49 posts

Nightwish – Century Child (2002)

Nightwish - Century Child (Cover)The fourth Nightwish studio album sees two significant changes. Firstly, an actual orchestra is utilised for the first time. Previously, symphonic elements were largely derived from Tuomas’s keyboard stack. Secondly, Sami Vänskä has been replaced on bass by Marco Hietala, who also becomes Nightwish’s first official male vocalist. His rock-god tones are a good contrast against Tarja’s classically-trained style (particularly in ‘Dead To The World’), though it must be said that our leading lady puts in a more ‘measured’ performance throughout this album – there’s less of the explosive bombast of previous recordings. It’s a matter of taste which style any one listener may prefer. All of this makes for an album that sounds more mature, but often darker and more introspective that previous works.

Early tracks such as ‘Bless The Child’ and ‘End Of All Hope’ may echo of the Nightwish of the last two albums (though ‘Bless The Child’ certainly benefits from the orchestral backing), but many of the songs steer clear from the more obviously power/symphonic hooks. They try a little hard on ‘Slaying the Dreamer’ to go for a full-on power-metal sound and end up with something structurally confused and lacking any real impact, but they return to form come the album’s conclusion with a surprisingly effective cover of Andrew Lloyd-Webbers ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ followed by their biggest extended-length ‘suite’ to date in the form of ‘Beauty Of The Beast’. Compositions such as these generally don’t have impact of other songs but nonetheless showcase Nightwish’s ability to move beyond the structural confines of a rock song. All of this makes for one of the more interesting Nightwish records – it might not be to the tastes of all their fans, but nonetheless is indicative of progression.

Icon Of Coil – The Soul Is In The Software (2002)

Icon Of Coil - The Soul Is In The Software (Cover)The EBM/synth-pop/trance crossover sound practised by Icon of Coil now has it’s own categorisation – future pop. Whilst the term was originally intended to describe the output of VNV Nation and Apoptygma Berzerk (the influence of both still very evident here, of course), it seems to fit the sound of Icon of Coil even better. This is, after all, a form of ‘pop’ music (it’s way too melodic to pass itself as industrial anything), admittedly a type of befitting a futuristic culture full of robots, computers, Access Virus synthesiers and clubs full of cyber-chicks with day-glo hair extensions. The album does seem to get off to a shaky start, though, with opener ‘Thillcapsule’ (preceded in the track listing by the pointless 27-second ‘Comment’) sounding directionless and confused, pointing up rather that offsetting the doggerel-like lyrics.

Luckily, the album gets up to speed soon after this is out of the way, with the centrepiece undoubtedly ‘Access and Amplify’, the hard beats and trancey stabs an affirmed call to arms for the worlds glowstick-waving population. ‘Other Half of Me’ also succeeds along similar musical lines, whilst ‘Disconnect’ makes a better job of the harder-edged beat concept that they overplayed on ‘Fiction’ from the debut. My personal favourite is ‘Stimulated’, the impassioned closing number which stands out as one of the most ‘purposeful’ Icon of Coil songs to date, a welcome development for a band whose lyrics can often seem quite vague. Not that things like that matter when the drinks’n’drugs are flowing, the glowsticks glowing, the lights are shining, the smoke machine is billowing and this Norwegian trio are proving the soundtrack.

Fear Factory – Concrete (2002)

Fear Factory - Concrete (Cover)Technically, the first Fear Factory album, though would ultimately be the last of those released from the original line-up. Really of interest to those into Fear Factory’s death metal roots, as there is little of the polish heard on their later releases, though it’s also significant as an early production effort of Ross Robinson (later to become a legend in his own right). Early versions of ‘Self-Immolation’ and ‘Big God, Raped Souls’ are the key area of interest – unfortunately, the best songs even from ‘Soul of a New Machine’ were written after this album was recorded. The demo-level recording quality and a number of songs which seems to be little more than thrashy, growly bands workouts keep this album firmly in the ‘curio’ category.

Diary of Dreams – PaniK Manifesto (2002)

Diary of Dreams - PaniK Manifesto (Cover)This is a seven-track EP, though one consisting entirely of exclusive tracks rather than remixes (it thus may better be regarded as a mini-album). It is perhaps most notable for the three songs that stand as the some of the most club-friendly Diary of Dreams tracks to date. The klaxoning lead synth and urgent drumming ‘PaniK?’ is rather more attention grabbing than your average Dream sequence, whilst the sinister whispered repetition of ‘Never go, Never Let Me Go’ in ‘Soul Stripper’ works well as a refrain to hold the whole piece together.

The other dance-friendly track is the synthpoppy ‘The Scream’, though this song is fractionally weaker due to a synth lead that sounds just a little too cheesy to be in keeping with the sinister atmosphere of the rest of the CD. The remaining four tracks are lower-key and more typical of what we have come to expect of this project, although some well-structured melodic piano and synths help ‘Drama’ to stand out. The only weak track the album is the closing number ‘Monsters and Demons’, to dependent on electronic texture and overly-melodramatic vocals. The CD as a whole is still a quality product, by no means the ‘Freak Perfume’ rejects some may have expected, and hence should be picked up by anyone who’s enjoyed this bands more recent albums.

