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  Carol Blaze  
  Carol Blaze  
  All Terrain  
Release Date:
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Like Alice Cooper before them/him, Carol Blaze is not a person. Or, rather, it is.

It’s all quite confusing really.

The brainchild of drummer A T Vish, Carol Blaze would be the name of the collective responsible for this disc, if it only were a collective. From the very sparse information available on both the CD’s sleeve notes and the press release, Vish appears to be the sole performer here, although he employs the vocal talents of one Sarah Siplak on a single track.

As usual, I listened to what was on offer before reading what the artist and the label thought I should be listening to. And here's what I found.

Opening track Beyond is fairly pleasant. A throbbing bass organ chord kicks off over some ethnic, synthy pipes, shortly joined by a sporadic tambourine rattle. Nothing to write home about but moderately trancy, it does little to offend the ears. At just shy of three minutes, it never outstays its welcome and augured well for the rest of the album.

Slow Shake starts promisingly with a phased bass-line backed up with a strong drum pattern. This is the first cut on the album to feature Vish’s vocals. Think Bruce Springsteen on downers or Jim Morrison on a high sugar diet and you’ll have his sound almost to a tee. Unfortunately, Slow Shake sets the pattern for the whole album. Vish takes a riff, builds on it but doesn’t stray from it and then repeats until the end. Curled Beside Love follows the same recipe as before, although the denouement is quite powerful and has many 80s Goth overtones.

Creeping promised a deviation from what was becoming a rather numbing experience. Gary Numan-esque in its use of drum machine/guitar/synth-string intro (and even the suggestion of a lo-fi clap effect), it bowls along quite nicely, with Vish’s threatening vocals adding a dark layer to the proceedings. Again, however, it seems to be a case of "take a basic idea and throttle the life out of it" from minute one.

Blur, featuring the aforementioned Ms. Siplak, is one of the lighter moments of the album, harking back to the most make-up-caked days of the early 80s New Romantic movement. Vish would have well-served by using Siplak more. Whilst, on the evidence of this track, she doesn’t appear to have a brilliant voice, she does lend a little variation to Vish’s droning, doom-laden and, at times, tortured vocal style.

The Charging Winter threatens to get happy, but doesn’t. Instead, we have four minutes or so of dreary melancholia, relieved only by the track grinding to a halt. The same can be said for Where The Night Is Calling, which kicks off quite energetically, with an overdriven bass, a Deep Purple organ and Vish giving Peter Gabriel’s vocal style a firm nod.

Drain, Heavy Rollers, This Never Ends, Carol Blaze (My Mind Is Going) , Like Water, Temp Oral Lobe, Computer Androids Can’t Compare, and the closer, Empire complete the rest of this album. Unfortunately, they are all, essentially, of the same formula as their predecessors. The most interesting song in this group is Carol Blaze (My Mind Is Going), if only because it features a sample of the computer HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey whispering "My mind is going…I can feel it.." I wouldn‘t have put it so bluntly, HAL, but…

This is not the disc to slip on during a dinner party, not unless the host plans to slaughter his or her guests just as the wafer thin mints are being passed around. Personally, I have no objection to dark, bleak, foreboding music. But this collection takes that idea to another level - that level being the cellar of the serial killer in Silence Of The Lambs. Jaime Gumb could quite easily have been prancing around in his make-up and cape to any of these songs with the same, chilling effect. Even darkness needs a little light now and then, if only to emphasise itself.

And that, I feel, is the essence of this collection of songs. The press release (when I got around to reading it) included a sheet penned by A T Vish himself. He says, "perhaps something may catch your attention," and refers to a couple of independent film-makers who have used a Carol Blaze track in their productions. As a database for a one-off track to summon up dark images, it is probably as good as you could get.

As a complete listening experience, however, it’s all a bit of a depressing non-event. The collection could have been entitled What I Did Last Week With A Computer, A Microphone, And Some Sequencing Software. What I must emphasise, though, is that Vish has some great potential, although he is far, far away from his press release‘s claim of Peter Gabriel meets Vangelis. Still, he needs to address some key issues rather quickly.

First, he needs a collaborator, either in the song-writing department, the production/arrangement department or, preferably, both. The songs here all have elements of real promise, but then disappoint with their endless repetition of the same phrase/loop/riff/drum pattern. Another creative mind thrown into the mix, if only to take the material in a different direction in certain places, would make a world of difference. As things stand, I became bored with most of these tracks within forty seconds.

Second, the production also sounds a little rough. I suspect that this album was recorded on a digital multi-track machine. While this is fine for demos, it exposes the "unfinished" feel that such recordings produce. The overall sound tends to be muddy and suffers from a lack of any mastering process, whilst the mixing sometimes leaves Vish’s vocal at the bottom of the sonic stack.

I can’t say that I dislike this disc, because I don’t. It does, though, need lots of work and re-work with a co-writer or a producer who can nurture the seeds of Vish’s good ideas into the dark blooms they deserve to be.

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A T Vish was also the drummer in Lowsunday. We reviewed their lone album here a while back.


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