woensdag 2 augustus 2017

The Breath Of Life: Don’t we all hide a dark side and a certain disgust under a beautiful appearance?

With ‘Under The Falling Stars’, The Breath Of Life has delivered a fantastic album. They think so themselves, by the way, as we found out in a conversation with Isabelle (vocals), Phil (guitar) and Didier (bass) about the album and all the things that accompany it.
'Under The Falling Stars' is the 8th studio album of The Breath Of Life. I think it's one of the best. Did you intend to reach this high with this record?
Phil : We have always tried to give the best for each record, but there are some things that you do not always control. I think that in this case everything was right to get a good result. In the past also, we never agreed about a certain goal. We just made it happen. This time, we made recordings and nobody heard the results before we sent them to Gilles Martin in France. When he informed us that ‘your record is a blow’, we knew were not mistaken. What a relief!
Isabelle : Thank you. We always give the best for each record. Certainly we would like to play more. Sharing this album and making it live on stage is very important to us.
For this record, Philippe Mauroy played the guitar and Didier Czepczyck the bass. We have noticed that they both master the two instruments well, and that they often change from instrument on stage. Has the choice to play only one instrument per musician contributed to the coherence of the record?
Phil : I have been absent from the group for a number of years. When I came back we had to ensure some performances. During my absence, the group recorded two records with Didier on guitar. Initially, Didier played guitar on his own songs, all the more because we had a very different style and that I could hardly play his pieces. (Laughs) Afterwards, it seemed better that each one would retain a preferred instrument. It must be said that Didier excels at the bass and really gives a beautiful colour to the songs. As for the guitar, I let you judge yourself.
Didier : I really think that if I and Phil had to alternate the guitar, this would have reduced the coherence on the record to zero. Phil reminds me of the more excited moments of Jean Marie Aerts in TC Matic. And if he plays a bit softer, he has the romantic tendency to stroke his strings like Justin Jones of And Also The Trees. I am - at my modest level - more in the league of Billy Duffy or John Mc Geoch. Actually, I believe that two guitarists can quickly become as problematic for a group as having two singers. For example, I'm a big fan of Depeche Mode, but if Martin Gore takes over the vocals from Dave Gahan, I like it less.
Giovanni Bortolin, on the other hand, continues to combine the violin and the keys. I think his violin is well represented on the new record and is giving much identity to the group. What do you think?
Phil : Absolutely, it's an essential element. We can hardly think of The Breath Of Life without Giovanni and his violin. I do not know how it's with you, but personally I've never heard anybody like this violin. Together with Isabelle's song this is probably what the listener most notices about The Breath Of Life.
You've released two amazing videos with songs from 'Under The Falling Stars'. How did that happen?
Isabelle : We are lucky to be able to have the highly talented Jean-Gérard Dermine among our close friends. He is very open and very creative. His talent and his ability to bring things to a good end is impressive. And he is still working to prepare new surprises!
Phil : Indeed. It is our friend Jean-Gérard Dermine who has provoked this all. For 'Crime Passionnel', he asked a couple of tango dancers and a few figurants to participate. For 'Blackout', the setting of the Cockerill framework in Charleroi was sufficient.

The lyrics in your songs seem to emphasize the flight in dreams. Is this theme dear to the band?
Isabelle : Dreams are fundamental and help me to progress. I regularly notice that I am daydreaming. I love it. In addition, I cut several themes on this album, such as psychic manipulation on ‘Hide’, Malala Yousafzai's tragic story on ‘Blackout’, the interaction between feelings, thoughts and deeds in 'A New Reality', the importance to take distance and take a view from above to understand more complicated situations in ‘Higher’...
The cover of the CD shows a photograph of a boat stranded on a beach, taken by the extraordinary photographer Xavier Marquis. Why did you choose this picture?
Phil : Because of the atmosphere. I immediately felt a harmony between our music and the lyrics of Isabelle. And also with the title she had chosen for the record ('Under The Falling Stars'). Imagine that this boat stranded on an evening, under a sky full of stars. Don’t we all hide a dark side and a certain disgust under a beautiful appearance?
Isabelle : The photo was taken by Xavier Marquis, yet another person with a lot of talent who is passionate about his art.
Your new CD is a collaboration between Wool-E Discs and your own Music Language Records. Why?
Phil : It's the first time we publish a record ourselves, just because we noticed that the role of a record label has changed dramatically. In the past, they did everything they could to release our records, but today, such traders are no longer available. Only a few fearless people like Wool-E Discs continue to provide courageous resistance, out of passion. Everything is done via the internet, and at our level, labels have become a meaningless intermediate level.
In the past, you have released albums on labels like 'Hall of Sermon' of Lacrimosa or 'Danse Macabre' of Das Ich. Do you still have ties with these labels?
Isabelle : Surprisingly, Bruno Kramm of Das Ich asked us - 15 days before the Wave-Gotic-Treffen in Leipzig - to play as a main act on one of the WGT's podiums.
You also release a limited edition of the record on vinyl, next to the CD. Unfortunately, it will contain only 8 out of 11 numbers due to lack of space. Why this choice?
Phil : As you indicate, this is due to the limited possibilities of a vinyl and therefore not a real choice. It would be technically possible to put more songs on the vinyl, but that would have been at the expense of sound quality. So we have deleted three songs. That vinyl is a gift we have given ourselves.
Do you want to add something else? We give you the last word.
Phil : We do not need a label anymore, but an effective booking agency for performances would be welcome. The call has been made...

