zondag 30 juli 2017

Damage Control - Ultranoia (CD review)

Genre: Electro
Label: none (self-released)
Rating: 8/10

In these modern times, everything is possible, also and especially in the musical field. Whereas in the past, the recording of a studio album required the physical presence in the same space of all people involved, this is no longer necessary thanks to the ever-advancing technology. Damage Control is a global electro/industrial project and you can take this literally. 2 of the band members live in Australia; the other 2 in Europe (United Kingdom and Germany). For the recording of their debut album 'Ultranoia', they have asked even more international friends for help, among others the legendary Chris Peterson (known for his work for among others, Front Line Assembly and Decree, and more recently Ohm) and the equally legendary Claus Larsen (Leæther Strip). Such a thing is destined to set off fireworks, and as you will read further in this review, that is also effectively the case.

Bill Barsby, Damian Davis, Jason Podmore and Markus App are all four experienced musicians and are influenced by a wide array of artists, among others Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy and Ministry. There are of course hundreds of electro bands that cite these legendary names as influences, but in the case of Damage Control, this is not an empty statement. Anyone who listens to their debut immediately makes the connection with FLA and co. Powerful old-school electro/industrial, characterized by tight production, mixing and mastering (and that is really not only the merit of Chris Peterson, who was behind the knobs when this album was recorded). These men know very well what they are doing.

From the opening track 'After The Fire', it is clear that this is serious. Especially the first half of the CD is cast-iron, with the firm 'Hate Crime' (a potential electro club hit) and compelling 'City Of Ruins' being my favourites. I am also really captivated by the atmospheric instrumental 'Ruined'. The second half of the album is slightly more experimental, with tracks like 'Trauma' and 'Hell's Gate'. The latter is also the longest song with its duration of more than 7 minutes. Personally, I think it is one of the lesser tracks, as the up-tempo electro has to make room for ambient here. But from a purely technical-objective point of view, this is certainly not bad. Just a bit too long and too calm to my liking.

Last of all, there are 2 tracks to which I would like to draw attention. 'Angst' is a collaboration with Ohm and an insanely good song with delightful vocal effects. It is tracks like these that restore my faith in the contemporary electro scene. And 'Hate Crime' was remixed by Leæther Strip in a professional manner. Claus Larsen put this song in an EBM jacket, so that the remix is just as danceable as the original (for which he also did the additional mixing, by the way).

Damage Control has delivered a very well-made debut with 'Ultranoia'. The band is currently looking for a label and I would be very surprised if they would not succeed. Until then, you can order this release as well as future ones on their Bandcamp.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen

Fïx8:Sëd8 - Foren6 (CD review)

Genre: Electro
Label: Dependent
Rating: 8,5/10

2017 promises to be a great year for the old-school rivethead. Recently, the long-expected debut of 2nd Face was released on Dependent and soon we can expect a fresh portion of old-school beats on Electro Aggression Records (Pyrroline and Akalotz will release a new CD this year). At this moment, the brand-new album of Fïx8:Sëd8 is in the spotlight. Just like 2nd Face, this project was recently signed by the label of Stefan Herwig. However, a big difference is that Fïx8:Sëd8 is not a newcomer. Martin Sane had already released 2 albums on his own, but publicity to these was only given within the small dark electro scene. Thanks to the label deal with Dependent, this will most likely change. 'Foren6' has just been released and has already been proclaimed as one of the best dark electronic releases of this year.

I myself was not entirely unfamiliar with the work of Martin Sane. I have already seen Fïx8:Sëd8 live 3 times and this year, performances number 4 and possibly 5 will follow (Fïx8:Sëd8 will play at the WGT next week, but I am not yet sure if I will watch it; this will depend on the distance between the different concert venues). As a result, I know very well that Martin Sane is a perfectionist who will not release/do anything until he is 100% satisfied. Anyone who listens to 'Foren6' hears right away that it is the result of years of work. Martin Sane makes classic dark electro in the vein of - among others - Mentallo & The Fixer, a legendary American band which is well-known for its complex, multi-layered compositions. Skinny Puppy is a big influence too. If you would not know better, you would believe that a track like 'Flatline Friend' features vocals of Ogre himself. Aside from this, Martin Sane delivers a great vocal effort throughout the entire album, accompanied by carefully selected vocal effects. For example, the overlap of vocals/effects in 'Baptism Of Fire' is a true pleasure for the ear. Just for this, this album already deserves all praise and I have not even yet talked about the arrangements which equally excel in diversity. From the subtle, mesmerising electronics in 'My Mistress' and 'Hermaphrodite' to the (quasi-)club potential of 'X-Shaped Scratch Mark' and 'Puritan': 'Foren6' has it all.

