Review: Rope Sect – Personae Ingratae / Proselytes (CD)

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Caligari Records have been a favorite of mine since some time back. Always on top with new releases, always on point with the darker themed musical styles (mainly metal) – everything is allowed if it is contained within these limits – and they don’t do a half-arsed job at it. The proprietor of the label was kind enough to send a physical edition of the release about to be reviewed, and we’re glad to finally be able to listen through and critique an item from their discography.

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Unfortunately to our own dismay, the case was slightly damaged with what seems to be small cuts on the front of it. The CD itself was not damaged but the plastic attachment which keeps the CD in place was in half, thus there was no use for it at all – thanks to our wonderful shipping company PostNord – who seems to take much joy in making sure that shipments arrive as damaged as possible, unless packed very tight and secure.

 

The aesthetic aspect of Personae Ingratae / Proselytes

Aesthetically the whole package, despite it being a standard jewelcase, is really magnificent to look at. The booklet comes with lyrics for each song, and at the end of it (pictured) there’s a very well-drawn image of a man which could resemble any statue from ancient Greece, holding a rope which yields a perfect representation of the band’s name. Just beside the man is a tightly knit rope, where the words “Venerate the rope! Fear The Rope!” is written beneath it. Makes for a very sinister impression.

The decorative‘ aspect of this release is what makes it, though the fonts are somewhat off-putting except on the front of the CD where it almost seems to be sketched out rather then digitally put there – even though, in the end, part of that dimension as well. You know very well what kind of genre it ought to be by looking at it, even though you might not be able to place the sub-genres, which is a slightly ambiguous touch that makes it even better. Shows how much can be done aesthetically without the release having to be more then a jewelcase.

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The musical aspect of Personae Ingratae / Proselytes

Rope Sect as a band is a trio, consisting of ‘Inmesher‘ (guitars, drums & vocals), ‘Harbinger‘ (bass) and ‘Gaarentwynder‘ (additional guitars). The release is a compilation, a combination of their first EP released by Caligari Records on cassette, “Personae Ingratae“, and their double-single “Proselytes” released on vinyl by Iron Bonehead Productions. We want to make it perfectly clear that we haven’t heard these releases in their physical format, therefore we can’t do any comparisons and if we had we wouldn’t any way because it would only make sense as that instead.

Fallen Nation” starts off with an ominously sounding German quotation in sound sampled from somewhere, heck knows where. Then what could be described as some crossover between metal and punk, but without the -core in it. Somehow it reminds us of a better, less outdrawn version, maybe heavier in certain aspects – later Katatonia. If they had mingled with Jawbreaker, but without the cheesy lyrics. It is hard-hitting, straight up emotional and there is where the first comparison is drawn, out of a sense of nostalgia and not so much musically – even though some of it is similar, in terms of melody.

It feels weird that a first track on a release can be so addicting. A perfect cocktail of nihilistic tendencies together with a dim, bright light of hope in the end of the tunnel. The drums are muddy, distorted and together with the guitar work and baseline create a malformed, rowdy atmosphere – which is then smacked together with clean vocals. The vocalist is really talented, he pulls off such an emotional but assertive tone in the way he articulates each word, lyrically.

The second song “Tarantist” ups the instruments a notch in terms of how the solos, the riffs and the overall rhythm is concerned. Sure, much of it is similar with the first song, but it has a more deathrock-ish vibe over the atmosphere, perfect for a December’s evening like this. We find ourselves digging more to this song, even though the first one had its perfectly laden harmonics. The psychedelic edge in some of the riffs are absolutely glorious in all their simplicity – they manage to bridge to the chorus in a down-tempo – to maniacal uptempo after a few seconds, so effortlessly.

Even though it makes no sense in text at all, the most powerful lyrical content in this song is when the singer calmly but ominously proclaims: “We’re gonna die – why?“, it hits so close to home that it almost frightens. It is so existential in a beautiful way – yet it gives you an unobjectionable push into the grim realities of life, which isn’t as romantically charged as the notion of living forever either as a memory in the past, or resurrected in the future.

