South African post-Black outfit Constellatia arrived just two short years ago, and already last year’s debut album The Language of Limbs (Season of Mist) has earned a power-label reissue. A blast of atmospheric harshness and aching melody with a touch of doomed romance, its four tracks are a paean to the outer edges of Emotion.Continue reading
What exactly is going on in New York? The city has a long musical history, of course, but in recent years it seems to have become a focus point for challenging, original and distinctive Heavy Metal. We’re not talking about some forced “scene” with three or four decent bands setting the tone for a horde of bland followers, either – though Psalm Zero share a certain spirit with their neighbours in Pyrrhon, Krallice and Artificial Brain, musically they’re as distinctive as those bands are from each other.
Not that the music on Stranger To Violence (Profound Lore) is especially easy to describe. The label blurb makes much of their Pop influence, but this is hardly the chorus-heavy cheese-fest that word may suggest – the song-writing somehow marries catchiness to a genuine sense of unease and strangeness. The Metal elements shouldn’t be overlooked, either – the use of synths often calls to mind the darker side of eighties Pop, but just when you think you’ve got them in a box they’ll shift to a surging bombast that has more in common with Emperor than Depeche Mode. The extremely sparse use of harsh vocals in the most aggressive sections create a real sense of dislocation, too, hitting with an impact that they lack in music which uses them more regularly. It’s Pop Metal, but nothing like any other band that’s been given that name before.
If the music is hard to describe, the aesthetic behind it is no less so. The artwork suggests urban dystopia, and though that is certainly present on tracks like ‘Real Rain’ and ‘Stolen By Night’, there’s also an undercurrent of dark fantasy and strangeness to it that can’t be described easily. It’s frequently as uplifting as it is sinister, as dark as it is catchy.
In a genre with so many offshoots and sub-types that it seems as though every possibility has been thoroughly explored, Psalm Zero have genuinely succeeded in carving their own little niche – and it’s a strange, fascinating little place indeed.
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For those of you unfamiliar with the delights of Victor Love: no, this isn’t some 1950s B-Movie hero. Love, in fact, heads up Italian Electro-Industrialists Dope Stars Inc, and The Network EP (Self-Released/Independent) is a rare solo outing.
It’s an edgy if often thin sound: opener ‘Doom Trap’ is punchy and sinister, but heavy on the synth work which occasionally comes across as a forlorn clavichord. It’s easy to level accusations of 80s Pop toward this but in truth there’s far more drama: ‘…Trap’s roared choruses possess the breezy airs of Babylon Zoo, but strangely succeed in thickening the atmosphere rather than lifting it. There’s a cheesiness to the ensuing ‘Machine Gun’ despite the subtle clashing and grinding which underpins the confrontational refrain; the almost onomatopoeic delivery and horrendous, Bontempi-style preamble grating somewhat. There is, however, cold steel in the near-antagonistic focal points, and an icy chill to the initially sparing keys of closer ‘Net Reality’: the standout track, displaying tragedy through the lush high points which falls somewhere between a balladic Marilyn Manson and an Electronica-laden Placebo. Here Love’s voice is spiked yet melodic, the frisson created by those icicle-drop keys evoking the seedy desolation of a dark backstreet in 30s Berlin.
It’s debatable how potent a full album of this occasionally brittle yet bitter Cyber-Punk style could be. The Network is eminently listenable nevertheless, and possesses enough sharp teeth to pique the emotions.