ALBUM: Darkest Night Ever
LABEL: Darkest Labyrinth
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
Italian duo Spectrum-X, now teamed up with guitarist Kiwamu of Japanese gothic rock band Blood, have crafted a concept album so over-the-top in its theatricality that fans will undoubtedly either love it or hate it. Between the unusual vocal styles, metal-inspired guitars, and an aesthetic that combines the malevolent child imagery of early Marilyn Manson, the science fiction horror of White Zombie, and the decadent Victorian fashion of the Japanese visual kei scene, there's little room for much of a middle ground. Creepy keyboards and church bells quickly establish a mood of old-fashioned spookiness on intro track "Darkest Night Ever," a mood that's continued on the Halloween-themed "Trick or Treat (We're Coming to Your Town)," which also uses the childlike vocals of keyboardist and singer CandyBones to add to the fairytale-gone-wrong atmosphere. More puzzling is "Gnomes Bones," an infectious if bizarre mixture of jackhammer beats, crunchy guitar chords, and vocals that alternate between CandyBones' nervous falsetto and drummer/vocalist Nullifer's bellowing. With its deceptively playful lyrics of pony-stealing imps combined with the sheer brutality of the music, it's hard to parse whether the song is laughable or legitimately frightening, nor is it ever quite clear which direction the band was even aiming for in the first place. Nullifer certainly sounds serious enough, adopting a baritone rasp that recalls Dave Mustaine, right down to the extended drawls that give two or three extra syllables to each vowel sound. About halfway through the album, instrumental track "Passage into the Future" signifies the transition between scary fairytale metal and futuristic horror film themes, starting off with violins and then bursting into techno beats and rapid synthesizer sequences. From here on out, the album is more of a straightforward industrial offering, with tracks like "Electrostatic Forms" and "Holograms of Sorrow" recalling Rob Zombie's work in both their imagery and their usage of heavy metal guitars riding a wave of jagged keyboards and programmed rhythms. With dual voices and a tendency to pair the most violent vocal moments with unexpectedly perky keyboard lines, though, Spectrum-X definitely manage their own unique take on the genre. Whether they'll gain a large following remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that once you've heard Spectrum-X, you won't soon forget them.
Visit the band's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/spectrumx for more information.
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