Lines In Wax

THIRTEEN YEARS OF UNWANTED OPINION

folk, neofolk & acoustic

Goat – Requiem (2016)

The main problem Goat have is that they will never be able to top their debut album, World Music, which is wall to wall, front to back, banger to banger – a total classic. Requiem is much the same as Commune before it in that it is an absolute pleasure to listen to; the production is glorious as is the various instrumentation (in particular the percussion) but none of the songs hit home with the same urgency and brilliance of the debut.

Graveland / Biały Viteź – Split CD (2012)

An excellent split (if you discount the cover art). Graveland tracks are prime cuts for this latter area; clanking, clattering drum programming and triumphant riffs, with the trademark Darken croak. Shup up and take my money! Bialy Vitez use a lot of traditional instruments and folk elements, which ties right in with their split mates. The production is fantastic and the mix of metal and olde worlde instruments is done to near perfection. More often than not, to my ears, bands mixing these two things rarely get it right, but Bialy Vitez hits it right on the money, Strongly recommended.

Death In June – The Snow Bunker Tapes (2013)

The Snow Bunker Tapes is the same set of songs from Peaceful Snow but instead of piano we get the tunes in an OG Di6 configuration of acoustic guitar with additional sparse twinkles of percussive affectations. In some cases this works well, the guitar matching up well with a lot of the songs that failed to wow on piano (just do a side by side listen for both versions of opening track “Murder Made History” to see what I mean). Oddly, the inverse can also be the case, such as for the track “Peaceful Snow”, which in piano form is one of the best songs ever written yet the guitar version is bizarrely upbeat, trundling along at a fair clip which kills any mood the piano version had. I think the best thing to do is to listen to both sets of songs and then pick and choose the best from each session to make like a super cut called The Peaceful Snow Bunker or something. In fact I might actually do that right now…

Sonne Hagal – Ockerwasser (2014)

A beautiful piece of neofolk, of which I’m happy to report blends effortlessly with other genres, such as displayed in some of the more electronic offerings found in the latter half of this album. Admittedly, I had not heard of Sonne Hagal until recently, and I feel that I am very late to the party. Glorious production reigns throughout, with twinkling guitars and instrumentation accenting the typical neofolk “low key” chilled yet anxious kind of songs. Highly recommended for any fans of neofolk music.

Of The Wand And The Moon – Nighttime Nightrhymes (1999)

A beautiful and evocative debut. It took me a few listens to “get” the whispered vocal approach, which felt like a bit of a cop-out at first. Once I had gotten over this personal hurdle, the full impact of Nighttime Nightrhymes could be fully appreciated. For me, it is an embodiment of the perfect neofolk sound; that dark acoustic simplicity augmented by various other stringed or wind instruments helps develop a sound that is fresh yet also ancient at the same time, morose yet uplifting, sad yet affirming, like the worm ouroboros (or something like that).

Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)

I’ve never been much of a fan of Johnny Cash but do enjoy a spin of the covers now and then. There is a morose feel to the whole record, which is known primarily for “Hurt” let’s be honest, but despite this, sadness and perhaps a weariness permeates every second of this thing. The production is simply gorgeous, allowing the rustic Americana of these interpretations to fully shine. A classic record, for sure.

Sturmpercht – Geister Im Waldgebirg (2006)

I’m new to the music of Sturmpercht, but more or less completely in love with it after only a few short weeks. Geister Im Waldgebirg filters traditional Alpine folk music (a type of music that I am admittedly not familiar with) through the medium of neofolk, resulting in a morose acoustic experience that sounds confident and authentic. The record cannot be dismissed for following repetitive acoustic folk structures however; for each campfire acoustic guitar track there’s a haunting atmospheric track, full of stifling effects like (I’m assuming) synthesizers, horns, accordions, the works! If I had one complaint it would be that Geister Im Waldgebirg is overly long at 70 minutes in run time. None of the tracks feel like filler, this is important to state, but I do feel the album would flow better at a more hospitable run time of 35-45 minutes.

Longbow – Demo III (2023)

Longbow – Demo III (2023)

What an unusual and endearing sound. First impressions come across like a mixture of Oi! and the post-punk recipe perfected by groups such as Joy Division. An interesting mix for sure. Comparisons to acts like Black Magick SS would not be incorrect to make (particularily in regards the ethereal wails found in opening track “Sailing To Other Lands”), but there is a more of an earthy, grounded feel to the songwriting from Longbow (and overall sound/vibe).

Skooma Cat – The Elder Tunes (2014)

Skooma Cat – The Elder Tunes (2014)

I take no pleasure in declaring that this has to be one of the worst things that I have ever heard. Musically I suppose it’s quite strong, but generally the songwriting is appalling and both vocal performances here make me cringe so hard I feel like I’m going to have a stroke. When I say things like “folk rock band based in Elder Scrolls lore” or “it sounds like The Handsome Family for fans of Skyrim” out loud I perhaps should have been able to forewarn myself about the pitfalls of attempting such a sound. But alas, I waded in anyway, and my ears paid the price. Hideously bad, I’m so sorry to say.

Atlantean Blood – Transmission From Orion (2021)

Atlantean Blood – Transmission From Orion (2021)

What the ever-loving fuck is this? I checked it out because the cover looked like a Radio Free Innsmouth YouTube thumbnail. Expecting some low quality NSBM, instead I stumble onto a… a… what is this exactly? I suppose it falls into the neofolk category, especially with the reworking of a Death In June song towards the end. I must comment Atlantean Blood for conjuring a wholly unique atmosphere with their record here but damn, this is poor.

Peste Noire – Ballade Cuntre Lo Anemi Francor (2009)

Peste Noire – Ballade Cuntre Lo Anemi Francor (2009)

I think I am going to have to admit to myself that Peste Noire is not the band for me. As I work my way through the group’s discography, I’ve gone from absolutely astounded to bored to fucking tears. I have no idea what’s going on here, I guess there is some sort of artistic vision that I simply “do not get”, specifically in the mix of French folk and black metal. I’ve given Ballade Cuntre… (lol) a number of playthroughs and it is just not working for me at all. Throw the personal politics of Famine in on top and I’ve got no reason to keep plowing on if all of the albums after the first sound like this. I guess we shall see, but for now, my verdict is, this sucks ass.

The Angels of Light – Everything Is Good Here / Please Come Home (2003)

The Angels of Light – Everything Is Good Here / Please Come Home (2003)

This is probably the first time that I have felt bad giving a record 3.5 out of 5. Everything Is Good Here is so achingly beautiful that I feel it deserves more, but the reality is that there are quite a lot of songs on this album that just don’t really stand out for me. If Sing Other People didn’t exist, then Everything Is Good Here would probably be my least favourite Angels Of Light album. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t ay good. The production, I think by Gira and long-time collaborator in that regard Martin Bisi, is absolutely stunning. You can tell that so much love and care has gone into producing this record properly in a quality recording studio. “All Souls Rising” is one of my favourite Angels tracks, and “What Will Come” is a perfect album closing track. I do miss Angels Of Light. Their demise is a small price to pay in order to have Swans around still in 2023.

Sol Invictus – In The Rain (1995)

Sol Invictus – In The Rain (1995)

I wish that I had some sort of big brain take on this record, only because it offers far more in its lyrical content than I can hope to ever analyse, but I only truly stumbled upon this because of the Death In June connection. Nevertheless, In The Rain is a beautiful record, one that I have listened to many, many times over the last few months to truly acclimatise to the songs it possesses. Addressing the vocal performances, I don’t really find the singing to be particularily offensive. I’ve yet to come across a neofolk singer that isn’t rough around the edges in one way or another, but I can totally understand why this may be too much for some people. I genuinely enjoyed every song on this thing, which is not something that I can say for a lot of albums.

Rome – Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro (2019)

Rome – Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro (2019)

Infinitely more well produced (and sung) that most neofolk that I’ve heard in my limited lifetime. Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro sounds like 00s Anathema, the first Bastille album and Death In June all rolled into one confusing ball. Sprinkle in some mixed vibes and hey, presto! Despite everything that Rome has going for them in regards to their talented frontman and extended palette of musicality, then let themselves down with the uniformity of their music. In parts, Le Ceneri puts forward bland patriotic hymns more commonly assocaited with bone-head right wing circles, and in other parts veers dangerously close to the whole “stomp / clap / hey!” hipster bullshit that plagued us a few years back. Despite this, there are some fantastic songs on this thing, such as “Who Only Europe Know” and the ridiculously catchy “Black Crane” – both help elevate this record significantly. I would be very interested in hearing more music from Rome, even though the 4 minute intro to this thing nearly put me off the band for life (its peak cringe).

Death In June – Something Is Coming (1993)

Death In June – Something Is Coming (1993)

A lovely little package, but definitely another item in the Di6 discography that is for the die-hards and collectors only. There are much better live albums from Douglas, but the studio sessions here on disk 2 are actually worth checking out for those who are curious. There are some excellent reworkings of “Runes and Men” and “Fall Apart” as well what’s almost an acapella version of “Death Is The Martyr Of Beauty”, with Douglas yapping spookily away over a bubbling, dark synth loop.

Death in June – Take Care and Control (1998)

Death in June – Take Care and Control (1998)

I have disparaged all of the Death in June sound collage stuff over the last few years. Operating Hummingbird, and parts of albums like the latter half of All Pigs Must Die literally do nothing for me. I was surprised then, when returning to Take Care And Control, to find that it was incredibly listenable, enjoyable and of a high production quality. Now, I know Albin Julius did all the music here (this should have been titled as a collab, I think), but he did the same for Operation Hummingbird and that is not quite near as good as this. There are a variety of electronic music flavours across this thing, as well as classical elements and much sampling work, often – of course – slanting towards certain periods of German history which shall remain nameless here. Actually a very interesting listen now that I’ve spent more time with it, Take Care And Control is different but a good album. If you want Douglas and his sparkly 12 string guitar however, this is not the album for you.

Black Magick SS – The Owls Of Winter / Talisman (2015)

Black Magick SS – The Owls Of Winter / Talisman (2015)

A really great acoustic EP from this fantastic project. Both songs comprise of the same elements but are also very much completely different. Both tracks, particularly the B-side, “Talisman”, sound very similar to bands like Rome or Death In June (is the controversial cover image also a nod?) but with some added black metal vocals for the hell of it. All in all, great atmospheres and great song writing.

Death In June – Peaceful Snow / Lounge Corps (2010)

Death In June – Peaceful Snow / Lounge Corps (2010)

Some of the critical responses aimed at Peaceful Snow are incredibly harsh. Do I understand where such criticisms are coming from? Of course I do – the depth of Miro’s piano playing really brings out the “one trick” aspect of Douglas’ voice; something that works well in its own way, but it is definitely something that is left wholly exposed against the beautiful backdrop of keys that Snejdr provides. But, Peaceful Snow was an excellent idea (regardless of whoever has recorded piano albums before Death In June), and it is a record that is excellently recorded. The audio quality on this is nothing short of sublime, and the piano playing is beyond stunning. It is a shame however, that this only really works about half of the time. Some of the new original songs here are absolutely phenomenal, others are much more dragging and lacklustre. This album may not be my favourite thing in the world from Douglas but it spawned some brilliant live sets featuring Miro on piano (which really need to be seen to be believed) as well as of course the follow-up album, where the songs in their acoustic guitar forms were then released, in a much more typical Di6 fashion. I won’t deny that Disc 1 has it’s moments that drag, but “Peaceful Snow” is one of my favourite songs of all time. Disc 2 is much more of a treat, especially if you are a long-time fan, as for the second hour of this set, Miro Snejdr is given full run of Douglas’ back catalog, and here he presents to us 17 Di6 classics re-interpreted via the piano. “Hail! The White Grain”, “Luther’s Army”, “She Said Destory”, “Heaven Street”, “Ruins And Men” and “Fall Apart” all sound so, so fucking good that it really does make up for the maliase that is Disc 1 (which only has about 1/3 of really interesting music, I’ll be honest). Also, never thought “Rose Clouds Of Holocaust” could be intepreted to sound like something that plays over a silent, brutal slow-mo scene in a Shane Meadows movie. But hey, we know how Meadows feels about people who fool around with Nazi symbolism so maybe that’s a pretty terrible scenario to invisage LOL A snippet from the title track probably sums up this entire album: “Old Gods… on new streets…. (but) outlook bleak….”

Swans – Children Of God (1987)

Swans – Children Of God (1987)

Swans are one of those special bands that sound completely different on each record. The early stuff is some of the hardest music you can possibly want to hear. You could also argue that the sound began thawing on Holy Money or Greed, albums that came before this, but the way I see that instead is that the band added more elements to their work, rather than stripping back their work. Children Of God was however, IMO, the time where Swans finally took their foot off the Brutality pedal, if only just a little. The band has also done cleanly-produced before COG, but here it is stepped up even further. The sound is bigger, making Swans’ dirging, repetitve drones sound almost like anthemic bangers. Nowhere is this more apparent than opening track “New Mind”, which is far catchier than it deserves to be. The full-band sound comes to an abrupt stop however, with some Jarboe-fronted piano pieces as well as some gentler tunes featuring the full group. The shifting focus to these kinds of compositions featuring so heavily in the whole of the work is, to me, the important element in how Children Of God changed the trajectory of Swans going into the next decade. Not that immense, all-encompassing, and stupidly heavy songs like “Sex, God, Sex” or “Beautiful Child” would have you think Swans were reigning it all in a bit. Essential listening for fans of heavy music.

The Louvin Brothers – Satan Is Real (1959)

The Louvin Brothers – Satan Is Real (1959)

This has to be one of the stupidest and creepiest things I’ve ever heard. From the album cover, to the recurring themes of Satan and, weirdly, drunk people in there songs, to the creepy ass delivery of the vocalist who comes in on the choruses (I’m not sure which brother it is). Honestly, everything about this is fucked but musically it’s pretty fun. Oh, I also now know where the “Hell is a real place” sample in ICP’s “Walk Into The Darkness” comes from. Every day is a learning experience, kids. I’d love a copy of this on vinyl or cassette just because of how odd it is.

Hazel Dickens – Hard Hitting Songs For Hard Hit People (1980)

Hazel Dickens – Hard Hitting Songs For Hard Hit People (1980)

Random listen is random! If I could be so bold this artist immediately reminded me of Lurleen Lumpkin from The Simpsons (I’ve probably spelt that wrong). Hazel Dickens makes workin’ class country music for the workin’ man (or woman). Songs are about the struggles of life and low wage employment, relationships and other difficulties us proles face whilst running the gauntlet of existing and trying to stay alive. All of this is delivered with an ear for a melody and a charming twang.

Gate Master – In Pursuit Of Forbidden Knowledge… (2022)

Gate Master – In Pursuit Of Forbidden Knowledge… (2022)

The forbidden knowledge has to be, that mixing dungeon synth and raw black metal in this way is a winning combination. Sometimes the brightest truths are the ones that are there in plain sight, waiting to be grasped. LOL Anyway – Gate Master is the project centralising around founding Cradle Of Filth member Paul Ryan (who’s been out of the band since the debut record). The black metal is raw, disgusting and frenetic, which is just bloody brilliant. I find myself far more immersed however in the excellent ambient and ‘dungeon synth’ compositions. The absolutely beautiful “Flesh And Bone” starts off sounding like Tony Wakeford and Rose McDowall doing some sort of mad crossover with prison-era Burzum, and finishes off with vibes that are not a million miles from Michael Gira doing a dungeon synth version of the first five minutes of “The Sound”. “A Vision Known Before” is equally mesmerising, invoking that Nada!-era Di6 vibe heavily alongside the more dungeon-y (lol) synthesizers. Gate Master is a fantastic project, In Pursuit of Forbidden Knowledge… is a fantastic record, and this is definitely one project to keep an eye on, should it continue.

Paul Horn – Inside The Great Pyramid (1977)

Paul Horn – Inside The Great Pyramid (1977)

I learned about this record whilst listening to one of Christopher Dunn’s talks on the great pyramid being a power plant. I can’t recall the exact point he was making, but it was about the resonant properties of the granite within the pyramid’s King’s Chamber. Now, I’m not really in-tune with these new age types, but the pyramids fascinate me, so I gave this ago. It’s a good idea. Live recordings from inside one of humanity’s oldest and mysterious structures? Top stuff. In delivery however, the record is disjointed. We get short flute passages that go absolutely nowhere. How you would meditate to these is anyone’s guess. Also, a double album is far, far too long. Unless you are interested in the more “out there” ancient history stuff or the great pyramid in general, I wouldn’t bother with this one.

Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells II (1992)

Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells II (1992)

2-Bulah-Bell 2: Bak 2 Da Belle was an unexpected drop from Mike Oldfield. And by unexpected, I mean, it was not expected for me when I found there was a sequel, a third, and a bunch of crappy remix albums all riding off the success of the first record in this series. Now, I love Mike Oldfield, anyone who can play that many different guitars is good in my book, but 2-Bulah-Bell 2 gets way more shit than it deserves. It touches on a lot of themes of the original, even aping them to the point of re-creating them at points (which was of course intentional), but to be honest, it’s nice to hear a different interpretation that isn’t as old as the original. The OG is such a meandering journey in the first place, its very nature begs for it to be reinterpreted into a different path. Honestly, I’m super looking forward to Tubular B3lls Th3 Third.

Death In June – All Pigs Must Die (2001)

Death In June – All Pigs Must Die (2001)

I remember years and years ago, when I was doing GCSE art. My teacher, someone who introduced me to all sorts of obscure shit like Unseen Terror for example, had this CD with him one day. He put it in front of me and said “what do you think that sounds like?”. I didn’t know what I was looking at back then, but the image of Douglas in that mask, holding a knife to the throat of a pig, well that stayed with me forever. “Bet you think it’s going to be some proper mad Norwegian stuff don’t you?” my teacher goaded me. The man had a full stereo system in the corner of his dilapidated classroom, and All Pigs Must Die went into the CD tray. I was 15 years old, and I was just migrating from being obsessed with black metal to being obsessed with grindcore, and I had no time for the twinkly acoustic tracks that came from the speakers.  It’s only by looking back now, do I realise how unusual it was for someone to be playing this album to a class full of teenagers as they painted awful compositions on cheap craft paper. I kinda respect him for showing us stuff like that, and Unseen Terror, and Napalm Death and so on.  Anyway, back to the present. All Pigs Must Die is, to me, as it seems to be with many others, just half an album. The first half, which comprises of gorgeous and bare acoustic compositions, with haunting additions of trumpets and flutes, is up there with some of the best material Douglas has ever done (the title track and “Tick Tock” in particular). I have no particular gripe with the lyrical content, as petty as airing disputes can be.  Unfortunately, this high quality does taper off towards the latter half, where the record descends into the world of noise and sound collages. This stuff was done much better on the albums that would come, such as Operation Hummingbird and Take Care And Control, where Douglas had more outside help in these fields. Its a shame that Boyd Rice appears on the album, but contributes no noise, only vocals.  If you just want to throw something on in the background this isn’t exactly awful, but the juxtaposition between the acoustic stuff and the noise stuff further just highlights how far, far better one type of songwriting is than the other. Sorry Douglas.

Merzbow – Tauromachine (1998)

Merzbow – Tauromachine (1998)

This album may have some pretty bad cover art, but it makes up for it sonically. What I like alot about Tauromachine is the presence of shorter, more easily digestible songs. This is still pummelling noise done in the way only Merzbow can do so well, but what this has over predecessor 1930 and even Pulse Demon is the less-intimidating track lengths. It really makes the difference for me, as pausing half way through a noise track can ruin the experience.  All round, a solid noise album and a good starting point for beginners, actually.

Death In June – The Rule Of Thirds (2008)

Death In June – The Rule Of Thirds (2008)

Solid later-career effort here from everyone’s favourite Third Reich fetishising grandpa. Even after my own in-depth analysis, I still have no idea where Di6 stands politically, at least not in regards to the music that the project creates, but thankfully the overt and endless Nazi references are somewhat subdued here on The Rule Of Thirds (unless of course I’m just too stupid to notice the dog whistles). Honestly though, after an experimental period it was nice to see Douglas return to the acoustic guitar (and not much else). “The Perfume Of Traitors” is probably my favourite off this one. I love the cover, too.

The Handsome Family – Odessa (1995)

The Handsome Family – Odessa (1995)

I may be something of a novice when it comes to the Handsome Family, getting into them through them being featured as the theme song to the first season of True Detective, but damn, this stuff is unsettling. I’ve enjoyed the band’s misty, unnerving country music immensely, so I was shocked to fire up Odessa and find a brand of music more in line with the grunge. The guitar work hits incredibly hard though, and punctuates a playful yet menacing song writing style that continues though-out. The more acoustic elements typical of the country style do bleed through now and then but this was a whole new journey for me. Bizarre, and highly enjoyable.

Current 93 – Thunder Perfect Mind (1992)

Current 93 – Thunder Perfect Mind (1992)

I did a lot of digging into Death In June’s politics recently and a lot of people pointed me at Current 93’s “Hitler As Kalki”, which is on this album. It contains a lot of wishy washy references to Kalki and places Hitler in there as the one who will come to destroy the world (or whatever), but for the most part this stuff is so esoteric and dare I say rambling I see no coherent point to this nor would I ever have considered Current 93 to be a fascist project. Colour me naive perhaps, but this sits worlds apart from some of the dodgier acts that Di6 can act as a gateway to. Musically, Thunder Perfect Mind is a million miles away from the other C93 stuff that I’ve heard, and despite its floaty artsyness (lol) I did enjoy the compositions and the production immensely. I will say towards the end I started to lose interest, and at some point, particular due to Tibet’s interesting approach to narration, some songs started to blend into one. I enjoyed, but I don’t think I would listen to it again.

