Music Reviews

The Sermon of Judgment

By Rev. Daryl Litts

Blind Faith and Envy * The Charming Factor * Nilaihah
If you’re looking for something refreshing, The Charming Factor is probably the best segue-way from straight pop music to the deeper electro brand. High quality production and sharp rock-minded programming are fused with bright female vox to create a relatively irresistible album. Fronting more hooks than a fishing convention, Blind Faith and Envy are aiming high early in the game and are set on being the catch of the day. Whether laid-back on intimate headphone tracks, or with passion on the dance floor, The Charming Factor is an impressive introduction to this rising band. Some stylish reworks by the likes of Blank, Null Device, and Neuroactive are just an extra incentive to pick it up.

Dopestars Inc. * 10,000 Watts of Artificial Pleasures * Self-released
I honestly thought bands like this were either surpassed by evolution or just plain extinct. The fast-paced hybrid that crosses over the barriers between pop-minded radio rock/metal and the digital frenzy of industrial music is not only breathing, it’s crawling up an alley near you. The 6-track EP 10,000 Watts contains a few good pieces with some decent licks and a high-powered flare that makes it stand out above others. Where they fall short in terms of questionable imagery (they rape Rammstein’s logo, who in turn stole it from Laibach), they compensate with genuine good ol’ fashioned industrial know-how and a penchant for pop tunes. Please judge them for their music and not their cheesy name or related drug references, or you might pass up a mild surprise.

Informatik * Re:Vision * Metropolis
This follow-up to the full-length Nymphomatik has been 2 years in the making, but was well worth the wait. Featuring reworked versions of tracks from as far back as Direct Memory Access and up to the most current material, this disc is a blistering reminder of just how strong Informatik can be. Also including new tracks and contributions from Assemblage 23, Iris, and Funker Vogt, Re:Vision is just what it claims to be—a revision of the Informatik sound that retains its strong beats, precise programming and melodic vocals while exploring alternate avenues and keeping with the more synth-pop tinged style that distinguishes Informatik from its evil twin, Din_Fiv. This album wins the “Most Addictive” award this issue without a doubt.

Monofader * Frost * Metropolis
While likened to an EBM collision of Depeche Mode and Erasure, Monofader is actually the product of the collision of Sebastian Komor (Icon of Coil) and Richard Bjorklund (Spektralized). Fans of Icon of Coil will recognize the kindred relationship immediately in the sound structures and even more so in the beats, but Monofader is a separate project for a reason. It takes the heavy beats and synthy flavors into a more melodic song-based realm (very much like Depeche Mode indeed) while retaining generally mellow integrity, more for listening than for the dance floor. As with anything related to Icon of Coil, Frost is a catchy and infective first run for Monofader.

Gary Numan * Live In London * Eagle
Gary Numan is a pioneering electro-pop musician, a great performer, and can do little wrong in terms of making great music. With this said, I must submit that a live disc from Numan (even if it is a 2 disc set) is not quite as exciting as a new album would be. This is coming from a jaded fan that has most of Numan’s catalog, which already includes slews of live tracks. Though hearing the newer material (recorded in 1997) in a live format is a fresh experience, it doesn’t take the music much beyond the studio releases because the production value is so high. Aside from these minor grievances, this is generally a good release—a must if you’re a hard-core fan and probably the best place to start if you’re just discovering Gary Numan.

Seabound * Poisonous Friend * Metropolis
This remix companion to Beyond Flatline is the 9-track extension that I wished for after being blown away by the full-length. You can be confident that Poisonous Friend offers up not only cool vocals and precise electro in the vein of Wolfsheim and Covenant, but also 2 great new tracks and remixes from contemporaries such as Cut.Rate.Box, Haujobb, Stromkern, and Severed Heads, who provide excellent takes on the Seabound sound. This relatively young band is producing very mature work, leaving little if anything to be desired.

Skinny Puppy * The Greater Wrong of the Right * SPV
When I heard this album was going to be released, I almost shit myself. When I heard they were also touring for it, I did. Besides the shock of its mere existence, fans will also get a shock in terms of the stylistic change SP has experienced with The Greater Wrong, which seems to pick up right where 1996’s The Process leaves off. Still retaining a hard metallic-industrial edge with both melodic and chaotic passages, Ogre now brings the more refined vocal style he’s cultivated in his ohGr project. The music is undeniably evolved as well, with sporadic structure clashing into unshakable hooks and lyrics. I have heard Skinny Puppy fans on the net whining about how the album isn’t like their older stuff. To these pussies I say get a life, and if you want to hear their old stuff, get their old albums. The Greater Wrong is simply too sweet to pass up.

