In another lifetime, access to original music in the underground goth, industrial, metal, and electronic scenes was severely limited to DIY means: bootleg tapes from cool older siblings, compilation albums, enigmatic black and white catalogues selling band shirts and bands that seemed like beautiful secrets. Among those ambassadors to the underground was the legendary Asleep By Dawn Magazine.
Throughout their long run from the Reagan Era to the streaming age, ABD had included such luminaries as Robert Smith, Ministry, The Cult, Paul Van Dyk, Loreena McKennitt, Lacuna Coil, Type O Negative, Peter Murphy, Skinny Puppy, Blue Man Group, and even the late, great Sir Christopher Lee. By 2007, the publication called it quits.
Happily, Asleep By Dawn has returned from the netherworld, wielding an impressive 22-track compilation album put out by Philadelphia label Dancing Ferret Discs: From The Vault. Spanning 1985-2005, the collection includes a vast sampling of genres and sounds between the years 1985-2011. Some of these tracks are no longer digitally available (or, in some cases, have never been sold digitally). The main goal of this compilation is to help preserve this material for future generations in loving tribute.
“Some of these songs burned up dance floors and indie charts around the world, while others achieved regional success,” says ABD’s liner notes. “Several songs were originally on major labels; one comes from a self-released demo. It’s time these tracks received a fresh listen by club DJs and music fans alike.”
With this compilation, ABD specifically aimed for a balance of styles, and ordered the tracks with a certain rhythm in mind – they recommend listening to the songs in order. Here’s a track-by-track review.
Shriekback – Nemesis (Arch-Deviant Mix)
This 1985 classic has gotten the expansive echo and reverb treatment, whittling the howling track to bombastic essentials with interludes sampled from film. The English band formed in 1981 by Barry Andrews (XTC, League of Gentlemen), Gang of Four’s bassist Dave Allen, Carl Marsh (Out on Blue Six). Martyn Barker joined on drums in 1983. Embracing and evolving from their respective projects, Shriekback were notorious for their “insidiously weird vocals.” Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis…no one move a muscle as the dead come home.
Kite – Ways To Dance
This Swedish synthpop group formed in 2008, signed to Astronaut Recordings, and is comprised of Nicklas Stenemo (The Mo, Melody Club) and Christian Berg (Yvonne, Strip Music, The April Tears). They have performed in festivals around Denmark and Sweden, as well as Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig. In 2020 they released new music with producer Benjamin John Powers. Their effervescent Ways To Dance channels a real Europop sound that blends the synth stylings o Erasure with the vocal stylings of Lykke Li. It’s a charming, unusual track.
Death Ride 69 – F##ked Up Generation
This tribal industrial garage band formed in Los Angeles by Linda LeSabre (Beatmistress) and guitarist Don Diego. They released two full-length albums, 1988’s Death Ride 69 and Screaming Down the Gravity Well in 1996. Linda’s growl soars over a ferocious crescendo of harsh guitars, distortions, and hammering drums. It’s high energy with a laser focus (and sound effects) squarely on revenge. She doesn’t shy away from violent imagery, but its hypnotic guitar lures you into a proverbial Howl for the Gen X set.
Imperative Reaction – As We Fall
This staticky, cyberpunk-tinged anthem by American electro-industrial band Imperative Reaction has a gothic oeuvre to it – if Robert Smith decided to write progressive electro. Imperative Reaction formed in 1996 by Ted Phelps and David Andrecht, a phoenix rising from the ashes of Digital Neural Assault.
The Merry Thoughts – Boy Sinister
This unabashedly trad-goth number from the German act The Merry Thoughts channels Fields of the Nephilim and Sisters of Mercy with its barking baritone over sweeping guitars and insistent drumming. The Merry Thoughts materialized in 1983 in Neuss, Germany: Marvin Arkham on the synthesizer/vocals; Sonja Jordan on synthesizer and guitar. Although they enjoyed some moderate success during their run, label woes and production problems during the making of their album Psychocult drove them to the edge, and they unfortunately called it quits in 2000.
God’s Girlfriend – Jean, I Think I’m Sinking
This unsettling, plodding dirge is cloaked in both mystery and bizarre, distorted vocals; a voice calling from beyond. Little is known about this band, other than the only member has since passed.