Death In June – Heilige! (2000)

Death In June – Heilige! (2000)

This is probably the best live album I’ve heard from this project so far. It seems to offer something interesting aside from the usual 1 man acoustic renditions of all the hits. The recently deceased Albin Julius is a part of the live show, providing a layer of electronic sounds. This live document was taken around the Operation Hummingbird era, so that makes sense. But yeah, a lot of classics from various eras of Di6’s career are re-imagined in the sound collage style of the Take Care And Control / Operation Hummingbird era. Which is cool. There’s a ton of good percussion here too, and the recording quality is great. The only thing that’s a bit shabby is the record sleeve, but even that works in its own kind of way.

King Dude – Sex (2016)

King Dude – Sex (2016)

I enjoyed the previous King Dude record heavily (if you mean Love then that was several albums back – Ed). It seemed to blend the mystique of the neofolk world with that of a more Type O Negative sensibility, if you get what I mean. Sadly, on Sex, King’s stripped down occult swagger is replaced instead with fairly basic rock and roll. There is still a Satanic feel to it, and your Dude here still croons like Pete Steele, but the full band affair has a country and western edge to it as well. All in all, its just not for me.

Death In June – Rose Clouds Of Holocaust (1995)

Death In June – Rose Clouds Of Holocaust (1995)

I’m going to have to address Douglas P’s politics at some point. Probably in the form of a YouTube video so nothing is lost through hard text. That is an unfortunate reality I am faced with have now covered several Death In June records here. I love Death In June. There is no other band that sounds quite like them, despite them being a highly imitated pillar of the neo folk movement. In the early days I dismissed their “fash” vibe as shock value, a band playing with the power of symbols (their whiphand logo being far more powerful than the tired, overused SS skull), which later devolved into edgelord bullshit. Once I saw DIJ merch that had the totenkopf superimposed onto the rainbow pride flag, I thought I’d seen all I needed to know about where the band actually stood. And then you get to records like this. Truly it is a beautiful album. A stunning composition. Another baiting title, but otherwise a wonderful album and listening experience. Until, you get to the title track itself, and you hear the chorus: “rose clouds of holocaust, rose clouds of lies”. And instantly I’m back at square one going, err, hang on a second here. I don’t know where I’m going with this. But I feel a longer piece coming, where I will attempt to address this shit properly.

Death In June – Burial (1984)

Death In June – Burial (1984)

Burial is a dissapointing transition between The Guilty Have No Pride and the absolute classic that is Nada!. What we do get in the way of genuine new material is fantastic, I personally enjoy “Sons Of Europe” and “Death In The West”, even the seemingly hated “Black Radio” sound collage. Unfortunately side B is crammed with nothing more than a shitty live recording, so to call Burial a second album by this band is really a stretch.

White Chamber – Pale Tears (2017)

White Chamber – Pale Tears (2017)

I stumbled onto Kim Larson’s White Chamber after hearing her contribution to Offermose’s Stilhedens Tårn record (the first track, I believe). As with many times before, Discogs led me down the garden path, where I found this little EP resting next to a (digital) pond. Similar to Offermose, White Chamber is initially coming across like a mix of a foundational base of Berlin School, coupled with the spooky, folky electronics of earlier Death In June (only, seemingly, without any overtones of fascism, which is always a good thing). Pale Tears is two tracks, and about 12 minutes long, but its well worth a listen.

Death In June & Boyd Rice – Alarm Agents (2004)

Death In June & Boyd Rice – Alarm Agents (2004)

Well then, now I know who does the voice at the beginning of Death In June’s “Tick Tock”. I could never understand why Douglas P would attempt such a bad American accent (like all those 00s post-something bands. You’re from Pontypridd mate, not LA!). Anyways, now that I finally know what Boyd Rice’s voice sounds like, it all makes sense to me. Honestly, this is all kinds of fucking edgy. And fuck if I know if there’s some double meaning to some of these lyrics, which could be perfectly innocent or fairly sinister depending on how you look at it (and knowing who made it). Musically though, there’s some good shit here, and some really cool vibes. Some of the tracks just feel like a waste of time, but when it hits, it hits good. Boyd’s voice, coming on like a lovechild of latter-day Leonard Cohen and Jarboe, is the perfect accompaniment to Douglas Post twinkly guitar strummery. It gives a different and refreshing weight to Death In June’s often light and airy folk compositions. Oh, and that track with all the laughing on it? Pure Twin Peaks black lodge vibes, which I can always get behind.

Goat – Commune (2014)

Goat – Commune (2014)

Commune is the second album by hippy-dippy (sorry) experimental project Goat, who burst into the world with the phenomenal World Music record. Commune, in comparison, is a little bit more muted. Things develop at more of a crawl than they did on the rather spectacular debut. It took me a while to realise that Commune isn’t necessary boring or without the spark that Goat made upon their unleashing to the world, its just that the record moves at a different pace and with a different vibe. The percussion on this thing is an absolute pleasure to listen to (best with headphones to appreciate the panning, production etc.). Stand out tracks for me include “Goatchild”, “Goatslaves” and the closing epic “Gathering Of Ancient Tribes”.

Jandek – Chair Beside A Window (1982)

Jandek – Chair Beside A Window (1982)

I can’t remember where I picked up Jandek as a recommendation. RYM, perhaps? Anyway, these are some intense and bizarre, even unsettling fragments of acoustic guitar and insane rambles. These are some female vocal additions too, but for most of the tracks, the recording quality is quite lo-fi and the sound is abstract enough to invoke all sorts of moods and thought patterns. One day, I will unearth more from this artist. I am intrigued.

