This is Part ‘T’ of an archive of CD and digital download reviews from EOL-Audio (1998-2007) and the early versions of Terminates Here (2008-2011).
Please note that this writing is varied in quality and is not intended to be representative of the new content I’m creating for this site. It has simply been uploaded in order to preserve the many hours of work devoted to previous websites.
- Tactical Sekt – Geneticide (2002)
- Tactical Sekt – Burn Process (2003)
- Tactical Sekt – Syncope (2006)
- Tarmvred – Viva 6581 (2003)
- Terminal Choice – New Born Enemies (2006)
- Terminal Choice – Übermacht (2010)
- Theatre Of Tragedy – Storm (2006)
- This Is Radio Silence – EP (2006)
- This Is Radio Silence – Now There’s Nothing (2010)
- This Morn’Omina – Les Passages Jumeaux (2006)
- Tool – 10,000 Days (2006)
- T.O.Y. – White Lies (2003)
- Trauma Pet – You Cannot Feel This (2006)
- Tubeway Army – Tubeway Army (1978)
- Type O Negative – Life Is Killing Me (2003)
Having released his first album as one-half of Aslan Faction the previous year, Anthony Mather switches to his solo project for his next full-length release. Of course, it takes some careful listening to really tell between the two, perhaps with the exception of a mean BPM increase of between 10 and 20 (depending on which songs you are comparing), which generally results in the project sounding slightly less like Suicide Commando and slightly more like Hocico – a dancefloor friendly Aslan? Less stomp, more pulse!
With pounding kick drums, relentless throbs of synth, the occasional sample or melody, topped off with vocals distorted to the limits of intelligibility. And often beyond. With no lyrics provided in the booklet, you’re hard pressed to work out what Anthony’s on about. Johan Van Roy of the aforementioned Suicide Commando makes a cameo appearance on ‘Damage Limitation’, though his influence seems more apparent on the lead synth than the vocal. All in all, it’s a fairly average album for the genre. The sheer ferocity may impress some, but measured alongside other albums from similar artists, it seems to lack character.
Technically an EP, but at 12 tracks (7 new, 5 remixes) it’s an album’s worth of music. It’s also a more interesting listen than the ‘Geneticide’ album from the previous year, mainly due to the remixers adding a certain ‘colour’ that an all-Sekt album lacked. The seven songs on offer here follow similar lines to those on the album, a straight-ahead, distorted-vocal terror-EBM stomp, clearly influenced by (but not up to the standards of) Hocico and the more uptempo Suicide Commando songs. I still he needs to ease of the distortion on the voice a bit. There reaches a point where it stops sounding scary and starts sounding silly.
It’s the remixes that prove to be the more interesting portion of this EP – the relatively straightforward EBM base of the songs giving each remixer more creative latitude than usual. Haujobb and Solitary Experiments rework the rhythms of ‘Xfixiation’ and ‘Devils Work’, whilst Reality inserts a punchier drum loop into ‘Burn Process’. The real stand-out, however, is [:SITD:]‘s ‘Hellfire’ remix of ‘Xfixiation’, restructuring the track with a middle break leading into a new refrain that turns a rather anonymous stomp into a real anthem. It’s rare that I recommend a EP over it’s preceding album, but for once I feel I’m genuinely justified in doing so.
Those of you who have noticed the reduced coverage of so-called ‘terror EBM’ on this site might be wondering why. Albums like this. That’s why! The relative inactivity of Aslan Faction has led to Tactical Sekt becoming Anthony Mather’s primary project in recent times, but at times it gets very hard to tell the difference between all these NoiTekk bands, never mind individual releases by each one. Here the beats thump and the synths pulse as hard as ever, only for Anthony to over-do the vocal distortion, leave the bulk of the lyrics unintelligible (they’re not even in the inlay) and homogenise the album even more. Competent as they are, none of the tracks actually has much of a hook to make it memorable, which doesn’t help matter.
The listener is thus left with only a few clues to the subject the different songs concern. ‘American Me’ makes clear references to 9/11, whilst ‘Not Entertained’ makes reference to various TV channels, but what is Tactical Sekt’s stance on either issue? Buggered if I can work it out. ’4 Steps To Dysfunction’ – I can spot the part of the song where the 4 said steps are laid out, but can I make out what they are? Nope. Club-wise, most of these songs would slot quite nicely into a late night EBM set. And there’s plenty of people who might dance. But would they remember what songs they were dancing to the morning after? I seriously doubt it. I do occasionally hear songs that keep my interest in this genre alive. This album doesn’t contain any of them.