NCC – Seven Steps of Nervousness
This thrilling bit of high-energy techno zips through the airwaves with laser-beam precision, bizarre transmissions from the airwaves, sludgy breakdowns, and stirring space-age strings seemingly plucked from the frequencies of Saturn.
The Echoing Green – She’s Gone Tragic (Catastrophic Mix)
The Echoing Green is a wild card entry with the likes of its album-mates. Named, presumably, for the William Blake poem in Songs of Innocence, this Albuquerque synthpop band (formed in 1992) eschewed label representation for a higher power. Their lyrics are infused with a strong element of faith, Christian mysticism and biblical themes. This mix for She’s Gone Tragic is a shimmering example of showing that the path to ecstasy takes many forms through the power of music; hovering in the vein of OMD, Lightning Seeds, and Paul Van Dyk.
Faith And The Muse – The Silver Circle
Faith and the Muse’s The Silver Circle is straight-up sorcerer music, a summoning force with tribal drums, powerful female vocals, and flamenco-style guitar. Monica Richards and William Faith (The Bellwether Syndicate) blend a myriad of influences, from Celtic folk, to Welsh mythology, to darkwave – weaving a musical tapestry akin to Dead Can Dance., drawing on many sources and influences, notably Dead Can Dance. Welsh and Irish mythology have often served as an inspiration for many of the band’s songs. This one, we imagine, would be a great soundtrack to your coven night, come the next full moon.
Star Industry – Nineties
Star Industry brings a hard rock edge to a gothic sensibility. Seemingly schooled at the Andrew Eldritch Academy For Goth Crooning, the Belgian band formed in 1996. This expansive, catchy track, Nineties, ushers in a new era, tapping into that fin-de-siécle zeitgeist. Nineties was Star Industry’s most successful, topping the 1998 Israeli alternative music chart.
Sheep On Drugs – 15 Minutes of Fame
Ready to jack up your morning to some mind-melting rave energy? Sheep on Drugs deliver the seminal Andy Warhol musing in this acid house-tinged, chanting electronic music bonanza, detailing a terrifying, unforgiving modern age hellbent on fame and notoriety. We hear the same energy as The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, and Orbital. Sheep On Drugs are a British techno/industrial outfit, formed by Duncan X (a.k.a. King Duncan) (vocals) and Lee Fraser (a.k.a. Dead Lee) (guitar/keyboards). They are currently composed of Fraser and Johnny Borden (vocals/keyboards).
Sweep – Emptiness, Your Loneliness
Melancholy, minor chord techno is the MO here for this Norwegian synthpop band: zippy arpeggios and soaring guitars are coupled with emotional crooning. We hear references to Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, and even a bit of 90s club music like Haddaway and La Bouche. Sweep was formed in late 1996, aiming to keep the 80s sound alive during the grunge era. They’ve evolved into their own sound, with a decidedly 80s flair over the decades.
kHz – Let It Go
Switching gears entirely, this grungy, aggressive outburst of a track, channels the rage of Alanis Morissette, Bikini Kill, and Hole, with a heavy industrial influence and a little bit of death metal growling for good measure. kHz is Raiana Paige, Will Wood, and Joe Migz: their unique and honest DIY approach won them an award for the best indie American Latino band from AIM TV, and their music has been featured in films like Return of the Living Dead and Drive-thru. Dave Navarro has also highlighted them on his show.
GASR – New Society
This space-age song moves squarely into Krautrock territory with stompy industrial flair, samples from mass media, and ominous lyrics plucked from the playbook of Rammstein. GASR formed as a response to the stagnancy that had been plaguing industrial music. Luis Brito and Gary Suarez wanted to write music that could push EBM to new creative levels and still be something they would ultimately want to listen to themselves. This track lands just this side of dance floor anthem – more like the kind of music you blare on a long drive when you need to blow off some steam. It’s creative, catchy, and at times delightfully peculiar.
1 AM – 1000 Beats
This charming dance track brings to mind the time-bending sonic experiments of Public Service Broadcasting, using samples as launchpads for a techno backbeat and anthemic chorus. It explodes into a trance euphoria, the bright sounds of pulsing electronica bolstered by gorgeous vocals.
