Everybody who witnessed a concert by Cologne Black-Metal-masters Ultha knows that this was more than an assembly of musicians who work for a common goal, or a common sound. It was a kind of vision of what music should be able to do – including helping its human sources get rid of some feelings. Music from the heart and for the heart – if you want to find out more about that check out “The Inextricable Wandering”. Now two of the Ultha -boys have founded a new band called Ropes of Night and the quintet has published their first EP in mid-May via Golden Antenna Records. This is not black metal but glorious post-punk and thus it follows Ralph’s love for that glorious early 80s sound that was driven and melancholic, dark and stellar at the same time. All of this can also be heard on this self-titled debut 7inch. “Halo Cage” is a bit like Joy Division bit with more grit and bit and really takes off into one’s ear canal never to leave it for quite some time. “Faith” is a bit noisier and has a kind of shoegazey feeling to it, which might be a bit like Jesus and Mary Chain. Charming is the voice of vocalist Tatjana who sounds like an 80s pop idol on the right side of the musical spectrum. Both tracks could be leftovers from any of the good ole days when music like this was steaming hot and before it was turned into the poppy mess called New Wave or New Romantics. If you only want blastbeats and screaming, then forget about Ropes of Night; but if you liked Ultha for the underlying emotional darkness – this is your new go-to-band. They have that certain something “more”.
post metal / black metal
For a long time now, lots of metal and post-metal bands have been proclaiming their love for the Deftones as they were the one band amongst the NuMetal-wave of the late 90s that had a more diverse sound. This influence can also be heard when listening to the self-titled debut by Endless Forms Most Gruesome from Finland. The duo consisting of Ghost Brigade’s Manne Ikonen and mastermind Juuso Raatikainen (Swallow the Sun) plays a harsh, blackened kind of post-metal that fits very well to this day and age as they are afraid to first run over the listener: Opening track “Black Hole” sounds more like Full of Hell collaborating with KK Null in all its direct, noisy attack. But after this quick clearing of space in the audience’s ears they spread their filthy, yet sometimes experimenting post-metal. And here the Deftones definitely come into play: EFMG are not as groovy as the usual NuMetal-clones but they rather make use of the Sacramentonians’ experiments with sending singular guitar lines through the songs. This way, the Deftones were able to incorporate a kind of soulfulness and lightness into their sound which EFMG also tries to establish. Or they use some gentle picking over a soft string arrangement in “Free Fall from Womb to Grave” just before they riff their way through the rest of the song and show Juuso’s roots in doom metal. A promising debut in all its low-tuned, upwards-thinking, lyrically-miserable glory.
punk / death metal / black metal
Karloff from Oldenburg, Germany have listened to some Stooges and Blue Cheer, but also some classic old school death metal stuff or stuff like Bathory. The punk thing is the first thing that strikes, listen to “Fright Fever” for example. High speed octane stuff, very much like New Bomb Turks or Turbonegro with a drummer releasing his inner Animal – remember the Muppets? But that would indicate a certain non-committing to their own ideals which is definitely wrong because Karloff is not one of these Motley Crue wannabe-bands. The guys from Northern Germany take their music seriously and that is probably the biggest difference to guys like Hank Van Helvete, they are no novelty act. The blackened vocals show despair and often blend seem like a mix of classic early hardcore shouters and black metal singers, sometimes even being close to thrash metal. The excellent riffing and precision make for a force to be reckoned with.
shoegaze / doom
Lyon, France is known to be a tasteful town. With newcomers Hadewijch a new chapter seems to be added to the former culinary capital of the world. One that doesn’t known boundaries or limitations – at least, not many. It’s not that they seem to have no musical boundaries, because they do perform within the frame of doomy post-metal. But they seem to have a very open-minded mindset as they want to show the possibilities of musically transcending the bodily realms, just like a good herbal therapy. This can also be noticed when listening to their debut-EP which is one, single track – but 19 minutes long. In that time, you can hear a lot of doomy but also noisy shoegaze elements that will help you find some positive vibes for your life. You might hear some Neurosis or My Bloody Valentine, to give you an idea that might push the comparisons a bit too far. The trio is not yet on the level of the bands mentioned, but they are quite good and for a debut, this is promising quite a lot. It will be interesting to see with which noise they follow their herbal and musical theory; nevertheless, they give you one more reason to think highly of the tasty town Lyon.
