Monday, June 25, 2007
To my mind, it is difficult to find music that can truly claim to be "sinister". Of course, there are many difficult records that can claim to be "obtuse", "unsettling", "somewhat frightening", or even perhaps "startling". But these do not truly find themselves next to something that is "sinister". Thus, when one considers listening to music that is sinister, they have to consider their motivations behind doing so. Almost inevitably, the realization arrives that you should probably somewhat familiar with the artist before attempting to listen to "the sinister".
Thus, we arrive to Current 93's "I Have A Special Plan For This World". Few of David Tibet's albums past Nature Unveiled and Dogs Blood Rising even come remotely close to the apocalyptic nightmares exhibited in these albums. Yet, while those albums were immense (if not particularly long) journeys into ideologically charged industrial soundscapes, this album is instead a minimalist dark ambient masterpiece. The record consists of twenty-two minutes of "voice-synth" drones (my way of describing it), along with scattered field recordings of a British man, various sorts of radio static, tape machine squeaks and blips, and David Tibet's deadpan delivery of Thomas Ligotti's (an American horror writer, of whom David Tibet has been a long-time fan) misanthropic "I Have A Special Plan For This World" narrative. Tibet's voice is one of the greatest aspects of the recording. Gone is the fervent "spoken-sung" voice he uses on his recent albums. Instead, he speaks in a disinterested monotone a strange tale of the nature of death, the "world as a mistake", twisted puppet shows, obsession, futility and paranoia. It is also fairly low-fi and two-dimensional, as if he recorded it on the tape recorder which is heard throughout the recording. Throughout the reading, a highly distorted (and disturbing) voice (which may or may not be an electronically-distorted version of David Tibet's voice) accompanies every spoken passage, as well as sometimes appearing by itself.
Not convinced that the passages are creepy? Check this selection out then:
There are many who have designs upon this world, and dream of wild and vast reformations.
I have heard them talking in their sleep, of elegant mutations and cunning annihilations.
I have heard them whispering in the corners of crooked houses, and in the alleys and narrow back streets of this crooked, creaking universe, which they, with their new designs, would make straight and sound. But each of these new and ill-conceived designs is deranged in it's heart.
For they see this world as if it were alone and original, and not as only one of countless others whose nightmares all proceed, like a hideous garden grown from a single seed. I have heard these dreamers talking in their sleep, and I stand waiting for them, as if at the top of a darkened flight of stairs.They know nothing of me, and none of the secrets of my special plan...while I know every crooked, creaking step of theirs.
If some records are akin to kittens or baby seals, than this record is the equivalent of a stunted hell hound. It probably would not be able to kill you, but it certainly exudes an aura of uneasy menace and dread. This is best listened to in total darkness, alone, with no other sounds being able to heard (if you can manage it). I can say I have...but I didn't like it. That is not to say that the music is not good (indeed, it is excellent). It is just that it almost effortlessly takes away any comfort the listener may have had at the moment, and continues on a pulse of uncomfort for twenty-two minutes. Awesome mood music for fatalistic moods. Although a similar recording, "In A Foreign Town, In A Foreign Land" (featuring heavy input from electronic artist Christoph Heemann), I consider "Special Plan..." to be slightly better in that it is a complete work, while "Foreign Town..." was a "musical accompaniment" to the stories, with occasional vocal cues from Tibet and others.
From what I can gather, the CD version has been re-issued over the last few years, so it's available in many locations.
PS Thanks Chris for the correction! :)
Thomas Ligotti Homepage
Brainwashed Current 93 Homepage
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Suffering from Sunn O))) burnout, yet still want to get your darkened drone fix? Black Boned Angel might be right up your alley. Granted, the differences between the two are not that extreme, yet there are a few aspects of Black Boned Angel's sound that differentiate it from various other acts of a similar nature (for better or for worse). Although the curious and newly initiated might be better off exploring their LP "Supereclipse" first (as it is obviously a longer and somewhat more diverse excursion than many of their EPs), Eternal Hunger is in itself quite interesting. Sunn O))) and Khanate fans will instantly recognize the overall chord structure and song progression; much like Douglas Pierce and his infinitely repeated favorite guitar strum, they manage to find an infinite variety of ways in which to diversify from a limited palette.
