Nightraven’s Best 12 0f 2012
When I originally sat down to do this list way back in November, I thought it would be easy. After making a list of “best” Electronic music in various forms since 2009, last year (2012 in calendar years) didn’t have nearly as many albums that jumped straight to the top of my circuited mind as definitive Top 5 or Top 10 albums. I even originally had a difficult time coming up with bands that should make this list, let alone the albums and their placement. I foolishly assumed it was because the broad label of Electronic music (and to a lesser degree Metal, Prog Rock, and other closely related but more “organic” genres) had fewer solid releases cross my desk than in recent years. As I started to check my notes and templates I found out how horribly incorrect I was.
There are two main reasons for this: A) That my top albums are so close in quality that too many stood out at once, a sort of perverse Bell Curve and B) This list is so incredibly diverse and so many artists’ sounds exponentially branched out in unique ways last year that comparing and contrasting them became maddening. As a result this process took months and I actually feel almost guilty (Yes, robots like me can be programmed for guilt!) about what bands ended up at what place. Also there are dozens if not perhaps hundreds of albums that didn’t make the cut to my sound-holes but did for many of you so this list is by no means all-inclusive either and I welcome respectful opinions in the comments. If anyone tries to tell you that non-mainstream Electronic music is dead, respectfully disagree with them, spin any of these albums, and laugh. Mwhahahahaha
Long Live The Robots!
1. Aaimon- “Flatliner (Expanded Edition)” Label: Artoffact Records
This album combines the best of all things Industrial with EBM, Powernoise, Witch-House, Dub and any number of other terrifying soundscapes. After months of debate this album stands alone as a testament that (when done correctly) Dark Industrial still has many years of life left. With intelligent lyrics, creepy vocals and off-kilter rhythms this album packs a hefty emotional punch that is both underground radio friendly and club-worthy. The expanded edition boasts remixes by Dead When I Found Her, Encephalon, Haujobb, TEXTBREAK, Unison and Chrysalide. An absolute must for every dark and twisted music fan.
2. Blaqk Audio- “Bright Black Heaven” Label: Superball Music
Davey Havok and Jade Puget are well-known to Alt-Rock fans as members of AFI. What is potentially not known is they are the masterminds behind the Synthpop/Cold Wave powerhouse known as Blaqk Audio. Their debut Cexcells was one of the most criminally ignored albums of all time-though for those of us “in the know” this sophomore follow-up has been many years overdue and this time they certainly didn’t disappoint either. Davey’s full vocal range and Jade’s solid programming recall the early days of acts like Duran Duran and Depeche Mode but come packaged in a much more Pop-oriented flavor. If Aaimon is everything that is dark and spooky, Blaqk Audio is as strong lyrically but the polar opposite in terms of delivery. While Davey is singing about break-ups and bad behavior you can almost taste the rainbows and pet the kittens in the background (if robots could taste). I tried very hard to find lesser known labels and artists to knock them off the number 2 but ultimately could not. This is nearing production perfection folks. A must have for all radio Pop fans and a perfect spin for everyone else.
3. Faderhead –“The World Of Faderhead” Label: L-Tracks
Faderhead came out of almost nowhere in the modern Industrial club scene in 2006 and has never looked back. With his trademark Mohawk and glasses he has set underground parties and above-ground festivals on fire for what feels like ages by now but it wasn’t until 2010’s Black Friday that his talent ceiling was fully revealed. With club-oriented EBM beats, bass-heavy and emotionally raw ballads and his powerhouse vocals Faderhead is a force to be reckoned with on literally any dance playlist. The World of Faderhead builds on themes from Black Friday and plays like a Tour Diary gone wrong, everything from the pre-parties to backstage and beyond. While his aggressive sexuality and drug references might be too edgy for some timid radio hosts to handle the tightened production and infectious TBM, Hip-Hop, Dubstep and House grooves ought to get him into the “mainstream” where he belongs. This is the best party-in-a-box album on this list and some of the tamer tracks (Try “Join Us” and “I Got My Bass Back” for starters) will impress even the most jaded critics.
4. Tweaker –“Call The Time Eternity” Label: Metropolis Records
Chris Vrenna is another name that most people will recognize either directly or indirectly. As the drummer for Nine Inch Nails during their heyday and more recently as a keyboardist and drummer with Marilyn Manson from 2007-2011, he is counted among Industrial legend worldwide. His mastering and production credits are too many to list but he has worked with bands in every Electronic genre and most computer mediums. His newest album from “side-project” Tweaker, however, proves he is still as great as ever on his own. Call the Time Eternity is in my opinion a whole new dimension of production and detail for this particular project. Each track creates a sensory-perception challenge, with so many layers, beats, hooks and samples that even high-end speakers have trouble keeping up. You cannot spin this at different times without catching new nuances and subtle sounds every single time. Every track becomes a movie in your head and could just as easily exist in any number of Sci-Fi worlds-or create them. Fans who prefer heavy listening genres like IDM more so than club hits would certainly rank this higher than 4. A must for audiophiles who like to chill and DJs looking for new inspiration.
5. Dead When I Found Her – “Rag Doll Blues” and “Stitches and Cover-Ups” Label: Artoffact Records
The sophomore album from Oregon’s Dead When I Found Her is one of the moodiest albums I’ve ever heard. When an artist can reprogram a robot to feel dread and melancholy they’re doing something right. Recalling the horror-movie flavor of bands like Cindergarden and Aesthetic Perfection and fusing it with Metal guitar and giving the whole thing clean vocals reminiscent of many 1990’s acts is utterly unique and unsettling. On the second disc of the Deluxe Edition this is showcased perfectly by covers of “Kill to Cure” by Skinny Puppy, “Down in It” by NIN and a surprisingly adept (and properly creepy) rework of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.”