NOTE: A limited edition version of this album was released with an eight-track bonus disc, containing exclusive tracks rather than the remixes and token cover versions you’d hear on such CDs. There’s a few songs here that lower the tempo, creating songs more reminiscent of the Aslan Faction project, as well as one (Siege Engine) that does away with most of the distorto-vox. It wouldn’t have hurt to place a couple of these on the main album. It might have helped bring a bit more variety to proceedings. As things stand, this limited edition is already sold out virtually everywhere. So you’ll either have to EBay or go without.
Tamrvred’s first album, ‘SubFusc’ was a relatively successful study into the techniques of the distorted beat techniques. Whilst some of the pieces presented there were certainly elaborate and nicely developed, they didn’t exactly do enough to set this Swedish project aside from the rest of the geeky knob-twiddlers that seem set on showing all the future-pop kiddies how ‘industrial’ is really done. How fucking ’1337′ of them……
Nah, good as it was, was it really just Mr.Johansson getting his act into gear for this thing? A 4-track EP? Yep. Tarmvred proudly presents ‘Viva 6581′. Anyone here g33k enough to know what a ’6581′ might be? Yes, you at the back in the unkempt hair and South Park T-shirt!! Correct, the sound chip to the Commodore C-64, probably the most popular 8-bit computer of all time! And just so you know I’m not biased, I was one of those odd-one out Atari users.
Of course, Welle:Erdball have been doing the soundchip nostalgia thing for some years now. The difference here is that Tarmvred had elected to keep his distorted beat agenda intact and combine the two concept into something which doesn’t really have a parallel anywhere else. Those with good memories might remember a brief ‘taster’ of this sound on the ‘SubFusc’ album (somewhere in the middle of track 1, if I remember correctly), but it was only a fleeting hint of what was to come.
So then, in theory it’s a bizarre but intriguing concept. In terms of execution, it’s something of a mixed bag. The four tracks presented here (’6′, ’5′, ’8′ and ’1′) rolls themselves off in increasingly frantic style. There is an inherent difficulty that the all-encompassing nature of noisebeat is such that often there’s scarcely any EQ space left for the 6581 parts to breathe, let alone blend in with the percussive elements of the mix. Every now and again a plinky-plonk melody or a lush blast of primitive sawtooth shines though, only to get beaten down submission with one-too-many-drumbeats, an issue particularly prevalent on closing track ’1′, which overplays itself in every respect.
It’s still fun to listen too, though. It’s still interesting how Tarmvred plays with fucked-up drum loops and retro-chip melodics and still occasionally gets away with it. But one wonders, and indeed hopes, that this is just a bridge to a full-length album of such material, with more attention paid to the interplay between the two radically different schools of music, as whilst we have a potentially exciting new derivative of the increasingly saturated power noise sound here, work now needs to be done on how the final product is assembled.
Chris Pohl is nothing if not prolific, but with Blutengel proving to be the more lucrative project in this day and age, this is actually first new Terminal Choice material for three years. The shift from Germanic electro-goth to US-school industrial rock nonetheless continues unabated, with English now the sole language in use and the guitars take a more frontal role than ever before. Of course, none of this means that the album is a particularly good one. Two glaring spelling mistakes on the packaging get things off to a dodgy start, and the oh-so-naff spoken word ‘listener warning’ album intro doesn’t improve things.
Then comes the songs – four of the sixteen tracks are self indulgent ‘experimental filler’, leaving eleven new songs and one cover. Pohl never really mastered the English language, and whilst he has occasionally hit upon a catchy turn of phrase, he fails to do so here, the lyrics varying from the merely simplistic to just plain trite. Musically, the Terminal Choice boys combine strictly ordinary riffs and power chords with melodic synths, a listenable combination but also one that lacks character – this could be any guitar-wielding industrial band from any non-English speaking country in the world (their lyrics are too lame to pass as Yanks and they’re certainly not introspective enough to pass as Brits). A couple of songs (‘Devil Daddy’ and ‘Crack Up’) hint at a mid-90s White Zombie sound, but it’s a decade too late.
The predictable murdering of Yazoo’s ‘Don’t Go’ thus remains the only attention-grabber, but it’s still one of those covers where you know exactly what it sounds like before you’ve even heard it (Remember Mazza’s take on ‘Personal Jesus’?). Coupled with the last Blutengel full length, it really seems like the Pohl camp is in crisis. Terminal Choice? Terminal Decline, more like……
NOTE: The limited edition of the album comes with an extra CD, offering four extra audio tracks and a multimedia part. The only really interesting part is a cover of ‘I Ran’ – it’s as predicable as the Yazoo cover on the main album, but it captures fractionally more of the ‘spirit’ of the original.
