October is the best month of the year, for it is the start of the spooky season. As the daylight hours shorten, the air gets crisper, and the leaves slowly turn golden brown, Halloween is just around the corner! It’s quite fitting, then, that we get a brand new album from electronic Gothic rock duo Unquiet Dead!
This is their second outing, titled Anima Ignis, and its a rather strange creature. First and foremost, it captures the essence and mood of batcave era Goth music. It’s laden with gloomy ambience, and down-tuned sleazy guitar work. However, electronic elements are utilised effectively across the album too. The melodies and synths that are present twist and contort in a variety of ways, amplifying the music, and contextualising it in a more modern style. It results in a compelling battle of organic vs synthetic instrumentation, which is completed with some stunning, melancholy vocal work. To put it simply, imagine a mash-up of The Sisters of Mercy with Queens of The Stone Age (but female fronted), and you wouldn’t be too far off what the style sounds like!
Intro track “Flames” sees the sleazy riffs and booming synths kick in instantly. This one is more of an instrumental number, although Lora Maze’s ethereal harmonies echo in the background, adding another layer to the atmosphere. Its frenetic and unpredictable in its structure, and feels like a jam session. Lead single of the record “Ash” is up next (which I reviewed back in August), and is as dark and moody as ever, with some catchy hooks to boot! This is perfectly slotted in here, as it helps to set the tone for the rest of the album. “Legend” picks up the momentum a bit, but its strange intro will have you fooled. It begins with what seems like a didgeridoo (or is that just me?) and a slightly tribal vibe, before it really kicks in. For some reason, some sections of this feel like a Gothic take on Britpop era music, but this makes it no less compelling! The refrains are hypnotic, thanks to the subtle usage of electro backing, and the riffs provided by Jason Kahl are slick as hell. “Puppet Strings”, on the other hand, is a lot heavier. There’s a real chunky bassline that stands out, complimented by a sexy beat. This breaks into chugging riffage, as otherworldly synths echo all around. “Cat People” is oddly calmer in comparison, as if it were a calm summer’s evening. The tempo is much slower, as droning synths buzz in the distance, with some acoustic notes played out. Somehow it still maintains a moody atmosphere, and its not long before it bursts into something a lot darker. It constantly changes dynamic, and is an interesting track.
It’s like a journey of discovery, as if the listener is traversing through the winding corridors of a haunted house at night, except the spirits that lurk the halls would rather party than spook anyone.
“Burn My Head Down” is exactly how the title suggests. Bulky riffs return, and retro sounding synths blare out, once again injecting energy into the mix. The overall structure on this one is pretty straightforward, being the closest thing possible to a more traditional Gothic rock number, albeit with the occasional strange breakdown. Its still pleasing in it’s simplistic nature, and is a definite earworm. “Bitter Pill” may be the shortest track on the album, at just over two minutes, but it certainly makes the most of its time! The track constantly changes in pace and direction, twisting and turning like a wild roller-coaster. At times there’s smooth bluesy style riffs, at others odd, twisted disco interludes, all topped off with an atmospheric, moody chorus. The eerie intro jumps out for “Build A World Worth Dying For”, the electronic soundscapes building a creepy aura, that morphs into Maze’s vocal harmonies. Whilst Kahl’s guitar work is especially superb on this track, its subdued in comparison to the synthetic elements that keep getting built around it. This builds to a memorable chorus, which melds all this components together at once. It stands out as one of my favourites off the album. “-This is War-” calls back to the sci-fi style synths from earlier, although the high-pitched squeal of them can be a bit harsh on the ol’ eardrums. Guitar incrementally creeps in, until it moulds into the electro melodies, creating a strong balance. This song is a lot less frantic than the other tracks, and feels a lot more controlled. “I Can Hardly Wait” brings in beefy guitars, that are joined by equally beefy synths. It may not be the most fast paced track present, but the sheer force of the instrumental and vocal elements alone infuse this one with an energetic feel. Closing track “If You Don’t Want Me” continues with this momentum, adding a bit more of a twisted, haunting vibe, making it an excellent way to finish.
Needless to say, Anima Ignis is quite a chaotic album. I don’t mean this in a negative way, of course, as this only makes the listening experience even more intriguing. It’s like a journey of discovery, as if the listener is traversing through the winding corridors of a haunted house at night, except the spirits that lurk the halls would rather party than spook anyone. There might be hallucinogens involved too. It is indeed very bizarre, purely because there’s absolutely no telling where it will go next, and where it does go can be quite surprising . There’s quite a bit of experimentation that is going on here, and you can tell that the duo have had fun crafting each of these tracks.
Sure, its not going to win any awards in terms of originality, but that’s not what the record is going for. Overall, it captures a mood, an energy that can be felt throughout the album, and it’s extremely creative in the process of doing so. The resulting outcome is an atmosphere that is dark, moody, a little bit twisted, but also has a sense of fun. The frenetic nature of it makes it feel wild and rebellious, which is what makes it stand out. This could not be released at a better time, as it is the perfect soundtrack to the season. Although for us goths, Halloween is every day, and this sure does highlight that notion!
Final Verdict: A bizarre, frenetic, album that captures a strong energy. Dark and moody, but also with a sense of fun, it’s unpredictable nature makes it feel like a wild ride!