Monday, June 15, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Velvet Acid Christ- "Dire Land" (Remix Album)

So VAC dropped a 'remix album' of material from the Maldire and Subconscious Landscapes albums, which were tumultuous sessions for those who obsessively followed updates from the band's website and forum during the production of these albums (like I did). I know I'm excited to hear what's on this disc as a great deal of talk of very dancey/trancey stuff and/or alternate song versions was dropped while the aforementioned albums were in production. I feel and hope that this disc will close the chapter of this period of VAC's long and entertaining career, paving the way for a new chapter to open.

The album also documents Bryan of VAC's encounter and time with Rodney Anonymous of the Dead Milkmen with VAC's cover of "Big Time Operator" and a newly recorded version of "Lust" from the Lust For Blood album, now featuring Rodney on vocals. Having had the pleasure of seeing these performed live, I was excited to hear the album versions and relive some great memories.

The artwork is a continuation of that used for 2014's Subconscious Landscapes, with some more detailed and recognizable patterns (as in the front and back cover), as well as some more trippy and colorful abstract landscapes (as in the tray and CD artwork).

This album, according to the liner notes, is to compensate for the lack of singles from the Maldire and Subconscious Landscapes albums. Additionally, it states in print what Bryan has been discussing online, that this may be the last VAC release with a physical copy. Going forward, VAC may be a digital-format-only project. This would sadden me, as I like physical copies, especially after the excellent sound on VAC's first vinyl release, Subconscious Landscapes. This 'remix' album is more a snapshot of the last few years in the VACcuum world, including songs from the live sets of VAC's return to the stage. So, now for a song breakdown:
1. Christ Whore (God Module Mix)- [original version on Maldire] a different, clubbier version is presented here. While the original version has much wetter leads, this version has snappier ones with trance tinges in the mix instead of the somewhat gothic choral voices. The vocal delivery is stronger in the original but the echo in this version backs up the trancey feeling. A different version neither better nor worse than the original, to my ears.
2. Eye H8 U (Decoded Feedback Mix)- [original version on Subconscious Landscapes] this version ups the toybox qualities of the leads, stretched over a dancier bass line that makes me want to move. The original is much darker with some evil choral voices alternating with the toybox leads that feel more eerie in the original, more tender here. I prefer the original but this is a cool take!
3. Inhale Blood (Dead Hand Project Mix)- [original version on Maldire] with a bassline already set for heavy dancing, this track only needed a slight re-arrangement and accentation to make it a nasty club hit. This mix however took a different route than I would've, making a very different version from the original, with the remaining recognizable bits exact ports from the original. Amusing as an alternate version, I still much prefer the album version.
4. Big Time Operator (Featuring Rodney Anonymous) (Dead Milkmen cover)- a cover featuring the Dead Milkmen's vocalist, Rodney Anonymous, singing over VAC's interpretation. This is the result of a chance meeting (of the minds, haha) between Bryan of VAC and Rodney of DM at a show, in which Bryan got to sing on stage with the 'Milkmen. Played live during the 2014 NYC show with Rodney himself present for this an the next track on this remix album. This version is very fun, even more-so than the original as it now has some really dancey beats.
5. Lust (Anonymous Mix)- [original version on Lust For Blood] a newly recorded version featuring Rodney Anonymous again on vocals. The guitar has more reverb on it here, and the other instruments are clearly re-recorded, with essentially the same song arrangement. I do miss the left-to-right distorted vocal shift though. As this is one of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite VAC albums, you can trust my ears to be critical. That stated, this version is awesome! It puts me right back in the front row at the VAC show as Rodney screamed into my face. This version is practically worth the price of the album.
6. Sex Disease (2014 Mix)- [original versions on Neuroblastoma demo, Church of Acid, and Between The Eyes Volume 4] This version is much cleaner, with the leads much more audible. It's slightly shorter but similar in arrangement. I prefer the dirtier, sadder, earlier versions, but this one's good too. Hopefully inclusion of this track with heighten interest in the VAC back-catalog. The production is similar to that of Maldire, I'm guessing it's likely that the same equipment was used to record this version.