Sometimes, intricacy goes unnoticed. Other times, it isn’t isn’t even there in the first place. This album falls soundly into the second category. Terminal Choice might have started out as Chris Pohl’s dark electro-industrial outlet, but they’ve long since moved towards a hook-laden industrial rock outlet. They’d actually penned some decent tunes along the way, but in 2006 they dished up ‘New Born Enemies’ and it was clear that the goodwill had been exhausted. Over-the-top Yazoo covers were no longer funny.
They’ve not changed the formula much in the past few years either. The guitar grind that had characterised every industrial rock release since the golden days of Wax Trax!, synth drums, big, blunt, testosterone-fuelled synth leads and Chris Pohl belting out the vocals with as much subtlety as a sledgehammer. Obviously, all the years pandering to the grufti girls with Blutengel has suppressed some of Chris masculinity. He’s here to take it back.
And what better way to announce it than with ‘We Are Back!’, complete with plenty of KMFDM style self-referencing and a ‘put your hands in the air’ chorus (why is it always German bands who ask you to stick your hands in the air – I thought it was something the French did!). There absolutely nothing going on here that’ll surprise anyone familiar with this project’s past, but it’s got a catchiness about it that was absent from pretty much every song on the last album. They’ve found their touch again.
They continue along their not-so-merry way in the same style, with plenty of viper-tongued commentary on the state of society, interpersonal relationships and just about anything else that takes their fancy. They take a dig at social networking on ‘MySpace Hero’, though someone should tell them (and cc in Rupert Murdoch) that MySpace was a 2006 thing, and the kidz are all into Facebook now. Or was it Bebo? Or maybe Twitter?
They take a brief diversion to their native German tongue in the middle part of the album, with ‘Kommerz’ stealing adapting a bassline from Die Krupps and a hookline from And One. The later stages of the album deliver ‘Get Away’, probably the weakest tracks on the album thanks to some incredibly ‘meh’ lyrics that sound like they were scribbled down for the sole purpose of getting one extra song on the album.
The album ends with ‘Free Again’, an unusually heartfelt track for a project that’s usually all about ballsy industrial rhythms. It concludes an album which sees Terminal Choice find at least some of their form again. It ain’t clever and it doesn’t need to be. The limitations of the project are plain to all to see – I’m just glad they’ve rediscovered the art of writing a half-decent tune.
VERSION NOTE: The early versions of this album come in a 2CD digipak. This features a couple of extra songs, the bi-lingual ‘To America’ the stronger of the two. There’s also the usual crop of remixes, with the ‘Electronic Body Version’ of ‘We Are Back!’ proving the original song was strong enough to stand up when all the guitars were taken away.
Theatre of Tragedy may have a new female singer in Nell (replacing Liv Kristine), but in terms of sound they seem to have purposely taken a step back. The industrial/electronic influences have largely been dropped, with the keyboards back to providing the strings and piano synth traditionally associated with dual-vocal gothic metal acts. Raymond’s vocals still have a slightly ‘robotic’ feel, though this disc is still more reminiscent of the heavier ‘Aegis’ tracks than anything on ‘Musique’ or ‘Assembly’ (although they haven’t brought back the Early Modern English lyrics).
Whilst all this is well and good, the downside of this approach is that Theatre of Tragedy seem to be losing elements of their sound that made them distinctive. ‘Storm’ was a relatively sound choice for an album opener lead single, but the nine tracks that follow (apart from a brief hint of their electronic era in ‘Exile’) proceed to repeat the same formula over and over. Given than female-vocal metal bands are popular in these times, they may yet draw support from fans of Lacuna Coil and the like and possibly win back a few people that didn’t care much for their electronic era. But neither is this a great album – proficient enough but quite dull after a few songs.
This is the first release by this Ben McLees (SonVer, D.U.S.T., ex-ELR) solo project, a six-song (but only one track) EP. Whilst solo project like this often let self-indulgence get in the way, this particular release proves to be surprisingly listenable for a low-budget self-produced CD-R. The EP is sandwiched by two visceral industrial rock tracks, with opener ‘Traumatique’ providing a caustic mix of electronic squelches, grating guitars and middle-fingered vocals. The closing number ‘Elevator’ music, meanwhile, is a short, sharp, no-nonsense rhythmic head-rush.
In between these, we get ‘Unbeautiful’, a slow, grinding riff and lethargic drum loop juxtaposed with melodic keyboards and a surprisingly restrained vocal – it’s like listening to every era of Swans at once! The stripped-down ‘Mute’, meanwhile, features a forlorn guitar not similar to the one used in SonVer’s version on ‘Remember Me’. With the ELR-like ‘We Fall Apart’ also impressing, it falls to ‘Purged’ to serve as the one disappointing track, a rhythmically schizophrenic muddle that fall some way short of pulling off the ‘alternating-loud-and-quiet-bits’ dynamic. It’s otherwise an interesting listen, clearly influenced by the darker post-punk and alternative rock bands of the last 25 years but able to stand up as a project in it’s own right.
