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Shadow Music Review by
Geoffrey H. Goodwin
THE CRÜXSHADOWS: WISHFIRE
Dancing Ferret Discs
CD
ASIN: B00006GA0S
$16.98 US

TRIUMPHANT, HOPEFUL AND UPBEAT GOTH?

I don't have any more cash than the average FeoAmante.com reader (Hey! What the...?!?
. . . oh wait, wait, he's right -feo
), so I'm always reluctant to fork out my dough for a band I haven't heard. Thank Goodness the Internet is together enough to have legitimate places where a savvy consumer can check out bands in advance.

I heard that THE CRÜXSHADOWS had played the most recent DragonCon and read writer Caitlin R. Kiernan's raves on her website (Ms. Kiernan was the one who called it "triumphant, hopeful and upbeat goth"). And I got the impression they were somewhere in-between darkwave and electro-goth, so I went to MP3.com and scoped out their "Leave Me Alone" track. It's an interestingly haunting bit: an anonymous DJ took an old track of theirs and mixed in soundbites of some of the ridiculous rumors broadcast about goths after the shootings at Columbine High School. It's sad, spooky, and this version's unreleased, so I think you can only find it by going to MP3.com and searching THE CRÜXSHADOWS.

NOTE: "Leave Me Alone" is NOT on this album, but it shows off what particular flavor of creepiness they're into.

So, I plunked down the cash for WISHFIRE. And I'm so glad. It's less about doom and gloom than most contemporary goth acts. It's upbeat, anthem-style dancefloor stuff. Sure the pieces are there, but the band's taken the puzzle three-dimensional or something
. . . Pinhead's puzzlebox comes to mind . . .

It's triumphant goth the way sneering punk rock can be self-empowering. This is goth that says, "Sure, you thought I was a poseur in high school, but look what I'm doing with my imagination! I embrace the power of dreams and you're stuck being an accountant!" (FeoNote: That slight does not apply to those of you who are passionate, desirous, mad-ball and off the wall "Living-the-DREAM!" accountants.)

The album works very well as a whole, discussing and expanding the concept of WISHFIRE, but to break apart some of my standout tracks:

Return (Coming Home): is a gloomy ballad. "I have tasted the wisdom of divinity and the horror of its sting." From there, it branches into a simple yet orchestrated song of getting through struggles.

Binary: is a little harder (in the electronic sense). The band shows off their atmospherics. Like most of the album, it seems to be saying that, hey, life can have an infinite ability to suck, but if you hang in there and give it everything you've got - transcending black and white thinking, even with all the doubt, beautiful things can happen.

Spectator: is sultry and very synthpop. 80s icons, maybe even Thompson Twins come to mind. "and everyone will say 'I told you so' yeah they'll all just nod and sigh as I go down in a ball of flames they'll just watch, and wonder why."

Tears: I'm going to make a pilgrimage to H. P. Lovecraft's grave fairly soon. This song will be on the tape I listen to on the way. It has the dripping gloom without having it too thick like frosting…at least for me, some people might find it a little sugary.

Earthfall: is grinding and dirty, more industrial. Sampled vocals, choppy rhythms, high-end synth. Perhaps it's a bit like early Nitzer Ebb, only with Rogue's distinctive vocals.

Orphean Wing: this song, if you're the kind who likes rainy days and cemeteries, can turn a day around. "But though the phantoms of this place want to steal away your grace…" It's a haunting-beautiful work. If a horror movie director doesn't put this on their soundtrack, they're stupid. "Oh God I don't think I'm breathing." "For I will bury you where they bury me."

Carnival: seems to tie the WISHFIRE theme together well. It's another 80s nod, but brainier, with male and female vocals.

Resist/R: goes back into the pop-industrial realm. It grinds and squeals. It's a bouncy, Euro track that encourages resistance. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sample fits, but barely.

The other songs are as varied and interesting, but due to limitations in the time / space continuum it seems that these lay out their range well. The overall themes of the album remain quite cohesive throughout. Even better, they do it without the bland monotony that lesser goth bands can occasionally tumble into.

If you're the kind of music lover who puts a lot of thought into what lyrics say and mean, WISHFIRE is saturated with dark and fantastic imagination. It opens the world of thought and power in unexpected, even insightful ways for slightly 80s retro, Euro (even though they're originally from Florida) gothic electronic tunes. The words are brainy…shockingly so when compared to some of that uninspired stuff out there.

This is an album for when you want to celebrate a depressed friend getting out of the psych ward or a sale on really good black eyeliner. I'm 30, so I've had plenty of fun times listening to "Girlfriend in a Coma" or ANYTHING by Skinny Puppy, but WISHFIRE is fun in a way that doesn't come along often enough. They have less of the pop sensibilities of recent Depeche Mode, but there's an equivalent measure of upbeat-ness.

It's also worth noting that they're beautiful people. The lyrics, Rogue's voice (one of their strong suits), Rachel's violin. The drums are intentionally electronic. There's no pretense of skins being slammed; bleeps and blips converge and meld into the overall sheen.

The disc also has a computer video clip of the band playing an older song ("Eurydice") live. In all their black leather and tinted hair glory, they're young, hip and charismatic.

Therefore, they're not for everybody, but THE CRÜXSHADOWS are über slinky sexy, light and danceable in the club style of danceable. They're more for those of us who still like Depeche Mode and still wear Ankhs when no one's looking. But we're still out there, so thank goodness for THE CRÜXSHADOWS.

They're not high-octane biker metal at all. But they're really cool. So let's call it Four Perplexed Skulls.

Perplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex Skull

This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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