Thyrane

Hypnotic
(Century Media)

Scandinavia has been well-known for a few things over the years, mainly cold weather, Abba, and a penchant for dreary, long-haired metal bands that take much of their inspiration from Tolkien’s writing. In this particular case, we’re talking about just such a metal band… But this one is a slight modification on the usual black metal that comes out of said region.

This is metal, all right, no bones about that, but this is metal that owns a sequencer. No, not like Misery Loves Co. or Godflesh or something from the old days of Earache. I would gladly take some old school Drown-type material. No, sir, this is your old-fashioned, beat-you-over-the-head, guitar-harmonics, trite-lyrics, clichéd-growling-vocals metal. But, thankfully, blessedly free of orcs.

Now, one might be the type to enjoy such a thing and, if you do, more power to you. But this isn’t very good. One might take exception at the idea of mocking the English-as-a-second-language abilities of Scandinavians trying to do their best to entertain, but I think they’re trying to reach a bit above their station in the musical scheme…

For example, their severely overwrought and humorous song “Of Suns And Flames” begins with the line “The black sheep of cosmology, awake!” I shit you not. It’s right there in black and white in the liner notes. Don’t believe me yet? “When synthetic gallows takes control/murder of my mind is one of a kind/believe in the words of darkness/life is soon to be out of vogue here.” Yep. That passes for a chorus in the Norse portion of the globe.

As for the music, well, the first track (entitled “Human Weed”) wasn’t that bad. I said to myself: “Self, you don’t like metal, but this isn’t awful and the programming isn’t horrendous. Our ears have yet to bleed. ” That was before I sat through such aptly-titled ditties as “Glamorama Demystified”, “Phantasmal Paranoia”, and “Heretic Hunt”, all continuing along the same theme and style to point to self-parody and cliché.

Later, I offered myself an apology after the CD had continued along the same line for the better part of an hour. “Self,” I said. “You did your best; you didn’t know that you were going to be listening to a highly repetitive metal album, lacking hooks, interesting structure, vocal range, or any sign of diversification from the main body of the tired-ass, living-in-the-80’s metal genre.” I’m still not sure if I’m going to accept my apology.

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #19

Deathboy

Music To Crash Cars To
(Wasp Factory Recordings)

Pop Will Eat Itself was probably one of the most influential industrial-rock bands to ever come out of Britain. With a signature, though ever changing, sound, PWEI forged a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten. And, when they collapsed, they left a mutually unforgettable hole in music that may never be filled. Deathboy makes an honest attempt to change that.

Echoing the tone of Clint Mansell’s vocals from earlier PWEI, Scott Lamb (AKA Deathboy) leads an electro-industrial-rock assault on the common clichés of the British techno-industrial musical machine. Sure, coming from a rave/techno background, Deathboy features a few VNV-esque touches, but nothing so prominent as to take away from the well-tempered guitar-fuelled electro that the band pumps out. Where PWEI was more of a hybrid, with touches of funk, rap, and reggae, Deathboy is what it would sound like if Clint’s current electronic experiments also featured vocals and more accessibility in songwriting. The main flaw, though, lies in the vocals. The songs are mildly stunted by the lack of vocal range displayed. Great pop touches are often held back by the inability to deliver power to the voice during choruses, a trait shared with Mansell that Clint knew how to overcome through mild changes in vocal tone, though Lamb still needs some time to grow into his vocals comfortably.

And the songwriting itself is very enjoyable when not being dragged down by difficult lyrics. Many just lack the comfortability of seeming genuine, even if cliché, and Lamb (and his lyrical cohorts) often resort to easily written and overused rhymes, ridding themselves of meaning or complexity in favor of ease. The sheer banality of a song like “Decimate”, which could be good with different lyrics, would drag the whole album down, were it not for the grace with which the calmer melodies of “Parasite” and the synthpoppy dancability of “Change (Apocalypse Remix)” are deftly handled. Other tracks like “Hellisontheway” and the static drums of “Killer” show great promise that has been so far undiscovered in this artist, who has released a half dozen albums free online (though this is the first available for sale).