It can have various reasons why bands split up – personal tensions, the death of a band member or different musical directions. When you listen to Fotocrime’s second full-length record “South of Heaven” you can guess that the break-up of his colossal not-to-be-named hardcore band was because of the latter. This record is pretty far away from hardcore in a sense that R. is not screaming on this record and neither is the sound gritty or dirty. This follow-up to 2018’s “Principle of Pain” is polished in a positive way.
The ten tracks span 44 minutes and there is not one minute on it in which you will not move your feet – sometimes involuntarily. The drums are clean and sharp and together with the nearly funky bass you have a rhythm section that is right up the sleeve of anyone who likes to dance to his indie songs or anyone who likes the dance-able New Order-tracks more than Joy Division. His deep and sometimes maniacal voice is so nicely melancholic and on point that you see Nick Cave running into your favorite underground club, hitting some buttons on the jukebox; then shaking his song to an unknown early Bad Seeds-song when he was still a punk at heart and not yet the magical crooner.
"This is a record for late night drives, a soundtrack for headlights illuminating the horizon," R. says and man, it is easy to imagine all of us driving along empty metropolitan highways in the middle of the night on a regular Tuesday night when no one is out on the streets listening to this record. The drums which are synthetic and spreading so much energy will keep us driving a few miles above speed limit. An individual Ryan Gosling in “Drive” or a youthful Bruce Willis in “Fifth Element”.
R.’s voice is unique although it will remind those of us who are into German punk of the 90s a lot of Marcus Wiebusch of But Alive and Kettcar. He is straight-forward in his delivery but never sardonic which is important because an unemotional presentation would only result in too much sterility. This way the voice keeps it all together, whether it is the mentioned rhythm section or the nice guitar-work which of course doesn’t focus on riffing but rather on stacking licks and dots onto the synthesizers. Even though he sometimes pulls one on you and gives you a tiny bit of dirt and grit.
If you are into post-punk and 80s wave in any way, this record will make you very happy as you will get a perfectly balanced record and a voice to die for on top. If you know R.’s former band and hope that his debut was a one-timer and he will return to punk and hardcore with his sophomore record – well, then this will be a disappointment.
“Old ways won't open new doors.” Everybody can agree on that, probably. Cemented Minds from Caen, France, certainly will. The fourpiece shows their willingness to walk with an open mind and ear through new doors on their debut EP which was released in Mid-December by several European labels. It is pretty remarkable that the band consists of members of former hardcore and screamo bands like Amanda Woodward or Nine Eleven because their “new door” is post-punk. Not necessarily in the classic Joy Division-sense but rather in the cocktail meshed up by adding equal measures of early Midwestern Emo like Mineral and some bass-heavy European bands like Buzzcocks or the melancholic Siouxsie and the Banshees. Their open-mindedness becomes even more obvious when listening to the well-sung clean vocals which singer Camille never showed on any of his former releases – because he had simply never tried before Cemented Minds.
Something that is clear is that “Old ways” are not necessarily negative per se – sometimes a good knowledge of your instruments and how to get the ideas you have on tape. And that is definitely the case with these newcomers, as you hear in every single note that the four have a thorough background that enables them to also perform outside their box.
Interesting is the fact that this debut sounds like straight from an 80s Brat Pack-soundtrack, with the bass driving the midtempo songs but never suffocating the crisp drums and the guitars rather playing high singles than harsh riffs; nevertheless the lyrics also display an interest in the melancholy and sadness that some of those early post-punk bands so special – gloomy but never suicidal – think about “Seems like we’re on the same boat. The sinking one” (from “Mean Enough”).
A new post-punk band connecting former hardcore fellows showing the shared love for the “old” genre. Their way of walking through their own new doors will be loved by lots of people who have always loved the melancholy and the drive, the anger and the fear.
darkwave / post punk / goth rock
The Arch are without a doubt more popular outside their home country Belgium, some call them the best kept Belgian secret. VIII / XII is the third release since their comeback in 2011, containing a compilation of songs which were dropped monthly one by one during the year 2018. The four headed band wrote, recorded and mixed each song before starting on the next one. A diversity of music styles was folded together into twelve touching pieces of music.