The Breath Of Life
Pictures: Xavier Marquis

The Breath Of Life: Sous une belle apparence, n'avons-nous pas aussi un côté obscure et une tristesse enfouie?

Avec ‘Under The Falling Stars’, The Breath Of Life a produit un nouvel album fantastique. Ils en sont convaincus eux-mêmes, comme nous avons pu constater dans notre entretien avec Isabelle (chant), Phil (guitares) et Didier (basse) sur l’album et toutes les choses qui l’entourent.
‘Under The Falling Stars’ est le huitième album studio pour The Breath Of Life. Je pense que c’est l’un des meilleurs. Aviez-vous l’intention de frapper fort avec ce disque ?

Phil : Nous avons toujours essayé de donner le meilleur de nous pour chaque album mais  il y a des choses que l’on ne maîtrise pas forcément. Dans ce cas, je crois que les éléments étaient réunis pour que le résultat soit bon.Comme toujours nous n'avons pas discuté d'une direction à prendre, nous avons vraiment laissé les choses se faire. Nous avons fait les prises de sons nous-mêmes et personne n'avait entendu le résultat avant que nous les envoyions à Gilles Martin pour le mixage en France. Quand il nous a envoyé un message disant « votre album est une tuerie », ouf, on savait qu'on ne c'était pas trompé.
Isabelle : Merci.  On espère toujours le meilleur pour chaque album.  Ce qui est certain est que nous aimerions jouer davantage.  Partager ce nouvel album et le faire vivre sur scène est important pour nous.
Pour cd disque, Philippe Mauroy joue la guitare et Didier Czepczyk  joue la basse. Nous avions remarqué que chacun de ces musiciens joue très bien les deux instruments et les échangent souvent sur scène. Est-ce que le choix pour jouer seulement un instrument par musicien a bénéficié à la cohérence du disque ?
Phil : J'ai été absent du groupe quelques années et lorsque je suis revenu, nous avons dû assurer quelques concerts. Pendant mon absence, le groupe a enregistré 2 albums avec Didier à la guitare. Dans un premier temps Didier a continué à assurer la guitare sur ses morceaux en live. D'autant que nous n'avons pas le même jeu et que j'avais un peu du mal à les reproduire correctement. (rires)
Par la suite il nous a semblé plus intéressant de garder chacun un instrument de prédilection. Et il faut dire que Didier assure merveilleusement à la basse et donne vraiment une belle couleur aux chansons. Pour la guitare, je vous laisse juges.
Didier : Je crois sincèrement que, si Phil et moi, avions alterné les parties de guitares, cela aurait nui à la cohérence de l’album. Phil, dans ses moments d’énervement, me fait un peu penser à Jean Marie Aerts période « TC-Matic ». 
Et quand il se fait plus doux, il a cette façon romantique de caresser  ses cordes à la manière de Justin Jones de « And Also The Trees ». J’adore mais je n’arrive pas facilement à faire pareil. Je suis plus, à mon humble niveau, dans la mouvance Billy Duffy ou John Mc Geoch. En fait, avoir deux guitaristes dans un groupe peut vite devenir aussi problématique que d’avoir deux chanteurs. Par exemple, je suis grand fan de Depeche Mode, mais quand Martin Gore pousse la chansonnette à la place de Dave Gahan, j’aime moins.
Giovanni Bortolin, lui, continue à combiner le violon et les claviers. Je pense que son violon est bien mis en évidence sur le disque et est un atout qui donne beaucoup d’identité au groupe. Qu’en pensez-vous ?
Phil : Bien sûr, c'est un élément essentiel. On imagine difficilement TBOL sans Giovanni et son violon. Je ne sais pas vous mais personnellement je n'ai jamais entendu un violon utilisé de cette façon. Avec le chant d'Isabelle c'est sans doute ce qui marque le plus l'auditeur.
Vous avez sorti deux superbes vidéos pour des morceaux du disque. Comment vous y êtes-vous pris ?
Isabelle : Nous avons beaucoup de chance de compter parmi nos amis proches, le talentueux Jean-Gérard Dermine.  Il est très ouvert et très créatif. Son talent et sa débrouillardise pour réaliser le tout est assez spectaculaire.  Il est d’ailleurs occupé à nous préparer de nouvelles surprises !!!
Phil : C'est un ami, Jean-Gérard Dermine, qui nous a concocté ça. Pour « Crime Passionnel », un couple de danseurs de tango est venu pour y participer ainsi que quelques figurants. Pour « Blackout », le cadre du Rockerill à Charleroi se suffisait à lui-même.

