CD Review

Adrian Alexis - "Grave New World"

By Mike Ventarola

Adrian Alexis is a combination of Gary Numan, Edward Scissorhands, Powder and a dash of Michael Jackson. He is a poet, songwriter, singer, musician, genius and quite mad. He has spent some hellish time behind the walls of a mental institution, however, this seems to have enhanced his creative gift far beyond most. His songs are so good that you forget that much of this work came from one who has suffered the total violation of mental clarity and freedom at the expense of the modern world. Quite frankly, this artist does have his eccentricities, yet he is charming, polite, sweet, thoughtful and talented as hell! If this is insanity, then I would prefer the rest of the world to be just as mad since his heart seems to be in the right place in my book.

Magic Garden begins our adventure with a sing-song child like anthem about taking us into the magic garden of enchantment that only an artist of such vision could create. Make no mistake, this is not going to be a Disney World adventure by any means. Only the brave truly survive. The song leaves behind the childlike imagery to kick into a barkers call to the malevolent sideshow which is about to begin. Come Away, Come Away does not utilize the familiar gothic minor chords one becomes accustomed to with this genre of music, yet Alexis manages to make it sound very dark indeed. We are pulled along to that place where "shadows dance and the full moon calls" into a dismal world of splendor. Maniacal laughter is superimposed under the vocals and instruments, letting us know that the ride to madness is about to unfold.

Grave New World was inspired by a fan sending the artist some rather risque photo's of herself in a graveyard at night. On another level, it can be a Gothic anthem as this is what the scene is about after all isn't it? This is the excitement of "dancing where the dead decay in the garden of grave delight." This is a highly danceable cut meant for goth clubs everywhere. This Thing That I Call Me is a reminder of the introspection we all have undergone from time to time. It is that penchant for deciding that one's existence is so painful that we hope others do not see the misery within. "I tear my soul to cease the pain, unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed, all my toys are broken and so am I inside." From such dismal lyrics one would suppose that this is a mawkish ballad. Fear not, it is a HIGHLY danceable tune with a lot of rock edges to keep all satisfied in the clubs. It is almost as if that by dancing to this tune, one can escape that world of self hatred and reach the trance level that is induced by the Sufi's in their religious swirling dervishes.

New Jack Swing is a dark funk song that is so playfully morbid and bouncy that it is infectious. "Hanging with the haunted is the new jack swing." This one ranks up there with songs such as the Monster Mash, Men In Black and the Cruxshadow's Monsters. Lusts has a Lydia Lunch type of anti-music dark downbeat. This is the artist's vision of how he sees the genocide of the human race that most of us are too blind or anesthetized to pay much attention to. I Love The Dead lends a twilight zone type of sampling under the main notes to yet another danceable and macabre song.

Grave New WorldTickets To Nowhere has the artist reciting a poem as an intro, which then segues into the song. The music gently cloaks itself around a mid-tempo beat with some catchy keyboard work. We are taken further along our journey in the dark amusement park of despair. Layer upon layer, our psyche is stripped of reason and we are confronted with the ticket master of sorrow. Listening To The Stranger is funky with a hint of cacophony that again works as a dance tune. In some ways this is the voice that plays itself in the artist's head. In another sense, this is also the inner dread that comes to darken our door that refuses to unleash us from its grasp.

Now You're In Heaven, orchestrated in a "spooky" funereal sound element with sound bytes that are initially just out of reach for full audible perception. This is truly a nightmarish instrumental piece that slowly allows the ears to hear these sound bytes that upon comprehension of it all you are forced to feel completely unnerved by it. The artist musically enacted the annihilation, torture and degradation that man inflicts upon man into a collage of horror. These are the sounds that Adrian claims he hears coming from our world and I must say, he isn't wrong.

Witch' Rune is a live recording that incorporated the witch' sabbat as part of the show. It is an upbeat song that does in fact call and charge the circle as cast by witches. The vocals are somewhat compressed to provide yet another sound and flavor. From the audience response, this song was also a major hit with them as well. There Anybody Out There has a Lene Lovich flavor to it. The song is experimental with a certain percussive groove that maintains a foot tapping beat. This song came about after the artist was in solitary confinement for 2 months in the state mental institution. The initial clanking that is utilized as a form of percussion can be viewed as one clanging against the cell block bars in an attempt to make sound to keep them company.

Why? was initially written by the artist in his own blood on the concrete wall of the institution where he was confined at the time. He states he is "much better now." Alone is the one song on this disc that I have a very hard time listening to. The reason is not because it isn't good. On the contrary it is an extremely well done ballad. The lyrics, though quite simple, are so gut wrenching that I often find myself becoming quite choked up every time I hear it and am often moved to tears. With this song, I hear a forlorn, lost and forgotten child and it breaks my heart every time. Bewlay Bro's is a folk guitar work that displays the vocals which initially are uncluttered by compression or other microphone tricks. The voice vacillates between the speakers to sound as if they are coming from the wall. Here the artist has a sound reminiscent of a cross between Don McClean, B.J. Thomas and Jim Croce.

Bodies is another bouncy gothic sound that incorporates so many elements that to categorize them would do it a total injustice. In My Room plays with vocals in some of the most creative ways that I have ever heard. Snippets are pieced together, played at various speeds, with additional sound samples while an electronic drum plays a metronomic beat. The freaky voices coincide and harmonize rather well. The Calling is a song dealing with a recurrent dream that the artist has had over the years. September Yellow is an homage written when a friend of Alexis' had passed away.

Due to space constraints some of the reviews of each song had to be amended somewhat. Overall, Adrian Alexis manages to actually create some new and viable dark music utilizing his own personal hell of mental instability as his canvas. The total grasp and creativity that he displays on this disc remains truly astounding. Most of the music is quite danceable and seems tailor made for the gothic clubs all over the world. The songs hold up scenes and events like a snapshot. We can fully feel and envision the various landscapes that he musically creates. The songs are mournful, playful, macabre, eerie and excellently rendered. Thankfully, venues such as allows us to sample music from some of the most creative geniuses such as Adrian Alexis. It is my wish that you sample this music and fall in love with it as much as I have.

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