From the land that was once the center of the Roman empire, the home to pasta, great food and cheese comes a hard-hitting technopop group Blank
. When those in the west think of Italy, driving beats and layered synths are probably not the first things that come to mind, but this group pulls it off nicely. The duo got their start around the turn of the new millenium (2000) and consists of Davide Mazza (the maze) on vocals and Riccardo Mattioli (der mate) on keyboards. They released two self-produced demos that were available freely for download from their website which helped launch their career to a great start. Because of the great exposure and positive reviews, they started putting together work for their first official releases. The first would come in the form of their E.P. Overhead
released on the Canadian label ArtOfFact Records
. This label would also be home to their subsequent releases, their first official full-length album Artificial Breathing
and their follow-up several years later in 2008 under the name Impact Zone
. Five years later we are finally graced with their third album Dark Retreat
which shows the band continuing to grow and expand their talents and style.
I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the Overhead
E.P. with the pounding beat that deviates slightly from techno into the EBM realm. However, the influences from this group clearly come from many prominent techno artists such as Tiesto
. The crossover influences and styles from the EBM/Industrial and Synthpop genres make their music more enjoyable for those of us into the underground music scene. Each album has progressed slightly into the EBM realm while still holding strong to the solid techno foundation for the most part. Their latest album especially shows more diversity in the tempo and styles.
This duo showed a promising start and continue to please with their mixed style of music and their releases over the eyars. Fans of this fast-paced music with pounding beats and slightly distorted vocals should really enjoy the releases from this group. You can hear selections on the Gothic Paradise Club Mix.
Dark Retreat - Review
After a five year silence from this duo, we're finally presented with a new album.
It seems the time off has been good to this band as this new work features more diversity and overall emotional depth from this band. The album runs nice and long at around 70 minutes with plenty of music for fans to enjoy across thirteen tracks.
I'll admit that since it has been five years since hearing from this band, they have kind of slipped from my mind, however with word of this album and after listening to it through several times, I'm once again impressed with what they have to offer. This new work shows the band harnessing their techno foundation and expanding on it with some nice diversity across several tracks. It all starts off pretty much as you would expect with the techno and trance-laiden music with various electronic loops and soundscapes providing the back-drop to the almost whispered, slightly distorted vocals on "Subliminal Man". The beat and intensity pick up as we move along with "ZeroTolerance" being something of an early climax before backing off a bit for "Nothing You Can Say" and the slightly down-tempo piece "Dreamscape". At this point we start to see some of the diversity in the styles and intensity of the music with this piece slowing way down while not losing anything in emotional fervor. We slide into the next piece "Eigengrau" which drifts along through a mild mix of various electronic loops and a smattering of break-beats, while the overall tempo is fairly fast-paced, the intensity gives the piece more of an ambient mix of dance-friendly electronics. The band keeps up the diversity and really takes it down a notch in the tempo on "Lost Symmetry" featuring fellow Italian's Kirlian Camera
with Elena's soft female vocals.
As you can see, the first half of the album sees the band move through a diverse world of electronic music, enlisting guest vocalists and diverse, darker and more emotionally charges styles of electronic music. As the album continues on we see more progression into the dark, diverse electro-pop sound across the instrumental piece "Dusk Devil" and a personal favorite on this album "Weak Machine". This piece takes more of a minimalistic approach to the electro-pop sound with backing atmospheric piano over soft and subtle synths and a moving, steady beat while the vocals remain somewhat subdued and haunting. "Dead Roads" really picks up the pace and intensity for a great club-friendly piece and also featuring the solid female vocals from Elenor Raynor from The Crystalline Effect
. The album moves along and starts to wrap up with more variety and diverse sounds. The instrumental piece "Ocean Greyness" is excellent with various samples throughout giving it a dark and moody feeling setting up the finale to the album "Fallen". This final track really brings it down a notch, wrapping up the album in style with a soft touch.
I think most fans will love this band's slight shift in style and the excellent job they've done to pick up some guest vocalists and even enlisting the help of some great producers for an excellent overall sound. Overall I recommend it for old and new fans alike, enjoy!
Impact Zone - Review
It's been a while since their first official full-length album, but we finally have a follow-up with this latest work.