Lisa Germano – Geek The Girl (1994)

Lisa Germano – Geek The Girl (1994)

Geek The Girl is a cool, somewhat twisted and impressively composed record from Lisa Germano. Granted it is the only Lisa Germano record that I have heard at the time of writing, as this was culled from some RYM greatest albums list (a good place for hipster dickheads like me to learn about new stuff). Lisa’s voice is fantastic and suits some of the slightly more unsettling subject matters addressed here. The instrumentation can sometimes be sparse but always fits the composition at hand. I’m glad I checked this one out.

Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate (1971)

Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate (1971)

Admittedly, I’m no aficionado when it comes to this kind of depressing, jangly acoustic business. My knowledge of the existence of Mr Cohen only came from Godflesh’s many title-stealing tributes to his work. Songs of Love and Hate is gorgeous however. The opener, “Avalanche’, is purely phenomenal. There is a lot of variety, but the overall theme, to me at least, appears to be rather morose. All in all, this was well worth the listen and I’ll be digging further for more stuff from this brilliant artist.

Death In June – Essence! (2018)

Death In June – Essence! (2018)

I’ll admit, first impressions of this were not amazing. It sounded almost lazy, but I was listening to it in a car park in the rain. Recently, I have returned to this record to give it a second chance, and whilst I must admit that Douglas P sounds a bit tired, there are some beautiful tracks here. Whether its worth making new Death In June records at this point is not up to me to decide, but without wanting to sound too callous, more effort is definitely required.

Dylan Carlson – Conquistador (2018)

Dylan Carlson – Conquistador (2018)

This is just glorious. I have, admittedly been snoozing on Earth recently, so I was energised to go back and find that this solo record brought so many of those classic 90s Earth vibes with it. Conquistador is a smokey record, carried with that wild west swagger, but delivered like a low voltage dose of electricity coursing through your body. These riffs are simply alive and it is nothing less than an absolute pleasure to sit and listen to them unfold. Magical.

The Angels Of Light – New Mother (1999)

The Angels Of Light – New Mother (1999)

The Angels Of Light took the heavily textured work of late 90s Swans and moulded those sound collages into moving, gorgeous folk songs. It is of course, in reality, a slightly more complicated story than that, and there is a lot to unpack here, a lot of nuances, however there is a beauteous simplicity to the tracks that betrays the denser roots that lay beneath the sparkly surface of these melancholic hymns. I find New Mother to meander somewhat, but it is still a solid debut from this now legendary act.

The Angels Of Light – How I Loved You (2001)

The Angels Of Light – How I Loved You (2001)

How I Loved You is beautiful, stunning, eery and lush. A cut of morose sadness dashes the otherwise bright and sun-kissed veins of sparkling instrumentation and twinkling percussion. This was the album that made me fall in love with Angels Of Light; after a few unsuccessful listens elsewhere, everything clicked. “Evangeline” and “New York Girls” have to be two of the greatest songs ever written.

Death In June – But What Ends When The Symbols Shatter? (1992)

Death In June – But What Ends When The Symbols Shatter? (1992)

I’ve always found this record to be much gentler than the other Death In June offerings that I’ve heard. That sub-level of sinister atmosphere seems almost completely devoid from these glistening neo-folk hymns. For once, it almost seems like positivity and hope undercuts the morose songwriting, rather than echoes of pestilence, death and sadness. Yes, some of the lyrics allude to some darkness, but generally the vibe is much more twinkly than happy that I would ever have expected, especially considering this is considered one of the group’s most well liked records. 

Craig Watkins – Earth (2017)

Craig Watkins – Earth (2017)

Here we have the Earth EP by South Wales based acoustic singer/song writer Craig Watkins; a well put together collection of soulful acoustic material, with lots of raw energy and passion coming through, with a very real sense coming off of it all as an artist (real in the sense of you can tell he’s passionate about what he’s playing and what he’s singing about, which is always great to hear). Production wise the EP also has a very DIY, rough and ready, what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of sound, and that’s not me criticising; it’s again more a sense of “very real”, with no fancy or shiny production values or effects taking that edge away. My favourite track off the EP is probably the song “Brother”, which Craig has also used as the lead track and single to promote the record. It is a song that starts off slow and gradually climbs into a big, powerful, heartfelt chorus. Another highlight is the EP opener “Corporate Love”, again with a nice big chorus. Also there’s “Missing Piece”, for that lovely acoustic sound with some nice vocal harmonies thrown in the mix. The EP as a whole has a very acoustic/alternative rock sound to it, with easily accessible little ballads that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio next to similar type acts. For fans of: Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind.

Death In June – Nada! (1985)

Death In June – Nada! (1985)

Nada! is my favourite Death In June record. Brown Book is kind of similar but I prefer Nada! for its dominating dark 80s synthpop vibes and martial background. There’s also less Nazi imagery flirtation going on here, which is always a plus. I believe that this album was the last the group did as a three piece; and seems a fry cry from the acoustic solo project that Death In June has been for so many years now. I love the dense electronic sound on most of these tracks. I’ll have to find out what equipment was used here, especially the drum machine (not so I can go out and get one, but see if any .wav rips exist that I can import into iDrum or something like that). “The Honour Of Silence” opens things up on a haunting, sombre note (what else would you expect though?), and “The Calling MKII” sounds like it could have been in regular circulation on the radio back 25 years or so. “Rain Of Despair”, “Foretold” and “Carousel” bring those dark synth vibes in by the truckload, which is just what I want. My favourite track though has to be “Crush My Love” with its excellent synth lead and unusual vocal approach (for DIJ). To top it off, Nada! is probably the best place to start with Death In June, although I could be slightly biased.

