Jonathan Hill Dot EU

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Mortiis The Smell of Rain Review

General Information:

Artist: Mortiis
Album: The Smell of Rain
Genre(s): Electronic
Subgenres(s): Synthpop
Released: 2001
Length: 51 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Earache Records

Track List:

01. Scar Trek/Parasite God
02. Flux/Mental Maelstrom
03. Spirit in a Vacuum
04. Monolith
05. You Put a Hex on Me
06. Everyone Leaves
07. Marshland
08. Antimental
09. Smell the Witch

Mortiis The Smell of Rain Cover

Mortiis The Smell of Rain Cover

Mortiis The Smell of Rain Review

The Smell of Rain is the 6th studio album by Norwegian solo artist Mortiis. This also marks the first and only entry of “Era 2” Mortiis in which he makes an unexpected transition from dark ambient music to synthpop.

This is also the first album wherein Mortiis assumes the role as lead vocalist and while he doesn’t possess the same vocal range or confidence that comes along further into his career, it’s not enough to outright dismiss his performance either. He also enlists additional vocalists including Sarah Jezebel Deva, of Cradle of Filth and Therion fame, for dramatic choral and solo arrangements that are laced together with straightforward distorted guitar work.

Scar Trek/Parasite God addresses contempt for God as Mortiis decries peoples willingness to “…sacrifice themselves/to the locust master, to the one that drowned the world” while saying “yet they crucify me,” presumably for having a simple difference of opinion on theological concerns. Many of the lyrics in other songs revolve around themes of alienation and angst while the final song, Smell the Witch, is more fantasy themed and less detailed in its narrative by comparison.

This is then followed by a two-part song found in Flux/Mental Maelstrom and Spirit in a Vacuum, which adds up to nearly 12 minutes between them, showing that Mortiis hasn’t lost his penchant for longer compositions in their entirety just yet. The long durations of many songs found on The Smell of Rain is also a point of contention due to the fact that they simply don’t need to be as long as they are and a more refined approach would have gone a long way in streamlining the overall presentation of the album.

Monolith breaks the synthpop framework for a dramatic piano and percussion driven number that brings the distorted guitar to the forefront for the bridge of the song and Everyone Leaves is a depressing synth-driven ballad that shows Mortiis at his most defeated as he describes the futility of loss found in the refrain in which he states “everyone leaves. In the end. Everything dies. In the end. It doesn’t matter how hard you hold on.” The build-up in the last minute of the latter song is merciful after around 6 minutes of mope but this song is easily the most stretched out.

Thankfully Mortiis bounces back from Everyone Leaves, particularly on Antimental and Smell the Witch. Both songs feature a cello and violin combined with the synthpop sound Mortiis has crafted but they are far more dramatic and intense than the other songs found on this album. The ending of the final track (Smell the Witch) is sudden but fitting and it will leave you with a good impression of The Smell of Rain, which will have undoubtedly alienated plenty of long-time Mortiis fans on its release but it is an important step in his musical evolution.

Performers:

Mortiis: Lead vocal, keyboards, synthesizers, synth programming, drum programming
Martina Binder: Additional lead vocal
Sarah Jezebel Deva: Vocal harmonies, soprano vocals
Mika Lindberg, “Raptor”, Suvi-Tuulia Virtanen: Alto vocals
Chris A: Guitars
Alzahr: Bass
Staffan Wieslander, Asa Anveden: Cello
Cecilia Lindgren, Johanna Wetter: Violin
Frederik Bergstrom: Tympani, percussion

External Links:

Mortiis Homepage
Mortiis on Wikipedia
The Smell of Rain on Wikipedia

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Leaether Strip Civil Disobedience Review

General Information:

Artist: Leaether Strip
Album: Civil Disobedience
Genre(s): Electronic
Subgenres(s): Electronic Body Music (EBM)
Released: 2008
Length: 69 minutes (CD 1), 72 minutes (CD 2)
Language(s): English, German
Label(s): Alfa Matrix

Track List (CD 1):

01. Civil Disobedience
02. The Damaged People
03. When Blood Runs Dark
04. Bite Until You Taste Blood
05. Jagtvej 69
06. Going Nowhere
07. I Said I’m Sorry
08. Pissing on My Territory
09. It Hurts Doesn’t It
10. One Day
11. The Devil’s Daughter

Track List (CD 2):

01. A Whore for Jesus
02. I Wear Black on the Inside
03. Machineries of Joy (Die Krupps Cover)
04. Snakebite
05. Soul Collector
06. Could Ya, Did Ya
07. In the Arms of a Demon
08. One More Reason
09. The Cradle of Death
10. Stains
11. The Evil in Putin’s Eyes

Leaether Strip Civil Disobedience Cover

Leaether Strip Civil Disobedience Cover

Leaether Strip Civil Disobedience Review

Civil Disobedience is the 11th studio album (and second double album) by Danish Electronic Body Music (EBM) artist Leaether Strip. Claus Larsen, the sole architect behind Leaether Strip, guarantees two things with Civil Disobedience with the first being a tour-de-force in aggressive dance music paired with subversive lyrics that paint a grim reality.