But I digress. While the slow motion drone is present here, it does go through a rather lethargic chordal progression. The overall feeling is one of unease, specifically that which can be found in a semi-decent to good horror film (preferably a somewhat dated one). This mood is enhanced by a rather nervous keyboard line and strategically placed drum sets. It builds and develops for around ten minutes, and slowly begins it's climax and descent around twelve minutes as the keyboards and drum hits slowly increase in density and dramatic impact.
However, there is a sudden twist at the end (those who wish to keep the suspenseful surprise for themselves may wish to skip to the next paragraph): after roughly thirteen minutes, the music suddenly cuts out only to be replaced by a ominous church/cathedral bell and sub-sonic bass reverberations! Suddenly, the experience seems to come into place: The mourners and graveyard attendants had been throwing dirt on your coffin, despite your muffled screams and fevered attempts to unlock the entrapment you had somehow become ensnared in. Now, the church bells toll prophetically, as the grave has been refilled. You have been "Entombed Alive".
Unfortunately, beyond the dramatic ending (which comes dangerously close to being filler on the fact that it is just a tiny bit too long, although still very effective), this material is not that outspoken or outstanding compared to the many other acts like them. They are often used in comparison with other bands (in particular, I have often seen them lumped together with Bohren Un Der Club Of Gore, though I'm not familiar with them myself). One of the reasons why Sunn O))) (and Earth, for that matter) are still relevant and discussed widely is that, though achieving a great amount of popularity through their initial recordings, they eventually expanded their artistic vision and implemented it in new and exciting directions. Those who follow in their footsteps, regardless of how skilled or talented they are, always run the risk of contributing to the stagnation of a continually evolving musical sub-genre.
I am interested in people's opinions on this, so if you have anything to contribute to the continuing discussion, I am always happy to hear your thoughts! Also, good luck finding the majority of his work! (As is usual for smaller "underground" phenomena, most of their CD-Rs are extremely limited, with many of his releases being 150 copies or less pressed).
EDIT: Recently found a kick ass Black Boned Angel live vid. on YouTube, so I included it here.
Official Page (links to associated record labels and Myspace)
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Five years is a long time between album releases. Many changes can occur, and many did for the power electronic's duo IRM. Consisting of Martin Bladh and Erik Jarl, they created the highly regarded (at least, within the underground noise scene) album "Oedipus Dethroned", noted for it's quasi-religious overtones, unique vocals, and intense noise structures. Erik Jarl would later go on to release several solo albums under various names, while Martin Bladh would venture into performance art, solo albums, collaborations with various musicians, and films. This album, their latest, was released in 2005 in a limited edition of 1000, marked an extreme shift from their previous efforts.
Virgin Mind is a massive two-LP set, with five of the songs over ten minutes long (although they are far from overstretched). Whereas their previous albums briefly entertained various concepts beyond their established formula (pulsing bass, squeaks/hiss, and distorted/watery vocals), this album vastly enhances the sense of exploration. The album itself, far from being merely a "power electronics" album, incorporates many different elements of industrial, power electronics, dark ambient, noise, and even several spoken word segments, merging into a fascinating sort of avant-garde. This is further reinforced by the fact that the "movements" (as it were) flow from song ending to the next song's beginning. An emphasis is placed on performance and musicianship over their previous albums emphasis on mood, atmosphere, and ambience. Yet these are also highly evocative works: the music is multi-dimensional when listening to it. Even the more minimal of the tracks have several details that unveil themselves with repeated listens, and the more "upfront" songs (such as the awesome "Aktion Anthem") have many, many intricate elements to them.
