Identities is the third release from Red Sun Revival, following the excellent Running From the Dawn and Embers (EP). Red Sun Revival consists of Rob Leydon, Panos Theodoropoulous, Christina Emery and Matt Helm. Live drums are provided by Simon Rippin, with Sam Morrison on keyboards for ‘The Condemned Part I’ Without further fanfare, I’ll get to the music:
Premonition has a piano intro and then launches into a magnificent bass line, energetic percussion, and Rob’s trademark powerful vocals. There is an anthem like quality to the song that rises with each chorus. Angelic backing vocals add to the intensity. Guitar, percussion, bass weave layers of sound around the main vocals, and supporting arrangements fill in the tapestry.
Echoes begins with a classic sort of Gothic choral flourish. An utterly fantastic baseline and steady percussion are coupled with keyboards and Rob’s trademark dark vocals. The pace quickens, followed with female backing vocals. Layered choral vocals drift from the depths of the song, the percussion ceases, and then the song fades. Imagine equal parts 69 Eyes and Mission UK, with vigorous post-punk percussion and a slight touch of ethereal.
After a sweeping intro, the bass continues its relentless assault in Four Walls. Keyboards and percussion are dynamic without being overpowering, with a very cool rock guitar solo at about 2:45. Backing arrangements are dark and sweeping. Vocals are gripping and poignant. I hear a bit of early Clan of Xymox here, and a hint of Garden of Delight.
The Reckoning is a brilliant musical epic, featuring orchestral arrangements with an inexorable, measured cadence. Vocals are a touch higher than usual, which lends strength to the sense of impending fate. There are wonderful bell effects, and strings are gorgeously layered underneath, which resonate profoundly at the end.
Fade in Time begins with a choral flourish, then launches into a rousing cavalcade of sound. The thundering bass accentuates the sheer crispness of the percussion and backing instrumentation. This song really reminds me of 69 Eyes, only a tighter and with a fuller sound. Vocals are a bit more strident than some of the other songs, which heightens the sense of a fervent requiem.
In Your Name rolls on, with pounding bass and cleaver-sharp keyboards. Electronic backing effects weave around the vocals and race in counterpoint to the bass. Keyboards rise between the verses like a wave of sound, then subside briefly as the vocals peal onwards. There is a strong orchestral effect, then at about 3:50 the guitar sweeps all before it.
Mistakes begins ominously, then rises with a juxtaposition of poignant vocals and sweeping electronics and guitar. Percussion is steady and strong. “Sometimes when I see your face in dreams, everything becomes just like a memory”. Rock guitar rises to anthem proportions at about 4:20. This is a fine song for driving down a darkened highway. Play it loud.
The Condemned part I clocks in at over seven minutes of pure musical doom, as irresistible as a storm at sea. The song opens with Heavy, pounding synth and percussion, as irresistible as a storm at sea in the distance. Keyboards and guitar come to the forefront, with some excellent, eerie backing effects. I am reminded of Love Like Blood. The bass becomes stronger, resonating with rising synth, and then a gripping guitar segment sweeps all before it, in the vein of Pink Floyd’s Delicate Sound of Thunder days. The song rises to a majestic, thralling peak, as percussion steps in, sharp and inexorable. Then Rob’s vocals emerge and assume center stage. Powerful, compelling, yet poignant at the same time, the vocals have Rob’s trademark sense of deep, turbulent emotions without seeming theatrical or contrived. As the great Lawrence Welk would say, “Wonderful! Wonderful!”
After a gripping intro, The Condemned part II continues the grand epic. The pace picks up, showcasing some fine guitar work that has some definite bite. Driving, hypnotic percussion rolls on, pursued by thundering bass. Vocals are strident, nearly Homeric, but not overreaching, as dark backing synth adds a hint of a chorale and keyboards add a fine, discernible edge.
The Awakening begins with clear, evocative keyboards, before the rush of sharp guitar and bass hits. Upbeat and fast paced, yet oddly reflective, this is the perfect song to end the album. While clearly bass driven, there is fine support from percussion. The backing atmospherics are marvelously bleak, but they fill the musical spaces perfectly. Shadows of Strange Boutique are interwoven in there somewhere, and very evocative strings. Vocals are fast, but with the usual sense of longing. The song contains a hint of despair, yet is also vibrant with rising hopefulness.