It is highly recommended to listen to this album as a whole; it is only then that it will show its full potential. But if I had to select one loose track as a favourite, it would be 'Ligamentum'. It had been a while (since Pyrroline's album 'Ruins Outlast') that I have been so touched by a contemporary dark electro track. 'Baptism Of Fire' and 'Eyesaw' complete the top 3. And if I had the liberty to take into account the limited (and nearly sold out) 'Formaldehyde Edition' of 'Foren6', I would also like to mention 'Force Of Inertia', a magnificent remix (with added vocals) of a track of MC1R. This is dark electro as I prefer it: intense and beautiful.

Whereas I was slightly critical with regards to the hype around 2nd Face, I have not a single doubt about the new album of Fïx8:Sëd8. Very solid release on Dependent and a must-have for the fans of old-school electro. 'Foren6' can already rest assured it will get a spot in my top 10 of 2017.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen

Pyrroline - In The Dawn Of Freedom (CD review)

Genre: EBM - Electro
Rating: 8,5/10

"We live in one world. We are one people." The German dark electro band Pyrroline has returned with a remarkable concept album after 4 years. The post-apocalyptic theme of the previous album 'Ruins Outlast' has made room for a slightly more politically inspired theme: the Croatian War of Independence between 1991-1995. Not exactly the most evident subject in the dark electro scene, but husband and wife Arnte and Schmoun have done it, anyway. Do not expect lyrics like "I don't remember humans." and samples from 'The Terminator' this time, but tracks about courage, hope and love in the battle for people's independence. No futuristic war against fictional intelligent machines, but a real human conflict which happened less than 30 years ago.

Pyrroline is a band which is known for its complex, multi-layered song structures which evoke the classic dark electro feeling of the 90s. 'Ruins Outlast' was a particularly melodic album and 'In The Dawn Of Freedom' is no different. However, the new album features significantly more old-school EBM rhythms and other elements (e.g. 'Maria', 'Succeed', 'End Of The Path'). Another difference is that Arnte uses various vocal effects and therefore, does not limit himself to his characteristic whisper-like vocals which dominated 'Ruins Outlast'. My 2 favourite tracks on the new album, 'Divine Revelation' and 'Dismantled Society', both feature vocal effects which are rather atypical for Pyrroline. In the more EBM-inspired songs (especially 'Succeed'), the vocals are even so unusual that I would never have figured that this is Arnte, let alone Pyrroline. I can only approve of this variation in vocal effects, especially as Schmoun does not sing on this album for some strange reason. Pyrroline has even gone further and has invited a certain Emdezet as guest vocalist. 'With You' features both vocals and lyrics of this guy, but I cannot say that I like it. As a mellow love song with synthpoppy vocals, this feels out of place, not only on an album about the Croatian War of Independence, but just on any Pyrroline album or dark electro album in general. This is my only point of criticism with regards to 'In The Dawn Of Freedom', which is truly a lovely album.

Just like the previous album, the new album features some instrumentals, of which 'Vukovar' is my favourite. And also this time, there are 2 remixes on the CD. One Eye Wanders has made a catchy, albeit barely recognisable electro remix of 'Divine Revelation'. kFactor's hypnotising EBM remix of 'One People' has a clearer link to the original, even though you have to listen carefully. If you purchase the digital version of the album on Bandcamp, you will get a third remix: the Soillodge remix of 'Nothing To Lose'. In my opinion, this is the best one. Michael Renfield has re-made this track in an exceptionally melodic manner. Especially the part between 1:53 and 3:38 has been haunting me for weeks. This is a true dark electro gem; I would even dare to say better than the original. Too bad there was not enough space left on the CD.

With 'In The Dawn Of Freedom', Pyrroline has proven once again that it belongs to the top of the contemporary dark electro. Hopefully, we will not have to wait another 4 years for the next album. Either way, I am very much looking forward to their gig at the Lauscher Festival in Erfurt on 23 September.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen