2023 has not been a great year for me doing written reviews. No time like the present to get back on track. I continue to be surprised how people keep finding new directions to explore sounds and human experience. Hopefully this article leads you to a new favorite band to love and support. If you find something you enjoy in this article, Please share it, maybe someone else will find something to brighten their day.
Jean-Marc Lederman – Soul Music For Zombies – The brilliant Belgian composer is always finding a new way to astound me. It is as if twelve brilliant writers live inside his skull and fight for control of what the next album will be. This album travels back to the beginning, when music decided to tap into something primal and internal. A circulatory system of connection and automation. Jean-Marc has a level of talent and skill that often leaves me flabbergasted. The greatest of which is an ability to create an emotional connection without reaching. Listening to this album never feels like a production or manipulation. It’s a ticket I bought, a seat on a magical vessel of experience and sensation. As a reviewer it is a difficult task to quantify something so exceptionally crafted, that on your best day, you could never produce. To step outside your own comprehension and appreciate the journey. This might be the most powerful statement in a career I can barely scratch the surface of.
The Music Walks Again (The Robert Johnson Story) Featuring Emileigh Rohn – The collaboration of these brilliant producers has produced some of my favorite music of the last 5 years. Every song feels like a meaningful conversation. A compromise of ideas. A tapestry made stronger by interwoven threads. Slow rhythmic strings and a hint of distortion paving individual footfalls for the beautiful clarity of her voice. This is an old story in blues. Robert Johnson goes to the crossroads at midnight. Offers his soul in exchange for playing something truly meaningful, something to last. The short, extraordinary life of an artist. To choose an eternity of suffering for a moment of perfection.
Didn’t Your Mama Tell You How To Behave ? – Electronic blues assault with an intensity to splashes on the back of the room. A single simple idea brought into rhythmic chant to hold together a spirit induced cacophony. I dare you not to feel this.
Jean-Marc Lederman does not disappoint as a rule. This album has tapped into a devotion to music and spirit that is transcendent in it’s youthful quest that follows the heart. An outstanding addition to your collection.
MORIS BLAK – BURIAL + VOID – The Boston, Massachusetts Electronic Body Music artist has continued to evolve and gather attention from the electronic community like moths to the flame. What jumps out most from previous works is the way the tempo is held back to add weight and inertia. Each song adds a guest talent to give it a unique frequency. GenCab, Kofin, SYZYGYX, Rabbit Junk, all add a distinct seasoning to this chaos electro antimatter stew.
Favorite Track: Procession – Banger alert! Heavy waves of cadence explosion with a beautiful duet vocal that tested the boundaries of both artists. The perfect song to let go and spin out of your own reality.
This Spring catch Moris Blak out on tour with Danny Blu a live show you will not want to miss.
unitcode:machine – Undone – Dallas, Texas industrial artist newly signed to COP International with a new single/remix release. Eric is another artist I feel I have watched evolve into one of the most prolific electronica vocalists of the new wave. THREE STELLAR REMIXES BY TOP NAMES IN THE SCENE (aesthetic perfection, stabbing WESTWARD, assemblage 23) . IN THE VEIN OF SILVERWALKS LAST YEAR, THIS PROMISES TO BE ONE OF THE MOST MEMORIBLE THINGS WRITTEN THIS YEAR.
Hem Netjer – The Song Of Trees – what an amazing growth for the world beat shadowcraft band from Vancouver, British Columbia. A truly unique blend of trance tendril synths, authentic throat singing, priestess croon, and rapture. A harken back to the spiritual soul and cultural exploration of Dead Can Dance, Projekt Records. The patience and subtlety crafting stories with words are an enchantment that burns into the listener’s mind. This is a band that has tapped into something beautiful and primal and have exploded past their own ceiling.
Favorite Track: Eldur – At 5:33 this is not a catchy hook single, but nothing about Hem Netjer strives towards simplicity. They are at their best when crafting a heady and meaning brew. This track fully highlights and range and soul of Raven’s voice in perfect harmony with evergreen energy pulse.
Hem Netjer is: Raven Rissy, David Deckard and Jesse Ellytt Lyrics: Raven Rissy Composition: Raven Rissy and David Deckard Throat Singing: Jesse Ellytt
Recording at: Jacknife Sound with Jason Corbett (Actors) Music Production: Scott Fox (iVardensphere)
Beborn Beton – Darkness Falls Again – German Synthlords return from a brief respite with one of the sizzling early contenders for album of the year. A 9th album full of vibrant passion. Stefan Netschio has a distinctive voice that is drawing you towards him with every inhalation. The hooks are constructed brilliant energon cubes free of fractures. Hand to evil leather bound tomb, this is what Depeche Mode wishes they were releasing in 2023.
Favorite Track: Dancer In The Dark – Sometimes I want to pretend I am aloof and cool, not falling in love with the first single off the album. This is such an undeniable banger it would be a disservice to deny the truth in front of everyone. The beat, the lead, the vocals, everything about this song is chefs kiss perfection.
The year is drawing to a close. I’ll start working on the year end wrap ups from another stellar year in Darkscene music. Including a compilation of the Sounds and Shadows Darkscene Singles Chart. First, I want to do one last standard review of what I have been listening to lately. Every time I think I have emersed myself in this scene so deeply I cannot be surprised anymore, I find something that blows my mind once again. Something that says the world and art that goes with it are always going someplace bigger and bolder. No matter how much you open yourself, there is always something new to learn. Happy Holidays my friends.
Midwest Gothic – Awesome new compilation I came across of darkscene bands, some I knew, some I found from Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky to cast a spotlight on the amazing things happening in my area. I always love a good regional compilation and this one is stacked with talent. It features a wide breath of the modern darkscene as well. Josh Kreuzman is the mastermind behind this offering, and I look forward to their future releases.
ANGEL-MAKER – Chris Nelson Freeze Etch – Adam Duckworth BlaK SundaY – Juan Blak, Jennifer Maupin, Jacob Cagen, Ron Anderson, Eric Brown Pillar – Jermaine Artis Juan Blak – Juan Blak Sad and Pretentious – Joseph Mayfield Hypnagogia – Elijah Durnell Square Hollow – Mark Mehlbauer Soma and Seraphim – Preston Krafft, Mako Chernobyl Twice Dark – Josh Kreuzman Broken Nails – Kim Bell 9th Circle Symphony – Jason Bambery, Dru Cadaver, Kurt Fester, Maria Cadaver, Chris Grady
Blak Sunday – The always napalm shadow punk energy of Juan Black. Old school chaos explosion always on the attack with relentless midwest blue color aggression.
HYPNAGOGIA – Tantalizing ritual gothic chant with a spider shuffle tempo and summoner circle cadence. A wonderful new discovery I will be watching for.
Broken Nails – The darting tempo cold wave with robust soulful vocals from Kim Bell. One of those tracks that energizes a dance floor while filling your head with reflection.
Plague Garden – Blue Captain – 10,000 leagues beneath the sea in this pressure pulse old school gothic submarine. The guitars are a darting school of silver movement on the edge of your vision. This project is a Denver CO collaboration of Fernando Altonaga and Angelo Atencio of eHpH. I love the atmospheric reckless darkness and Sisters Of Mercy “First Last and Always” hopeless thrum of the ever-sinking vessel.
Favorite Track: Tonight – A bit of an outlier on the album but the dynamic shifts really encapsulated the treacherous sea. The pulsing bassline full of danger and movement. The hunting teeth of the palm mute guitar. The haunting croon of the vocals. Something about this track put everything together in perfect balance.
