Review of Panic Priest

Band: Panic Priest

Label: Negative Gain


Jack Armondo – Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Synth, Programming

on record: Toph McNeil (programming) + special guests

A captivating self titled release from Chicago shadow minstrel Jack Armondo hits like a velvet coated brick with it’s power and beauty. As a musician when you ask another musician for feedback of course they are always drawn first and foremost to the thing they play. Therefore when I find a record with a truly gifted and unique sounding vocalist who writes great lyrics I am hooked. That’s how it was with Panic Priest. Jack has a voice that leaps in front of the music and leaves you entranced. You hear familiar elements in the style. A bit of Andrew Eldrich in that dark flowing wail, coupled the grit and soul of Peter Steele, you even hear the sorrowful beauty of Andy Deane. When it all blends together and crawls out of your speakers like a seductive demon creeping towards you, it becomes something of it’s own. This is no pure front man either. Jack is an accomplished musician who takes all of the writing and music on himself. The guitar work is a precise needle bouncing in time with the velvet curtain and rising synth sounds, they shimmer over a dark pool of bass building a story of sound and human frailty. The themes are aesthetic and heartbroken and they drip from a landscape which changes from song to song as quickly as the range in Jack’s voice. I have had the good fortune to share a stage with Jack and it is an incredible experience to witness live. I found myself even more impressed with his guitar playing than his unique and memorizing voice. It’s hard to pick out stand out tracks because the production is exquisite and every song is powerful and elegant. For the sake of whatever professionalism I front at I will try.

I find as time has gone on and I hear this record again and again I am struck by the fact that the sound matches the human making it. That isn’t always true but this album flows with an organic and genuine energy. It is deeply personal and gives you an experience of sharing in someone closest held self when you listen to his music. It’s one of those records you need to sit down alone with to truly appreciate. It is layered, it is lovely, and it unlocks self reflection.

Sideways – The opening track, this song is so catchy it haunts me rather in my ears at that moment or in my head later that day. Jack’s wails a chorus that speaks of familiar heartbreak. “Strange to say, think of me sideways” The drum beat jumps about light and enthralling for a true slow goth club jam. Swing your arms and fling your head about. I could hear this track 1 million times and it would never be enough.

Die Divine – This leans into the keyboards more and lets Armondo croon with a tenderness of a forgotten age while the chiming church bells of the keys fill the room. This is the soundtrack of city street walking in the rain. It bleeds isolation and echos a subtlety that makes you reach for it instead of coming for you.

Velvet Cage – Here you really hear that First Last and Always percussion guitar. The drums have an urgent speed. The vocals wrap it all in that voice which stares into your eyes unblinking. I love the concept of that beautiful cage we place ourselves in.

If you haven’t gotten from my over the top gushing yet, this album needs your attention. This is a band that has the something extra which is both definable and undefined. I originally wrote this review before this page existed and it remains one of the best things I have discovered in the modern dark music scene. I can’t recommend enough.

Review of Orcus Nullify: Death Hag

Band: Orcus Nulify

Album: Death Hag

Label: Self release

Members: Bruce Nullify – Vocals, Guitar, Bass/Leonia Teaneck – Lyrics on Death Hag and Rose Veneer/
Drum tracks, mixing, mastering and all around big help Ant Banister of Sounds Like Winter and Lunar Module.

So Orcus Nulify is a wonderful project by Bruce Nullify out of South Carolina. Bruce is one of those wonderful people in this scene that is always going out of his way to help everyone else in the around him. So I was really excited to get this EP and really dig into it. The sound has a lot of heavy old school goth guitar riffs, I would almost call it doom metal. His voice is a deep mellow chant and his lyrics are extremely theatrical and over the top. I get how it might even ride that line too much for some, but not for this guy. I think Bruce glides the absolute razor wire of creating a dramatic picture of allegory while keeping just enough in reserve to not cross the line into cheesy. It’s a real art in this day and age to create something this involved without coming across as ironic. As a listener you have that question in your head but you also have to face that this is extremely well done rock music with depth and substance. The Sisters of Mercy did this, Rosetta Stone did this, and I feel like Orcus Nullify is walking the same path. I think another great strength of this EP is that Bruce is doing every voice, guitar, bass, drums, when it all comes together I think it really gives the songs a singularity which are essential to the effect he is creating.

This was a four song EP I found myself wanting more of. He covers a lot of ground artistically in just four songs. Bruce got some help from Ant Banister of Sounds Like Winter who is an incredible song writer in his own right. He really smoothed out some of the edges and added in some drums beats that give motion to the tracks and make it feel more modern. Leonia Teaneck did the lyrics for Death Hag and Rose Veneer which are two of the strongest tracks. I don’t know any of her work but the lyrics here are truly unique and wonderful. “Drags her fingers through the leaves, and in the night, the veil is lifted.” This EP is full of power and vulnerability at the same time. It’s a memorizing combination.

As I have continued to listen to this EP more an more I think it is important to add a note to the original review. The guitar work in these songs really stick with you. It’s a lot of of rhythm and lead blending and twisting and the more I heard these songs the more I felt they were the true stars of what is making these songs so powerful. Bruce is doing both and I think that is part of what makes them blend so seamlessly and become another voice in the pageant of this music.

Since it is a 4 song EP the best tracks could be any of them, but I will narrow it to two.

Rose Veneer – This is the quintessential bomb track and single. Powerful driving drum intro. Textured guitars that have a very old school Alien Sex Fiend British goth feel. When Bruce comes in with those winding thick vocals describing a crawling graveyard culmination of life and death. It really optimizes what Orcus Nullify does so well. It keeps you guessing as to how serious this is and leaves you as a listener questioning your own perceptions.

The Wind – Here things kick up a notch, a slashing static whip of guitar undercut by a driving Peter Hook bass line. Bruce’s vocals again are a chant in an off kilter rhythm that captures your attention. Then the chorus jumps up an octave in a traditional Cult like rock ballad. I love the dynamics here. The drums really add so much to this track with those crisp merciless snare snaps. I can picture the music video in my mind without seeing one.

Overall this EP is a brave and fresh challenge to the so much cooler than thou feel of modern post punk and goth and I found myself falling in love with it’s unabashed extreme darkness with a standard rock feel. This is an album that needs more appreciation and attention. Find the straight forward spooky romanticism of Orcus Nullify

Review of WitchHands: A Voice and Nothing More

Band: Witchands

Album: A Voice and Nothing More

Label: Independent

Members: Vocals: Ryan Flint
Guitar: Aaron ‘Batboy’ Hernandez
Bass: Jodajen
Percussion: Sleezy B
Keys: Lance Broodington

This is an album I had been waiting for and snatched up the moment it came out. Colorado doom goth punk metal Witchands is a LONG road from my typical musical interest. However since they came on my radar I have found myself rethinking how big my circle is and that is always the best feeling. Lately I am really drawn in by albums that have a chaotic blend of styles and structures that cross boundaries and challenge norms but still ring familiar. “A Voice and Nothing More” really checks all of those boxes. Song to song they really run the gambit of Punk, Doom Metal, Goth, Post Punk. For being a hard style Flint has amazing range to his vocals dancing between Glen Danzig, Musical Theater, Dave Vanian, and Gregorian Chanting. His fluctuation would be enough to give this album that eclectic well rounded feel. The band changes style just as effortlessly though. So each song feels like a total shift. A story being told in music. Aaron Hernandez is bringing a enormous dirgeable of floating steel to his guitar sounds. They hang in the air pushing the weight of a wall behind them. Jodajen’s bass lines are a blistering thump and pounds your bones like a sledgehammer. It gives the songs movement and clarity in that thick pounding texture of the music. Broodington adds on the beauty and flavor with subtle understated keyboard notes that differentiate these songs from metal or punk. Adding a confidence and complexity. Finally lets talk drums, holy shit Sleezy B is an animal these are gargantuan John Bonham blasting toms, slippery fills, and dynamic times changes. I’m a singer, I just don’t get effected by many drummers like this but Sleezy is bringing something special to the sound of this record.

The music and sound is journey enough to make this record worth hearing. The more I listened the more I came back to the poetry of these lyrics. It’s a true epic tale of demons and darkness in a very over the top theatrical style. I found myself reminded of Sabbath/Judas Priest in the imagery and passion of the words themselves not just the voice pushing them. Because this record is so diverse not every song or every part of every song is going to be for each listener. I definitely found myself drawn in and out at different times as the styles veered from my wheelhouse to too far for my sensitive pop loving ears. That became something I came to appreciate after the forth listen. Making myself open up to something new and glorious.

Since I have written this review WitchHands has recorded a new EP which is called L’appel du Vide. A lot of the same driving pageantry but this new offering shows a maturity and refinement to the pounding drive without giving up the intensity.

I kept flip flopping on most notable tracks but here goes nothing:

Night Falls – “How many tears have you got, you never thought you’d die young.” Powerful lyrics with powerful delivery. Aaron uses layers and feedback to create a crushing depth. It’s an anthem song, and a chanters song. This is something old and forgotten brought forth from a grave and given new life.

Derelict – This is one where those drums just cannot be contained within the lines. It has that punk flavor in the lyrics with Danzig and Mike Ness old Social Distortion. Yet the lyrics are anything but punk in the theme. It is macabre and sorrowful but screamed out with such energy. It fills you and kills you and it all happens in the blink of an eye.

Darkness – Oh how this tune flips everything on it’s head. Its subtitle and flowing and has a fairy tale feel. It’s a thick funeral march. Then the change calls back to battlefields of yore. The imagery is contagious and the space between the changes leave you on the edge of your seat. This is a story I want to see told on a stage. The ending hits another level and range.

Overall this album is a complex and theatrical. It is so much more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s easy to get lost in the simple familiar style and miss the true complexity of the time and tone changes. However the more I listen the more I hear. I highly recommend taking the time to really unwrap the sweet fruit on offering here. In the end this is also a scorcher, a record you can bang your hard and stomp your feet to. It just happens to be a well of depth behind the fun.