Wednesday, 1 April 2015

It's not our fault-fest - how and why Alt-Fest failed

The Alt-Fest saga started in autumn 2012 with a website and social media campaign. Set to take place between 15-17th August 2014 near Kettering, the organisers Dominic and Michelle Alesworth claimed that it would be both the biggest alternative and crowd-led festival in the world with 50 thousand patrons. Alarm bells should have started ringing back then – mainstream festivals are rarely that big, and no festival at all starts off that big never mind an alternative one.

Friday, 13 February 2015

13 Gothic Lovesongs For Valentine's Day

Goth is characterised by its dark romantic sensuality, so it's not surprising that in its musical form it offers no shortage of lovesongs - however tragic some of them may be. It's not all lost love, bleeding hearts and lovers torn apart, though. Here are 13 of the best tracks for a deep, dark and passionate Valentine's Day.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Review: Liv Kristine - Vervain

As well as being one of the finest, Liv Kristine is certainly one of the busiest women in metal too. On top of her work with Leaves' Eyes and supergroup The Sirens, she's somehow managed to find the time to finish her latest solo album Vervain. As one of the first soprano voices in metal, with Theatre of Tragedy she pioneered the beauty and the beast technique which has since influenced countless Gothic metal bands.

The album sees a return in the direction of her early days of Gothic doom, though it's much more pop orientated. Her vocal style has changed considerably over the years from the softer-than-velvet voice heard on the first Theatre of Tragedy albums to something much more refined.

The opening track 'My Wilderness' sounds like Kate Bush meets Gothic metal at times, owing to the Bush-esque vocal motifs here and there. Second track 'Love Decay' is a classic heavy goth-pop ballad, with chugging guitars and dark atmospheric keyboards in the background. Deep vocals from Michelle Darkness (End of Green) provide the perfect backing for Liv's soaring soprano voice. Title track 'Vervain' continues in the same vein, and really shows off the dynamics of her voice.

'Stronghold Of Angels' features Doro and opens with some powerful doom chords. As the track continues it gets deeper, with clean guitars echoing sorrow in the style of the first two Theatre of Tragedy albums. The contrast between the two voices works really well, Doro adds a hard edge to the darkness while Liv glides over it creating something really powerful. 'Hunters' is one of the highlights of the album, with clean autumnal guitar melodies that resonate like echoes of the dead calling from the other side. 'Lotus' takes the form of a slower piano ballad, dark and beautiful with emotive violins. As it progresses it gradually gets more powerful, building up before dropping into wailing guitars.

As a whole the album works extremely well, combining the best elements from throughout Liv Kristine's career. The music is deep, doom-laden and atmospheric yet it retains pop sensibilities. With Vervain, Liv Kristine has created a classic Gothic metal album. It's dark, emotional and haunting – everything that the genre should be, but hasn't been in recent years. It's certainly one of the best Gothic metal albums to be released this decade. 9/10

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Seven bands perfect for Halloween

The clocks have gone back, the trees are shedding their reddening leaves and the air has a chill once more. It's that time of year again when the masses carve out a pumpkin, dress up and partake in a weekend of getting shitfaced in the name of horror. Here are seven bands with a sound perfect for Halloween.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Review: Kissin' Black - Heart Over Head

With their debut Heart Over Head, Swiss rockers Kissin' Black combine elements of Goth, blues and alternative rock. Electric and acoustic guitars are dynamically layered to create complex southern grooves, resulting in something that sounds like a Gothic Nirvana from the deep south.

The second track 'Borderline' has a slightly melancholic feel about it, which is aided by the emotive vocals and descending bass-line. This is echoed by the highly melodic heart-pulling guitars. The next track 'Ella-Marline' follows through on the same dusty path, and like the soundtrack to a film paints the picture of tragedy in the American west.

Everything flows extremely well. Each track represents a scene, while altogether the album makes a film. Each note is like a grain of sand in the vast desert that surrounds, and with each chord another pixel in the picture is painted. Before you know it you're beneath the baking sun with nobody for miles but the ghostly shadows of the desert.

Repetitive hypnotic melodies give the music a psychedelic feel at times inducing a trance-like state, while the dual layered vocals intertwine enhancing that effect. 'How It Ends' and 'Fiore' mirror the atmosphere of the southern Gothic genre, immersing you in the swamps of New Orleans surrounded by mystery, folklore and the supernatural.

Highly melodic and executed with confidence, with Heart Over Head the band have created a sound that tells a story on its own, one that totally immerses the listener. This is one of the best albums I've reviewed this year, and it probably still will be by the end of it. Kissin' Black are certainly going places. 9/10

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Interview: The Sirens - Metal's Maidens Unite

Liv Kristine (Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves' Eyes), Anneke Van Giersbergen (The Gathering) and Kari Rueslåtten (The 3rd and the Mortal) are undoubtedly three of the most influential women in metal. During the 90s they paved the way for a whole new generation of female-fronted metal bands, and have since then had highly successful solo careers of their own. Now they've come together to form The Sirens, celebrating their legacy and like the mythological creature, luring crowds once more with their enchanting voices.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Live Review: The Sirens at The Garage, London - 16.10.2014

It is undeniable that Liv Kristine (Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves' Eyes), Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering) and Kari Rueslåtten (The 3rd And The Mortal) are three of the most influential women in metal. During the 90s they paved the way for a whole new generation of female-fronted bands, and without them we wouldn't have the likes of Nightwish and Tristania. Now they've come together as The Sirens, sending fans on trips of nostalgia and celebrating their legacy; the birth of a whole new world of female fronted metal.

The show opened with the trio performing 'Treat Me Like A Lady' by Anneke. From the moment they walked on stage the chemistry between them was clear, as was the harmony of their voices. They're all so different, but work so well together. Throughout the set they performed solo and as duets, giving us the chance to hear a unique take on classics from each of their careers. The band did an excellent job of performing the wide range of musical styles from each lady's back catalogue, it was almost as good as seeing the original bands themselves.


One of the highlights of the set was Liv Kristine's performance of 'Venus' from Theatre of Tragedy's Aegis, the album regarded by many as defining Gothic metal. This was complimented by Kari's performance of 'Death Hymn' by The 3rd and the Mortal, another influential song from the early years of Gothic metal. Anneke performed 'Strange Machines' from The Gathering's highly regarded Mandylion. Time travel might not be possible but hearing these songs was like being transported back to the golden era when the genre was being born. The atmosphere was perfect. The magic I thought had gone forever was once more.

There is something quite potent about these three pioneering women coming together as The Sirens. Female fronted metal isn't just about having a woman in front of a microphone. Because of them, metal was no longer just about rage and masculinity. They opened the doors for a world of metal that was a thing of beauty; a world of romance, symphonies and pure melody. Seeing them come together was like things coming full circle, a definitive moment in the history of metal that I'm glad I got to be part of.

The night was tied up nicely by a performance of 'Sisters of the Earth' that The Sirens recorded together, showcasing the harmony of their voices. Overall it was an excellent evening, one full of nostalgia. The three sirens managed to consolidate their long and diverse careers into one cohesive, atmospheric night that celebrated the beauty of the female voice and their legacy; the creation of female fronted metal.