Null Device – The Emerald Age – Wisconsin based dark synth band with a new driving political statement full of spiraling hooks and razor edge tapestry. The perfect mix of this album is so economical it makes the motion and pace feel like a UFO that darts and accelerates in a way modern technology has not produced. The vocal duties bouncing between Eric and Jill feels like a conversation of perfect syncopation. This album came out in Nov 2022 and every time I hear it holds a familiarity and nostalgia that defies logic.
For You – This was a darkscene singles chart winner. A boot stomp tempo club banger with Jill belting with Irish funeral dirge sorrowful beauty against sparkling explosion synth lines. A captivating modern classic.
Misspent Youth – A haunting piano ballad with Eric’s clean and emotive voice ringing with captivating expression. Each note on the piano streams forth like ripples in a still underground pool.
Eric Oehler – Vocals, Synths, Violin, Guitars Jill Sheridan – Vocals, Lyrics, Synths Eric Goedken – Lyrics, Additional Production Kendra Kreutz – Cello
G.W. Childs IV – Tarrant County – Lately I have known an obsession, that is yee haw goth. G.W. Childs is legit cowboy who fell in love with Yaz “Upstairs At Eric’s” and created a synthesis of southern family devotion and scorching disco inferno. I love old school country western. Hank Sr. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline had a blue collar emotional delivery which would one day become punk rock. Legendary producer John Fryer (NIN, Depeche Mode, Love & Rockets, This Mortal Coil) reached out and encouraged his friend to lean into his country roots and make this EP of classics with a glossy hyper color synth wave sizzle. I’ve always felt the key to a good cover is when an artist excites a new generation that never heard the original song, but leads them back to it after. This is what the soulful delivery of every track on Tarrant County accomplishes. Watch out for an upcoming interview I did with G.W.
G.W. Childs IV (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Star Wars: Battlefront) • Legendary producer John Fryer (NIN, Depeche Mode, Love & Rockets, This Mortal Coil) • Famed game composer Peter McConnell (Psychonauts 2, Sly Cooper, Monkey Island) • Matt Carter (Guitar) • Ed Love (Drums)
Crune – Necromantik – Recently I covered the Skull Festival in Detroit. I saw a lot of amazing bands. One really struck me. When you see something special for a reason you can’t put a finger on, you know. When the sassy yee haw goth playing a theremin telling stinging tales about severed heads on the bedpost took the stage, I knew I was seeing something special. I made it my mission to make sure the world was aware of the glory of Crune. I remember standing in front of the stage behind the members of Adult who I could see were also struck and feeling that theatrical chest wrenching darkness the first time I heard Danny Blu. This is the beginning of a talented young artist on a rocket ship destiny you won’t want to be the last to know about.
Favorite Track: May Your Wounds Turn Gold – Slithering sensual napalm of exposed truth spewed forth with careless expression. When I saw this song played live, I dropped my jaw. It is raw poetic cabaret unleashed behind an electronic construction of syncopated dynamics. This is the future.
The Joy Thieves – 6 To 3 – Chicago super band led by Dan Milligan have a timely new release while the rights of women to control medical decisions about their own bodies is called into question. Joy Thieves will be donating 100% of the money raised from the sale of the ‘6 To 3’ EP, and its accompanying line of exclusive t-shirts and hoodies to the National Network of Abortion Funds. We are always quick to point out when someone falls short, so I was happy to give credit when artists stand on the right side of history. I love The Joy Thieves iconic blend of hard rock and industrial mayhem. Blending voices and furious flame wall liquid guitar. In addition to the 2 tracks is an industrial high court of scene mainstays not in The Joy Thieves offering remixeslike Jim Marcus (GoFight), Walter Flakus (Stabbing Westward), Steven Archer (Stoneburner), Gaby Gustavson (Eva X). A fiery anthem to capture the tension and anger of these dark times.