La thématique des chansons accentue beaucoup la fuite dans le rêve. Ce thème est-il précieux pour le groupe ?
Isabelle : Le rêve est fondamental et m’aide à aller de l’avant.  Je me surprends régulièrement à rêvasser.  J’adore ça.  En outre, j’aborde plusieurs thèmes sur cet album, tels que : la manipulation mentale dans «Hide», l’histoire tragique de Malala Yousufzai dans «Blackout», la rupture totale d’une personne vis à vis de sa passion dans «Crime Passionnel», l’interaction entre le sentiment, la pensée et l’action, dans «A New Reality», l’importance de prendre du recul et de la hauteur pour tenter de mieux comprendre des situations difficiles dans «Higher» …
La pochette montre une photo d’un bateau échoué sur la plage, prise par l’excellent photographe Xavier Marquis. Pourquoi avez-vous choisi cette photo ?
Phil : Pour son atmosphère car j'ai ressenti une concordance avec notre musique et les textes d'Isabelle. Et puis aussi la relation avec le titre de l'album qu'elle avait choisi (Sous Les Etoiles Filantes). Imaginer que ce bateau s'est peut-être échoué, un soir, sous un beau ciel étoilé ? Sous une belle apparence, n'avons-nous pas aussi un côté obscure et une tristesse enfouie?
Isabelle : C’est une photo qui a été prise par Xavier Marquis. Une autre belle personne avec beaucoup de talent et passionné par son art.
Votre nouveau CD sort en collaboration avec Wool-E Discs et votre propre label Music Language Records. Pourquoi ce choix ?
Phil : C'est la première fois que nous autoproduisons un album. Simplement parce que nous avons remarqué que le rôle des maisons de disque ou labels avait bien changé. Avant ils se démenaient pour vendre votre disque mais aujourd'hui les disquaires n’existent pratiquement plus. Seuls quelques irréductibles comme « Wool E Disc » survivent par passion. Tout se fait par internet et, à notre niveau, les labels sont devenus un intermédiaire inutile.
Dans le passé, vous avez sorti vos disques sur des labels comme Hall of Sermon de Lacrimosa et Danse Macabre de Das Ich. Vous avez encore des liens avec ces maisons de disques ?
Isabelle : Quinze jours avant le « Wave-Gotik-Treffen Festival » de Leipzig, Bruno Kramm de Das Ich est venu nous chercher pour jouer en tête d’affiche dans une des salles du « WGT ».
A part le CD, vous sortez aussi une version limitée sur vinyl. Malheureusement, vu la capacité, le vinyl contient seulement 8 des 11 chansons. Pourquoi ce choix ?
Phil : Comme vous le dites, c'est pour une question de capacité et pas vraiment un choix. Mettre plus de titres sur le vinyle aurait éventuellement été possible mais cela aurait nui à la qualité sonore. Nous avons donc dû enlever 3 morceaux.
Le vinyle est surtout un petit cadeau qu'on s'est offert.
Vous voulez encore ajouter quelque chose ? Nous vous donnons le dernier mot

Phil : Nous n'avons plus besoin de label par contre une agence de booking efficace pour les concerts serait la bienvenue. L'appel est lancé ...

Photos: Xavier Marquis

The Breath Of Life

zondag 30 juli 2017

Damage Control - Ultranoia (CD review)

Genre: Electro
Label: none (self-released)
Rating: 8/10

In these modern times, everything is possible, also and especially in the musical field. Whereas in the past, the recording of a studio album required the physical presence in the same space of all people involved, this is no longer necessary thanks to the ever-advancing technology. Damage Control is a global electro/industrial project and you can take this literally. 2 of the band members live in Australia; the other 2 in Europe (United Kingdom and Germany). For the recording of their debut album 'Ultranoia', they have asked even more international friends for help, among others the legendary Chris Peterson (known for his work for among others, Front Line Assembly and Decree, and more recently Ohm) and the equally legendary Claus Larsen (Leæther Strip). Such a thing is destined to set off fireworks, and as you will read further in this review, that is also effectively the case.

Bill Barsby, Damian Davis, Jason Podmore and Markus App are all four experienced musicians and are influenced by a wide array of artists, among others Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy and Ministry. There are of course hundreds of electro bands that cite these legendary names as influences, but in the case of Damage Control, this is not an empty statement. Anyone who listens to their debut immediately makes the connection with FLA and co. Powerful old-school electro/industrial, characterized by tight production, mixing and mastering (and that is really not only the merit of Chris Peterson, who was behind the knobs when this album was recorded). These men know very well what they are doing.

