REVIEW: V/A - "Black Winter"

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

Florida's Rivithead outfit has already surpassed many small labels in terms of quantity. RhR have already put out a double CD compilation, Blackend(1), and this was followed by releases from individual bands as well. Their latest signings to their label include St. John's Eve (look for their full length review in an upcoming issue), Jimmy Decay and Groantechno. Their latest release is another compilation CD entitled Black Winter. Overall it's a good compilation with some bad tracks, some really good tracks and a whole pile of decent listening material. Here's a run down of the individual songs.

Digital Endryption - Commandanski
Chanty opening that breaks into an interesting fast-electro groove. The chant vs electro beat continues and while the two don't precisely match I really enjoy the way they go against one another providing an interesting sound mixture. Digital Encryption's use of synthesizer and beat box machines shows a good handle on the equipment with continuous changes. Nearly five minutes of beat manipulations and not much else besides the chanting interludes, but their mastery keeps the track from becoming boring.

Black WinterGenetric Mishap - Damnation
Slow, brooding, bass-centric and minimal. Particularly interesting for it's grunge-like rhythm. Minimalism pulled off well. Mixed in vocal samples and background screams turn Damnation into a top Halloween or black party background track. Queue this one up between Midnight Syndicate.

Terrurium - Painless Mind
Leave out the unnecessary shoddy static introduction to Painless Mind and you have a good synth-pop track. Mixing up older synthesizer/keyboard licks with metallic chorale grinds creates a fresh sound here. Vocals are vox-tinged and appropriate.

DoomsdayKult - I'm Nobody
DDK shows his talents here with the mixing of an almost trance-style background synth melody, slow and brooding, and throws it up against a swift rhythm. The effect is similar to track 1, with two distinct rhythms going on here to create an interesting effect. You don't know whether to groove or sway, float or stay.

Noise Process - Dying World
Noise Process kick in a highlight to Black Winter. Dying World is very well crafted industrial dance with a great beat, infectious rhythm and an excellent chorus backed with one of the better and memorable keyboard melodies I've picked up. The track is not over-produced and has more of a garage days sound to it that adds flavor. It's just messy enough to sound great.

Reel - Stand and Fall
RivitHead keeps to the garage-industrial core sound format as we move into the more metallic Stand and Fall from Reel. This one recalls the days when industrial was something new, making me remember the great old bands from Zoth Ommog and maybe Wax Trax. Remaining still messy, but instead to add spice not hide lack of talent for it's surely there, Stand and Fall is another Black Winter highlight giving us two in a row.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern - Escher's Pulon "vocal mix"
R&G take something that I guess were vocals at one point, slow them down, speed them up, spit them out and start adding rhythmic and electro-noodling effects. At first thought, you get one of those "what the fuck is this?" reactions for the first 10 seconds or so. But suddenly it gets better. Although the vocals do continue to remain somewhat annoying for the duration, I really dig the guitars and electro noodlings.

Hideous Input - Heimlich
Hideous Input I rather like, and look forward to two full length reviews of their stuff (E-Sides and Life - Sex - Death). Since their appearance here on Black Winter HI and RivitHead aren't working together from what I have heard, and that's a shame becaue Heimlich is definitely one of the better tracks on the compilation. Smoothe and low-brow, with shouty stand up style chorus vocals. Beats and rhythms are somewhat minimal but supported by well-arranged synthetic additions to the groove. One of the best groovy tracks I've come across lately. A real mover.

Locura - Playing With Fire
Locura was a surprise here for some reason. Their Playing With Fire is a grinding track that gets somewhat hypnotic with the additional keys. See the review of their 10 Song Demolition release in a past issue of Legends(2).

Spanking Machine - Nazi Love Slave
The inclusion of Spanking Machine, which by the way is one of the best kick ass band names I've heard, is quite a gear switch for Black Winter. While one can surely see the Siouxsian style here, I can't help but notice that it doesn't fit with the industrial/electronic make-up of the rest of the compilation. I liken this band to chick fronted garage rock/punk bands like Bitchcat, Scissorkiss(3), etc. "There's a war inside my pants" ... indeed, or at least was the last time I saw Bitchcat play. Makes me wonder if the spankers would put on as good of a show. Guess I'll check if they're local, I like this one.

TwoTonFlood - Gunsitter
This same track appeared on RivitHead's buddy label, GMI Independent's, Blackend White compilation(4). Here it is again. It's a good track, but I'm sure Two Ton Flood can pull out something new, yes?

Blown Up Doll - Overreactor
Here's something typical. A track about being pissed off and "overreacting" complete with loud drum beats, yelling vocal samples and unimpressive other didjits. Minimally arranged. I do however like the vocals for some reason. He screams "Fuck!" a whole lot, which makes him really cool I think. Blown Up Doll probably hopes I fucking die.

The Synthetic Dream Foundation - Gateway
The most memorable opening monologue samples goes to The Synthetic Dream Foundation's intro to one of the better trance-industro tracks I've had the pleasure to find. A highlight of course, with great synthesizer widgets floating about and bell-like tones melodically moving into a groovalicious mixture of trance and EBM/industrial. Over seven minutes of progressive stylings, great for rave and chill-out DJs. Excellent use of rhythmic clash.

Infrared Nine - Sacrifice
Infrared Nine make a nice attempt at Ministry-style guitar driven industrial here, but the track comes off sounding kind of typical and unmemorable. The vocals are nearly drowned by the guitars and the riffs themselves are pretty standard fare. The thing is, Sacrifice show Infrared Nine to be a talented possibility, but this particular track doesn't stay with you.

Leon T - So Be It
Leon T's minimal So Be It is long, drawn out and pretty boring. But I suppose it's a decent way to bring one down and close Black Winter. It's mostly an ambient-industrial mix of washes, synthetic drones and held together by a beat that is pretty static throughout the clip.

Contact Information:

(1) Reviewed in Legends #114, September 2001.
(2) Legends #116, November 2001.
(3) Reviewed in Legends #89, August 1999.
(4) Reviewed in Legends #116, November 2001.

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