Back in the days of EOL-Audio, there was a band called Earth Loop Recall. They got more that a little coverage from yours truly, only to split a year after I discovered them. Ben went off to concentrate on SonVer, as well as various jobbing stints in other UK bands, and also found time to produce a CD-R EP called ‘This Is Radio Silence’ The songs on this EP were later recycled in the 2k7 incarnation of ELR (which existed whilst I was on reviewer hiatus), only for that version of the band to last a year before collapsing again.
So now he’s back with a free-to-download solo EP. OK, he gets Tim Clark and Joanna Quail (both involved in the whole messy ELR saga) to help out on a few tracks, and Scott Lamb (the ‘Deathboy’ himself) provides vocals for one track, but this is still very much a solo effort. And I say solo in the ‘lonely’ sense – listen to these 8 tracks a few times and the desolate, resigned atmosphere created will demonstrate to you that the choice to become a one-man band wasn’t a concious creative decision. There really was no other way.
What’s been delivered here is a drum machine driven 8-track mope-fest, laden with effects-drenched guitars, synth textures and Ben’s plaintive cries spiralling out from the middle of it all. You’d think from this description that this was some kind of goth band, and you’d be wrong. This isn’t so much gothic as it is a means of showing those hordes of whining indie bands how misery is supposed to conveyed on record. Or at least the virtual digital equivalent.
The digi-gloom comes in several forms. The blunt synth that cuts through the opening song ’0000000′ provides a decent foundation for the most ELR-like song here, with a stripped-down version appearing later on under the guise of ‘Now There’s Nothing’. ‘Forever Ends Today’ delivers up a more straightforward brand of guitar-heavy post-punk revival, so much so that I recently managed to use it to bridge from a ‘dark indie’ DJ set seamlessly into a trad-goth one.
‘Living A Broken Dream’ is a minimal acoustic ballad, indeed it’s a little too minimal for my liking, not offering enough feeling of progression to garner much attention. The Scott Lamb colab ‘The Truth In Your Trigger Finger’ it’s suitably schizophrenic, with Scott Lamb snarling over a seething electronic undercurrent before Ben and his guitars come in for a verse of their own.
The EPs final track, ‘We Fall Apart’ provides one final point of interest, as it’s a song that dates back to the oft-forgotten 2006 TIRS EP, a collection of songs that were later absorbed into the Earth Loop Recall canon – an interesting move as we’d all been led to believe that ELR is a project that is very much a thing of the past. The original version was 8 minutes and 47 seconds in length, and here it grows by a further two minutes thanks to an extended outro. The plodding beat and grinding guitar interludes, the ever-repeating one-fingered melody – none of this amounts to a track that is in any way anthemic. But if you must listen to a drawn-out electro-rock dirge, this is probably a good one to go for.
It’s pretty clear that this EP isn’t actually trying to impress anyone. Whilst it occasionally flirts with tried-and-tested songwriting techniques, it isn’t bound by them either. Except for a few songs (I’m thinking of ’000000′ and ‘Forever Ends Today’), it really isn’t all that easy to listen to. But it does have a degree of musical integrity, a kind of ‘like me or delete me’ degree of self-confidence. Given the increasingly tedious state of post-punk revival these days, with only a few project both pushing the boundaries and getting much attention for these days, this EP at least reaffirms that Ben McLees won’t play anyones game other than his own.
And if merely reading this review made you depressed – here’s a little tail-piece to cheer you up – it’s FREE!
Following the diversion of ‘The Drake Equation’ EP and other projects, Mika Goedrijk returns with the middle part of his ‘Nyan’ Trilogy. As with the first part, the album is comprised of two CDs, here designated ‘Le 25i?me Degr?’ (CD1) and ‘Le 33i?me Degr?’ (CD2). The most significant advancement the project has made is the recruitment of percussionist ‘Sal-Ocin’ as a full member (he had previously played in live shows and guested on a track on the previous album). This thus sees the final true integration of tabla beats with programmed industrial rhythms – the key appeal of the TMO sound.
As with last time, the first CD focuses on the uptempo dancefloor tracks, opening with the nine-minute epic ‘Tenet(s) Of On’ before taking us into harsh distorted-beat territory with ‘Mai(i)nomai’ – either track could be regarded as a equal to ‘Epoch’ and ‘One eYed Man’ respectively. The next three songs are less intense, but bridge the gap nicely to ‘(The) World Tree’, the most powerful tabla/noise fusion track on the album, structured in a manner that guarantees maximum impact. The remaining two tracks (‘Tsidii’ and ‘Aemae(ea)th’) seem a little anti-climatic in comparison, but neither do they really upset the flow of CD as it moves to it’s conclusion.
