If ‘Oceanborn’ marked the point where Nightwish realised their true capabilities, ‘Wishmaster’ is where they well and truly indulge themselves, and for that matter, their fanbase. Their mix of power metal, virtuoso keyboards and a lead soprano takes a step into the realms of pure fantasy, to the extent a couple of the songs are based on the Dragonlance novel series. One such song is the title track, which explodes with a magical energy every time Tarja chants ‘Master! Apprentice!’ and suchlike. The only track to place itself fully in a real-world context is ‘The Kinslayer’, a stirring account of the Columbine murders. Continue reading
The first Icon of Coil album might be classed as EBM by some, but the degree of influence from genres such as trance, techno and synth-pop is such that such a classification actually seems to be rather far-fetched. There’s obvious influence from fellow Norwegians Apoptygma Berzerk, as well as the increasingly ubiquitous VNV Nation, although Icon of Coil have enough ideas of their own to avoid being accused of being a blatant rip-off. Andy LaPlegua’s vocals are relatively competent (considering he was previously a hardcore punk vocalist), although lyrically he tends to alternate between a rather catchy turn of phrase and a rather nebulous collection of lyrical snippets that masquerade as songs.
‘Regret’ is probably the most successful track here, getting the mix between hard beats, synthetic ear candy and song structure just about right. Other dancefloor-friendly offerings include ‘Former Self’ (my personal favourite in a lyrical sense) and the hammering finale ‘Floorkiller’. There are a couple of slower tracks of interest, including ‘Down on Me’, reminiscent of Underworld’s more subtle moments in both an instrumental and vocal sense, as well as the Computorgirl-sung ‘Situations Like These’. They do slip up on occasion – ‘You Just Died’ is just tedious, whilst ‘Fiction’ represents a weak attempt at a harsh distorted-beat concept which comes over as a clumsy attempt to keep at least some of their elitist industrial credentials intact.
The very epitome of Diary of Dreams numerous achievements, ‘One of 18 Angels’ is an 11-track journey through a world built from the very darkest electro-gothic landscapes imaginable. Constantly lamenting the futility of our lives, questioning every aspect of our existence, this uber-gothic mope-fest succeeds because for once EVERY song makes a mark. There is no filler, no never-ending darkwave epics (which have sometimes worked in the past, but more often do not). Musically, the project has now perfected it’s use of electronic rhythms as the driving force, supporting by haunting keyboard textures and occasional use of guitar, the latter often switching from the reverb-heavy trad-goth style towards snarling power chords, an astute stylistic switch given the increasingly rhythmic nature of the music. Continue reading
Blutkind is a 2CD compilation of :Wumpscut: archive material, reviving tracks from the demo tapes ‘Small Chambermusicians’ and ‘Defcon’ along with previously unreleased material, as well as two new tracks to sweeten the package. It is one of these new tracks (‘Hang Him Higher’) that proves to be the collections highlight, the delicate strings and synth chimes giving way to a robust industrial stomp, the resultant combination proving more successful than anything off his previous album ‘Boeses Junges Fleisch’. As for the arcive material, whilst there are a few early versions of well-known :Wumpscut: tracks (including a pointless instrumental of ‘Soylent Green’ but also an interesting take on ‘Default’), the bulk of the collection is made up of tracks that never made it onto any of the actual albums. Continue reading
Whatever Suicide Commando were hinting at on ‘Construct Destruct’, they well and truly deliver here. The seething layered of ‘Jesus Wept’ sets the seen, only for the listener to be utterly blown away by ‘Hellraiser’. Taking the concept of a crushing rhythm (with a kick drum resembling a bomb going off every beat), scathing vocal and a horror movie melody to it’s absolute limit, this track exemplifies everything Johan Van Roy has been trying to achieve since he programmed his first drum loop. If that was not enough, he pulls of the trick a second time in the form of ‘Love Breeds Suicide’, an intricate chime motif buried under an all-conquering synth lead.
As well offering more effectively structured songs than any of it’s predecessors, there is also more variation in mood (at least as far as such an act CAN vary it’s sound), the klaxon-like ‘Raise Your God’ sandwiched by two slow, heaving compositions in the form of ‘Body Count Proceed’ and ‘Mind Stripper’. Conversely, ‘Comatose Delusion’, one of the more melodic songs here, appears between two tracks (‘Run’ and ‘Blood In Face’) where the blistering mechanised rhythms dominate all, though in the context of the album, these two tracks ultimately rank amongst the albums less memorable.
