zondag 24 december 2017

First Aid 4 Souls - Dark Tunnel (CD review)

Genre: EBM - Electro
Label: Digital Absynthe / No Labels Interested
Rating: 8/10

Yesterday, I published my "best of" list on Dark Entries. This contained a giant spoiler, as one of the Chosen Five was a release that I still needed to review. Of course, I could have waited a little longer, but that is not who I am. Here is my review of 'Dark Tunnel', the new album of First Aid 4 Souls, which made it to my favourite dark electronic releases of 2017 last-minute.

I cannot repeat it enough. This Hungarian project remains one of the best kept secrets within the dark electronic scene. I have all CDs of First Aid 4 Souls and there is literally not a single bad one. The style varies from album to album, with some releases being more experimental and/or darker than other ones. The previous album 'Trashcathedral' was the first CD on which the collaboration with guest-vocalists was limited to a single person, namely Mortum (in the meantime, I have found out that his real name is Gyorgy). He is once again present on 'Dark Tunnel', making me wonder if he has become an official band member. Either way, you will not hear me complain, as Mortum's voice perfectly fits the dark(er) tracks of First Aid 4 Souls. And rest assured that the new album is dark.

'Dark Tunnel' is a relatively short album, especially in comparison with previous releases. The total running time is less than 45 minutes, covering no more than 9 tracks. The emphasis is on old-school electro/EBM; therefore the album is in the same vein as its predecessor. But it is remarkably more quiet, even demure in a certain way. Exceptions are 'Her Face As An Angel' and 'A Place To Rest', which are up-tempo and cheerful to some extent. Even though "cheerful" may not be the right word for a song which is about a funeral (just to be clear, I am talking about 'A Place To Rest'). Fact is that almost the entire album is dedicated to death and decay. An excellent theme, especially with Mortum behind the microphone. I am a big fan of his morbid sounding vocals and lyrics, which have been partly altered by effects. Even though I have to rely on the CD booklet to check what he is actually singing about.

A couple of tracks which I would like to mention in particular. 'Back To Dust' is a lovely, atmospheric track with a menacing undertone in the beginning. The subsequent, equally melodic 'Sleeping In Death' is even better. The multi-layered vocals/effects give this track a wonderful, almost moving touch. 'Dead Life To The Sons Of Men' is the most unusual track on this album because of its tribal feel. It is not the first time that First Aid 4 Souls is experimenting with this kind of influences, but on 'Dark Tunnel', it feels a bit out of place. In 'Nothing Keeps My Mind Clean', Mortum delivers yet another really nice vocal contribution. Finally, 'Inside There Is No God' is an authentic dark electro song. Dark and menacing, reminiscent of the 90s.

Compared to 'Trashcathedral', 'Dark Tunnel' is slightly less good, but then again, 'Trashcathedral' featured 2 of the very best dark electro tracks of 2016. But let it be clear that 'Dark Tunnel' has rightfully earned its place in my top 5 of 2017. First Aid 4 Souls never gets old, on the contrary, it only gets better.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen

maandag 27 november 2017

Euforic Existence: We like to be put under the heading of EBM, but realize that we are an outsider. I would not want anything else.

Euforic Existence will open for Mildreda on our 21st Dark Entries Night on December 8th. Euforic Existence is the project of Koen Van Dappernest - also known from KnK - assisted live by Bart Peeters. The project has been around for 17 years, but after a long silence between 2003 and 2013, the project - which combines a typical EBM sounds with structures from metal and industrial - is in very good shape. And the energetic performances are an important part in that. Koen told us all we needed to know in this interview.

Your latest CD 'MMXVI - IIIIII00000 - 2016' was, to say the least, well received at Dark Entries. Colleague Peter De Koning even wrote that you have never sounded so good. Do you also think so?

It is of course the intention to improve a bit every time, but we only know that we have succeeded when others say it, haha. We read the reviews and take every point of constructive criticism. It is the criticism of the same Peter De Koning who has moved us to use certain buttons slightly differently to previous releases. And of course experience usually leads to evolution in a positive sense.

EBM sounds to many as a retro genre from the 80's, but you manage to update the sound by adding influences from industrial and especially metal, but without using guitars. Is this the way that EBM needs to go to stay relevant?

EBM is very widely interpretable for some - including myself - and very limited for others. I do not discuss this and do not have an opinion about what others should or should not do. I am a music fanatic myself with a very broad view between the different genres and I grew up with a lot of influences. And everything that comes in to me, also comes out in my own version. Our sound spectrum is strictly EBM, but the structures of the songs go in all directions. We just do not like to make the same song twice.

