REVIEW: V/A – “Colorado Dark Arts Festival”

By Manda L. Earp

Chain Border

Colorado Dark Arts Festival“Colorado Goths REPRESENT!”

Seems like a funny declaration from a state that, on the surface, doesn’t offer much more than mountain climbing, skiing and a very bad baseball team. However, Colorado apparently hosts a large and highly (that’s an altitude joke; feel free to roll your eyes at me now) talented gothic community. Fortunately, the Colorado Dark Arts Collective (CDAC), a non-profit group who support the gothic scene, decided to hold a large forum for artists, musicians, DJ’s, clothing designers and lovers of the subculture to come together and display their respective talents: and thus, the Colorado Dark Arts Festival (CDAF) was born.

The two-disc, 18-track recording of the event, which took place on May 25th, 2003, is an entertaining, eclectic, and skilled mix of various musicians and bands featured at the CDAF. Though some of the tracks are a bit mundane, the majority of the music on this compilation is spectacular and showcases the best of a subculture in which so many of us partake.

Disc one, entitled the Onyx CD (in honor of the club in which the music featured on this disc was played), is dynamic. In fact, the only disappointing song on this disc is the opening track, Indigo Reaction’s Compromise. The beginning of the piece is muffled and irritating, with programmed effects that make the song sound disjointed. Although the singing itself is mostly on-key and of a decent tone, the instrumentation and programming leave much to be desired. A different (and perhaps a darker and more intense) song should have been used as the introductory track on an album featuring the best of the gothic scene.

Luckily, track two is amazing. Soren’s She Dances With Fire has a Celtic-style opening featuring an acoustic guitar and an accordion. The vocals are engaging and reminiscent of an old-time Irish ballad and I couldn’t help but nod my head from side to side, stereotypically wishing I was at a pub enjoying a pint. Best of all, the lyrics are intelligent and catchy, making this creative song a definite winner.

The remaining seven tracks on the Onyx CD follow in the same vein. Solitary Sinners’ Fear is a quick-tempo, rhythmic trance so intense and innovative that, by the time the vocals come into play, you’re already hooked. Track six, eROTic(1)’s Forever, has a haunting and melancholy introduction that captivates the listener from the first note (even though, as the song progresses, the singing has a whiny tone that grows quite irritating. If you can ignore that and enjoy the instrumentation, then this song doesn’t lose its’ charm).

Throe Vein’s No More, the ninth and final track on disc one, is nothing short of fantastic. The opening is an industrial and heavy metal-lover’s dream, filled with screaming power similar to that of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine. After one minute, the tone drops quickly and manically into a light, almost sorrowful sound. But just as you adjust to the change, the song builds back up, creepily hunting you in the sense that you know you are being hunted. The vocals don’t exactly flow with the powerful quality of the song right away, but they eventually grow stronger and the richly layered harmony is intriguing. This piece is the right way to end any CD, let alone a compilation disc: it leaves the listener begging for more.

I had high expectations of disc two, labeled the Rock Island CD, and though it wasn’t as unique and enchanting as its’ predecessor I was not disappointed. The opening track, Tenebrious’s Follow, showcases excellent drumming and skilled keyboarding. The vocals and lyrics are catchy, even if they are a bit adult-contemporary-pop at times, and it’s easy to imagine this song on your local radio station. Follow is a good start to the second disc; if the Onyx CD had showcased a first track such as this one, I wouldn’t have been nearly as disappointed.

Track six, The Frail’s Rise, is the only miss on this second CD. The opening, strong and death-march metal, left me hopeful for a quality piece of music and the Casualties-like off-beat drumming was intriguing enough to make me think that I had found one. However, the poor singing (if I can call it singing – the man half-talks, half-screams his way through the lyrics) eventually overcomplicates this piece making it unbearable to listen to.

Razor Sharp Ribbons’ You Brought Me Pain, is unsettling, but that is what makes it worth checking out. I felt uneasy and paranoid from first note to last and the random, snake-like rattle that permeates this tune doesn’t help the apprehensive feeling that clutched onto me for all four and a half minutes of this track. You Brought Me Pain is bizarre enough to be interesting and it’s definitely the song to check out on this disc.

Although most of the tracks on both the Onyx CD and the Rock Island CD shine with attention-grabbing and diverse style, there are some definite gems that make the CDAF compilation CD a magnificent showcase of talent and individuality. If the gothic subculture had a soundtrack, than this would be it. That alone makes this compilation worth purchasing.

Contact Information:
Gestalt Records
Post: 3600 Osage St., Denver, CO, 80221, USA

(1) EROTic’s A Million Empty Lives was reviewed in Legends #141.

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