06 December 2017

Alternative Heaviness From Strange Corners #5

Featuring reviews of PORN, JAYCE LEWIS, PRIMITIVE RACE, POWERMAN 5000, PUNISH YOURSELF, GOTHMINISTER, TONY BYKER, INERTIA, SPC ECO.

I get sent such a lot of material and with my varied (and arguably too numerous) other endeavours I sometimes struggle to keep up. It is also a task to keep my blogs vaguely cohesive without flitting too wildly between genres. This time therefore, I have chosen to focus on some releases that would appeal to those who appreciate what might be termed electronic industrial and industrial metal.

PORN – THE OGRE INSIDE
French industrial-goth metal band Porn took their name from the Pornography album by Cure, which hints that there may be some gothic darkness to be found on this, their third album,’The Ogre Inside’. The album is apparently based on the sci-fi novel ‘Contoyen’ written by band kingpin Phillipe Deschemin, seemingly a man of many talents who is also a visiting lecturer in political philosophy, a journalist and publisher. The band are rounded up to a three piece with Mehdi Desoeuvre and Erwan Frugier.

Opening track ‘Sunset of Cruelty’ stomps firmly into the lime light, sounding not unlike fellow European industrial metallers Gothminister. It isn’t until I delve further into the album however that PORN reveal greater depth. ‘She Holds My Will’ immediately engages more with moody synths and melancholy vocal melody lines that have a result similar to the stylings of Stabbing Westward/The Dreaming. ‘Nothing But The Blood’ and ‘May Be The Last Time’ tread broodier paths, sounding at times like classic October Rust era Type O Negative. It all sounds well composed and produced. The album continues with its ebbs and flows, rockier one moment and moodier the next. ‘Death Does Not Last Forever’ is one of these moodier tracks and has an almost symphonic metal feel. PORN it seems like to leave the best until last though with tracks 8 and 9 being my picks from the album. ‘You Will Be The Death Of Me’ begins as a beautifully dark work of gothic power, before accelerating into a pummeling high tempo riff with just a hint of the more metal; moments of Killing Joke. The album closes with the title track which has a rather luscious synth melody and the catchiest guitar hook the album has to offer. It is a ballad of sorts but a thoroughly dark one steeped in all the creaks and groans a goth could want.

facebook.com/porntheband

JAYCE LEWIS – MILLION PART 1.
The rise of Mr Lewis has been an interesting and impressive one. This is the third album from the Welshman, if you include the 2014 PROTAFIELD ‘Nemesis’ album. Along the way he has been managed by Darth Vader, toured and collaborated with Gary Numan, worked with Steve Strange and played with Visage, and featured members of Queen on his albums. Pretty impressive really. We will have to wait until 2018 to see what Part 2 of this release will hold so for now we have the seven track release that is Part 1 to digest.

After the two minute intro / mood piece ‘Created By You’, attention is grabbed by the tribal start to ‘OrderArt’, The percussion is the driving force for this track though the chanted vocals work well, giving the track a feel of a more polished sounding Killing Joke. ‘Shields’ is next, the track released as a precursor to the album. This ups the tempo and has a nicely wicked bass/guitar hook. The verse segments are more restrained and melodic in a way we’ve come to expect and the quiet/loud dynamics of the track work a treat. Epic. By now I have noticed that Jayve has favoured keeping the level of his vocals well within the mix as opposed to up front and in your face. Personally I like this as it lets the other aspects of instrumentation ample time in the lime light. The title track has decidedly more menace about it with juddering rhythms and dense layers of synth pads, powerful stuff. ‘Line Integral’ settles for a less challenging 4/4 beat and a slightly more dance floor feel, and the time spent with Numan might have rubbed off resulting in the killer chorus. Penultimate track ‘Unfamiliar’ is a pensive ballad of sorts, swelling synths and keys underpinned by a minor key bassline. A track that smoulders rather than exploding, but this adds another dynamic facet to the album. Finally we have ‘We Are One’ featuring the one and only Brian May (!). Again, percussively heavy and rather catchy, it is a strong end to an album (or at least the first half of it) that will appeal to those who are already fans of Jayce Lewis, but listeners of Celldweller, Vast, Stabbing Westward, Gary Numan and so on would do well to investigate.

