2nd to 3rd November 2019
Static Darkness 2019 Day 1 with Unquiet Dead, Jose Macabra, Accessory, Frozen Plasma, Agonoize
Does Slimelight need an introduction? For three decades this club night has provided the Gothic community with a home in London. Always held at Electrowerkz, otherwise known as The Islington Metal Works, the gritty nature of a once busy factory / warehouse is a marriage of convenience for Industrial, Goth and EBM music. It’s a slightly more sterile experience now - there is now fully fledged security, the remnants of Carsten Höller’s pop-up restaurant, a zero tolerance to drugs and even a strict “keep to gender specific toilets” ruling. But it’s still “Slimes”, long may it last.
Static Darkness is a new festival, this is its first year. The scene in London once supported several festivals, but now seems to have lost its urgency. Even walking around some of my old haunts around London such as Kensington High Street and (of course) Camden Market, there is a distinct lack of clothes shops catering for the scene. The team at Slimelight are known as having an extreme passion for the scene, and I presume this festival is to answer the faithful clan requests. We are not dead, merely the undead! Add this passion to the family type feel that still exists with all involved at Slimelight, I eagerly awaited this festival.
Consisting of Lora Maze (vocals, synths, programming) and Jason Kahl (guitar, bass, programming) and describing themselves as Garage Punk / Noise Rock / Alternative Rock. Whilst I wouldn’t disagree with much of that, I’d suggest a heavy dose of Industrial Goth - very energetic, loud and proud. Listening to their studio sound you’ll find a level of musicianship and production that is far beyond their own Garage description would suggest. There are two albums, the first (self-titled) is a little more raw than the polished second (‘Anima Ignis’). Great songs, fine melodies and hooks abound - encapsulated in a Red Bull - shaken and released. https://www.facebook.com/unquietdead / https://unquietdead.bandcamp.com/music
Music & Performance
I’d arrived a little later to the festival than I would have liked, and missed the first few minutes of the UNQUIET DEAD set. They were playing the ground floor stage, a smaller hall, but one I knew had easier light to photograph. It’s a crime when such talented bands open a festival, by that I mean so many people miss them. Upon entering I could see there was a crowd of around fifty people, the vast majority entirely “getting” the UNQUIET DEAD and thoroughly enjoying themselves. I could get to the front of the crowd quite easily, and as I had “Access All Areas”, I made my way to the stage steps. The energy this band manages to create is nothing short of outstanding, I looked back at the crowd, and imagined what mayhem the band could create with a bigger audience.
People were dancing, moving - no choice really - it’s an addictive and immersive full on performance. Lora’s voice will stand up to any of the great Goth female vocals through the decades, strong and powerful with just enough of those snarlish qualities as required. Her voice has such a depth, it can range from qualities similar to Emese Arvai-Illes (BLACK NAIL CABARET) right through to the punkish power of SIOUXSIE SIOUX -and everything in-between. As she powers through the songs, her visual performance is mesmerising, her beauty and stage presence jumps off the stage and screams “look at me, I’m the best thing you’ll experience tonight” - but then clicks into a momentary soulful, wistful gaze.
The only thing that takes any of the attention away from Lora is the powerhouse of energy that is Jason - if his energy could be bottled it would be an illegal substance. Every ounce of his energy pounds through those limbs, into those fingers - this guy can play like his posterior is being burnt from the flames of Satan. In the studio he can go from the bass playing subtlety of some of the great names, right through to the franticness of the greatest guitar players. All with the greatest of visual style, he is charismatic and forges himself a memorable experience within all that watch - somehow adding something different to the usual manic appeal of guitar player clichés. I walked away from the first band totally energised and ready for the two nights coming - thanks guys! A real highlight of the weekend.
01. Burn My Head Down
05. Puppet Strings
06. Pain Meds
07. Hardly Wait
08. Build a World worth Dying for
09. Cat People
Total: 7.9 / 10
The enigma that is JOSE MACABRA. Artist? Performer? Musician? Well, certainly all of them - and more. In his portfolio he has worked with H.R Giger, Lydia Lunch, performed at the Tate Gallery and rocked the foundations of underground and over-ground Techno parties. A Spanish native, he studied Sound Design at London College Of Communications, and found a place within the city’s electronic music scene. He describes his sounds as Teknoise and Electronic Ritual - his performances are purely improvised and have been known to last for hours. https://www.facebook.com/dirgeart/
Music & Performance
As I was settling into the festival, I quickly realised the logistics of covering two stages. This was the last I witnessed at the lower level secondary stage - I concentrated on the main stage from here. I sadly could only stay briefly. I had not heard of JOSE MACABRA until I saw the band list for Static Darkness. I managed to track down some listening material before the gig and was intrigued to see what would transpire. To be honest, after my few moments listening and taking pictures, I’m not sure. JOSE MACABRA was busy with his electronics, and it was very listenable - he was joined by Chadd Curry (Dahc Dermur VIII) who added some further drama to the proceedings.