Death In June – Brown Book (1987)

Death In June – Brown Book (1987)

Death In June is one strange-ass project. For something as simple as acoustic, folky shit, DIJ sure do have a wide, eccentric discography. Brown Book is pretty weird. Death In June’s lazy campfire strumming and monotone vocal meets 80s-to-the-max drum programming and fairly awful female vocals. It kinda sounds like a poor man’s mid-career Swans. I might be slightly biased here however, and even factually incorrect as Death In June were doing this kind of thing first. Although, for some reason that isn’t entirely clear to me yet, I quite like this. Perhaps it is because I am pretty interested in some other DIJ material, and this is just a perplexing variant on that sound. It is almost soothing, yet at the same time quite unsettling. “Red Dog – Black Dog” is like a cross between a lullaby and a nightmare. “Hail! The White Grain” and “Runes And Men” must be deliberately Third Reich-y? “We Are The Lust” is almost ritual like, with thumping percussion, haunting synth work and chanted vocal mantra. “Burn Again” rounds everything off with a menacing yet pensive tone. Make what you will of the nazi-related imagery (but they ain’t nazis, yo – it’s art, see?), but all in all this is a pretty interesting recording, if you have an open mind.

The Angels Of Light – We Are Him (2007)

The Angels Of Light – We Are Him (2007)

To me, We Are Him is the “heaviest” of all the Angels Of Light material, for lack of a better way of describing it. In hindsight, their final album was a precursor to the reformation of Swans in 2010. It mashes together the usual artsy, folky vibes of earlier Angels stuff with heavy bass lines and thumping percussion attacks. Listening to the first ten seconds of “Goodbye Mary Lou” is enough to cement that We Are Him is still steeped in the roots from which the Angels Of Light spawned, but there is a palpable menace brooding over this record. Let’s face it, “Black River Song” and “My Brother’s Man” could easily have been on the Swans reformation album, My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky. Both are mind numbingly repetitive, driven by bass and heavy percussion, and narrated by twisted, slightly disturbing vocal lines. But, this is still an Angels Of Light record, and moments of clarity and beauty are in abundance. I never thought I’d ever be into something that resembles country and western, but Michael Gira will take you strange places if you are willing to follow. “Sunflower’s Here To Stay” and “The Visitor” are simply stunning, intricately composed and immensely delicate tracks of American goodness. If you liked the softer side to Swans and haven’t heard Angels Of Light yet, there’s no better place to start than here. Self-released by Gira on Young God Records.

Anathema – A Natural Disaster (2003)

Anathema – A Natural Disaster (2003)

I’ve recently been playing catch up with Anathema. They are a band I have now known about for years, but I only own a very small amount of their albums. Thank Zombie Jesus then, for the Amazon marketplace with it’s sometimes insanely cheap prices. A used copy of A Natural Disaster ended up costing me almost next to nothing. And to be honest, I’m really glad. The first thing that surprised me about this record – often regarded I think as one of Anathema’s best – is that it’s an absolute disjointed mess. For the first few songs, I don’t think anybody really has any idea about what is going on; the band just drift from one song to the other with what seems like no real drive at all. It’s like it’s acoustic and floaty for the sake of being acoustic and floaty, and it goes nowhere until the start of track 3, “Closer”, just cuts in clumsily. Here at least, the album starts properly. “Closer” is a hell of bloody good tune, making (for once) good use of a vocoder or harmonizer, that builds and builds until it explodes in a post-rock-esque orgasm of sound. Good stuff! “Are You There?” on the other hand is probably one of the worst things I have ever heard. “Childhood Dream” is almost as pointless, and then bam – another rocking track just cuts in rudely, the thankfully excellent “Pulled Under At 2000 Metres A Second”, which isn’t dissimilar in writing style to “Panic” from the previous Anathema record, A Fine Day To Exit. This album reminds me of Swans’ Soundtracks For The Blind, in the way that dreamlike ambiances and floaty acoustic passages mesh awkwardly with heavy-hitting, full-band pieces. It just doesn’t flow at all, in my opinion. Thankfully though, things are a-okay from here on out; every track is a belter. “Flying” is an Anathema favourite of mine, with a chorus that has a through-the-roof sing-a-long factor. “Electricity” is a lesson in post-rock swelling and building done far better than by many of the restrictive genre’s current participants. All in all, there are some brilliant songs here, it’s just this album suffers from a whole bunch of filler crap as well. Couple that with the “flow” issues and you really have one disappointing record, which is really inexcusable for a band with such passion, integrity, and musical dexterity as Anathema, especially on an album that is only 10 tracks long. I’m glad I bought this, as I can now move on with finishing my collection, but unless you really love this type of music, I’d look for my Anathema kicks elsewhere. That’s exactly what I’ll be doing, at least.

