Well boys and girls, it's seems like ages since I've shared with you my musings on the world of dark and evil music... but it's for a good reason: I've been busy composing the score to a new feature film by my bro and fellow FEARnet writer Drew Daywalt, which you're going to be hearing a lot about real soon. But I've been itching to hear some new music, and I couldn't stay away from you good folks any longer. And what better way to make a fresh start than to pick the most evil, bizarro album I could find? That came easy, thanks to the twisted genius of Colorado-based electronic artist Bryan Erickson (also known as Hexfix93), best known for his long-running project Velvet Acid Christ. VAC has a devoted following among gothic & industrial inclined horror fans, thanks to his nightmarish imagery, frequent use of creepy soundbites, and constantly-shifting beats and textures (check out my review of his 2009 album The Art of Breaking Apart for a good example). Bryan's had an experimental act called Toxic Coma brewing on the back burner for several years, but this is the first time I've really given it a serious taste, and I'm ready to share my findings with you. Read on for a visit to the Beelzebub Club in Satan Rising...
Photo by Dominion Magazine
"This [album] is dedicated to the devil," the liner notes for Satan Rising proudly proclaim. "We do not feel he gets a fair shake... darkness is vital to the light." Erickson and his partner in crime "Lungravy" explain "it is Satan who makes you dance," and how, through this album, they're about to ram that point home with a pitchfork. I'm 99% positive they're just dicking around with the whole Satan angle (like they do with any subject matter), but it does offer a wrap-around concept they can embrace in order to create the most decadent and bizarre dance music possible. If you're familiar with VAC, you already know Erickson can handle that just fine. If not, get ready for one hell of a night.
But first, a little background: "We fuse many music styles together," the band states in their deranged manifesto, "to create a putrid soundscape that is both funny and sickening." This insane gumbo of genres includes hip-hop, country, pop-rock, industrial, metal, noise and old-school techno, to name just a few. While VAC's sound is built on a foundation of analog synthesizers, drum machines and guitars, Toxic Coma build their material entirely from samples. The end result is a bloody twelve-car pileup of pop culture insanity that the band claims "cures cancers, pulled muscles, headaches, AIDS, drug overdoses, STDs [and] brain disorders of all types." I should probably point out that that none of these results have been verified by the FDA, so exercise caution... but I can testify that a dose of Satan Rising gave me a burst of much-needed energy on a cold winter evening. Whether that energy came from the depths of hell or not, I guess I should be grateful.
Chaos reigns from the very opening of "Satanic Pate," a gut-boiling blend of bouncing bass lines, trashy breakbeats and Satanic samples (including a nice bite of Vincent Price from Witchfinder General); fans of old-school VAC will definitely groove on this one, thanks to Erickson's trademark buzzing bass patterns and delicate touches of piano. High-speed synth arpeggios float over the thudding sub-bass line of "Maybe I Killed Babbies" (yes, it's spelled like that on the CD cover) which, despite the more spacey mood, features some of the most hilarious movie dialog excerpts on the record, courtesy of Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July. The smooth feel of the first two cuts is ripped in half with the arrival of "Church is a Lie," a full-on blast of industrial noise, including sirens and metallic crashes, bolted onto a gritty four-to-the-floor groove.
"Get Your Shit Wired" starts with a literal noise explosion, followed by a filter-swept synth line and a massive kick drum that will knock the tchotchkes off your shelves. "Disgusting" is driven by a hyper up-tempo beat that is pure '80s techno, but otherwise not much to write home about. The sweeping piece "Say You Love Satan" takes its title from the case of real-life murderer and grave-robber Rick Kasso, even featuring dialog excerpts from My Sweet Satan, a grisly dramatization of the Kasso case by underground filmmaker James Van Bebber. (As you can probably guess, this is the most unsettling track on the album.) "Bled Out Dead" is a jittery glitch-fest in the mode of latter-day Skinny Puppy, but not as complex or thoughtful, since its main purpose is to bring the dance-floor energy... still, you also get a massive chorus of brain-hungry zombies for dessert.
"Suck My Turbin" (another misspelled title) is a hazy, slurring sludge of stand-up comedy excerpts, but it's child's play compared to the musical seizure of "Digital Gravy," a noise mashup so chaotic you can barely find the beat – although you can distinctly hear someone snoring through most of the track. "Lament of Krztov" features a smoothly rolling tribal groove complete with chanting and African drums, but it's over before you even get a chance to get into it. "Timelord" is a psychotic Dr. Who tribute by way of New Order, and it's sure to go over well with the show's fans. The title of "Phucking Phunny" is a callback to the VAC hit "Phucking Phreak," but that's where the similarity ends; it does have one of the creepiest synth patterns on the record and samples from Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. "Feel the Spirit" has a dreamy, sci-fi quality, if you don't count the loops of howling dogs, anguished screams and references to the "special leprechaun flute" internet meme. "Cinnabons" ends the album on a bombastic note, with flashy drum loops and heaps of goth satire (the title comes from the SNL sketch "Goth Talk"), making it one of the most memorable and infectious cuts.
Energetic, naughty, and dripping with sardonic humor, Satan Rising is basically VAC Lite, but I'm thinking that's exactly what Erickson set out to create: a purely entertaining club-friendly romp that never takes itself seriously and actually pokes fun at the pitch-black mood and grisly goings-on that permeate so much of his other band's music. It's not only a treat for his fans, but it's a gold mine for horror and cult film aficionados, who will have hours of fun picking through the hundred-plus soundbites to identify their origins. In summary, you don't have to love Satan to love Satan Rising.
I'll play you out with the band's appropriately goofy homemade video for "Cinnabons"...