We can’t deny that the sound of The Arch is recycled from the legendary new wave bands of the eighties and a lot of listeners will call this a copycat. Well, the music is far from original but the passion and ambition shows itself after a few attentive listening parts of this album. Fresh and merrily sounding guitar riffs with sensual synths convey a romantic pop sound without losing the gloomy atmosphere. The lyrics have a darker tenor than the music, which is very admissible.
The band is thirty years active, they started as friends, they disappeared, they came back and sound mature and better than ever. They flirt with gothic and indie rock that tinge their balanced (post) new wave style. On the folk inspired Cadaver synod, the band got the vocal cooperation of Blaine L. Reininger (Tuxedomoon).
Hopefully this hard working band gets more attention from the Belgian music lovers. Their deep weaved reflections of this world deserves to be heard. We needed to put some more energy in this album to get deeper but it was worth. Good music doesn’t always trigger the mind immediately. Depending on which medium you choose, the VIII stands for the number of tracks on the vinyl edition, the XII for the CD version.
darkwave / post punk
The man behind Such Beautiful Flowers is Donny Woestenborghs, front-man of the European hardcore punk outfit Midnight Souls. While the rest of the Midnight Souls members formed the shoegaze, dreampop band Newmoon, Donny Woestenborghs chose the path of synthesizer orientated dark wave.
Neon Gloom (available on tape and CD) is a debut EP with four strong tracks reminding us of the Belgian EBM giants Front 242 and The Neon Judgement. The pumping beats and brimming industrial synths create a sensation of a frigid postmodern world. Donny Woestenborghs wraps himself in sombre voiced lyrics. His fierce vocals and screams faded away in the past with this new aspiration now coming to the surface. Track four (Smile) is a slower piece of dark romanticism drenched in sad vibes.
Neon Gloom can be the starting point for an exciting and promising future. A new generation of interesting Belgian dark wave artists is bubbling up. Such Beautiful Flowers is definitely one of them. The dreary and machine-like atmosphere on this four track EP triggered us to dig further in the Belgian cold and dark wave garden. We would like to hear more of this in the near future.
industrial / darkwave / experimental / post punk
Cascades are falling down, a constant repetition of collapse. A motif found frequently in music, soundwise, in the lyrics or the music itself. Lots of artists from blackgaze to classical use it. Additionally it is found in visual arts or modern literature and over the last few decades has been connected to a critique of the present in order to change something about the future.
A new artist from Pennsylvania uses the image of collapse and a future uncertain combining it with a sonic landscape taking its bits from shoegaze and ambient, from noise and industrial. Lunacy‘s debut album Age of Truth (after releasing four EPs since 2016) is indeed a challenge to the ear but a very thoughtful one. The idea behind the record is obvious after a few seconds already because after a short lush intro the near-ambient mood is disrupted by harsh industrial marching drums. We are drawn into a world beyond Blade Runner and before Mad Max, a place where the constants of past, present and future might either still be possible or already obsolete.
The musician behind Lunacy tries to remain unknown (which can also be seen when looking at the record covers on which he becomes more and more of a blur). He does so not for his personal privacy but to render a blank canvas in order to give the listener the chance of projecting his own interpretations of and ideas about the music and the future, our planet and life in general – maybe even about the future of the future. What if our industry and society will collapse and with it the hope of changing the course of human (interference with) life on this planet? What will happen to “the future” if the end is coming, if the facades of humanity collapse and we will face the industrial downfall and machine-driven end?