Pretty Life” heads in a different, more downtempo way that has a lot in common with atmospheric black metal, instead of the punk (and sub-genres of it) overtones that dominate on this record so far. Too bad that it is so repetitive and doesn’t really cast a good light on the vocalist as it has done with the uptempo, more aggressive songs before this one. Sure, some moments are great as when the more ‘acoustically’-oriented passages that add an upswing to an otherwise not that interesting song.

Some facets of it can be intriguing to listen to but it is not what we’re expecting after we’ve listened to Rope Sect, we’re sorry to say that. If anything, the abrupt ending is in a class of itself, since this song doesn’t need to be more outdrawn and killed right away. Don’t get it wrong, it is not a bad song per se, but it is an OK song in comparison with the other two which set the standard very high.

King Of The Night” remind us, in a good way, what the commercially successful band Ghost would’ve been if they hadn’t sold out from the get go. Rope Sect is like the better version of what the ideal would’ve been with that band, even though it was dead from the get go, really. A really trashing song from the get go which includes the better parts of good death metal, with the melodically oriented stance that actually, by now, defines their music for us.

Not to mention the classic rock’n’roll vibe coming out of the second chorus, the solos from the guitars are fantastic. They also slap the darker atmosphere on it so that it doesn’t flip out and go into full deranged death’n’roll. In this song comes another memorable line, which also touches emotionally through how the singer delivers it vocally – “We found the gallows sling in the light / A lost reversal of fortune“. What a great line lyrically. It gives off a very subliminal message as it goes through your brain, an ambiguity not easily taken away.

On this compilation, “Recess” feels like the dividing line between “Personae Ingratae” and “Proselytes“, even though it originally wasn’t. A good piece of death-doom metal but with much better melodies then there generally is in that crossover genre. They are really accentuated and heightened in this short song. An uproar of the most desperate anguish, but without the cheesiness that would be attached to it otherwise with bad lyrics, so it is actually good that they went full instrumental for once. Though it wouldn’t of been any trouble for the singer to lay his unique touch on it as well, had it not been.

Ochlesis” is the longest track on the release, and feels like a combination of all the good in the first few songs and the otherworldly nature of their atmosphere. Simple but ingenious riffs lay the foundation of the choruses, as one is transported between all possible sub-genres and back again. From metal to post-punk, doom metal to gothic rock. There’s also an downtempo part that is fanatically great – they leave room to each instrument, and let the different textures blend together through silence and noise – completing the sound in a vividly imaginable perfect scenario.

Though the first part shines the brightest, as that is their stronger side, it is accompanied by an even heavier laden barrage of the finest metal you could imagine. Nothing is compromised when they get to do their own thing, whatever that could be called in a summary. Though, as written in the first paragraphs about this song, it is clear that it is a combination of all the best elements so far from this record.

Death Is Your Lover” is by far the roughest sounding track so far, having more dark riffs then ever before. The title alone suggests what you’re about to hear when turning it on. The drumming also goes into different riffs, as it almost wants to go into full blast-beat as soon as possible, but is hindered by the fact that it is as gloomy as doom metal can be when it is at its best – in combination with the psychedelic, slow and hard-hitting aspects of that certain genre.

Little bits of pieces in this song are good, but together it doesn’t stand out that much in comparison with other songs. There are different ambiance that could’ve been adjusted a bit more, and the singing gets a bit dull after parts of it, but without a doubt the lyrical content of this song is one of the best. Especially the repetitiveness of it all, which lulls one into uncertainty.

Rattenkönig” is so pleasurable to listen to. It holds up great in all aspects and is except the first two songs, “Fallen Nation” and “Tarantist“, which in itself makes it a great song. The lyrics flow so well, as if the vocalist have lived what is described himself. As if it is recited by a great orator. There’s really nothing more to be said then that it gives off a spiritual feeling when listening to it. Such a great, uncompromising and skilfully made song that it isn’t even funny. Nothing could be done better in it that would make it even more outstanding.

