Type O Negative - October Rust

October Rust is the quintessential Halloween album. It’s cheap to dismiss all gothic/horror/dark whatever rock and metal as some kind of seasonal novelty, but Type O Negative are (or at least were, before frontman Peter Steele’s death in 2010) in on the fun. Jokes and gags and overall amusement was always their shtick anyway…

Opener ‘Bad Ground’ is literally just vibrating feedback intended to make the listener believe their copy of the record is broken. Of course, they couldn’t do it subtly; the following track has the New York boys laughing, “We hope you enjoyed our little joke there,” and introducing themselves before the album begins. It’s charming when a band doesn’t take themselves too seriously and Type O Negative remain perhaps the most shining example of a balance; one of making a hell of a gorgeous racket with tongues firmly in cheeks all the while.

October Rust is no departure from their signature sound. It has the epic ballads and the lyrics drenched in sex and debauchery. Where their previous effort, Bloody Kisses, has ‘Christian Woman’ and ‘Black No.1’, they reply with ‘In Praise Of Bacchus’ and ‘Haunted’. And, just like their other releases, there’s an endearing, almost humorous cover of a usually prim-and-proper track, in this case, Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’, which follows the same trend set by versions of Seals & Croft’s ‘Summer Breeze’ and ‘Hey Pete’, a spin on legendary blues number ‘Hey Joe’.

Despite the abundance of fantastic material the Brooklynites put out, this is the record that gives them their identity. Under spine-shattering riffs, Type O Negative’s heavy persona is hoisted into view, a take-it-or-leave it notion not matched by any other of their ‘gothic’ contemporaries. It’s ballsy and audacious and utterly brilliant.

October Rust evokes imagery like no other album. Think Sid’s bedroom in Toy Story, with its dark-panelled walls and its neon shades complemented by lava lamps and all sorts of neo-psychedelic 90s posters and memorabilia. Now imagine a drunken stupor fuelled on Buckfast and delinquency taking place entirely in that room, where everything outside of the four walls (except the thunderous rain outside) ceases to exist. And on the wall is the sleeve of October Rust, beneath it the record spinning. And there are no sounds except its intoxicating, atmospheric tones.

Even through all that, it’s difficult to pinpoint Type O Negative and even harder to put a finger on their sound. Futile as it may seem, somewhere between The Sisters Of Mercy and Pantera appears a safe bet. But, regarding October Rust, it’s really Nosferatu's angsty, horny teenage son's favourite record.

Type O Negative - Christian Woman

Does anyone really buy CD singles today, even the odd collectable ones? I don't usually do that, but there are always exceptions. However this wouldn’t be one of them. Used (on Amazon US) from $25 and new from $105.70?? Fuck that!

Yes, yes another post of a single or EP that is hogging a corner on my desktop (there’s quite a few still to come) that I know you’re gonna enjoy (well, except this one because it’s…shit to be honest).

Here’s a perfectly acceptable download of a single that butchers one of Bloody Kisses best tracks. The album version lasts almost nine minutes, the two single versions only four and a half. Admittedly the two edits are unimproved and sell-out versions, but still?!! The potential incentive to buy the single is the third track “Suspended In Dusk”, but as it is now available on the expanded versions of Bloody Kisses…


Curve - Pubic Fruit

This is a compilation of Curve’s first three EPs, the Blindfold EP, Frozen EP, and Cherry EP, plus an extended version of the song “Fait Accompli”, and was released in the U.S. a few months after the debut studio album Doppelgänger. It’s a heady sonic brew of dynamic beats, restless electronics, stormy, but crisp guitars, catchy choruses, and layered, melodic vocal phrases – the template for all of Curve’s output. Despite the album being a compilation of sorts, it holds together quite nicely and provides a good look at the band's work up until its debut release. Much of the material is produced by the band and Steve Osborne, and isn't nearly as dense as Curve's debut, which benefited from their work with Flood. The non-focus tracks of the EPs are every bit the equal of the songs that eventually found their way onto Doppelgänger, with many of them being true gems. "No Escape from Heaven" features a sultry vocal performance by Toni Halliday over a galloping percussive beat and drive-by bursts of guitar. And "Cherry" is the high point of this collection. The song starts out quietly with hushed vocals and subtle keyboards before the drums signal a blast of fuzz guitars and everything crashes into a riveting sound collage.