With some more thought, a little fine-tuning, and more of the wit that I know Lamb possesses, PWEI’s hole might be filled yet. Check out more from Deathboy for free at deathboy.co.uk.

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #19

 

Industrial/Coldwave Demo Reviews

I have a deep love for music and writing, so I leapt at this assignment when it was offered. I’m not extremely limited in my taste, but this is where most of my favorites lie: industrial/coldwave. Vig gave me the Faith No More shtick: “it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.” But I figured a leap into the muck of the underground to dig for gems would be exciting, if not funny. It’s not quite as funny as you’d think…

My first foray into the demo pile was to draw out The Chaos Engine, which was a fantastic find that totally coincidentally segued into a proper review, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for details, but, from that point on, it was mainly downhill.

Next I pored over db9d9’s self-title demo album. db9d9 was a band that I had been familiar with from an appearance on Re-Constriction’s Nod’s Tacklebox o’ Fun compilation and the fact that they were the only thing mildly enjoyable about the Jacob’s Ladder rip-off, Soul Survivors. I had been interested in hearing more of their music, so was delighted to receive their demo, some of the best electro-rock America has to offer, possibly along the lines of a more aggressive and coldwave Final Cut. This band is deserving of more recognition and the only department I feel they lack in is the vocals, which could really use a polish or a new vocalist. Hopefully there will be more from this band soon.

Curiosity overcame me and I was forced to dig into a demo EP by Estrogenocide, featuring such classics as “Kick That Cunt In The Cunt” and “Your Bloody Anus Makes Me Laugh”. At first, I was fully ready for whatever horror would be unleashed upon me, but it turns out it wasn’t nearly that bad. M. Hymson, a former member of Dystopia One, created this project to vent misogynist rage in the form of grindcore-meets-synthpop songs that could have been constructed on a cheap Casio. At first I thought it was one of the worst things I had ever heard, until I realized that it was actually supposed to be funny and began to revel in it. It’s silly, it’s vulgar, but that’s the point. So, if you don’t think Cannibal Corpse songs performed on a child’s toy keyboard, blending one into another, with monotone vocals ala Bryan Black are funny, well, then you probably shouldn’t bother.

Then, things turned ugly: I inflicted the incompetent demo CD by Iconoclast on myself. If ever you see mention of this band again, avoid them at all costs. There is precious little industrial, coldwave, or enjoyable about anything this band has done. If you hear otherwise, assume that the person purveying this nonsense to you is a pathological liar and they are trying to kill you. The hand-scrawled “© 2000” on the top of the CD-R implies that someone in this world might be crazy enough to try to copy the stylings of this horrid, growling, inept thrash-metal band with a keyboard and drum machine, an assertion that I refuse to believe. Thankfully, I have seen no evidence that they any longer exist. If I believed in justice or a loving and merciful God, I would have much cause to be thankful.

Cut from a similar cloth, Torso’s demo CD synthesis is a mediocre cross-breeding of metal and industrial, occasionally featuring some fairly decent programming backing metal riffs and growling metal vocals that ruin everything they touch, like some kind of deranged King Midas that turns things to raw sewage by direct contact. Most of the material is a whole big bag of ‘suck’. The back of the CD tells half-truths by printing “INDUSTRIAL PRODUCT: KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN.” Don’t believe the first half, but please keep this music away from children and anyone else you would prefer to keep as a friend or associate. Horrifyingly enough, one member of the previously six-man band is still trying to write music and keep the band alive. If evidence of new music from Torso drifts out of Arizona, be sure to immediately report this knowledge to the Department of Homeland Security.

I was accidentally sent a demo earmarked for the techno/EBM reviewer by experimental-goth-avant-garde artists Skuzzy Cable called Deep-raved! Some scars will never heal. It was one long, continuous droning amount of noise, throughout. Not like power noise, like listening to your computer’s cooling fan for an hour. Something about it made me think of Snog. I couldn’t tell you what it was, as Snog is good and this was ambient electronica spiced up with bits of world music, jazz, and house. It really didn’t go anywhere… To call them “songs” would be a blatant lie or exaggeration, as they seemed to follow no particular structure, meandered toward nowhere, and the word “song” seems to imply joy, an emotional release, a communion with the artist, an expression of views… This album induces sleep. And self-hatred. That’s about all I could gather from it. The only thing less enjoyable I could imagine would be their live performance.

