Posts Tagged ‘ Post Punk ’

Album of the Week 19-2018: The Mortal – I Am Mortal


Atsushi Sakurai was born to sing gothic rock. His deep, emotional baritone belongs in the genre. But somehow, despite their gothic masterpiece ‘Jusankai Wa Gekko’, his main band Buck-Tick does not want to make the full leap into the genre. As a result, he needs to set up projects like The Mortal every once in a while. In a way, ‘I Am Mortal’ is a logical continuation of Sakurai’s solo debut ‘Ai No Wakusei’, but the album leans far more to the goth side of things and because of that, this dark monster of an album feels a lot more consistent.

On the ‘Spirit’ EP released a month prior to ‘I Am Mortal’, The Mortal was already quite clear about its influences. Sakurai has never made a secret of his love for Bauhaus and the fact that he covered them – alongside The Damned and Souxsie And The Banshees – on that EP should already give a clear hint of what The Mortal sounds like. The Mission is a clear influence as well, especially in ‘Mortal’. At times, the band explores the noisier end of the post-punk spectrum, however, resulting in intense, aggressive moments such as ‘Barbaric Man’ and ‘Pain Drop -It Rains Cats & Dogs’.

While those explosions of energy certainly contribute to the varied nature of ‘I Am Mortal’, the album is best when introspective. ‘Yume – Deep Dream’ has the huge eighties goth production, but in essence feels like a really dark love song. Closing track ‘Sayonara Waltz’ keeps things considerably smaller, being rooted in just Sakurai’s vocals and the classical guitar of Jake Cloudchair, but is no less atmospheric. The album starts in quite a dark, introspective manner with as well with ‘Tenshi’, which is a really good taster to set the horror-like mood of the rest of the album.

The calmer moments are not the only highlights of ‘I Am Mortal’ though. ‘Tsuki’ is the opposite end of the spectrum, with its propulsive, straightforward punk beat and intensely repetitive chorus. The rhythmically unpredictable ‘Grotesque’, ‘Guignol’, ‘Dead Can Dance’ and the spectacular ‘Fantômas – Tenrankai No Otoko’ are masterpieces of creepy goth and horror punk and the aforementioned ‘Mortal’, probably the most traditional gothic rock track on here, is simply too catchy and emotional to be ignored. It should be noted that the atmospheric memorability of the choruses is the rule rather than the exception here. Even if you are not adept at Japanese, these melodies will stick. Trust me, I should know.

‘I Am Mortal’ was followed by the impressive live dvd ‘Immortal’, but as of this writing, no new The Mortal plans have been announced. I truly hope there will be a sequel to the album though, because the album shows Atsushi Sakurai doing what he does best: singing dark, emotionally laden gothic rock songs. His love for the genre oozes out of the album’s pores. Also, Sakurai and his band mates appear to have a very strong connection musically, so it would be a pity to not hear more of this. Even the classic goth bands cannot quite reach these heights anymore.

Recommended tracks: ‘Fantômas – Tenrankai No Otoko’, ‘Mortal’, ‘Sayonara Waltz’, ‘Tsuki’

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Album of the Week 13-2018: The Sisters Of Mercy – Vision Thing


The change between The Sisters Of Mercy’s second album ‘Floodland’ and its follow-up ‘Vision Thing’ is apparent from the moment the album kicks off. The reverb-heavy gothic atmosphere of the former had been exchanged for a drier production and a riff-oriented approach. With four people credited with playing guitar on the album, ‘Vision Thing’ shifts the emphasis from gothic to rock here. Of course, with this being The Sisters Of Mercy, it’s not your standard rock album – it’s almost a parodic take on the genre at times – but it’s the hardest rocking material the band around Andrew Eldritch released thus far.

Atmosphere has not been sacrificed entirely here, however. ‘Vision Thing’ just sounds a lot more direct and ironic than The Sisters Of Mercy had ever done in the past. Eldritch, who was essentially running the band on his own by the time the album was recorded, never felt too comfortable with the gothic rock tag anyway and his reaction to the legendary goth album that was ‘Floodland’ seemed to be coming up with material that was the mirror opposite of the album. His characteristic deep vocals prevent it from becoming completely unrecognizable, but ‘Vision Thing’ is mostly built upon simple, beefy guitar riffs.

Somehow, Eldritch and his production team seemed to squeeze the most out of these uncomplicated riffs. Such simplicity, especially with the use of the band’s trusted drum computer Doktor Avalanche, would result in mind-numbing boredom at the hands of others. ‘Doctor Jeep’, for instance, makes use of one simple riff and a modulated chorus, but perfectly manages to portray the boredom with mass media that appears in the lyrics. Despite containing three riffs, the title track is another monument of less-is-more, working towards its cathartic chorus through agitated observations courtesy of Eldritch surprisingly effectively.