Musically, Age of Truth combines his vision of a post-apocalyptic, post-human industrial age with
the help of Connor Clasen (IXVLF) recording the album and Oliver Ackermann (A Place to Bury
Strangers) mastering it. Sometimes you hear breakbeats, distorted vocal chants, shoegaze moments like that Ackermann is famous for. The foundation for this experimental electronica is a kind of 80s industrial soundtrack stemming from the use of synthesizers from that era which were then combined with several layers of guitars. Whether Lunacy is igniting a new phase of music-making for the first century after mankind or whether he is developing a new form of shoegaze is up to the listener, however it is clear that as an artist he achieved his vision clearly for the album transports us to a different place and time. Age of Truth will be released by Parisian label Third Coming Records on November 22nd
shoegaze / grunge / post punk / noise rock
It’s that special sound of the guitar strings that makes shoegaze so unique – that moment when the pick hits the string and then the sound starts winding its swirling way up the long, thick metal cord. Something similar can be said about the significance of those same strings for a grunge song, albeit here the sound is not winding up slowly and seemingly winding along even after the end of the neck, in many grunge songs the sound is pretty short but robust. You can see the difference clearly when listening to “Loveless” and then to “Nevermind”.
Rarely a band comes along that denies its allegiance to one side or the other, which merely says “Hey, never mind being loveless!” Timelost is one of those rare bands and at the same time they are more. Another example of 2019’s singular position among recent decades when it comes to new sounds and combinations, just think of Witch Trail or Jambinai.
So here Timelost are, now entertain us. The first song already transports a similar vibe - “You’ll never know / How strange I feel / It comes and goes / It’s always there” is a laconic take on a broken relationship and the time lost becomes its drive impersonated by the energetic drums and the quick guitar lines that seem to reach for something beyond its origins. Singer Shane Handal mentions that this is some kind of ongoing motif on the album – relationships and loss, “It’s weird to throw yourself out there to the world and be so vulnerable but it felt honest and real. We wanted to put out a genuine record from the music to the lyrics.” There is something in those good and simple, yet exquisitely shoegaze-grunge songs that goes straight to the heart and makes us want to embrace this duo for all it’s worth. Maybe it’s something like the outro of “Nausea Curtains”, where a few harsh hits on the drum kit end a line of reverberating guitar twists, and the semi-acoustic guitar intro to the following song “Don’t Remember me for this”, where the acoustic-ness is then substituted for some swishing rides of the shoegaze riffs up the neck of Handal’s guitar.
There are some clearly grungey moments on the record like the intro to “The River broke us” which sounds like a meeting between Kurt Cobain’s neck and Dean DeLeo’s strings. This record is much more than one part Set and Setting (Handal) and Woe (drummer Grzesiek Czapla) – it is neither and stands within a new sound realm, one it draws the listener to. Timelost are here to entertain us, no matter the melancholic mood they were in when writing the record, these eleven tracks spread loads of warmth.
new wave / gothic / darkwave
Already ten years active and entertaining the Belgian Post-Punk and Gothic scene, Der Klinke releases a compilation of their work called Decade. This summary is a time line containing remixes, cleaned up versions and two new songs. The CD version includes the story of this interesting band.
The band name ‘De(r) Klinke’ (doorknob) has its own history. A small garden house without a doorbell of the parental home of Geert ‘Chesko’ Vandekerkhof was a gathering space where you could just step in by simply using the door handle. This man cave was soon called De Klinke.
The musical path of Der Klinke is one of progression. Der Klinke formed in Ostend Belgium started to play music inspired by cold wave and electronics but slowly created an own stubborn and modern twist in their darkly music. Curtains and Bridges are new songs and show the deep influences from the Sisters and Front 242. Both songs are strong and filled with dark atmospheres.
Cult hit The Doll sounds still timeless. The compilation has no weak songs and the remixes sound remarkably good. Der Klinke celebrates with glory their musical career. Gothic and dark wave lovers just can’t walk around this album. The mood on Decade is filled with ten years of gloominess, dark dancing tunes (The Doll and The facts of Live remix) and post punk vibes.
This selection of songs is dope. We can’t get enough of these wild and varied sounds of Der Klinke. Decade is available on CD (limited edition 300 pieces) and vinyl (only 100 pieces). Do not hesitate to grab this Wool-E diamond. Instead of chasing shadows we are chasing the sounds of Der Klinke (again).
industrial post wave
Almost two years ago, I ended my review for the debut album by This Can Hurt with the words: "This is another example of Belgium's talent, unique but familiar and always intriguing. I'd like to see this live one day, preferably very soon..."
Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to witness these guys yet but judging from this album, a tour is inevitable. Once again This Can Hurt has unleashed something intriguing. 'Worlds Apart' is another excellent statement about crossing genre restrictions, creating emotional alternative music and having great songwriting skills.
