"No, nobody can own me.
This is my only authority.
My, my body is mine - to poison.
It is my gift for the killers to cut open."
-- Unwoman, "For the Killers"Artist(s): Unwoman
Album: The Fires I Started
The recently released album by the Bay Area's own Unwoman, cellist and vocalist extraordinaire. My Thoughts:
A little dark cabaret, a little steampunk, a little political, a little electro, a little mythic, a little academic, a little war-torn, a little romantic, and a whole lot of wit, Unwoman
(a.k.a. Erica Mulkey) can only be described as an entity of innumerable and far-reaching talents.I actually regret to
say that I only recently
allowed myself to fall prey to her musical charms. To think of all the time I've clearly wasted!For those who haven't heard Unwoman's music before... well, she's fairly difficult to pigeon-hole, to be honest (see above). Obviously, there's all that cello, sometimes with languid electro-synth tracks and other times with harsh heavy beats mixed in to add to the other-worldliness... Or perhaps "other-timeliness" is a better description. Meanwhile, her vocal stylings occasionally remind me of Miranda Sex Garden's Katharine Blake
, but with less ethereal, fairy-tale subject matter and more heavy-breathed, film-noir allure
.Ultimately, this inability to pin her down is one of the things I like best about Unwoman's work
so far. To call her fascinatingly anachronistic would be fitting - if only one could tell which direction
and how far
she has been displaced in time, so that we knew whether to mourn for a past forever lost or to yearn for a future we shall never see.Highlights: The Fires I Started
is a rich tapestry of aural delights. Picking out a few individual pieces on other albums is usually a good way to get a feel for the artist. But, in this case, each piece is a thing unto itself - highlighting one or another feels almost counterproductive, misrepresenting the immense range that is the complete album.Of course, that is unacceptable; thus I shall endeavor to represent some of my particular favorites well and, hopefully, entice you, dear readers, as I have been enticed.
"The Future, the Boot" - Drawing its inspiration (and its chorus) from Orwell's infamous quote about the future involving "a boot stamping on a human face - forever", this jaunty tune plays with the idea of turning the other cheek and making beauty from horror in an attempt to subvert the assumed inevitability of such a future - "when life throws you sarin, you sing a sweet serenade
", she trills wittily. Of course, even our singer seems to question whether this will really be all that effective in changing anything, asking "is there something bigger to believe in - to unite us under
- A poignant song of disappointment, it tells the tale of a war-time performer awaiting her beau/belle to appear at her underground performance in a locked-down city (I always imagine somewhere in WWII Nazi-occupied France in my own mind's eye, though the actual location is never said). The desired, though, never arrives, leaving our heartbroken performer to recognize that her beloved is either "a coward or could never love me or you have fallen to the enemy
" - none of which, understandably, console her. All the other guests have appeared - but not her lover, who has, in one fashion or another, failed her."Siren Ship"
- This piece, ostensibly about a defenseless treasure ship inviting pirates in order to entrap them, strikes me as a witty and pretty sea shanty. Of course, its elegant and cunning innuendos suggest a devious and extremely sensual (no, really, this song seriously turns me on
) metaphor concerning a seductive and supposedly vulnerable beauty who lures her lovers to their emotional ruin. "Your type can never resist my call. I have been so many conquerors' downfall...
"Star-Crossed" - This is one of the pieces where Unwoman's vocals seem most reminiscent of Katharine Blake. Elegant and slightly static-y, it has a fuzzy, unreal quality - as if playing from a dirty disc on an overused Victrola. I'm still not entirely sure what the song is about - or if it's about anything at all, really. But there's something about it's lilting, dream-like ambiance and soldierly drum-beat that really flows through the listener.Final Thoughts: The Fires I Started
is a mix of so many different elements that it defies any true classification and certainly anything resembling convention. A gem of independent music-making, it is atmospheric, alluring, and highly addicting (I suggest that Unwoman be forced to put warning labels on it).If you don't believe me, go to Unwoman's website and listen to this or any of her other albums she has there for free.
She also subscribes to the "pay what you want" model of music-vending, meaning that if you want to own some of her music and are a little strapped, she'll generally accept what you think is fair for most of her albums (and she doesn't skimp, either - other than the "singles", most of her albums seem to sit at a solid 15 or 16 songs).I, of course, recommend throwing as much money at her as you can manage, either for one of her albums or during one of her crowd-funding endeavors.I also recommend attending the CD-release party for the Fires I Started on Wednesday, Sept. 19th, 2012 (that's in two days, my darklings)
, so that you can see this siren perform in person. Details to be found HERE
.-- Mr. M.
