Thursday, November 21, 2019

No. 17 - Damage, Kill Shelter (2018)

If any project sums up the mutually supportive and appreciative darkwave community, it’s Kill Shelter, whose debut album Damage was released at the end of 2018 and soon sold out its initial CD run. The band is essentially the studio project of Scottish remixer Pete Burns, who over the past three years has also curated (along with Christian Schaefer) the highly influential Rule of Three blog on Facebook, which highlights in each edition (of which there are now more than fifty) three artists on the darkwave scene deserving of a wider audience.

Burns/Kill Shelter also became increasingly in demand as a remixer, and as a keen student of the genre he decided to put an album together that would not only showcase his own talents as writer, performer and producer, but also utilise his growing contacts book to produce a set of songs which is a veritable “Who’s who?” of some of the emerging artists of this third generation. Whilst each song featured Burns on sequenced synthesised bass and arpeggioed guitar, the lyrics and vocals on top of the multi-layered tracks were added by a multiplicity of artists all working in different strands of the "wave" genre.

The album's opening single In Decay drew universal praise and catapulted the project to the forefront of the post-punk zeitgeist, on the back of a sound that was reminiscent of The Sisters of Mercy in their mid/late 80’s heyday, yet very much rooted in modern studio technology. With a classic descending gothic bassline, a wonderfully icy guitar line from Antipole’s Karl Morten Dahl, and a great dark vocal from Delphine Coma’s Ashe Ruppe, In Decay was an update on the classic goth sound for a new generation, and like the album, the song featured on most “Best Of …” lists at the end of the year.

Those attracted to the album by the lead single were rewarded with a broad sweeping summary of the current scene, from coldwave to gothic rock. Fans of the latter would have been best served by No Regrets, featuring a chorus of Nephilimistic bombast belted out by guest vocalist undertheskin, whilst those with a more club-based background would have enjoyed the Alan Vega-esque beat of Get Down, featuring Cramps-style riffing from the golden age and a slightly detached crooned vocal by Canada’s The Shyness of Strangers (Vadim Christopher), whilst for many the undisputed highlight of the album was Bodies, replete with in-your-face distorted keyboard riffs as phat as The Prodigy’s on Invaders Must Die and the most wonderfully chilling one note vocal by Australia’ Buzz Kull (Marc Dwyer).

The sweaty masculinity of the above tracks was successfully counterpointed by more gentle, fragile coldwave tracks, such as Kiss Me Goodbye featuring French chanteuse Helene from Hante on vocals, or Sever, sung by New Haunts’ Alice Sheridan. Burns keeps the quality of songwriting and production high over the album, endowing it with more of a holistic feel than might be imagined when looking at the sheer variety in style of the guest vocalists on display.

Burns, who has a highly successful career in digital marketing as his day job, has returned the favour for many of the bands who helped out on Damage by subsequently remixing some of their new tracks, and has hinted that for the follow-up to Damage he will try to cast the net wider, with the debut’s success potentially opening doors to more ambitious collaborations with some of his musical heroes.

The mutually supportive and self-helping darkwave community has given the genre real resilience as the mainstream continues to be robustly indifferent to its ever increasing charms, but high quality projects like Kill Shelter’s Damage will surely help to pave the way to a brighter future for many of his collaborators.

Damage is still digitally available via this link.

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