Review Summary: Night-Pain 101 with Dr. Balls.
After the tragic fall of Joy Division the Gothic landscape....well.....became gloomier and more despondent then ever before. Dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of "goth" bands emerged from Joy Division's shadowy wake like a bestial horde of Grimer's and Muk's being brought to life by your local garbage dump's necromancer. Throughout the 80's and 90's bands from all angles of the black trench-goat wearing crowd would put their own (sometimes) personalized night-pain stamp on Gothic rock, death rock and post punk. Other bands would worship at the altar of the gods of gloom to varying degrees of success/replay factor. Germany's The House Of Usher falls into the latter category albeit being talented enough musicians to make up for their unoriginality.
Forming in Germany around 1990, the Edgar Allen Poe themed outfit started dooming and glooming a full decade after Ian Curtis's demise yet their music is firmly entrenched in the early to mid 80's sound pioneered by the genre's luminaries. "Stars Fall down" is their second full length album and it stands out to me because of it's engaging songwriting, it's strangely groovable nature and funereal atmosphere. You thought I was going to say gloomy again didn't you Squidward? :). The music is very rhythmic and very melodic in nature and it is made so because of the pro-active agenda being executed by the competent guitarist/bassist/drummer section in The House of Usher. On top of the melodically and rhythmically acute performances brought on by those instruments The House of Usher also uses synth to their advantage. The keyboards add a deeper, more theatrical dimension to their melancholy sound without sounding cheesy or drowning out the other instruments. Songs like "Wrecked In Faith" and "Amber Skies" bring the horror film element to the forefront of the music with ominous night-pain-esque flair. These tracks could play as part of the official soundtrack to the zombie Ragnarok that will undoubedtly unfold in New York. The epic nature of these tracks make you picture yourself standing alone in a ravaged city torn apart by night-pain with nothing by your side except a trusty tonfa that's about to make fast, furious love to zombie Andy Samberg's skull.
The vocals on the album are performed by Jorg in a baritone that is similar to Ian Curtis's delivery but ultimately falling flat in comparison to the signature heavy-hearted night-pain that is synonymous to the legendary front-man. With that said Jorg's vocals aren't bad. They in fact compliment the music pretty well but in terms of pure musical Curtisology Jorg's vocals possess a lighter, less oppressive and ultimately a less "*** my life" sounding tone that makes you want to beg for more night-pain. Basically, there's not enough night-pain in the delivery. Song titles and lyrics are as gothically sexy as to be expected and the quality music is there to do the elaborate lyrical game justice.
The album's production captures everything that the House of Usher has to offer masterfully. The bass is a force to be reckoned with, the keyboards serenade your soul with melancholy, the guitars drive the riffs straight home(your ears) and the eerily alien sounding vocals wrap it all up into one sexy package of night-pain. The album features 11 tracks and all of them are quality tunes that have been sealed night-pain tight with vibrant songwriting and musicianship. If you're looking for a little night-pain to cure your lack of night-pain you could do much worse than The House of Usher. And that's a promise.