Dawn Of Ashes: 'Hollywood Made in Gehenna' – Album Review

Photos by Eric Angel

Ever since extreme horror-metal band Dawn Of Ashes made our best-of-2010 list for their grotesque Lovecraftian nightmare video "Transformation Within Fictional Mutation," featuring monster and gore FX by Robert Kurtzman's Creature Corps, we've been keeping watch on their progress (from a safe distance – these cats are kinda dangerous). Now founder/frontman Kristof Bathory and his creepy crew have joined forces with heavy-beat artists Falling Skies to produce a split digital album comprised of nine corrosive cuts. Hollywood Made in Gehenna is available now, and I've got a review waiting for you on the flipside, along with two versions of the title track...

Kristof, who takes his horror persona very seriously (check out our interview with him here), describes Hollywood Made in Gehenna as a musical document of his own experiences in the City of Angels – which, as you can probably imagine, turned out to be anything but angelic. "The word Gehenna comes from the Hebrew bible, [describing] a place in Hell where all the filth and trash ends up," Bathory explains, "and that is how I look at Hollywood. From my sexual experiences with whorish females, to the low lives, the depressing drug addicts, the fake musicians, the mentally deranged homeless creatures that wander the streets... I am basically using Gehenna as a metaphor towards the way I look at Hollywood." Needless to say, the result is a grim, violent exercise... and pretty awesome, I gotta say.

Although Dawn Of Ashes rebuilt themselves as an extreme metal band, they have not abandoned their origins as a "Terror EBM" outfit with a strong cult following, and they often return to their roots to update their early industrial tracks while also revisiting cuts from their debut metal album Genocide Chapters in order to incorporate more electronic elements. For this latest cross-genre experiment, the band teamed up with LA-based electro duo Falling Skies, who come from a background of drum 'n' bass, breakbeat and other club-friendly styles, so this album represents yet another bridge between Dawn Of Ashes' old and new incarnations – much like the EP Farewell to the Flesh, but with much more emphasis on the danceable elements.

Dawn Of Ashes supply the first five tracks, beginning appropriately enough with "The Dawn of Ashes (Reincarnation In Blood)," a creepy gothic instrumental cut featuring doomy bells, sledgehammer kicks and swelling choirs, followed by the twisty title track, which blends Nine Inch Nails-style industrial beats and atmospheres with big, boisterous guitar riffs; Bathory's lecherous vocals recall early Marilyn Manson and UK industrial icon Raymond "PIG" Watts. Experimental rock meets industrial metal in the sweetly-named "Fuck Like You're in Hell," which continues the previous song's lyrical themes of lust and hate. The band's EBM past surfaces in "Further Into the Abyss," which blends down-tempo breaks with sweeping synth pads and horror movie soundbites, reminiscent of early-period Velvet Acid Christ, before ripping into dirty, drop-tuned industrial riffs and drums. DOA round out their half with a chilling, cosmic remix of Falling Skies' electro track "Synthetic 341 B," infusing the buzzy bass lines with crunchy, nasty-ass riffs.

Falling Skies take the wheel from here on out, beginning with their own version of "Synthetic 341 B," which has a dark sci-fi feel, propelled by frantic drum 'n' bass, shifting tempos into glitchy chaos and an explosion of furious loops. Next up is "The Creature," a huge-sounding piece with glassy synth chords, chopped-up beat loops and hellish, ground-pounding bass. Kristof supplies the title lyric (of course) for "I Fucking Hate You," a neck-snapping bullet festival of high-tempo beats and buzzsaw bass so relentless it soon becomes exhausting to listen to. Finally the duo fire up the remix machine for their own take on the title track, which has a more futuristic edge, but manages to sound even more terrifying thanks to its heart-stopping pace.

Hate-sex themes aside (Kristof obviously has plenty of personal shit to work out), my sonic impression of Hollywood Made in Gehenna is that of a science fiction/horror double feature: Dawn Of Ashes brings the more gothic horror elements and a gritty, sleazy grindhouse edge to the material, while Falling Skies shift it into dark sci-fi territory, complete with alien voices and echoing intruder alert sirens. Neither style overstays its welcome, and they both bring maximum terror, which is exactly what they set out to do with this project. Mission accomplished, I'd say, and a keeper for fans of vicious industrial metal and blood-soaked hellektro. You can compare the two band's styles for yourself below – listen to their separate takes on the title track: