Razorblade Twins: Black Pills

Thanks to a virtually endless supply of spooky tunes out there, the FEARnet music catacombs are pretty much bumpin’ the terror beat 24-7 as we try to sort our way through it all. Among the avalanche of gothic, industrial, metal, punk and other malefic material, it’s easy to miss an intrepid independent artist just trying to keep it dark. But our bat-like ears seldom miss a sound – and they perked up a little when we heard this ambitious DIY duo.

On the surface, unsigned Detroit-based band Razorblade Twins – comprised of instrumentalist Steven Razorblade and vocalist Adaora – look like they could comfortably blend in with the shiny PVC-clad hordes at any upscale metropolitan Goth club, and their music taps into the essence of many of the genre’s greats, from early pioneers Siouxsie and the Banshees to modern electro icons such as VNV Nation or Android Lust, and even promising newcomers like Compulsory Skin.


But where a less enterprising band might seek only to rework the sounds they love to dance to, it seems that the Twins sought to dissect and reassemble those influences to their own liking. It doesn’t always come together perfectly – but as in any worthwhile musical experiment, the intent to create a certain mood is more important than structural precision, and the mood here is dangerously sexy.


To achieve this, Steven lays down an ice-cold, minimalist base made of ultra-harsh, distorted beats, simple but heavy guitar riffs and dissonant, buzzing synth sweeps supporting the low, sultry tones of Adaora, whose voice is often doubled in slightly detuned layers to add a demonic edge. Production is fairly basic, which is a wise approach for a band that is still working to establish their niche, but this stripped-down style is likely the artists’ intention and makes the music feel more intimate.


The songs themselves are laid out in simple, repeating patterns that create a disturbing, hypnotic heartbeat – which is not necessarily geared toward dance-floor excitement, but actually suggests a kind of futuristic voodoo trance. Early Nitzer Ebb made much of this stripped-down vibe – but whereas that band’s beats took on a martial feel from Doug McCarthy’s rallying cries, here Adaora’s seductive low tones give the proceedings the feel of a sex-magic ritual with S&M trappings. Imagine a distaff electronic take on early-era Bauhaus and you’re headed in the right direction.


The six short, sharp songs on the EP time out to a brisk 20 minutes – which amounts to a kinky tease of the pair’s upcoming full-length release, but it’s enough to immerse you in their cold world. The gritty guitar riff that drives the title track opens the EP with low-key menace, but serves as a setup to the more aggressive tracks to follow – including standouts “New Dawn” and “Procession,” which unleash that bottled fury in measured doses. Adaora’s throaty croons and toothy whispers are roughed up with a touch of distortion, which paired with Steven’s harsh electronics call to mind a seductive rogue fembot on the prowl – sometimes violently attacking in cuts like “Disease.” I wasn’t as satisfied with the final track “Consume” – the band’s low-tempo repeating patterns don’t work as well when the emotional intensity is dialed as far down as it is here, and at nearly six minutes it starts to wear out its welcome. But overall there’s plenty here to whet your appetite for the main course to come.


Although the Black Pills EP has been distributed at most Hot Topic stores, it’s selling out faster than they can keep it stocked… but if you can’t find one in your town (or like me, you refuse to come anywhere near a shopping mall), high-quality digital downloads are available through the band’s website []. This month they’re also sweetening the pot by offering a free instrumental companion CD entitled Candyland Massacre with the purchase of the EP.


At thee bucks for the entire download (at least for now), you can’t lose… but discriminating buyers can preview some tracks at the band’s MySpace.