The band released three EPs in rapid succession in 1991 on Anxious Records to great acclaim from the British music press, (did you know that Dave Stewart was the unlikely orchestrator of the formation of Curve. Toni Halliday was signed to Stewart’s Anxious label and Dave Garcia had played bass guitar in the live Eurythmics tour band) and Curve was summarily tagged with the shoegazer label due to the band’s rise during the heyday of this musical genre, and because early songs featured lengthy, richly-layered, guitar-driven soundscapes.

By sounding darker and more dangerous than the American-Scottish alternative rock band Garbage, Curve distinguished itself from the shoegazer style by creating songs that melded varied musical influences, from electronic and dance beats and loops, to darker gothic shadings, to catchy dream-pop hooks, to intense industrial noise. An onslaught of swirling guitars buried beneath a throbbing rhythm of distortion seamlessly rubs up against tumultuous, coruscating electronics, with Toni’s glacier-cool, but vivid vocals, alternately menacing and beguiling, flowing through the dense sonic mesh.


Motörhead – Bomber

We’re creeping up upon my day of birth, when my proud parents held me aloft in a kinda Lion King way…. No, seriously…they did. First born n’ all that. This undoubtedly means I’m gonna taint you all with something of a classic from 1979. This was the year that changed my life (musically anyway) for the better.
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the early 1980's is commonly thought to be the point at which this loud and larger than life genre of music began to gain steam and become much faster and more aggressive, but one need look no further than the early work of Motörhead (okay, punk is important in the equation too) for a sense of where the increased focus on speed came from. In early 1979, Overkill was released and its title track is to this day considered an indispensable influence on speed metal, and in 1980 the band would release the not even remotely overrated Ace of Spades which was the recipe for sheer badassery. And yet, the more balanced and paced Bomber, seems to be the band's most overlooked early album - a shame, because it's the most essential Motörhead album for my money. However, having been released in October 1979, it was sandwiched between their two most popular albums. Despite this, it doesn't really matter to me that Overkill came first, because Bomber was still ahead of its time for 1979 and showed enough song writing progression from Lemmy and co. to be an extremely worthy follow-up album not even a full year later.
Recorded in late summer 1979 and released by the end of the year, Bomber quickly followed up Overkill, Motörhead's landmark breakthrough album so of course, Bomber bears a lot in common with its fan-favourite predecessor. For starters, it features the classic Motörhead line-up: Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister (bass and vocals), "Fast" Eddie Clarke (guitar), and Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor (drums). Also like Overkill, Bomber features the production grace of Jimmy Miller, the man responsible for the Rolling Stones' late-'60s/early-'70s albums, including such masterpieces as Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St. And the music here on Bomber explodes on song after song, thanks to the crazed performances of the aforementioned band members as well as the well-overdriven, ear-rattling production perfection of Miller. Bomber kicks ass and its best moments, namely "Dead Men Tell No Tales," "Stone Dead Forever," and "Bomber," are as superlative as any Motörhead would ever record. The band was really on fire during this point in time and could seemingly do no wrong.
Herein, though, Lies the disadvantage of releasing more than one album in such a short span of time. One or more of them is likely to be overlooked, and it just so happens that the two more canonically important albums overshadow the one that is the most varied and consistent of the bunch. Like I said above, there's a great deal of fully realized song writing chops on display on Bomber; it's got plenty of hooks which are usually just a few simple notes or power chords like in the main riffs of "Lawman" and "Sharpshooter", not to mention the main bassline of "Stone Dead Forever." I feel that it's overall a bit riffier fare than on Overkill, both on these balls-out tracks and on slower ones like "Sweet Revenge", which is much more involved than the bluesier songs Motörhead had done up to this point like "Capricorn." However, it never reaches Sabbath levels of emphatic riffiness (which defined heavy metal music in general), therefore still lending the music the looser, more rock 'n' roll feel that makes this band feel so charming and timeless.Bomber is also really well-paced, and I love that. Side A is pretty much flawless since it's got kind of a valley structure; "Dead Men Tell No Tales" is really energetic and inspires the listener with a good message about staying clean (if nothing else I always sing "but I don't care for lies!" to myself), but then the album gradually slows down before picking up again on Sharpshooter. "Poison" might be slightly less memorable than the first four songs, but there's really nothing truly bad I can say about that song, either. Side B is honestly even better, though - I especially like "All the Aces" and "Talking Head” since they're the prime examples of satisfying deep cuts for full-album listeners. Finally, you get an awesome burst of energy to close out the album with the titular "Bomber", which showed Lemmy's interest in history as much as women and having a good time. 