We like to be put under the heading of EBM, but realize that we are outsiders. I've always been a rebel, so I would not want anything else, haha.

A question that I always ask myself with EBM, and that certainly applies to you: the music is meant to be danceable, so enjoyable, but the lyrics are hopelessly pessimistic. Is this not a contradiction?

I have been thinking too much my whole life, and only by writing those lyrics can I put structure in the hopelessness, the worldly and philosophical disappointments in my head, and learn to accept it. Think of it as a kind of therapy. 90% of the texts are about personal experiences, world / universe views and hatred / feelings of love (some traumatic, others less bad). Everything that concerns me creeps into my lyrics. I think it's great when colleagues write about beer or a fat factory, but I'm not going to imitate that.

Most EBM sounds pretty nice, but with us everything is written in minor. A habit that I have never unlearned after my experiments with my Doom Metal project Cold Bleak Irrelevance.

Koen, you are also the man behind Fear The Light, the Antwerp organization that promotes EBM. You have been working since the 90s and have undergone a major evolution, from many bands to just the nucleus: Euforic Existence, KnK (which you are also active in) and Slave Separation (the project by KnK singer Koenraad Vercammen). How did that go?

First of all, the name ‘Fear the Light’ was invented at the afterparty of the first performance of Euforic Existence in 2000 (not the 90s), where Slave Separation had also performed. At that time we had the plan with some of the artists present to organize several mini-festivals under that name. After a small setback and lack of coherence, this stopped and Koenraad Vercammen (K1) and I (K2) decided to set up the website with which we would then promote dark musicians without contract (it went much further than just EBM). We have then released and distributed some samplers with sponsor money and gifts (the third of which was added free of charge with a Dark Entries magazine in the paper age). Due to time pressure from my professional life and the gigantic expansion of my family, this has completely disappeared in the background at a certain moment. The site was reduced in 2010 to the promotion of K1's own music projects and myself, due to lack of time.

At the moment, ‘Fear the Light Underground productions’ is not much more than a brand. The brand symbolizes the friendship and musical cooperation between Koenraad Vercammen (K1) and myself (K2) since 17 years, from which KNK was born in early 2015.

Sometimes I dream to set up great things under that name, but I still have my busy job, 6 children and 2 musical acts. It's enough.

Euforic Existence saw the light of day in 2000, but got a restart in 2013. What is the reason for this and what is the difference between Euforic Existence in 2000 and after 2013?

Between 2000 and 2003 I was very active with 5 music projects, but as just mentioned, I had to give priority to career and family between 2003 and 2013. Euforic Existence hardly existed between 2003 and 2013. In 2013 I was present at WGT Leipzig at a performance by Orange Sector when my best friend came to ask if I would like to make such music again. I told him that I had no time for that, so he started talking to my wife. She then told me that I would better get rid of some frustrations (and those were there!). 6 months later, the CD 'MMXIII - IIIIIOIIIOI - 2013' was a fact. So I just needed a push from my two major partners. The difference between EE 2000 and EE 2013 is indeed very large: in 2000 I started experimenting with electronics without experience, in 2013 I already knew how everything worked. In 2000 I was only 21 years old and quickly satisfied with every sound that I made, in 2013 I worked on every song for weeks until it was completely what I wanted. The self-confidence of an average thirty-something is also much stronger than that of a 21-year-old, and that translates into stronger vocals.

As far as the texts are concerned: in 2000 I was a happy young lad with no responsibilities and in 2013 I had a busy job, 6 children and I had recently recovered from a painful family break (2010).

17 years is long. You have seen the scene evolve in those 17 years. What thoughts do you have about that?

In the early 2000s it struck me that the scene was dominated by techno influences, which I absolutely could not and did not want to play with. We then profiled ourselves as ‘Old school’ and Fear the Light was given the subtitle ‘Underground stubborn’. We did not fit in any picture, and had to do it with a sympathizer here and there.

It may sound strange, but between 2003 and 2013 I personally have not been present in the scene. My involvement was completely gone and absorbed by my career. The family break that I experienced in 2010 changed some of that, and in 2013 I really started to get back into the EBM scene. I saw many familiar old faces and what struck me very hard was that this techno-dominance almost completely disappeared. Everything seemed back, however. The very young people are now a bit on separate events (‘cybergoth’ and other new terms) and the ancients seem to be grouping together in an unadulterated old school scene. On the one hand I think that's okay, on the other hand I fear that this cannot last for 20 years ... I see the difference between the past and the present, but unfortunately I did not see it evolve.