It is difficult to write a concise summary on the vast quantity of different sounds present within the two albums. In short, it can be said that "Virgin Mind" is a reflection on the accumulated musical experiences and maturation of Martin Bladh and Erik Jarl, while leaving behind all but the most fundamental aspects of earlier IRM work. The "noise" elements, once highly synthetic, now acquire a ringing, metallic overtone to the majority of them (perhaps reflecting on the nature of their previous live performances). Yet the "noise" and "industrial clamor" is almost secondary to the many other sounds found within. The previously stated "Aktion Anthem" contains not only noise elements, but what sound like distorted violin passages writhing against synthesizer ambience. "Love Chamber I" contains a sombre synth drone with oscillating/panning stereo effects and a consistent (non-distorted) bass drum hit. "My Mother" resumes with a stuttering noise assault, which introduces clanging metal percussion (ala Einsturzende Neubauten, to a limited degree). This continues onward with "Silver Bells", which has a shimmering layer of feedback as rumbling echoes uneasily in the back of the mix. This continues for five minutes until arriving at the album stand out track: The Actor. A solitary drone of some sort (unfortunately it is not easy to describe other than the fact that it fits the song perfectly) repeats itself as a voice whispers cryptic assertions regarding his perceptions "upon the stage". Thankfully, there is no processing here, so it can be understood perfectly:
Behind the mirror that is me
Waits an audience to be entertained.
Red light right, red light left.
I'm not a bleak charade, sucking to breath
For my admirers.
First, oxygen. Second, hydrien (?).
Third...final, breathe in.
It takes multiple efforts to reach the concrete in front of me.
The floor in front of my mirror is a stage.
I'm an actor: Pathetic, drunk.
Doing cheap tricks to get your attention.
All around me lies the corpses of birds,
The skeletal insects.
Did they come from inside of me?
I think they did.
Killed themselves in the kamikaze of light.
Against me, the filthy glass.
I'm always dressed-up in a stage costume.
I made it myself.
Bird-skin sewn shirt (?) covered with blisters.
I'm crawling like an insect, burned by the stage light.
Wings useless, spastic.
Underneath my skin sheets, the surrounding room becomes a blur.
Spaces reek...closing in.
Outside, the audience, they laugh (?).
Raptured by my stage presence.
Feeding themself through my impotence.
They know who's the greatest...desirable...original...huge.
I know I'm good...I must be good.
My audience loves me.
No one can do them like I do.
(lyrics transcribed by ChandlerN, so there may be one or two mistakes)
In my opinion, it is no exaggeration to confidently state that this album is valuable by this track in itself. It is that awesome, compelling, and fascinating. Yet there is still more to uncover. "Birth's Mark Of Cruelty" and "The Nervescales" are two ten-minute compositions, the first consisting of static bursts, strange wailing feedback and screams, along with violent industrial clanging, loud synthetic drones, and a fevered ranting towards the end of the song (which seems like a different voice from the one which is usually featured) while the second is more of a nod towards their earlier albums (especially their "Four Studies..." EP) with lonely trumpets, bells, dark ambient pulses, and screamed vocals, with a crashing crescendo of guitar effects noise as an effective closer to the first disc.
Incredibly, I have only written about the first disc. The second disc continues onward with various permutations of the concepts established on the first disc. Stand-out tracks include the highly abrasive "Umbic Burns", the subdued and contemplative "Revelation: Pure", and the thundering last track "Sebastian", featuring highly distorted and amplified piano (I am assuming that it is some sort of piano, anyway).
The hype that can be found about the album is true. This album represents an astonishing leap forward for IRM and the musicians involved. Needless to say, this album is an excellent mix of industrial avant-garde, mainly focused in industrial noise, but effectively venturing out into several other genres. Not much else can be said except that I give it my highest recommendations.
Get this album. Do whatever it takes. It's that good.
"Christian Power Electronics". I must admit, I was skeptical myself. Although I have yet to find printed lyrics of their works (I doubt that they are included in their albums except for their newest, although I could be mistaken), I did manage to find an interview on an "unofficial" fan site, in which a doctor tells a strange story in which he saw the musical half of the duo, Martin Bladh. Throughout the interview, he analyzes the lyrics presented on "Oedipus Dethroned" from a Biblical standpoint. What makes the interview so bizarre is that the writer goes one step further, and proclaims Martin Bladh to be the resurrected Christ! While the music is obviously obsessed with various Christian principles (mainly regarding the crucifixion), it is perhaps safer to say that the music approaches the matter with a more ambiguous attitude, while outwardly projecting a zealous (almost fanatical) image. Proof of this can be found on the lyrics printed on the front of the "Four Studies..." EP IRM released in early 2000. The graphic lyrics, although presenting the listener with an immediate horror, are very symbolic in nature, and thus open to multiple interpretation.
