OhGr and KMFDM
Oct. 7, 2017
New York City
The gothic, punk and industrial month opened on Saturday, Oct. 7, marked by live performance at Irving Plaza of two spectacularly reputable bands, each different in style and substance, each commanding feverish fan support, but for entirely different reasons.
OhGr mandates utmost interest as the side project of industrial divinity Skinny Puppy’s vocalist and lyricist, Nivek Ogre. While its music bears only a distant relationship with the latter’s, that is sufficient to earn it a revered place in the hierarchy of the genre. Formed in 2000, OhGr’s music, unlike that of Skinny Puppy, tends toward straight-forward structures, driving rhythms, synthpop and hip hop conventions, albeit rendered unique, harsh and disturbing by the aggressive delivery as well as the vocal style of Ogre.
Hitting the stage shortly after 8 p.m., OhGr stunned the audience with their extreme appearance, sporting wild, transgressive attire and make-up out at the utmost edge in transgressive, industrial style, which included stylized, black warpaint facial markings, lengthy dreadlocks and the like, even — initially — a creepy mask for Ogre which he soon doffed after the first song.
Starting with the mechanically-cadenced “Cracker” off the first album, Welt, they proceeded to “dEVil,” a slower, more ponderous piece from the same album, highlighting Ogre’s inimitable and venerated vocal qualities. Next followed the percussion-heavy, syncopated rhythm of “DoG” from the SunnyPsy Ops album; the eerie-sounding “pissage” from the unDeveloped album; “Shhh,” the compelling head-bobbing track from Devils in My Details; and returned to the album, Welt, to conclude with “wATeR,” a complex arrangement with radical changes of rhythm and sound that creates a distinctly dismal and dysphoric, yet hypnotic appeal.
Along the way, Ogre took ample opportunity to show love and affection for the crowd and his musicians, with expressions of gratitude and warmth. He also gave voice to the opinion that is a sort of dogma in the industrial music world’s view: that “We are living in a ‘F—ing dystopian nightmare.’” It’s a fun idea, but I have to guess he was referring to Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Syria, or North Korea rather than the North America that we both inhabit.
KMFDM’s long and masterful performance is not summarized or reviewed here except to note that they performed 18 songs in all, including three encores after the break. They performed songs from their long and spectacular career, which redefined the industrial genre, reaching back to selections from their earliest EPs (1989), through the ‘90s, from the Kunst album, to their latest and most recent hits from the Hell Yeah album of 2017.
Motionless in White
R.I.P. William Control
Oct. 31, 2017
The Electric Factory
We were so looking forward to Monday, Oct. 31, Halloween, to see William Control on the bill with Motionless in White, that back less than 24 hours from a three-day trip to New Orleans, we packed our overnight bags and headed to Philadelphia’s Electric Factory. One little problem: William Control as a persona and as a musical act is no more.
Unique and crazy, William Control blew on to the scene as a side project by punk band Aiden’s lead vocalist, William Francis. Completely beyond categorization, yet easy to characterize, William Control sang his grim lyrics slightly off-key, not paying much attention to the logic of his clearly pointed narration. The songs are melodious, appealing, hook-after-hook. Visually he took on the identity of an over-tightly wound, chain-smoking and slightly demonic cynic of abysmal self-esteem, dressed like a sleazy, but fashionable lounge singer: Cuff links, tattoos visible above his starched collar, smoky, dark eyeliner. He would swing his microphone cord overhead like a single-blade helicopter, and then trap its angular momentum in loop upon loop around his own neck. It was something you had to see to appreciate.
Well, that will be no more. Supporting for Motionless in White on the Graveyard Shift Tour ended when William Control pulled out and hung up his microphone, his pinstriped pants and wingtips for good.
That occurred around Oct. 27, but we had paid the tickets and rented a room, hoping against hope that it wasn’t so. Instead of William Control, we sometimes sat, sometimes stood through four variants of the metalcore genre, starting with NJ’s Old Wounds, who performed the speed metal version of that brand; followed by Miss May I — who could use a question mark at the end of the band’s name so it makes sense — and who came out in colorful Power Ranger costumes suitable for their energetic cavorting on stage. Next up, Amity Affliction, a conventional heavy metal and the third band featuring raspy-voiced leads, and incongruously costumed as preppies in Bermuda shorts, collared shirts and sweaters tied by their sleeves around their necks, letting the sweaters hang on their backs. One distinguishing feature was Amity Affliction’s guitarist, who sang full-voiced and melodiously in tandem with his hoarse and screaming lead.