Koen, you do everything yourself on CD. In 2017 it is almost obligatory to do everything yourself if you are not in a commercial genre. Are you happy with that method?

I would not know how to do it differently. I have a degree in autism and it’s very hard for me to work with others. I am glad that I have learned everything while by doing it myself, and I am aware that I can learn a lot more. That is the big advantage of doing everything yourself: you learn everything!

Your performances are known as very dark and very intense. What are you trying to achieve during your performances?

The involvement with my lyrics is very intense. Every word comes from the deepest caves of my soul. On stage, we want to convey the feeling we had when we first wrote a song. If you view a song as a kind of box, we put everything into it during the writing process. When a CD is played, that box is partly opened, but unfortunately not everything comes out. On the stage we try to tear open the box completely for the fullest possible experience of the content. Emotions are also clear in the stage mimics, and it is not fake.

Bart’s role in this is also very important. Although I do everything at home in the studio, I was still a layman in terms of live sound, stage material and technical knowledge in 2013. After all, studio and stage are two completely different worlds. Bart has shared a lot of his knowledge with me and is a very important pillar on which the live performance is based.

And yes, what is the greatest intention of performances? Have a nice evening and share this with as many people as possible, which in turn provides more performances. Creating unforgettable parties and getting to know wonderful people; get fans and make them friends.

Euforic Existence: facebook / bandcamp 

Pictures: Benny Serneel

dinsdag 14 november 2017

Amorphous - Shapeshifting (CD review)

Genre: EBM - Electro - Minimal - Techno
Label: Wave Records
Rating: 8,5/10

Amorphous is the solo project of Gil OS, who was formerly active in the Brazilian dark electro band Morgue (later renamed to Morgue Mechanism). It is a pure coincidence that I have gotten his album 'Shapeshifting' for review. In one of my previous reviews, I was talking about my unofficial German "PR agent" with whom I occasionally go to dark electro performances in Germany. While we were on our way to the Lauscher vs Oldschool festival in Erfurt in late September, 'Shapeshifting' was playing in the car. I did not know Amorphous at the time, but I was pleasantly surprised and planned to buy the album myself. However, this did not prove necessary, as less than 3 weeks later, our promo manager brought this album to the editor meeting. The Brazilian label Wave Records had sent a promo package and much to my surprise, 'Shapeshifting' was also included in the package. It seemed like it was meant to be that I would review this album.

Just like Morgue Mechanism, Amorphous moves within dark electro territory, but the music is broader than that. I hear elements of old-school electro and EBM, minimal synth and even techno. Gil's distorted vocals - typical of the (dark) electro genre - are omnipresent on the album, although in the tracks 'Brave New World' and 'Irreversible', he appeals to the female spoken word of Torsykes and N3VOA lends his vocals to 'Unilateral'. I do not particularly like the female spoken word tracks (although I have to admit that 'Irreversible' has something), but the compelling singing style of N3VOA does captivate me. However, it is the tracks with Gil as vocalist which I prefer. His voice has been treated in various degrees and has also been submitted to other effects (reverb or delay, I think), which in combination with the layered synths that are equally susceptible to effects, provides for a rich sound. Add some samples and you will believe that you are back in the 90s. Even though the music of Amorphous certainly has some more contemporary elements as well (more about that later).

The 2 tracks which I already deemed brilliant at the time of my trip to Erfurt are 'Amorphous' and 'First Simulation'. 'Amorphous' contains a description - lasting for almost 9 minutes - of the shapeless beings (angels, demons, ghosts, spirits, shadows) that populate our dimension. The spoken lyrics are taken from a poem by Creepypasta Wikia. It is an atmospheric track with unearthly sounding vocals, which unfolds in an ingenious manner and gets creepier as it progresses. Especially when the track arrives at the point where it becomes clear that the amorphous beings - immortal themselves - are intrigued by the death of humans, a process that they sometimes dare to speed up. 'First Simulation' is a reworked version of the track 'Simulation' by Morgue Mechanism, which is on the 'Old School Electrology' box from Electro Aggression Records. This contemporary version is full of techno influences and is truly well-made. It is hard to sit still during this song.

Aside from these, 'Shapeshifting' contains some other memorable tracks that I have only started to appreciate along the way. For instance, there is the lovely dark electro opening track 'Second Nature', the rather minimal 'Antisocial', as well as 'Stimulus', which is once again influenced by techno. The most wayward track, however, is 'Secret Society', which starts with drums and bass guitar (as well as a rather peculiar wah-o-wah sound effect) and only bursts into electronic violence near the third minute. The instrumental 'Shapeshifting' - a collaboration with Morpheus Laughing - is solid as well. On the other hand, I am not so crazy about the EBM songs 'Enlightenment' and 'Dystopia', and neither about the above-mentioned collaborations with Torsykes. But considered as a whole, this album is varied and entertaining and as far as I am concerned, one of the better promos of this year.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen

dinsdag 5 september 2017

The Hermetic Electric : A savoir si notre évolution était voulue. Oui, je crois qu'on va toujours vers ‘le mieux’, non?

