was formed in 1999 and is the project of the Portland duo Zsephyr Lyre (guitars, vocals, sequencing) and Marco Macabre (drums, programming, harmonic vocals). Over the space of the next six years they released two full-length albums, one single and contributed to a couple of compilations. In 2006 they started working on their third album which was released in 2008 under the name All For Not
. They continued to work hard and have released yet another album in the summer of 2011 as Gilded Thralls
. As well as being active in the studio, the band plays live as much as possible and were invited to perform at a few festivals including THE DROP DEAD FEST in New York, the Salt Lake City Dark Arts Festival and others and they continue to play many local and regional shows.
The music from this band is extremely hard to describe. They delve into the dark, eerie goth of the 90's and span the genre from one end of the spectrum to the other similar to Switchblade Symphony
in the days of Serpentine Gallery
throughout the span of their career including some crunching, guitar driven tracks and ranging to the introspective ethereal soundscapes. They capitalize on the unique and spookey nature of things, putting together harmonies that would make the classically trained music oficionado cringe. Somehow it's all wrong, the way they put things together, the electronic loops, drum sequences, guitar riffs and haunting, sinister, harmonized vocals, but in the end it all works for a real delight.
With their history and their various releases over the years, this band has a good past and a promising future, if they can keep their sound unique and stay true to their style. We will watch for more to come from this duo in the future. In the meantime be sure to check out selections on the Gothic Paradise radio shows.
Gilded Thralls - Review
Here we have the latest album from this duo, making it their fourth album in their career.
As we'll point out in more detail below, they've managed to stay true to their unique style that is the true strength of the gothic-related genres. The album comes in standard jewel case with a fold-out booklet containing artwork, lyrics, credits and a band photo. The music is draped across eight original tracks and four additional remixes for a dozen gothic gems.
We start off slow and brooding with "Into the Land" and Lyre's sinister-sounding vocals slowly taking the lead over the somber, slow beat as we trudge along through this piece. Lyre's eerie vocals take it up a step on "Orpheus' Lament" showing a little bit more of her strength allowing her true vocals to shine a bit more. This is a nice mix over the percussion-heavy pieces as we move along through this selection and throughout much of the rest of the disc. The eerie guitar moves along slowly and just giving a subtle, dark vibe while the percussion and Lyre's vocals remain the focus for much of the album.
There are definitely some favorite pieces on this disc though this really is a great album in it's entirety. The already mentioned somber moods of "Into the Land" are great for those dark and peaceful, yet haunting evenings. "Fusillade" is a definite favorite as the vocals come out with a hypnotic pattern, a really catchy melody over the eerie guitar and a litle more subtle percussion, that still moves the piece along nicely. This piece really shines later as well with the alternate remix by Ashkelon Sain, which stays quite true to the original, however it seems everything just comes out with a rich and full sound, added bass, a bit of distortion, the percussion takes a back seat throughout much of the haunting vocal refrain. "My Poor Nora" stands out with a little more of a moving beat, while still remaining as dark and brooding as ever. As the album moves on a bit we have "Goldfish Tree" which sees Marco taking the lead on the vocals for a bit of variety and the music remains steady and true with a mix of subtle electronics, a mix of guitar and the persistent percussion.
The remixes on this album are well done, they provide a great alternate version of the four tracks featured, some taking on a bit of a different style such as "Orpheus' Lament" with a definite futuristic electronica vibe, or "Stumbling Giant" with it's dark ambient, experimental remix. The aforementioned remix of "Fusillade" is a favorite and the heavy hitting remix of "High Treason" gives it a feeling of old-school martial industrial meets experimental goth.
Hopefully the explanations above will make sense to the average reader, it's hard to explain as this music is unique, yet something that most fans of the unique gothic sub-culture has to offer.
Procession of Spectres - Review
When I first checked out a sample from this band I was interested in the way the sound was so eerie, yet it all stemmed back to some of my favorite goth music from the early to mid-90's when it seemed the scene was at a climax. It was strange enough that I had to listen to several samples various times before I decided to seriously check them out and pick up this album.
Now that I have it in my hands and in my collection I don't regret it. It's by no means perfect, but breaks out of the current mold of cookie-cutter EBM, punk-sound-alikes and over-the-top angry and rude industrial. The music hearkens back to an age when shock wasn't really the object, but more of a result of heart and soul being put into the music without being overly offensive.