I contacted goth-industrial band Suture Seven regarding their release I had been given and they promptly gave me a fresher album to peruse, which is in their benefit. Their latest release a.stitch.to.mark.the.wound is quite a bit more enjoyable, having a few more hooks and a more refined sound than their previous effort Aversion. The music, by a former member of Advent Sleep, is high-quality goth-industrial-rock, dark textures in amongst the programming, sequencing, and grinding guitar lines. The greatest flaw in both of their releases unfortunately lies in the vocalist, whose lyrics are fairly clichéd and uninspired, his voice weak and uninteresting, his style lacking the hooks to make any of the songs particularly catchy in any way. Theirs is an effort that I did not entirely enjoy, but has a lot to offer to those who look for a goth edge to their industrial music. To be constructive, if more of the songs had the drive and energy of “Whores” and “Secrets”, the album would be much more of a success. When they lay down the electro-industrial-rock, they do it right. Just stay away from the spoken word pieces, guys.

Swedish industrial band Lithium delivers a three-song sampler that is actually quite good. The music is solid. The vocals are decent, especially considering the fact that they’re not native English speakers. It comes off like a downbeat version of Idiot Stare with some pop touches. I’ll be glad to finally hear the fully completed album that these songs come from if ever I can find it in America. Keep an eye on these fellows, though. They’re not brilliant, but enjoyable.

Signal To Noise, not to be confused with the former oft-mentioned-in-IndustrialnatioN industrial band or any one of the other half-dozen bands that use that same name, writes songs that are too dumb for me to comment on. I’m not sure if they still exist anyway. It would be a good thing for everyone if they didn’t, with songs like “Drugs and Candy” and “White Horse God”. In fact, most everything on their “We’re Here To Help” EP seems to deal in some childish way with drug usage. For such intellectual fare as this, I recommend taking up skeet shooting. God forbid I ever come across these simpletons again… Anyone who has heard this CD that would like to help start a class-action lawsuit, should feel free to contact me.

The first batch sifted through, I hope I have left you wiser, with a few warnings and a few bands to watch out for. Hopefully, the next batch will be a little fresher (and palatable)…

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18

Penal Colony

Unfinished Business
(DSBP)

Those who actually remember Penal Colony from the olden days of industrial-rock, when Cleopatra was strong, Metropolis didn’t exist, and Re-Constriction was more than just a fond memory, will probably remember them as a punk-industrial outfit, disappointing to most for not being “industrial” enough, more enamored with the Front Line Assembly remixes of their music than the originals. It was a band that wrote harsh downbeat punk music with a sample-and-sequence-laced edge that was hard to get into, but, once familiar, was truly great music for those not over-enthused with the wholly electronic.

Well, you can forget those days… Everything you didn’t like or didn’t quite grab you about Penal Colony is gone. Years later, singer D Madden returns alone to deliver an album that stands to rival anything else heard this year by those who can see more promise in industrial music than Skinny Puppy and VNV Nation. “Unfinished Business” takes those same Penal Colony punk undertones, strips them of their dark grime, and instead creates a paranoid electronic science fiction masterpiece, dragging you for 12 tracks (plus 2 remixes) through the gutters and alleyways of D Madden’s brain.

Where once there were an abundance of live instruments interspersed with samples, there is now a heart and body of sequencing, strong electronica-style drum programming, and cutting guitar lines, with the same familiar vocal style of the previous incarnation, possibly more frenetic and obscure, but with more hooks and catchy choruses than ever. It may not be totally impressive at first, but with every consecutive listen it drags you back, always ready for more. No song ever gives too much of any one thing. Never is a song too guitar-heavy or too electronics-heavy to not be enjoyable to any person. I could name the good points of the album’s tracks, the highlights, but I would only end up telling you about every track on the album and run completely out of adjectives.

