenced both my music and my song writing in the nine months that it took to produce the album. “Damage” not only reflected my state of mind but it became a thread that ran through all the tracks – whatever happened I wanted to try and create something with a sense of purpose. Music has become so disposable and ubiquitous that I just wanted to try and make something that had some form of substance, meaning and hopefully resonance.
(Ken) You did such a unique concept of writing these songs but bringing in a who’s who of incredible musicians and singers to bring your words and songs to life. That couldn’t have been easy. How did you come up with this concept and what was your biggest challenge to overcome?
(Pete) I’ve always seen myself as a producer first so working with other artists, especially vocalists, is something that I love to do. I’d been doing a set of remixes and had just started writing material when Pedro from Unknown Pleasures Records approached me asking if I intended to do an album and if so he would be interested in considering it for his label. So that gave me something positive to work towards, of course there was no guarantee that a) it would be good and b) that anyone would like it. At that time UPR were going to only do 100 releases in their catalog so I knew if Damage was to be considered it needed to be special and I wanted to help mark the history of the label in some way. I had a “hit list” of artists that I wanted to work with so I began writing with those people in mind. The mistake I made was writing the song first then approaching the artist rather than gauging interest levels first then going down the writing process. It also takes a lot of time to slot into other people’s schedules too so it can easily become a logistical nightmare. I’m taking a different approach with the follow up…
(Ken) I feel like post punk/darkwave music is going through an incredible Renaissance right now, as someone who has made music in this scene a long time what has changed for you the last few years? What excites you about the future?
(Pete) Yes, there is a lot of chat about renaissance and revival and I think that is a good thing – “a rising tide lifts all boats” as they say. The scene is definitely broader now and influences and genres tend to blur at the edges and that is really exciting. I read recently that we were in the 4th or even 5th wave of post-punk now but that doesn’t mean it’s all good. I tend to gravitate towards the timeless and the innovative and that’s what I look and hope for in music. I’m always excited to hear outstanding new music so I’m forever optimistic that something very special is just around the corner
(Ken) I watched Damage shoot to the top of so many top albums on 2018 lists, including Sound and Shadows. Did that surprise you? What is the ideal future for Kill Shelter?
(Pete) To say I was surprised would definitely be an understatement – yeah, I’ve really been blown away by the response. For an album that was released so late in the year (November 26th) I never thought anyone would care let alone put it on their “best of” lists. I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported the album including Sounds and Shadows of course.
The ideal future for Kill Shelter would be continued interest and support and the chance to release another album (or two) that were equally as surprising as the first. That would be a good start.
(Ken) You worked with so many incredible artists I love on this album. Pedro Code, Ashe Ruppe, Nate Jespersen, Karl Morton Dahl, Hante, many more. If you could bring in any vocalist living or dead to do a song with who would it be?
(Pete) I’m hopeful that the next set of Kill Shelter releases partially answers that question for you. There are so many extremely talented vocalists in and out of the genre it would be difficult to name just one. David Sylvian is still one of may favorite vocalists of all time.
(Ken) These songs have such a person feel, are they about your life? Or more of a narrative about what you are seeing in the human condition? If the first what did you draw on to create them?
(Pete) There are people who write from experience and there are people who write imagined experiences. On Damage the material I wrote draws directly from very personal experiences and emotions. I’ve always found writing music cathartic in that way – even when I was growing up I buried myself in writing as a way to deal with my feelings.
(Ken) It’s so hard for me to choose a favorite track on this record, but In Decay hit a special chord for me. Ashe has told me these are your words he sang. Tell me about the background of this song, what were you feeling in Decay?
(Pete) I’m really glad you called that particular track out although it’s an incredibly personal track to me. Without being too maudlin about it, “In Decay” was written about the death of my mother. I didn’t tell Ashe originally what the real meaning was as I thought it was unfair to put him under that amount of pressure. He sang it just the way I’d imagined it though so I’ll be forever grateful to him for that. The line “at the end of forever – I come undone” just about sums it up.
(Ken) This was a complete album and concept, but music is changing. Is there still a place in the modern scene for 10+ song concepts or is the future, singles and internet hits?
(Pete) Listening behavior has changed dramatically. Anonymous single tracks appearing on semi-curated playlists and individual tracks being recommended by algorithms based on listener preference has definitely changed the way we consume music. “Damage” was written as an album and you can hear that when you listen to it – it’s supposed to be a journey. But the individual nature of the contributing artists makes each track unique and therefore able to stand on its own too. Is there a place for a 10+ song concept album? Probably not, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. I really hope that people will discover the album and put the time aside to listen to it as a whole.
(Ken) If you could go on tour opening for any band currently in the scene who would it be and why?
(Pete) There’s a question. How close to the scene are Depeche Mode these days? I’m sure that would have a positive impact on how many people had heard of Kill Shelter. Gary Numan, She Past Away, The Sisters, The Soft Moon… you get the idea…
(Ken) If you could get in a Delorean and travel back in time to talk to 21 year old you, what would you tell that young man? Would he listen?
(Pete) He’d definitely listen to the advice it’s whether he’d have the self belief to act on it. I’d probably say “you are right to be uncompromising in your music. Enjoy listening to other people’s music and continue to be open minded but the best stuff isn’t about trying too hard, it’s about being natural whether it’s in-vogue or not. This journey is yours so stop thinking about what other people think. Above all else – don’t fuck up the only chance you have. And try to stop hating yourself if you can.”