Diary of Dreams – Freak Perfume (2002)

Diary of Dreams - Freak Perfume (Cover)The follow-up to ‘One of 18 Angels’ had a lot to answer to, and in some respects it almost lives up to it’s predecessor. The album opener ‘Traum:A’ (how’s that for a bit of bi-lingual wordplay?) sees us straight back on familiar territory with the horror movie samples, eerie piano and cathedral-sized rhythms. From there it’s straight into ‘The Curse’, a pulsating electronic number, a (dis)missive from the tortured to his torturer and a surprisingly catchy song to boot. Continue reading

Wumpscut – Liquid Soylent (2002)

:Wumpscut: - Liquid Soylent (Cover)This is simply a compilation of the CD’s ‘Deliverance’, ‘Ich Will Dich’, ‘Totmacher’ and ‘The Remix Wars’. The first CD is the more interesting of the two, containing everything except the ‘Totmacher’ mixes. There’s some reasonable versions of ‘Deliverance’ (including a slow, symphonic-style cut) and the ‘Slut Remix’ of ‘Ich Will Dich’, that cuts out many (but not all) of the porn-movie styles that many found off-putting, although the other remixes are noticeably weaker. The ‘Remix Wars’ features three :W: songs remixed by Haujobb and three Haujobb song given the Rudy treatment, which will be of interest to those into both acts, as the remixes are reasonable enough, but as we all know, Haujobb remixes are ten-a-penny in this scene.

The second disc contains 10 mixes of ‘Totmacher’ from the now-deleted double EP (including contributions from Suicide Commando, VNV Nation and Covenant) plus the ‘Grave Digger Party Mega Mix’ from the ‘Boeses Junges Fleisch’ limited box. It’s a pity the couldn’t have picked a better song to remix. Some of the remixing artists have some interesting ideas on how to rework the guitar sample of the original, but few seem to have any desire to keep the original song intact, which is just as well. Perhaps the biggest surprise is a power-noise style remix from VNV Nation, which was probably assembled by Ronan to prove he has versatility, safe in the knowledge that he couldn’t be accused of spoiling a great song.

VNV Nation – Futureperfect (2002)

VNV Nation - Futureperfect (Cover)Exploring the concept of ‘retro futurism’, this CD sees VNV further leave their EBM roots behind as they continue to lead their own self-penned ‘future pop’ movement. The punchy ‘Epicentre’ get things off to a strong start, whilst lead single ‘Genesis’ makes all the right noises (even if you find the biblical theme somewhat off-putting). The real highlights, however, are ‘Electronaut’, an intensely catchy and remarkably well-developed trance-styled Schaffell number that’s easily their best instrumental to date, and also ‘Beloved’, a slow-building epic that eventually grows to an awesomely uplifting climax.

Other points of interest including the piano ballad ‘Holding On’ and ‘Structure’, the only real concession VNV have made to the distorted beats of the power noise scene. The album does slip up in places, though – ‘Carbon’ is nicely textured but meanders structurally, whilst ‘Fearless’ is a little too simplistic lyrically. The weakest song of all is the concluding track ‘Airships’, which hovers aimlessly like the mode of transport indicated in the song title. These three tracks shouldn’t deter you from buying the album, however, as the good far outweighs the bad.

Tactical Sekt – Geneticide (2002)

Tactical Sekt - Geneticide (Cover)Having released his first album as one-half of Aslan Faction the previous year, Anthony Mather switches to his solo project for his next full-length release. Of course, it takes some careful listening to really tell between the two, perhaps with the exception of a mean BPM increase of between 10 and 20 (depending on which songs you are comparing), which generally results in the project sounding slightly less like Suicide Commando and slightly more like Hocico – a dancefloor friendly Aslan? Less stomp, more pulse!

With pounding kick drums, relentless throbs of synth, the occasional sample or melody, topped off with vocals distorted to the limits of intelligibility. And often beyond. With no lyrics provided in the booklet, you’re hard pressed to work out what Anthony’s on about. Johan Van Roy of the aforementioned Suicide Commando makes a cameo appearance on ‘Damage Limitation’, though his influence seems more apparent on the lead synth than the vocal. All in all, it’s a fairly average album for the genre. The sheer ferocity may impress some, but measured alongside other albums from similar artists, it seems to lack character.

Sulpher – Spray (2002)

Sulpher - Spray (Cover)Industrial metal hasn’t had a good press in recent years, not helped by the current status of the scene’s leading lights. NIN seem to be on another long hiatus, Ministry have spent the last decade trying to regain their lost brilliance, Gravity Kills and Orgy have failed to live up to their early promise and the rest just aren’t industrial any more or aren’t any good. The way is thus clear for a new band to step into the breach and seize the glory. Are Sulpher the band to do it? Continue reading

Suicide Commando – Anthology (2002)

Suicide Commando - Anthology (Cover)With four studio albums, a number of singles and EPs plus a large number of compilation contributions, it was seen fit to assemble a 2CD Suicide Commando anthology. The first CD covers the ‘hits’, taking what are believed to be the finest tracks from this projects releases to date. The fifteen tracks chosen are not listed chronologically, so early, rather primitive sounds tracks such ‘Never Get Out’ and ‘Necrophilia’ sit alongside achingly well-produced industrial floorfillers from the ‘Mindstrip’ era. This makes it harder to judge the musical progression of the project, but at the same time a CD containing ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Love Breeds Suicide’, ‘Better Off Dead’ and ‘See You In Hell’ might still be a very useful acquisition for those relatively new to the brutally harsh, chilling variant of EBM developed by Johan Van Roy. Continue reading