The improvised soundscapes created were powerful and certainly absorbing - you felt yourself being drawn into the world of Jose’s performance. He has been quoted as saying “The only thing that isn’t a performance is death.” This sums up the Jose well, it’s blatantly obvious he lives for the performance.
Total: 6.9 / 10
These guys have been around for a quite some time, initially calling themselves VOICES OF DARKNESS but settling for ACCESSORY in 1996. Currently consisting of Dirk Steyer and Mike Koenigsberger they list diverse artists that have influenced them: CEPHALGY, LEAETHER STRIP, JOHNNY CASH and FRONT LINR ASSEMBLY. They have forged their own sound within the scene, yes it can be classed as somewhere between EBM and Industrial, but with vocal samples, impulsive beats and fine melodies they do stand out from the crowd. https://www.facebook.com/accessorymusic /https://infactedrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/elektrik
Music & Performance
I’ve not seen ACCESSORY play live before, so as I make my way to the main stage I am quite excitable. The set had started when I arrived, I could hear the characteristic powerhouse electronics and pounding beats. My place for taking images was either fight through the crowds, which I did, but I settled mainly from the stage. I mention this as once on the stage I hear the sounds through the monitors, not the more powerful stage speakers. Once in place on the stage, to take images, it was obvious Dirk is a frantic performer, the energy he manages to get through as he powers through his performance is awe inspiring. He’s quite a tall chap and manages to explode with energy without hitting the low ceiling on this stage - only Dirk and Rascal from ROTERSAND (on the second night of the festival) worried me, but both could touch the ceiling whilst standing and reaching.
Dirk grabs a large flag with the ACCESSORY logo, on two occasions throughout the gig, waving it feverishly in large swoops - both occasions causing me to duck for cover. Mike is positioned towards the back of the stage, with Dirk taking the pole position in front. Mike is a busy guy tonight, I watch as he whizzes around his electronics. The sound from the stage monitors is punchy, but I needed to hear what these guys were producing to the crowd. Battling my way through the energetic crowd, I could hear the very different sound - pounding beats, very pounding / crisp sounds, very crisp. Dirk spends a lot of the set leaning from the stage, singing into the crowd, at times I imaged he doesn’t need the microphone - I heard how powerful he is from the stage without the higher amplification.
I take more images, and as I leave, he sprays the remains of his bottled water into the crowd as he spins. This is one performer that gets into the moment. Some suggestive lyrics from Ruff Fuxx adds even more of an enthusiastic buzz from the crowd, the atmosphere so early in the festival was electric. Whether it was due to my late arrival, or because I enjoyed the set so much, it seemed to end so quickly. I went to the stage afterwards and grabbed what I thought was the set list, only to find later it was Dirks lyric sheets for Mr. Fukker. He must have some memory issues with the lyrics for this new song. Thankfully Mike is a very friendly guy and brought me the set list later in the night.
01. Live Intro
02. No Man Covers
03. Ship of Fools
04. Tanzrichtung Vorwärts
05. Mr Fukker
07. Too Young to Die
08. Keen Girl
09. She Says it Feels Good
10. Ruff Fuxx
11. Outrun the Gun
12. Shout it Out - Pysca Mix
Total: 7.6 / 10
Formed in 2005, this band has an impressive heritage. Felix Marc has played keys and performed live backing vocals for DIORAMA and keyboarder and songwriter Vasi Vallis is from NAMNAMBULU. They met during a VNV NATION tour where DIORAMA supported - Vasi was playing keys for VNV NATION. They list 80’s synthpop bands being their greatest influence, but also dance music legends such as TIESTO and ARMIN VAN BUUREN. Vasi always manages to produce some fantastic melodies and meaningful lyrics, Felix has a voice of subtlety and emotion - it was bound to gel well, and it did.
https://www.facebook.com/FrozenPlasma / http://www.felixmarc.de
Music & Performance
I was determined not to arrive late for FROZEN PLASMA! There I was, waiting for them to arrive on stage, at the front with the crowd. As they entered the stage I was ready for a party - and so it seemed was the crowd around me, a loud cheer erupts to greet them. Their trademark sound fills the venue, it sounds so good! Well it did, it appears the gremlins were planning on making an appearance this evening- the sound from the bank of electronics in the direction of Vasi decided they didn’t want to play. Silence, except for the crowd filling the void. As Felix and Vasi look at each other, and stagehands bounce onto the stage to find and fix the fault, Felix bites the bullet and erupts into a solo song - yes, his microphone was still working.