"Some are born mad.
Some achieve madness.
Others have madness thrust upon them."
-- Emilie Autumn, "Girls! Girls! Girls!"Artist(s): Emilie AutumnAlbum: Fight Like a Girl
That glorious goth-pop deviant diva strikes again with her latest album release.My Thoughts:
I was first acquainted with the music of Emilie Autumn sometime back in 2010 with her Opheliac
album that sort of took the goth-pop world by storm.The best way I've been able to describe
her singing is: "she's what you'd get if Tori Amos and Annie Lennox had a mad-science love-child who would occasionally forget everything she'd ever been taught about singing and musical theory from her mothers."And once I got to see her perform live, I realized I needed to add in the codicil of: "Oh, and she studied performance and art at the University of GaGa."
While you might think
that these sound like criticisms, they're really not. I honestly consider them to be some amazing endorsements (especially considering that I put so much time and thought into trying to conceptualize that whole origin story in my head... I don't spend this much time thinking about things I don't really enjoy).
So with the release of Fight Like a Girl
, I was pleased to see that Ms. Autumn kept enough of what attracted me and so many others in the first place to maintain a sense of musical continuity. But I was also pleased to see that she delved into even deeper and darker territory than she did in Opheliac
. She's embraced the "Victorian mad-woman" persona, and, while the extremity of the topic might appear
dated, much of it is actually quite a timely criticism concerning the still-rampant stigmatization of women and the mentally ill despite our supposedly "modern sensibilities".Though that might be me reading entirely too much into the motives of someone who just likes to make beautifully dark and disturbing music.Highlights: Fight Like a Girl strikes me as almost a concept album, in the vein of Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime and Styx's Kilroy Was Here. There's a distinct sense of there being an underlying story to the progression of the music throughout the album - though the actual story itself isn't entirely clear. Of course, that sort of makes sense when we're talking about madness and insane asylums, so maybe it really is a concept album in the true sense and I just haven't listened enough to really pick it out yet.
My favorite selections from the album consist of:
"Take the Pill" - a slightly industrial piece channeling the most "Annie Lennox" elements of Ms. Autumn's musical persona. Some pretty intense targeting of the modern "pill culture", highlighting the growing "take this mind-altering pill to treat the side-effects of this other
psychotropic pill" and the lack of questioning of the so-called "experts" who just keep prescribing more medications."Girls! Girls! Girls!" - No, this isn't a cover of the classic Motley Crue song of the same name (though, I'll admit to hoping for that a little). More of a carnival-esque ditty mocking of the
old "circus freakshows" with the "freaks" being women committed to an asylum for things ranging from actual mental illness to such troublesome issues as free thinking and sexual desire (the deviants!
).Final Thoughts: A fine album taking
a darkly sarcastic poke at a lot of truly disturbing topics. As I mentioned before, there seems to be a highlighting of some still extremely
archaic views in modern culture concerning women and mental illness.That being said, Ms. Autumn doesn't let the subject matter interfere with the wit and elegance (and sometimes shock) of her presentation.
So if you really enjoyed Opheliac
but wanted a little more coherence, Fight Like a Girl
delivers a much more solid and still darker presentation than the previous album. Which, being me, is exactly what I was glad to hear.P.S. Emilie Autumn is performing in both Oakland and Sacramento in October (the 17th and 18th, respectively). It looks like the regular pre-sale tickets are sold out, but it seems some of the VIP packages are still available for those with unnatural urges (and enough spare cash). Check out the One-Time Events page
for a link to get the most updated details.-- Mr. M.
"It's in my destiny to be the savior.Ever the harbinger, never the creator."-- Everything Goes Cold, "Monsters of the Modern Age"Artist(s): Everything Goes ColdAlbum: vs. General Failure My Thoughts:
I first got the chance to hear Everything Goes Cold when they opened for Dismantled at the DNA Lounge back in August (link to that post here
). I enjoyed them enough that I picked up their album from the vending table before leaving that night and have been listening off and on since then.(An aside: Oddly enough, that was the same night I met Nero Bellum/Marshall Carnage, who actually co-founded Psyclon Nine alongside EGC's frontman Eric Gottesman... and a few days later, I met Josef Heresy - the other founding member of Psyclon Nine. I'd say: "Weird", but I get the feeling that it isn't really - the scene is close knit enough in the Bay Area that
this is just sort of par for the course around here.)
What I like most
about EGC is the intense sense of the absurd
to many of their tracks. Songs about ex-girlfriends stealing time machines to erase your existence and buddies hawking each others' organs to finance a used van really play to a niche that I didn't even know ever existed - a kind of Industrial-Punk-Dysfunctional-Comedy, if you will.Even the non-overtly funny songs seem to carry a strong sardonic streak, but don't let that fool you. EGC has somehow managed to still sneak a bit of pathos and social commentary into all that cynical humor.Highlights: The entire "vs. General Failure" album
is fairly solid, with a heavy industrial beat, an oft-grim humor, good sampling from unused sources (believe me... there's a growing overlap of samples these days), and a clean sound uncluttered with extra noise.Among my particular favorites from this album -"
I’ve Sold Your Organs on the Black Market To Finance the Purchase of a Used Minivan" - Really, the name on the tin explains the subject matter quite clearly. But extra bits like the chorus of: "you're not worth enough to be sacred, all you're worth is my transportation!
" and "I'll have room for seven and you'll be saving ten. I can help your girlfriend move with your help!
" just hit it home if you weren't sure. A hard beat, heavy guitar, and Gottesman's sardonic vocals really give it all the edge it deserves."Ice Brigade" is pretty much a song for super-villains trying to rule the world.
"The forces of good will descend and obey. They are the reason and we are the way!" It's like Darth Vader got his own band... and ditched the re-breather (I mean, I bet that breathing issue would fuck up someone's ability to sing. Maybe that's why he was so pissed off all the time? He couldn't sing about his feelings.). Lots of heavy synth, an military-march cadence to the beat, and the warcry of "ICE BRIGADE!!" truly characterize this song about world domination."Bitch Stole My Time Machine" is the sad but all-too-common tale of the end of a relationship and the resulting inevitable urge of one party
to completely erase the existence of the other from the timeline
. Really, who doesn't
identify with this song (as either the aggressor or the victim)? A good taste of the guitar, strong symphonic elements, and Gottesman's strangely pathos-inducing lyrics combine amazingly well to convey a mythic tale of love-gone-paradox.I also really immensely enjoy "Fail", "Don't Quit Your Day Job", and "Monsters of the Modern Age"
- but I try to keep myself from raving about too many songs in one sitting. Better that you listen and hear the awesome for yourself.Final Thoughts: I enjoyed EGC when I heard them in person.
My appreciation of them has only increased as I've listened to and fully grokked their album.It seems to turn up on my MP3 player much more often than odds should indicate with all the other stuff on there (Gottesman evil plan involving MP3-player-hacking music-viruses coming to fruition?); and yet
I never skip to the next song.As I mentioned above, it's not your regular industrial fare. But if you like your music a little comic-bookish, a little coldwave, a little humorous, and a lot awesome, Everything Goes Cold serves up an amazing sampler platter of their range with "vs. General Failure".P.S. Before I go - Eric Gottesman is launching a new club-night at Cafe du Nord tonight
. I probably won't be able to make it, unfortunately (silly lack of planning on my part), but I suspect it might be fairly awesome and hope some of you other darklings can make it even if I can't.-- Mr. M.
"I don’t feel no remorse. And I don’t feel sympathy. Well I don’t feel anything, but, right now, I’m feeling you."-- Aesthetic Perfection, "The Siren"Artist(s): Aesthetic PerfectionAlbum: A Violent Emotion My Thoughts:
Aesthetic Perfection is another of those bands/artists that I learned about from Digital Gunfire Radio
, for which I cannot thank Shirow enough.I'll admit that I'm a bit behind the times, as this album's been out for a few years now. But that's okay, because it is 100% pure Grade A awesome. Brutal industrial beats, combined with a steady mix of distorted and un-distorted vocals
, and themes meandering between self-destruction, mutual condemnation, fairy-tale creepiness, and other strange and complex ideas - this is one of my go to albums right now if I want some solid industrial with intelligible and coherent lyrics that aren't
just about murder and unbridled aggression (I've got Dismantled and Combichrist for those)."A Violent Emotion" is just a really, really good "general" industrial album
that doesn't get too caught up in itself and provides a good mix for the aural palate.Highlights:
Honestly, I really
like every single track on this album. Daniel Graves did not waste a single jot
on half-assed filler-tunes or sub-par experimentalism of any kind.If I had to choose, I say "Pale" and "The Ones" are my two favorite tracks, but they've got stiff competition from everything else on this release."Pale" mostly because the subject seems to be one of emotional manipulation in the face of the search for truth, a particularly resonant topic.