But what about this album in particular? It basically consists of deep electric bass lines, muted kick drum rhythms, and various higher pitched squeals and beeps. Various kinds of static, distortion, and feedback also freely float throughout the songs. This is complimented by Erik Jarl's highly distorted and watery shouting (ala Will's John McRae, although in a much less irritating manner). Industrial elements also appear from time to time. Finally, a small amount of samples are scattered throughout the songs as well (mainly in the first song).
So, how does the album stack up? Well, it is best to ignore the pseudo-religious/spiritual overtones and enjoy the album through what you probably sought out in it in the first place: the noise. Also, it is always refreshing to find a power electronics outfit that manages to be effective and menacing without resorting to cartoonish violence, childish misanthropic stances, or highly charged political incorrectness. There is also a nice diversity to the sounds as well, ranging from alluring hums (some of which border on dark ambient) and the highly oscillated and distorted (one of the best songs is "Inside The Skull Of A Manniquin", which strangely reminds me of Throbbing Gristle's "Hamburger Lady" for some reason, mainly because of the vocals).
Power electronics is of course an acquired taste, but for those with a taste of the electronically unusual, "Oedipus Dethroned" is an excellent place to start. Cold Meat Industries should still be selling this album, otherwise you might have to search a little bit. If you can listen to their contributions to the "Nihil" compilation on that label, they are also quite excellent and rank up their with the best of their work.
EDIT: Removed the 'unofficial IRM page' link, per request of a member of the band.
Cold Meat Industry
Friday, June 15, 2007
A very interesting recording, this album is (to my knowledge) the only studio recording of The Spires of Oxford. The solo side-project of the late Jason DiEmilio (by suicide), he was better known through his psychedelic/experimental group The Azusa Plane, which released several highly regarded works of multi-track guitar drone compositions, with elements of dark ambient and noise appearing now and again. However, The Spires Of Oxford is instead a heavily multi-tracked and echoing series of seemingly random Fender guitar passages. Honestly, it is somewhat unsettling to listen to the entire track all of the way through (it is twenty-seven minutes of improvisation, after all). The passages seem to purposefully clash with one another, and just when it seems that you are enjoying a certain segment, another totally different movement brusquely arrives to negate the previous one (whilst the other is slowly fading off into the distance). This track is also interesting in that the website in which I discovered it from (Epitonic.com), also suffered from a rather untimely demise (although I believe it is still possible to download the track from Epitonic). So, as long as you do not mind seemingly aimless and wandering guitar improvisation (or actively enjoy it from time to time), The Spires Of Oxford is an interesting document of days which shall never return.
P.S. Tried to find information on the Jason DiEmilio run label "Colorful Clouds For Acoustics", but it appears that only a Discogs page exists, so I have included that as well. There is also tracks of his main group The Azusa Plane on the Epitonic site, which are also long compositions, but there the sonic palette is much broader, ranging from fragile and delicate to rumbling moodiness.
The Spires Of Oxford (Epitonic)
The Azusa Plane (Wikipedia)
Colorful Clouds For Acoustics (Discogs)
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine - Rampton
I read an interesting phrase in a noir fiction novel once that has always stuck with me when I think of sleazy politicians and especially multi-millionaire CEO figureheads. It basically amounted to the observation that high-profile individuals tended to stick their chins out with gigantic smiles on their faces, practically begging you to unload a punch. They typically do this with impunity, for they are well aware that YOU know that, should you decide to do so, that the repercussions would range anywhere from catastrophic to ultimately fatal. Their grins are even larger when they consider the fact that if you do not act on your instincts, then the white-knuckled grip at your side would be your reward: testament to your spineless nature.
Of course, "Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine" will not bring about the same reaction should you choose to disagree with it (hopefully), yet it is similar in that it proudly revels in it's particular form, inviting critical opinions for those who only take a cursory glance at it. To some extent, the detractors have a point. After all, who wouldn't be at least slightly daunted at the prospect of a thirty minute guitar dirge detailing a violent drug overdose?
Named after a track on Earth's "Earth 2" album, "Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine" was a one-off "doom super group" featuring standard faces Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, along with former Napalm Death vocalist Lee Dorian (who is more commonly known as the vocalist for Cathedral), and drummer Justin Greaves. Their debut album "Rampton" was released in 2002, and then the band disappeared into the darkness from which it came. The three songs, while wildly divergent in duration, all present roughly the same product sonically: lumbering and monotonous guitar dirges, bringing to mind images of swamps and drug dens , accompanied by Lee Dorian's heavily distorted and multi-tracked vocals. The mix, while purposefully muddy, dense, and claustrophobic, thankfully is clear enough to allow listeners to detect subtle nuances while being dirty enough to greatly enhance the mood being set. As for the drums, while they mainly serve as rhythmic time-keeping only, there are a few interesting solo-esque sections that manages to keep things interesting (saving the first and longest track from utter stagnation and boredom).
This album reeks of paranoid delusions and deviant intentions, in large part due to Lee Dorian's disturbing (but also highly original) lyrics. Sung (mostly) in a strange monotone, his voice also features simultaneous growling of the words or random stuttering on occasion. "He Who Accepts All That Is Offered (Feel Bad Hit Of The Winter" is exactly that (besides being a jab at a similar titled Queens Of The Stone Age song), an epic tale of overdosing with over a dozen different substances, and the paranoia/self-loathing that occurs before and/or after the act. Meanwhile, "New Pants And Shirt" is a strange Southern nightmare for the average working man after a hard day's work and "The Smiler" is an abstract (yet vivid) condemnation of religion. However, unlike many other bands of a similar nature, Dorian's vocals, while grim and distorted, are still relatively comprehensible, which is fortunate given the superb song-writing which accompanies lyrics such as the following example (from "The Smiler"):
Barren emotion cuts like a blunt knife
Against the hatred of your blackened heart
Brewing through states in search of joy
They spit out rejection, you worship the same
Annihilation of your inner-self
Breeds gratification in your hunger for wealth
All that was beauty you've smashed wide apart
With the fist of envy, for nothing that's smart
In short, if you are familiar with Stephen O'Malley's earlier work, this album is not a radical departure from his basic musical formula he has stuck to over the years. However, with regards to doom metal in general it is extremely atypical, and though it is patently too psychotic and divergent for the average listener, doom fans with a sense of patience will be rewarded by this experience. As is usual for this type of recording, it is usually best to listen to the whole recording straight through (unless, like the anti-hero in the first track, you are too spineless to do so).
EDIT: I have officially reached burn-out status w/ anything Stephen O'Malley related. Too much discussion everywhere. Blah. Never fear though, I am officially off of my break, so hopefully will resume with a semi-normal update schedule.
Southern Lord Info Page
PS They used to have an interview and complete lyrics on the S.L. site, but it appears they removed them when they re-arranged the site. Phooey. While the lyrics can be found on many different websites, I am not sure if they interview was printed elsewhere, which is unfortunate, given the fact that it gave valuable insights into the creation of the album, various inspiration, etc.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Thankfully, most of us have never graced the walls of a mental institution or asylum. Even the very words are enough to trigger automatic responses, ingrained in us by collective cultural perceptions (regardless of whether they are ultimately true or not). They were places seldom mentioned in the modern era, and were feared in the ancient days, when a general lack of sanitation, proper medical procedures, and understanding of basic biological functions (and the myriad ways in which they can decay) often led to an overwhelming madness. Thus, many of society's undesirables eventually found their way to these cruel institutions, with maintenance workers whose self-hatred was only eclipsed by the inhabitants of the asylum, and the executive director, who profited immensely from the mentally ill.
Now, imagine an asylum where the only lights are those that flicker and falter. Where spoken speech is barely tolerated (that which is heard is subdued Japanese) and the distorted cries of the inmates can be heard echoing off of the walls. The doctor's, when they are not treating patients, can be heard playing forlorn piano in their expansive office. No one can understand the regular announcements that come over the PA system, for the speakers garble all recognition. Liquid squelching, animal cries, and structural creaking are constantly heard, for the asylum is extremely old and decrepit, and has not been renovated since the state retracted it's funding for the institution.
This is a literary depiction of "Seishinbyouin", a collection of thematically linked tracks. Although considered dark ambient, the music also makes frequent nods towards industrial (mainly in the semi-frequent drumbeats and distorted electro-bass). Unlike many dark ambient acts, Atrium Carceri's songs usually range from about three to five minutes (thought the vast majority of them feel thoroughly explored and full at their current duration). The music is also invokes strong feelings of it being designed for a movie soundtrack. Throughout the album, various conversations in Japanese are spoken, usually in what appears to be a question and answer session. Furthermore, piano, synth strings and choirs only add further to the expansive nature of the songs.