From the opening track 'After The Fire', it is clear that this is serious. Especially the first half of the CD is cast-iron, with the firm 'Hate Crime' (a potential electro club hit) and compelling 'City Of Ruins' being my favourites. I am also really captivated by the atmospheric instrumental 'Ruined'. The second half of the album is slightly more experimental, with tracks like 'Trauma' and 'Hell's Gate'. The latter is also the longest song with its duration of more than 7 minutes. Personally, I think it is one of the lesser tracks, as the up-tempo electro has to make room for ambient here. But from a purely technical-objective point of view, this is certainly not bad. Just a bit too long and too calm to my liking.

Last of all, there are 2 tracks to which I would like to draw attention. 'Angst' is a collaboration with Ohm and an insanely good song with delightful vocal effects. It is tracks like these that restore my faith in the contemporary electro scene. And 'Hate Crime' was remixed by Leæther Strip in a professional manner. Claus Larsen put this song in an EBM jacket, so that the remix is just as danceable as the original (for which he also did the additional mixing, by the way).

Damage Control has delivered a very well-made debut with 'Ultranoia'. The band is currently looking for a label and I would be very surprised if they would not succeed. Until then, you can order this release as well as future ones on their Bandcamp.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen

Fïx8:Sëd8 - Foren6 (CD review)

Genre: Electro
Label: Dependent
Rating: 8,5/10

2017 promises to be a great year for the old-school rivethead. Recently, the long-expected debut of 2nd Face was released on Dependent and soon we can expect a fresh portion of old-school beats on Electro Aggression Records (Pyrroline and Akalotz will release a new CD this year). At this moment, the brand-new album of Fïx8:Sëd8 is in the spotlight. Just like 2nd Face, this project was recently signed by the label of Stefan Herwig. However, a big difference is that Fïx8:Sëd8 is not a newcomer. Martin Sane had already released 2 albums on his own, but publicity to these was only given within the small dark electro scene. Thanks to the label deal with Dependent, this will most likely change. 'Foren6' has just been released and has already been proclaimed as one of the best dark electronic releases of this year.

I myself was not entirely unfamiliar with the work of Martin Sane. I have already seen Fïx8:Sëd8 live 3 times and this year, performances number 4 and possibly 5 will follow (Fïx8:Sëd8 will play at the WGT next week, but I am not yet sure if I will watch it; this will depend on the distance between the different concert venues). As a result, I know very well that Martin Sane is a perfectionist who will not release/do anything until he is 100% satisfied. Anyone who listens to 'Foren6' hears right away that it is the result of years of work. Martin Sane makes classic dark electro in the vein of - among others - Mentallo & The Fixer, a legendary American band which is well-known for its complex, multi-layered compositions. Skinny Puppy is a big influence too. If you would not know better, you would believe that a track like 'Flatline Friend' features vocals of Ogre himself. Aside from this, Martin Sane delivers a great vocal effort throughout the entire album, accompanied by carefully selected vocal effects. For example, the overlap of vocals/effects in 'Baptism Of Fire' is a true pleasure for the ear. Just for this, this album already deserves all praise and I have not even yet talked about the arrangements which equally excel in diversity. From the subtle, mesmerising electronics in 'My Mistress' and 'Hermaphrodite' to the (quasi-)club potential of 'X-Shaped Scratch Mark' and 'Puritan': 'Foren6' has it all.

It is highly recommended to listen to this album as a whole; it is only then that it will show its full potential. But if I had to select one loose track as a favourite, it would be 'Ligamentum'. It had been a while (since Pyrroline's album 'Ruins Outlast') that I have been so touched by a contemporary dark electro track. 'Baptism Of Fire' and 'Eyesaw' complete the top 3. And if I had the liberty to take into account the limited (and nearly sold out) 'Formaldehyde Edition' of 'Foren6', I would also like to mention 'Force Of Inertia', a magnificent remix (with added vocals) of a track of MC1R. This is dark electro as I prefer it: intense and beautiful.

Whereas I was slightly critical with regards to the hype around 2nd Face, I have not a single doubt about the new album of Fïx8:Sëd8. Very solid release on Dependent and a must-have for the fans of old-school electro. 'Foren6' can already rest assured it will get a spot in my top 10 of 2017.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen

Pyrroline - In The Dawn Of Freedom (CD review)

Genre: EBM - Electro
Rating: 8,5/10

"We live in one world. We are one people." The German dark electro band Pyrroline has returned with a remarkable concept album after 4 years. The post-apocalyptic theme of the previous album 'Ruins Outlast' has made room for a slightly more politically inspired theme: the Croatian War of Independence between 1991-1995. Not exactly the most evident subject in the dark electro scene, but husband and wife Arnte and Schmoun have done it, anyway. Do not expect lyrics like "I don't remember humans." and samples from 'The Terminator' this time, but tracks about courage, hope and love in the battle for people's independence. No futuristic war against fictional intelligent machines, but a real human conflict which happened less than 30 years ago.