This is noteworthy early on with The Damaged People, wherein Claus Larsen lists off vignettes of suffering ranging from “the village idiot who made us laugh/until he raped a girl behind the bike shed” to “the dead man on the second floor/no one noticed he was gone until the smell came” and “the gay teenager killing himself/because his parents told him what the world does to faggots”. The last of those could possibly be a reference to his teenage years in which he was in danger of taking his life*.

On the first CD Claus Larsen’s voice ranges from confrontational snarls and shouts to outraged cries of distress (on Going Nowhere in particular) but on the second CD he often sounds more even tempered by comparison. The distorted vocal effects are still implemented across Civil Disobedience in varying degrees to compliment the militant attitude of the music. Some songs also contain voice samples to introduce a lyrical theme with The Cradle of Death, from the second CD, being the most explicit as it is presumably a recording of a soldier or journalist who recalls seeing “scores of people who had been killed, women who had been gang-raped” to “men who had been castrated and been left to bleed to death” … “those are things that we would see nearly every day”.

On the surface you could accuse Claus Larsen of using mere shock value to grab some attention but at the same time it’s entirely possible that this is the result of someone venting his own frustrations with the troubled world he observes. On the politically conscious title track he observes that “politicians use unfair tactics/to scare the people with convenient lies/they want two sides to go against each other/to make us pick the side they want” and Jagtvej 69 addresses the riots in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2007 following the closure and demolition of the Ungdomshuset (The Youth House).

Tired and true loud/soft dynamics with a heavier industrial music influence are used to up the aggressive ante on this song. Starting with a sample of protesters shouting and chanting, the soft piano motif poignantly overlaps them only to be cut down by caustic industrial stylings before it abruptly stops for a haunting solo vocal performance with only soft crackling noises of a fire to create a tense yet sombre atmosphere. The electronic elements are also present in other parts of the song and when they’re used subtly alongside the piano the end result is unquestionably one of Civil Disobedience’s finest moments.

Could Ya, Did Ya is an electro-industrial flavoured song that brings the electric guitar to the forefront and begins with a sarcastic sit-com skit whereas Stains takes a rather gothic twist with an organ arrangement that goes on for a good 3 minutes before the thumping dance beats reappear. There is also a cover of Machineries of Joy, originally by Die Krupps, on the second CD that is sung in both English and German but doesn’t forgo the awkward moaning sounds and manages to be about 2 minutes longer than the original. This leads right into the second guarantee of the Civil Disobedience album: the unholy length of each CD.

The running time of the first CD is 69 minutes and the second is 72 minutes. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that on average each song is nearly 6.5 minutes long so not only will each CD test your patience, there is also the practical question of having the time to be able to sit down and listen to either half properly.

These are some obvious negatives that could have easily been addressed by releasing each CD as a separate album or by shortening some of the songs because the likes of Pissing on My Territory is the shortest song on the album (4 minutes and 43 seconds compared to several that are between 6 and 8 minutes) yet it has some of the most replay value for this very reason.

While Civil Disobedience can feel stretched out on both halves of the album, it shouldn’t diminish the positive qualities found in the dark lyricism that is melded with the spirit of punk rock, particularly in the vocal department, and aggressive dance music because it is a powerful combination that deserves a larger spotlight.

Performers:

Claus Larsen: Singer, songwriter, performer

External Links:

Leaether Strip Homepage
Leaether Strip on Wikipedia
Civil Disobedience on Wikipedia

* http://www.phxgoth.com/leaether-strip-interview/ “I was a troubled gay teen on the closet, in danger of taking my own life”.

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Ulver Metamorphosis Review

General Information:

Artist: Ulver
Album: Metamorphosis
Genre(s): Ambient, Electronic, Trip Hop
Subgenres(s): Dark Ambient, Trance
Released: 1999
Length: 25 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Jester Records

Track List:

01. Of Wolves and Vibrancy
02. Gnosis
03. Limbo Central (Theme from Perdition City)
04. Of Wolves and Withdrawal

Ulver Metamorphosis Cover

Ulver Metamorphosis Cover

Ulver Metamorphosis Review

Metamorphosis is the first EP by Ulver. Following the release of the diverse “Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” double album a year earlier, Metamorphosis acts as both a stepping stone in the bands musical legacy and as a statement to their fans – more specifically the fans of their metal albums who didn’t like Ulver’s change in direction. Before you get to the music you can find a message in the CD case stating that “Ulver is obviously not a black metal band and does not wish to be stigmatized as such…” to try and cut ties with the heavy metal community as it becomes quite evident that they no longer want to play metal or be associated with the scene any longer since the Themes album apparently didn’t send a clear enough message.