Notable songs include "Illusion Breaks" (for the enigmatic second half of the song, featuring female vocals, a gruff Japanese speech sample, and unusual "screen read-out" sound FX), "Dark Water" and "Librarian" (both for their use of piano throughout, which almost borders on being similar to ambience found in the early Resident Evil games), and "Frosted Snowflakes" (for everything).
Granted, "Seishinbyouin" is not perfect, as there are a few places where the sound seems a bit awkward rather than effective, yet on the whole it is a very solid performance. For those of you who are looking for compact dark-ambient/industrial that carries a hint of menace, yet also manages to be delicate and cinematic at the same time, should look into Atrium Carceri.
Cold Meat Industry
Atrium Carceri Myspace
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Continuing into "essential gothic albums" (that are not really gothic, but can be considered as such) is the massive "World Coming Down" album. Recorded under a backdrop of drugs, alcohol, multiple deaths in the family, and personal problems (and this is BEFORE his relatively recent incarceration, rehab, institutionalization, and subsequent conversion back to Roman Catholicism after many years as an atheist), the album is a bleak descent into ironic despair, retrospection, frustration, melancholic mourning, and death, containing little of the self-mockery of the gothic culture and the band itself, instead presenting Type O's most thematically straightforward album to date.
As is usual for Type O Negative, fuzzed-out guitar dirges, assertive basslines, and melodic keyboard interludes are the order of the day. Many of the songs feature death, both figuratively and literally (as is the case in "Everyone I Love Is Dead" and the classic "Everything Dies"). The sense of loss and longing is also present in nearly every song. Peter Steele's vocals also exhibit a refreshing sense of variety throughout the album, from near-spoken murmuring, his traditional vampiric croon, and anguished screaming as well. Emotional without being overbearing or pretentious, it is the sound of a man recognizing the descent of his fortunes and emotions, being fully aware of the fact and not recognizing any escape from the plunge.
"Everything Dies", the popular live Type O Negative favorite, is one of the best songs on the album (although it is difficult to conclusively choose a "best" track from the album, given the fact that many of them are equally good in different ways). It basically summarizes the feelings present throughout the album in a single song, as well as being a powerfully emotional work of depression, fear, and self-loathing. The guitar solo and keyboard break towards the end are also quite impressive as well, yet neither of these elements overly intrude in the mix, yet are instead presented as logical segments which usher in the end of the song.
There are also several Type O Negative "staples" and curveballs thrown in. Included in this group is a song about Halloween ("All Hallow's Eve"), a slightly brighter song called "Who Will Save The Sane?" (featuring some of Steele's most surreal lyrics to date, with weird words such as "technochocolate" and "periodic tableware" appearing now and again), and a Beatles song trio titled "Day Tripper (Medley)". Thankfully, it is at the end of the album, so it does not seriously disturb the thematic continuity of the album, and as a song it is quite interesting as well (literally showing where the moniker "The Drab Four" originated).
Also, there are three short "death sequences" (for lack of a better term) scattered throughout the album, fittingly entitled "Sinus", "Liver" and "Lung" (the body part which is being portrayed failing in each piece). Although some people may be annoyed at their inclusion, I feel that they are appropriate and essential to the album's flow. As miniature dark ambience and unsettling noise interludes they are quite effective (especially "Liver", featuring cheering crowds, pouring sounds, and at last an unanswered telephone call).
Compared to the band's earlier work, the album was not as well received, but in my opinion they have yet to surpass this album. Though it is somewhat self-indulgent towards the depressive spectrum of emotions, it can be forgiven when considering that this is an honest expression of Peter Steele's life at the time. Definitely not a record one can listen to in any circumstance, it is quite effective when traveling through life points (or perhaps whenever you want to listen to less-than-happy music that still manages to be catchy and memorable).