Motördamn - Over The Top

After the failure of the Damned’s sophomore album “Music For Pleasure”, and the departure of Brian James in 1978, Dave Vanian, the Captain, and Rat continued playing briefly as the Doomed with Lemmy jamming live on bass before the intrepid trio could reclaim the band name. With Algy Ward recruited from Aussie legends The Saints on bass, the new Damned set about recording for their sixth single, “Love Song”. Then on May 14th 1979, (I hope you’re taking notes, I may be asking questions later) The Damned found themselves in the same studio as Motörhead. What happens when legends collide? Well, this single for one. As the back label says, ‘the seven headed beast’ put down “Over The Top” then Lemmy hung around to help crackout the Doomed’s live favourite, “Ballroom Blitz”.


Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm A Machine

I don’t think that I’m a demanding man. Throughout my years, I’ve never wanted in excess; I’ve never stamped my foot at a parent once a request was rejected, or stormed off a football pitch, ball under arm, when things weren’t going my way. “It’s my ball, and I’m going home…” Nah, just wasn’t, and still isn’t, me. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a simple, balls-out rock and roll record flicks all my switches and ticks all my boxes. It shouldn’t, but it does all the same. Face it: on paper Death From Above 1979 are cack. They’re another cool band from over t’other side – the cool side – of the pond with cool friends and cool haircuts. So the fuck what? But friends, please, listen (or read, whatever): this is the rock and roll record of the year, and it doesn’t require any overpaid stylists or a PR onslaught to tell you so. It just needs a half-hour of your time.

A half-hour, that’s all, and you’re sold. It’s not just music you’re hearing – sweat, blood, spunk and beer are all audible, splattering these 11 tracks like a Pollock. ‘Turn It Out’ kicks off. Initially doubts surface – it’s quiet… shit, it’s quiet – but the rock soon comes slam-dancing in. And when it does… bliss. There’s something so primal, so raw about DFA1979 that the senses can’t help but be stimulated. You experience a pure fight or flee response – you can either turn away from this chaotic fuzz ‘n’ brawl, or face it head on, letting it overpower you. Choose the former and you’ll forever miss out on the most fun you can have plugged into a stereo on a bus; opt for the latter and you, like me, will have found what you’re looking for this year. Forthcoming rockers go home; there’s no space for you on the top shelf. The singles you should know, and each rumbles into life with all the subtlety of getting ear-fucked by a tractor. ‘Romantic Rights’ is dirty, ‘Pull Out’ dirtier still, and ‘Blood On Our Hands’ is, well, magnificently filthy. The latter track’s single edit pales in comparison to the beast contained herein. The other seven tracks? Individual analysis is pointless; listening to them in this sequence, comparable to the best sex ever.

So, let’s count again… one, two, five, 11 tracks in all. How many out of five? That many. Really, you won’t hear a more exhilarating, dizzying record for a long time to come. It’s so simple – just two dudes making a right ol’ racket – but it’s done with such spirit and delivered with such purity that any disparaging criticism is simply blown away. I won’t tire of hearing this, but you will tire of people telling you to pick it up if you chose to ignore its charms. Do the right thing – stamp your feet and hold on to your balls until you get to wrap your ears around You're A Woman, I'm A Machine.

Drowned In Sound


Various Artists - Black Planet

Free with the 2012 Metal Hammer magazine, 'The Cure And The Story Of The Alternative 80's', we have some loosely termed Goth bands along with classics of the original scene. It’s a nice little collection of tracks taken from the archives of Cherry Red Records, Goth Collectors Series and Anagram Records.


Echo And The Bunnymen – Porcupine

'Porcupine' is a bit of a juxtaposition. It saw Echo And The Bunnymen at the height of their commercial powers, with the album dropping the band's biggest hit 'The Cutter' onto a baying public. But it also saw the band in its least commercial mind-set, producing a dark, experimental and purposely difficult album. Indeed, the recording of 'Porcupine' was famously marred by in-fighting and looming threats of a band split. It must have been a bittersweet time to have been one of the Bunnymen.

That said, however, 'Porcupine' is a hugely powerful work that still stands as the peak of Echo And The Bunnymen's career.

The experimental leanings of this record make it irresistible. The production is sent into expansive overdrive here, with every track featuring layers and layers of sound. It feels like the mixing desk must have been maxed out in almost every song, with the thickness of the sound hiding a treasure box of little details that don't reveal themselves immediately. 'Porcupine' is the very definition of an album where you can notice something new every time you listen.

