|In Strict Confidence|
Dennis Ostermann, Jorg Schelte and Stefan Vesper formed this trio of talented artists that is In Strict Confidence originally around 1989/1990 when they started putting their creative forces together to form their own unique sound. In 1996 their debut album Cryogenix was released on the popular and now defunct label Zoth Ommog. This release launched them into the electronic music scene and would set the stage for their long and prosperous career that continues to grow. They continue to release new albums, numerous EPs and singles and perform live around the globe.
Along with their work as In Strict Confidence, they have also participated in several other projects. These have ranged from guest vocal appearances for Dennis or other projects and a separation from the band for several years for Stefan. All of these have had some measure of success and recognition in the Electronic and Industrial music scenes.
Their popularity comes after many years of improving their style and talents. Dennis' unique deep vocals have remained a solid foundation for their music. The musical stylings range from guitar-driven rhythms to pure electronic elements. Some tracks will be long trance-like selections, while others include hard and edgy industrial elements with the occasional dark gothic moods. Each album carries a number of dance tracks and other wide variety of elements, and each one is very catchy in some way or another and have quickly become favorites in our collection.
You will always be able to enjoy different selections on Gothic Paradise radio from this group from their present and past releases. Be sure to listen and enjoy them.
Utopia - Review
It's always a pleasure to hear something new from this band as they cross genre boundaries and experiment and grow with each new work. The band has been busy with various live shows and along with this full-length album they've also released a pair of singles from the album in Morpheus and Tiefer. None of this has slowed them down and this album comes packed with great music across eleven stellar tracks that fans will love.
The album has a great mix of musical styles but all easily recognized as In Strict Confidence with Denis' deep vocals and on this album the female vocals are presented by Nina de Lianin for an excellent diverse sound. It starts off the the pair of singles with "Morpheus" and "Tiefer". The former includes a symphonic approach that fades into a dark, electro-pop sound, while the latter brings on the heavier guitars and both include a heavy, dance-friendly beat and moving rhythm coupled with german vocals that add a slightly harsh edge to the sound. A noteworthy element of this album as with previous works, there is a nice bilingual approach with the german and english vocals, making understanding the lyrics more available to a wide audience.
The album is loaded with favorites for me as well as listeners from our radio shows. The two aforementioned singles definitely rank up there and listeners have often ranked them within our weekly top 10. In addition to these pieces, as I've listened to the album many times, a few stand out and really attract my attention. "Justice" has a nice jazzy swing to it to go along with the grinding guitars and dance-friendly rhythms. Something we don't often hear from this band is the ballad-like piece "Forever and More" featuring beautiful female vocals taking the lead for this selection. Following immediately after is "Archangel" which is another moving piece featuring a mix of heavy male and siren-like female vocals alternating, building to a dynamic climax on each chorus. "Being Born" graces us in much the same way and the album is really diverse across several tracks until we get to "Silver Tongues" where we get back into the standard, edgy electro-goth sound with both male and female vocals taking the alternating lead.
The album wraps up in classic ISC style, while maybe not entirely trance-laiden, the mostly instrumental piece "She Came With Knives" wraps it up nicely at first through a haunting soundtrack sound that gives way to a subtle, mid-tempo trance-like ambient rhythm and soundscapes. The band has really nailed their tried and true style with excellent creativity, great talent and a nice diversity in the music for an excellent package.
Silver Bullets EP - Review
After the release of their powerful new album we have this, their second single release from the album. The disc features five different mixes of the title track as well as well as a few other bonus pieces all for another full package.
The title track itself is a very edgy piece that's quite dark in both the music and lyrics. So it's interesting how each of the different remixes of this piece are portrayed. We have the "Single Version" which is slightly shorter than the album version while the "Extended Version" is, well... extended. These two mixes are the most like the original while the "Club Mix" overall remains true to the original just bringing out the electronic elements more and loops and beats that make it easier to beatmix with other club tracks. This leaves the two more diverse remixes. "X-Fusion Remix" is definitely more electronic with a definite techno vibe and a lot of space synthpop elements woven through out. Besides Dennis harsh vocals the edge is definitely taken right out of this mix and makes the track accessible for most fans of the more melodic synthpop, trance and techno styles that this group has explored a bit in the past as well. The "Controlled Fusion Remix" also explores more of these predominantly electronic styles with a very long remix including various samples that bring it more into an electro-industrial or EBM style, stretching it out over six minutes long.
