Various Artists – C Squared Music: Underground Music Special
C Squared Music
Release Date: 17/09/2021
Running Time: 68:42
Review by Dark Juan
Greetings and salutations, succubi and satyrs! I do so hope you all have been indulging your baser desires in increasingly perverse and chemically fuelled ways and that your various spouses and significant others are now laid gasping and sated upon their chaises longues, sipping fine wines and libations from jewelled goblets. I myself am enjoying a splendid mug of chai, congratulating Mrs Dark Juan upon her recent accession to and acceptance by the Oak and Ash and Thorn Art Collective (mainly because her creations are now scaring the fuck out of the RIGHT people) and trying to ignore the fact that the Dread Lord Sir Igor Egbert Brian Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover, recently christened as Beelzepup by my good friend Adam, has dropped a number of toys on my foot as a prelude to a bit of a rumble. He is utilizing the feared Paw of Doom upon my forearm and shouting wildly at me. I shall be back shortly…
Thank you for your patience. Now that the Small Evil Canine One has been sated by having what could only be described as an old-school straightener and has drawn my august blood I can return to my mission, which is to talk to all you poor fuckers who read this about the music I am listening to. Thusly, I am listening to a 14-track sampler from Canadian Rock/Metal PR & Marketing Company C-Squared Music, who are a quite musically promiscuous outfit, considering some of the bands on their roster – the music runs the gamut from the classic female-fronted gothic metal blueprint to some quite interesting and esoteric electronic music. As this is a collection by fourteen different artists, I shall not bore you with extensive descriptions of songs, merely keeping it as brief and factually interesting as possible. Neither will I be finding out the names of the members of fourteen different bands and listing them at the end of this pile of shite you’re reading. If you can wipe your own arses, you can use the power of the internet to do your own research, right?
With your permission I am going to plunge right in…
The Inferno Doll – ‘Ghost Waltz’. Very pleasingly this is in waltz time on the introduction. If it wasn’t I might have become upset and been unpleasant to the band. Ethereal female vocals soar above swirling keyboards, chunky guitars and one of the strangest mixes I have ever heard, where the vocals are waspish and clear and everything else is a muddy mess – the guitar sound is awful, but the song itself is fucking banging. With a producer who knows what they are doing, this could be magnificent.
Lutharo – ‘Will To Survive’. Power metal intro with extraordinarily clear bass line crashes into technical riffage and vocalist trying to vomit up their own lungs, however, she also has a cracking set of pipes for clean and powerful singing and an extraordinary range. The rest of the band are clearly fuelled by amphetamines and play at a breakneck pace. Try moshing to this and you’ll guarantee yourself a stay in hospital. Super clear production adds to the enjoyment of the song. An excellent effort and a good, if not exceptional, heavy metal tune.
Torn Between Two Worlds – ‘All Eyes On Me’. A song I had been waiting for with some anticipation as it is the latest effort from the legendary Sarah Jezebel Deva (ex-Cradle of Filth, ex-Angtoria) and Chris Rehn. As we know with her work with Angtoria, Sarah has pretty much cornered the market in melancholy gothic metal and Torn Between Two Worlds have not moved particularly far from that successful blueprint. A languid, relaxed vocal is underpinned by slow, poignant riffs and ubergoth keyboards. Think ‘Alone’ by Heart in a heavier, more gothic style and you have the style of this song nailed down. It’s a grower. On my first listen I was sorely disappointed, but on repeated listenings, you begin to pick out delicate little flourishes, the things that turn run of the mill into extraordinary. Not Sarah or Chris’ finest hour (that’s still “God Has A Plan For Us All”), but a fine tune to drive to in the middle of a storm.
Disconnected Souls – ‘Emergence + Divergence’. British genre-benders offer up a beguiling slice of synthwave influenced tech metal with a decided Eastern influence in the break and face melting vocal gymnastics ranging from wispy, enchanting female alto to clean male harmonies and the kind of rasping roar normally reserved for metalcore. The guitars are sharp and brutally accurate, the bass used almost as a third rhythm guitar and the drumming spectacularly demented. Punchy, original and fucking brilliant. To get an idea of the sound of this band, think about a filthy musical orgy between Within Temptation, Master Boot Record and Killswitch Engage. But not Adam D’s shorts. That would be perverse.