Every song is worth listening to and nothing can stand out as a highlight when each track is just as enjoyable as the last. I don’t think I can give better praise than to say that I’ve listened to this album at least once a day for past three months straight and I don’t think I’ll stop anytime soon. Envision an album that makes you forget about how redundant and cliché the old guard of industrial rock has become, forget how most of the good synthcore and coldwave bands have moved away from all elements that made them “industrial”, forget how most people would rather have rehashed 80’s new wave music in the form of “futurepop” than to try something truly new and revolutionary. Imagine all this, then listen to “Unfinished Business” and watch it all come true.

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult

Golden Pillz: the luna remixes
(Sleazebox/Underground Inc.)

We all know that Thrill Kill Kult isn’t the most “industrial” band anymore. They’ve been toying with more techno and dance sounds over the years, from the disco of “Sexplosion!” to the straight-up ’50’s kitsch of “Hit & Run Holiday”. But since “Industrial” is in the magazine’s title (and since that’s what I prefer to listen to), let’s take this review from that particular angle.

“A Crime For All Seasons” was a major change for the TKK. It was a return to a very industrial style for the band, brought back guitar into the mix, and was their best work since “Confessions Of A Knife”. Their follow-up, “The Reincarnation Of Luna”, was very similar, but the tone was more dark and electronic than the previous album. It was more of a culmination of all the styles the band has encompassed over the years, from retro-trash disco to electro industrial-dance. So to follow this successful creation, the first release for their new label, they decided to produce their first remix album.

Now, like I said before, I’m an industrial fan. And I did enjoy “Luna” very much, though not with the thorough ferocity of “A Crime For All Seasons”. So it was with great disappointment that I listened to “Golden Pillz”, a collection of dull techno/house re-creations and bastardizations of previously good songs.

Vermyn (of Eat Static Productions) starts off the proceedings by turning “Temptation Serenade”, formerly a hard electro-dance track, into wah-guitar-filled house music, something that you might hear at a very bad club on a night that you thought was industrial/fetish, but, when you arrive, you fine nothing but 4/4 house, guys in khakis, and spiky-haired, big-panted kids with glowsticks. A mediocre remix of the also mediocre “Asylum Disciple” chases on its heels, not really hurting my feelings nearly as much.

The “Silverado” remix of “Radio Silicon” by Diamond Galaxy is the first track actually worth notice and turns the only real “industrial” track from “Luna” into a fairly enjoyable, though minimalist, dance track. TRS-80, though sometimes experimentally interesting, can’t seem to make anything out of the not-very-interesting “Hour Of Zero”, one of worst tracks off of “Luna”. It only serves as an opportunity for him to add some weird effects to the vocal tracks and a bizarre breakbeat ending that comes out of nowhere to disorient and confuse the listener.

Laying across the middle of the album like a dead hooker are the incredibly uninventive remixes of “Girl Without A Planet”, “Flesh Playhouse”, and a remix of “Temptation Serenade” by Francis A. Preve that sounds like a bad Apoptygma Berzerk track (as if such a thing as a good one exists). All are about as interesting as a Tiny Tim ukulele solo, which, now that I think about it, would have been a nice touch.

Even the incredibly reliable and talented Julian Beeston turns in a lame and limp techno remix of “Radio Silicon”. It’s as if this album is actively trying to assault your senses with wave after wave of disappointment, redundancy, and mediocrity. And, as such, Julian’s folly is followed by weak and/or pointless remixes of “Asylum Disciple” and “Flesh Playhouse”, the latter by Diamond Galaxy, ruining whatever credit they received for their earlier “Radio Silicon” mix.

Buzz McCoy manages to turn in two fairly cool remixes, giving a totally different spin to “Jungle Of Love” and “The Untouchable Class” (which is unfortunately tarnished by badly effected vocals). Juttajaw’s “Hour Of Zero” remix tries to ruin whatever momentum Buzz has created and Bill Van Ryn closes the album out on a totally decent but uneventful note; maybe I’m just imagining it’s better than it really is because that means the album is over and I can take it out and throw it back to the obscurity of my CD collection.

Regardless, not a CD to be listened to by anyone but fans of the TKK who happen to be techno-kid, glowstick-bandying, raver house-junkies.