The first bonus comes in the form of the "Extended Version" of a previously released rare track "Rain". This piece originally appears on The Serpent's Kiss special 3-disc EP or a special 4-track DJ-promo. The style, including vocal structure, lyrics and music are all trademark ISC sounds. The clear, deep vocals are a bit less than flattering at the beginning, but once the mix all comes together we're right back into the sound we all love and enjoy. This dance-friendly piece and remix is an excellent addition to this disc, mixing well with their other pounding pieces. The remaining bonus pieces see the band take a slightly more somber turn with "No Refuge In The Night" and finally "Why Did I Lose My Faith". The first is more of a mid-tempo piece portraying the somber moods through a more minimal approach of electronics and subtle layers as the backdrop for the deep vocals. The latter is another spellbinding piece with Antje taking the lead with her haunting siren-like voice. Each of these pieces always end up as a favorite with her vocals layered over their dark electro sounds. All wrapped up together, this with the other edgy pieces makes a nice, diverse package for fans of different styles all over.
La Parade Monstrueuse - Review
After the anxious wait from the previous album and the time the excellent single My Despair was released, we're finally presented with another solid work from these talented artists. It seems that the precursor single remained true to form as the album is packed with excellent pieces along these same lines with edgy electro pieces. Eleven powerful pieces grace the standar edition while the limited contains a double disc featuring ten other extra tracks.
The "Intro" kicks off the album which is immediately followed by the album version of "My Despair" which has become an all-time favorite from this group as memorable as "Industrial Love" and "Forbidden Fruit" among others. "Silver Bullets" brings on the harder edge with the grinding guitars matching Dennis' vocals in roughness and intensity. From here it's a regular variation on their stellar styles from these harder-edged pieces to the softer sounds including the opposite in vocal style with the inclusion of a new female vocalist "Nina de Lianin" on "Set Me Free" which also contains some of the hardest guitars between verses. Though I enjoy this vocalist, it was with great relief to hear the familiar voice of Antje Schultz (from Chandeen) lending her vocals again on this album on the upbeat piece "This Is All" which has also become another favorite from this disc.
Something we don't hear a lot of with this band are soft ballads. However, on this disc we have a real treat with "Ewige Nacht" featuring beautiful piano and Dennis' vocals mixing surprisingly well. This rarity mixes well with the following piece which is a theatric approach on "Snow White" in dark gothic style through the lyrics and music that starts fairly laid back that slow picks up intensity for a powerful piece. As the album winds down in the last few tracks we have Antje's remarkable vocals offsetting the harshness once again in a club-friendly piece "I Surrender" and following on "Schwarzes Licht" which is another powerful and stellar piece. This brings us to the final piece which on previous albums I would have expected to be a long trance-like piece, but it seems they've left this behind on this album as it ends up being another powerful mid-tempo piece that fits in perfectly with the rest of the disc... bringing it to a close for another excellent, highly recommended album.
My Despair EP - Review
This is the great new single which is the precursor to the upcoming album that we're anxiously awaiting. This is a great EP with plenty of great material for fans to enjoy. It includes five different mixes of the title track along with a video and two excellent bonus selections.
The title track is impressive and at first listen I knew this was to be one of the best works to date from this talented group. It has the best mix of gothic and industrial, a grinding edge and somber moods. Dennis' trademark vocals lend something of a dark, but melodic approach to the lyrics, for a thought-provoking song. The "single version" is short, just over 3 minutes and has the more gothic edge. The "club mix" is driving and double the length with heavy beats moving the song along, coupled with extra electronic to create a pounding floor filler. The "Sono Remix" is a very experimental piece, removing the melodic elements, replacing the dark gothic sounds with experimental electronics and a bit of noiz. I'm sure there are experimental fans out there that may like this remix, but for me it was a distraction to the overall mood and contents of the album. The "Slowdive" mix is a downtempo piece that delves more into the lyrical content of the album, pealing back the layers of electronics and percussion to reveal the core of the song for people to enjoy. The "Extended Version" builds on the core of the original or single mix, still free from the extra layers of the club mix, but more moving and edgy than the downtempo version. Extended for a longer piece, more to enjoy of this excellent track.
The bonus tracks are worthy of being included on any In Strict Confidence album, definitely not extra or unwanted material. "Constant Flow" remains true to the driving, hard-edged gothic industrial crossover sound we've grown to love over the years. "Feeling" is reminiscent of other mid-tempo pieces from previous releases with ethereal female vocals for a dreamy effect and definitely a variation from the driving beats and grinding music.
That sums it up, a short but disc overflowing with great music all contained in these few pieces. The title track is excellent and makes me look forward to the full album to come out soon. Be sure to pick this up, it's a nice collector's item and must-have for any true fan.
Exile Paradise - Review
It's nice to know that about every year or two we can count on some great new material from this band and with each new release we can expect something new and different, yet remaining true to the classic style of In Strict Confidence. And so it is with this new album presenting more progressive electronics, melodic synthpop, harsh industrial and goth edges and a mix of Dennis' harsh vocals and Antje's siren-like voice. With a dozen tracks they vary from hard-hitting dance pieces to long, drawn-out ambient / trance and mid-tempo structures. All of this comes together in a perfect mix on this album as a treat for fans old and new.