Every Move A Picture – Signs Of Life
This fabulous dance track from the era of the Franz Ferdinand/Editors/Interpol/Electric Six brand of post-punk was on heavy rotation in the mid-2000s, a long-buried memory delightfully unearthed with this comp. Highly infectious, with a chorus to slam dance to, Every Move A Picture exploded with Signs of Life. The band initially materialized in early 2004 around childhood friends Brent Messenger, Joey Fredrick, and Dan Aquino. Portland transplant Allen Davis joined after answering a Craigslist ad. EMAP enjoyed a cult following in college towns (certainly in State College, PA!), licensing for TV (One Tree Hill), and opened for the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Electric Six, and U2. They’re still kicking almost two decades later.
Mentallo & The Fixer – Wicked
Back into the crunching worlds of industrial sound, Mentallo and the Fixer – the project name used by Texan electro-industrial musicians Gary Dassing (Mentallo) and Dwayne Dassing (The Fixer) – bashed through the sound barrier together from 1988 to 1999 (via Metropolis Records). Since then it’s been a solo project for Dassing. The outfit was named after two Marvel Comics characters. Wicked is a thumping cacophony, a pounding soundscape more than a dance number, designed to immerse the listener into a sort of controlled static.
E-Craft – Electrocution
Bringing the energy of DAF and NIN alike, this aggrotech dance floor banger from East Germany clangs, bangs, and hisses with explosive force. Formed in 1996, E-Craft’s brutally forceful sequences, grinding modulation, noise-art and lasting melodies that form a perfect combination and highlight the beauty of synthetic sounds. Founder Guido Henning, Jan Abraham, and Steffen Bennewitz blend their talents together with intensity in their rough, lashing soundscapes.
Neuroactive – Space Divider (Video Edit)
We need a space divider. Yes. Yes we do. This icy, atomic-flavoured EBM track comes from Finland’s Neuroactive, formed in 1991 by Jarkko Tuohimaa (Advanced Art), Ville Brusi, and Vesa Rainne. Their first album, Morphology, was released in 1994 and followed by Phonic Trace in 1997. Shortly thereafter, Brusi and Rainne left the group, and Kimmo Karjalainen came on board to sing for the next two albums, Fiber Optic Rhythm and Transients. Fiber Optic Rhythm also featured Geoff Pickney of The Nine on guest vocals. After the release of Transients, life and family obligations took energy away from Kimmo Karjalainen, who struck out on his own with Huminoida. Six years later, Neuroactive returned: Tuohimaa then brought back former members Karjalainen and Rainne to release a full-length album: Minor Side-Effects Neuroactive has remixed numerous bands over their career including: Aïboforcen, Aghast View, Iris, B! Machine, Neuropa, The Nine, T.O.Y., and Assemblage 23.
Vigilante w/John Bechdel – The New Resistance
We love a song that opens with the infamous quote from the 1976 film Network: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Ivan Munoz, aka Vigilante, is a powerhouse industrial-metal hybrid act hailing from Chile. This intense track wavers from a staticky soundscape to stirring, anthemic chorus with more Peter Finch samples peppered in the outro.
Alice 2 – Garden Of Life
Germany’s Alice 2 is a dark rock band. Their first (possibly last?) album “Brave New World” was released in 2001. It’s a shame, because Garden of Life is a powerhouse, a fun Sisters of Mercy-adjacent style with a more techno bend. There’s a great chorus moment with rousing guitar work, and impassioned vocals that launch into a delightful shalalala refrain.
XIII. Století – Elizabeth
Finally, last but absolutely not least – we close out this comp with something truly special from XIII. Století (Warner): the spooky song opens with stirring organ music and prayer-like vocals, echoing through a vast chamber in the Czech language…until it breaks out in what is best described as ‘Nosferatu rock.’ We aren’t kidding about the vampires – a quick translation reads:
This Asleep by Dawn compilation is available through digital sales platforms, including Amazon, Bandcamp, 7Digital, and others. To avoid competing with the existing sales of participating artists, the compilation is being sold in “album only” format.
You can purchase the album here.
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