REVIEW: V/A - "Blackend"

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

BlackendNon-sleeping Florida local Bob Menedez isn't one to rest on his laurels. Releasing his project, Doomsdaykult, and bringing us The Complete DDK recently, he has since put together a small label outfit bearing the name Rivithead Records. Contrary to what the label's promised music may sound like, and while they intend on poking their heads into the industrial and heavier genres indeed such as the recent signing of Philly's Genetic Mishap and release of their follow-up D-Evolution CD, Rivithead is also touching upon some more techno-laden, DJ-style and even trance on their double CD Blackend release; Rivithead Record's first release out the door.

Blackend consists of a total of 18 tracks, 9 on each CD. While one could imagine them fitting all 18 onto one CD, you can see the division as the second CD tends to get a bit more chill-out and trancy while the first explores a more goth/industrial bent. There's a lot of unknown artists here with respectable tracks. While Doomsdaykult and Genetic Mishap both appear as is expected, the rest are virtual unknowns pushing out some decent tracks, all of them vying for plays and downloads on The CD is presented well, and while the Blackend compilation isn't set to be a highlight of this year's releases, it is assuredly a gem in the rough and because of its explorations across electronic music styles most will be programming their own playlists for this one to find what they believe to be the diamonds of the collection.

Disc 1

DoomsdayKult - Dance of the Dead
Bob Melendez's project, it's only natural that he kicks of his new label's compilation showing us what he can do himself. Immediately kicking off Blackend with a decidedly techno slamming beat. Heavily bass-centric, Dance of the Dead is a good setup and collection opener, starting it off with power, speed and balls.

Genetic Mishap - Borg Nine
For more on Pittsburg's Genetic Mishap, see the recent reviews of their Pre-NA and D-Evolution CDs, the latter of which is Rivithead's release as well. Having mixed feelings about GM's work, as their music tends toward extremely experimental, I can say that Borg Nine is easily one of their better tracks.

Lefkin Encoded - Audio Field
A brooding, windy track with an EBM smell and industrial taste, Audio Field is one of Blackend's highlights. Standard fare yet well placed guitar work surrounding by bell-like synthetic overtones.

If/Then - Breath
Taking Lefkin's broodiness and drowning it in bass and string-like melodies, If/Then spit angst like a pissed cobra. The vocals are superb, if a little too far under the melodic synth tones at times. Male and female vocalists trade off on each other's work, at some points together yet at others spinning off on their own tangents. If only the vocals were given a bit more priority in the mastering I'd enjoy this track more.

Hideous Input - I Am Not Alive
With a wonderful synthpop flair, Hideous Input save the moodiness that was building since Lefkin and inject it with bright melodies and windy vocals. Surely a highlight to Blackend, I Am Alive is an excellent old skool synthpop sound that adds layers of trance texture on it to create a bittersweet morsel of sound.

Two Ton Flood - Second Skin
Slipping from the comfy surrounding tones of I Am Alive, Two Ton Flood's contribution to this collection takes us a bit further into industrial while keeping the brighter-melody tone to the track. A smooth introduction drops into a rhythm-centric EBM tune. The lyrics are a bit banal, but it is packaged so well you hardly notice.

La Morte - The Crucification of God
You simply can't put out a compilation like this if you don't have something nasty to say about the omnipotent God of organized religion(s). La Morte immediately dump you into a true bass-laden, vox-stymied track that reminds you that this label is called Rivethead, goddamn it, and don't you fucking forget that!

Speorg - Together We Will Rot
Keeping the cyberpunks happy, Speorg contributes what I feel is THE highlight track of all the compilation. Powerful, techno-laden with synth-work galore, Together We Will Rot is an in-yo-face industrial stomp that gets under your skin and moves you regardless of how many layers of crustiness you might wear.

DoomsdayKult - The Machine
A bit repetitive and not too creative, The Machine is a good name for this track as it shows levels of control and non-deviation. As Bob opened disc 1 with a stomp, he closes it with similar.

Disc 2

Translucent - Blade Song
A big surprise awaits you as you go to the second disc of the compilation. Completely switching gears on you, Blade Song by Translucent opens like an ethereal piece with strong, male vocals and decently enough arranged string sounds. A very strong bass line drones the track causing it a small amount of dragging. Guitars visit only occasionally, highlighting chorus areas.

Nokturnal Bliss - Biomachine
Now we step into DJ style, with the raver-flare Biomachine. Concentrating on a drum 'n bass style, Biomachine may be a little repetitive in sound, but clearly shows that Nokturnal Bliss know how to control a rhythm while mixing it up with changes and samples.

Thirty Below - Build
Keeping it rhythmic, Build is a track that has a swift and moving beat. It is clearly a trance song and quite a good one, though it's nothing too new. Just a good example of good trance.

Reshure - A Trip Through the Years
Slowing it down and sending you straight from the trance-induced clouds to a mire of moodiness and despair, Reshure's Trip Through the Years is a welcome chill out, but set this track on your playlists to close the night because it's surely going to put a damper on your X. The piano melody gives you the same type of chills as when you walk into a gothic church to hear Quasimodo playing the pipe organs.

Antioxidant - Drift
Once again we slide into a faster-beat trance track with Drift. More of a DJ mix, Drift will occasionally switch up on you, suspend beats, change rhythms and try to completely denigrate your expectations. For ravers this is a must-have, sure to keep the floor moving. A highlight to this side of the compilation.

Sanitary Refuse - Jaded
Opening with simplistic beats and moving into complete junkyard bangs, Jaded is definitely a rhythmic extravaganza. It will stop suddenly, tell you how much of a failure you are (via sample) and then step back into the heavy-hitting barrage of part experimental industrial, part drum 'n bass nightmare.

187 Trance - Inspectors Nitemare
Ok, how the fuck did this one slip on here? Now I have been known to spin some trance, 187 Trance included (303 Infinity and Bondi Drive being two trance favorites off the top of my head), and while Inspectors Nightmare is surely a decent progressive trance tune, this particular overplayed, overhyped, overheard melody does NOT belong on a Rivethead compilation. Case in point - my ten year old loves it. Need I say more?

Distorted Electronic Idol - Distonic Electroil Ided
Experimental and heavy-handed, Distonic Electroil Ided sounds more like one that belongs on the first CD and not between these two. It's a bit more chaotic than I like for my own listening pleasure, a bit banal in makeup and melody, but the chorus rocks.

Out After - Future's Past
A wonderful trip to close Blackend to. Future's Past is a good track name. The bubbly synth score drags time longer while the swift rhythm fights the drag and attempts a pull forward making for a pleasant and uncanny track. The Arabian style mixed up vocal samples are a tasty icing on the cake. A powerful arrangement here.

Like I said, you will undoubtedly program your own playlists to this compilation; seeking out the shiny tracks from the ones you don't like as much. With a two-CD exploration of electronica, running the gamut from industrial to synthpop, EBM to trance, drum 'n bass to experimental; nobody is really going to love everything here. That's not what it's meant for. But you will find your own diamonds as Blackend is a well put together compilation, with the darker tinged stuff on disc 1 and the trancier, more upbeat tempos on disc 2. Even going so far as to break rules and actually use the forsaken word "trance" on the compilation, new FL outfit Rivithead Records steps out of the gate with an impressive start.


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