BothQuietus” and “Proselytes” is if you had inverted the record itself, not that they are identical to the first two songs musically, it is just that they are as great in their own respects. Here, they’ve added a bit more that gives the atmosphere that knife-sharp edge and volatility which some of the other tracks miss out on. The first song mentioned actually contain some blast-beats to our joy, and it is the better one of the two, but both are god-damn impeccable.

Such a great ending to an otherwise more than good compilation of two releases. We could not recommend it more, actually. It is just a shame that it hasn’t gotten more publicity, because this sure is a hidden gem in the Caligari Records discography – despite it being the next-newest release there. If anything, you should really get this CD because nothing beats having the physical item. You can get it digitally and on CD from Caligari Records, stream the release down below to make up your own mind.

 

Spotlight: ZX Electric and Asesina!

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Time for your daily Spotlight. It’s been lacking from my side, since there’s been a lot to cover when it comes to exclusive premieres – but not much when it comes to regular bands that you stumble upon – or artists. Since it’s been a long time, I want to introduce two of the more peculiar acts that I have found when scouring the internet: specifically Bandcamp. One of the bands are from the UK and the other is from Spain. ZX ELECTRIC is a band that plays weird krautrock with the occasional stab of minimal synth and post-punk, whilst Asesina are the Spaniards whom has a singer that really can’t sing – but all the better that he can suffer, because that’s what it’s all about – it seems.

a3200966171_10Negative Outline” is the latest release that ZX ELECTRIC can offer to the world, having released two other albums earlier, titled “Obsolete” and “Fixed Unknown” – a rather odd blend of genres that shouldn’t be mixed, really. But there’s something about the latest album that signals to me that they’re serious. How can you even manage to fit in krautrock with minimal synth? I get that it can be applicable when it comes to post-punk, but not the other way around. However, they manage to create a rather melancholic image which they spit upon, managing to fit a semi-acoustic environment somewhere in between each track. I like the singer’s voice, it’s sincere but rather goofy at times. All the better then – that his rhythm is intact and his groove is where it should be – when the synthesizers slowly grace him and fill up the sound-scape. Not to mention how cold-wave helps to keep the semi-acoustic trance to a pleasurable level, where you just nod your head to everything you see around you.

a4144603658_10What striked me when I browsed Asesina, were their marvelous aesthetics. The slick lines that are pleasing for the eye to watch, alongside a rather odd – almost dragon-like – goose that feeds her youngin’. Maybe this has something to do with where they’re from in Spain, or maybe not. I, however, really like the way this becomes their insignia. Enter bleakness with “EP“, their first release. Together with the bleakness that appears through using black and white. When it comes to their music, I must say that I don’t know if I should hate or adore the singer. He can’t sing. But thanks to the psychobilly, surf punk or whatever they’ve mixed together into a mish-mash of difference and alikeness – his voice gives a touch of severe angst that doesn’t go away. The best thing about it is when he screams in his own language and I don’t really get anything. I don’t really want to know, either. Noise rock goes well together with every other genre they’ve plucked asunder. The good thing about it is how their low-keyed sound-scape makes you wonder when they’re going to step into black metal territory, but that really never happens – full-scale. A good listen to anyone whose interest lays in any of these more obscure genres – especially when mixed together.

Spotlight: Warmline – Sad (Re-Release)

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A duo that you probably haven’t even heard about, due to their mystical appearance, both aesthetically and musically – is Nic Hamersly. When searching out Nic Hamersly, he first appears on The Scrap Mag‘s first compilation titled “The Scrap Mag First Compilation 0001“, under his own name. Well, no wonder that he does that, after all – he’s most known as Ortrotasce, his minimal synth-pop moniker. By knowing that, it makes this even more interesting. Together with Jacob Hales, he produced an album titled “sad“, that had gloomy post-punk with notable influences like shoegaze and darkwave, experimenting with those genres together. This release was sadly self-released by them in 2011, which meant that it had been dug into the muck. Thankfully, Ritual Tapes unearthed their gem – re-releasing it, but bringing out other surprises as well. Originally, they also released two tracks under the name of “Instrumentals” the same year. Instead of just re-releasing both releases as one, Ritual Tapes have gathered their first five tracks from their album, and balanced it out with tracks from demos, compilations which includes everything from “sad” to “Instrumentals“, and “Black Earth” – but they’re not limited to just that.

