Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nightchild A - Images



Soundtracks, soundtracks, soundtracks. Be they from movies, TV shows or even just jingles for advertisements, there’s just no escaping them. Not that I’m complaining of course. I can’t get enough of them. And, it seems to me, neither can Nightchild A.

Nightchild A. is the solo project of, well… A guy called Nightchild A. The mastermind behind the aptly titled goth band The Nightchild, as well as another solo project known as Sociophobia, his music is exactly as the name would imply – darkness, bleakness, and… More darkness. But with Images, he’s chosen to distance himself slightly from his past works and expand into slightly more varied music, producing this genre-hopping, instrumental 6 song EP.

 That’s not to say that Images doesn’t have its share of darkness however. In fact, Opener “Abandoned Places” couldn’t be more goth if it tried. Inspired by John Murphy’s soundtrack for everyone’s favourite modern zombie flick 28 Days Later, it opens with crackling static, low synths and a plucked bassline, with just a hint of guitar to really tease the listener. I was actually expecting it to take the good ol’ distorted-guitars-and-blast-beats route when it finally kicked in, but it never does. Granted, the guitar does take centre stage eventually, but it’s not in an over the top way. It chugs nicely along over the synthy goodness, maintaining a very atmospheric vibe throughout. Luckily, it manages to keep the zombie-esque vibe without ever actually sounding too similar to the soundtrack it’s based on.

Surprisingly though, the entire vibe changes immediately after the opener ends. Just as I was gearing up for a fully dystopian collection of songs, “Pulsation Of Life” kicks in, and it’s… Damn surprising, to say the least. Bear with me for just a second, but… It sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Trust me, I don’t mean it in a negative way, and I’ve tried countless times to find a better way to describe it, but that’s really the best I can do. The lead guitar is really energetic right from the get-go, with both synths and drums racing in the background to keep up. Seriously, this was the biggest possible curveball this EP could have thrown at me. Then again, always nice to see a musician working outside their comfort zone, and I must admit, Nightchild A. manages to actually pull it off pretty damn well.

Next up we have “The Day The Dead Walk”, and... It’s not quite as surprising as its predecessor. As the name implies, this was quite clearly also influenced by flesh-eating hoards of the undead. This one seems more influenced by the slower, more atmospheric zombie movies of the 70s though, especially the work of George A. Romero. The whole track seems somehow restless, with multiple synths and effects setting an eerie atmosphere underneath the slow, chugging guitars. There’s a real feeling of dread in the guitar work in particular, while the high pitched synth suggest a sickening sense of restlessness, as if waiting in the darkness for a bunch of the undead to pop out and attempt to munch on your flesh . This is my favourite track on offer by far, the atmosphere is absolutely fantastic throughout. You can really tell Nightchild A. is in his comfort zone here, and damn can he set the mood with style.

It will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who hears next song “Action!” to learn that it’s influenced by Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” (or “that song from the opening of Pulp Fiction”, for those of you who don’t know it by name). While both songs are very similar, it’s worth noting that “Action!” is slightly more relaxed than its spiritual predecessor. They are both REALLY damn similar though, to the point where hearing one just reminds me of the other, which is slightly annoying. On the plus side though, I do love “Misirlou”, so it’s not at all bad, at least not for me.

“Beyond Horizon” leaves the energy of “Action!” behind and yet again returns to Nightchild A.’s mopey, gothy roots. A slow, steady funeral march of a song, this one seems to be less inspired by other works that the previous tracks, and more like a heartfelt bit of gloom , just as one would expect from a man who calls himself Nightchild. A personal favourite is the production on this track. The guitar is the main focus, as per usual, but the synth is mixed perfectly to provide a gentle, morose ambience underneath it. It’s not even particularly noticeable on first listen, but it really fleshes out the whole sound, and adds a world of texture in, really demonstrating just how effective the ambient element of gothic music is in helping it stand out.
Unfortunately, I found closing track “After” to be ever so slightly disappointing, given the EP as a whole. It’s not a bad song by any means, and has Nightchild’s distinct sound stamped firmly all over it. But as the EP’s swan song, it just seems ever so generic. I had been expecting yet another shock to the system, in the vein of the frantic rush of “Pulsation Of Life” or “Action!”, but instead we have a gentle slice of guitar-driven melancholia that would be fine for backing music, but doesn’t really do much to push any boundaries.

Overall, this is a bit of a wildcard. The darker tracks are of course the strongest, and it’s guaranteed to not be everybody’s cup of tea, with even existing fans of Nightchild’s other projects likely finding themselves somewhat confused at times (here’s looking at you, “Pulsation Of Life”), but that’s half the appeal here. It’s a gothy album by a gothy goth that doesn’t just rely on gothy clichĂ©s and actually tries to explore some new ground. And, if nothing else, it’s the ideal soundtrack to some kind of Sonic /Pulp Fiction/Dawn of the Dead crossover movie. WHICH IS THE BEST DAMN CONCEPT EVER.

--Malice




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