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.
When i write reviews one of the common traps I try hard not to get lost in is comparing every new band I review to one of the sacred dark gods of the 80’s and 90’s that the group I am listening to sounds like. It’s a pretty common tactic and lets face it an effective one. It’s easy to associate with what is familiar when it often feels like the world of goth/industrial/darkwave/new wave/ect has pretty much been discovered and artists are searching for more subtle ways to test the boundaries of what is possible and find some new ground, I figured I would take a moment to acknowledge this is a reality for a lot of people.
About a year ago I had an awakening. I had spent many years wrapped in the music of my past. I clung to the same mainstay bands I had been enjoying and had given up a bit on finding something new that inspired me. Then something happened, I found this band from Texas. Two young men that created something so familiar and so fresh at the same time. Twin Tribes album Shadows spoke to me, filled me with hope for a future of dark music that took what had built my passion with intricate snake charmed guitar, thick driving bass lines, and romantic sensual vocals that transported me to another place. A place still full of magic and mystery. I decided I needed to share this feeling and started the music review page Sounds and Shadows. Since then I have discovered a whole universe and wonder in modern music. It all started with that first review of Shadows by Twin Tribes. I even got a chance to play a show with Luis and Joel and saw the same thing in their live show I first heard that first time I spun the record. Tonight I finally get to publish this long awaited interview with these talented artists. I hope it gives you a glimpse into their process and how I have also come to love the people behind that beautiful music.
Ken: Your live show and album captures such symmetry of sound and stage performance. Two people who know and care about each other. How did you meet and how does that history come through in the music you make?
Joel: – We met through a previous band we were in. Luis joined as our keyboard player, and we kind of went from there. We both learned a lot through our separate experiences in music, and with other projects. When Luis first showed me the demo for Shadows, I was instantly hooked. I told him as much, too, and made sure to let him know I was there in case he ever needed a bass player, or my help in any way. When he reached out and we came together for Twin Tribes, we were adamant about not making the same mistakes we had in the past. We have given of ourselves equally into making the music that we dearly love, and I think we can both agree that our friendship, and respect for each other, has grown in this last year working together.
Ken: Shadows is an album I play constantly and love to tell people about. It is deeply personal and stirs emotion. Tell me about how you write songs together, what is your process?
Luis: – I think the writing process differs. Sometimes I can come up with an idea/riff, record it and send it to Joel and he will give me feedback or add to it. But also sometimes we get together and create a song from scratch with both of us in the same room. Then after we have structured the song we’ll leave the lyrics for the end.
Ken: You have had such success in 2018 with the album, are you surprised by this? What is your goal for 2019?
Luis – We’re definitely surprised by the success the album has had and just the positive reaction it has caused in general. When we created Shadows we had no expectations. We simply wanted to create an album from our inspirations and put it into tape. We had no idea we would end up working with labels and releasing it on vinyl. It’s still surreal for us.
Joel – Our goal for this year is to release another album, tour, and make so many new friends along the way. Honestly, I’ve met some amazing and interesting people in our travels, and it’s one of my absolute favorite things.
Ken: Doing music as a career is a difficult journey. It takes great will and desire. What drives you to keep on and making music?
Luis: It definitely is a difficult journey, especially balancing it out with our careers on the side. I think the love for the music is what keeps us motivated. After this year, our motivation has only increased to continue, and we’re excited to share the new music soon.
Ken: You have gotten to play with some incredible bands lately. I know when we played with you it was intimidating, wanting to be our best. Is there anyone you played with that intimidated you because you respected them so much?
Luis: Getting to meet and play with other talented artists is one of the best things that Twin Tribes has brought us. I’ll always get nervous whether it’s playing by ourselves or playing a sold out show with a famous band. Just to name a few that made us feel that way were Zanias, Indradevi, Mr. Kitty, Spectres, Altar de Fey and Second Still.
Joel: All of those bands that Luis mentioned. I’ll add that the Actors, Creux Lies, Bootblacks bill we just played was especially nerve wracking. When you’re surrounded by so many talented musicians, you can’t help but feel a little nervous. It’s a humbling feeling.
Ken: I’ve listened to your LP many times and have a lot of favorite tracks but “Portal to the Void” sticks with me. What was your inspiration for this song and how did you bring it to life?
Luis: Portal was created with our Roland JX-3P’s sequencer. We used that for the main synth riff, and then started adding layers to it and the song was born. It was inspired by a clairvoyant character from a show called Penny Dreadful.
Ken: When you came to Detroit I took you to Lafayette Coney island at 1:33 am to have a true Detroit Coney. On your tours and travels what is the most amazing thing you got to eat?
Luis: This question has been asked several times and I will say it again. My most memorable moment from that tour was having hot dogs with everyone that night. I found it so funny when our friend Jack, from Panic Priest, almost killed me for putting ketchup on my hot dog, lol. That Detroit Coney was the best.
Joel: I’ll be honest, we had some pretty amazing BBQ at Smoke and Fire in Kansas City, but the one that still sticks out for me is La Chaparrita in Chicago. I ate a huarache, and tried some fermented pineapple juice for the first time. So delicious. Shout out to Benny Hernandez and his lovely wife for taking us there!
Ken: Your sound obviously plays homage to previous sounds (The Cure, Depeche Mode, My Bloody Valentine) if you could play with any band living or dead who would it be?
Luis: Part of our sound was inspired by the early 80’s albums by The Cure and Depeche Mode, of course. I would have loved to live in the decade of the dark 80’s and play with obscure bands like Asylum Party, Carmody and Samedi, just to name a few.
Joel – One of my personal Heroes and inspirations, David Bowie. Cue that song now.
Ken:For my gear head readers, your sound has a unique feel. What piece of equipment could you not have made this album without?
Luis: The gear we used is what gave us our sound aside from the hours of creating patches. Definitely the Roland JX-3P, Korg Poly 800, Roland TR-707, Roland JC 120 and the LinnDrum.
Ken: If you could download the ability to play any instrument, like in The Matrix, what would it be to enhance your sound?
Luis: I would definitely enhance my synth playing skills since it’s not my main instrument. The little I know is mostly self taught. Maybe even drums because my coordination is garbage.
Joel: If piano is the red pill, and drums are the blue pill, I’m throwing blinding powder at Morpheus and taking them both. I’m “The One”, dude, I do what I want.
Twin Tribes are currently prepping for a west coast tour. If you live in that area and love yourself at all you will witness that show.
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.