‘Floodland’ producer Jim Steinman was brought in exclusively for ‘More’, the only keyboard-centered song on the album. The song ended up sounding nothing like ‘Floodland’ though, despite being the most gothic track on here. If there is a think like soul goth, that’s what it would be. The album’s parodical nature shines brightest in the eighties glam-inspired ‘When You Don’t See Me’, which has a massive and remarkably enjoyable chorus, cliché-ridden as it might be. The reissue reveals the fitting working title of the song was ‘Bon Jovi’. Highlighting the album, however, is the deranged ‘Ribbons’, with its propulsive riff and borderline disturbing lyrics.

If The Sisters Of Mercy prove anything on ‘Vision Thing’, it is that parodying rock music by embracing everything that makes it ridiculous in a delightfully sarcastic manner could result in a surprisingly effective rock album. One that fans of the genre who do not share Eldritch’s sentiments may enjoy as well. Those who fell in love with the band through ‘Floodland’ may be surprised by how prominent the guitars of Andreas Bruhn and Tim Bricheno are on ‘Vision Thing’, but anyone looking for a bitterly ironic rock album that somehow is very listenable do not need to look any further.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ribbons’, ‘Doctor Jeep’, ‘When You Don’t See Me’

Album of the Week 28-2017: Buck-Tick – Juusankai Wa Gekkou


Buck-Tick is one of the most influential bands from the Japanese visual kei scene. Singer Atsushi Sakurai has one of the most distinctive, appealing voices of that scene and yet, their classic material never appealed to me much. Their earliest work was a bit too upbeat for my taste, while most of their nineties output has strong electronic overtones that I find somewhat abrasive. ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ solves both of these issues by being a dark, gothic monster of an album with a pleasant, organic production. It turned out to be a unique entry in Buck-Tick’s discography, both stylistically and quality-wise.

While the gothic label ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ often gets is not entirely inaccurate, especially regarding its lyrical themes and horror-like imagery, the sound of the album is better characterized as a relatively dark post-punk band discovering how lively their songs can sound with a more organic sonic approach. As such, the album really plays to Buck-Tick’s strengths. Always the band’s main attraction, Sakurai’s voice is front and center and he obviously knows his way with the album’s atmosphere. However, the “less is more and every note counts” approach of guitarists Hisashi Imai and Hidehiko Hoshino deserves a lot of praise as well.

Those who are used to the virtuoso approach that even more accessible J-rock bands like Luna Sea and L’Arc-en-Ciel employ might be surprised at how the musicianship takes a back seat to the songs and the atmosphere here. The songs are pretty low-key and even the climactic outbursts are not very bombastic. As a result, ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ is a slow burner and in order to enjoy the record, it is imperative that the atmosphere absorbs you. That does not mean the musicianship is not important. The amazing ‘Doll’, for instance, is characterized by a brilliant, teasing guitar line as much as by the atmosphere and Sakurai’s performance.

Remains of the band’s electronic approach can be found in the spooky ‘Muma – The Nightmare’, which – despite the fact that it’s followed by two more tracks – sounds like the climax of the record. The electronics are just a bit less “busy” than on the material they released in the decade prior to ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’. The impeccably arranged ‘Alive’ is another standout track, due its memorable and strategically placed chorus. ‘Passion’ is one of the darkest, most horror soundtrack-inspired moments of the record and therefore, is best not listened to in the dark. It does capture the creepy mood exceptionally well though.

‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ is by no means a perfect record. At 78 minutes, some fat could have been trimmed, especially from the intros, outros and interludes, while ‘Seraphim’ and the vaudevillian ‘Diabolo -Lucifer-‘ stand out like a sore thumb due to their relatively upbeat atmosphere. Their main purpose seems to be to emphasize the darkness of ‘Muma – The Nightmare’. Despite those minor complaints, ‘Juusankai Wa Gekkou’ has a consistency that some of the most popular Buck-Tick albums lack. It is easy to sit this one out, as this is one of those albums that refuses to let you go once it gets a hold of you.

Recommended tracks: ‘Alive’, ‘Doll’, ‘Muma – The Nightmare’

Album of the Week 07-2017: Dool – Here Now, There Then


‘Listen Without Prejudice’ may have been the meaningful title of George Michael’s second solo album, in some reversed kind of way, the phrase also applies to Dool’s debut album ‘Here Now, There Then’. Singer and guitarist Ryanne van Dorst will be known to most Dutch music fan for the punky rock ‘n’ roll she made under the pseudonym Elle Bandita, but I sincerely doubt if anyone familiar with her earlier work would have expected something like ‘Here Now, There Then’: a dark, bleak, unsettling, brooding and ultimately downright beautiful rock album with an atmosphere that is guaranteed to absorb you completely.