The Hermetic Electric de Namur a récemment sorti son premier cd ‘Feel Nothing’. Ils jouent à notre Dark Entries Night le vendredi 8 septembre 2017. Nous avons eu une conversation avec Holly (chant, guitare), Elfi (claviers) et Mathieu (basse).

Avec ‘Feel Nothing’, vous avez officiellement sorti votre premier CD. J’ai l’impression que c’est un disque qui prend un peu de temps à être apprécié, mais plus je l’écoute, plus je l’aime. Vous êtes contents du résultat?

Elfi : J’adore ‘Feel Nothing’! Chaque chanson à un sens particulier dans l'univers ‘Feel Nothing’. Elles ont été créent dans l'émotion, le sentiment, nos sentiments... C'est peut-être la raison pour laquelle il prend du temps à être apprécié ? Je ne sais pas.

Mathieu : Oui très content du résultat, vraiment , comme le dit Elfi, c’est un album sentimental aussi pour nous.  Il faut peut-être un peu de temps pour le comprendre, comprendre nos émotions à l’intérieur de cette musique.

Holly : Très heureux car l’album est vraiment représentatif de ce qui se dégage lorsque nous sommes ensembles. Tout vient naturellement et très facilement, comme par magie. Je pense que cette magie s’entend sur l’album et c’est pour moi le plus important.

Il est étonnant que le disque est sorti sur le label Dark Italia. Comment ça s’est passé ?

Mathieu : C’est un honneur pour nous, mais Holly aura le fin mot de la question.

Elfi : J’en suis très contente mais Holly répondra mieux que moi à cette question.

Holly : Cela s’est fait très simplement. J’ai fait écouter les démos de l’album à Alessandro et Luca de Nero Moderno, ils ont beaucoup aimé. Alessandro a pris l’initiative de les faire écouter à Maurizio (le patron de Dark Italia) qui a tout de suite voulu sortir l’album sur le label.

Votre son est bien sur influencé par la new wave, mais en mixant ça avec des rythmes un peu plus complexe du style trip hop, vous avez su créer un son assez original. C’est important pour vous ?

Mathieu : J’ai fait la rencontre The Hermetic Electric plus ou moins vers la sortie  du deuxième EP. J’ai accroché tout de suite car quelque chose de spécial ressortait déjà de ce duo (Holly & Elfi) . Il n’était déjà pas simple de leur coller une étiquette musicale : New, Dark, Electro Wave ?? Quand Holly m’ a proposé de venir les rejoindre , je n’ai pas réfléchis plus d’une demi seconde. Et comme si tout était déjà prévu le « Trio » s’est mis en place sans aucuns freins… On a fait cet album sans ligne de conduite, sans se dire « on fait ça comme ça ou comme-ci » Le mélange d’influences a fonctionné spontanément.

Elfi : Pour moi c'est une évolution indéniable, Je pense que Mathieu est à l'origine de cette dernière évolution rythmique. La cohérence est importante et qu'elle soit original est un sacré plus!!!

Holly : Ce son est la résultante d’un processus naturel, nous n’avons rien calculé. Comme le dit Mathieu, tout est spontané.

Vous aviez déjà sorti plusieurs EP avant ‘Feel Nothing’. Ce qui m’a touché, c’est que chaque EP à une identité distincte des autres, avec une vraie évolution dans le son. Etait-ce voulu ?

Mathieu : Les 3 premiers EP sont sortis de la tête d’Holly, il a à chaque fois évolué, et pour le troisième Ep encore plus, étant donné l’arrivée d’Elfi à ses côtés ! Pour l’album ‘Feel Nothing’ , je les aies rejoint , j’avais quelques doutes sur ce que j’étais capable de leurs apporter… après ce fabuleux titre ‘City Drama’ de L’EP 3 …  Je ne sais pas si on a vraiment fait mieux mais une chose est sûre … Nous avons fait différent ….  Et j’adore le résultat de ‘Feel Nothing’ autant que la première fois que j’ai entendu ‘City Drama’.

Elfi : ONE EP et TWO EP ont été créé par Holly, je suis arrivée ‘discrètement’ sur le troisième EP. Et Mathieu nous a rejoint pour ‘Feel Nothing’. Voilà un départ d’explication. Chacun de nous évolue aussi avec le temps, on apprend à jouer ensemble... A savoir si c'était voulu, oui je crois qu'on va toujours vers ‘le mieux’ non?

Holly : En effet, mais j’insiste sur le fait que tout s’est fait naturellement. C’est clair qu’un musicien tente toujours de faire évoluer son son mais il est très agréable de constater que ça s’entend !

Dans les influences, on a du mal à échapper à The Cure. On note en particulier le son des guitares tourmentées. Quelle importance a The Cure pour vous ?

Mathieu : Question pour Holly car je ne suis pas vraiment influencé par The Cure personnellement.

Holly : The Cure a toujours été et reste un exemple à suivre. Pas seulement musicalement mais également dans la façon d’appréhender le fonctionnement d’un groupe. The Cure m’a enseigné qu’être dans un groupe est avant tout une aventure humaine basée sur l’amitié.

Holly, j’ai appris que tu avais même des contacts avec Cindy Levinson, la femme de Lol Tolhurst, ancien batteur et clavier de The Cure. Tu lui aurait même avisée de sortir une version française de la biographie de son mari. Tu peux m’en dire plus?

Holly : Cindy est adorable et il est vrai que nous échangeons de temps à autre quelques mots. Je lui ai effectivement suggéré la maison d’édition ‘Le Mot et le Reste’ pour la version française de ‘Cured’ car j’avais réellement apprécié leur travail pour l’édition française du livre de Peter Hook sur Joy Division. J’ai été très heureux de voir que ce n’était pas tombé dans l’oreille d’un sourd. (rires)

The Hermetic Electric a vu le jour en 2013, si je suis bien informé. Comment c’est formé le groupe? Aviez-vous déjà eus des projets musicaux avant le groupe?

Mathieu : Oui, mon groupe s’appelait « Polucse » et c’est entre autre grâce à ce projet que j’ai pu faire la connaissance d’Holly et Elfi. J’ai rejoint ces des personnes formidables l’année passée pour une belle aventure.

Elfi : J’ai rencontré Holly et sa passion musicale il y a bientôt 5 ans, je ne jouais d'aucuns instruments. Il m'a progressivement poussée derrière le clavier et pour le troisième EP il m'a enregistrée!!! C'est parti comme ça... Ensuite nous connaissions Mathieu avec son projet Polucse, Holly m'a dit, si un jour quelqu'un doit faire de la musique avec nous, c'est Mathieu! C'était il y a 3 ans, un an et demi après Holly vient me voir et me dit ‘haha Mathieu vient à la prochaine répèt’. Depuis, The Hermetic Electric est un trio dans l’âme.

Holly : J’ai toujours travaillé seul en studio et un premier Ep est sorti en 2010 sous le nom de « Naboo ». Je me sentais frustré car il m’était impossible d’aller seul sur scène. Elfi résume très bien ce qui s’est passé ensuite et j’en suis très heureux.

Vous avez pas mal de concerts de prévu. Vous jouerais entre autres à la Dark Entries Night (8/9/2017) et au New Wave Festival à Liège (23/9/2017). Pourquoi nos lecteurs devraient essayer de voir The Hermetic Electric en concert?

Mathieu : Parce que c’est en concert que nos émotions se vivent le mieux . Nous vivons notre musique.

Elfi : Parce qu'on ne fait pas que jouer nos morceaux. On les partagent. Nous sommes vraiment fières de ‘Feel Nothing’. C'est toujours un plaisir de jouer et voir si nous arrivons à vous emmener dans notre monde.

Holly : Tout simplement parce que c’est sur scène que nous prenons notre pied et que ça se sent!

Holly, tu as ton propre studio où tu enregistre aussi d’autres groupes. J’ai vu que tu travailles en ce moment au premier disque de Messier 39, un groupe que nous apprécions beaucoup et que nous avons aussi déjà invités à une Dark Entries Night. Parle-nous un peu de tes activités liées au studio?

Holly : C’est un réel plaisir de travailler avec d’autres groupes. Je me sens vraiment à ma place dans un studio. Le Black Studio est mon refuge, ma ‘caverne’ comme le dit Elfi. L’ouvrir à d’autres et les accueillir dans mon univers me plaît vraiment beaucoup… J’aime à croire qu’il s’agit avant tout d’un échange mutuel entre les groupes qui passent ici et moi-même.

Merci pour l’interview. Vous voulez encore ajouter quelque chose?

Merci Dark Entries pour l’invitation à votre « Night ».