Towards the Sky is the newest compilation from the Neue Aesthetik Medialabel, featuring new material from a host of modern (90's) gothic and industrial (or at least goth/industrial friendly) acts. Due to the musical diversity featured on this disc, it is best to review it on a track by track basis:
The Shroud - "Green Velvet"
This new entry from NYC goth rock band The Shroud makes for an interesting, if not odd, choice for an album opener. Airy female vocals play atop smooth and catchy melodies and grooves in what could almost be considered a gothic lounge song. This is a song to drink or romance to.
Faith and the Muse - "Patience
Again, another odd compilation song choice. I would have expect one of FatM's more upbeat and/or rock oriented tunes (like "Scars Flown Proud") as a showcase of their newest material. "Patience Worth," on the other hand, is a folky ballad with minimal instrumentation (acoustic guitar, occasional bell sounds, and Monica Richard's excellent voice). However, it is as good a choice as any, as Faith and the Muse simply do not write poor songs, and this is no exception.
Judith - "La Bella"
This is a pretty straightforward rock song, with distorted, but melodic, guitars working behind crooning male vocals. The croon is good, and so are the melodies. However, "La Bella" is more a song for depressed lovers (which appear to be a very common phenomenon), so the more angry/lively may want to look to Judith's more aggressive material instead.
Das Ich - "Der Schrei"
A fairly standard example of Das Ich: Heavy industrial percussion, electronic noise, and Das Ich's own brand of distorted vocals. It's certainly not bad, but it's not particularly amazing either. But if you want an angry beat to dance to, then this song will suffice.
Laboratory X - "Invisible"
This is another industrial song, but more in the vein of NIN/Chemlab/Ministry; another fairly decent, if not spectacular, example of the genre. It does have a good beat though, and coldwave fans will love it.
Element - "Whispering
Another rather unspectacular industrial song. The vocals take a backseat to the programmed rhythms in this one, which aren't of poor quality, but are still rather unengaging nonetheless. This will, more often than not, be a song to skip.
Sewn - "Charm"
This ends the block of industrial songs on this compilation, and it's one of the better examples. It's ferocity and noisiness, backed by heavy percussion, reminds me somewhat of early (Music for a Slaughtering Tribe) Wumpscut.
The Horatii - "She Bikini"
Sarcasm and wit are qualities sorely missed from most 'modern' gothic rock. Luckily, the Horatii, who hail from the UK, retain these qualities, and write some good songs while they're at it. "She Bikini," while being somewhat more subdued than the band's earlier work, is still a good song.
The Brickbats - "The Creature"
Lively horror punk from NYC with the feel of 50's rock n 'roll gone horribly awry. This song, which is about the creature from the black lagoon making a foray into the city to do what it likes to do best (killin'), is pure gory fun, with a really happy and catchy chorus to boot.
Requiem in White - "Centuries"
"Centuries" is an unreleased track from this now-defunct NYC goth band. Slow and dirty guitars with darkly melodic female vocals (which is supplement by a fast-paced bass driven conclusion). If you like this song, I would also suggest checking out Mors Syphilitica also (which is an offshoot of this band).
Inkubus/Sukkubus - "Reptile"
Inkubus/Sukkubus has always had a penchant for writing some pretty good and catchy rock songs, even if it seems that most of their material is pagan recruitment propaganda. Unfortunately, this song doesn't really do anything for me; a subpar example of Inkubus/Sukkubus' music
Funhouse - "Voices"
This band emulates the style of mid 80's Sisters/early Mission. "Voices" has the standard angst-ridden goth lyrics, so if you don't mind a slight layer of melodrama, or the fact that you may have heard this song before in another form, then you'll probably enjoy this. This actually isn't as difficult of a feat as I make it sound, as musical similarities are somewhat easier to overlook when the singer isn't an Eldritch clone. In other words, sure it sounds like SoM/Mission, but not quite as much as early Rosetta Stone does.
Star Industry - "New Millenium"
Catchy and upbeat gothic rock very much in the same vein as The Merry Thoughts (but without as much of a fetish for a certain UK "rock n' roll" band).
Sunshine Blind - "Hanging Lake"
This new effort from the seemingly now-elusive Sunshine Blind would fit quite well on their first album, full of grooving basslines, distorted guitars, and the power of Caroline Blind's vocals. Listen to this song and find out why Andrew Eldritch booted them off of the bill back in 97: he didn't want to be shown up by an opening act.
Wench - "Isabelle"
Atmospheric synths provide the backdrop for layers of rich female vocal tapestry, while drums provide a march-like feel. Short but sweet, and unlike anything else on this compilation.
The Changelings - "Orbit"
All you need to do to find out what I think of The Changelings is read my review of their second album. They are a great band; an exemplar of good ethereal music. This song has more of a alternapop song structure than most of their other material, but the vocals really set it apart. Still, I think that there are many far better Changelings tunes out there.
All in all, Towards the Sky is a mixed bag. While most of the industrial songs are average to subpar, the compilation is gifted with a few excellent examples of gothic rock (The Horatii, Sunshine Blind). In fact, you may want to pick it up for the new Sunshine Blind track alone (as new material from this band, which has been label-less for quite some time, is damn hard to come by). This compilation does provide a wide variety of material, so it may be just the thing for anyone looking for new bands to check out.