In a different view this album holds up as more solid after several spins than a couple of others above it. The reason I rank it so “low” at 5 is that in my view there isn’t a single track that can be spun on the radio too easily for new listeners and there isn’t an easily digestible club track that you could spin in public forums either. It may be one of the best albums of the last few years in terms of creativity but in terms of promotion it’s going to take word of mouth and listening parties to gain the traction it deserves- which unfortunately subjectively hurt its ranking for me. Expect to hear this album a lot this year (2013.)
6. Caustic- “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop” Label: Metropolis Records
The album title, while a bit tongue-in-cheek and potentially self-deprecating, is also fairly apt. Madison’s DYI Jizzcorps/WTF Industrial master Caustic not only has made an 18 track disc of noise, but it’s deceptively awesome as well. Does it contain everything from RevCo-flavored Metal to Skrillex-like alien Dubstep to Manufactura-infected Powernoise to Old-School Icon Of Coil-tinged EBM (among other incomprehensible yet satisfying sounds) and truly amazing guest spots by Android Lust, Ivardensphere, Unwoman and Daddybear? Check. Does it boast the best production value of his career, tons of club-heavy DJ favorites and mixing magic by scene notables like Tom Shear of Assemblage 23, Dan Clark from The Dark Clan, Faderhead and Richard Pyne of Uberbyte? Double check. Does it make Caustic jump ahead of most other established acts’ latest albums and prove his ambition is above lame dick jokes and recycled club tropes? Uh, well, gee look at the time… In all seriousness though this is the new bar for this project and should silence any critics he had left. And no, he won’t stop, so don’t ask anymore- just enjoy the mustache ride cause it’s a heck of a great one.
7. Prometheus Burning –“Kill It With Fire” Label: WTII Records
The Harsh IDM/Powernoise duo known as Prometheus Burning quietly released their newest album late last year on their new home WTII Records. The top-of-their-genre harsh programming and front woman Nikki Telladictorian’s signature vocal style are both on full display here as is the band’s use of terror-inspired storytelling and full album cohesion (each track tells a whole story and relates to the larger concept, the album art is stellar, cherry-picking tracks takes them out of context, etc.) The first thing I noticed about this record compared to earlier works was how much more club-oriented and danceable most tracks were, which makes them much more accessible and enticing to potential new fans. The second thing that stuck out to me is that while the vocals are still harsh and distorted in classic Nikki style they are much cleaner and are more prominent in the mix which allows the extra enjoyment of lyrics that was a bit amiss in earlier releases (according to some critics.) Rounding out the experience are solid remixes by I, Parasite and Portion Control. Another amazing album and a sign of things to come in the future as well as a perfect starting place for dark and harsh Electronica fans who haven’t caught on to this sleeper act yet.
8. Cyferdyne – “Genesys” Label: Death Watch Asia
Cyferdyne is a Synthpop/Industrial crossover from the U.K. who came onto the scene rather quickly and released their phenomenal debut Genesys to critical acclaim. What makes this act so engaging compared to the glut of other Industrial bands recently is the uniqueness of their approach. Rivaling the best Synthpop vocals and club hooks of acts like VNV Nation, Iris and Auto-Auto being meshed perfectly with the best harshness of today’s Terror EBM acts like Suicide Commando, Shiv-R and Detroit Diesel and sprinkled with solid guitar work similar to Zeromancer, this is one very club-worthy and underground radio friendly band. While this might sound strange and unappealing to critics Cyferdyne execute with such solid chops it makes this album an artist’s playground and further proof Industrial is far from dead. The ease with which they switch between “light” and “dark” electronic boundaries and signature styles even within every track sets them up as a great act to seek out and keep a close ear on. Even though it comes in at 8 on this list it is a MUST for all Harsh Industrial fans.
9. Emilie Autumn – “Fight Like A Girl” Label: Self-released from The Asylum Emporium
While the Grrrlpower movement has unfortunately all but faded in Electronic music these days the Victorian-Industrial Princess/Prisoner Emilie Autumn continues to show us glimpses of her own utterly unique and sometimes lonely world from inside The Asylum. Peeking behind the curtain of abuse, neglect, misinformation and broken hearts she has once again brought her delicious brand of Classical, Metal, Electronica and Poetry out to the masses. With this album she focuses more heavily on the sexism, disempowerment and medical hypocrisy of Western Society by –what else?-fighting like a girl. Everything from the soaring NeoPunk anthem “Fight like a Girl” to anti-drug Metal rant “Take the Pill” and Cabaret-barker stunner “Girls! Girls! Girls!” Emilie has challenged us to change the world one layer at a time. This might be her most political album in terms of message and delivery so pay attention ladies and gentleman.