And whilst the production and effects-driven guitar crafts are endlessly exciting, the song writing is also top notch. The album walks a fine line between its catchy cuts and its sinister gothic pieces. Although, it's when these two elements are combined that the band creates the albums true classics. 'The Back Of Love' is a fine example, with the booming drums and moaning, distorted guitar lines creating a dark, cluttered background which in turn frames a catchy, urgent vocal. Likewise, the album highlight 'Clay' is a towering pop song, but taken very much to the dark side by the discordant, squalling guitars that loom over everything like a giant dead tree. It's like the song was written to be a pretty track, and then the decision was made to purposely 'fuck it up'. Whatever, it's a brilliant track and one of the best in the Bunnymen's cannon.

Other highlights abound with the ultra-catchy 'Heads Will Roll', which has a mosh-inducing, radio-friendly chorus and a fantastic, spiralling set of eastern guitar riffs. Not to mention an awesome middle-eight featuring echoey ragas and Indian violins. 'Gods Will Be Gods', meanwhile, takes the albums wall-of-sound production to its natural conclusion, with a huge layered rush of... well, pretty much every guitar effect you could ever put into a song... all at the same time. It's confusing, euphoric and very, very loud.

There isn't much in the way of negative things to say about this record. It's obviously not for everyone, as its darkness is overwhelming, much like Joy Division's 'Closer', and it takes a certain mood in order to be enjoyed. But there aren't really any weak tracks (although the new wave pop of the closing track 'In Bluer Skies' dips close, but is saved by its giant, catchy feedback riff) and the album, when listened to with concentration on a good pair of headphones, offers a level of atmospheric audio immersion of a very rare quality, and one that grants 'Porcupine' the status of a stone cold classic.


The Tourists - The Tourists

Although in retrospect, the Tourists are seen almost entirely as the band Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox were in before they formed Eurythmics, the group was in fact more of a showcase for singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter Peet Coombes, who had first worked with Stewart in the folk rock band Longdancer, which was on Elton John's Rocket Records label. They moved to London, where they met Stewart's girlfriend Lennox, who had dropped out of a course at the Royal Academy of Music to pursue her ambitions in pop music, on vocals and occasional keyboards. The new trio dubbed themselves Catch and released one single, "Black Blood," on the Logo label in 1977. Adding bassist Eddie Chin and drummer Jim Toomey, the group re-christened themselves the Tourists and released their first album, The Tourists, in 1978.

The Tourists were a typical British post-punk power-pop group by the evidence of their debut album. Chiming guitars, quickstep martial beats (sometimes borrowing from Bo Diddley or the Ronettes), and the odd rude or belligerent remark ("Nothing means nothing to me," snarled in the first single, "Blind Among the Flowers") placed them in the era of punk hangover when suddenly everybody wanted to sound like the Who, circa 1965. Songwriter and co-lead singer Peet Coombes had a pinched nasal tenor that fit the slightly sour sentiments of songs like "Another English Day" and "Don't Get Left Behind," but, already, the Tourists' secret weapon was Annie Lennox, who tended to overpower Coombes on their duets and helped make the overtly pop "The Loneliest Man in the World" the group's first Top 40 hit.


Sugar - Copper Blue (Deluxe Edition)

Former Hüsker Dü guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould, and his early ‘90s power trio Sugar were well-poised to show everyone in the post-Nirvana/post-Lollapalooza age who did it first. Rounded out by bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis, Sugar produced only two albums and an EP for Rykodisc/Creation before quietly disbanding in 1995. It’s a small legacy, but now that we’ve hit the 29-year mark after the release of the first Sugar LP Copper Blue, today’s diaspora of retro-mania dictates that the occasion has to be marked with a reissue. Storied indie label Merge did the honours, and it does not skimp on doing justice to the semi-forgotten band’s miniscule catalogue.

Of the two Sugar LPs, the first is the unequivocal go-to listen. In fact, Copper Blue is a phenomenal, nigh-essential record, one the NME honoured as its Album of the Year for 1992. It was also Mould’s biggest-selling record, and managed to finally get him decent airplay on MTV and modern rock radio alongside his second- and third- generation offspring. Even if Copper Blue doesn’t break any new ground for the man (it’s more of a robust refinement than another reinvention of underground rock), Sugar’s debut holds its own against the mightiest instalments in the back catalogue of Mould’s previous band by virtue of being the most consistent album the guitarist has ever written. What began as a selection of 30 possible tracks was winnowed down during the production process to a lean ten-title CD — all killer, no filler — that showcases a well-rehearsed and simpatico ensemble burning at its very brightest.