First single ‘Oweynagat’ blew me away when it was released a couple of months ago, but nothing could have prepared me for this masterpiece of a debut album. Monolithic riffs, haunting vocal harmonies, pounding drums and chiming atmospheric guitar parts are all over the record. It helps that the band makes full use of the fact that they have three guitarists – Van Dorst, Nick Polak and Reinier Vermeulen – and the rhythm section is highly versatile. Drummer Micha Haring moves from brute doom metal hammering to more swinging rock rhythms with incredible ease and the fact that the song material requires him too is one of the album’s greatest assets.

As versatile as the record is, the atmosphere is consistently dark and reminiscent of early goth rock and post punk bands like The Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus and early Killing Joke. The massive doom metal atmosphere of opening track ‘Vantablack’ certainly is the bleakest beginning of a record I’ve heard in a long time. But it’s exactly that feel that makes it beautiful. It takes you in and won’t let you go until it’s over. In a way, the track is more than just an opening track, it’s an opening statement.

Even though that doom metal sound doesn’t reappear until the brilliant ‘The Alpha’, Dool delivers when it comes to every type of dark rock music they attempt. The aforementioned ‘Oweynagat’ shines due to its vocal harmonies, the dynamic drum work and its amazing chorus, closing track ‘She-Goat’ has an incredible build-up towards its climax, the seventies-ish ‘Golden Serpents’ is full of beautiful guitar parts – including a fantastic twin solo at the end – and ‘In Her Darkest Hour’ gallops along below its awesome riffs very nicely until it hits some unpredictable rhythms in its chorus. ‘The Death Of Love’ is a little more subtle, but no less impressive and highly dynamic.

It’s been a while since I was impressed this much by a debut album, but it’s a fact that Dool produced a remarkable piece of art with ‘Here Now, There Then’. This is a record that is so strong in the message and the atmosphere it’s trying to get across that it’s almost impossible to not feel it. Combined with the musical craftsmanship within its lineup and Van Dorst’s excellent compositions, there is very little reason left not to check this downright mindblowing album out. It may be a little dark, but don’t let that keep you from missing out on what may just be the best debut of the year.

Recommended tracks: ‘Oweynagat’, ‘The Alpha’, ‘Vantablack’

Album of the Week 44-2015: Killing Joke – Pylon


London’s Killing Joke has somewhat of a unique position when it comes to expectations. You know you’re going to get something that is bleak and overwhelming, but the exact sound of their albums is often somewhat of a mystery until you actually hear it. ‘Pylon’ is surprising, because although it is a Killing Joke record through and through, it sounds so much more inspired and absorbing than ‘MMXII’, which came across as something of a rushed affair. It’s probably their most consistent effort since the original quartet reunited in 2008. An unsettling, but ultimately rewarding sonic adventure.

Geordie Walker’s guitar is the first thing that catches my attention; it sounds better than it has in a long time. The riffs sound razor sharp and precise, while the more soundscape-like work is spacious and vast. In addition, the way Paul Ferguson’s acoustic drum work mixes with the electronic rhythms is reminiscent of the band’s 1994 masterpiece ‘Pandemonium’ – not unlike the album cover – and Jaz Coleman appears to actually sing instead of yelling declamations of rebellion this time around. He’s still Britain’s prime prophet of disaster, but this change in vocal approach really fits the unimaginably bleak sound of the record.

While it was their semi-industrial Post Punk riffing that initially drew me toward Killing Joke, it’s increasingly been the songs that are something of a departure that are my favorites lately. Case in point: ‘Euphoria’. The heavy reverb on the guitars and the desolate atmosphere of the song suggest a strong New Wave and early Goth influence, turning the song into a beautifully ugly work of art, only rivaled by ‘New Jerusalem’, in which the swinging rhythms of Ferguson and the electronics make way for a storm of dark, grey clouds in the chorus. Ferguson’s drum work in the song is nothing short of exceptional.

Most of the other songs are typical Killing Joke affairs in which songs get their climaxes from building up layers of intensity rather than having loads of riffs around. In fact, some of the songs (‘Delete’ most prominently) hardly feature any changes in the riff department, they just grow wider when the chorus comes around. Youth’s sub-octave bass sound works wonders here. Also, the riffs on tracks like ‘War On Freedom’ and ‘Dawn Of The Hive’ are simply just really good. Closer ‘Into The Unknown’ adapts a somewhat more epic approach that works marvellously. Initially, I thought the song was a little too long, but every part makes perfect sense.

Reunions of original lineups are usually nostalgia-driven more than anything, but with ‘Pylon’, Killing Joke proves once again (‘Absolute Dissent’ was the first evidence) that the lineup of Coleman, Walker, Youth and Ferguson is really the only one that can fully capture the scarred, but unbowed spirit of Killing Joke. This rhythm section especially does miraculous things to the band’s loud, rude, but also danceable Post Punk sound. ‘Pylon’ perfectly measures up to the band’s classic sound, but open minded fans of Punk, Metal and darker Indie should definitely give this a chance.

Recommended tracks: ‘Euphoria’, ‘New Jerusalem’, ‘Into The Unknown’, ‘War On Freedom’

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