Man, if there’s one artist I’d call a master of electronic music, it would be Bryan Erickson, the one-man band otherwise known as Velvet Acid Christ.
Velvet Acid Christ has nailed a formula that has allowed for the production of songs that are memorable, have emotional impact and experimental all at the same time. Erickson’s output is so consistent as far as quality, one has to wonder if he has some divine gift when it comes to the darker side of the music spectrum. If so, what sort of god gave him that gift?
Calling Ov the Dead is Velvet Acid Christ’s fourth album, released in 1998 when electro-industrial music was defining itself as a separate genre and begetting its own subgenres like aggrotech and dark electro. Of course, those labels don’t mean much and the broad electro-industrial, which I would define as industrial music not based around guitars, works just fine for me.
Velvet Acid Christ, as evident on Calling Ov the Dead, is a further evolution of a genre that has a family tree rooted both in the abrasive industrial output of Skinny Puppy and the haunting dark goth of the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The music has a broad appeal, at least for those who aren’t committed to the easy-to-swallow music on mainstream radio or devoted to a single genre in which they believe everything outside of it “sucks.”
Erickson electronically alters vocals. He usually giving them sort of a cold echo effect that makes him sound like he’s calling out of a dark pit or a distorted roar. It’s not unlike Ogre from Skinny Puppy, and it’s a very effective approach for the music.
Anyway, let’s dive into Calling Ov the Dead.
Listening to Calling Ov the Dead, a listener will probably notice that there’s a lot of vocal samples from movies. So much so that they often displace Erickson as the lead vocalist on many songs.
While that may sound like “cheating” to some people, it’s really effective. All you have to do is listen to “Phucking Phreak” and its use of samples from Se7en. It’s effective because it goes hand in hand with the creepy music throughout. The main melody is instantly memorable and the entire song creates a mood of both hopelessness and rage … much like the movie itself.
Another sample heavy song is “BSAT2,” which is frenetic and fast, almost feverish. It’s steady beat and fast music are sort of like the soundtrack for a caged animal, beating itself against the wires of a cage to get out.
Another effective use of samples is Drew Barrymore’s famous line from Scream, “he’s big and he plays football and he’ll kick the shit out of you!” opens “The Dead (Death Wish Mix).” It’s another fast pace number with Ghostface samples promising violence, with Barrymore’s fearful voice featured intermittently.
If there’s one thing you can say about the music of this album, it’s that it can be described as violent, aggressive or, sometimes, spooky.
“Pray for Life” could be called one of the “rocker” songs on the album. It’s aggressive, loud and abrasive sounding track, with echoes of the Electric Hellfire Club. Its guitar sound and pummeling bass track just pound the listener relentlessly. The addition of samples from the 1996 flick Extreme Measures just adds to the violent feel of this song.
“Zix Zix Zix” is an interesting track because it pretty much has all the elements that were trademarks for Velvet Acid Christ’s sound for the better part of the decade. Lots of aggressive synths, a pummeling beat, vicious and distorted vocals, and melodies that stood in contrast to the abrasive cacophony being produced.
The original version of the album ends with “Decay,” a rather epic and slow moving industrial track. It’s got a large sound and sucks the listener in and, unlike most other tracks on the album, is very light on the vocal samples. It’s a great ending song and leaves the listener feeling like their time spent listening was complete experience.
Calling Ov the Dead is an album that those who’ve never dipped their toes, particularly metalheads, in the electro-industrial waters. It’s got crossover appeal for metalheads because it’s such an aggressive album. Yeah, it’s light on the guitars and there’s a lot of electronic noise, but, it feels heavier than many metal bands out there.
I’d recommend Calling Ov the Dead, though, I can’t recommend it near as much as its follow up album, Fun With Knives, which I consider about as close to perfect an album as I ever heard. Luckily, I’ll get to review that one in 2019.
Seriously, look at the number of songs I talk about on this album. Eight out of the 11 on the original release are standouts in my opinion, that ought to say something.
Anyway, check out Calling Ov the Dead. Even if you don’t buy it, it’s a worthwhile experience.
Australian Amazon Shoppers, click here to purchase Calling Ov The Dead (reissue) by Velvet Acid Christ (2006-02-07)