Nazxul - Totem (1995)

Track listing:

1. Totem
2. Watching and Withering
3. I Awaken (Amongst Them)
4. Unearthed
5. Vermis Mysteriis
6. Hatred
7. Endless Reign of Power
8. Distance Begins
9. Amidst the Flames
10. End
11. Eternum

Nazxul is a black metal band from Australia. Since its inception, this band has been shrouded in secrecy. Their releases are few and far between, with Totem being their only full-length offering to date.

Nazxul's musical style reminds of early Emperor taken to a new level of extreme aggression. Their musical style incporates intricate guitar and keyboard melodies with thrashier, more aggressive sections and distorted, evil vocals. The vocals are of particular interest, a seemingly endless array of sinister whispers and inhuman growling.

Well-suited for such an obscure project, Nazxul's lyrics touch on occult and mystical themes. The album's title track is a good example of their lyrical vision:

The seal of wonder
The mark in blood
The one true symbol
Of everlasting fear

They will find it, they will fear it
The mighty mark
In bloody merciless madness

Thy mark, my mark
The winds will speak, when the storms die

Throughout the album, Morelli and Mitchell create some truly memorable riffs and melodies, with bassist Adrian Henderson fortifying their efforts with a solid backbone. Henderson also provides tasteful, intelligent keyboards that add another dimension to the album. Backovic's vocals seem to know no bounds, assaulting the listener from every angle.

While the entire album is powerful and consistent, "I Awaken (Amongst Them)" and "Distance Begins" strike me as being particularly ferocious and powerful examples of Nazxul's musical vision. The album closes with a long interlude consisting of a recording of a thunderstorm, but Nazxul treats their fans to a new recording of "Hymn of a Dying Moon" from their demo before dissolving back into the shadows. Totem comes heavily recommended to fans of intelligent, complex black metal bands such as Abigor and Lunar Aurora, although most fans of extreme metal will find something to enjoy here.

The World of Skin - Ten Songs for Another World (1990)

Track listing:
1. Please Remember Me
2. Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes
3. The Child's Right
4. Everything for Maria
5. I'll Go There, Take Me Home
6. Black Eyed Dog
7. A Parasite and Other Memories
8. Dream Dream
9. You'll Never Forget
10. Mystery of Faith

The World of Skin was the project of the core members of Swans, Michael Gira and Jarboe. Originally going by the name Skin, this project was conceived in the 1980's to record two albums, one each to showcase the strengths and singing of Gira and Jarboe respectively. Ten Songs for Another World gives us a new take on this approach, with Gira and Jarboe instead taking turns singing.

Dominated primarily by acoustic instruments, this album is a continuation of the musical style found on the first two Skin albums. Having always shown an ability to adapt and combine different musical ideas, Gira and Jarboe come up with a unique blend of acoustic folk music and the post-punk soundscapes of Swans. This album has a very intimate feeling, although the warm sound often contrasts with the often dark lyrics and vocal performances.

Gira brings along his refined baritone singing and provides some very memorable and moody pieces, with "A Parasite and Other Memories" being a favorite of mine. One of many songs that deal with unsavory people who have earned a bit of personal dislike from Michael Gira, the lyrics absolutely seep with bile:

Now you imitate and you vulgarize
Everything you'll never be
And you're rewarded by the crowd for your fake and ugly mediocrity
So go, fat parasite, go
But be sure to be obscene
Go lick the poison from your fat fingers
And suck your purple money clean

And you who were so careful
Not to every really cross the line
Your violence was insipid
And your bliss, it was plagiarized
So go, you never knew me, go
Be sure to make the scene
Go mistake me for a fool
Now your memory's forever tainted to me

Gira is at his most morose, also performing excellently on the great "Please Remember Me" and "You'll Never Forget." His vocal style is particularly suited to this style of music, and he would continue to explore intimate folk music in his later work, including The Angels of Light.

Jarboe is her usual twisted self, singing songs as diverse as the beautiful "Everything for Maria" and a disturbing freak folk take on Nick Drake's "Black Eyed Dog." The last song on the album is "Everything for Maria," which is my favorite Jarboe contribution to the album and a wonderful way to end such a diverse and haunting work of art.

Gira and Jarboe unsurprisingly succeeded once again in evolving as musicians and creating a new and unique album that is worthy of being including in the Swans-related project back catalogue. This often overlooked album comes totally recommended to any fans of Swans, Michael Gira or Jarboe's work, or open-minded listeners who are looking for an intimate album that evokes a wide variety of feelings.


Rome - Masse Mensch Material (2008)

Track listing:

1. Sonnengötter
2. Der Brandtaucher
3. Das Feuerordal
4. Der Tote Spielmann
5. Wir Götter Der Stadt
6. Die Nelke
7. Der Erscheinungen Flucht
8. Die Brandstifter
9. Kriegsgötter
10. Wir Moorsoldaten
11. Neue Erinnerung
12. Nachtklang

Rome is a Luxembourgian project that blends influences from neofolk, martial industrial and other musical styles together. Rome is the project of Jerome Reuter, although Patrick Damiani also contributes ideas and is now considered a full member of the project. Rome's music is intelligent and meticulously arranged, displaying a level of intricacy not usually seen in modern music. Unlike some other acts in the neofolk and martial music scene, Rome proudly displays the phrase "MAKE ART - NOT WAR" on their MySpace.