It’s hard not to fall for archetypal allure of Copper Blue’s buzzing guitars and mountains of overdubbed vocal harmonies — in a sense its Nirvana’s Nevermind six years early, released a year later. Its opening four-song salvo of the churning “The Act We Act” and the singles “A Good Idea”, “Changes”, and “Helpless” is indomitable, a faultless sequence bound to win instant converts even now in today’s fractured Alternative Nation. Yet the album’s true peak is in its latter half, where the acoustic breakup lament “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” is ingeniously paired with “Fortune Teller”, a blazing riff-o-rama that’s the record’s most exciting moment. Sure, there are points where the songs get locked into repetitious cycles, where sections feel like they are alternating ad infinitum. Mould handles what could have been a song-writing shortcoming by spinning it into an asset — his deliciously hooky melodies make the repetition compulsory, and in “Changes” and “Fortune Teller” he releases the tension built up by those endless verses and choruses by breaking them up with roaring bridges.

For such a short-lived band, Sugar never wasted a moment on record. A comparison can be made with Nirvana, another ‘90s alt-rock band that made such consistently astounding work on borrowed time. Unlike Nirvana, Sugar didn’t sell millions (though it sold more than Mould could have ever dreamed of when he was touring the U.S. in a van back in the ‘80s). Maybe it should’ve, and could’ve. That line of thought only ends in hypotheticals, though. What isn’t idle speculation is putting Copper Blue on the stereo and hearing a dues-paying underground hero serve up song after song as exciting and as stellar as any of the other momentous numbers he has been responsible for in his storied career. What a way to show the kids both in 1992 and in 2021 how it’s done, Bob.


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Take Them On, On Your Own

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club made an impressive debut in 2001, taking both America and England by surprise while alternative metal ruled the charts. Their psychedelic/space rock/glam-coloured blend was hungry to give rock a new face. Three years later and garage rock still reviving the late-'90s pop-soaked scene, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club aims to save a bit of rock & roll with its sophomore effort Take Them On, On Your Own.

More gutsy, more aggressive, and more dynamic than B.R.M.C., Take Them On, On Your Own blazes on with an intoxicating presentation from the Brit-American collective; vocalist/bassist Robert Turner and guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes boasted cocksure appeal on the last album, however Take Them On, On Your Own showcases drummer Nick Jago's powerful presentation, ultimately bringing the trio together. They're fearless and this release is all swagger, emotive, and cool. Swanky guitar riffs and Turner's faltering drawl on "Stop" and "Six Barrel Shotgun" is classic BRMC.

There's not a lot of sauntering like "Red Eyes & Tears" and "Spread Your Love" or snarly punk-tinged bits like "Whatever Happened to My Rock & Roll." The band gives the impression that the last album was lifeless; therefore, the split in song and craft on Take Them On, On Your Own isn't exactly a messy thing. There's more character to songs themselves and BRMC appears a touch more confident. From the acoustic ballad "And I'm Aching" to the post-punk fire of "U.S. Government" and "Rise or Fall," BRMC offers substance over shtick. Reworking some of rock & roll's natural components for their own brash arrangement highlights the band's overall brilliance. For only a second album, they've got the maturity that most young bands lack on a creative level. Such tenacity will carry them a long way.


Brendan Perry - Eye Of The Hunter

‘Eye Of The Hunter’ is Brendan Perry's first solo album, and it builds on his reputation as Dead Can Dance's meditative, baritone singer/songwriter, in that it follows conventional song structures and it’s the most coherent thing he has produced. Perry's rich vocals and the songs' orchestral-folk arrangements and sombre titles give the album an intriguing Gothic/easy listening feel, similar to Scott Walker's darkest Baroque pop. However, in its attempts to pitch Perry‘s music into the same strata of operatic melancholy as his heroes Tim Buckley and Scott Walker, it may also mark the defining moment of insanity of his previously austere career.

Along with seven original tracks like "Medusa," "Saturday's Child," and "Archangel," Eye Of The Hunter also includes a thoughtful cover of Tim Buckley's "I Must Have Been Blind." We are floating away into the mountains of madness, then, and while Perry‘s aspirations are too huge to exist in the realms of the possible, ‘Eye Of The Hunter’ is blessed with snatches of delusional brilliance nonetheless. As Perry sings on ‘The Captive Heart’, “I’ve seen too many men driven insane by their distractions”. Here, for posterity, is concrete proof of that epithet. Though the stately pace of the songs becomes monotonous at times, Perry's first solo effort is a mature work worthy of his reputation.