: JAYCE LEWIS :

PRIMITIVE RACE – SOUL PRETENDER

PRIMITIVE RACE first grabbed my attention because on paper so many musicians I respected seemed to crop up, including members of KMFDM, PIG, Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb, Pop Will Eat Itself and Combichrist. The music was pretty damn interesting too. Well they are back with a new album but there has been a shift of emphasis, largely due to the current cast of the band which now includes Melvins drummer Dale Crover and former Faith No More singer Chuck Mosley on lead vocals. Add to that the behind the scenes team of engineer Toshi Kasai (Melvins, Big Business) and
mastering by Maor Appelbaum (Faith No More) and things start to sound a lot more rock, right?

Right. This is in essence an alternative punk rock album. I think the groove of the industrial scene that lies in the past of key member Chris Kniker still shapes the sound but this album is a rocker. Every one of the ten songs has killer riffs and hooks. It is not a shouty album, no screams and howls, Moseley largely delivers his words in a too cool for school understated manner and this works a treat, making the album sound effortlessly likeable. I am conscious that I might cheapen this review by making the obvious comparison as the album is totally a sum of its parts, but the closest reference point is Faith No More, somewhere between ‘King For A Day…’ and ‘Album Of The Year’. The way the vocal harmonies, subtle as they are, weave around the chord changes is almost insidious, worming their way into your subconscious far deeper than initially suspected. Album highlights for me include the title track which harbour the deepest and filthiest croons of the album, the odd ball ‘Row House’ and the outright catchy ‘Cranial Matter’, though in fairness there isn’t a weak track here. A suave exercise in minor key doomy punk rock, somewhat like a collision between Deftones and Therapy? If you can imagine such a thing.

ADDENDUM. The day I after I wrote this review I heard the news that Chuck Moseley had passed away due to “complications arising from addictions”. This is indeed sad news, his voice was part of my musical landscape. If this is in effect his swan song, then he went out on a creative high.

POWERMAN 5000 – NEW WAVE

PM5K (see I know the lingo) are one of those bands I have always been aware of without having an intimate knowledge of their music. Hell I’ve even played their stuff when DJ clubs and rock nights, but I cannot call myself a dedicated fan. I’ve probably even been guilty of the sin when asked who I was playing by responding, ‘Powerman 5000, Rob Zombie’s brothers band’. Sorry. So here I am, reviewing their ninth album, while owning perhaps four of the others. So what to say?

NEW WAVE is a fun album. They’ve often been pigeon holed as part the industrial metal genre, I see only a little evidence of this here. This is a rock album with elements of metal and more interestingly punk too. One of those hints of industrial is to be found on opening track ‘Footsteps and Voices’ which stomps into play in a fashion not unlike his brother’s ‘More Human Than Human’ (sorry but it does!). However, very quickly Spider One’s vocals make the track his own with the barked chorus spluttered out twith a groove that has great effect. ‘Hostage’ is altogether more upbeat with its staccato riffs and high energy delivery driving it home. ‘Sid Vicious In A Dress’ is a 4/4 rock club friendly stomp but despite the title this isn’t the track that shows their punky side, that comes later. The second track to name check a fallen rock idol swiftly follows with ‘David Fucking Bowie’, one of the album highlights. Catchy as hell on it’s own, it is lifted another rung higher with its Space Oddity plagiarising interlude. Great fun. The punk I mentioned earlier shows it’s face truly on ‘Cult Leader’, though it does so sparring with a dose of 70s glam rock stomp. The result is a riotous three minutes of pogo friendly mayhem. Tongue firmly in cheek. A surprisingly delicate turn appears next in the form of ‘No White Flags’ which sees Spider One exchange is trademark bark for somewhat of a croon in a decent enough attempt at a ballad. If that was the albums tender moment, the band then get their big hairy testicles out for ‘Thank God’ which is exactly the opposite and perhaps the albums fastest moment. ‘Die On Your Feet’ is another one of those tracks that would be equally at home on a White Zombie record, it’s just got that swagger to it. There must be something in the blood. ‘Get A Life’ rocks solidly enough before the album closes with another of its strong moments ‘Run For Your Life’ which has enough cool hooks to land a boat full of fish, groovy and laced with a few more of synthetic hints. It really is a good album if you are looking for something to grab you by the scruff of the neck and shake some life into you. That’s what a feel good rock album should do isn’t it?

http://www.powerman5000.com

PUNISH YOURSELF – SPIN THE PIG

Punish Yourself, A French industrial metal band that have been doing their thanks since 1998 should probably be better known than they are. Live they are quite a spectacle and the music ain’t to be sniffed at either. Self described as “Fluo Cyber Punk”, the industrial punkers have dropped their new full length SPIN THE PIG.