Initially founded as an alternative rock outfit for Ray-M, This Can Hurt quickly developed into a unique entity in the darker regions of the rock industry. The band seemed to nudge towards gothic rock and post punk acts while also incorporating electronic elements from trip hop and industrial. At first glance, 'Worlds Apart' follows the path of its predecessor. The broody elements are still present, making most of these songs ideal for the darker dancefloor, where Sisters Of Mercy, Joy Division and Nine Inch Nails invite you to shake your hips.
But This Can Hurt has also grown over the past few years, and that results in a mature sound and several possible fan favorites. Title track 'Worlds Apart' is one of those and so is the infectious 'Rivers Run Deep'. The latter even brings Evergrey to mind, a melodic metal band. Thing is, with 'Worlds Apart' This Can Hurt tries to appeal to a broader audience. Yet, I didn't expect them to delve into the metal scene. But then again, dark rock and dark metal are very close together, just ask Trent Reznor.
My DJ-mind tells me that 'The Fall Of Mark E. Smith' will mix perfectly with 'Lucretia My Reflection' by Sisters Of Mercy. I'm going to try that out soon. Fact remains, this tune is massive, a certain dancefloor filler, even with the somewhat unusual vocals. And that goes for most of the tunes here. There is still something familiar, something from the dark eighties, but This Can Hurt adds a unique identity to their music which sets them apart from pretty much all other bands. This is the beauty of stubbornness, walking your own path and creating something brilliant.
'Some Days' is the track that mostly nudged towards trip hop, until the guitars come in. The focus here is mostly on straight forward rock music. Electronics seem to have a smaller role, which actually improves the whole thing. I think that's where the mature sound comes from. 'Diane' drives on a harsh electronic bassline but here too, the guitars eventually take the upperhand. The rest of the songs are up to you to discover. If you are a fan of dark rock music, this album definitely deserves a spot in your collection. I know, it's already a massive collection but still, I just know you will enjoy this.
alternative rock / post punk
Aurora is an album released in the end of September, by Belgium alternative rock band Slow Crush. Almost thirty-five minutes long, the record has eight tracks: Glow, Drift, Tremble, Shallow Breath, Aid and Abet, Collide, Beached and Aurora. Already in the first song, the fabulous, fantastic and thunderous Glow, the band struck precisely the epicenter of the most dense, infamous and great standards of melodious heaviness, with powerful guitar lines and absolutely furious drums, eager to completely destroy and dilacerate all the decadent patterns of normality. With a formidable level of sonorous audacity that highlight their authorial musical strength, Slow Crush is an exceptional band, that goes directly to the point, and knows how to make a great record, with a somewhat simple, but efficient musical formula.
Despite the fact that the band rapidly alternates to a more modest, quiet and sentimental tone, the sound of Slow Crush can generally be qualified as moderately aggressive and rude, but even then, delivers with candid and methodic proficiency its sincerely humane sonorous graciosity. The album delivers mostly splendid cantilenas, with more quiet, poetic and charismatic passages, where the extensive serenity of an emotional density hits the harmonies, favoring quite a balanced and versatile musical universe to the audience, that certainly will be surprised all the way through, as the album isn’t monotonous nor predictable. The subtle change in tone from the tracks at the beginning, that are more aggressive, contrasts brightly with the rest of the album, that is definitely more philosophic, dense, emotional and serene – though this mood interchanges occasionally –, and the unexpected element is one of the greatest triumphs of the group.
With a marvelous sonorous style, that definitely enchants by the fragrant tenacity of its beauty, the flavored and colorful harmonies that Slow Crush delivers in Aurora are generally quite slow, aggrandizing and simple, but in the end, the group showcases all the beauty, elegance and effervescent grace of its marvelous sonorous tonalities, that juxtaposes the sentimental placidity of its musical nature, with its more hostile – though filled with the emotional contrivances of a lyrical sensibility – perceptions of the world.
In the end, Aurora reveals itself to be a very good and majestic album. With a very personal, precise and characteristic style, the group has definitely conceived a very peculiar work of art, that deserves to become a reference in the alternative underground rock scene.