10. Julien-K –“We’re Here With You (Deluxe Edition)” Label: Tiefdruck-Musik
There is great news and not-so-great news here. The great news is the ultra-talented Julien-K (who rose from 1990’s standout group Orgy) released their sophomore effort “We’re here with you.” The not-so-great news? They pulled a bit of a bait-and-switch on the fans that got them where they are by releasing a less-than-stellar Pop Rock record instead of an excellent Electronica one. There is almost NOTHING in common with “Death to Analog” to be found here. Ryan’s vocals have matured a bit and have become more radio friendly, and Derakh’s programming showcases more guitar and throwback synthesizer loops. In terms of production values this is a decent and unexpected evolution which justifies all their hype and proves this act is sticking around the fringes of superstardom and beyond for as long as they want. However the lyrics this go round lack the same emotional grit and due to the guitar-heavy Pop feel Julien-K sound just like any other Alternative band out there (Only perhaps more technical than most?) It remains to be seen what these guys do for their third album but it has me a bit nervous…
11. Grendel- “Timewave Zero” Label: Metropolis Records
Dutch Harsh Electro/ Aggrotech band Grendel returned to the clubs and radios in a huge way in 2012 with their latest release “Timewave Zero.” With this release they show off cleaner vocals, much more varied and hard-hitting club hooks and slightly more conceptual experimentation. When they are on, the hits on this album are the best in the genre in a long time. But when tracks go a little off-course for my taste, it brings the effort down a few spots. The new tricks prove Grendel is going to be a mainstay for a while and make me excited to hear what awesomeness is coming next.
12. Aesthetic Perfection- “All Beauty Destroyed (Deluxe Edition)” Label: Metropolis Records
Daniel Graves is one of my all-time favorite singers and his programming for this act has been nothing short of stellar in the past. On this album, like all his others, there is a fair bit of boundary-pushing and experimentation in the mixing and in the tempo of the individual tracks. Tracks like “A Nice Place To Visit” and “Inhuman” will be spun in nightclubs for years to come as some of his best and “All Beauty Destroyed” is my favorite track all year hands down. Compared to “Close To Human” and “A Violent Emotion” there are almost twice as many club hits here –but at the end of the day, that’s exactly why I found myself unable to really get in to this album sonically. This is a well-above-average club album but many of the tracks sound too similar and actually became a bit stale for my taste after repeated spins. It could be that inflated expectations mixed with so many other great albums on this list to move this lower than it could be but a solid album nonetheless. As a note, shell out the money for the Deluxe Edition because the second disc has AMAZING remixes for almost every Dark DJ type with Extinction Front, X-RX, Caustic, Alter Der Ruine and Hocico.
Best Of The Rest
13. Contaminated Intelligence-“Tracks” Label: Alfa Matrix
14. Assemblage 23-“Bruise” Label: Metropolis Records
15. PAKT- “Berlin” Label: Out Of Line
16. Hex-Rx-“Serial Hex Addict” Label: Negative Gain
17. BlakOPz -“Blood, Sweat And Fear” Label: Vendetta Music
18. Lords Of Acid- “Deep Chills” Label: Metropolis Records
19. Spark! -“Hela Din Varld” Label: Progress Productions
20. Deconbrio-“Voyeur” Label: Bit Riot Records
Honorable Mentions/ Keep An Ear Out For These:
Hocico-“Tiempos De Fura”
Everything Goes Cold-“The Tyrant Sun”,
Auto-Auto-“Dancing Through Dark Times”,
Esa-“Themes Of Carnal Empowerment Pt.1”,
Wumpscut-“Women and Satan First”,
THYX-“The Way Home”,
Label: Artoffact Records
When a band chooses to make music for the underground, most times they play it safe by sticking to one or two genres and then slowly branching out over several releases. Sweden’s duo of Oscar Holter and Henrik Backstrom (Necro Facility) have always taken a much different approach: You are hit with killer tracks from a half-dozen angles and are left thinking ‘What on Earth was that? But I LOVE it!’
Debuting in 2005 with The Black Paintings, these two young men made waves in the Stockholm scene with their experimental, part Industrial part New Wave sound but were not taken as seriously as other acts because their experimental leanings were not quite like anything else at the time. 2007 saw the release of The Room, which set underground radio and certain clubs in Europe ablaze but didn’t progress terribly far beyond those connoisseurs already in the know. The fusion of old school Wave with newer genres like Electro, TBM, and Synthpop showed serious promise even as the band simply vanished. Perhaps they were simply ahead of their time and a victim of what was popular in Sweden at that moment. Both men continued working on productions of other bands’ albums and stayed in contact with each other but many scenesters simply forgot about them over time. Late in 2010 they reappeared as Necro Facility and helped Covenant create the smash single “Lightbringer”, reintroducing their odd sounds to the younger, slightly more modern (and certainly more spoiled) club goers worldwide. Recently they have released their third and most triumphant album, Wintermute.
To say this album is amazing is a bit of a misnomer. This should launch them into serious album of the year discussions and open the door to conquering North and South American clubs for people who didn’t know them before while making good on all their early potential buzz. The whole experience is simply impossible to pigeonhole because of the line-blurring sounds inherent not only over the course of the album, but even within each self-contained and seriously off-kilter track individually. While many bands that take the experimental musical route end up with a beautiful [sounding] mess, Necro Facility have also appropriately shown an inherent production ability that keeps this album tightly contained within itself and true to a core feeling. Wintermute feels as cohesive emotionally as it does foreign sonically.
“You Want It” opens the album in powerful fashion with a Dark/Harsh Electro track with harmonious vocal hooks, while “Fall Apart” stands out for its Rock influences laced with a nice EBM beat that opens up even more crossover potential. “Waiting For The Snow” slows you way down to an almost Ambient crawl that fans of Displacer and Somatic Responses will drool over, then “Ignite” does just that as it fuses Electro-Rock guitar with melodic Synthpop layering that soars and tops out with grating Metal vocals to create something epic. My personal favorite track, the instant-club legend “Supposed”, finds a way to seamlessly blend TBM, sugary 90’s Wavepop, and modern club Electro in a way rarely heard while showing the duos’ vocal mastery from highest to lowest register. The album closes out with “All That You Take”, a tear-inducing love ballad that recalls early VNV Nation in its emotional complexity.