(Sleazebox Records, P.O. Box 608215, Chicago, IL 60660)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18

The Chaos Engine

Escape Ferocity
(Wasp Factory Recordings)

The greatest flaw in logic regarding music is that every band must be new, fresh, original, and brilliant. This is a fallacy. Clichés in music are almost unavoidable; a good band makes you forget about those clichés while you’re listening to their music.

The Chaos Engine is just such a band. Combining hard (but synth-y) guitar riffs with electro programming and impeccable vocals, “Escape Ferocity” is a perfect example of The Chaos Engine’s body of work. Having existed for some years in Britain, but receiving virtually no notice Stateside, the time is ripe for this band to break out on our shores. If only some American label or distributor were smart enough to pick up The Chaos Engine’s backcatalog from their label Wasp Factory, started by the singer/programmer to showcase The Chaos Engine’s talents. One could take my statements for meaningless hyperbole, but this truly is one of the best CD’s I’ve had the luck to come across in years. It combines some of the minor elements of a band like VNV Nation with the songwriting structures and guitar sound of a band like Gravity Kills and creates a really great synthcore band in the middle, just as good for the rivet-metalhead’s stereo as the DJ’s dance floor.

If you’re scared off by the mention of “corporate” industrial, guitar, or music that might not help your status as an elitist, don’t look into this band. Anyone who can accept an electro-industrial-rock band with a great pop sensibility is urged to search this group out.

Every song is wholly enjoyable on this CD, with the exception of “The Guiting Power Institute For Supreme & Unnecessary Evil” (which comes off to me as a dull “Angel Dust”-era Faith No More song). Songs like “Nerve Opera” and “Naphephilia” show an ability to craft strong melodies and harmonize vocals, while songs like “Jesus Christ v2.0” and “Broken Children” show their ability to write a song that could get any crowd moving. And “Custom Built For Anger” is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a good while.

Of course, the album does have it flaws. Most prominently, the production quality is quite lacking. Sometimes it sounds more like it was recorded in 1992 than 2002. The mixing is weak and causes some elements to stick out in a bothersome way, while burying others amidst the noise. Certain songs sound as if all of the music is trying to fit out of one tiny speaker, the noises overlapping and turning into a dull rumble. The Chaos Engine could seal their status as one of the best acts today if only they’d raise their standard of production value and mix the album to be less… well, chaotic. Though don’t let this deter you from giving them a try. The songs may promise more than they deliver sometimes, but The Chaos Engine proves that they could take all the clichés of industrial-rock and repackage them as the album of the year.

(Wasp Factory Recordings, P.O. Box 270, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 9YE)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18 (2003)

Unit:187

Capital Punishment
(C.O.P. Int’l.)

After a long hiatus and band restructuring, Unit:187 has returned. Those familiar with their previous 21st Circuitry releases, especially “Loaded”, will find more of the same here, only in a more refined form.

Unit:187, now only John Morgan and Tod Law, is in a finer form than they’ve ever been in the production and programming departments. Dark and minimalist, though, it lacks the catchiness and easy enjoyability of their earlier works. Where is the “Lardass”, “Nobody”, or “Shitlist” for this album? The material, in general, doesn’t grab on and refuse to let go like it did on previous ventures.

Another obstacle for the band to overcome in their search for new fans is the fact that this is, essentially, a remix album for unreleased material. Included on this nine-song disc are Unit:187 originals of the dark and brooding “Angels”, the hip-hop-ish “Second Class Citizen”, the muted and atmospheric (though dancey) “Euphoria”, and the crawling rhythm of “Infested”. All the tracks are dirty electro with exemplary programming, though the vocals are so minimalist that it hurt my enjoyment of the album. Tod’s vocals are sparser than ever before, receiving almost as little time as the samples.

The other five tracks are remixes, one each of the songs “Second Class Citizen”, “Lust Poison #9”, and “Capital Punishment”, and two remixes of “Anger Management”. Hearing these tracks remixed by Chris Peterson, Anthony Valcic, and others only makes you want more, especially to hear the original Unit:187 versions, but none of that will be found here (though Unit:187’s website [www.unit187.com] promises that all the non-album tracks will show up eventually for free). Decree’s “Dry Heave Mix” drags “Lust Poison #9” through the mud, making the song sound dirtier and noisier than I could have imagined, having heard a clip of the original song. The Anthony Valcic-mixed “Capital Punishment” is enjoyable and shows what promise the song could have, but lacks focus and a real vocal track to add a spine to the song. The real gems of this album lie in the remixes of “Anger Management”, varying from a female-backed dirge to harsh electro goodness. It proves to be the best song out of the lot, for my taste.

