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18 Feb 2011

Review: The Seven Deadly Sins: Luxuria (Various Artists)

The Seven Deadly Sins: Luxuria
Various Artists (Compiled by Sven Phalanx)
Independent release, 2010
Available for free download here

The Seven Deadly Sins: Luxuria is a digital-only free double album compilation of post-industrial music. The release is part two of a series of compilations exploring – and indeed celebrating! – each of the seven deadly sins from Christian mythology; Luxuria is otherwise known as lust. Being a free release, you really cannot go wrong, so if anything in my review piques your interest then do not hesitate to check it out!

Oh, and please note the strong “adult themes” that run through this release: probably not one for the kiddies.

The first “disc” of the release is dominated by a neofolk influence, though shot through with neoclassical and dark ambient elements as well. I will below go through it track by track, but on the whole I found it to be a very atmospheric, evocative, and altogether excellent ensemble of songs.

The second “disc” of the release is dominated by the more ambient/noise/experimental side of things. I found it to be tedious, to be honest – I like these genres of music but the examples on offer did not on the whole succeed in conjuring much atmosphere.

In particular, I got sick of the many tracks that are essentially just strings of samples of porn stars moaning. It’s vaguely funny the first time, but as track after track uses the same idea in the same way the shallowness of the gimmick becomes all too apparent. Not sexy at all. I haven’t bothered to give track by track commentary for this half of the release.

So in other words the first “disc” gets a big tick and the second a big cross. Given this is a free release, however, why not just download it for the goodies on the first half? That is certainly my angle.

Now, to the songs on the first “disc” themselves!

We begin with “Agony of Defeat” by A Thrill of Light. Haunting neofolk greets us, with dreamy guitars and hazy drones, shadowy figures in morning mist. Whispered vocals (lyrics indecipherable) with tasteful piano and layered instrumentation. This track actually reminds me of Agalloch in their more pensive moments, and it is a very beautiful opening to the proceedings.

“Hekate Virgo” by Forgotten Gods greets us with the cries of crows and owls and more eerie whispers against washy synth. The atmospheres of the film Pan’s Labyrinth are evoked – dark forests and nature spirits of malevolent countenance. Again, beautiful, pensive, and drifting in the night.

“Kiss the Goat (Krampus X Mix)” by Beastianity follows. This off-kilter folk duet is built around a seductive acoustic guitar pattern, livened by the occasional dose of electric guitar fanaticism. The song tells the story of a man’s love for his goat, though as the tale unfolds we become more and more uncertain as to just who is on top in this strangely mystical relationship. Deeply infectious, subtly disturbing, and just plain captivating.

Schattenspiel offers the next song, “Thirst.” Female chanted and sung vocals, martial drumming, and eerie drones wash over us, creating an atmosphere at once airy and yet militant. To this music one could stage a battle, an interpretative dance performance, or a meditation session just as easily – which I think is quite a feat. The lyrics are hard to make out but occasional snatches, such as “you taste so good,” certainly seem to flow from the lusty theme of the release. Sexy and dangerous.

“Serenade” by L’Horrible Passion comes next. Horns and strings greet us as the track builds its momentum into a restrained neoclassical drama. Images of 19th century cities locked by winter’s claws; swooning maidens in the clutches of Bela Lugosi (very sexy, no?); long dark Gothic nights where the forces of sensual darkness reign. The subtlety of the track is its most deadly weapon.

“Thema69” by Igniis changes the pace a little with acoustic guitars, trumpet, and theremin combining in a weird-folk melange. Gloomy, lusty vocals come in over glowering bass and drums. Writhing beneath the music are more of those moaning porn stars, but presented creatively in this way the samples gain a lot more impact. Carnivalesque, and not a little malevolent…yet also flecked with an ironic sensibility that elegantly draws the disparate elements together.

Hoyland arrive next with “Sins of the Flesh,” opening with drone-synths, in this case reminding me of Mortiis in his very early dark ambient days. A more forceful neoclassical spirit then comes to the fore, percussion and harp joining the story. A melancholy spirit pervades the song, which modulates progressively into darker terrain, though never allowing its airy spirit to fade away.

Mani Deum offer us a live recording in “Corpse at the End of the Street.” A pained neofolk tragedy of abandonment and love lost unfolds, at times wounded, at times strident. The track has a strong, almost tidal, momentum, as the emotions well up from beneath the surface into aching catharsis. I’m not sure whether to interpret the title as giving the song a sinister twist!

“Fajr” by Qafas returns us to the neoclassical aspect of the release, with some very beautiful piano work that caresses the ears with all the finesse of a besotted lover. A tasteful, hypnotic excursion into the artist’s imaginal worlds.

Project Nightwolf then share for our delectation a track called “Lust (Elite Version).” That martial-industrial coincidentia of forcefulness and atmospherics suffuses the indefatigable drums and wispy synth strings. Think an army of dark elves marching to war and you’ve just about got it!

The suggestively titled “Saliva y Sangre (Obscene Version 2008)” represents Lua Nigra’s foray into this compilation. Playful acoustic guitars, eerie laughter and some moaning and groaning that actually seems natural (and not the irritating faux-lust of porn-land). Chimes, drones, and Spanish spoken word complement the guitars in a beautiful and even cheeky musical tapestry. Evokes the image of fauns at play – all too knowingly – with innocent maidens who will not long remain that way.

Finally we have “Ligeia” from Suburban Cruelty Centre (what a band name!). Piano-laden pathos envelopes us in moist embrace. There’s a tenderness to this track, something disarming, that returns us to the place where love and lust become co-mingled and the former transforms the latter from vice into virtue (or is that the other way around?).

So yes – please do check out this release. It’s a free download, so you have nothing to lose. The compiler could have been more selective (which is a nice way of saying that they could have ditched the whole second half in my humble opinion), but no one is forcing us to listen to those tracks. Purely on the grounds of the quality of the first “disc” I am happy to declare that Luxuria is a (very hot and heavy) gem.

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