Identities is the best Goth/Postpunk inspired album of 2015. Very well crafted, both musically and lyrically, Identities displays a superb consistency across the entire album. There are no “weak” tracks here. Another reviewer said that this album puts Red Sun Revival on the map, but I think they were already well established on the map with their last two albums. One of the great things about Red Sun Revival is that they are not rehashing the same old ’80s or ’90s era Gothic sound like many other bands. Intensely original, they eschew the usual leaden, doomy, swirly morass that characterizes much “dark” music. (If I want to hear that sort of thing, I’ll just dig through my collection.) Red Sun Revival is firmly here in the 21st century, while clearly building upon their Gothic and Postpunk roots. We look forward to their fourth album!
This review is long overdue, and I owe the band my sincere apologies. Isolation Division was originally a sole project of Matt Thorpe , formerly of The March Violets and Distorted Pictures. In 2011 he released the excellent debut album “Sotto Voce”. In 2013 the band had a full line up, with Natasha Donald, Warren Pasquill, and Steve Drawbridge. “7th Magpie” was released in December, 2014. Matt was kind enough to provide me with a review copy, and to my chagrin I am very late with this review.
Isolation Division is one of my favorite bands. Their music is quite unique, but also hearkens back to the glory days of Post-Punk and New Wave without sounding derivative at all. This is perfectly illustrated by the first song, “Shadows“, with a very full, complex sound with wonderful layering. Exquisite harmonies merge with staccato percussion and thick guitar that evokes The Church’s later works. I also detect a bit of the short lived early ’90s group Birdland here.
“Star of the Sea“ is simply amazing. The guitars hit with a visceral edge, introspectively sharp but not quite melancholic. The discordant harmony is lends a disquieting touch, buttressed by insistent percussion.
The guitars on “Hold“ bring to mind early Cure, only deeper and fuller. Vocals bring to mind Asylum Party. Arrangements are complex, but very gripping, evoking a deep sense of poignancy. Towards the last part of the song, the refrain has whispered backing vocals that are quite haunting.
“Xmyheart” has eerie, layered vocals that are simply fabulous. The guitar is sharp and somewhat jangly, with wonderfully dissonant arrangements. This is a fine song.
“Secret Sister” opens with dark, moody synth, and low, brooding vocals that bring Screams for Tina to mind. Understated guitar emerges along with distant percussion. The guitar rises in volume, with angelic backing vocals giving the song a sense of great resonance and emotional depth.
“7th Minor“ begins with very subtle guitar and synth. Think of a harder Abecendarians, tempered with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Then the tempo changes, with strident, militaristic percussion and frantic-paced, rhythmic guitar. Soon, everything is submerged in a swirling kaleidoscope of sound, that once again brings early Cure to mind. Tandem male and female vocals are very evocative and compelling.
7th Magpie is an excellent album that successfully combines Post Punk, Gothic, and more with thoroughly up-to-date sensibilities. Production values are excellent. Arrangements are superb and lyrics are very well crafted. This is truly what new music should sound like.
Red Sun Revival was formed in London in 2011, and consists of vocalist/guitarist Rob Leydon, guitarist Matt Helm, bassist Panos Theodoropoulos, and violinist Christina Emery. “Embers” is an outstanding follow up to “Running from the Dawn“. “Embers” superbly complements their earlier work, and confidently drives forward. On Embers you will find many of the hallmarks of “Running….“, but even more refined and solid, if that is possible.
“Mistakes” begins with a slightly ethereal tone with a bit of edgy violin that quickly launches into an awesome, full sonic epic. Rob’s deep, forceful vocals are backed by great orchestral arrangements, energetic rock guitar (vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd), and strident percussion. The song evokes a spellbinding sense of longing and regret. I particularly love the guitar juxtaposed with the orchestral effects at about three and half minutes, and the way the song fades away eerily in the last half minute or so.
“Broken“ starts with a full-bodies sense of sheer power that is almost tribal. This is able balanced with guitar with a sharp, fine tone that brings ’80′s post punk to mind. Percussion is inexorable and strong. The bass is just magnificent, in many ways driving the song. Deep choral backing and dark atmospherics combine to buttress Rob’s strong, yet edgy vocals.
