Up and coming UK gothic metal band Her Despair is releasing their new EP this summer, the amazingly titled ‘Mournography.’ The EP drops on July 20th, and we’ll bring you more news soon about this exciting band. In the meantime, Ghost Cult has teamed up with the band to debut their new music video for the track ‘Blaspheme With Me, so check it out! Continue reading
Powerman 5000 have paved new roads for industrial rock over the years with their genre-blending of rock, metal, industrial, rap, and punk have been their forte since forming in 1991. Previous Powerman 5000 albums are fun with their energetic songs, lyrical shifts and the fluidity of riffs but New Wave (Pavement) tested my patience track after track. I caught a bit of a break with the fourth track, the shortest song ‘Thank God’ had more energy than the entire album… This 1 minute and 13 seconds slightly boosted my tolerance level for the album. Continue reading
Six albums and ten years deep sees In This Moment achieve a notable career milestone with Ritual (Roadrunner/Atlantic), celebrated with a prominent change in focus. Toned down is the throwaway innuendo and sexually tinged frippery of previous albums, gone is the overt silliness, and ramped up is the stomping “industrial-tinged” Hard Rock side of the band that has always, in reality, been their calling card. Continue reading
One thing about Trent Reznor, he never seems to get complacent. Part of that is the artist inside of him won’t allow atrophy of his creative muscles very long. The strength of his need to keep growing forward and evolving, Reznor continues an over decade long hot-streak of new and varied output either as a solo artist, entrepreneur, film composer, visual artist, fashion designer, his other band projects such as How To Destroy Angels and of course with Nine Inch Nails.
I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready to hear this record right now or to write this review. I was not ready to learn David Bowie had died of cancer, and that this already rough start 2016 had already dealt my mental musical Parthenon another harsh blow. Before I was laid low by these events, I was intrigued by the ‘Lazarus’ music video and pre-ordered Blackstar (Columbia/ RCA) on Amazon. But I hadn’t played the album one time in a busy weekend. And then once the news came down, I retreated to what most do in these cases, share my sorrow publicly and played my favorites on a loop for a few days. Mainly relegated to what is on my old iPod Classic 160 GB, my portable Bowie collection is mainly the 70s albums I grew up on (Diamond Dogs, Station To Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger, my 1990s favorite Outside, and some obligatory hits here and there I’m sure everyone else knows well. I wasn’t sure how to approach this final album review from an artist I admired all my life, knowing this was the last new thing I would ever hear from him. I laid down in bed for the first few listens. Just in bed in the dark with my headphones on.
As much an album rooted in Bowie’s entire oeuvre, ‘Blackstar’ is equally an album that would have come from a future timeline or reality. The epic title track opens things up and is almost like a little elctronica-based rock operetta. It chirps to life at once, but soon morphs into a gorgeous, almost Gospel rock-inflected anthem. The third motif in the middle section has the grit and grace of any great rock song the man ever put down on wax. Vocally and lyrically alone, the performance moved me to tears right away. Of course these ominous whooshing churchly vocals, swelling and brooding horns and reeds, right along side with lyrics about life, death, fame and rebirth heard in the context of knowing he had died surely hit me harder than it would have otherwise. That doesn’t make this track any less amazing.
The rest of the album flirts with an array of stylistic choices. The powerful uptempo beat of ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore’ comes with a subtle Sun-Ra style discordant beauty to it. A chaos that flirts with ruin, but holding together by a thread of greatness. David’s voice is just magical, and harkening back to his earliest work in a lot of ways. Donny McCaslin’s brass work just crushes on this track.
‘Lazarus’ is a song that along with its companion video will be analyzed, deconstructed and perhaps books will be written about for the next few decades I would imagine. The somber balladry of the tune can barely stand up to the titanic lyrics. It was hearing the collected writing of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross set to song. No doubt anyone who heard the track when it came out, saw it in a different light after David’s death. The eerie lyrics are not just prophecy, they are spooky real. Like a manifest from the before the grave. Many artists wrote with their own death as a specter in their life that was all too real to them. Hank Williams Sr., Warren Zevon, Frank Zappa, and hell, evenin the tragic case of Jeff Buckley; he must have “felt like he was dying since the day he was born” in the purest sense. Bowie was clearly leaving no illusions to chance with this track, so present and bare and raw about the sum of his life coming to a bittersweet end. And you never want the track to end, but it does as well.
At this point, after a track like ‘Lazurus’, it starts to be hard to even track quality on a real scale that has meaning, but I will press on. In a change of pace and tone ‘Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)’ is a slick blend of those killer collaborations with Brian Eno, but via the centrifuge of the many who followed in those massive footsteps too like Nine Inch Nails or more recently, Puscifer. ‘Girl Loves Me’ has a creeping rhythm and a call and response refrain. The full expanse of his singing range, including a not often enough heard vamp in his bass register is a thrill and treat. This song will find its fans, but really it’s just slightly above filler.