The second CD is a more minimal, ambient affair, this time concentrating on fewer, longer compositions than on it’s predecessor (Le Serpent Rouge from the last album). This is a wise decision as it allows each individual piece to develop – Le Serpent Rouge, whilst an interesting listen, seems like a filing cabinet of not-completely-realised ideas in comparison. Whilst the tribal rhythms and textured electronics make for intriguing listening, it lacks the outright power of the first CD, and thus best treated as a separate album in it’s own right – treated as one, there is simply too much to take in! This Morn’ Omina is and always will be an acquired taste, but followers of this project will most likely be very pleased with this latest installment.
NOTE: The limited edition of the album comes with a third CD, containing 5 ‘ccf’ versions of tracks from the ‘Le 25iéme Degr?’ CD. These are essentially cut-down versions of the originals – possibly of interest to DJs wanting rid of the drawn-out intros, but as a listening experience they don’t really match the originals.
A five year gap since ‘Lateralus’ and America’s most esoteric of rockers return in typically idiosyncratic style. The custom packaging (complete with enclosed lenses for viewing the trippy inlay) is the first reminder that Tool are not your ordinary rock band. Then you actually listen to the thing. ‘Vicarious’ is the opener, Maynard James Keenan’s attack on the American tendency to derive entertainment from atrocities beamed to TV sets from afar, a song that rocks surprisingly hard for a composition that can’t really decide on a time signature. Tool are back, and don’t we know it!
As it happens, that’s one of the albums more accessible moments. ‘Jambi’ scatter-guns it’s way through it’s seven-and-a-half minute length, the spluttering guitar line eventually giving way to a bizarre talk-box guitar solo, but even that’s nothing compared to the 17-minutes of the ‘Wings For Marie/10,000 Days’ pairing. Said to be a paean to the long-term illness of Maynard’s mother, it’s a surprisingly restrained piece, the shimmering, spiralling guitars and barely-audible vocals (plus some background textures provided by Lustmord), often building to false climaxes, leaving the listener wondering when they’ll finally crack and throw in few big riffs – in reality, they seep into the song at such an unhurried pace that you’d be hard pushed to spot them.
And the surprises keep coming. Or at least they would if Tool didn’t have the reputation they have for being just a little unpredictable all the time anyway. ‘The Pot’ gets as closer as any to band’s Undertow/Ænima era, whilst ‘Rosetta Stoned’ is the obligatory 11-minute ‘everythings-and-the-kitchen-sink’ progressive epic, a track that always leaves you wondering if it’s about to finish. Towards the end of the album, we get ‘Intension’, a subtle, low-key track that never quite gets off the ground, and the slow-building ‘Right In Two’, offering a tabla-style solo from Danny Carey on the way to it’s seething climax.
But is the album any good? Somehow, I feel it’s not quite the equal of ‘Lateralus’. It’s in many respects too technical for it’s own good. The switching time signatures, ludicrously elaborate basslines and drumming (they’re too creative to warrant the mere title of ‘rhythm section’), the range of guitar sound and Maynard James Keenan’s philosophical ramblings are all impressive in their own right. But held alongside the likes of ‘Schism’, they fall fractionally short of uniting to the extent that they truly hold the songs together. Great musicianship, certainly. Great innovation, too. But a great album? Not quite.
The group formerly known as Evil’s Toy became T.O.Y. in 2001. Hardly surprising, as they hadn’t sounded ‘Evil’ since the ‘Illusion Album’ back in the mid-1990s. Their debut album under the new name ‘Space Radio’ nevertheless proved to continue their recent trend for producing polished EBM/synth-pop in the style of just about every other band that seems to appear on these pages.
The album ‘White Lights’ therefore might be only their second album under this name, but it’s their fourth synth-pop album in a row. They’re clearly getting to grips with the style, technically at least. It’s bright, shimmering and incredibly easy on the ears. And that is in part the root of the whole problem. The band that once seemed capable of biting heads clean off with ‘Organics’ has lost most, maybe all, it’s teeth.
It’s actually quite hard to put my finger on the root of the problem here. It’s not like that they’ve done anything wrong here. It’s just it sounds like every other album like this, never seeming willing to deviate or take any risks. The opening track ‘Fly Away’, for instance, is perfectly OK on it’s own. But listen closer and you’ll notice that it’s musically reminiscent of ‘We Are Electric’ from the last album. And that’s about as good as it gets.
The succession of songs that follow flow past without ever really leaving any impact. Lyrically, they deal with all the usual future-pop issues – dreams, nightmares, souls, heartbreak. You name it – they’re all here! There’s a mention of a ‘promised land’ in ‘Beyond Sleep’, whilst the title track features EBM’s most overused word ‘Forever’. And I’m sure I’ve heard a song about white lights before, too. Maybe they’re already aware of this – the albums last track is called ‘Another Lovesong’. Too true….