Meat Beat Manifesto * …In Dub (5.1 Surround) * MVD
This is a unique release to say the least. Meat Beat Manifesto (AKA Jack Dangers) has mastered a complete dub experience in crystal clear 5.1 surround sound, admittedly intended more for audio impact than video experience. The visuals accompanying the tunes are comprised of placid background animations and avant-garde video. In Dub is ideal for those who use their DVD players for audio anyway, but now you get a little extra…including multiple video channels on two tracks; one with 5 and the other with 2. Some video effects are more or less like the visualization effects on computer audio programs such as Winamp and iTunes, which I find amusing. While not ideal for start-to-finish viewing, this DVD is perfect for parties or situations where a little visual noise and eye candy is needed along with the spacey, ambience-inspiring audio collage Dangers is known for.

Speilburgh * Krizner Films
Speilburgh has an ugly box, a nutty plot, lame comedy and the most amateur acting I’ve seen since Debby Does Dallas 7. It relies on such comedy crutches as a mentally retarded teenager, a black woman with an attitude, immature high school tomfoolery in the lowest of forms—and did I mention toilet humor? For all intents and purposes this movie sucks the big one, yet I was strangely drawn to the not-so-subtle humor that occasionally broke through the clouds of terrible filmmaking. What detracted most from Speilburgh was the juxtaposition of the genre styles. Although attempting a dark comedy, the film could have been more successful if designed as a straight-up comedy, even if sub-par. The drama side of it was so terribly awkward and out of place that it took the movie from half bad to half horrible. Watch it once for a few laughs, place it back in the original wrapper, and dispose of it responsibly.

Various Artists * Goth: The Ultimate Collection * MVD
Goth: The Ultimate Collection is a great compilation for fans of both industrial and gothic music, yet the title is a slight misnomer. Consisting chiefly of industrial music, it outnumbers the goth pieces 2:1. As a fanatical industrial disciple, this fact tickles me pink—but I was also elated with the excellent goth choices. This 2-DVD compilation hosts not only a total of 54 music videos, but also 12 bonus audio tracks. The collective, otherwise marketed separately as Gothic Industrial Madness and Goth Box are released in conjunction with Cleopatra Records, so you can expect their brand of industrial/goth tunes (Spahn Ranch, Razed in Black, Switchblade Symphony) mixed with an eclectic selection of other resurrected clips (Clock DVA, Psychic TV, Alien Sex Fiend). The Ultimate Collection is great for any fan that may be fondly familiar with the aging videos, but also serves as a historical look back at the great industrial and gothic music of the 80s and 90s (sans the great material otherwise found on the Black Box collections from TVT/Wax Trax). My only wish is that there were a third DVD with a more modern look at the scenes, but perhaps I’m getting greedy considering this set is already priced at under $17.

Various Artists * In Goth We Trust * MVD
This diverse collection serves as a showcase of some of the best underground darkwave bands, mainly in the European scene. Spanning the gothic and dark metal/rock genres, In Goth We Trust is comprised of the stylized low-tech clips one might expect alongside surprisingly well crafted ones. There are plenty of live pieces to break up the haunting and artsy visuals of the studio-produced videos. Overall, the compilation makes for a good taste of what the underground darkwave scenes have to offer. A bonus CD companion extends the broad sampling, which only begins with the videos. For the price, you can’t go wrong exposing yourself to new music, both visually and aurally…so go for it!

VNV Nation * Pastperfect (Special Edition) * Metropolis
Finally, after months of preparation and setbacks, Pastperfect is unveiled and the results are shocking. What I expected was a half-assed industrial video with grainy production and shitty low-tech visuals. What I actually saw was a superior production in all aspects. The camera work, editing and music from live performances are all tight and very well done. Some questionable fades and other unnecessary effects are easily overlooked in the wake of excellent music and the performance of Ronan Harris, who proves it is possible for a 2-man electro band to pull off a successful live show. In fact, some of the tracks are more powerful here than on the original albums. I suppose I should have had faith since VNV have never once failed to impress me, and Pastperfect is no exception. Besides this essential collection of live videos, the Special Edition includes 2 extra discs—the first being a DVD containing band interviews and other assorted goodies and the last being a CD-ROM with 3 extra live videos, photos and yet more goodies. If that weren’t enough, a poster and sticker are also included. VNV have brought Christmas early this year!