By the release of ‘Pure’ in 2000, Gary Numan was well on the way to his artistic recovery. His two previous albums, ‘Exile’ and ‘Sacrifice’ had gone down well amongst his own fan base (even though neither album did that well commercially), and the man himself had admitted that he’d rediscovered his true creativity, having left behind his PPG funk noodlings of the 80s in favour of a darker, less pop-oriented outlook. What he really needed to do now was create the album that would cement in all the changes he’d made, and prove to the world that he wasn’t dead yet. Continue reading
A perfunctory ‘alternate version’ spin-off from ‘The Fragile’. The remixes are interesting in some respects, but most of them stink of self-indulgent ‘how fucked up can we make this sound?’ musicology. Three mixes of ‘Starfuckers Inc’ all fail to retain the primal fury of the original, whilst the mix of ‘Where Is Everybody?’ seems to want to shed as much of the original song as possible, though the live string mix of ‘The Frail’ is at least worthwhile. The cover of Numan’s ‘Metal’, however, is excellent, Reznor really getting into this well-performed tribute to one of his key influences.
The fourth full-length album from Marilyn Manson, a return in part to the abrasive industrial metal sound of Antichrist Superstar, particularly on lead singles ‘Disposable Teens’ (which is VERY reminiscent of ‘The Beautiful People’) and ‘The Fight Song’, It still bears the more melodic subtleties of Mechanical Animals in places, most notably on ‘In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death’ and ‘A Place In The Dirt’, both of which are very reminiscent of the ‘Alpha’ tracks from the last album. The strongest song overall is the unusually melodic ‘The Nobodies’ – allegedly a Columbine tribute (allegedly as the same has been said of ‘Disposable Teens’), though the most profound lyrics can be found in ‘Lamb of God’ – a critical looks at the concept of ‘matryrdom’ and the glorification of ‘celebrity’ deaths.
It’s also the most ambitious Manson album to date in terms of scope – nineteen tracks (with some versions adding a bonus track or two). This is also in some respects it’s weak point – the album just drags on for a little too long, lessening the impact of the later part of the album. Regardless of the strengths of the actual songs , the magic touch that made the last two albums so cohesively brilliant seems to have been lost – the last seven tracks seem confused and directionless in particular, just alternating loud and quiet material until they run out of CD. That’s not to say it’s a BAD album as it isn’t, it’s just with a little more quality control it could have been better still.
In Strict Confidence finally come of age on their third album – what the first two albums promised, this one delivers. Their dark electronic industrial sound has shown real refinement since the first two albums, best exemplified on ‘Zauberschloss’, the rhythms and ascending synth melody set to a backdrop more resembling a dark dungeon than a hi-tech industrial studio. They’ve come close in the past, but Dennis Ostermann’s project finally has it’s first outright anthem. The project has also found room for development in other areas – both ‘Heaven Is The Place TO Be’ and ‘Kiss Your Shadow’ make good use of guitar samples (though in the latter case, it’d still be a damn fine song without them), whilst the synthpoppy ‘Silent Memorial’ introduces female vocals to the project.
There are also the two parts of ‘Spread Your Wings’, alternating murmuring synth sections with Aphex Twin style beat rushes, with some choral elements somehow squeezed into the mix. Even when they go for a more straightforward melodic EBM/darkwave sound (as on ‘The Truth Inside Of Me’), they still usually manage to pull it off. Whilst the album does start to lose some of it’s focus towards the end, it’s not nearly as anti-climatic second half of ‘Face The Fear’. Whatever way you look at it, this project is definitely a sizeable step forward for the ISC project. It’s their first really ‘complete’ album.
‘t’ is a double-disc offshoot from ‘Maschine Zeit’, containing a series of remixes plus ‘Subspace’ and three other unreleased tracks. It’s puzzling why they spread it across two discs when all the tracks would have fit onto one, but I guess they have their reasons, beyond confusing the listener as to whether this thing counts as a double EP or an album proper, of course. ‘Subspace’ is the best of the new tracks, a tribute to online first-person shooter games. It’s on the poppier side of the Vogt spectrum, but it’s enjoyable enough. The remainder of the new tracks follow a similar musical path, but measured alongside Funker Vogt’s album tracks of the time, they’re still nothing really special.
The majority of the remixes are in-house reworks by Gerrit Thomas. He offers four ‘Maschinen’ mixes, representing a harder industrial sound, plus three ‘Traum’ mixes, which go for a dancier, synth-pop concept. All these mixes are fairly linear, not really advancing far enough from the originals. There are three ‘external’ mixes at the very end of the set. Das Ich’s version of ‘The Last’ is disappointingly pedestrian by their standards, though Beborn Beton’s breakbeat remix of ‘Under Deck’ is at least distinctive, whilst L’Âme Immortelle’s ‘Bunkerromnatik’ downtempo, piano-and-string based mix of ‘Black-Market Dealers’ is probably the strongest mix on offer here, the only one that does anything radical with the original whilst keeping the original song intact. It’s a patchy collection, all in all, best left to those fanatic Funkers who seem to lap up everything this band produces.