Instrumentally, too, the band keep to the usual sound-palette typical of the European wave sound. Firm, mid-tempo drums (not too distorted, mind), trancey sequences, rich strings, tons of synth-piano, the odd little hook and stacks of ear candy. Production levels are at least generally strong, so the album stands up well as a technical exercise. But admirable as this is, it’s not enough. I want to be blown away, knocked down, y’know! Impress me! They even have the gall to put in an instrumental ‘The Liquid Circle’ which, whilst sounding OK on it’s own, is really crying out for some vocals.
There are a couple of places were they try to push the boat out a bit. ‘The Sky Is The Limit’ features a De/Vision guest vocal, which might interest some, but IMHO, De/Vision fell into the ‘bland synth-pop’ trap long before T.O.Y., so it sounds like all the others. The only successful track is the danced-up ‘Fairytale’, which sounds suspiciously like Icon of Coil, nebulous lyrics included (‘she’s my coloured secret light – a mystic flavoured guide’ – utterly pointless but at least spares us from all the maudlin pop fodder found elsewhere).
Early versions of this album come with a 4-track remix CD, which goes against convention by offers T.O.Y. remixes other artists (rather, as you might expect, other artists remixing T.O.Y.). This does mean that the sound dominating the album is also in presence here. They manage to make 18 Summers sound like, erm, T.O.Y., and even tame the harsh tones of Dennis from In Strict Confidence. There is another mix of their own ‘Fairytale’ here, even money says whether this or the album version is better.
I really hate to criticise albums like this, but unfortunately I don’t really have a choice here. In terms of overall sound, it’s OK. In terms of songwriting, bearable. But it’s just SO unadventurous. The fact that I omitted descriptions of every individual song isn’t down to my own laziness. It’s down to how similar they all sound. This is of course just a personal opinion. But it’s one I’m going to state regardless.
‘You Cannot Feel This’, they say. And they’re right. I can’t. Despite a valid underlying concept and a line-up boasting at least some musical talent, Trauma Pet fall some way short of the mark with this début effort. Attempting a combination of ethereal female vocals, low-key electronics and, on some tracks, textured guitars, the resulting music amounts to less than the sum of it’s parts. It’s hard to truly put one’s finger on the root of the problem, but some rather flat-sounding basslines and drum loops don’t help – in fact, the whole production sounds rather thin and demo-ish.
They do succeed at times – ‘Puppet’ progresses nicely and could have been a great song had it been given a more ‘fullsome’ treatment. There are also a few moments (especially in the middle part of the album) that remind me of certain Diary of Dreams recordings (even if the actual songs don’t). Elie’s vocals are perfectly tolerable but I really don’t think the songs really allow us to hear her at her best. Pete Boyd’s guitar is often a welcome addition (especially on ‘Affinity’ and ‘Rain’), but doesn’t always feel like it’s 100% integrated to every song in which it features. Taken as a whole, this album seems to resemble a cake taken out of the oven too early – a mix that could have become something truly delicious proves only to be something that is only just palatable.
This is pretty much where it all started for Gary Numan – a three-piece punk outfit attempting to build some kind of order into the discordant morass of six-string, three-chord excess that was apparently supposed to be the great white hope of the music industry. Those familiar with Gary’s later work might be very slightly surprised by the content of this début work – it’s not dominated by synthesiser as you might expect, and the whole album sounds more like a robotic punk album than anything electro-pop.
Despite this, the album does lay down some of the foundations for Gary’s more noted works. Firstly, the whole album has a very mechanical feel about it, thanks mainly to Paul Gardiner’s rich, persistent bass and Jess Lidyard’s (Numan’s uncle) subtle, well-tempered drumming. With a strong backing group in place, Gary is thus able to develop his distinctive vocal style, a mutant cross-breed of David Bowie and the Daleks, a vocal stance so distinctive that it defied all attempts at indifference – you loved it or you loathed it.
The groups controlled, uncomplicated nature seemed at the time to be making a statement, both against the unfocused fury of the punk movement and also the long-established prog-rock scene, by now getting so lost up it’s own arse that it was rapidly losing the massive fanbase it’d painstakingly built up over the 70s. Songs like ‘My Shadow In Vain’ and opening track ‘Listen To The Sirens’ were punk in the respect that they made short, succinct statements about the world around them. But somehow Numan’s vision was more distorted and more disconnected than most. A critic once said it dealt with people ‘Trapped in their own mind’ – which sums it up better than any words of my own.
