These are some bands that I have both ventured out to see at a
club and heard on my creaky little stereo. Most of this happened
a number of years ago during my first stay in the lovely hamlet
of Pittsburgh (87-92). Since then most anyone involved in putting
on live shows have swirled down some sort of punk rock drain.
We're in the process of rebuilding the scene so it'll probably
be sometime until you see anymore show reviews from this humble
scribe. I've tried to include an address for each band so that
you might get in touch with them and tell them how great my 'zine
Despite the name this band doesn't seem to have any morbid fascination with Chuckie Manson or his old domicile. However, they do have a fascination with creating songs with complexly layered voices and melodies backed up by an almost but-not-quite tribal drum sound. It's a relatively unique sound in the gothic genre (which seems to mostly depend on drones and minor keys). The only record I have by them, Thickly Settled stands up well to repeated listening.
The albums would have you think that Spahn Ranch is black clad group of pretentious shoe-gazers, At least, that's what I thought. I really wasn't expecting a bunch of wild-eyed of thrift store shoppers to take the stage (a piece of plywood all of 6 inches high). It was the right band but it sounded as if someone had slipped PCP into their Wheaties. Their live show worked in extra drums, extra distortion, extra intensity and a bunch of really interesting film clip (which included what a friend of mine insists was nothing more than a hot dog and skin lotion....) A great show, but I really doubt that they are still together, but try getting in touch with their label at:
PO. Box 5599
San Francisco, Ca. 94101
When you first hear them you might immediately think that you've hit upon another cliche ridden gothic band, which wouldn't be that far from the truth. They have the high guitar with just the right amount of distortion, the repetitive-too-high-in-the mix bass, and the moaning nearly monotone vocalist. However, in spite of themselves, they occasionally rise to a level of near greatness (Which, after being together for almost eleven years, can be ascribed more to accident rather than purpose).
Most of these brushes with greatness occur on their earlier (perhaps
first) release simply entitled, Deception Bay. So if you happen
to be flipping through the used record stack you might want to
pick this one up. Their latest album, My Color Flag, should only
be sought by those fascinated by boredom. Actually, the songs
aren't that bad, but listening to more than, oh... let's say,
two in row gets to be a bit much.
Paradoxically, their live show is worth checking out. The two times I saw them the only illumination came from some interesting black and white films projected behind them. These films were loaded with neat camera angles and powerful images. The main effect was to reduce Deception Bay to incidental music which, sadly, works to their advantage.
Contact them via:
Independent Project Records
544 Mateo Street
Los Angeles, Ca 90013
Of A Mesh:
Big scratchy nasty waves of depression washing over a beach of broken glass and shattered bone. A pretty fair description of one of the East coasts biggest contributions to the death rock scene. They emerged from the early 80's New York Goth wave and actually lasted well into 1988 (I think) which gives them an unnaturally long life span. This might be because they were damn talented and versatile. Borrowing more from the "horror beneath the surface" than the Anne Rice school of Goth , they effectively evoke scenes of confusion and dismay. While using the typical echo laden voice and drone background filler they never depended on it to maintain their dark atmosphere. I know they have some vinyl out, and at least one tape. However, you're going to be rooting through dusty New York record shops until your nose bleeds before you find anything. Your best bet is to find someone who has owns a copy or Venus Record's Gothic section (St. Mark's Place in the Village).
Anyone who saw them play knows how much more they are when they take the stage. While they don't physically dominate the stage they emotionally dominate all of your perceptions. The sound takes on a beastly life that the albums and EPs don't even hint at. I can only describe it as an all encompassing experience. It tore through the mind without a trace and left the hapless audience dazed by the crushing impact of screeching despair. Sorry, I don't have any info on how to get in touch with their old label.
This band played with The Garden and Of a Mesh in a wrist-slitting extravaganza during the winter of 1987. While not as consuming as Of A Mesh, they succeeded in carrying the mood of the evening (which is more than I can say for the Sisters Of Mercy/Danielle Dax show I saw at The City in Boston). This is a guitar driven band that relies heavily on fuzzy low end to drive home the bruising weight of their own darkness. The lyrics aren't going to find their way into any overwrought death-rocker's scribblings but, Slave Cave, taken as a whole, is more interesting than most of what you'll find out there. They are best listened to late at night, driving on a very twisty road while you smoke until your lungs hurt.
