Reviews roundup – Theatre of Tragedy ~ Ward XVI ~ Mick Kolassa ~ Potter’s Daughter ~ Blossom Cult
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY
Musique (20th Anniversary Edition)
There’s no doubt that Theatre of Tragedy were at the forefront of nineties goth metal and even though I refuse to believe it, it’s now twenty years since “Musique” was released.
I still refuse to believe it as that would make all of us very old indeed. But let’s play along with it. This actually saw their sound continue to change as they delved into more industrial and electronic sounds in a similar manner to fellow pioneers Paradise Lost who had released “Host” the year before.
But that didn’t stop it being an excellent release because underneath arrangements and production effects, Theatre of Tragedy always wrote really good songs. And there’s a host (hah!) of them hear. Along with eleven (11) bonus tracks across the two discs. Of course, back in the year 2000, that didn’t stop a lot of fans freaking out although if memory serves this was their highest charting album. Maybe a lot of people bought it and played it once. But with a lot of history twixt now and then it actually holds up really well.
The likes of ‘Image’ and ‘Retrospect’ are among their best songs although some of the production does sound really dated, no matter that they have, apparently, all been remixed. The synthesizers are so of there time that you could mount it as a museum exhibit. Liv Kristine is using her pop voice here so it’s more redolent of her solo material and I, for one, was glad when she headed off to Leaves’ Eyes and returned to her roots. That said, though, it’s an awful lot better than I remember it. The bonus tracks are a bit hit and miss as is always the case and you get the French version of ‘Image’ alongside a couple of unreleased tracks and alternative versions of all the other tracks bar the title tune. Don’t know what that one did wrong.
It was a bit of a shocker at the time but it won’t be 19 years until I listen to it again and don’t gorget that Liv Kristine has a new band, Coldbound, who will be releasing their debut in 2021.
Metal Rock Recordings
It’s just as well that I know that Ward XVI are an avant-garde theatrical rock and metal band otherwise I’d have been spending several weeks on hold trying to get through to our caring, sharing mental health teams. Something I do regularly but it’s usually for me.
Interestingly enough, fact fans, if I’d formed this band they’d be called Ward III because that’s the one they used back when I was on a 28 day compulsory lockdown back in the day. It was like a stepping stone to Craighouse where they banged up the real nutters. Including my mothers sister, my Auntie Bette. I’m not blaming everything on genetics but…
Anyway back to the none more sane* Ward XVI whose second album this is. *Although I’ve been to Preston many times and sanity isn’t the first word that comes to mind. Their debut told the story of Psychoberrie who was incarcerated among the warped inhabitants of Ward XVI. This one continues the tale of the serial killer whose locked up inside Whittingham Asylum and shows how she went from sweet-natured infant to murderous, dead-eyed adult. Now let’s mince words here. This isn’t for the faint of heart as it covers childhood torments, abuse, violence and mental trauma. Because even thought the band visuals shout Halloween party, the lyrics are very, very dark. As someone who spent 25 years married to a victim of all the preceding it certainly doesn’t fall into the category of easy listening.
But don’t worry, I’m going to get all weepy over my late wife. You can still listen to this superficially and get a kick out of the Alice Cooper meets White Zombie meets Vampires Rock after hours at the seaside shows that has obviously failed all it’s safety inspections. Musically they’re quite happy to leap around between a huge variety of genres depending on what the story requires. The early tracks are the most disturbing which makes sense as that’s taking us through Psychoberries childhood. So expect to hear crying babies in the background while you listen to someone sing about being in bed, terrified of the creatures of the night.
The scariest track though is definitely ‘Daisy Chains’ which marches along to an oompah beat straight out of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang childcatchers songbook. It’s a nightmare of an album but one brought to life in spectacular vision with the artwork and visuals matching the thematics perfectly. And, hey, if you’ve got some spare cash you can buy a luxury bundle from the band which includes your very own straitjacket! Fun for all the family at Christmas. Seriously though, one of the albums of the year.
If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good At It
Endless Blues Records
He doesn’t make bad albums does Mick Kolassa. And he knocks them out fairly regularly as well. This might be his eighth and it’s another good one.
He’s working again with producer / guitarist Jeff Jensen and they make a fine team with this being one of the best sounding blues albums I’ve heard this year. It’s mainly originals with a couple of covers. The Howlin’ Wolf isn’t a surprise but wait until you hear what he does to a James Taylor song!
His main band are on fire and there are some really special guest with the brass section on a handful of tracks really working well. Tullie Brae, whose “Revelation” album was a real, um, revelation adds some great backing vocals to a few songs, something that really lifts the material.
There are favourites a-plenty with the organ enhanced ‘I Can’t Help Myself’, the aforementioned James Taylor song ‘Lo And Behold’ and ‘Sweet Tea’ which has great harmonica from Eric Hughes. It’s a warm sounding record that holds you from beginning to end with Mr Kolassa in excellent voice and writing form. As before the net proceeds from his recordings go to the Blues Foundation. A real good one.
Casually Containing Rage
Melodic Revolution Records
A bit of an odd cove this one from a band described as art rock / contemporary jazz.
They’re not really either based on this three track EP but maybe that’s not enough material to be making a judgement on. The opening number, ‘To My Love’, appears on their debut album but this is a reworked version. And it’s a really good song which to my ears is closer to modern melodic prog than anything else. It’s a wee gem.
Then they perform an acoustic version of the Warren Zevon song ‘‘Accidentally Like A Martyr’ which really showcases the delightful vocals of Dyanne Potter-Voegtlin. I’m not a fan of the song though. Then they close things with a protest song and one which is structurally closest to the contemporary jazz tag.
It’s about George Floyd and I found it completely unlistenable. Regardless of the wheres and whyfors it’s not much of a song and the radio broadcasts which are used in the backing just don’t work. It’s like the kind of thing you would hear at a bad poetry slam. A shame really because the opening track really sparked my interest.
VVA Digital Creative Group
Apparently János Krusenbaum (vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards) and Max Krüger (guitars, drums, backing vocals) spent several years in a prog band called Seeking Raven before moving on to this new project.
And it’s prog metal. Out and out, no question about it, prog metal. The two of them wrote all the songs although they’ve now put together a full band to bring it to life. Assuming we’re ever allowed to leave the house again.
It’s good. They’re certainly talented songwriters and if the likes of Pain Of Salvation and Leprous wet your whistle then you might find this worth investigating. Songs like ‘Atlas’ really emphasise the metal side of prog metal with a mixture of clean vocals and scream while ‘Burn’, you would imagine’ is a throwback to their prog roots as it’s very old school Muse in feel.
‘Cotard Delusion’ is another one with a similar feel and I reckon that really ought to be their go to mode. The prog metal world is pretty full up but when they run with the melodies then it seems more the sort of thing that will draw people in. It’s less effective when they mix up screamo and djent and it sometimes feels a bit disjointed. The production is OK but the drum sound needs a little more work.
There’s plenty hear worth investigating but at the moment it’s in my interesting but not essential pile.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton