The name is intimidating enough. Vampire Nation. Haunting, Gothic, creepy, bloody. The potential could be downright satanic, or even downright comical, depending on the execution. The brainchild of Frederik von Hamilton, Vampire Nation is a vladerific homogenization of alternative, electronica, hip hop, coldwave and world music that switches gears at the drop of a dime when one least expects it. Dead City Diary has so many influences it's hard to keep up with it, honestly. A confusing disc, Vampire Nation fearlessly explores its varying interests, mostly to success.
Let Them Eat Cake begins with hollow synths and a near hilarious doom-laden beat reminiscent of 70s kung fu flick punches, almost destroyed altogether with the farcical, whispery narrative and a smacking "bye bye" sample that treads perilously close to N-Sync. Web is Peter Murphy and Erasure in spirit, yet one can tell the synth track is on a loop and the breaks aren't very clean. It's annoying and the song near loses integrity, save for the congas that maintain the fluidity and a bass track towards the end that rescues Web from falling flat altogether.
Suddenly, Crawl spins a nice, melancholic bit of Goth acoustic guitar. It comes as a complete surprise and is perfect salvation to the quirky openers. The lead notes of Crawl are spiteful and hard-plucked atop the gentle background acoustics driving into the even more intoxicating Poison, a flamenco-based acoustic jam that flies on its rousing pace. A pair of talented hands weaves intricate notes in such a delicious manner it becomes curious as to which direction Vampire Nation is actually heading on this disc.
The answer is: wherever it sees fit. A hit-and-run flotilla of hip hop flavored tracks takes precedence with the fly groove of Bite, the Snap-mindedness of The Whip, the snarling fuckbeat of Final Curtain, which features a nice harpsichord sampling, and Bury, which has barely discernable melodies, bass and acoustic cameos, but is guided by a heavy urban beat like its three predecessors.
Again a change in tone with Needle, which is more traditional in its Gothic roots; the slick piano lead is accompanied by confident drum and bass and coldwave synths. The Snag is a bit sluggish, however; it sounds generic for this release, but might serve as a welcome backdrop for Eminem's patented shadiness. The Snag is a bit shady itself, not quite up to snuff as the others of its ilk on Dead City Diary. Entrapment has a hard hip hop beat ala Deathrow with an interesting harmonica which splices the background, coupled by piano and hollow synth strikes, an odd, but agreeable mixture.
Dead City becomes the disc's epic, beginning with drum and bass electronica and disruptive synth sweeps that stray from the otherwise steady beat. The song builds a subtle melody, but the layered synthesizer crushes the other components for awhile; it's too smart for its own good and doesn't work. Finally, the undercurrent melody usurps its rightful spot in the composition by the middle of the overlong track. The tone shifts later and salvages the track altogether with its bass-laden agro beat. Despite a satisfyingly destructive finale, the song is too fat at thirteen minutes plus. Wounded is constructed in the same manner of Dead City, overpowering a sensible dance groove in the opening minutes with unwelcome hammer synths that eventually yield. Like its predecessor, Wounded switches gears within its confines, opting for a snaky groove with a cool melody and splendid chimes. Eventually the hodgepodge becomes a bit noisy and ultimately grates on the nerves.
The listener might be feeling a bit flogged by the time The Snare arrives, a far more pleasing dance track with a pure electronica base to it, a theme recurred on Entanglement, Vein and the hidden untitled track. Vampire Nation seems to opt for clustering its songs into groupings. The final stanza of these electronic, often industrial-based songs finishes Dead City Diary nicely, but an odd sensation is felt by the disc's end. What to feel about it? So many different forms explored, but what is the real Vampire Nation?
Dead City Diary needs more than one listen to appreciate its qualities. It serves as a sampler to Frederik von Hamilton's potential, one that is obviously going to be stretched limitlessly on ensuing releases. Having dabbled in so many subgenres, it will be interesting to see where he ultimately settles.
Post: Hexagon Records, PO Box 42303, Pittsburgh, PA, 15203-0303