Anathema – Hindsight (2008)

Anathema – Hindsight (2008)

Yes yes, I know you’re all probably thinking the same; “not another bleedin’ Anathema post!”, but tough shite! I’ve done a lot of listening to Anathema recently, and that’s how Lines In Wax works; I don’t randomly just pull reviews out of my arse, I generally try to write about what is fresh in my head to give a more accurate, in depth review. That’s why there isn’t any tangible order to the stuff I get through, and new and old releases are reviewed in no particular sequence. When I first started Lines In Wax I did posts alphabetically, that’s why most of the A & B section of the 7”s is almost complete, but you’ll also notice that when I started, I was purely posting images posts with no reviews, and posting multiple blogs per day. The reviews came afterward. Annnnnnywaaaay, how I can ramble! Where were we? Yes, that’s it; Anathema’s Hindsight. This very fancy little CD package marked my first physical purchase of a brand new CD in an actual chain store (it was HMV) in an ungodly amount of time. I don’t like paying top-drawer (read: over the odds) for CDs but this looked really shiny on the rack and with a tenner burning a hole in my pocket I couldn’t resist and caved. Hindsight is beautiful, providing the listener with “MTV Unplugged” kinda versions of classic Anathema tracks. The opener, “Fragile Dreams” sounds absolutely epic on strings, and the acoustic version of “One Last Goodbye”, whilst a bit sappy, shows a whole new heart-wrenching side to an already cripplingly emotional song. “Are You There” sounds just as awful as the original, and songs like “Flying” and “A Natural Disaster” don’t really sound that dissimilar to their original recordings, which does get me thinking about the point of their inclusion, but I’m not really that bothered as these newer versions of both tracks sound absolutely fantastic. All in all, if you’re an Anathema fan, you need Hindsight in your life, although to be fair you probably don’t need me to tell you that. 

The Angels of Light – Angels of Light Sing ‘Other People’ (2005)

The Angels of Light – Angels of Light Sing ‘Other People’ (2005)

This is the closest that Angels of Light ever came to Gira’s bare bones solo work; …Other People is a stripped down acoustic, folky romp that sees Gira and co. writing homages in song form to people that…well, deserve songs written about them, I guess. It’s all very artsy-fartsy, and whilst I don’t feel it’s the best Angels of Light album in any universe, there is still a fair dollop of good tunes here. The first notable difference here is that drums (or percussion generally) are absent for the entire album, rendering the whole thing with more of a Gira ‘n’ Pals kinda vibe than a full-blown Angels of Light record. For the most part, the songs are driven by Michael Gira’s voice and a simple acoustic guitar, decorated now and then with some other sparse instrumentation and gang-style backing vocals on the choruses. My favourite song by a country mile is “Destroyer”, although there is a whole bunch of decent tunes here, such as “On The Mountain”, “Michael’s White Hands” and “Purple Creek”. For me, this is a funny one in the Angels of Light discography; in no way would I consider it vital, like How I Loved You, or We Are Him, but it is also by far the easiest Angels record to get a hold of on wax. I got this for a tenner, which was an absolute bargain considering how much original presses of earlier records of theirs cost. In a short conclusion then; worth a listen if you enjoy the softer side of Swans or Michael Gira’s solo work (the acoustic stuff, rather than the abstract stuff), but for beginners I’d say definitely start with one of the above-mentioned records rather than this one.

Michael Gira – Songs for a Dog (2006)

Michael Gira – Songs for a Dog (2006)

This post is dedicated to Michael Gira’s dog Nina, who passed away last week. Songs for a Dog is essentially the vinyl version of what would become The Milk of M. Gira on CD. Both act as compilation albums of Gira’s self-released acoustic stuff, which is all out of print, limited edition and worth a fucking fortune. This was originally put together by a British label called Lumberton Trading Company back in 2006. It is a fairly simple affair comprising mainly of a plain cardboard sleeve with minimal art by Gira himself (co-incidentally the same front cover stamp that adorns The Milk…) and a lyrics sheet. All the Gira classics are here, be they solo tracks or borrowed ones from Swans or The Angels of Light. Stand out tracks are the ominous opener “Promise of Water”, the personal homage that is “Rose of Los Angeles” and the self-destructive depress-o-classic “God Damn the Sun”. “Purple Creek” is pretty good too, and closer “Mean Monster Mike” is just plain insane. I’m not entirely sure if this record is still in print (I got it at a stall in Roadburn Festival 2012) but if you are looking to get some of Gira’s acoustic stuff this is the cheapest you’ll find anywhere, ever. The Milk of M. Gira is still in print but unless you can catch him / Swans on tour your never going to get it at a decent price when beret wearing hipster cunts are selling them on Discogs for over sixty quid each. All the other hand-made CDs are valuing at a hundred or more, so this simple 12″ at an average of fifteen pounds is your best bet, I’d wager. I fucking love Gira but I fucking hate hipsters. What an endlessly painful situation, eh?

Anal Cunt – Picnic of Love (1998)

Anal Cunt – Picnic of Love (1998)

In my last Anal Cunt post I mention briefly that Limited Appeal Records put out some fantastic records, and this here slab of ridiculousness is a prime example. Regardless what you might think of Anal Cunt’s Picnic of Love record, the pressing itself is a labour of love; the front has whole new artwork from the original, each one is hand numbered (I have 13 out of 311), the art and text on the labels is hand done; and there is a huge printed booklet with hand written lyrics! This is DIY as fuck, if you look passed the fact that the record itself was pressed by a machine (ha ha). I have one of the absurdly rare coloured versions (numbered to 55 copies) that I scored for a small fortune on Ebay. Musically, Picnic of Love is a test of patience; somewhat unusually pleasant but equally or more so grating on the nerves as time goes on. Saying that, I wish I had manned the fuck up at 17 and made the trip to Newcastle when AxCx did a Picnic set at the first ever Blastonbury Festival. I imagine it was very entertaining live! If you don’t know the history of the Picnic record, it’s probably not the best place to start in the extensive AxCx catalogue, if I’m entirely honest. Check out the track below and play it to your lover / girlfriend / wife / object of affection; I guarantee it will get you laid.