The problem for me as a reviewer and as a fan is that no words can do them justice. It isn’t even a matter of whether potential fans will like this or not; No amount of genre comparisons or name dropping accurately reflect any of the nuance and uniqueness that this album actually sounds like. You really have to hear it for yourself and make your own judgments on whether it works for you or not. Wintermute is at one time both harsh and beautiful, club-ready and stereo-friendly, and from what I have been told crushing in their live shows. While being bold and uncomfortable is always a danger, Necro Facility have delivered and if you are a fan of all things Electronica you would be missing out on a must-own if you don’t snag this immediately.
For fans of: Leather Strip, SITD, Rotersand, Covenant, Vomito Negro,Cassandra Complex, Method Cell, Assemblage 23, Ambassador 21, Common Man Down, And One, Aesthetic Perfection, Prometheus Burning, Plasmodivm, Din [A] Tod
Must have tracks: “You Want It” “Do You Feel The Same?” “Fall Apart” “Waiting For The Snow” “Ignite” “Supposed”
- You Want It
- Do You Feel The Same?
- Fall Apart
- Waiting For The Snow
- All That You Take
In 2009, the world was treated to an interesting club sound courtesy of Chainreactor titled X-tinction. Several live festival spots and opening gigs across Europe followed, and word started to spread about the dance floor filling hits creeping onto playlists worldwide. Recently released on Pronoize is the second album Insomniac, which continues the right where they left off. A case can be made that every track, because it is designed primarily for club play only and contains pure (if a bit repetitive) energy, make this an instant choice for DJ’s looking for new material to spin in their rotations this year. Tracks like “Locked In”, with its Powernoise beats and the thumping TBM smash “Pressure And Pain” secure Chainreactor an instant fanbase and should garner solid play and a long shelf life this year and perhaps for years to come.
Having said that, in my humble opinion there just wasn’t quite enough variety in either beat structure or BPM hooks to set this apart from similar bands. The album is above-average for this genre but didn’t have that extra oomph to make it a must-have for newer (and pickier) Electro fans. Die-hard club goers who live to stomp to more established acts like Soman and S.A.M will most certainly disagree and will flock to this album. As far as progress goes, Chainreactor have created a strong club album in Insomniac and I expect them to explode into an even bigger force live and in studio in the very near future.
For fans of: X-Rx, Soman, Straftanz, Distatix!, S.A.M., Incubite, Faderhead
Must have tracks: “Der Wahre Alptraum” “Locked In” “Pressure And Pain” “Misanthrop” “Control” “Dystopia (Vanquished by Incubite)” “Misanthrop (Isolated by Xotox)”
1.Genau Hier! Genau Jetzt! (Intro)
3.Der Wahre Alptraum
6.Pressure And Pain
7.The Missing Piece
13.Dystopia (Vanquished by Incubite)
14.Pressure And Pain (Remix by X-Rx)
15.Misanthrop (Isolated by Xotox)
16.Dystopia (Suicide Remix by [Organic Cage])
Having played with a who’s who of modern dark Electro masters while on tour and releasing a handful of albums in Europe since 2001, Centhron have steadily gained a fanbase while steadily expanding their craft, and the recently released club album Dominator should finally get them massive breakout appeal here in the U.S. “Leitwolf” starts the album off with a melodic, club-directed Terror track that has much in common with the peak heydey of acts like Suicide Commando, Leather Strip and Agonoize, while “Gang Bang Dolly fuses TBM, Terror and Powernoise into a club hit that is equal parts kinky and creepy and should become a massive worldwide breakout track. “Kind Des Wehrmuts” shows off a slower but no less brutal track that I liken to Wyndtarge, and the title track “Dominator” will drag you (willingly or not) back to the pits of dark dance floors worldwide.
The biggest (and practically only) drawback to me was the distorted vocalization. Like most bands in the endless Terror genres, Centhron has gone with heavily voxed and distorted vocals. Normally this standard practice works well for both the material and for the fans, but in rare cases this style actually holds back a band slightly. I believe this is the case here. The reason I say this is that lyrically, the tracks are truly unique and disturbing- when I can understand them. Instead of taking the easy way out by writing nonsense like other club bands, most songs on the album have intriguing stories to them, which imo are completely destroyed by the choice of distortion. With other bands choosing to clean up their vocals lately (VAC, Die Sektor and others come to mind) what should have been a minor flaw became a major distraction to my ears, made all the more disappointing by the fact that everything else was so tightly produced and nearing perfection.
As it stands, if you are more interested in catchy club hits than worrying about being truly frightened, then Dominator is a must-have. Dark DJ types in particular should vehemently disagree with me and will no doubt be spinning the majority of the tracks all year for instant floor fillers. As for you more discerning (and picky) fans, when you spin this keep your ears focused and your mind open and you’ll be rewarded with a bit more depth than you might think as you stomp up a storm.