Lisa Gerrard – Duality

Having already worked with Pieter Bourke on The Mirror Pool, Lisa Gerrard created her second album, Duality, with him as a full partner. It's literally just the two of them, recorded at a home studio in Australia. Bourke's work in Eden -- which had often been tagged with a Dead Can Dance wannabe brush -- actually meant that he knew more than most where Gerrard was coming from with her all-encompassing vision of music from different locales and times. Compared to the often overwhelming feeling of The Mirror Pool, Duality is no less mysterious and captivating, but still maintains a more intimate, close atmosphere. The echoing depths that characterize Gerrard's work again appear, as much a tribute to excellent production as it is an artistic choice, and there are wondrous parts with haunting string arrangements, but there are no huge, heavenly orchestras or the like dominating this time out. Meanwhile, the mysterious folk/dance side of Gerrard's work remains intact, percussive instruments of all sorts to the fore, blending Arabic, Mediterranean, South Asian, and other styles into a mystic whole, as on tracks like "Shadow Magnet" and "Nadir (Synchronicity)." Where there are rhythm less tracks, such as "The Unfolding" and the minimal beauty of "The Circulation of Shadows," the scale is less dominating, more directly connecting. As always, Gerrard's voice is simply breath taking, the vaunted and well-earned reputation for her singing ranges completely intact. Perhaps most surprising is when she sings in clear, straightforward English on "The Human Game," compared to her usual glossolalia when singing her own lyrics; in context, it's a fascinating switch. Bourke's own contributions -- it's not immediately clear if those include vocals, given Gerrard's own abilities in both high and low registers -- mesh excellently with her instrumental work and, since no specific credit appears instrument for instrument, everything works as a true partnership.


No Music Today...Just This Crappy Update

Hey there fellow travellers. Just a brief moment of your time while I sit back and take a couple days off from posting daily. 

I have been surprised at the volume of traffic Depeche Mode have generated in the last month, and how it has resulted in a number of "take-down" notices for both Black Celebration and Violator. There are so many rips of DM's albums that I have to wonder why....anyway there's a new link to a 24bit Black Celebration rip...go have some.

In other news I want to let you know that daily posting will slowly become a thing of the past, but despair ye not, multiple posts on the same day might make an interesting alternative. Also, it's sometimes worth checking out the comments for additional links too interesting alternatives to the headline post. This will become more apparent as time moves along. Singles are making a comeback along with some interesting Various Artists compilations.

Now I've said enough as I don't want to keep you from your surfing t'web, and searching for that next awesome download, from that band you've never heard of, but you like the review by this or that blogger, and hey if you don't like it...you can always delete it.

Peace Out...AJ


Last Rites - The Many Forms

Last Rites followed Guided by Light with the release of a limited-edition EP, My World Alight, in 2004, and a final full-length studio album, The Many Forms, in 2005. The Many Forms brilliantly confirms the inaugural intentions of their first Opus, but it’s tighter, creating a darker and oppressive atmosphere, and also tighter in terms of their style. Somewhere between Electro and Metal, Last Rites create a modern sound; a hypnotic, cold and heavy groove which works all the way through this second studio album. It is also marked by the heavy support of industrial, rhythmic guitars (Rageing Tide), and the voice of Alexander Wright, whose thick, grand vocals are reminiscent of Johan Edlund of Tiamat (The Many Forms, Body in Decline). Some aspects of the percussion have a more ‘World’ musical style which is felt here and there (e.g. the instrumental transition Regression) but essentially, Last Rites seeks to give the ethereal and gloomy atmosphere a tangible lightness (Guilt Sublime, raw emotion meets cyber) which could be likened to the former hypnotic rapid chords of Fields Of The Nephilim which came out of nowhere. The guitars express an envious daring / fearlessness which does not weaken (e.g. the single, My World Alight), but which finds in the heart of these new musical architectures a corresponding ‘electro’ answer

Of all the Fields of the Nephilim side projects and bands, Last Rights are musically the 'least obvious'; and The Many Forms proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable listen, and although some may think it lacks that 'in your face' attack, I personally enjoyed the more subdued nature of the music. The Many Forms has plenty of deliciously subtle and dark undertones and an impressive bass line which growls at the listener throughout and so fans of Goth self-raising flower rock will feel at home instantly. Over the years it’s probably fair to say this hasn't been given the credit it deserves, however it sits proudly besides my FOTN collection.


