Brand New Drug by Michelle Darkness
Release date : November 2007
Reviewed by Eric Stephens
Over the course of several years, the sinister, enigmatic Darkness supplied vocals to German outfit End of Green. With roughly sixteen years under their belt, five albums were published; 1996's Infinity, 1998's Believe... My Friend, 2002's Songs For A Dying World, 2003's Last Night On Earth, and 2005's Dead End Dreaming. In June 2007, it was announced that Darkness had inked a “long-term” record contract with AFM Records. With dreams and aspirations to fulfil, the vocalist began to bring Brand New Drug to fruition. All ideas, and compositions, underwent pre-production at the singer's own Homsestudio Darkness Production. Helsinki's Sonic Pump Studio (Apocalyptica, Sunrise Avenue) formed the recording location, all supervised under the production skills of Nino Laurenne (Thunderstone guitarist / erstwhile Antidote guitarist and vocalist). Meanwhile, the album was mastered at Finnvox (Nightwish, H.I.M., The 69 Eyes) with Minerva Pappi. Specifically for inclusion upon Brand New Drug, Andy Death wrote the cut “Darklandcity”. Both Midnattsol axeman Christian Hector and Laurenne guest upon two tracks, whereas Entwine vocalist Mika Tauriainen guests upon “Hatethings”, a track laid down for inclusion upon Brand New Drug's limited digipack edition. Two tracks are cover interpretations, namely Joy Division's “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, and Simon & Garfunkel's “The Sound of Silence”. In addition, Finnish Idols winner Hanna Pakarinen duets alongside Darkness within the former. Produced by Thorsten Schwämmle (Karachoo TV) and Stefan Heilemann (Heilemania), a music video in support of the track “Pet Sematary” reportedly featured an apple, animals and the death in “important” roles.
Darkness harbours an intense attraction towards the darker, overtly Gothic aspects of Metal, and the following statement provides a fitting testament to this; “Black is the end of everything; the hangman and the harvester of souls”. An influx of creative ideas flooded the mind, and facilitated the ultimate birth of Darkness' solo project. In most, if not all, instances, solo projects merely allude to the fact that the artist in question has cut material with a differing array of musicians. Brand New Drug can be genuinely dubbed as solo material, especially in light of the fact that each and every composition almost wholly features sole instrumentation by Darkness. The singer's appropriately dusky vocals permeate each number, and those specific intonations comprise the full length's most distinguishing aspects. The chords seemingly plunge towards Goth's lowest realms, and cast swarthy tones from the inaugural track's opening notes right towards the concluding song. “My Sweet” immediately submerges itself within the obscured abyss, its trademark Goth Rock nuances spearheaded by Darkness' black chords. Whereas the musical background is audibly upbeat, the depressive vocals counteract the imbalance. Possibly bearing shades of Type O Negative's Peter Steele, Darkness' chords still possess an individual persona which eternally glimmers. A modern interpretation of Joy Division's “Love Will Tear Us Apart” pairs Darkness' alongside Finnish Idols winner Hanna Pakarinen as previously mentioned, and Pakarinen's charming liveliness warmly compliments Darkness' sombre tone. Likely able to trace its beginnings in Stephen King's 1983 horror tome, “Pet Sematary” exclaims that he “doesn't want to be buried in a pet sematary / that he doesn't want to live his life again”. Critiqued against the album's initial segments, its final segments prove equally unforgettable. “Forgotten Sun”'s slow march carries a morose sadness, and this further dampens the mood overall. Brand New Drug supplies a glimpse into Darkness' mystical psyche, a wistful trip only surpassed by the frontman's sullen appearance.
Countless musical entities lay claim to the adoption of a Goth lifestyle, though relatively few are genuine in actual truth. By cutting Brand New Drug's material, Darkness' concocts gloomy drab. If one wishes to listen to this album in the hope of lifting dejected spirits, then those crisp notes should firmly remain inside the wallet. It's actually heartwarming to witness a gifted artist overseeing each specific aspect of an album's ultimate birth, ranging from production duties to instrumentation. Darkness' character appropriately mirrors the beliefs and values dearly held by the Goth community. Suppressed via the might of a corkscrew for a lengthy period of time, Brand New Drug gushes upon a slew of ideas. Admirers of End of Green's back catalogue should find little reason to complain, if at all, whereas Goth Rock admirers will unconditionally embrace Brand New Drug with open arms. If you figure amongst the hefty population who've never cast their pupils upon a blackened heart, then this record provides a convenient reason to defy that stance.