For fans of: X-Fusion, Wynardtage, Nurzery [Rhymes], Suicide Commando, Agonoize, Alien Vampires, :Wumpscut
Must have tracks: “Leitwolf” “666” “Gang Bang Dolly” “Atomschlag” “Kind Des Wehrmuts” “Dominator” “Slave”
- Gang Bang Dolly
- Die Stalinorgeln
- So Sterbe Ich
- Kind Des Wehrmuts
Label: Metropolis Records
Madison, Wisconsin (and the greater Midwest in general) is home to a thriving hotbed of loud, aggressive Electronica, and Matt Fanale (aka Caustic) has been a key player in this consistency. I have been a hardcore fanatic of his offbeat, brash and often overlooked brand of Industrial since a local DJ spun 2006’s Unicorns, Kittens and Shit. Booze Up and Riot (2007) , This Is Jizzcore! (2009) and And You Will Know Me By the Trail of Vomit (2010) have grown in complexity and have consistently been better than similar albums by more established acts but have gone largely unnoticed by many due to the humor displayed within. He makes the music he wants to make (generally, the weirder the better) yet people still find it odd that he is one of the most musically knowledgeable and brutally honest artists in this scene and beyond. He takes shots at his peers consistently, skewering the seriousness and simple mistakes of any musician equally. There is nothing sacred in the underground, and why should there be? He has also been willing to engage in pointed debates and what could be called an education of his growing legion of online fans. Not to mention, Caustic’s now legendary live performances and antics have been rivaled only by GWAR, and that’s only because they have a bigger budget. Many ignorant critics have mistaken Matt’s constant self-deprecation (or is that defecation?) and harsh high school humor as the end all, be-all of this project while ignoring the inconvenient truth:Caustic also makes damn good (if a bit undefinable) music. All kidding aside, let’s face facts, no one could turn down the allure of a golden vagina, now could they?
Caustic has hovered like an insect carrying an incurable disease on the fringes of a bigger Industrial field since the beginning, and his [annoying? hardworking?] persistence finally infected Metropolis Records, who apparently caved into the pressure of us vocal minority and signed him. The Golden Vagina Of Fame and Profit was recently released, and like a fist full of fingers, the fifth is the charm. If being an Industrial artist is as Midwestern as say, burlesque and baseball, this album is a home run (that may or may not linger a wee bit too long on second and third bases.)
“666 On The Crucifix” opens this game with a club-tested TBM beat that is easily Caustic’s most well-produced track yet and sets the tone for the whole experience. “Hiroshima Burn” is reminiscent of early Powernoize Combichrist, while “Darling Nicky’s Gnarly Dicking” will compel you into an Electro-stomp sweat while you crave a cold shower [*Nicky not included.] Like all good pole dancers and golden glove winners, though, Caustic has some all-star artists to back his ass up this go round. Unwoman is ironically more than woman enough on the Synthpop lament “Orchid”, while Bitch Brigade adds sultry sweet-and-sour vocals on the club smash “Generate Chaos.” A surprise return from Ned Kirby of Stromkern yields much appreciated hip-hop flavoring to “Chum The Waters”, and the insanity finally ends with “White Knuckle Head Fuck”, a supremely personal, club-savvy Industrial shout-off between Caustic and Faderhead that is as much heart wrenching as it is boot crunching.
In the end Caustic busts both kinds of balls in style, puts up an exclamation point in the form of a middle finger on his win, and justifies his long-overdue début in the big leagues known as Metropolis Records. You could fork over the cash to The Golden Vagina of Fame and Profit and be supremely satisfied, or you could be a lame, uptight hater and attempt to ignore one of the best albums so far this year. Don’t be a hater.
Must have tracks: “666 On The Crucifix” “Hiroshima Burn” “Darling Nicky’s Gnarly Dicking” “Generate Chaos (Feat. Bitch Brigade)” “Chum The Waters (Feat. Ned Kirby)” “Floor Whore Disco” “White Knuckle Head Fuck (Feat. Faderhead)”
For fans of: Ayria, Prometheus Burning, Manufactura, Everything Goes Cold, Northborne, The Dark Clan, Evil Cowards
666 On The Crucifix
I Play Computer!
Darling Nicky’s Gnarly Dicking
Generate Chaos (Feat. Bitch Brigade)
Chum The Waters (Feat. Ned Kirby)
Floor Whore Disco
White Knuckle Head Fuck (Feat. Faderhead)
With all the emphasis being placed on Metal, Synthpop and Ambient bands on the club circuit the last few months it is nice as a fan to see that Harsh Electro hasn’t faded away completely. It can be hard to début to any kind of fanfare if you sound too much like any one band, yet spoiled fans at least expect a proven club formula at the same time. The reality for Germany’s newest Harsh Electro stunner Incubite is Toxicum (available on ProNoize Records) is instantly familiar and strongly unique.
While much has been made of the sameness of Harsh Electro as a subgenre the fans and underground club-goers are still flocking to it more than other, more experimental genres . The bands that are tightest technically and most unusual sonically seem to get more attention. Incubite follow the proven formula of 4-to-the-floor thudding beats with movie samples and lyrically catchy dance choruses to create instant club classics. What sets them apart and makes this something special is the variety of the electronic layering and the frenetic energy that the beats come at you with. The first standout track is the massively catchy “Glowstix, Neon and Blood” which boasts a familiar TBM beat structure matched to an off-kilter melody-as-hook that felt a bit militaristic to me. “Hell Instructor” is something closer to a Terror EBM track with some restrained knob-fiddling ambience to it, while “Toxicum (Ready To Exterminate)” is a Powernoise and Terror fusion anthem guaranteed to be a dance-floor filler for years to come. In fact this was the best overall track on the album in my opinion and takes its place as the title track to show exactly what to expect from the band .
The flip side to this is that Incubite is not reinventing the wheel here, it’s just bringing you a different kind of tire. While it is true there are an almost limitless number of subgenres represented on this album it never commits to one sound 100% at any point, and that may alienate a handful of uninformed fans. Trying to stay both unique and relevant at the same time is a tough road to walk but for the most part Toxicum stomps you right into it. DJs snag this and give it a spin and everybody else keep watch for the rise of Incubite!