The repeated chorus of: "And I'd lie for a chance to taste joy/And I'd die for a chance to keep going on..." just kicks home that sense of internal desolation and compromising of the self that comes with relationship dissolution. The song evinces strong upbeat techno roots, but without the dull repetition that plagues most techno - maybe synthpop might be a better term than techno then. Either way, it's still got an inexorable sense of accusal and despair in the lyrics to make it less hopeful than most synth- and future- pop."The Ones" strikes me as some kind of dark fairy tale version of the tooth fairy (in fact, it specifically reminds me of the little blue tooth fairy monsters from Hellboy: The Golden Army).
The whole song smacks of some kind of paranoid schizophrenic delusion after a week off one's meds. The creep factor is excellent, but that creepiness is accompanied by a solid industrial beat, a discordant "out-of-tune" synthesizer piano, and voice distortions that sound more like buzzing than a voice.Final Thoughts:
Definitely one of the albums I take with me everywhere - I literally
keep the CD in the car just in case my MP3 player dies so that I can keep listening to something on repeat that I'm unlikely to get tired of and switch out or have to repeatedly skip tracks on.
Seriously, it really is
that "all around" good as an album, with frequent mood changes - so whether you're a hardcore industrial fan or just someone who likes a little industrial while driving or playing video games, "A Violent Emotion" is a no-holds-barred win, musically speaking.In fact, I'd even say it's an excellent entry-album for anyone interested in learning whether they like industrial music.
Even if industrial isn't your thing, you're still
likely to find a couple of tracks you'll enjoy.Based on this album alone, I already know that I absolutely want to pick up
their previous album "Close to Human" (which I've been able to sample a little on Digital Gunfire) and their latest release from this year "All Beauty Destroyed". And I think that's probably compliment enough, all by itself.-- Mr. M.
"It is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection; through art and art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence."-- Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist (1891)
It seems some entries to my contact form are being routed to my spam folder by Gmail. And I'm not exactly
sure why, since Gmail isn't really all that consistent about doing this.So imagine my surprise when I realized and found a note in my site comments asking that I take a listen to an album... a note from the better part of a month before my buddy Draeden recommended that I start reviewing albums (to make up for my non-attendance at clubs lately).
It's like an awesome synchronicity...As such, with no further ado, I present my opinion on Infirmus, the new album by Suboculis, the local solo project by Dan Menapace (also of another local act, Kineto).Artist(s): Suboculis
(a.k.a. Dan Menapace
)Album: InfirmusMy Thoughts:
So the Infirmus
album is a short series of tracks consisting largely of a minimalist collection of rhythmic industrial noises, moody bass riffs, and some choice sound-bite samples.The guitars are highly reminiscent of Tool, especially some of the pieces from 10,000 Days.
The combination of the guitars with the rhythmic noise creates what could be a solid backdrop for either some hardcore industrial tunes or the background scoring for some dark-edged sci-fi film.Highlights:
I've only had the opportunity to listen to it once or twice, but I've already gotten a few favorites."Phobophobia" starts off with swamp sounds and a sketchy beat, only to whip out some thick and inexorable guitar about 40 seconds in, and then some intense electric sitar at around 1:30 that just oozes dark and sultry."Reset Node" starts off with some bits that sound almost sampled from an old Atari game. Then it kicks into a high frequency noise and an uptempo beat, again reminiscent of a video game, but with more aural depth.Finally, I really enjoyed the last track: "the Sludge Chronicles"
- mostly because it had a spoken track and vocalized chorus accompanying the noise and electric cowboy guitars. Makes me think, a little, of "Bad Things" by Jace Everett (yeah, you know, the theme music from True Blood
). Not too much... just something about the industrial cowboy edge to it all.Final Thoughts:
Ultimately, there's a lot of really neat stuff on the Infirmus
album. It shows a depth of vision and a width of talent on the part of Menapace (between his guitars and his noise-beats) that would make a concrete backbone to any industrial, gothic, or prog-metal band.If I have any complaint, it's due to my overwhelming need for lyrical expansion. In other words, not a fault in the artist, but in the listener and his (my) desire to add verbalized meaning to these intense tracks of awesome sound.The cool part is: you can listen to the entire album for free. Just head over to www.suboculis.com and basically listen to a free sample of the whole thing (and if you're interested in following Dan's work on Facebook, just go here).Seriously. I think you'll be impressed.-- Mr. M.EDIT: Dan just informed me that he's made
"Phobophobia" available as a free download on Soundcloud - so instead of just listening to it online, you can now put it on your MP3 player and listen to it ALL. THE. TIME.
You should be able to find it here
(though I seem to be having trouble accessing the site at the moment).
"But don't trust this skin,because I'm not a person.I'm a fucking disease."-- Dismantled, "Disease"Having made the scene such a central part of my life of late, I seem to have a rapidly growing set of albums that I'm picking up at live shows or from the internet or even, very occasionally, from a local retailer.And thanks to the life issues that have been keeping me from clubs and shows over the lat few weeks
, I've had a paucity of grist for the blog-mill. Then my friend Draeden
(webmaster of Songs of the Goddess
and a blogger on That Devil Music
) suggested, in his infinite Zen-like wisdom, that I start writing reviews of some of this music that has started to come into my hands.I feel kind of foolish for not having thought of that myself.So
here's the first of my album reviews -Artist(s): Dismantled (a.k.a. Gary Zon)Album: The War Inside MeMy Thoughts:
I was first introduced to Dismantled via Digital Gunfire Radio
(an excellent, and free, online station for industrial, EBM, and futurepop music).
Once I heard that Gary and his tour-band were doing a pair of shows in San Francisco earlier this year, I took advantage of the opportunity to see both performances (one at the Red Devil Lounge opening for Front Line Assembly and the other at DNA Lounge as the headlining band promoting their new album). I was seriously impressed in both cases and on the second occasion was able to pick up Dismantled's newest album: The War Inside Me
.The War Inside Me
is a solid piece of work, with most of the early tracks exhibiting a heavy industrial and aggro-tech sound and more than a little noise, while the later tracks sort of mellow a bit while still maintaining the mood. And speaking of mood: the entire album seems to carry an overarching theme of visceral self-loathing, sensual hedonism, and the urge to do gruesome violence. In many ways, the tone feels very reminiscent of NIN's masterpiece The Downward Spiral
, while still treading new, distinct, and oft-times darker ground.Highlights:
While I am quickly finding myself a fan of this entire album, some pieces do manage to rise out from the rest as even more excellent."Insecthead" moves with a frantic, frenetic, and buzzing beat, with the lyrics sounding like Kafka's Metamorphosis but gone all wrong
- instead of submitting to and accepting his devolution, the insect-headed narrator is going to "fuck my way out of this mess" and wants "your blood on my teeth"."Disease"
sticks with a solid industrial pace and is, perhaps, the piece most suggestive of Trent Reznor's early work - but where Reznor seemed apologetic, Zon comes across much more exalting and, at best, advising caution (as noted in the quote at the top of this post). He winds it up screaming an epithet, throwing any blame for his state on the unknown target of his vitriol.A few songs later, we get "Excess", which is about exactly what it sounds like: an epicurean gluttony of sensations taken to the point of self-destruction and oblivion - while the speaker's partner is forced to watch and deal with the fallout of these episodes to experience the singer's "love".
The fairly direct beat and repetition just reinforces the never-ending cycle of binging and co-dependent nihilism to which the speaker and partner subject themselves.At the end of the album we get "
Black Heart", a soft-spoken piano piece which strikes me as Gary Zon's loving homage to Nick Cave's darkly dreamlike Murder Ballads
.Final Thoughts: I'm not sure how I want to rate albums, given that tastes range so far and wide. A rating seems almost silly. Would I give something 5 Skulls?
I guess I'll figure it out eventually.Anyway - The War Inside Me is a top-notch album. If you like your music dark, aggressive, and very intense, Dismantled has served up a steaming plate of it.
Definitely a part of my regular listening right now as it fits my mood almost perfectly.-- Mr. M.