Song titles might make Raymond Watts raise an eyebrow, or even both, ‘Pig Trouble In Little Schwiena’, ‘Hog n Magog’ and the title track all point to a porcine obsession, something that seems to crop up with fair regularity in the industrial scene and elsewhere in the music scene. One such occurrence would be ‘March Of The Pigs’ by Nine Inch Nails and that is a nice reference point for those wanting an idea of what to expect from this album. Crushing acoustic drums firing off at breakneck pace, wall of sound guitars, treated vocals and choice electronics bombard the senses track after track. A collision between My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult, KMFDM, mid era Ministry and ‘Broken’ era Nine Inch Nails would sound something like this. It is undoubtedly a thrilling listen and I would travel a fair distance to hear the likes of ‘Backlash’ and ‘Lo-cust’ played live. It is a good job that the songs are delivered with such venom and brashness as this does somewhat make up for a lack of originality, It feels like a blast from the past from the day when industrial metal emerged full of vitriol and controversy. The album is rounded of with a Sonic Area remix of the aforementioned ‘Lo-cust’ which gives their jagged noise a different twist. Fun stuff, if you’re looking for a band that is still thrashing them out like it is 1990 and the world is about to end.

TONY BYKER – CLONING FOR A BETTER TOMORROW

Who is this guy? I’ll tell ye! “Shape shifter and psychedelic axe guru with the now defunct but “near legendary” Gaye Bykers On Acid”, a quote stolen from google somewhere. What is this album? I’ll tell ye! It is ear candy my fine readers. From the get go this album engages.

‘A Wake’ is a bold way to start, a 12 minute opus, starting as punchy as heck, big bruising beats, a gnarly cut up guitar and a savvy vocal all glued together with groove with a capitol G. It then drops into spacey down tempo mode, trippy with spoken word musings before crashing back in for another round with the big beats. Rinse and repeat. ‘The Power Of The Possible’ carries things on nicely like a psychedelic Pop Will Eat Itself. The next two tracks expand into dubby and surreal realms but do not lose interest in the slightest. Conversely, it is the mixture of flavours on offer that make this album a winner, that and the sound that the production is sweet, fat and bass heavy where it needs to be and noisy in equal doses. ‘A World Gone By’ adds a summery 70s vibe to a brash indie anthem before things get weird again just for a moment before one of the album highlights crashes in. ‘The Good Stuff’ is a massive, swaggering piece of heavy indie, groovy, catchy and snarling all at the same time. Fellow highlight ‘One Vibration’ follows swiftly with an auditory explosion of throbbing synths and huge beats and another of those of so cool vocal deliveries, half spoken half sung and all funky. With these two highlights under its belt, you’d think that a brave 16 track album starting with a 12 minute epic might start to tire but it doesn’t ‘Be A Twist, Be A Koo Koo Sack Sack’ probably says everything in it’s title that you need to know. A thrilling ride of squelchy beats and mind altering synth bleeps kept firmly on track by the energy of the track. ‘Quantum Fearful’ adds a dose of lush strangeness to break the pace, acoustic guitars and strangeness that calls to mind Legendary Pink Dots. ‘Divine Master Controller’ gets fat again, albeit with a slower dub ska electro swagger. Cool as fuck. The album closes with ‘Antidote’, a feel good feel high collage of all of the albums oddness, funk and inventiveness. I’d recommend this album just because of the variety of sonic flavours on offer, but more so because it is just done so well.

INERTIA – ONLY LAW.

Inertia have just dropped their new album DREAM MACHINE, but it is the advance single ONLY LAW that has fallen in my lap to write words about. Inertia are one of those rare bands that have shown the ability to evolve, rise to challenges and, vitally, go from strength to strength. Anyone who has caught the band live recently will know they are better than ever on stage, they have upped their game, impressive for a band that have announced a 25th anniversary tour.

This release only provides us with one original track ONLY LAW backed with 7 other remixes. The original version is a quality moment of dark pop, a sprinkling of funk working well with a minimal electropop backdrop to Reza’s vocal which is the backbone to the track. It is a soulful delivery with hints of Martin Gore and a melody to be remembered. After this we are in the dangerous territory of the remixes, with my initial appraisal that it will be hard to maintain interest with so many versions of one track unless they bring something special to the table. The remixers are Delta City, Modovar, Android Lust, Goteki, Splintervoid The Rain Within and Frixion, not all names that I am familiar with. Highlight mixes come from Modovar who’s unassuming and lightweight 4/4 beginning soon evolves into a more beefy glitched out big beat affair that heavily mangles the vocal but cleverly not beyond recognition, and The Rain Within who reconstruct the track into an entirely new synthpop gem with souring highs and a delicate touch. Non of the mixes are in any way poor and some of these may well suit the club DJ but for me these two are the most creative. I look forward to hearing the album in full.