Must have tracks: “Glowstix, Neon and Blood” “Hell Instructor” “Ich Hasse Dich” “Muschitanz” “Toxicum (Ready To Exterminate)”
For fans of: C-Lekktor, Amduscia, God Module, Hex-Rx, S.A.M., Reaper, Vicious Alliance, Straftanz
1. You People…
2. Judgement Day
4. Glowstix, Neon and Blood
5. Hell Instructor
6. Preparing Hatred
7. Ich Hasse Dich
10.Toxicum (Ready To Exterminate)
11.King Of Beats
Label: EK Product
Fans of the infant stages of EBM and dance-oriented Experimental Industrial may or may not remember one of the stronger acts of the time: Escalator (brainchild of Electro producer 2RT+TB). Debuting in 1989 with No Acoustic Music and releasing half a dozen albums up through 1994’s hard-to-find obscurity Arbeit Escalator seemed to fade into forgotten legend status even as Industrial evolved into something more akin to mass-produced Electropop.
Keeping watch as these genres have been overtaken by all manner of Techno, IDM and having lost a large part of the experimental flow of things, Escalator have returned after an unprecedented 17 year hiatus from new works. It feels as if he had used a time machine to jump ahead in electronic complexity to an unknown future point, tinkered around for many years, then returned to 1989, and set to work. The resulting new album Out Of My Ego (being self-released under EK Product) shows that this type of music is still as extremely strong and relevant in today’s landscape as it was years ago. In all honesty, this is an amalgamation of today’s technology with yesterday’s sense of originality. Considering all the myriad of copycat acts in the darker genres over the last several years, perhaps this return to Industrial’s raw and nasty programming-only roots is even more important now then when the project began. Escalator is back with a vengeance and any DJ not familiar with this work needs to become so immediately.
Almost every track has an old school EBM rhythm tucked within its fancy dance oriented bass-lines and complex hooks, snagging your boots and never once letting go. The party starts immediately with “Bad Constellation” which shows off all the programming styles and distorted vocals you will hear. You will be able to decide within this one track whether this entire album is for you. Other tracks of note include the Experimental anthem “Out Of My Ego”, the rhythmic Powernoise stomp of “Shut Me Off”, and the TBM leanings of “Biological Countdown.” The album closes out with “Gepek Lesztek”, an epic, sprawling 9-and-a-half minute journey that straddles the lines between Terror EBM, space alien sounding Ambient and pure Experimental Trance and has as much in common with Meat Beat Manifesto as it does :Wumpscut:. This track alone demands that Escalator be known not only as a pioneer and innovator but also a serious must spin in today’s club scene.
There honestly is not much negative I can say about this album. It is already guaranteed to stay in my rotation all year. The only drawback I can comment on is that because it is so experimental it may be ironically ahead of its time yet again. The glitchy sound structures and off-kilter beat patterns make this album hard to process for listeners not used to something that isn’t the predictable 4-to-the-floor but DJs around the world need to give this plenty of club time to gauge how people react. Going Out Of My Ego is something you must experience if you are tired of the same old Electronic sounds.
Must have tracks: The whole album, period.
For fans of: Front Line Assembly, Vomito Negro, Eistenzende Neaubaten, Meat Beat Manifesto, Mind.In.A.Box, Wynardtage, Komor Kommando
- Bad Constellation
- Rew Stop Play
- Out Of My Ego
- Deeply Buried Psychosis
- Shut Me Off
- Biological Countdown
- Gepek Lesztek
Label: Black Rain/COP International
Every now and again a band comes along that has an undeniable throwback appeal tied to a completely different era of music. Germany’s Atomic Neon are just such a band, jumping into what could be termed Coldwave about a decade and a half after it’s (supposed) heyday but sounding like the better bands of the time. Debuting on a label with Life On Earth E.P.” in 2007, and the full album Darkenia in 2008, this ensemble act put together soothing guitar, clear synth work and an uncomplicated Rock structure to set European underground radio alight. On the brand new album Change on Black Rain Media (and available Stateside from COP International) they have shown a healthy evolution of programming while not compromising sound quality.
The first thing you need to know about this album is that it is much slower and more introverted than many of the band’s contemporaries. You won’t find any dance-floor crushing club hits or over the top experimental tracks. This is a straightforward Coldwave and Alternative Rock fusion that belongs on late-night radio and at mellow listening parties in your home. The lyrics are very introspective and personalized and the vocals stay in a very particular range reminiscent of Cure-era Robert Smith. Highlights include the up-tempo and radio friendly “Empty”, the Hard Rock tinged title track “Change”, and the much more whimsical cabaret number “BoOom.” The only irony to me is the most interesting song of the bunch for my taste turned out to be the “Hidden Track” at the end of the album which hearkens back to the best of Depeche Mode and closes out the album with more energy than most of the rest of the disc.
The sole drawback here for me was the album is squarely comfortable (perhaps too much so) in its particular niche. While the album overall is quite solid, only hardcore fans of Coldwave and more ambitious audiophiles will appreciate its strengths fully. On later spins the tracks become a little harder to distinguish from one another, if only because the album turns into a long and cohesive listening experience that you will either enjoy immensely or tire of before reaching the end depending entirely on your personal taste. Picky fans who can’t grasp audio nuance and those looking for a quick club hit will find little to enjoy here and it’s their loss. However, fans of this style have a brand new voice on the landscape to get extremely excited about and nostalgic for all over again. Perhaps too much musical Change is not a good strategy for some.
