Wednesday, 25th April 2018. 12:49:05am ET
Reviews CD Reviews Gothic Black Tape for a Blue Girl- Halo Star


Artist: Black Tape for a Blue Girl
CD Title: Halo Star
Label: Projekt
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 8/12/04

2004 seems to have spawned something of a rebirth of organic alternative rock. Artist after artist is reaching back to his or her early rock roots and stripping down to guitar-centered, raw alternative rock. Now, unlikely as it may seem, ethereal icons Black Tape for a Blue Girl have timidly put one foot on the bandwagon with Halo Star. Granted, Black Tape's rock roots hang somewhere around the airy gothic folk they previously explored in the 80s on Mesmerized by the Sirens and Ashes in the Brittle Air, but this album is decidedly more organic, guitar-oriented, and mainstream than their other recent offerings.

Cornerstone Sam Rosenthal's trademark analog synth tinkering is still a fundamental element but often plays a secondary role to acoustic rhythm guitar rather than providing a musical foundation or framework. While female vocals, which were featured prominently on other recent releases, are still present, Halo Star sort of tips the scales and places more emphasis on male vocals courtesy of Audra's Brett Helm. The occasional tribal/traditional percussion is a nice addition to the band's sound, although the album's rhythm rarely if ever "hammers in dangerous nails" as an apparent quote from critic Mick Mercer proudly used in the accompanying press release would have you believe. Other familiar elements can be found to varying degrees, including the occasional flute or string lead, but the band's overall sonic formula has sort of been reworked into something that both recalls the band's early albums and, at times, takes things in a new direction altogether.

The decidedly eastern vibe, snaking string lead, and prominent percussion of "Tarnished" (as well as it's short intro, "Glow") make it an immediate standout that proves to be one of the album's best tracks, albeit not a particularly good example of the album's overall sound. "The Gravedigger" slightly veers into Nick Cave or even Bowie territory for a killer acoustic rhythm guitar and vocal ballad with nice flute and percussion accents. "Scarecrow", another of the disc's standouts, wraps a similar formula inside a far more layered rhythmic acoustic rock shell accented by fairly powerful synth sections that grow in volume and intensity as the song progresses. The largely synth-based "Indefinable, yet" (boasting some of the best flute melodies ever to grace a Black Tape album), "Already Forgotten", "Dagger", and "Halo Star" are perhaps the most akin to the band's output over the last decade or so. On the other side of the spectrum, the whimsical "Knock Three Times" is, as far as I can recall, unlike anything Rosenthal has ever done, with a sonic vibe reminiscent of The Cure's "The Lovecats" and (hopefully) tongue-in-cheek goth lyrics that could have easily been penned by Voltaire. The other songs on the album fall somewhere in between and, while not particularly noteworthy, do little to detract from what is an exceptionally solid set.

While it's often a departure from the fairly consistent introspective, intimate side Rosenthal and company have explored throughout the last 15 or 20 years, Halo Star showcases an interesting and ultimately successful sonic evolution. It's an album that's both more stylistically diverse and more accessible than much of their recent catalog but still retains enough "classic Black Tape" material to please fans of their more ethereal side. Whether you're a long-time fan or a curious newcomer, you'll find a solid album that is arguably one of the most interesting offerings the band has released to date.

 


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