Inertia – Metropolis Records

GOTHMINISTER – THE OTHER SIDE

Somewhat of an oddity in some ways are GOTHMINISTER. A band from Norway that sing in German and English, helmed by an entertainments lawyer by the name of Bjørn Alexander Brem. I caught them live a few years ago, and they are an entertaining band who put on quite a horror show. This is album number five, coming some 14 years after their debut, and it should amply please their fans though whether it will appeal to a new army only time will tell.

You see, Gothminister do what they do well, falling within the same territory as Rammstein and Deathstars. Take opening number ‘Ich Will Ales’ which, after some swelling symphonic synths, kicks in hard in that marshal industrial way that Rammstein have got very rich from, except that Gothminister lace the track with more melody and hooks. ‘The Sun’ then shows a more subtle side, slightly more down tempo and uplifting at the same time. Back to German lyrics for track three ‘Der Fliegende Mann’ which is another industrial metal Juggernaut , sharp edges and monster riffs, set apart by some very symphonic sounding pads in the chorus. The album progresses very much in this manner, shifting the tempo and dynamic of the tracks to maintain a flow. By this time it has struck me that Gothminister are not hanging around, all the tracks are succinct, with the whole ten track album clocking in at approximately half an hour, perhaps unusual for a genre of music heavily reliant on theatrics and epic sonic journeys. Album highlight for me comes in the form of the barnstorming ‘Red Christ’ that combines the symphonic elements explored elsewhere on the album with a soaring vocal hook which lifts the energy level of the album to a high point. This is one track I would gladly return to often. ‘We Are The Ones Who Rule The World’ is also a strong contender with clever melodies and an epic male/female vocal performance but it is also the shortest track on offer. Great things in small packages’ Continuing with this ethos, the next three tracks rattle themselves out like bats out of hell, with ‘Taking Over’ kicking industrial rock butt particularly firmly. The album closes in style with the intelligently written ‘Somewhere In Time’, grand and gothic with some of the albums most inventive chord sequences. I have to say that this style of music is one that I find entertaining in a live context and even in a club environment but I rarely return to the music to listen to at home or on the move as I can lack depth. Gothminister have broken this behaviour cycle of mine here to a degree as there are tracks here that have embedded themselves into my memory and for that they must be commended, it is a strong, if not genre defying, album.

http://www.gothminister.com

SPC ECO – CALM

I have long been a fan of SPC ECO, principally through my love of all things Curve. Dean Garcia has continued his musical journey under this guise now for a decade, tens years of music gracefully soaring between trip hop and shoegaze, all dripping with velvety darkness. So Garcia and daughter Rose Berlin return again following their ‘Under The Skin’ EP earlier this year with CALM. The tracks are still trance inducing dark caresses but things are just a little different, and the word I can best find to describe this difference is Density.

Take opening song ‘Out Of Sight’, it is about as noisy as you can get whilst also remaining smooth. A drum beat that could be straight out of The Jesus And Mary Chain Automatic era, coupled with warm bass tones, bristling synth and guitars and an oh so elegant bassline forming a foundation for Berlin’s now trademark beautiful and ethereal voice. ‘Waking Up Again’ follows a similarly fuzzy direction, deliciously noisy and melodic both, the things that made many of us fall in love with Garcia’s Curve project all those years ago. These two tracks are definitely the albums rockier moments, but there is more to be found, plenty more. On the other end of the spectrum, the most sedate moments of the album ‘All The Voices’, ‘Pearls’, the bluesy ‘Who Are You Know’ and the darkly sparkling ‘When It Moves’. Yet these tracks still glisten with that density I have mentioned. Industrial noise scapes, shimmering fuzzed out guitars and dirty percussion are all part of the tapestry even in the albums gentler moments. Elsewhere, the album balances the trip hop styling of Portishead and Massive Attack against the dreamy gothic darkness to great effect. ‘Ghosts’, ‘Get Lost’ and ‘Over’ are such tracks, with the latter in particular casting elegant shadows with its lilting beat, dark bass underpinning and glacial synths leaving a perfect void to be filled with Berlin’s fragile vocal. Album closer is the sinister ‘Hours’ with a menacing heartbeat rhythm and tense soundscapes which leaves the listener hanging in a rather dark place. Not everyone may entirely embrace the slightly noisier direction this album has taken but I for one do. Bring the dark, velvety and luscious noise.