Lycanthro – ‘Mark Of The Wolf’. Oh, so fucking Eighties, complete with self-referencing song title, histrionic, high-pitched vocals and the kind of riffs that Accept would have found…acceptable. Fucking nice twin guitar lines throughout the song though. The bass really comes through on the song and it is nice to hear it sinuously wrapping itself around the guitar work. Also includes the kind of galloping guitar and bass playing that Iron Maiden pioneered in the middle of the song, and there’s some tasty soloing if you like that sort of thing. Apparent simplicity in arrangement is disingenuous and the song is rather splendid if you like your metal classic in nature.
Book Of Wyrms – ‘Weatherworker’. A total step change in sound and mood from the previous track. Instead, we have classic influenced (Ten Years After, Wishbone Ash) superfuzz doom, with a classically trained female vocal. Languid, relaxed grooves abound and the song oozes a palpable sense of danger with a fucking groovy middle eight and solo where the pace picks up and the band slot into a slightly higher gear. The drum sound is fucking mightily produced and takes the form of a lead instrument, being the percussive engine of the whole thing. The vocals are set a little too far back in the mix for me, but the bass is front and centre and fucking brilliant. In fact, this song is absolutely fucking excellent.
Herr Nox – ‘Where Shadows Fade’. Spikily technical intro gives way to second rate HIM worship with added industrial and metal bits welded haphazardly and ineptly on. My opinion on Herr Nox is well known, and if you don’t know it, feel free to read my review on Herr Nox’s album on Ever-Metal.com. It wasn’t complimentary. I maintain my opinion that Herr Nox has tried to meld too many influences together and his music is disjointed and jarring, which is a shame because he has a smooth and captivating voice.
In Veil – ‘Lunatic’. Rather more interesting is this Mindless Self Indulgence/Zombie Girl/Human Waste Project/Rob Zombie analogue that describes themselves as gothic industrial synth-pop. Percussive, speedy and pretty unique, keyboards, guitar and sequenced drums smoothly link together and the listening experience is not unlike being at a circus where the performers are all malformed madmen playing with chainsaws and have zero regard for the personal safety of the audience. Never have a front row of people been so trepidacious. Well worth your time and I can’t wait to review their album, which is on my review list. They had better be good though because this has whetted my appetite for In Veil very nicely.
Synesthema – ‘Apollo’s Voyage’. This is where we temporarily leave the realm of heavy metal in all its myriad forms and dive headfirst into electronic music. Synesthema are rather interesting, being a mélange of vapourwave and techno – rather like a combination of Scorn and Pertubator with a bit of Jean Michel Jarre thrown in for good measure. Out and out metal fans will not enjoy this tune. A lack of vocals leaves it to the music to hold your attention to give you an idiosyncratic listening experience that references classic 80’s electropop, VNV Nation and The Anachronist. I rather like it because it’s a step-change to what I normally listen to.
Gaia Guarda (featuring Lindsay Schoolcraft) – ‘I Didn’t Break’. Electronic gothic moodiness enhanced considerably by the august presence of the splendid Canadian multi-instrumentalist and singer, whose ethereal presence adds to the ambience of the quite sparse musicianship of the song. Her simple, lilting delivery allows the music to breathe and the whole piece is a clear case of less is more as simple lines intertwine to devastating effect. Not so much a song as an emotional journey that remarkably doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you wanting more.
Chalk Portraits – ‘In Flight’. Very mellow keyboards take their time to get going and it is easy to imagine yourself being suspended in warm water with headphones on and this piece of music allowing you to let go of everything and just float there, relaxed and in a universe composed entirely of you. The sound (with the same simple repeated few notes throughout) is reminiscent of Kraftwerk, but with considerably less Teutonic shiny pop and rather more emotion. For some reason I find this tune both relaxing and ineffably sad at the same time. Its problem is that it meanders about and doesn’t actually seem to go anywhere, musically speaking, which is a shame because I rarely get such an obvious emotional reaction to electronic music. I’d say it was a great record had it had some sort of musical direction.