The opening keyboards on “Surrender” are poignant and moving. The bass emerges early in the song, but expertly gives rein to very Gothic atmospherics that swell forth and resonate grandly with militaristic percussion and full-bodied backing accompaniments. Violin is expertly understated, and rises along with the vocals. Vocals are low and rough, bringing Fields of the Nephilim to mind. Jangly guitar gives a post-punk vibe, as the bass hovers underneath, nearly, but not quite imperceptible as in a dream Layered vocals lend an unearthly air, followed by a short piano interlude. The song ends with a wonderful orchestral flourish
“Embers“ is slower and more dramatic, with excellent Cure-esque guitar and languid vocals that remind me a bit of early Ikon. Bass is prominent and staccato, but not overpowering. Synth adds a nice forlorn touch, heightened by poignant violin as the vocals turn regretful and pensive. The music rises to a gripping crescendo, then lingers languidly and melodically, sounding introspective and stoic. The music draws to a close, leaving a reflective sense that lingers long after the last note has faded. This is the perfect song to end a great EP.
The “Embers“ EP has the same outstanding production values as “Running...” with an amazing fullness of sound that engulfs the listener without sounding pretentious or overblown. All the elements of the music are superbly constructed and mesh together well. Both music and lyrics are complex and utterly compelling. As my other reviews indicate, I am stickler for lyrics. I consider them to be just as crucial as the music, and Red Sun Revival delivers some truly fine lyrical content. But more important than even the technical excellence, “Embers” is a marvelously captivating work that is vibrant and evocative. I love the way that the brash rock guitar balances the dark vocals and atmospherics, admirably avoiding the monotonous layers of fuzzy-doomyness that seem to characterize so many Gothic related bands.
Red Sun Revival skirts the tricky musical precipices with ease, close enough to send echoes of traditional Gothic resounding back across the void to the listener, but navigating the terrain with great dexterity while incorporating a wide range of influences. Once again, Red Sun Revival charts a course that is quite refreshing and relevant. “Embers“ will not only appeal to fans of Gothic music, but to anyone who enjoys satisfying music with an edge. Red Sun Revival is truly a band for the 21st century. I greatly look forward to Red Sun Revival’s full length album coming out later this year!
The Exploding Boy from Sweden is one of my favorite bands of the millennium. Their album “Four”, released last year is, obviously, their fourth release, a fine follow up to “The Black Album” from 2011. Heavily influenced by Post-punk, Goth, and Punk, The Exploding Boy’s “Four” has music that is fully contemporary and accessible with Pop sensibilities, yet still fully within the edgy tradition of ’80s underground.
“Cracked- Reasons” has some great post-punk guitar and rhythmic percussion. The song thunders along with a freight train, while the vocals are typical Exploding Boy: direct and forceful. Clearly guitar driven, there is a fine layer of synth that adds depth. The cadence reminds me a but of The Cure, with a catchy chorus. At about 2:27 is my favorite part of the song: riveting guitars and compelling vocals.
“Street Cliche” starts out with a very synth ’80s feel ala Deprech Mode, but then the guitars explode with a roar. Percussion is hard and driving, while the vocals have a slightly distant feel that is juxtaposed with insistent layering.
“Going to Hell” is smoother and more synth driven, with a base line that expertly hovers just beneath the percussion and vocals. The guitar is crisp and adds a sense of lucidity, to the brooding synth. Lyrics are somber and vehement “You look at me and you are lying/it’s so obvious to see..anyone can tell/you’re going to hell.”
“Dark City, Pt II” is hard-driving and dynamic. This is a great song for the dancefloor. I am reminded a bit of the Sisters of Mercy. “I’ve been alone far too long/lie down next to me…” The chord changes are somehow particularly gripping, and the chorus is riveting. The rapid guitar at about 4:00 is masterful.
“Runaways” is brilliant, just brilliant, with shades of The Church. Synth is sweeping and gives a monumental foundation to the dramatic, visceral vocals. “It’s all right here in the moment….”. From the turbulent guitars and dirge-like percussion to the “western” flourishes of synth, “Runaways” rises and falls like a grand musical epic.
“Awful” changes the pace a bit, with a New Wave feel. Staccato percussion and ponderous, yet forceful bass lead the way. Some of the flourishes remind me of harpsichord. “I don’t know what you want/do you want to kill me?” Layers of sound in the background fill the spaces admirably, then saw-edged guitar ups the ante. A discordant chorus ends the song on a nice jangly note.
“Shadows” has Punk overtones that lie beneath a momentary darkwave facade. Blistering rock guitar blows the covers right off the speakers, as percussion runs riot alongside fervent vocals. “Leave me alone the damage is done/ just begun.” The song lowers with sparse keyboard before ramping up again and careening to a fuzz laden close.