Minuit Machine – 24 – This release combining the amazing talents of Hélène de Thoury and Amandine Stioui is staggering for its quality as well as tragic because it might be the last pairing the two. Helene has suffered some health issues which have caused her to step back from the project for the time being. This EP is nothing short of breathtaking in it’s seamless pulsing sophistication. Every track harnesses an effortless magnetic vouge you can’t help but want to be close to. Amandine’s vocal’s ring through the air with every phrase like a struck chime. A haunting electronic overture that paints a perfect moment while promising what could have been.
Favorite Track:So Hard – Sledgehammer drum beats, lightning bug transitions, and a club build that set the stage for a gorgeous golden melody. Tendrils of glitter smoke catching beams of light. This song can hold my heart forever.
Spike Hellis – Spike Hellis – After seeing them at the Skull Festival in Detroit this year, I haven’t been able to put this away. LA based electronic flamethrowers who answered the question if Alec Empire hadn’t pulled a 180 and became a cryptobro what would a cleaner crisper refinement of the magma fury become? Hearing Spike Hellis really helps me understand what is meant by “Electronic Body Music”. It is felt in the tissue as much as heard in the ears. The range of feeling on this chaotic labyrinth darts through every hidden crack of the human experience. It really must be heard live to fully comprehend, but having a map of the recorded experience can go a long way towards grasping the subtilty of what is happening. I really need to line up an interview with this band in 2023.
COLD TRANSMISSION MUSIC – ZEITGEIST+ – There is no secret about my feelings on Suzy and Andy Herrman of Cold Transmission Music. They run a family style label that highlights the best in European Cold and Dark wave. As well as searching the world for underappreciated talent to shine a beam of their amazing energy on. This is the 15th of these compilations they have released to bring both their own signings as well artists they love. In the end CT are fans of great music first and then a great label. This compilation truly has the soul of those old Cleopatra compilations that want to tell the world about the best new music hidden under the crust. I need to do a review of this compilation on it’s own but wanted to at least shout it out in 2022.
Favorite Track (So Far) – S Y Z Y G Y X – Maniac – Luna has done an exclusive single for this comp and it is fairy light magic in a frozen palace of winter. The percussion of vibrating copper timpani sounds rippling the water from bleeps and bloops. Vocals equal measure smooth and smoke filling the room with vapor. This is a true talent that needs to be lifted up to a brighter light.
Compiled by Andreas Herrmann Additional Mastering by Pete Burns at THE SHELTER Illustrations by Jared K. Nickerson (Jthree Concepts) Artwork by Yvonne Kiel (www.onlyvonne.de)
Klack – Believe – I am always down to Klack. I will Klack in the morning, Klack late at night, I will Klack everytime because it always feels right. This cover is a perfect blend of two great artists Eric and Matt who loved the same song in different ways. They meet in the middle and the homage is perfect. Ok not quite perfect. They could have sung “Do you Bill Leeb in life after love. Maybe Cher would have missed the reference. I wouldn’t have. This choir hits like a glorious angel smashing into a gold brick wall.
Aurelio Voltaire – The Black Labyrinth ~ A Requiem for the Goblin King – Has it really been 13 studio albums for Aurelio Voltaire? This review is special to me. As someone who writes “Goth music with a heavy dose of humor” it is hard not to give credit to the OG that inspired me all those years ago. Here he taps into his own inspiration from an artist and film that burned a codpiece shaped scar into every 90’s goths soul. It appears we also share a passion for collecting every talented guest star he could cram into this shadow glass menagerie. Let’s have a look at this list.
15 members of David Bowie’s band spanning nearly every era of the Starman’s career from the pianist on 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to the saxophone player on Black Star, Bowie’s last album. The Black Labyrinth was co-produced by Mark Plati who produced the 1997 Bowie album, Earthling as well as the post humus release, Toy.
Other guest musicians included members of My Chemical Romance, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Vision Video, The Cog is Dead, Frenchy and the Punk, violinist extraordinaire Mia Asano, Ally the Piper, D and D songstress Ginny D and an international cadre of musicians making up the orchestra and choir.