Spacegoat – ‘Nothing’. Ah, we return to the holy grail of guitar, bass and drums after a brief sojourn elsewhere. Crunchy riffs and a wailing lead line take us to a vocal that owes as much to punk attitude as it does to gothic metal, being as it is clearly not classically trained, but you can hear the effort the vocalist is putting into her delivery. The band sound like they have recorded on classic equipment, having the kind of warmth that only valves can provide and the guitarists even use an e-bow in the middle eight. I haven’t used one of those since the mid-nineties. I do have a problem with the production of the cymbals. The crash cymbal is ever-present and overwhelming in my right ear and it detracts from what is an engaging mélange between gothic metal and math metal and an excellent, emotional vocal performance. Also, an object lesson on why you should name your band carefully. Spacegoat conjures up images of hyperstoned bearded dudes playing the same riff for ten minutes straight, not technical metal.
Art Of Departure – ‘Art Of Departure’. Ooooh, this is interesting and immediately reminds me of a band I reviewed recently called Dead Coyote, being piano and harpsichord led extragothic rock. As I am a sad old goff, I am immediately drawn to this and am enjoying being transported back to The Batcave and The Banshee, where ladies with terrifying make up and even more terrifyingly tight basques would ethereally wave their hands in front of their face after seven pints of snakebite or several Bloody Marys. Crooning male vocals overlay ghostly female backing vocals and the solo is performed by violin and violoncello rather than guitar. Pretty Damned (“Phantasmagoria” era The Damned were an obvious influence on Art Of Departure) good, actually. Not one for the metal purist, though, which is ironic as this is the solo project of the drummer from Tristania.
Duncan Evans – ‘Breathe’. We return to the world of electronic music for the final cut on this compilation of the delights of C-Squared Music, with Leeds-based WaxWorm founder Duncan Evans singing an impassioned vocal over a background of quasi-industrial synthwave. Duncan’s performance here reminds me of a more gothic Ultravox or OMD and proves more than satisfactorily that electronic music CAN have a soul and be dripping raw red emotion and stand easily up to metal for power. A short song, lasting just two minutes and forty-two seconds, ‘Breathe’ easily beguiles and draws you into a world of pain and sadness and is a fine, passionate end to this compilation.
So, there we have it, fourteen tracks ranging from gothic splendour to metal power and bleak electronic perfection. There are a couple of missteps along the way but in general this is a very, very good album indeed and more than adequately showcases a roster bursting with raw talent and promising futures. I’d have a punt on it if I were you, folks.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards C-Squared Music’s Underground Special 9/10. As an exploration of the underground of the extreme music scene, it is worth its weight in gold. As a record it has a mark deducted because I feel it could have been more carefully curated as some of the transitions between metal and electronic are quite jarring. However, that’s just me being a bit of a snobbish cunt. Bonsoir, mes petits enfants terribles!!!
01. Ghost Waltz – The Inferno Doll
02. Will To Survive – Lutharo
03. All Eyes On Me – Torn Between Two Worlds
04. Emergence + Divergence – Disconnected Souls
05. Mark Of The Wolf – Lycanthro
06. Weatherworker – Book Of Wyrms
07. Where Shadows Fade – Herr Nox
08. Lunatic – In Veil featuring Sam Astaroth
09. Apollo’s Voyage – Synesthema
10. I Didn’t Break – Gaia Guarda featuring Lindsay Schoolcraft
11. In Flight – Chalk Portraits
12. Nothing – Spacegoat
13. Art Of Departure – Art Of Departure
14. Breath – Duncan Evans
The Inferno Doll
Torn Between Two Worlds
Book Of Wyrms
IN Veil feat. Sam Astaroth
Art Of Departure
C Squared Music:
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