Pyrroline is a band which is known for its complex, multi-layered song structures which evoke the classic dark electro feeling of the 90s. 'Ruins Outlast' was a particularly melodic album and 'In The Dawn Of Freedom' is no different. However, the new album features significantly more old-school EBM rhythms and other elements (e.g. 'Maria', 'Succeed', 'End Of The Path'). Another difference is that Arnte uses various vocal effects and therefore, does not limit himself to his characteristic whisper-like vocals which dominated 'Ruins Outlast'. My 2 favourite tracks on the new album, 'Divine Revelation' and 'Dismantled Society', both feature vocal effects which are rather atypical for Pyrroline. In the more EBM-inspired songs (especially 'Succeed'), the vocals are even so unusual that I would never have figured that this is Arnte, let alone Pyrroline. I can only approve of this variation in vocal effects, especially as Schmoun does not sing on this album for some strange reason. Pyrroline has even gone further and has invited a certain Emdezet as guest vocalist. 'With You' features both vocals and lyrics of this guy, but I cannot say that I like it. As a mellow love song with synthpoppy vocals, this feels out of place, not only on an album about the Croatian War of Independence, but just on any Pyrroline album or dark electro album in general. This is my only point of criticism with regards to 'In The Dawn Of Freedom', which is truly a lovely album.

Just like the previous album, the new album features some instrumentals, of which 'Vukovar' is my favourite. And also this time, there are 2 remixes on the CD. One Eye Wanders has made a catchy, albeit barely recognisable electro remix of 'Divine Revelation'. kFactor's hypnotising EBM remix of 'One People' has a clearer link to the original, even though you have to listen carefully. If you purchase the digital version of the album on Bandcamp, you will get a third remix: the Soillodge remix of 'Nothing To Lose'. In my opinion, this is the best one. Michael Renfield has re-made this track in an exceptionally melodic manner. Especially the part between 1:53 and 3:38 has been haunting me for weeks. This is a true dark electro gem; I would even dare to say better than the original. Too bad there was not enough space left on the CD.

With 'In The Dawn Of Freedom', Pyrroline has proven once again that it belongs to the top of the contemporary dark electro. Hopefully, we will not have to wait another 4 years for the next album. Either way, I am very much looking forward to their gig at the Lauscher Festival in Erfurt on 23 September.

CD review: Marjolein Laenen

zondag 11 juni 2017

Wave Gotik Treffen 2017: literary ambitions, Cola mit Spee and pitch-black music

The WGT. Wave Gotik Treffen. The biggest black festival in the world and an unforgettable experience every time again. A gathering of like-minded creative and eccentric people, individualists who exceptionally blend into a larger whole.

It's my ninth edition already, and I see no reason to leave it after it. This year - like every year - there is some criticism of the program. Not enough big names, perhaps. But are we not here to discover new things, and to see bands that we will never see in our own country?

The program is very eclectic. There are numerous stages throughout the city, but there are also exhibitions, lectures, guided tours, parties... I intend to make it a total experience. As the performances start only about four or five o’clock, it is impossible to see more than five concerts a day. On the other hand, you have a lot of time to experience other things.

The first day

I begin in a very classical way at the Agra. This is the beating heart of the WGT. The largest concert hall with a capacity of 5000 people, the camping, a wide variety of food stalls and a large market with clothes, discs and accessories. Ideal to do some purchases - you want to look good, don’t you? - and to add some jewels to your CD collection.

I rush to be on time at the Schauspielhaus - the theater that will be my favorite place in this edition - to see Herbst in Peking. That did not prove to be necessary. Against my expectations, not so many people wanted to attend the concert. You may not know Herbst in Peking, but they are legendary here in the former GDR. They played a role in the fall of the wall. Herbst in Peking was one of the many punk bands that existed in the GDR, and they had a small hit with 'Bakschischrepublik', or backsheesh republic, a tremendous criticism of the GDR.

The DDR government didn’t like it, especially since they thought the name of the group referred to the massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a slaughter that didn't want to be mentioned. In fact, the name from a book by Boris Vian's with the same name, and the band carried this name since 1987, long before the slaughter in Beijing. However, Herbst in Peking was banned. The ban did not last long, as the wall fell soon afterwards.

A punk band in a theater room. Isn’t that exceptional? It will soon be clear why that is the case. Herbst in Peking has never restricted itself to punk. For instance, they also made songs with metal percussion à la Einstürzende Neubauten. But nothing of all this tonight. Here they play atmospheric music with a lot of attention to the lyrics. The band always had literary aspirations, as was also widespread in the alternative GDR scene (today Herbst in Peking play a song based on a poem by punk poet Bert Papenfuss, a central figure from the DDR scene). I'm surprised that the singer starts in English, but he switches to German regularly. Those who came to hear the old work might have been dissapointed, but it was an intense and successful performance nevertheless.

The crows call Jarboe welcome. Once upon a time she was half of the misanthropic duo Swans, today she plays here alone. Not entirely alone. A folk guitarist accompanies her. Consider the guitar as a drone - sometimes the guitar literally plays only one chord per song - supporting captivating female vocals. It's original, but it’s a hard stretch to keep the public’s attention for a longer time. Many people leave half way the concert.

In Gowan Ring used to be part of World Serpent - the record label of Death In June, Current 93 and many others - and so they are sometimes counted as neofolk. In reality, they are pure hippies making music for a world of harmony. A big difference with the world of perdition and misanthropy that is called neofolk. Masterbrain B'ee - who lives in Leipzig - tells about the drugs he took during the previous edition of the WGT, and how the hangover following that was the inspiration for a song about his childhood memories, which is now performed here a year later.

No big attendance for Andi Sex Gang. It needs to be said that he will perform again with Sex Gang Children on the next day, and they are the real thing, off cource. Anyone who thought Andi would perform his solo work was at the wrong address. Almost the whole set consisted of Sex Gang Children songs, performed with Matthew J. Saw on the guitar. It was somewhat amateurish. The sound check took too long and so the organizers decided that the performance had begun. In Leipzig, everyone must start and end on the announced time so that people who change stage are sure they can see the bands of their choice.

The two gentlemen want to leave the stage, but are told to play. Andi complains that he left his water is backstage and asks for a new bottle, which he does not see, however, until a staff member puts it in front of his nose. As a final disaster, Andi let’s his guitar fall, breaking his reinforcement element. An additional micro is added to amplify the guitar in a hurry. Strangely enough, the performance will be very good from then on, though it remains the question why this performance had to take place with songs that will sound much better tomorrow with the whole band.

The second day

One of the many exhibitions free for visitors to the WGT is 'Modern Times' in the history museum of the Altes Rathaus (Old City Council). This gives an overview of Leipzig's history in the 19th and 20th centuries. We begin in 1815 - the victory over Napoleon in the Völkerschlacht in Leipzig - and get an overview of the 1830's hunger riots, the 1848 revolt (smashed in blood), the German unification after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the tremendous Anti-Semitism, the rise of socialism (of which Leipzig was a bulwark), the First World War, the rise of Nazism (of which Leipzig was also a bulwark) ...

There are links with our scene. The fire in the Reichstag in 1933 - featured in the number ‘Feurio’ of Einstürzende Neubauten - led to a process in Leipzig. Besides the arsonist Marinus van der Lubbe, a number of prominent Communists had to stand trial. The latter were released in the trial, but the Nazis kept writing in their publications that the communists caused the fire. Communist Willy Münzenberg wrote a rebuttal of this statement from Paris: ‘Braunbuch uber Reichstagbrand und Hitlerterror’, or ‘Brown Book’, a major and controversial record of death In June (forbidden in Germany because it contains the Nazi party song ‘Horst-Wessellied’). We also read that the euthanasia program for mentally and physically disabled people - the subject of Samsas Traum’s ‘Poesie: Friedrichs Geschichte’ - started in Leipzig with the killing of 'Child K'.

The exhibition also shows the fall of the wall, which began with tens of thousands of Leipzigers demonstrating weekly with the slogan ‘Wir sind das Volk’. Remarkably, this slogan - meanwhile taken over by the hateful Pegida - was often accompanied by ‘Wir wollen raus’ - ‘we want to go’ screamed by people who wanted to leave the GDR (while the current Pegida is against migration).

The exhibition ends with a small room with 'Szene-Erinnerungen', which shows some material about the early gothic scene in Leipzig. Actually, it is a small follow-up of the 'Leipzig in Schwarz' exhibition held last year for the 25th anniversary of the WGT. There is not much to see, but we learn that the museum is still looking for material for a next exhibition about the theme. We are looking forward to it.

The Stasi Museum 'Runde Ecke' is also showing an exhibition about the early goth scene, in particular explaining the prosecution of subcultures by the Stasi, the state security of the GDR. There is also a 'reading', which is actually a performance of a piece by two actors. The topic is a research by the Stasi about the wave group ‘Schadestof’. First, a student is called to become Stasi ‘Informele Mitarbeiter’ - there were hundreds of thousands of ‘IMs’ who spied on their co-citizens in the GDR - in order to gather information about the band.