The 20 song release is clean like twilight in a fantasy world briming with the mystery of a firefly forest and the pageantry of a catholic funeral. Voltaire’s iconic is the ringleader that ties together the spectacle. If you don’t know Voltaire, you have missed one of the most gloriously self aware experiences in the dark scene. If you do you are in for a 20 track journey with one of the great bards of our time. Let goth music be fun. Let it be the giant melting black candle musical theater it was always meant to be. I both teared up and laughed out loud listening to it. You need this album.
So I am a bit behind the ball again. I do want to make sure I am continuing to publish these charts chosen of the top singles released in December chosen by the DJ’s, Reviewers, Bands, and Superfans in the Sounds and Shadows group. Make sure to cast your vote in January.
Gravity Corps – Another Day –
Daddybear (Feat Grabyourface) – Boss Bitch
HAEX – Cursebreaker
Deathline International – Parasite
Author and Punisher – Drone Carrying Dead
Eva X – Whipping Girl
Batavia – Epitaph
SYZYGYX – Light You On Fire
Angelspit – Stand In Line
Rosegarden Funeral Party – In The Wake Of Fire
Gravity Corps – Another Day – Spacey driving dance beats from Mark Sousa. This futurepop trance rhythm with the melodic bass whisper vocals and sharp mastering of Eric Oehler (Klack). This is sensational music to fire finger guns on the dancefloor to.
daddybear feat: grabyourface – Boss Bitch – Well the amazing duo of Matt Fanale and Marie Dragontown have done it again and found their way to the top pf our darkscene chart. Stalking apex hunting vocals stanking up the dancefloor with raw sensual pheromones and sinister beats. Sometimes two humans just share a mind perfectly and create a seamless blend that achieves glory. This is one of those times.
HAEX – Cursebreaker – A latecomer in 2021 that made our albums of the year. This filthy concrete sledgehammer blend of industrial and nu-metal is a terrifying decent into forbidden alien chaos magic. Adam Jones growls mean and it makes my knees weak.
Deathline International – Parasite – Old school Front Line Assembly sample heavy lashing punk fire boot stomper from the head of COP records, mixed and mastered by living legend John Fryer. Sinister Guitar Lord James Perry of Ashes Fallen adds a powerful lick to ice this delicious cake. A lot of talent was brought together to make this sizzle, and it does.
Author & Punisher – Drone Carrying Dread – So when I saw a 8 minute 16 second single from the San Diego band I thought, how does this work? I was so wrong. This works. It’s an ever expanding Machines of Loving Gracesque emotive and beautiful journey of dread and introspection. It’s simply magnificent. I don’t want to be this in love with it, but it is SO GOOD!
Eva X – Whipping Girl – I love listening to an artist grow with every new release before my ears. Gaby continues to sharpen her sound and produce a glorious darkpop full of strength and soul. This track holds a fiery defiant energy and cutting intelligence. I can’t wait to hear what is next.
Batavia – Epitaph (C-Tec Cover) – So I absolutely love it when a band covers an “underground” band. Although C-Tec is a Front Line Assembly side project, it isn’t terribly well known. Batavia continues to be one of the most underrated bands in the modern electronica scene. This cover is gorgeous and powerful. The team of Ed and Terri just have a magical and expressive connection that seeps through everything they do. They have joined the “Must Buy” club for all future releases because it seems they cannot miss.
Angelspit – Stand in Line – Second single from Diesel Priest. Electronic political punk root explosion with a thinking persons razor resolve. Get inside the system, then become a bomb, then explode in a visceral bloody paste of art glitter.
Rosegarden Funeral Party – IN THE WAKE OF FIRE – The amazing Texas dark rock band I always find myself not diving deep enough into for no apparent reason, but every time I take a moment to listen like I am now, I am struck by how damn amazing they are. Leah Lane is a force on vocals. The music is gospel choir uplifting and soulful. Every instrument is perfect precision. It’s a gorgeous single that deserves your attention.
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
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.