In Rotation, December 2009
Ascension of the Watchers Numinosum
Track Listing: Ascendant, Evading, Residual Presence, Canon For My Beloved, Moonshine, Mars Becoming, On the River, Violet Morning, Like Falling Snow, Sounds of Silence, Quintessence.
Ascension of the Watchers sounds like it should be a Buffy tribute band, a novelty along the lines of Harry and the Potters. But with the first special-effects and sample-laden track, Ascendant, its clear that debut album Numinosum is anything but. Once the vocals kick in, the kinship with Fear Factory becomes unmistakable not a surprise given how Ascension of the Watchers was started by Fear Factory frontman Burton C. Bell and veteran keyboardist John Bechtel, also of Fear Factory (among many top-name industrial rock bands).
The focus on melodic almost shoegazer-like introspection rather than growly assertiveness makes Ascension of the Watchers a very different sort of experience from Fear Factorys concept albums like the quintessential Obsolete. There is nothing left of me/There is nothing that you see/All I am is memory/And that is all you will be/Nothing ever lasts forever, sings Bell in Residual Presence, and from there we get a hard-edged, mournful, accomplished album founded on the timeless melancholy of broken hearts, regrets, and the usual calamities of the human condition.
Echo & the Bunnymen The Fountain
Track Listing: Think I Need It Too, Forgotten Fields, Do You Know Who I Am?, Shroud of Turin, Life of a Thousand Crimes, The Fountain, Everlasting Neverendless, Proxy, Drivetime, The Idolness of Gods.
Although not, by any stretch of the imagination, an evolutionary leap relative to their past efforts, The Fountain delivers a vintage of Echo & the Bunnymen that compares to a bottle of red wine aging gracefully in a cellar. Mellow, in other words, with the kind of introspection that leads to emotional outburst like I cried the fountains dry/I climbed the mountains high. The album sounds crisp, with tracks like Shroud of Turin offering nicely twitching guitar work to add much-needed pep. Appreciated, as always, is singer Ian McCulloch clean vocals, who stays in the foreground of a well-rounded sound. They say you can never come home again. With The Fountain, its more like Echo & the Bunnymen never left.
Anders Manga Xs and the Eyes
Track Listing: The Only, Apple, 100000 Tears, Xs and the Eyes, There Will Be Blood, Trisect, Stoke the Fire, The Shrunken Head, Change of Skin, Fade to Black, You Dont Wanna, These Colors Never Run.
An overall superior effort to his entirely respectable previous album, Blood Lush, Anders Manga succeeds in creating more thump for the dancefloor. Downtempo tracks 100000 Tears, Change of Skin , and These Colors Never Run remain a weakness, but with less melodrama theyre easier to forgive especially once Anders delivers the next jolt of electricity. Curiously, theres a hint of Marilyn Manson (sans controversy) and other influence here and there, which gives Xs and the Eyes a mild case of identity crisis. But if one is going to play the sounds-like game, there are worse comparisons.
Genitorturers Blackheart Revolution
Track Listing: Revolution, Kabangin All Night, Devil in a Bottle, Louder, Falling Stars, Take It, Confessions of a Blackheart, Cum Junkie, Vampire Lover, Tell Me.
So, keep on thrillin me, drillin me hard/Keep me cummin, keep me up all night, sings Genitorturer frontwoman Gen on the track Cum Junkie. In a more literary vein, lyrics like this could be a candidate for the Literary Reviews Bad Sex in Fiction Award, but the sentiment is well taken nonetheless. The overtorqued libido pretty much sums up the aggressive go-get-em attitude of the self-proclaimed Worlds Sexiest Rock band. The music is what counts, however, and Blackheart Revolution is every bit the industrial rock powerhouse the bands reputation promises, and as good an addition to the music library as RevCos latest.
The Synthetic Dream Foundation Behind the Gates of Horn and Ivory
Track Listing: They Who Breathe Darkness, O Dead Armoured Sky, Eine Dunkle Sphärische Widerstand, Eternitys Poisoned Drapes, Among the Angels Debri, Eine Schöne Ruine, Formless Beasts, Hammers Out of the Unutterable Palace, Construction of the Underworld.
If the W Hotel were to open an ultra-lounge sanctuary in which hip-hop and top-40 pap were kicked out in favour of edgier grooves, the Synthetic Dream Foundation might be that shadowy presence in the DJ booth. Industry-tinged beats and noisy electronics form the antithesis to the thesis of classically-inspired tuning and melodic experimentation. The synthesis of it all is a hip blend that achieves the rare feat of working both as an ambient music for enjoying stiff drinks and sweet potato fries with good company and as the kind of music you can pump through headphones for an immersive musical experience. No surprise, really, as The Synthetic Dream Foundation was a key player in Mythical Records accomplished neo-classical fusion anthology Odyssey Into Rapture.