Some songs do make a definite statement. ‘The Life Machine’ is an anti-euthanasia piece, defying the obvious by adopting a relatively cheerful tone, whilst broadcasting his sentiments from the viewpoint of a terminally ill patient that just wants to die, but clearly can’t summon up enough emotion to offer one final ‘fuck you’ – instead nonchalantly muttering a resigned ‘I know – You’ve got your principles’ – which in it’s own way has more impact than some kind of swansong obscenity. Interesting to see that out of all the ‘right to die’ songs that rock has thrown out over the years, this one stand alone in it’s approach.
There’s some other tracks with a slightly riske feel to them. Take ‘Everyday I Die’, the central character being a lonely singleton with nothing better to do with his life than masturbate over dirty pictures (c’mon – what else can ‘I unstick pages and read’ mean). ‘Jo The Waiter’, meanwhile, is a strange acoustic number that hints towards trans/homosexuality. The use of an asexual name gets one wondering, though the lyrical content of the song is so nonsensically esoteric that it’s true meaning is only clear if you read the album’s liner notes.
There are some tracks that preserve the rough, guitar-driven sound of Gary’s punk days. The high-speed babbling vox of ‘Friends’ is accompanied by some fiery riffs of the kind that wouldn’t star again in his music for at least a couple of decades. The other notable ‘rock’ tracks include ‘Are You Real?’ and ‘Steel And You’, the latters fierce, dehumanising blast prefaced by some demented Moog experimentation, thus defining the two instrumental extremes of the album in one fell swoop.
It’s probably true to say that many of the albums songs aren’t particularly reliant on the electronics. Often they are used to ‘flesh’ out the songs rather than drive them, though in that respect they certainly do their job, reinforcing the icy tone of most the music. Some tracks (notably ‘My Love Is Liquid’) try to do something a little more creative with the primitive technologies available to them, and thus have become fan favourites, a treasured relic of Numan’s embyonic synth-pop sound.
The reissued version of the album not only adds the aforementioned liner note, but also an audience recording of an old Roxy show in 1978. The sound quality isn’t up to much, but it is surprisingly listenable nonetheless, offering a number of tracks from ‘The Plan’ (an old record company demo, later released by Beggar’s Banquet), an early version of ‘My Shadow In Vain’ and a few songs not heard anywhere else. They also pull off a reasonable version of The Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light/White Heat’. It’s not essential listening, but will be of great interest to those who need convincing of punk’s connections with electro-pop.
It’s a better album than some might imagine, this. It may essentially be a primitive electro-pop prototype, but the appeal lies in it’s simplicity. Numan’s lyrics have always been notoriously arty, often making vague, purposefully intelligent references to controversial subject matters that’ll go way over the heads of many casual listeners, and here is no different – there’s always going to be at least one song where you’ll miss the point and just go ‘WHAT!?!?’. Not down-to-earth enough to be punk, but without the shimmering sheen of electro-pop, this album has failed to find it’s place in music history, which is a pity, as it’s surprisingly adept demonstration of how some jaded punks found a more dystopian route to stardom.
The New York quartet Type O Negative have a nickname. The Drab Four. They’re not exactly the wrist slashers guaranteed No.1 choice, but their blend of resignation, anger and cynicism isn’t really conductive to happiness either. And that last album put the lid on that. Songs the size of big green cities, it seemed intent on doing nothing except dragging out the experience until everyone got bored and went home. I liked it, being me and all that, but many others didn’t, thus making this disc something of a ‘make or break’.
A four-year break they might have taken, but no-one can doubt that Type O have at least picked a tactically astute time to return. Everyone’s getting bored of nu-metal, whilst bands as diverse as The Darkness and Evanescence are defying convention and topping the charts, whilst even former niche interest bands such as Nightwish are starting to find their way into UK CD stores. Type O, with big, chugging rock songs saturated with angsty gloom oughta get along just fine, shouldn’t they?
Well, true to form, New York’s finest have a shock or two in store. The intro ‘Thir13Teen’ might be an almost-respectful Black Sabbath impersonation, but that’s only a preface to ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Me’, which contrary to the established Type O practise, is notably uptempo and disposes of itself within four minutes (not counting the ambient outro stuff). It’s not exactly a disaster, but the quartet don’t sound entirely at ease either. Hardly encouraging for the album ahead. (Additional note: Everyone else seems to like this one – so maybe you will as well).
Fortunately, they only do the ‘fast’ thing a couple more times, and these attempts are more successful. ‘I Like Goils’ is Pete Steele’s counter claim to the thousands of fans who think he’s gay – ‘cos he isn’t. Possibly homophobic, but obviously he felt the point had to be made. There’s also ‘Angry Itch’ (a cover from a Broadway music ‘Hedwig and the Angry Itch, but it’s very Type O in tone), dealing with the topic of being left sexless following a botched sex-change op. No punches pulled here – “six inches forward and five inches back – I’ve got an angry itch”.