The disc can be broken down many different ways. My personal preference is to listen to it from start to finish, letting the music envelop me and the lyrics provide their message through bits of fantasy, realism, philosophy, etc. This provides the best variety and an overall "whole" feeling to the album as it really seems to be mixed to be listened to from start to finish with some tracks mixing and fading right into the other. If you were to take it apart there basically three types of tracks, edgy mid-tempo pieces, club-friendly upbeat tracks and ambient pieces. Each of these provides some excellent variety to the album mixing in the vocal variations and different instruments.
The album begins and ends with short ambient pieces "The Harder They Come" and "The Harder They Fall" as a nice touch in their play on words which are also featured as lyrics in "Forbidden Fruit". After building up through this initial ambient soundscape "Promised Land" kicks off in full force as a catchy dance track which alternates between harsh male and beautiful female vocals. While with this album it's nearly impossible to pick out a favorite, this one stands out with it's moving rhythms and excellent sound and effects. This leads us to something of the most thematic and theatrical piece to the album, dwelling on the theme of a sort of Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden setting in "Forbidden Fruit". This piece is a solid structure moving over a slower beat and powerful, deep vocals. I recently visited the band's website and they have a video clip for this song up which is really awesome in it's visual interpretation of this song, be sure to check it out.
The tempo really moves on several tracks including the already mentioned "Promised Land" and along this same style is "Fading Light", it's different enough to be interesting but follows much of the same patterns, loops and vocal structure. "Wintermoon" is another piece that has become a favorite of mine with a slight gothic style in it's mystical and lyrical setting as the music lends a nice atmosphere matching this thematic approach. Really pouring on the edgy atmosphere and pounding beats for a solid EBM style is "Regicide". Each of these pieces could easily become club favorites providing their stomping beats and excellent music.
Once you get past these harder tracks the album starts to drift off into a more ethereal and trance-laiden style beginning with "Der Teufel". This piece starts off with beautiful angelic vocals and ambient soundscapes that build one thing on the other, first adding electronic loops, harsh, deep vocals and eventually more synths and a solid beat. While "Away From Here" is a moving piece, I feel it still fits perfectly with this group of ambient and ethereal pieces as only female vocals are present on this piece and they lend to a mystical and beautiful approach mixing german and english lyrics. At this point we're brought to the instrumental piece "In Favilla", while not as trance heavy as other pieces have been in the past, it still has that dreamy feeling, like more of an ambient piece with a choir of vocals mixed into the background over heavy guitars and electronic loops. This is also shorter than past instrumentals lasting only eight minutes. This brings us to the final song with vocals on the album in the form of "Something to Remember". Once again this is another excellent piece with harmonized male and female vocals adding a certain texture to the overall feel of the song. We're finally brought to the final piece of the album in the form of the dark ambient textures of "The Harder They Fall". This wraps up the album in what will be another solid item in any fans collection.
Holy - Review
When I received news of this latest release, I was pleasantly surprised, because it didn't seem like too long ago that we were presented with new singles and the previous album. But with so much music being released each week, time passes by quickly and here we are with something new and great.
Fans of this group will recognize from the very beginning the combination of grinding guitars with a number of dynamic electronic elements. A great variety is also present in this release with a few excellent guest musicians and a range of tempos and styles. "Eye of Heaven" has quickly become a highlight and favorite of mine on this album as it portrays this variety and the dynamics present so well. This heavy track brings out the dark and brooding nature of the deep vocals, guitars and solid beat in a mid-tempo fashion. Ion Javelyn appears as guest vocalist on "Seven Lives" which is another solid mid-tempo piece thus showing more of excellent strength provided in the foundation of this trio coupled with excellent guest appearances.
The real power of this music comes out in some of the more up-beat pieces such as the track "Closing Eyes" which also has alternating male and female vocals. The emotional intensity is turned up a notch with this track as well, adding more variety and making this a nice club-friendly selection as well. Taking this danceable style further with the siren-like vocals of Antje Schulz we're presented with "Emergency". "Another Night" is another track that is very dance-friendly but goes back to the heavy musical style with Dennis' deep vocals and layered synths.
So far we have some great mid-tempo tracks and the faster dance-friendly rhythms providing a great variety. There are many more of these on this album, but as with many previous works, also present on this album is a trance-like instrumental work lasting over thirteen minutes.
Overall this is a stellar album that has a bit of everything. Dreamy siren vocals, heavy and emotional elements that we've grown to love with this group and tons of extras. The only complaint I have and why I won't give this album a perfect rating is because of the questionable artwork included. Some of it is beautiful in many ways, but the fact that a nun is presented with her breasts hanging out of a corset in one way or another, I found it slightly disturbing, and I don't think I'm the only one in this scene that feels we could still do without this type of artwork included right on the front-cover of the album. But as for the music, the lyrics, vocals, production and all other facets, the album is wonderful.
USA Label: Metropolis Records