7. Dire (Disease Factory ov VAC Mix)- [original version on Subconscious Landscapes] I was pretty excited for this version as it was Bryan remixing one of his own songs, which normally has great results, but is especially interesting as the songs on Maldire and Subconscious Landscapes underwent many changes to fit with the developing tone of each album. The Art Of Breaking Apart album was beautifully unbalanced, but the following two albums took a much more cohesive approach to song writing and I know that songs were shifted for earlier or later release based on emotional impact. Anyway, this version is musically very similar to the album version, musically, with some extra glitchy fills and very heavy sampling. An interesting version, but I prefer the original as its emotional tone rings out more clearly with less bells and whistles.
8. Even Now (Slightly Tweaked Mix) (Edward Ka-Spel cover)- [from Dependence 2012 label compilation] This rare song is included here for those who didn't buy the compilation. An interesting cover, this feels like it could be an upbeat VAC track (rare as they are). The electronics are lush and enjoyable. Bryan wisely keeps the vocal delivery to his own range (though clearly challenging himself), keeping something of the feel of Edward Ka-Spel without aping (as this would be exceptionally difficult anyway). It's very cool to finally own this track!
9. Klaglas- [unreleased] again viewing this album as a snapshot of VAC's last few years, a chapter closing and a chapter opening, perhaps, I was very excited to hear an unreleased track. Reportedly many 'good' tracks were dropped from Maldire and Subconscious Landscapes due to ill-fits with the album vibe. This track is an instrumental. It's brooding and catchy, I really dig it as chill out music, but agree that it would have needed extensive reworking to fit in on either of the last albums, albeit maybe as a closer on Subconscious Landscapes (though Empusa's dark samples and depressive, almost pleading synth lines go a great job already!).
10. Bend The Sky (Dead When I Found Her Mix)- [original version on Maldire] I really like this remix, it takes the themes from the original adds expands upon them creating a world much more deep and epic. The overall effect is of some super-mix from Calling Ov The Dead and Lust For Blood; very eerie, very dark. A strong contender for best remix on the album!
11. Barbed Wired Garden (Assemblage 23 Mix)- [original version on Subconscious Landscapes] As Assemblage 23 have some really catchy, melancholic songs, as well as some really great remixes, this was one song I was really hyper (cursed) over! The remix starts out quite slow, adding a dull, lulling edge to the song. About halfway through, it picks up a bit but the overall pacing is on the subdued side. A good remix but I expected something catchier from A23.
12. Dystvonya- [unreleased] another previously unreleased track, likely not deemed appropriate for album inclusion for tonal reasons. Like Klaglas, Dystvonya is a great track but alas would not have fit on either of the last two albums. A severe piano lead gives way to some beautiful choral voices with overlays of anti-carnivore samples. There are some trippy acid synths in there too, making this a fairly complete VAC track, also sounding much older than it is, say from Calling Ov The Dead. This vibe only increases as the song progresses. Dark, trippy, hateful, with tender overlays might be the best descriptors. Again, somewhat of a slow-burn but the transitions keep it interesting. I'm very glad to have heard this song, it's quite good!
13. The Last Goodby (Controlled Collapse Mix) [original version on Subconscious Landscapes] while the original sounds very much like a leftover from the Hex Angel album in synth voice choice, arrangement, and emotional tone, this mix is quite different. The feeling that immediately comes to mind is post-2000 Front Line Assembly covering Pornography-era The Cure. This is the only other song to hold up against the Bend The Sky remix!

Missed opportunities/ideas for further remixes
So here's some ideas that I have formulated (in my own egotistical way) for future remixes. I won't hold my breath for an Agoraphobic Nosebleed remix, so these are some more realistic ideas:
1. Evoked (:Wumpscut: Mix)- this one should be pretty obvious. I mean, Bryan and Rudy go way back, :W: is a labelmate and already has a whole album called Evoke. Maybe another Remix War album should be in the works around this concept?
2. Hyper Curse (Hyper Mix)- a gabber remix of this should be a thing. The title demands it!
3. Ominous Rattle (Toxic Coma Mix)- as much as I love the title's inherent conjuration of the sounds of those dying and those approaching death, instead of making some eerie mix filled with Latin incantations and TB coughing samples, I submit for your approval a totally different path: babies crying and a toy rattle sample with diaper-wet leads and fart sounds.
4. a Tangerine Dream cover. This would be a great way to add some creepiness and danceyness to a classic while getting to really run some electronics through their paces. Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares would be awesome tripped out, VAC style.
5. a Depeche Mode cover. Though many come to mind, Black Celebration seems the most suited to VAC for its sad vocal delivery. I'd love to hear a Sadder Still-type version of this!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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