‘Dollar Days’ again finds us in familiar ground. Almost a call back to his earlier work: a deceptive, emotional, subversive, brilliant pop song. And lyrically again, so final and so very sad, it will break your heart to hear it. Special note goes to the piano work of Jason Lindner.
As the penultimate track evolves via a danceable beat into the beautiful final cut, ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’. It is the sound of an acceptance an artist saying goodbye forever. It would seem that the sentiment of the title is quite the opposite in reality. On Blackstar, Bowie left nothing behind or unsaid; if anything it’s a bit esoteric. Not just in a sense of this album, but his career and his life. And I am still not ready for this. And neither are you.
[amazon asin=B017VORJK6&template=iframe image]
There’s an anecdote relating to former Manchester United footballing legend George Best, (who retired aged 27 and once said “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars – the rest I just squandered”) whereby a hotel bell boy found Mr Best in a room with a Miss World, champagne and surrounded by stacks of cash (casino winnings) littering the bed and uttered the infamous words “George, where did it all go wrong?”
At the onset of this (new) millenium Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death) (Nothing/Interscope) had Marilyn Manson positioned to complete his unprecedented rise to become the anti-saviour of rock. Hit singles, videos on heavy rotation, ground-breaking and critically acclaimed sell out arena tours with talked about stage shows, movie soundtracks, millions of album sales… he was the biggest and most successful solo rock artist, and poised to stride on steampunk stilts to the head of the rock world on a global scale.
At some point over the last fifteen years of distractions… of liaisons with burlesque super-stars, addictions, depraved and/or pornographic promo vids, drug and alcohol-fueled binges, (alleged) gang-bang parties, where persistently dumbed-down and creatively redundant farces dressed up as albums have seemed inconveniences with which to pay for his way of life … one wonders if there’s been a similar, recent, moment of clarity for Brian Warner that has stirred and inspired ninth album Pale Emperor (Hell, etc/Cooking Vinyl). As a man renowned for a debauched lifestyle, Warner’s reputation as an artist has plummeted significantly to the point that many have turned their back on him. Pale Emperor will have a tough task in getting those who have left the Manson family to return, but is it the album to do it?
Manson knows it is, yet what serves Pale Emperor well is its humility – comprehension and hunger returning to the Manson stable, a realisation that, as a middle-aged man, Warner wants to be a credible artist again, wants to show he can still do this, and do this better than most. Showcasing a stripped down, reimagining of the Manson sound, Pale Emperor achieves those aims. Enter the album expecting a medley of ‘Beautiful People’ or ‘Disposable Teens’ styled anthems and you’ll be left disappointed. Enter it open-minded, and you’ll discover a mature rock album, distinctive yet displaying a new austerity.
Based around Manson’s characteristic drawl and dirty, dirty bass grooves, ‘Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge’ is an undulating new classic to add to the MazMaz canon, while ‘Deep Six’ is the closest to those anthems of old, with a persistent bass snap mixing with garage rock and the trademark snarl, along with nods to classic 70’s Alice Cooper. Elsewhere, a vibe of filthy bass, simple drumming, dark sleaze, intelligent verses and understated choruses pervade. Noticeable by their altered state is how the guitars are used – rather than distorted chords juddering down, predominantly the album is flecked with cleaner tones; hints of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, with strong elements of Americana redolent throughout.
‘The Mephistopholes of Los Angeles’ sees Warner croon “I don’t know if I can open up, I’ve been opened enough” in an autobiographical proto-punk influenced song that inherently suits a man who has always been a great storyteller; ‘Warship My Wreck’ recalls ‘Lamb of God’ (from the aforementioned Holy Wood) in its sparse and starkness; ‘The Devil Beneath My Feet’ is the grandson of Rolling Stones’ classic ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, while ‘Birds of Hell Awaiting’ kicks off with pure bass pornography, before jarring vocals descend the song hell-wards into an Americana swathed discordant grunge lurch.
While Born Villain took baby steps in the right direction and at least established Manson as a draw once again following his global jaunts with Rob Zombie, it was still beige wallpaper compared to the grotesque genius of his first four albums. …Emperor, on the other hand, is comfortably Warner’s best work since Holy Wood. Deserving plaudits in its’ own right, returning from the dead might not be so difficult after all… Indeed, as Manson himself spits on ‘…Mephistopholes…’ “Lazarus’ got no dirt on me, I’ll rise to every occasion”.
Welcome back, Marilyn.