All in all, the album (if you can really call it that) has its weaknesses: mainly brevity of material and a lack of Unit:187’s identity within all the mixes. But Unit:187 fans should take note, this band is back, harder and harsher, more grim and smooth than ever before. And it also shows a depth of growth in writing lyrics as well as music, as they’ve strayed from lyricising about inner conflict to take on a more overtly political stance. If they had only included all the original versions as well as remixes, this would have been a rival to the underrated “Loaded”.

(C.O.P. International Records, 981 Aileen St. Oakland, CA 94608)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18 (2003)

Various artists

Notes From Thee Real Underground: Volume III
(Underground Inc.)

Compilations are a hard sell… It’s all a matter of economy for the most part.

The sad fact is that most content on compilations just isn’t very good and you will likely have a hard time justifying a $14 CD purchase for 1 to 3 songs by bands you actually like, depending on the broadness of your taste. If you are in the market to try new things, then the compilation might appeal to you as a good means of sampling the widest array of new music, shy of cruising the cesspit of mp3.com in the vain hope of finding gold.

If economics is the main issue, then Underground Inc. has at least seen fit to tempt you with their “Notes From Thee Real Underground” bargain-priced compilation series.

Up to its fourth volume, “Notes” (and Underground Inc./Invisible in general) is an eclectic array of avant-garde alternative,industrial, and electronic music. The series may not sit well with the average rivethead and good music must be carefully picked from the piles of refuse that litter these (usually) two-disc sets. Volume III shows off some interesting tracks from the likes of old-school industrial-rock darlings Acumen Nation, slightly kitschy but enjoyable More Machine Than Man, incredible Devo impersonators Sump Pumps (my favorite of the discs), Eye Kandy, and Emergence. Sadly, much of the rest is wholly mediocre listening, with some contributions so offensive that I contemplated piercing my eardrums with a ballpoint pen. Avoid atrocities such as irritating hip-hop artist Myself, depressing alterna-rockers Goalie, the horribly cliché Flood Damage, and musically-challenged Things Outside The Skin.

Ask yourself, are two discs of new music worth the gamble?

(Underground Inc., P.O. Box 16008 Chicago, IL 60616)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18 (2003)

SMP

Terminal
(Underground Inc.)

Don’t get me wrong… I like SMP a lot. I mean, “Terminal” was, for me, the best album of 2000. Unfortunately, this is not “Terminal”. This is, in fact, a “Jason Bazinet’s greatest hits” album, collecting songs from “Terminal” and “Ultimatum”, as well as new tracks, “Acid Drop” and “Analogue Assassins”, from the “Notes From Thee Real Underground” series.

In all fairness, it isn’t quite right to even call it “Terminal”, as it contains only 9 of the original 17 tracks, having trimmed out everything touched by Sean Ivy after his departure from the band and replaced them with some of Jason’s favorites from the past two albums. A fantastic and well-balanced electro-punk-rap album now sounds very hollow in its new form.

I understand the need to release an album that you can tour behind and Underground Inc. is a great opportunity for SMP’s music to finally see daylight. And I admit tracks like “Chemicals”, “Pictures Of You”, and “Megaton” still satisfy, but this is a case of insufferable revisionist history. It doesn’t seem right to finally offer fans easy access to your album nationwide, but make no attempt to tell them that this isn’t the album they think it is. And without upbeat tracks like “Policy”, “Dirt”, “Anthem”, and “Mothkiller” on this “improved” album to balance out Jason’s more downbeat industrial-rap, this “Terminal” is inaccessible.

Fortunately for fans, ADSR Musicwerks still has copies of the original version available.

(Underground Inc., P.O. Box 16008 Chicago, IL 60616)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #17 (2002)