That's how Sabine is approached, a brilliant pupil who appears to be close to the ‘Gruftis’ - a German name for tomb-people or wavers - also dressed like them and attended various concerts of Schadestof. The performance is based entirely on true documents of the Stasi, of which only the order was slightly modified to clarify the story line. Sabine eventually accepts to become Informele Mitarbeiter. The presentation ends with her written report to the Stasi, the last sentence of which states: ‘All Gruftis drink their cola with Spee (laundry detergent which, according to some, has anesthetic effect in combination with cola), but they do not have to do if they do not want to.’

You can also read through the numerous Stasi reports about Gruftis. It's obviously terrifying to see how the police state kept watch of the youth, but it's also funny at times. For example, reference is made to 'Codix' or 'Goortik', wrong names that found their origin not only from the Stasi but also from the young people they interviewed. There are also references to 'Kürfans' and 'The Chur', as well as to 'New Menticks', 'Depache Mode' and 'Depesche Mode'.

It's even more threatening when it comes to fights with skinheads that took place regularly. Skinheads attacked wave parties to cut off the hair of Gruftis, in which Gruftis were also wounded with knifes. The Stasi acknowledged that the violence came from the the skins in the first place, but found that Gruftis were also guilty of violence and injuries, ‘usually in response to provocations of other youth groups as skinheads.’

There is a strange story about Gruftis who wanted to celebrate Adolf Hitler's birthday on 20/04/1989. Luckily, the Stasi concludes that the story is unfounded. The Stasi recognized that Gruftis are usually against violence and neonazism. Perhaps there was confusion with Robert Smith's birthday a day later on April 21, which of course was celebrated. The Stasi also concluded that Gruftis, when hearing the voice of Robert Smith, raised their arms and fell on the ground in ecstasy. Hmm, yes ... can be.

Should there be more music? Of course! Let’s go to the Taubschenhalle. This is the place were mohawks and deathhawks unite. And you know what that means: deathrock, postpunk, batcave ... Delicious. Singer Suzy Sabotage of Masquerade looks like a young version of Siouxie with bleached hairs. Also, her voice and dance moves reminds us of this great lady, even though it must not be intentional. Together with her companion and bassist Saph - both have another deathrock group in which Saph sings: Virgin in Veil - they bring a mix of punk and post punk, which unfortunately does not totally convince me.

‘After 26 years it's not easy to find new groups,’ the introducer to Soviet Soviet told us. Soviet Soviet - the council of councils - is such a newcomer. It's one of countless bands playing postpunk without having something to do with the black scene. They can bring forth some interesting elements, but they repeat them endlessly until you’ll ultimately get bored with them. Totally unnecessary performance.

I didn’t hear anything from The Scary Bitches for a long time. It appeared no one heard from them in the last five years. But here, the ‘Lesbian Vampires From Outer Space’ are back for their first concert since 2012. They are working on a new album that should be released next year. They already play a song from that album, but rest of the show consists of classics like my favorite 'You'll End Up Looking Like The Scary Bitches'. Nothing to take seriously, but enough to get a smile on our face once every five years.

The first performance that really touches me today is Bloody, Dead & Sexy. I remember when I first saw them in The Steeple in Waregem, as an opener for ... Sex Gang Children! What a coincidence. Today, the band celebrates its 20th birthday. For the occasion, a compilation was issued: 'Crucifixion, Please!' They play a lot from this new CD, so it is actually a 'best of' set. It seems like time stood still, since it is as overwhelming as the first time I saw them.

Yesterday, I wondered why Andi Sex Gang had to perform solo with Sex Gang Children songs. Today, everything becomes clear. Sex Gang Children also has a new compilation - "Electric Jezebel", which collects singles from 1982 and 1983 - and they play this in full, and with the original guitarist Terry Mcleay in the band. Matthew J. Saw was referred to the bass for the occasion. (The chance that the original bassist Dave Roberts will ever play in the band is nihil after the rumors he has spread over Andi Sex Gang.) The performance thus consists of the classics of the first years of the group: 'Times of our Lives', 'Salvation', 'Sebastiane', 'Oh Funny Man', 'Mauritia Mayer'... Just genius!

The third day

On the third day I wake up with a gigantic hangover in the afternoon. I’ve been staying too long at a dark-romantic party this morning. The musical offer available today does not excite me much. I've heard enough of all the postpunk and electronic groups, so I opt for something radically different: black metal. The Felsenkeller offers a fascinating bill in the genre. It starts with Nachtblut, a band that is clearly very popular here. The trio looks fantastic, with bodypaint and extravagant hairstyles. The singer spits his lyrics into the audience as the German version of Dany Filth. Add some orchestral and acoustic elements to it, and you have a particularly powerful and varied performance.