Mosh pit. Did I mention the mosh pit? As chaotic and energetic as any I’ve ever seen, the crowded pit churned continuously, hoisting costumed crowd surfers including one oversized Godzilla character. Each of these metalcore/grindcore groups encouraged and orchestrated the mosh pit, each in their own way.
It was around the time when Scranton-based headliners Motionless in White came on that my investigative surfing the net led me to the William Control’s announcement that he was gone and not coming back. Neither the splashy light show nor the more pleasing horror-rock style of MIW could convince us to withstand yet another noise machine spawned by a hybridization of punk, metal and hardcore. So, infinitely let down by the disappointment of not seeing William Control, then or ever after, we retired for the evening.
Necropolis – Skinny Puppy Edition
Oct. 7, 2017
New York City
The first Saturday of every month is the date for Necropolis, Fr. Jeff Ward’s recurring dance party, held in recent times at Windfall on Manhattan’s West 39th St. This edition served as an after-party for ComicCon held from Oct. 5 – 8 at the Javits Center. Accordingly, discounted entry was offered to those who bore tickets to the convention or who were wearing costumes consistent with the cosplay angle of the event.
At the same time, Necropolis was dubbed the Skinny Puppy edition, presumably in honor of a performance by Skinny Puppy’s frontman vocalist Nivek Ogre’s side project, OhGr, as opening band for KMFDM at Irving Plaza.
The entrance gate was graced by the scene’s number one queen bee, Mandana Banshee starting at 11 p.m. Working the musical selections were Jeff and his first line team consisting of Patrick, Templar, Aengel, plus guest DJ Arsenal. Indeed, selections from Skinny Puppy’s repertoire were represented such as, “Far Too Frail.” Included as well, were select entries by fellow industrialists, Einsturzende Neubauten.
Liquid refreshments were served by mixologists Gerard and Julia. Annabel provided nutritious desserts in the form of two varieties of cupcakes. Regulars as well as stars of the scene were everywhere throughout the bar and dance floor.
QXT’s Free Admission Saturday
Nov. 4, 2017
Newark’s famous alternative dance club is engaged in a program of once-monthly free admission on one Saturday each month. The idea is to say thanks to the regulars and to encourage them to bring newcomers to check the place out.Taking advantage of the offer, we joined the queue of those lined up outside the door at opening time and entered.
DJ Dysfuntion was at the controls filling the air with the danceable likes of Echodroides and some unrecognizable, seemingly Germanic beats. DJ Luna and DJ Victrola followed suit with irresistible tracks, mercilessly denying attendees a moment to remain stationary. It took the New Dark Age crew over an hour to consume our first drinks, because we were so compulsively drawn into constant dance by the seductive music.
Computer-generated, mind-bending videos were shown on the big screen and monitors around the bar. The crowd grew steadily throughout the first few hours, eventually filling the the main, upstairs floor to near capacity.
Haunted Attraction with Mr. Haunt
Friday, Oct. 20 New Dark Age accepted the invitation of Mr. Haunt to visit two of the areas famous Halloween season attractions. Mr. Haunt, about whom this column has often had occasion to report, engages in a year-round quest to attend, enjoy, evaluate and document “haunted attractions,” usually with a Halloween theme, but otherwise incredibly diverse in their style, scope, setup, fright-level and artistry. At the end of the Halloween season, Mr. Haunt and his serious organization, Haunt Hunters bestow a grand award, the Annabelle Trophy, upon that attraction which most impressed him and his jaded crew of experienced haunt hunters.
This night he led us on a sojourn to two Bergen County locales, the first the private home of devotee Greg Stewart, who has for the past 22 years set up a Haunted Maze in the back yard of his palatial home at 124 Sheridan Terrace, Ridgewood, NJ. After availing ourselves of street parking, we walked past a charming, spooky cemetery on his front lawn, and were puzzled and somewhat alarmed to peek inside his front window to note a restless and transparent ghostly figure floating mysteriously in his front parlor.
Following signs, we arrived at the backyard attraction, a quarter-acre maze constructed ingeniously of burlap and Plexiglas partitions, creepy interior and exterior décor and an occasional live and scary clown-costumed spook. Mr. Stewart, who also does sleight-of-hand card tricks to amuse visitors, sits atop his deck overlooking the maze and issues rules, hints and general guidance to those both within and outside the maze.
It’s a family oriented event, although perhaps too scary and distressing to be lost inside the creepy maze for younger kids. Mr. Stewart and volunteer teenagers are there to provide directions and enforcement of the rules in a cheerful, hospitable manner. I don’t know how Mr. Haunt will rate it, but I found it to be great fun.
Next Mr. Haunt drove our crew across county to Nightmare on River Road in New Milford, a yearly Halloween attraction housed in a warehouse, assembled and run by local Boy Scout Troops in back of a strip mall at 854 River Road, where there was an ample parking lot with uniformed guards directing traffic. Food and drink stands were in place and manned by parents and community volunteers. We Haunt Hunters were greeted like celebrities and led on a special tour after first posing for a professional commemorative portrait photo against a full moon backdrop. We learned that the tour was priced at a reasonable $15 per entry, with the option to repeat the tour the same night for only $5.
Inside, dimly-lit, winding and claustrophobic passageways filled the space, opening into horrific chamber after chamber where costumed and professionally made-up characters acted out believable and disturbing scenarios of captivity, torture, electrocution, cannibalism and the like. Terrifying characters confronted us at every turn and sometimes stalked us from behind as we wended our way through the dark interior. The participation of gorily costumed, menacing, pre-teens was particularly disturbing. The construction of the sets was as professional and first class as the make-up and costumes. Near the exit we passed through a dazzling, lighted tunnel that would have been right in place at a professional amusement park ride.
The night ended shortly after 10 p.m. and we sat and interviewed gorgeously horrific characters backstage while some posed for a few photos, and Mr. Haunt’s kids got their faces painted with gory make-up. We deemed this a big — really big — attraction, conceived, realized and amazingly run by Boy Scout Troops and support offered by their community.
Major Vampire Ball Events
New York City
Saturday, Oct. 21 was the occasion for the annual recurring Endless Night Vampire Ball, New York City edition, a night of dark dance and even darker live entertainment, hosted by fangmaker, Fr. Sebastiaan of the Sabretooth Clan. As has been the consistent tradition over recent years, it was held at Slake on West 30th St in Manhattan and featured three DJ veterans of the broadly-defined goth scene, Erik Aengel, Matt V-Christ and Xris Smack who spun an atmosphere conducive to socializing, reminiscing and dancing.
Participants, some of whom wore elaborate or more basic Halloween costumes, moved on Slake’s elongated ground floor to the likes of Siouxsie, Wumpscut, Depeche Mode and Skinny Puppy. Gorgeous and sexy dancers gyrated from within cages situated on walls way overhead and from atop the front stage. Around midnight, Fr. Sebastiaan himself accompanied by Houston’s “Endless Night Muse,” Dorian Dane, a stunningly beautiful, yet delightfully frightful model of evil allure. He addressed the crowd, and together they opened the ceremonies with the “ritual howl” that pulls in the enthusiastic participation of all within the room.
After a few warm remarks he introduced the first of three live performances, the first a politically incorrect “B&D” enactment with a fetish-clad young woman playing a submissive pet to a domineering but appreciative and affectionate young man.
Next followed a brilliant mesmerizing solo violin performance by Christiana Key who combined mind-bending, virtuoso playing on the violin, altered and enhanced by complex electronic feedback looping, vocal accompaniment, culminating in an incense-charged and dagger-wielding ritual that left all in a state of astonishment and trance.
Finally, statuesque ecdysiast of great repute in the New York City area, Cassandra Rosebeetle performed her attention-getting strip tease and dance in black lingerie that came off gradually and in artistically measured steps.
The ceremonies concluded with the traditional male and female costume contests, winners being chosen by assessing the volume and enthusiasm of howls elicited from the crowd. Scene veteran, Roe Paolino, took first prize in the female contestant category, and Dario Valdivia won in the men’s contest, both made up as traditional vampires.
As we exited at around midnight, the party appeared to be just picking up by the arrival of a whole slew of goth scene celebrities whose presence is to be expected only in the wee hours of the morning.
Halloweekend in New Orleans
The Endless Night Vampire Ball
Oct. 29, 2017
House of Blues
New Orleans, LA
Every few years, New Dark Age takes its crew on a continent-spanning trip to the capital of all things Halloween, New Orleans, hereafter referred to a NOLA. This, the northernmost city of the Caribbean, falls within the border of the USA, but aside from speaking a dialect of English, is much more a hodgepodge of French, Spanish and Afro-Caribbean culture. Voodoo, an Afro-Caribbean hybrid of Roman Catholicism and ancient Old World belief systems pervades the culture. NOLA is the burial place of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of the past couple of centuries.
Indeed, the annual Voodoo Festival took over City Park for three days of music, art, food, and Halloween costumes with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters, The Killers and more. Year round there are no less than nine voodoo shops, as well as a full, formal New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and countless Voodoo tours offered by the local tourist industry. No trip to NOLA is complete without a tour of one of the cemeteries famous for the traditional above-ground burials and the famous personages interred.
There are also numerous vampire-themed events in the form of dress-up balls, but what draws us there again and again is, of course, The Endless Night Vampire Ball, hosted by Fr. Sebastiaan of the Sabretooth Clan. Since 1998, the centerpiece of Halloween in NOLA — and since 2008, held at the House of Blues in the French Quarter — Endless Night features a different theme each year. For 2017, it was “Gods and Monsters,” a quote spoken by the evil Dr Pretorius in the classic motion picture, Bride of Frankenstein (1935). In the past, this page has reported on 2011’s “Steampunk Soiree” and 2014’s “Victoriental.”
As in the past, the Endless Night Vampire Ball provides extravagant and exotic entertainment, the nation’s top DJs who provide the dance fare, an eminently appropriate and comfortable venue and the legendary hospitality of Fr. Sebastiaan, Victor Magnus and their crew of bewitching Vampire Muses. Outdoor meet-and-greet activities began on Friday in the backyard garden of House of Blues, and continued into the night with a Vampire Freaks dance night hosted by Jet VF in an adjacent room of the venue.
The big event took place Saturday and featured a musical performance by the internationally famous Crüxshadows, preceded by acrobats, snake charmers, contortionists and belly dancers of both genders. A Las Vegas-type emcee warmed the crowd and announced the performers. The high point came as always with the costume contest. Full-body costumes of bats, fairies, winged angels and devils were in abounding on stage. Egyptian gods, satanic goats, ghosts and evil clowns were represented. Winners were selected by the audience reaction, and an endless night of dancing followed.
More events were scheduled for the following day, but we were forced by obligations at home and near-total exhaustion to return to New Jersey, leaving the participants to continue celebrating without the watchful eye of New Dark Age.
ReBurning, is the latest release from the New York City based band Noir. It features six tracks that represent remixes of Noir’s 2016 EP, The Burning Bridge, previously reviewed in these pages. Noir consists of lead vocalist and co-writer Athan Maroulis (Spahn Ranch and Black tape for Blue Girl) and keyboardists/backing vocalists, Kai Irina Hahn (The Sedona Effect) and Demetra Songs.
What this recording does is take a delicious, minor key melody and offer three reinterpretations of the accompaniment without losing the core elements. The first of three remixes of the title track is by synthpop/synthwave artists, The Rain Within, who do little to modify the basic structure of the song but change some of the synthetic voices accompanying Maroulis’ vox — which remains unaltered, and in fact, competes with less background instrumentation.
Aggrotech industrialists Decoded Feedback’s remix of “The Burning Bridge” adds mournful wailing during the prolonged introduction and at various, appropriate points throughout the song, adding sweeping strings throughout.
The main distinguishing feature of the third remix by alternative industrialists Panic Lift is the addition of ominous and menacing deep bass effects.
Noir’s respectful cover of (old) Ministry’s “Same Old Madness,” featured on the 2016 release, was laced with deep groaning low-register bass accompaniment and had a maddeningly slow pace. Remixed by Bestial Mouths, it has a higher pitch accompaniment, a lighter, galloping and very mechanistic cadence background that doesn’t change the basic rhythm.
In addition, there are two interesting takes on “The Burning Bridge.” One, a new acoustic version, omits the electro-industrial background, highlighting instead Maroulis’ considerable vocal strengths, presented here in close up-and-personal form, giving the lyrics an engaging, more emotional and sincere quality. The other is a purely instrumental cello suite in which the basic outline — the main musical phrases and hooks are restated emphatically by deep-pitched string instruments with little adherence to rhythm — turning it into a modern classical suite that might remind listeners of the Kronos Quartet or that master of classical fusion, cellist Ian Maksin.
The 2016, “The Burning Bridge” lends itself to variations proving it to be versatile and capable of inspiring multiple interpretations without relinquishing its original, aesthetic musical appeal. I found that I could listen to each track in tandem without tiring of the consistently repeated theme, thanks to the unique embellishments of each remix. This remix EP, released Oct. 27 this year, will be accompanied by simultaneous release of a video for “The Burning Bridge.”