Tempers – Services

Tempers are a NYC Not-Goth duo of Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper. Having read a few of the interviews with the pair, they are adamant that they are Not-Goth, which I’m assuming is some kind of new Goth genre. Fortunately Not-Goth sounds like cold wave with a bit of synthpop to boot, so I’m a fan. Comprising of Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper, have carved out their own niche within dark indie, electronica and synth-pop circles. Their sound is about exploring tonal and emotional tension as much as it is about actual tracks or singular moments. Adrenalizing yet hypnotic landscapes layer mechanical and sensual impulses, as crystalline vocals weave fever dreams of yearning and alienation. Golestaneh's vocals switch from low and smoky to exploding rock ballad mode at the change of a verse. I’d say she’d kill Bonnie Tyler karaoke. The lyrics are dark and introspective. The music is surprisingly upbeat; imagine happy Joy Division with more synths. Nothing dominates, but it all comes together, particularly the synth pop songs to just make you want to move to the music.

Tempers describe their creative process as a telepathic kinship they've developed since they started making music together: "We have this sort of unspoken criteria when we're writing music. We never really need to explain what that is, but we both know when it's missing or when we've hit it." Informed by both Golestaneh's involvement in musical performance and visual art and Cooper's electronic production resume, they operate as a multi-disciplined entity in the spirit and ethos of Factory Records. Damian Taylor (who produced Björk) and Kevin Mc Mahon (of Swans fame) produced Tempers early work so they’re no slouches. Following a string of critically acclaimed download only singles including from 2013 "Eyes Wide Wider" the duo released their debut LP "Services" which resulted in the underground club hit "Strange Harvest".

Click your fingers, mime in the mirror, hit the rug and dance, whatever’s your bag, you’ll be doing it. “Services”, hasn’t dropped the ball, it’s kicked it clear outta the stadium. A debut album that is super clean and precise.


Soft Cell - Non Stop Erotic Cabaret [Deluxe Edition]

In the U.S., Soft Cell, the British duo of singer Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball, was a classic one-hit wonder with that hit being the remake of Gloria Jones' "Tainted Love," which dominated dance clubs and eventually peaked in the pop Top Ten with its synth-pop sound and Almond's plaintive vocal in 1981-1982. In the U.K., the group not only had a longer career, but also influenced a raft of similar performers. Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, originally released in Britain in the fall of 1981, contained both the band's first hit and its follow-up, "Bedsitter," its title referring to what in America would be called a studio apartment. (A third U.K. Top Five hit, "Say Hello Wave Goodbye," emerged from the LP.) At full album length, lyricist Almond's primary preoccupation, only suggested in "Tainted Love," was spelled out; this was a theme album about aberrant sexuality, a tour of a red-light district. The point was well made on "Sex Dwarf," with its oft-repeated chorus "Isn't it nice/Sugar and spice/Luring disco dollies to a life of vice?" Songs like "Seedy Films," "Entertain Me," and "Secret Life" expanded upon the subject. The insistent beats taken at steady dance tempos and the chilling electronic sounds conjured by Ball emphasized Almond's fascination with deviance; it almost seemed as though the album had been designed to be played in topless bars. British listeners saw through Almond's pretence or were amused by him, or both; more puritanical Americans tended to disapprove, which probably limited the group's long-term success stateside. But the music was undeniably influential.

This deluxe edition of Marc Almond and Dave Ball's 1981 debut includes all the B-sides and extended mixes from the synth duo's first (and best) period, plus the pioneering Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing remix album.


Witch Of The Vale - The Way This Will End

In the forest of independent music where trolls can spring from isolated rocks and mountains, it is refreshing for gatekeepers to allow through the spirit of an understated musical Seonaidh*. So from the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles, come Witch Of The Vale. Comprising of the folk inspired stylings of Erin Hawthorne and the stark instrumental structures of her husband Ryan Hawthorne, their music possesses some Pagan fervour like Gazelle Twin meeting ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Twin Peaks’. Despite being largely unknown within general electronic music circles, the couple’s musical potential have certainly been noticed and rewarded with support slots for Clan Of Xymox, Solar Fake and Assemblage 23.

Beginning their debut four song EP ‘The Way This Will End’ with the unsettling ritualistic overtures of ‘Fever’, a stark percussive lattice and drone laden backdrop holds together a sinister Celtic beauty through Erin Hawthorne’s treated vocals. With another alluringly timeless vocal, the traditional overtures of ‘Your Voice’ take a gentler pace over a simple triple backbone. Meanwhile ‘Deathwish’ does what it says on the tin, as heavy stuttering beats and distorted synths take hold; again it’s all threaded together by an enticing high register gothique. Closing the EP with ‘The Way This Will End’ title track, an angelic air is offered within a backdrop that has a beautiful music box quality complimented by solemn strings, capturing a wonderful melancholic airiness.