This latest work shows how the band has continued to mature while staying true to their driving trance-laiden EBM style with ten new tracks for fans to enjoy.
For fans of this band there is nothing lacking from their previous releases. The style remains strongly rooted in trance, synthpop and EBM with emotions running high through the vocals and driving synths and fast-paced beats. Like the previous works it's all quite homogenous with little variation from the driving beats and layered synth and electronic loops providing the backdrop for the somber, ever so slightly distorted or deep vocals that are not really melodic, but are still better than the constant onslaught of someone that sounds like they've been gargling gasoline that seems so prominent now.
The album kicks off with "Nuclear" which feature various electronic loops and a driving beat and gets the body moving. But then "Persistence" comes on in much the same fashion and one piece after another moves on through the driving fast-paced beats. They're great tracks, but all very similar in style and composition. About halfway through the album a slight variation appears in "Beneath" with a slower tempo beat and not quite the constant onslaught of electronics, though they still remain prominent on this piece through the various loops, though not as intense. Once this passes then we're right back into the trance-laiden, pounding tracks where we left off before.
To sum it all up... if you like driving trance-laiden EBM music, then this album is packed with it, one track after another. As individual pieces, just about any piece is excellent in their own light. As an entire album, there's not a lot of variety though it's still enjoyable and I would say this duo continues to improve on this disc.
Artificial Breathing - Review
After the surprise of the Overhead EP
I was fairly pleased to finally get a full-length album from this new group out of Italy. I think I can sum this album in just a few words, "fast-paced, emotional dance music".
I think that's really what it's all about, each song coming in around the 140 to 150 bpm range, which is the typical Techno/Trance pace. But when you include the emotional vocals, although slightly distorted, they really add an entirely new and more dynamic element to the music. In fact, I think one of the major factors that great Synthpop and EBM music has over typical Techno and Trance music is the inclusion of good vocals, full of emotion and meaning.
With all of that in mind, each track still manages to bring something slightly unique to the album while maintaining a homogenous and constant mood throughout. "Event Horizon" kicks off the album with powerful electronics that gradually build to the pounding techno beat and driving synths. And from there the album just continues on at a fast pace, bringing one dance track after another. Each song begins with pulsating synths or some sort of experimental introduction which adds a bit of variety to the mix, and after the pounding beats end, each song fades into similar electronic soundscapes.
While consistency is nice in many ways and the homogenous nature of this album keeps the listener from feeling like they're being bounced around in some sort of tug-of-war between genres and styles, this same consistency can become monotony if carried on too long and in exactly the same way. So, while I enjoy each track individually, and the album does come together well as a whole, sometimes when a track is nearing the 5-minute mark I begin to think that it's dragging on a little long with the same fast-paced pounding beat and electronic loops. As each track except one is over 5 minutes long when listening to the entire album in one sitting, the pounding and driving beat can start to wear on me a little bit.
With that said, I think this is still a great album with a solid foundation. A lot should be said for this group and their future. While they will probably have a larger audience in the Techno scene, I think they are still very enjoyable for fans of EBM and Synthpop.
Overhead EP - Review
This EP caught me totally by surprise when I first stuck it in my cd player. Having signed with Art Of Fact records, for those familiar with this label, it's probably obvious that we'll be presented with fast-driving dance-friendly music.
Joining the ranks of Massive in Mensch
on this label, these newcomers provide this new EP full of pounding beats. Included are 5 remixes of the title track and an "extra" track "Event Horizon". The extended dance mix is easily my favorite and should point to the solid material that we'll be presented on the upcoming albums. The very fast-paced beats push the envelope of Synthpop/EBM music to the realm of Trance. The slightly distorted vocals add an edge to the music and a feeling that goes straight to the heart with each pounding beat. The remixes are fairly well done with Implant adding a bit more of an edge to it all with the distorted beats and the other remixers adding their own unique touch. The Tim Schuldt Mix really takes it over the edge with grinding guitars and an even more edgy sound. "Event Horizon" is another solid track with more of the fast trance influences. A great EP that fans of the really fast-paced dance music will love.
Label: Art of Fact Records