ALBUM: The Grey Line
LABEL: COP International
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
Kai Arnold is a busy guy. In the past six years or so, he not only started the X-Cem Music label, he also founded or co-founded no less than three music projects of his own. His main sonic outlet, Wynardtage, has released six CDs since 2005 alone. With such prodigious quantity, you could forgive him if there was a slip in quality, but thankfully that's not the case. Wynardtage's latest album is a near-masterpiece, achieving a depth and beauty that seldom appears in the club-oriented EBM scene. While the first few tracks are fairly standard terror EBM offerings, full of fast kicks and distorted vocals, there's a strange delicacy to "Mask" and "Tragic Hero" that belies their more aggressive tendencies, an undercurrent of sorrow beneath the distorted screeches and pounding bass. Things move further toward moody contemplation on the slower breakbeats and melancholy pianos of "The Frozen Point" and the hopeless whispers of "Leaving," and female guest vocals from regular DavaNtage collaborator Melanie G. imbue "Now We Are Alive" and title track "The Grey Line" with a mood better suited for dark thought than dance floor aggression. The most affecting song here, however, is the morbidly titled "In Death a Tale," a downtempo electro piece that contrasts Arnold's thickly processed whispers with rich, depressive layers of synth for a result that's emotive despite its seeming coldness. If Arnold doesn't pander to the dance crowd, neither does he ignore it, and this album features three bonus remixes, with Echorausch providing a more standard EBM mix of "The Frozen Point" that ditches the pianos and Yendri providing a comparatively upbeat mix of "The Grey Line," a track that in its original form bears more than a passing resemblance to the work of Yendri herself. Already a scene fixture in his native Germany, Arnold is becoming better-known in North America, and hopefully COP International's U.S. edition of his latest album will bring in plenty of new fans. Thanks to Arnold's solid rhythm programming and thoughtful songwriting, this is an album that's equally haunting on and off the dance floor, and fans of such artists as Hocico, yelworC, and :Wumpscut: are strongly urged to check it out.
For more information on Wynardtage and Kai Arnold, visit www.wynardtage.de.
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