Must have tracks: “Empty” “Change” “She” “BoOm” “My Cry Of Pain” “Last Light” “Alone/Hidden Track”
For fans of: Veil Veil Vanish, Human Drama, Depeche Mode, The Killers, The Cure, Din [A] Tod
- Welt ohne Farbe
- My Cry Of Pain
- I Hate My Love
- Last Light
- I Am Black
- Without You
- Alone (and Hidden Track)
Label: WTII Records
Some bands come out of nowhere and feel like they’ve always been around in a particular style even though they are brand new. Such is the case for emerging British Synthpop/Futurepop crossover act Method Cell. The duo debuted first with “Scissors EP” which garnered a bit of club play in Europe and led to the full-blown album “Curse Of A Modern Age” becoming available in the United States on WTII Records. Blending catchy club hooks, unique electro layers, and downright fierce lyrics this album feels right at home in any Goth/Industrial DJ club or radio program.
The party gets started immediately on the introverted club hit “Push”, reminding us all we can do better than what we are now. I noticed immediately that lyrically this band is head and shoulders above many of their peers in terms of thought-provoking depth, most especially for a club-oriented project. “Call It Cutting” is another Electro-thumping club number but it goes in the opposite direction lyrically and feels like it’s taking aim at ‘The Scene’. It also boasts the best earworm on the album that gets you hooked so it would make a great underground radio track. Other notable tracks include the slower Darkwave-infused “Shout Out (The Curse Part II)”, the anti-party dance-floor smash “Scissors”, and the utterly vicious, 4-to-the-floor “Drop Dead.”
The irony here is that because this debut is so standard, it is almost hard to distinguish this group from more established acts in a club setting. While what is here is well above-average in terms of lyrics and vocals they have yet to find a signature sound in terms of the electronics. Fans of general Electro will call this a must have but it likely won’t bring new fans to the genres who are not already familiar with other bands. I look at this with extreme excitement, however, in that there is a ton of potential for this project and lots of room for experimentation and evolution. DJ types should also make this an instant priority to add some new life to their rotations Stateside. Perhaps the Curse Of A Modern Age is being an introvert?
Must have tracks: “Push” “Call It Cutting” “Shout Out (The Curse Part II)” “Scissors” “Conviction (RUSH_ v2)” “Drop Dead” “Curse Of A Modern Age (Coma Mix)”
For fans of: VNV Nation, Seabound, Assemblage 23, System Syn, And One, Frozen Plasma, Client, Rotersand, Imperative Reaction, Ashbury Heights
2.Call It Cutting
3.Curse Of A Modern Age
4.Blame Me (The Curse Part I)
5.Shout Out (The Curse Part II)
11.Call It Cutting (Razorblade Mix)
12.Curse Of A Modern Age (Coma Mix)
Label: Artoffact Records
Novelist, graphic artist and Electronica connoisseur Wade Anderson has been a staple in Toronto, Canada’s Industrial scene for many years but may not be as well-known by casual fans and non-insiders. However, his musical project Prospero has been creating strange soundscapes and pushing aural limits for a while now. Debuting with A Storm Is Coming EP in 2003 it was clear from the get-go that Prospero was not your typical Experimental Industrial project. The use of layered soundscapes, naturally occurring noises and oddly juxtaposed natural melodies was a year or two ahead of its time in terms of mass popularity within a whole subgenre of Ambient music that is possibly not even peaking now.
2004 saw the release of both Spreading The Infection and Fibonacci via Sub.Session.Media. The former was a massive 2-CD set that showcased collaborations with and remixes from such big names in Industrial like Displacer, Battery Cage, Xorcist and Manufactura; While the latter album was Prospero’s first solo venture that was more focused on the Ambient side of electronic layering and musical progression. Eventually signing to Artoffact Records, Prospero released Folie A Deux (The Elements and The Madness) in 2008. [As a personal side-note the album didn’t get nearly enough love and is a MUST own for anyone interested in Experimental Industrial, if only because of its use of Tribal rhythms and folksy melodies matched with hardcore Industrial wasteland noises and the vicious guest turns by Ayria, Battery Cage and Terrorfakt.] This second album showed a unique blending of ancient musical instrumentation and basic melody with a deep cadre of post-Industrial pad work.
On February 8th 2011, Prospero returns once again on Artoffact Records with Turning Point. This third full-length album is again unlike anything he has put out before and may live up to its billing as a front-runner for most innovative album of the year. Unlike other bands of this style, Prospero focuses heavily on actual music and organic sound-clips and not a standardized prefabricated format. I cannot accurately describe the difference except to say the whole project feels more alive with coherency and therefore has stronger appeal as an intricate listening experience. Tracks that stand out to me may not stand out to others and vice versa because each track is a completely different world than the last. For the thinking listener there is something for you here, guaranteed.
“Taiko’s Prophet” combines Oriental-inspired string harmonies with bass-heavy thudding drums and a constantly shifting rhythm scheme that makes this an instant classic that begs to be used in a Hollywood film. “Fallen Angel” and “Hunter” show off some interesting Punk Rock guitar riffs that give the airy ambience and somewhat flat synth work underneath a very dirty Industrial feeling, while “Louisiana Voodoo” creates a very fog-like nature with the gritty beats and squealing guitar that make it feel like a swampy nightmare. Every single track gets more complex and more bizarre the longer and more often you listen to it. Also of note is “(introduction to my) Discipline”, a re-worked instrumental prequel to Ayria’s guest track “Discipline” off Folie A Deux.