Masse Mensch Material is a work of immense craftsmanship and vision. Reuter's passionate, commanding vocals and lyrics combine with acoustic folk music and influences from martial industrial and military pop. "Der Brandtaucher" and "Kriegsgötter" showcase a heavy martial influence, while "Das Feuerordal" and "Neue Erinnerung" are beautiful songs based around acoustic guitar. The music is textured and immersive, sometimes accentuated by samples from movies or other sources. The lyrics touch on a variety of subjects, such as love, politics, war and betrayal, sometimes covering more than one of these subjects in the same song:

Our cause so sweet and bitter
Has lost its hard blood glitter
It remains afloat on the waves
When anger fills our sails
Mutinous for the space of a second
You prayed and feared and beckoned
Now your heart is pounding away
Just like mine

Should I accept this out of kindness?
Should I reject it out of shyness?
Your sleep is stabbed by dreams
Just like mine
Should I accept this out of kindness?
Should I reject it out of shyness?
Your gift so pure and sweet
Unlike mine

Reuter's voice often reminds of Nick Cave, although he also provides an obvious homage to Tom Waits' on "Die Brandstifter." Although he sometimes seems to channel the spirit of these legendary singer-songwriters, his voice still manages to be as distinct as his musical vision.

This album comes together as a nearly flawless statement from a powerful musical project. It's rare to see this level of care and commitment to creating a cohesive work of art. The real beauty of Masse Mensch Material lies not in the strength of the individual compositions, but in the way they fit together to create a complete whole. Fans of Death in June, later Swans and Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio will most likely find this album refreshing and memorable.

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

Track listing:
1. Disorder
2. Day of the Lords
3. Candidate
4. Insight
5. New Dawn Fades
6. She's Lost Control
7. Shadowplay
8. Wilderness
9. Interzone
10. I Remember Nothing

In the late 1970's, Joy Division stood out from nearly every other band recording music. Emerging from the UK punk scene, Joy Division, along with other pioneering acts such as Public Image Ltd. and Magazine, played a style of music that was not punk rock, although it was heavily inspired by punk's energy and ethics. This new music was branded as post-punk. Unlike the punk rockers, post-punk bands were not afraid to experiment with more complex and unusual song structures and elements from other styles of music.

Joy Division's music is a landscape built upon the foundations of Peter Hook's driving basslines interwoven with Bernard Sumner's sparse, metallic guitar structures and Stephen Morris' mechanically precise drum patterns. Coupled with the brilliant production of Martin Hannet, this provides a suitable backdrop for Ian Curstis' haunting vocals and rambling, introspective lyrics. Curtis' often rambling, deeply personal lyrics give us a unique look into his mind as he progressed into the depression that would lead him to commit suicide just a few years later.

Unknown Pleasures is something of an enigma. The album cover is deliberately unusual, containing an image from a chart displaying 100 successive pulses from the first know pulsar, PSR B1919+2. There is absolutely no tracklisting on the outside of the packaging, merely a blank table where one would be expected. Peter Saville and Christ Mathan managed to get it right, creating a distinct cover for a distinct piece of music.

Everything on this album is crisp and clear, with Hannet's production work allowing everything to be surprisingly spacious while still sounding powerful and intimate when necessary. The tight, groovy basslines and harsh, icy guitars work really well in this setting. Hannet always paid special attention to the drum tracks, ensuring that they were laid down as clean and precise as possible. The band makes wonderful use of the brilliant production, interspersing upbeat, punky numbers like "Disorder" and "Interzone" with somber, almost gothic songs such as "Candidate" and "I Remember Nothing."

"New Dawn Fades" is perhaps a standout track for me, with its haunting introduction and powerful, moving vocals from Curtis. In retrospect, the lyrics are particularly chilling:

A change of speed, a change of style
A change of scene, with no regrets
A chance to watch, admire the distance
Still occupied, though you forget
Different colors, different shades
Over each mistakes were made
I took the blame
Directionless, so plain to see
A loaded gun won't set you free
So you say...

Along with this, the album contains other certifiable classics such as "Shadowplay" and "She's Lost Control," the latter song telling the story of a woman who is plagued by fits of epilepsy similar to those suffered by Curtis himself. Hindsight only makes Ian Curtis' story surprisingly obvious and all the more tragic.

Joy Division was never afraid to explore new territory, and Curtis gave them the charm and sincere honesty that earned them their place among legends. This album is absolutely essential, and a monument to innovation in music. Despite the band's lifespan being relatively short, their impact on music is still felt even today.


This blog exists as a place for me to review albums that I feel are worthy of attention. There will be no negative reviews here, and no ratings. Everything that I review here is considered by me to be worthwhile and essential listening. I try to include band info and lyrics in my reviews when applicable, as I feel that these are important parts of getting to know a band and their music. Feel free to comment on any of my reviews or contact me if you'd like me to review specific albums.