Covenant at QXT’s
April 13, 2018
This world famous electronic group performed to a packed house at QXT’s — the local venue with an international following — on Friday, April 13 in support of their latest album, The Blinding Dark, their ninth studio album. Tracing their origins to a collaboration of three teenagers in a medium-size town in Sweden, Covenant consists of vocalist Eskill Simonsson, Daniel Jonasson and keyboardist Daniel Myer. The band stands foremost amidst the dance club genre termed EBM, characterized by heavy, relentless and irresistible cadence. What makes Covenant stand out is its cold, sci-fi and existential themes linked to compelling, danceable rhythms.
The opening bands deserve special mention. From Elizabeth, NJ, the synthwave artist Encounter was purely (electronic) instrumental and mesmerized the audience with dark melodies and intense rhythms. They were followed by Korine, a delightfully sad, synth pop duo from Philadelphia who will soon be embarking on a nationwide tour with Timecop1983 and Aeon Rings.
Covenant blasted on stage after an eerie sci-fi-tinged intro — an excerpt of “Death of Identity” from their new album. Taking the stage, they opened the live performance with “Like Tears in Rain” then hit “Bullet”, “Ritual Noise”, “We Stand Alone” and “Call the Ships to Port” (not in that order) to recall a representative sampling from their past hits. “Sound Mirrors”, “Morning Star” and many others from the new album were performed in what turned out to be over a two-hour set, that was understandably received with vociferous approval by the sellout crowd, although a few were heard to voice disappointment over the failure to include “Dead Stars.”
This was the exclusive New York-area appearance by Covenant on its national tour of the USA. The takeaway is that QXTs has become increasingly identified as the local club which hosts performers of international stature.
Skeletal Family at The Red Party
Mercury Lounge NYC
April 14, 2018
The Red Party presented the legendary originals for the first time in New York City: Skeletal Family! Formed in Keighley, West Yorkshire, England during the post-punk of early 1980s out of the band The Elements, they took their name from the title of the song “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family”, from the 1974 David Bowie album, Diamond Dogs.
Interestingly, that locale also produced The Sisters Of Mercy, The March Violets, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Southern Death Cult (later became The Cult) — forming the basis of what became the core soundtracks to the goth subculture. Disbanding in 1986, Skeletal Family reformed in 2003. They have remained one of the original gothic rocks bands staying true to their sound and have continued to tour and perform worldwide: including Mexico, Poland, and the U.S., as well as regular headliners at Whitby Goth Weekend and Wave Gotik Treffen.
DJs — Sean Templar, Jarek and Patrick — spun goth, post-punk, death rock and bat-wave.
Next month, the Red Party will be themed “The Atrocity Exhibition” and will feature a live performance by the Joy Division tribute band from New Jersey, Disorder.
Here’s a sample of what was played, taken from Sean’s set list published on Facebook: Tones on Tail’s “Honeymoon Croon”, Bauhaus’s “Pagan Lovesong”, The Virgin Prunes’ “Romeo’s Distress”, ”Christian Death’s “Sparks”, Faith & The Muse’s “Red Light”, Siouxsie & The Banshees’ “Lilies”, the Cranes’ “Kiss”, London After Midnight’s “Exterminating Angel”, The Creatures’ “The Hanging Garden”, The Cure’s “Nazarene”, The Wake’s “Alice”, and more by The Sisters of Mercy, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Fields of The Nephilim, The Mission, Joy Division and Mazzy Star.
Ministry at The Wellmont
March 21, 2018
Ministry is recognized as one of the most ferocious and foundational post-punk bands, initially founded as a dance-oriented, synthpop group in 1981. But in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, converted into an especially radical version of industrial. Album releases during that era went gold (selling 500,000 copies) and platinum (1,000,000 copies). Many of us developed our love of and taste for the genre with immersion in Ministry’s output. Like many groups in the industrial scene, Ministry has had a huge number of in-and-out musicians and production team members, has collaborated with a vast array of other bands and has participated in numerous festivals. Al Jourgenson remains the consistent vocalist and frontman.
Montclair, NJ was the 21st stop on a 26 U.S. city tour that began in California and the Pacific Northwest, before crossing the country to our area and then on down to the South. The main focus has been their 2018 release, , of which the theme is — like much of Ministry’s output — leftist and anarchist politics, with a particular focus on the presidency of Donald Trump.
We missed the first opener, but caught the second performer, neofolk vocalist Chelsea Wolfe and her goth-metal band whose morose, mournful, symphonic music was well-received by the audience.
Headliners Ministry are noted for their visuals and graphics in addition to their creative and complex use of every imaginable audio, electronic, distortional, and sampling technique to enhance both their music and their message. A giant screen went up behind the band setup and displayed the band’s name, having appropriated the encircled “A”, symbolizing anarchy, but doubling the letter within the circle to change it into an “M” to serve as the initial letter of their name. The terminal “Y” is represented as an inverted peace symbol.
The opening song, “Twilight Zone”, featured sounds and visual images evoking the famous TV series, intermingled with distorted voice-over and crackly videos of our current president, cutting into melodious and bombastic industrial metal and Jourgenson’s raspy vocals, quite convincingly portraying Trump as both loony and malignant.
The pace picked up in the next piece, “Victims of a Clown”, with the participation of Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell on stage. Both songs are from the new album. Next up, the frenetic “Punch in the Face” from their next to last album captured the band’s signature sound from the ‘90s and seemed to be an endorsement of personal violence, and was followed by “Senor Peligro” — a pure speed metal piece reminiscent of “Jesus Built My Hotrod.” A boost to conspiracy theories was the mission of rapid-paced “Lies, Lies, Lies”, which also hearkened back to previous Ministry’s classic industrial sound. It was followed by “Rio Grande Blood”, the third of three consecutive tracks from the 2006 album of that name. In it, images of George W. Bush made him the target of Ministry’s contempt.
Then it was back to the current album, AmeriKKKant for “We’re Tired of It”, “Wargasm” — which compares war to sex — and “Antifa”, a paean to anarchism in opposition to authoritarianism. “What do we want? Violence! When do we want it? Now!” was the repeated chant in this intentionally offensive track.
To the joy of everyone in the audience, what followed next was a medley of classics: “Just One Fix”, “NWO”, “Thieves” and “So What?” After a short break, they returned with an encore, “Bad Blood” from the soundtrack of movie, The Matrix.
Despite all the noise and chaos, Ministry manages to captivate with actual melodious hooks, monumental arrangements and mesmerizing rhythms, especially live. It is impossible to report on all the indescribable sights, sounds and special effects, both audible and visible during this extraordinary show which is definitely in the long tradition of Ministry’s live and recorded music and videos, but enhanced to a new, even higher level through today’s technology.
An after-party was held at QXT’s and featured Ministry’s Sin Quirin as a guest DJ.
Gang of Four
Gang of Four, the British Post-punk group formed in 1977, has released a new EP, Complicit, their first new material in three years. It is politically laden with questions about the economic system and the implied politics that govern it.
The main and first track, “Lucky”, is about five minutes, featuring a funky, angry repetitive bass riff and the line, “Give it to me.” It simulates a financial news channel, and basically reviews how the financial system somehow is divorced from the concept of, “You work hard, you play by the rules until you lose.” The conclusion it draws is that, “Nobody ever gets what they deserve.” The song is already available on YouTube.
The second track, “Ivanka” features jangly instrumentals, a bluesy/industrial baseline, a prolonged intro, a gospel-y chorus, and references to possessiveness, “daddy” and to the Trumpian concept of, “I only want something if my name is on it.”
The third track puts the lie to the administration with the title “I’m a Liar”, and echoic vocals laid over angry, bluesy, bass sound.
The fourth track, “Lucky 10 O’Clock Remix” is brief at 3:45 minutes, repeating the questions of why nobody ever gets what they deserve, using the same basic rhythm but with more up front vocals repeating the accusations implicit in the first track with a lot more electronica and sound engineering.
This EP is not gothic, punk or industrial, but Gang of Four is of such interest and influence to the post-punk music history that it is included here.
Sci Fi Television
Hey! Have you heard? Punk is coming back. This overworked cliché is overworked precisely because it’s true. Well, nothing comes back in exactly the same form.
Comebacks of punk have included “alternative” and “grunge” and numerous spin-off genres. The album Sci Fi Television from The Nectars — a New Jersey-area quartet — has got the unmistakable energy of the parent genre. They’ve also got a knack for creative guitar accompaniment and hook-heavy composition.
I had the pleasure — and I do mean pleasure — of auditing their soon-to-be released album, which features energetic and delicious vocals by grrl-ish, potty-mouth vocalist, Jess, and backed by three instrumentalists who appear to be old enough to smoke, but too young to shave. The hooky guitar driven- – and I do mean driven — hard rock sound brings to mind L7, Blondie and their own number one favorites, Garbage.
I particularly was impressed by the third track, a ‘90s grunge ode, “Cemetery Girl” and the fourth, “We Will Run.” The fifth, “Holy Punk” sounds like you would expect, with a punk rock bass line and passionate, desperate lyrics over chaotic frantic drumming.
The sixth, “Don’t Panic”, has repetitive guitar arpeggios with superimposed anthem-like chorus twisted, screeching strings. “Lights Out” features a rap section reminiscent of Blondie or the Waitresses, but switches to melodious soprano vocals.
These kids don’t run out of musical ideas! Even a swing beat surfaces in the eighth track, “Tame”. In the ninth and final track, Jess confesses to the listener’s curious delight that “…when everyone’s tired, I’m feeling wired.”
If you are the kind of listener who likes to feel wired, you will love this band and this album.