As the album starts, the first two songs "Get Realeyesed" and "Evolution Revolution" are almost turn offs with the throbbing electronics and industrial distortion in the vocals and mixed electronics. But it tends to grow on you like most of this album through the pulsating noise and rhythms. However, from the first time I heard it I was intrigued by "Mortal Clay" with it's trite intro of "row, row, row your boat" that fades into the creepy, yet moving composition and Lyre's vocals really start to come out on this track from the harsh to the sweet and haunting (a la Tina Root of Switchblade Symphony
). As I've been researching and reading up on other thoughts on this album it appears people enjoy the remix of this track for the club scene, but I would submit that the original far outperforms and is much more superb than the remix which I could discard as not very interesting and not worthy of belonging on this album.
There is so much haunting music and great variety, such as "The Tower" which ends up being mostly instrumental, almost dark ambient, but it keeps enough eerie vocals, guitars and other goth related elements to keep it very interesting. "Trench of My Quietus" remains somber and moody with more actual singing and slow, moving beats that drift and meander aimlessly along, but has an underlying beauty that will keep the listener's attention. While we're on the theme of haunting ethereal and ambient pieces, my favorite has quickly become the short piece "Snow Globe" which includes vocal soundscapes which become their own instrument ebbing along the underlying current of this song.
Unique pieces abound as you can tell just through what has been described so far, but then you get into "The End", "Circles" and "Big Crunch" and the listener realizes this is no typical rock group. They by no means show any great raw classical talent, they're rough, most likely untrained, but they have developed an ear for putting it all together on this album with some guitar, various electronics, moving beats and a combination of vocals with a dynamic range of styles and octaves. The remixes aren't even worth mentioning, the original music this band puts together on the eleven tracks preceding the remixes is enough to warrant picking up the album, the rest is just gravy that the listener can choose to enjoy or discard at their leisure. For me this band has a great sound that I hope to hear more of on future albums real soon.
Salt Lake City Dark Arts Performance
I had the chance of meeting up with Lyre and Marco at the Salt Lake City Dark Arts Festival on June 9, 2007. This band was one of the highlights of the festival for me and one that I was excited to see from the first time I found out they were coming. Although they weren't jumping all over the stage and didn't have the audience doing the same, they put on a stellar performance in their unique way that is hard to describe. Marco sat at his electronic drum set with a keyboard and sequencer next to him as he worked all three "instruments" to perfection and also took his turn on vocals from time to time. Lyre took her place behind her microphone with her guitar as she switched between different distortions, alternating between her two vocal styles of sinister to trite and sweet. The mood was awesome as they performed most of my favorite pieces from Processsion of Spectres
with "Mortal Clay", "Circles" and others, including some new pieces I hadn't heard before, one in a waltz (3/4 time) piece and another sung in italian with her beautiful operatic voice. My only disappointment was that they didn't perform "The Grail", maybe it's not the best song for a festival like this especially since they were following a high-energy performance that Tragic Black
gave, so maybe another time.
Before and after the show I had a chance to speak with Marco and Lyre about a number of things, focusing mainly on their music and life. After some brief introductions we were off and talking as if we had been friends for years and this was just a reunion of old friends having not seen each other for a while. The band was excited to be at the festival as I was happy that they were chosen to play and had been looking forward to seeing them for quite some time. Talking with each of them I found that they had a lot of knowledge about music and everything it takes to put it together. The band informed me that they were working on new material and had about half of it written. When asked if they had anything recorded yet, they explained that they were waiting until it's all written and ready before they recorded anything because they wanted this next album to be much more cohesive than the last.The previous album was recorded at several different times and thus there was a little bit of disparity between the tracks that they didn't want to have with their next work.
After they had performed we got together again and chatted for a while about the performance. Marco showed me his blistered hands from playing the drums, which didn't surprise me as well and as much as he played, it wasn't just a simple four-on-the-floor beat, but was often quite complex, changing time and tempo and a mixture of using all drum pads. When I first heard Lyre speak I was surprised at how trite her voice was, and it's very surprising to see how petite she is with that voice and then on stage see her alter-ego come out as she would alternate between sinister and angelic vocals. Afterwards I commented to her about that as well and she mentioned that it's her "oppression" from being the small, picked-on little girl coming out as her alter-ego on these tracks. I thought that was very well put and find that music is a great outlet for all of our varied emotions.
After sharing this experience with the band and talking with them about everything from music to life and more music, by the end of the night it was hard to say good-bye to these two as they became more than just another band that passed through town, but another great couple of friends that we look forward to hearing from and seeing more of in the future.