In the event that the written message got overlooked Ulver went out of their way to shake off any lingering detractors and made it as clear as possible by writing an all-out trance song called Of Wolves and Vibrancy to start the EP. After starting with some moody ambience the song proves to live up to its name when it kicks into life and since it is the only trance song in their catalogue, it gives the distinct impression of being a statement to further separate them from the heavy metal scene.

Another twist comes with the second song, Gnosis, which combines dark ambient with trip hop and features lyrics from Bad Blood, a poem by the French author Rimbaud. For Ulver’s take on the poem it is sung entirely in English by Kristoffer Rygg who worked under the pseudonym Trickster G. on this EP. It is the only song to contain any vocals and Limbo Central (Theme from Perdition City) is another trip hop song with a more abrasive and experimental edge. As implied by the songs subtitle, this is the genre that would be embraced on their next album, Perdition City.

Of Wolves and Vibrancy is an up tempo song, as implied by the name, so it follows on that Of Wolves and Withdrawal would be subdued in comparison. This proves to be true as Ulver crafted a 9 minute dark ambient song that is nearly impossible to hear unless you turn your speakers all the way up. You half expect a sudden dramatic shift in sound that will deafen you because of this as well as the eerie nature of the song, which doesn’t do you any favours in this respect. The song ebbs along slowly and proves to be a convincing effort but the decision to make the recording so quiet for one song is still questionable.

There aren’t any stepping stones between Ulver’s black metal/folk era and their Themes album so in this instance the Metamorphosis EP gives the listener an opportunity to look at their transformation and embracement of electronically produced music. If nothing else this EP, which spans 3 distinct genres, proves that Ulver are more like chameleons than their namesake (wolves in Norwegian) at this point in their career.

Performers:

Trickster G: Various instruments
Tore Ylwizaker: Various instruments
Havard Jorgensen: Various instruments

External Links:

Ulver Homepage
Ulver on Wikipedia
Metamorphosis on Wikipedia

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Front Line Assembly Echogenetic Review

General Information:

Artist: Front Line Assembly
Album: Echogenetic
Genre(s): Electronic, Electro-Industrial
Subgenres(s): Dubstep
Released: 2013
Length: 58 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Dependent Records, Metropolis Records

Track List:

01. Resonance
02. Levelled
03. Killing Grounds
04. Blood
05. Deadened
06. Ghosts
07. Echogenetic
08. Exhale
09. Exo
10. Prototype
11. Heartquake

Front Line Assembly Echogenetic Cover

Front Line Assembly Echogenetic Cover

Front Line Assembly Echogenetic Review

With Echogenetic, Front Line Assembly has fully embraced their dubstep influences that first came about on the Airmech soundtrack from the previous year and they’ve made it central to their sound this time around. It’s a natural progression to what they were already experimenting with so this development shouldn’t come across as that much of a shock to most fans.

The electric guitars featured in many of their other albums are absent entirely and while Front Line Assembly have retained their grotty industrial aesthetic that conjures up scenes from a decaying dystopian city, the direction that the music has taken is accessible without having to latch onto the “brostep” style of artists like Skrillex or Excision so hardcore fans can rest assured that the band are still very much themselves.

A new dynamic within the group has clearly influenced their direction. Along with Bill Leeb and long-time collaborators Jeremy Inkel and Jared Slingerland, they reunited with Craig Johnsen and Sasha Keevill who both contributed to the Airmech soundtrack. For Echogenetic they worked in 2 separate groups consisting of Jeremy Inkel and Sasha Keevill in the first and then Jared Slingerland and Craig Johnsen in the second with Bill Leeb jumping between them. Every few weeks all 5 contributors got together to go over the material to critique it and add new elements to the songs.

Killing Grounds exemplifies what Front Line Assembly is capable of doing within dubstep as this song in particular has plenty of momentum and memorable moments. Some other songs lack the immediate appeal that you easily recognise here so they take a bit more time to grow on you. On the other end of the spectrum is Prototype, an instrumental that could have been accurately retitled Archetype. It’s packed full of interesting twists and turns while avoiding any and all accusations of being comfortable background noise because it is something that commands your attention.

Echogenetic is a focused effort that should have been shook up with more varied tempos or even by bringing back the guitars for a few songs to avoid this pleasant plateau that the band seems to have found themselves on although this unlikely fusion of genres also makes for an interesting album beyond any novelty you could associate with it.

Performers:

Bill Leeb: Vocals, Electronic instruments
Jeremy Inkel: Electronic instruments
Jared Slingerland: Electronic instruments
Craig Johnsen: Electronic instruments
Sasha Keevill: Electronic instruments

External Links:

Front Line Assembly Homepage
Front Line Assembly on Wikipedia
Echogenetic on Wikipedia