CD Review

Acts Magdalena - "Acts Magdalena"

By Marcus Pan

Acts MagdalenaI've scrounged the Net a bit and came across a few reviews of Acts Magdalena's self-titled and self-released debut already. But what confuses me is they don't jive with what I think. Now I've heard of opinions, sure, but DAMN. One actually said lead singer/songwriter Christian Merry can't sing (Aiding & Abetting). What?! I feel that she clearly shows her ability to carry a tune in Wasteland, the final track on this four-song release. And that's just one example.

But enough of them. What matters is what I say because I know better. Based out of the New York City area, Acts Magdalena is a four piece unit made up of sole members Christian Merry - a woman who I dare not upset for fear she'd hurt me. Her voice is strong, sultry and can go from dreamesque and sexy to dark and terrifying. And A&A says she can't sing - obviously they haven't heard some of the shite out there these days. Also here is fretless bassist, and also counterpart songwriter to the beautiful yet terrifyingly vocal Merry, Rick Van Benschoten. Joining them to round out the sound is percussionist Brandon Miller and guitarist Dave McConnell. The four of them create a hybrid sound of death metal and more-palatable goth rock, riding on the very fringe of heavy without crossing into the boo-blargy thing that thrash-metal enthusiasts claim is music.

Acts MagdalenaChristian's lyrics are condescending, egotistical and in some cases blunt. Take this example from their first track, Elliptical Mind's Eye, one of the few well-done religious-toned tracks that I've heard in years (the rest being rehashed Mansonesque drivel): "Who you idolize, is just who you nail." A reference to good 'ol JC at the outset, this statement can be applied to a number of situations both of days past, days now and days coming.

In The Only Thing, Christian locks herself away. Tired of roaming in a world where "There's no light to be seen, no places to go, nothing left to know," she locks herself up to get away. It's a slower moving track sung in a sexy style. The breakdown near the middle of the song highlights the excellent bass work that can be performed by Rick when necessary and creates an iridescent sound with its distortion. I originally thought it was guitar, but have been since corrected by Christian in a recent letter. Great work on the fretless, Rick.

The third track on this EP, Bullet, is a fast paced heavy metal style song about the power some feel with firepower. Christian's vocals go to a deep guttural tear here - which is where most of the black metal idea comes from when I think of their work. "Fire, fire, you bitter ruthless man, yeah you got your fucking gun." Most people of the type that Christian sings about need that metal in their hand to feel anything resembling strong - and that, to me, is definitely not strong at all.

Acts Magdalena close their initial release with Wasteland. This is where Rick Van Benschoten shows his prowess with a fretless bass, creating an ethereal play on his notation arrangement. Wasteland is a love story - it's illusionary nature and "broken line" as Christian writes. And how if you fly high enough, you might find it. Maybe. Odds are against you, but maybe.

Acts Magdalena provide a strong self-titled debut with this release. With the combination of Christian's lyrics and singing, Rick's arrangements, Brandon's percussionary glue that holds this arrangement together and Dave's ability to know when to come forward and when to hang back, AM provide a hybrid style of gothic rock and heavier metal. It's well done and well arranged - and believe me - Christian Merry can sing. I don't know what the folk over at A&A are tokin', but I'll pass on it, thanks.

Contact Information:
Post: 500 E. 11th St. #7, New York, NY, 10009
Phone: (212) 982-4821