“Always” features excellent fast-paced postpunk guitar and driven by inexorable percussion. Vocals are fast and incisive, buttressed by hairpin synth that is as sharp as Joe Jackson’s shoes. There is a some searing deathrock-ish guitar about halfway through that propels this great song to a finish.
“Get it Out” is slow and hypnotic with an opening reminiscent of Siousxie. Excellent basslines roam beneath catchy synth, while the vocals and tight percussion are somewhat reminiscent of Lush.
“Scared to Death” reminds me of Echo and the Bunnymen meets Catherine Wheel. Very evocative in the tradition of ’80s postpunk, there is also a sense of power as in the best of ’90s Indie. Orchestral synth accentuates powerhouse guitar and layered vocals that have a hint of echo. There is a strident, shouted “harmony” beneath the chorus. “Take a breath, hold on tight/there’s no need to be scared tonight” The song ends with the eerie beating of a Tell Tale heart.
I have probably missed a few things here, but hopefully I had hit the high points. The production on “Four” is outstanding. There is no filler here at all. One of the things I like most about The Exploding Boy is that that they incorporate Gothic elements without trying to imitate the typical swirling, doomy drone of the late ’80s into ’90s. Really, we’ve heard enough of that. The same with postpunk. If I want to hear Joy Division I’ll throw on a Joy Division CD. Time marches on. The Exploding Boy manages to evoke that unsettled feeling that brings a sense of nostalgia to Goths of a certain age, while at the same time being dynamic and relevant. It’s great driving music, and great headphone music too. Just as important, the guys in the band are friendly too. Give them a listen.
Originally from Montana, new folk singer/songwriter Ira Wolf moved to Nashville in 2013, and completed her second tour in the fall of 2014. Ira Wolf’s songs are based on her personal experiences. “Fickle Heart” was just released in September.
With infectious fiddle and banjo, “Can’t Say” is catchy and energetic. There is a touch of Irish Folk in here, balanced with very contemporary layered vocals on the moving chorus. The steel guitar lends a nice Country vibe.
“Poison in my Veins” is slower and poignant. Militaristic percussion meshes well with languid bass and moody guitar. The song rises and fills out at about 3:00, with synth in the background. Vocals are smooth, yet incisive.
“Give a Damn Danny” features understated, yet edgy banjo and firm, strident percussion. “You want it all, but you know that ain’t fair/I keep saying don’t you come back around. but you turn on the charm and my guard is down.” Vocals are sincere and personal, with the sudden swell of the chorus adding weight to the song before it closes.
“The Devil and Me” gallops along with choppy, foreboding guitar, sharp fiddle, and steady bass on this eminently danceable song. Percussion emerges and sets the pace, while the guitar evokes shades of the Eagles’ “Desperado” era. Ira’s vocals are wonderfully fatalistic yet defiant. “They told me that I was headed for the devil/I asked them what a life if you’re livin’ like you’re dead?” A bit of echo adds a dark touch. “I was born to be a sinner/I was born to be free/I was born to dance with two left feet.” This is a great song, perhaps my favorite on the album.
“Won’t Talk” is a soft chronicle of a rather complicated relationship. “I won’t talk and you won’t talk/and we’ll just walk away…” The song begins soft and mellow with a furtive air, but suddenly firm percussion and and expertly layered vocals heighten a sense of sincere regret that is not quite enough to change anything. The song will resonate with everyone who has faced conflicting emotions. Vocals are superb, and the subtle backing instruments are the perfect complement.
“In the Dark” is fast paced and flowing, percussion driven with hypnotic steel guitar. Vocals are again superbly layered, with an echo effect that gives the song an enigmatic feel. “There are monsters underneath my bed/keep me up and scared to death“ The “monsters” are ones of doubt and futility that we all face at one time or another.
“Fickle Heart” has a Celtic cadence with clear, precise guitar that is reminiscent of some of the artists on the Windham Hill label but quite a bit stronger. Vocals are simple, yet powerful. Backing guitar has some fine echo, which gives the song an otherworldly kind of vibe. This is the right song to end the Cd.
Ira Wolf takes new folk in a different and quite refreshing direction than most, with pleasing melodies and straightforward lyrics. There is more strength here than is first apparent. The production is excellent, and it is obvious that the vision behind “Fickle Heart” was a solid one. Fans of folk and rock alike will appreciate the clarity and intimacy of “Fickle Heart” as well as Ira Wolf’s fine vocals.