The rest of the album is closer to the Type O Negative sound we know and love – grinding atmospheric gloom-metal with a dark undercurrent that half humour of the most evil kind and half an opinionated form of social awareness. Tempos vary from controlled to downright slow and sloth-like. Steele’s vocals (with the rest of the group on backing) are generally sung quite softly, saving the lung-wretching cries for the bits where it really matters. The guitars and bass are rich, expansive and cutting all at the same time, to which the keyboards and percussion dovetail nicely. It’s everything a TON aficionado could hope for.
What’s more, the songwriting level is strong and consistent across the whole album. True, there’s nothing here to quite equal the everlasting damnation of ‘Black No.1′ or the catchy twistedness of ‘My Girlfriends Girlfriend’, but the albums still notable due to the number of tracks that merely come close to that standard. Subject matters stretch from women (both real and fictitious), through parenthood right through to the sheer lack of desire to live. In Type O’s songbook, nothing is taboo.
The title track ‘Life Is Killing Me’ is certainly a highlight, a gruesomely slow account of the ‘Right to Die’ arguments, and the doctors salary packets that keep people on life support for the sake of a few extra bucks (UK readers note – this is the American medical system at work here. We have quite enough medical care problems of our own, anyway). The moving ‘Anesthesia’ is more abstract lyrically, but the supreme feeling of nihilism it creates is still vintage Steele, whilst the Josh Silver’s keyboards contributions just take the track to another level, particularly his prog-styled organ flourish towards the track’s close.
As for the ‘significant other’ songs, ‘A Dish Best Served Coldly’ is an ‘It’s over and I don’t give a fuck’ sort of thing, featuring some acoustic guitar in additional to all the usual sounds. There’s also ‘How Could She?’, a tribute to all the fictional female icons American culture has produced for us, and the heartbreak experience by anyone sad enough to mistake them for real people. But better still is ‘(We Were) Electrocute’, an almost-sentimental story of a past relationship, with it’s delicate, insubstantial chorus, brass fanfares and cheesy fuzz-guitar outro. Clearly these boys know the benefits of a decent hook or two.
Pete Steele also devotes one song to each of his parents – ‘Todd’s Ship Gods (Above All Things)’ deal with the expectations of his father, whilst ‘Nettie’ handles the mortality of his mother. To be honest, I’m not so keen on these two – maybe the intensely personal nature of the lyrics has something to do with it, as I’ve never been great at sharing the sentiments of others. Neither songs is exactly bad, however, so I don’t think I have any right to complain. Come to think of it, the statement ‘Above all things boy, be a man’ reminds me of my own father many years ago, so maybe there is a link….
And as for the rest of the tracks, well, why should I ruin the surprise? Watch out for the sitar in ‘Less Than Zero (<0)’ and the murderous passion of ‘IYDKMIGTHTKY (Gimme That)’, the meaning of that acronym becoming clear after a few listens. There is one instrumental track other that the intro, ‘Drunk In Paris’, a grinding guitar and according job that has at least a little Gallic flavour. It prefaces album closer ‘The Dream Is Dead’, and it’s at this point that I admit I’ve run out of ways of saying “This is Good”.
Those of you who pounced early (or otherwise struck lucky) aren’t quite through yet, however. Bonus disc time! There’s a cover of ‘Out Of The Fire (Kane’s Theme)’, dominated by a wrenching guitar solo, interspersed by a bit of male choir and martial drumming. There’s also Type O’s oft-mentioned cover of ‘Black Sabbath’, this song, and indeed the band of the same name proving to be a pretty major Type O Negative influence. This version strips down the verses (Steele going for a spoken word approach), but is generally quite a faithful version.
The other cover here is the notorious ‘Cinnamon Girl’ single, here in it’s ‘Extended Depression Mix’, so if you must have a longer version but never picked up the single, here it is. Another old favourite is ‘Christian Woman’ here in ‘Butt-Kissing, Sell-Out Mix’, which does the reverse by making a long song short. Of the rest, ‘Suspended In Dusk’ is a growly dirge-like crawl, while ‘Blood & Fire (Out of the Ashes Mix)’ and ‘Haunted (Per Version) are just reasonably alternate versions of old album tracks.
But what about the album proper? Worth a four year wait? For the most part, yes. It might take a few run through’s for all the clever little details to emerge, but there’s a hell of a lot of depth on this CD, the songwriting occasionally esoteric, but never in a bad way. The Type O humour is still very much there, not always as obvious as it once was, but always waiting to pounce on the unexpected. It grinds, crawls, groan and spits you out the other end. It’s a gloom-fest that’s worth shelling out for.