This fine debut EP from Witch Of The Vale is a total pleasure. Totally captivating while maintaining an important air of mystery, Erin and Ryan Hawthorne are most definitely an act to keep an eye on for the future.

“Seonaidh, I give thee this cup of ale, hoping that thou wilt be so good as to send us plenty of seaware for enriching our ground during the coming year.”


Client – Heartland

Now a trio, Client continue to craft chilly, elegant electro-pop that's poised and business like, full of hooks, and tries to conjure feelings of luxury and efficiency.

Synth-pop has always been filled with deliberate coldness and facelessness-- nothing new about that. But that's not Client's style: They're one of few synth acts I've heard who seem to lack personality mostly by accident. It's hard to even pinpoint where that sensation comes from. It's not in their music, which is certainly up (one of) my alley(s): chilly, elegant electro-pop, poised and business like, full of hooks. It's not in their image, which is a good match for the sound-- first two and now three women, semi-anonymous, dressed up in sleek 80s business wear and flight-attendant uniforms that go perfectly with the luxury and efficiency they're trying to conjure. Heartland, their third album, is the kind of full-on solid record I barely even expect to hear these days, every track as concise and hook-filled as the last. Apart from the lyrics, they have all the bases covered: Anyone looking for reliable synth-pop thrills will find something to enjoy in just about every song.

The vagueness of those lyrics might be a clue to the problem, though: Client don't seem to have much that they're actually trying to get across to us. It's not just a matter of electro detachment, either. This, after all, is music that descends in large part from Depeche Mode, whose Andy Fletcher was the first to sign Client-- and god knows those guys are big enough drama queens to inspire deep personal attachment, fervent teenage under-the-covers listening. The band Ladytron, Client's closest English peers, have been learning to pack their tracks with the same kind of emotion; Goldfrapp, probably the next closest, just ramp up their glitter and physicality to the point of decadence. The problem with Client is that they're offering...what? It's strangely hard to find an angle in there, the right aesthetic particulars to give the band a face and a feel. And if you've located it, feel free to write in and tell me where.

The funny part is that Heartland really is awfully well-made-- great hooks, structure, production, the works. The introduction of a new member on bass gives their sound a new smoothness, which they use to cruise beautifully up to any number of great hooks. There's one on "Drive" with the casual cool of Elastica. There's one in "Monkey on My Back", with beautifully scripted pulsing and call-and-response chants. There's a Goldfrapp-style glam shuffle on "Lights Go Out", the most fetching of several songs that all might as well be singles-- I'll bet anything you'll hear it in a commercial one day, get it stuck in your head, and wind up thinking it sounds great. It's probably telling, though, that the big fun surprise comes from one of the band's old tricks, bringing in guest musicians to inject some personality. Simon Tong adds guitar to a cover of Adam Ant's "Zerox Machine", and while it's not quite the record's most memorable tack, the band suddenly seems to muster up some of the verve and spark that's oddly absent elsewhere.

What's really strange is that Client seem to think of their faceless, uniformed image as some kind of commentary on "manufactured" mainstream pop. Weird, given that that's actually the context where these songs work best-- as tight, stylish singles, the sort you can love hearing on the radio or the dance floor for a few months, all without stressing over what the band as a whole is all about. It's when you bring this stuff home, at LP length, that you start wondering: excellent craftsmanship, but what's your thing? Other bands are doing this too, after all-- and even when they're not as consistent, a lot of them have something in their music that we stand more of a chance of really falling for.

by Nitsuh Abebe


Cocteau Twins - Peppermint Pig

Experimenting with other producers, the Twins worked with fellow Scot and Associates member Alan Rankine on this three song effort, though not to fully successful effect. Guthrie later groused that Rankine didn't appreciate the band's music to begin with and swore never to hand over production duties again, though the single itself was a notable independent chart success. The title track appeared in both 7" and 12" versions; either way, the song was definitely a bit atypical for the Twins even at that stage, with cleaner guitar, light keyboards and a tight arrangement which sounds more like early Associates than anything else. The 12" mix is all the more unexpected, aiming for the dancefloor in a way which they would never really try again. Fraser's vocals mark it as a Twins song and no other, at least. As for the other two tracks, "Laugh Lines" has Heggie's bass brought up very prominently in the mix and extra live tambourine from Fraser, while the pounding "Hazel" does its job well enough. The EP was also notable as being the last release on which Heggie appeared before splitting to form Lowlife.