Besides the outstanding new tracks, the other aspects to this album are the remixes. The infamous (and thought to be defunct!) Industrial powerhouse Xorcist takes the title track and constructs eight-and-a-half minutes of pure Electronic Hell from the point of view of Artificial Intelligence. “Turning Point (Xorcist Remix)” fuses experimental Industrial, Powernoise, pure Ambient, soaring Melodic Rock, and futuristic IDM to create something extremely movie-like and is by far and away my favorite track on this album. The only thing that bothers me is it is probably too long for most underground radio but is too brilliant to be edited in any fair measure. Another native Toronto band also makes a memorable impression with “Extinct (Mara’s Torment Remix)”, a bubbling, seething Terror track that easily could be used in a horror movie of some kind more for its creepy subtleness and perceived ambience. They set the sounds and the listener fills in the gaps in their own imagination. The album closes out with “Fallen Angel (Guidestone Remix)”, a much more Metal-tinged version of the original.
The whole album could be summed up with one sentiment: Guitar work. Added to the already intricate Ambience that Prospero is known for there is more emphasis added to guitar chords and simple but effective riffs. Every track has been crafted in such a way that the guitars actually feel more like alien sounds and less like an instrument. The only other artist I can think of that sounds remotely like what Prospero is doing here is Andy Summers, which is high praise indeed for any Electronica project. Prospero has a solid sound that certainly deserves more exposure and the album should be the Turning Point in his popularity. Preorder this now if you need something awesome to listen to this winter and beyond.
Must have tracks: “Taiko’s Prophet” “Hunter” “Louisiana Voodoo” “Growth And Decay” “Taiko’s Prophet (Fractured Remix)” “Turning Point (Xorcist Remix)” “Extinct (Mara’s Torment Remix)” “Fallen Angel (Guidestone Remix)”
For fans of: ESA, Totakeke, Negative Format, Sebastian Komor, Juno Reactor, Architect, PAL, Empty, Stendeck, Access To Arasaka
- Turning Point
- Taiko’s Prophet
- Fallen Angel
- (introduction to my) Discipline
- Louisiana Voodoo
- Chemical Plague
- Growth And Decay
- Taiko’s Prophet (Fractured Remix)
- Turning Point (Xorcist Remix)
- Fallen Angel (Witchmore Mix by V Combust)
- Extinct (Mara’s Torment Remix)
- Fallen Angel (Guidestone Remix)
Label: Artoffact Records
In a world where fusion bands have become all the rage and genre-defying is the only way to get popular anymore, Sweden’s Alice In Videoland have got a knack. Combining 1980’s New Wave and Synthpop sentiments with lyrics more akin to Grunge and Post-Punk and putting crazy energy into their infamous live shows they have amassed a cult-like following. Debuting with Maiden Voyage in 2003 there was something infectious about their enthusiasm and the legend of their wild live shows grew, as did the excitement of fans wanting to see the apex of this project. Continuing to grow sonically at a steady pace they released Outrageous! (2005) and She’s A Machine! (2008). None of these albums quite got the recognition they deserved but kept appeasing the rabid fans.
Released late last year in Europe and now available here in the United States is A Million Thoughts And They’re All About You on Artoffact Records. This is a pretty sizeable evolution in sound and overall cohesiveness and cements them from decent potential to a must-hear act. The album opens with Synthpop/New Wave fusion lament “Take Me With You”, which highlights their new production polish and some seriously sultry vocals. The party really gets going on the single, “Spaceship”-a raunchy hormones-and-substances dance floor crusher that could easily become the anthem for partygoers worldwide all year. Lookout, Lady Gaga, because Alice is here to stay and they will blow you off the stage honey! “Something New” and “In A Band” are more simple, radio friendly Rock anthems that are probably meant to be played and enjoyed live but will fill empty DJ rotations regardless. The best gem on this raucous set for me was “Bender”-one of the sharpest hook-laden, Hip-Hop flavored Electro numbers I’ve heard in many years. It will become instantly stuck in your head and you’ll be singing about butts and sexual frustration for days. Trust me when I say the excess tension is almost too much of a good thing.
With any album that goes for broke in a particular direction there are sure to be stumbles too. “Last Lover” was a bit too shallow lyrically for my tastes even though the music is solid, but ironically it may be sanitized enough to get played on the radio instead of some of the “better” tracks. The cover of Nena Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance”, while well executed, actually felt a bit, I don’t know, sacrilegious to me. Personally, I liked it well enough but bigger fans of the original probably will not. The strangest song on the album without a doubt is “Spaceship (The At Least Somewhat Censored Remix).” I’m not sure why exactly the band tried to edit this (I will assume to get it into radio-play territory) but it’s so close to the original that the minor lyrical edits shouldn’t make any difference to any uptight execs that wouldn’t have the balls to play it anyway. In my opinion, the band should just shop the original around and hope for the best, but you should listen to both versions for yourselves to judge.
In the end, this is a huge leap forward stylistically and a super-sexy dance album that should stick around near the top of DJ lists the whole year. Once again, Alice In Videoland is willing to push the envelope (and buttons!) of both genres and lyrics to be noticed stateside and it pays off in my mind. There isn’t anything overly complicated or ambitious to get in your way here so this should be considered an instant classic party disc that’s a lot of down and dirty fun. Hey all you DJ’s, I have A Million Thoughts and They’re All About You spinning this album.
Must have tracks: “Take Me With You” “Spaceship” “Something New” “In A Band” “No Matter” “Bender” “Spaceship (The At Least…Remix)” “Little Bird (100 Volt Remix)”
For fans of: Snovonne, Sleigh Bells, Mindless Self Indulgence, Tying Tiffany, Crystal Method, Faderhead
- Take Me With You
- Little Bird
- Something New
- In A Band
- No Matter
- Last Lover
- Buffalo Stance
- Spaceship (The At Least Somewhat Censored Remix)
- Little Bird (100 Volt Remix)