PS: A quick word on the new album "Dead Again", since I decided not to do a review since it has been heavily reviewed elsewhere already: I am basically ambivalent and undecided regarding my feelings on the album. Musically, the album is top-notch as well, although (as started on the previous album "Life Is Killing Me") the song selection is slightly skewed towards the faster, up-tempo songs. However, the conversion of Peter Steele has been a cause of some concern among many fans. Personally, it does not seem to me that big of an issue. Granted, I do not agree with Roman Catholicism at all, but that does not mean I am going to hold anyone else (especially the singer of a rock band) against it. I especially will not make ridiculous claims, such as "Jesus is now in every Type O Negative song" that other people have been flinging around. Steele himself has stated in interviews that the specifics of his faith are private (as they should be). I think Type O Negative's lyrics have always been open to interpretation (although many are based on Steele's personal experiences, such as "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend" and "Everything Dies"). While many of the songs find Type O Negative treading water, a few are among their personal best, mainly "Dead Again", "September Sun", and "Tripping A Blind Man" (especially with the catchy choruses towards the end of the song). The true test of the Type O Negative fan base will likely arive with the next album. Until then, relive old classics with "World Coming Down" (and "October Rust", for a slightly, but not much, brighter experience).
PPS: The bonus live CD on "Dead Again" is, unlike the actual album, undeniably awesome, featuring excellent renditions of "Everything Dies", "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend", "Love You To Death", and "Black No. 1".
Type O Negative
Saturday, June 02, 2007
I will be upfront and admit that I am not a big fan of the "gothic" phenomenon. There was one point, earlier in my life, when I wished to emulate it. But now, having the experiences and beliefs that I do now, I (for the most part) find the whole thing overly cliche and somewhat ridiculous for those who are seriously into it. Furthermore, in the area where I live, the rapidly dwindling goth sub-culture is nothing more than a group to ridicule, a sad remnant of the late 80's and early 90's: individuality which ironically became mass produced to the general public ("Hot" Topic, etc).
Nevertheless, there are a few aspects of gothic culture that I can still appreciate. One of them is the very talented group Dead Can Dance. You may wish to disagree on this assertion, but Dead Can Dance is one of the few indispensable musical forces I utilize when contemplating gothic thoughts (others being Will and The Legendary Pink Dots to a lesser extent). From the absolutely astonishing and versatile voice of Lisa Gerrard (which, while mellowed with age, lost none of it's vitality) and the five-dimensional musical arrangements of Brendan Perry, which has been (and still is) some of the best examples of "neo-classical" music available today.
"A Passage In Time", originally a stop-gap collection in the middle of their existence, is now an excellent retrospective of their 'mid-era' albums, featuring songs prominently from "Spleen And Ideal", "The Serpent's Egg", and a few tracks from "Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun" (another excellent album) and "Aion", as well as containing two new tracks recorded for the collection. While, those who own the original albums may wish different tracks were included (for example, since I also own the "Within The Realm..." album, I wish they could have included the tracks "Xavier" and "Summoning The Muse"), the selection presented is (for the most part) quite excellent and diverse (except for the fact that there are no tracks from the first album and EP, given that they are very different compared to the main canon of Dead Can Dance's work). Also, the balance between Perry and Gerrard's contributions is almost evenly matched, but the surprising fact is that Perry's songs may be even greater than Gerrard's (definitely arguable, but plausible). For example, "Ullyses" is a great example of a condensation of what makes Dead Can Dance awesome: harpsichord passages, violins, horns (natural and/or synthetic), and soaring vocals (here a story regarding John Francis Dooley, comparing him to the mythic wanderer Ulysses). However, several fan favorites are also included, such as the brooding "The Host Of Seraphim" and the light-hearted "Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book". Finally, the two additional tracks, while nothing special or remarkable compared to the rest of the material, are still interesting in their own right (mainly because of how different they are compared to the rest, with one featuring prominent bird ambience and the other featuring an electric bass accompaniment).
It has been said before (but it bears repeating) that this compilation is an excellent way for people just discovering Dead Can Dance. But it is also a good collection for those who enjoy the band, but balk at the steep price of the three-disc set (mainly poor people like myself). For those interested in neo-classical, Lisa Gerrard, or Dead Can Dance, you can do no wrong by purchasing this excellent compilation. Totally awesome and well worth every penny. Highly recommended.
PS: Once again, to repeat and clarify, I do not provide links to full-album downloads. There are plenty of other great sites where one can download if they choose to do so.
Dead Can Dance (slightly outdated)