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Ten tracks spanning up to 42 minutes, with the additional female vocals of Chloe Kendall on the 5th track titled “Empty“. Featuring an A Side and a B Side, whereas the B Side feature tracks created from 2011 to 2014. Nic Hamersly hand-picked these tracks together with the label Ritual Tapes. Everything on this cassette, except the track “No Tomorrow“, written by Nic Hamersly and Jacob Hales, was solely written and performed by Nic Hamersly. This might interest those of you whom are very into the gothic rock of yesteryear, but need that shoegazer fix appropriated into the atmosphere of the tracks. It’s all-in-all a very devoted release, and a very interesting one, especially for those of you who might’ve followed Nic Hamersly’s work with the solo-project Ortrotasce. Even though some of the synthesizer-sound might be alike in some of the tracks, this is something entirely different. You can stream the whole release down below.

Free Download: The Harrow – The Fall / Milk And Honey

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To everyone’s delight, I’ve snatched myself two songs from The Harrow – with their permission of course. Their dampened dream-pop would make any shoegazer go up in arms, and their post-punk would make a goth sob instead of trying to be misanthropic. These New Yorkers have both a literary connection, but also a musical. Consisting of Vanessa, Frank, Barrett and Greg – whom themselves come from varying musical backgrounds. I spoke with Frank, whom I’m going to have on this site in the near future, too. He lent me the two tracks “The Fall” and “Milk And Honey” from their latest, and currently only, EP-release on Function Operate. Since it was hailed by so many people, we’re going to let you download those two tracks for free. So you can head on over to Invisible Guy‘s soundcloud and download those tracks, free of charge. The EP itself is great and so are these two tracks, so I advise you to stop reading this gibberish and head on over to download them.

Spotlight: Life Is Pain – Born, Suffer, Die…

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Missing out on two years ago is not such a big deal. But once you find something that simply attaches itself into your mind, you want to show it to the world – no matter how many years on its neck it might have. The largely existential project Life Is Pain is the solo endeavor of an unknown character from New York. His influences range from Arthur Schopenhauer‘s stance on suicide, which is that it’s not wrong at all or born out of cowardice, since; “They tell us that Suicide is the greatest piece of Cowardice. That Suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in this world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person“. This project also harkens from the depths of atmospheric dark wave, to the less intriguing blend with melodious cold wave – to the more exciting metamorphosis from experimentalism to post-punk, goth and minimal synth. Even though the more melodic parts make you shy away from the project, the absoluteness of the darkness that can be derived from the absolutely soul-wrecking topics that are brought up make you turn the other cheek and face it towards “Born, Suffer, Die…”, which is the two-tracked release that is talked about above. Featuring the two tracks “Unassailable” and “Sindrome“. Unfortunately, he hasn’t released anything else then this, but this might help spark interest in what he’s been working with before. Stream it down below.

Part [I]: Back in the hemisphere of Nostilevo!

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Nostilevo is still one of my favorite labels from America. In the beginning, when they came around, industrial once again got revitalized. I asked the label-owner a few questions back then, and reviewed the whole she-bang of releases. At first, I thought it resembled Nestlé, but then I slapped myself and got myself together. Khristopher Reinshagen have had this label since 2011, and now he’s got a lot of releases out, that haven’t been payed much attention to from my side. More than the branching out from Nurse Etiquette, which was his earlier label. Which is why I decided to ask him a bunch of new questions and review the whole May batch of tapes. This includes Pure Ground, Mammal, Ritual Howls, The Glass Path and Church Shuttle. Not in that direct order, though. Hope you enjoy reading this and return afterwards. But first up is the interview I conducted with Khristopher himself, in Part II you’ll get the reviews.

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Some questions for Ashrae Fax!

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Ashrae Fax could be legendary by now, but they chose not to be. All kidding aside, I wrote about their album “Static Crash” a long time ago. Their background is in Greensboro, North Carolina – which lies in the United States of America. The band mainly consists of Alex Chesney and Renee Mendoza. What can really be said about them? They’re imaginative, to say the least. Combining elements of electro-pop, dream pop and gothic, together somewhat hard-hitting industrial undertones. One could say that they’re really original, and then one could agree with that statement. Now they’re back, to play a couple of shows. Also, because the label Mexican Summer decided to pick them up and re-master their first release “Static Crash“. So, I wanted to ask them some serious questions, and some that were not. A chilled out experience which would be an easy read for everyone that would bother with it. Have fun!

Why did you choose to reunite to play live, and release a re-master of your “Static Crash” album?

– Mexican Summer made us do it. No, really we want to support them supporting us, if that makes sense. We need to get out there and play some shows for the people who want to see us. It’s simple give and take.

Since you’re releasing it very soon, I wanted to ask you about the album itself. What was it like in the process of recording it?

– It was recorded in a 16-track studio on black face ADATs. Shitloads of outboard gear with patch bays and a 20 channel 8 bus console… we could go on and on. The gear part is fun to talk about, but still is pretty simple, we didn’t fuss over it, we just got takes and moved on. But we cut it really close because we booked tour before the record was done and were busting ass to get copies made and silkscreen the art work the day before we left.

You’ve teamed up with the Brooklyn-based label Mexican Summer for this re-master. Why is that?

– They found us really. We had no serious intentions of doing any more releases or putting anything else out. We had a successful small run re-release on Hot Releases’ label and were toying around with the idea of doing more when Mexican Summer emailed us. We had lots of material to work with so we signed up to release our entire discography.

What have you two been doing these years when you weren’t occupied with Ashrae Fax?

– Alex has been playing electronic/techno music as Faster Detail. I got married, played in a band with my husband called Filthybird for about 8 years of that time, started a tech career, bought a house. Mostly normal life stuff with music as a second job.

You’ve already gotten some rave reviews on the re-master, as I send you this. Any review in particular that got you “going”?

– I really liked Surfing on Steam’s review. I felt like s(he) really got it and shined light on the things that make our music unique. Especially the vocal performance which I think really sets our music apart from the abundance of dream-pop/goth-synth bands that are out now.

I’ve also been wondering, for some time now – who’s the man portrayed on the album itself and why did he get the pleasure to find himself on the front of it?

– It’s actually a female Chinese Air Force pilot. Our friend Scab Von Havoc from Aluminum Noise created that art work for us and it has stood the test of time.

Since your music is comprised by so many different influences, aesthetics and the likes – what kind of “aim” do you have with your songs, both lyrically and musically?

– Lyrically, the aim isn’t always clear. Some songs are more about sounds than words while others tell more of a story or are words about sounds. Musically, we just wanted to make something futuristic. And to make the kind music that we wanted to hear.

I’m not sure that people know that much about you two. What’s your background?

– We’re both X-cons.

Alright, you’re playing live in North Carolina and on the Hopscotch Music Festival later this year. What can one expect?

– A four piece band comprised of the original Static Crash players: Alex, Renee, Mike, and Robert. Some dancing. Probably some awkwardness and shoegazing from some members as we get our sea legs back. Maybe some singalongs.

Thank you for answering these questions. As I’m a robot, I expect you to leave your message here in the end. What have you got to say?

– Word up.

Head on over to Ashrae Fax’s bandcamp, so you can listen to two tracks from their re-imagined release “Static Crash!“.