Finding anything by them is, of course, going to be difficult, but I do have an address from 1987.
PO. Box 5088
Kent, Ohio 44240
This is one of the more interesting bands that I have found in the past five or six years. They music deftly avoids the cliched pitfalls of the gothic genre by retaining a sense of (gasp!)originality from song to song. By making use of unique arrangements and styles Fourwaycross rises above the standard groan and drone of the black clad crew. Thus their songs can convey emotions other than tragic despair. Of course, you won't find any love songs but anger, confusion and bewilderment abound.
The feel of this band underwent a drastic shift when they switched from a male voice to a clear high female vocalist. The music took on a much more ethereal, almost mystical quality. I personally think that her voice isn't nearly as expressive, but other people find the new sound much more to their liking.
I first saw them around a year before they broke up and I spent almost the entire time at the bar wondering when I could go home. Mostly because their songs had started to become these mushy indistinguishable numbers which simply started to bore the hell out of me. Maybe this was a bad night or perhaps their live shows just don't live up to their albums. Anyway, you won't be able to decide if I'm wrong because Fourwaycross is no more. The only thing I can tell you is that their vocalist (whose name I cannot remember) is now singing for Medicine (and from what I saw in the Crow she finally got her backpiece finished).
Their two best albums are Fourwaycross (their first) and Shimmer (their only ep). You can get their back catalogue by writing:
PO Box 875422
Los Angeles, Ca 90087
High piercing guitar stabs through the diffuse vocal wail. Warm throbbing bass couples with the relentless tick of the drum machine. From out of this confused morass there emerges an ornate, beautiful and black garden of angst. Their music is a shower of conflicting textures that provides the listener with the perfect audio backdrop for passionate coupling or catatonic despair.
The only problem is that finding any albums is going to be a major pain in the ass. They have released three cassettes over more than a seven year period and only the third, Willows Weeping, ran more that a few hundred copies. They rarely play more than four times a year and I don't think they have played outside of Pittsburgh (their hometown) since forming. However, try to get a tape from them by writing to:
731 South Braddock Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221
Since writing the above paragraph I found out that The Garden has released a fourth cassette, Gods, Angels and Men, to a veritable slew of favorable reviews. I haven't had a chance to hear it yet but I'm confident that their skill has not failed them.
How do I describe this band without sounding like a cliche? I'll just say that they get me hard. Literally. The first time I saw them play the music was so sensual and dangerous that halfway through their set I was overcome by an intense wave of lust. Fortunately I was not the only one affected in such a manner. By the time the last distorted echo died away the sexual tension in the room was at a fever pitch.
This kind of overwhelming intensity is what Holy Cow exclusively deals in. Powerful lyrics, emotionally sung (yes, he can sing and damn well) strip away all of your ridiculous pretensions leaving you naked and cold. The droning bass then suffocates you in a wave of boiling mud while mega-distorted guitars drag your pitiful carcass over a field of broken glass. All of which is executed in time to drums that sound like breaking bones and smashed cities.
Unfortunately their records do not capture the essential intensity of their live performances. Watching a 6'2" sweat covered vocalist pounding on an anvil adds something to the tortured atmosphere that just can't be captured on vinyl. Thus, the first time listener often does not understand why I am such a fan of this group. However, according to Manny, their guitarist/manager, they have practically become the 9:30 Club's house band even though they all live in Providence, RI (this thanks to ex-Pittsburgh goth king cum DC club manager Norm Veenstra). Seeing Chris, the vocalist, suffer through "39 Lashes" (yes, from Jesus Christ Superstar) while tearing into your soul with his manic eyes is worth the 3 hour drive to DC. While you're waiting to see them, try their second album Suggested Reading as an introduction to their very disturbed world.
Contact them at:
PO Box L-181
New Bedford, MA 02745-0181