A total professional, but still finding humour in the moment, he sounds truly amazing, his lone vocal filling the venue. Live music at its best, the impromptu inclusion of hearing Felix and his lonely, melancholic voice - such a treat. The issue solved, the electronics now power the crowd into a rhythmic pulsating mass, and off we go again! I stay with the crowd for three songs, then move to my stage position to take images, I miss the power of the front of house speaker system, but there are some added bonuses of getting so close to the performance. These performers put their heart and soul into what they are doing that night, and I see it from a metre or two away - fantastic.
Song after song, the crowd are enticed into the bands realm, this is party time! When they reach their cover of TRANS-X’s ‘Living on Video’ never did a song feel so fitting for the moment, the band and crowd were in a unison of movement - fantastic atmosphere, the energy created was hot! There were no more technical issues (for that night, see my review of Reaper the next night) and by any measure of success this gig was a triumph of showmanship. Could AGONOIZE keep this feeling going? I suspected the promoters had chosen their bands wisely
Total: 7.8 / 10
The godfathers of Hellectro, otherwise known as Aggrotech, AGONOIZE was born in 2002 and are the self-titled “Germanys most extreme electro act”. They are huge floor fillers on worldwide dark dancefloors and provide an exciting and unique live show - with the motto “there is blood on the floor”. Band members are listed as Chris L., Olli Senger, and Mike Johnson (2003-2011). I am not a huge fan, and have taken this listing from their Facebook page; Wikipedia only lists Chris L. as current member. Chris L. is also currently the lead singer for FUNKER VOGT. They have an aggressive purely synthesized sound, no guitars, mixed with techno style beats - the vocals are heavily distorted. https://www.facebook.com/AgonoizeOfficial
Music & Performance
As I’ve already made comment above, that I’m not a huge fan, it’s not difficult to understand that I wasn’t entirely excitable about tonight’s headliners. I’ve seen them live before and know and thoroughly respect their show - it’s certainly an unforgettable experience. But I’ve never really “got them” as a studio band - strange as I am a big fan of FUNKER VOGT. As they entered the stage I bowed to their superb showmanship - their persona, their outfits, and their make-up. They look the part and being so close up (I was on the stage with them) it almost seems a little intimidating - they are hyped-up and completely in part. I’d spent a little time around them back-stage, and the difference as I watched these “extras from the deepest, darkest pit of Hellraiser” stalking the crowd - it was an extreme contrast.
I took some images as they settled into their positions on keyboard and drums (standing) - and of course Chris with his microphone and infamous blood-filled jacket. Then I battled my way into a very volatile crowd (was that just my imagination, the bands aggression surely didn’t seep into the crowd?) - not nasty volatile, there was no feeling of violence I hasten to add. Knowing the band’s love of spraying the audience with fake blood I spent a short time in the crowd taking pictures, I didn’t see any benefit of my cameras being blood splattered. One song, then I resumed sharing the stage with these snarling and growling creatures of the nastiest part of the human mind. It’s worth mentioning that even from the relatively blood free safety of the stage, both myself and cameras were liberally covered in blood!
Throughout the performance a large knife is produced by Chris, and various slashes to his body result in gashes, splatters and high pressure sprays of the reddest of red blood. The crowd holds their hands up, they are laughing, smiling urging more blood. They are covered, from the stage I can see the first few rows are now covered in red blood - after the gig I could see people with red stains on their faces and arms. As I look back at the band, with the pure athleticism of the drummer, to the Mohawked grimacing keyboard player - this is a band that smacks you visually right in-between the eyes.
So, what about the music? Well, from a relatively unappreciative reviewer - absolutely fantastic! I’m not sure what happened to me, in all honesty. I got entirely lost in the performance! The greatest accolade a reviewer can give when they are not particularly a fan. The vocals are bellowed, roared and barked - electronically distorted. The power of the drummer outshines, every time he hit the searing cymbals I thought my ears would burst. I was stood next to the keyboard player, taking images, his playing was blistering - these creatures melted into one and made the loudest noise humanly possible. Fantastic! I think I’ll be adding some AGONOIZE to my CD collection to sit alongside FUNKER VOGT. I’m converted and bow to the church of Hellectro!
Total: 8 / 10
All pictures by photographer Kevin Stevens (Coast to Coast Image Works)