From the dark hollow holes deep in the black forest comes Unlicht, who like to call themselves 'The Black Forest Hell Ensemble'. They also wear bodypaint and should be careful not to hurt themselves at the long nails hanging at their arms. Where Nachtblut brings their black metal with elegance and melody, the intention here seems to be to produce unsustainable noise. They manage to achieve that, to the extent that leave halfway through the concert.

Back to my favorite hall: the Schauspielhaus. Myrkur recorded her first ep entirely on her own, as is required in black metal. It contained black metal prolonged with idyllic heavenly singing that quickly got attention. Her original intention was to stay anonymous and not to release pictures of herself, but it was inevitable that the world realized that the beautiful Danish photo model Amalie Brunne was behind the project. From black metal to neo classical, a big step for humanity, a small step for Amalie Brunne. She is assisted tonight by a guitarist and two singers, and accompanies herself on piano, nyckelharpa and drum. The result is beautiful.

We’re in for even more beauty. Moon Far Away mixes Russian folk music with electronic elements. Count Ash has included four accomplices for this performance, including a singer with a beautiful voice. Count Ash's folk guitar and its multitude of effects is also central, as well as electronics, bass and percussion. Call it folk, neofolk or post folk, but take it from me that it's fantastic.
The fourth day

Pentecost. All good things come to an end. There is no consensus about the bad things. It's the last day of the WGT, and today I really want something really dark, something pitch-black.

The hall of the Haus Leipzig is already full when I arrive in time for the ‘reading’ of Oswald Henke. Henke will perform songs from Goethes Erben accompanied by piano. It seems a good concept. Oswald is still singing his dark songs very expressively and theatrically. In addition to two songs from the fantastic recent musical theater 'Menschenstille', the emphasis is on the older work: 'Ich liebe Schmerzen', 'Das schwarze Wesen', Kaltes Licht', '5 Jahre' and 'Der Weg'. A wonderful set. And really dark, so I am happy.

I leave, still impressed by the performance of Henke. On my way, I pass a table of books, with titles like 'Gespräche mit Goth' (conversations with Goth) and 'Ich war ein Grufti' (I was a Grufti). Their author is Thomas Manegold, and he is the next guest here. He trickled my attention and I turn right back to the room I just left. Manegold presents his book ‘Gespräche with Goth’, an episode novel that consists of several short stories that are connected.

The main character is a former DJ and music journalist who struggles with a burnout. Manegold appears to have a particularly sharp pen and a wide range of humor. His description of the self-centered amateur music journalist who cynically looks down on the people he interviews and sees himself as an indispensable link between the artist and the public must undoubtedly cause some teeth cringing at the Dark Entries editorial board.

When I finally walk into a concert hall and see Vain Warr at work, I have to think about my late grandmother. She often complained that the young generation of artists did not bother to articulate. It is a generalized cliché that you hear more often in the French-speaking world. I came here for an additional portion of pitch-black darkness. The program promised something inspired by The Sisters of Mercy. Well, the drum machine sounds like Dr. Avalanche on a lesser day and the guitars are reverbing and delaying like they should. It's not overwhelming, but it's not bad either.

I was initially afraid Holygram would be the next thirteen in a dozen postpunk band, and it turned out to be true. The singer sings his lyrics as if they were terribly boring, and that turned out to be true too. But hey, at least he’s articulating. Actually, this is a good performance, at least if you have drunk some beers and do not give too much attention to the lyrics (I'm better at the former than at the latter).

Back in my favorite concert hall I notice two cops looking carefully around. After all the reports about terrorist attacks on concerts, I get anxious thoughts. Suppose a freak with bad intentions has has entered the place, how do you distinguish him from all the other freaks? It's a question you should not think about too long.

I'm here to see Theodor Bastard. I saw them when they played pitch-blach darkwave. Meanwhile, they have seriously evolved towards world music, and the result is impressive. How do you mix Dead Can Dance with goa, folk, world music, dark wave and industrial? Theodor Bastard knows the secret, but will not tell you. You can enjoy it, though, without limits.

As a closer for the festival, Corde Oblique is a safe choice. It’s not pitch-black, but rather consists of infinite beauty. A combination of tiredness and excessive drinking makes me unable to enjoy the performance in a good way, but from experience I know that the neoclassical group around classical guitarist Riccardo Prencipe sounds heavenly, and in my moments of clarity, I am reaffirmed in this opinion.

Time to go to sleep then? Indeed. This edition will have me suffering from the inevitable Leipzig Blues for the next few days. But I'm returning home with a suitcase full of great experiences, CDs and books that will keep me going for a while. And my decision is already clear: I will be back again next year.

Setlist Oswald Henke: Ich liebe Schmerzen / Das schwarze Wesen / So weiss ich doch du wärst / Traumsuche / Keine Farben / Lilien / Kaltes Light / Der Abschied / Stadt der Träumen (Artwork) / 5 Jahre / Der Weg

Xavier Kruth

Pictures: Luc 'Who Cares' Luyten