Crying Vessel – A Beautiful Curse/Illusions (Album review incl. interview)
The album “A Beautiful Curse”
This is an exciting review to write, I have been wanting to talk about “A Beautiful Curse” for a while now but I have been holding off in anticipation of Illusions coming out. I’m glad I waited because now I get to write my first two album combo review and I don’t think I could have chosen a better band than Crying Vessel. Crying Vessel began as a project between Slade Templeton and Basil Oberli as an art concept that found legs and has grown into some of the finest post punk/Synthwave/dark dance fusion coming out of Europe and spreading it’s dark wings across the world. It takes a lot of what is familiar and beautiful about classic dark music and infuses it with a jolt of electricity and sizzle.
Lets start with “A Beautiful Curse” the full length album that first introduced me to Slade’s magnificent crooning style. This album is rich in touch point synth pads and whip crack drum beats. It’s medium tempo music but unlike it’s roots it plays on the front edge of that tempo giving it life and drive. Delay heavy flicker guitars give the songs a post punk feel while Slade uses the clarity and beauty of his voice to soften the edges of songs full of tension and desperation. I love when a vocalist has the swagger to put himself front and center over already great music and Crying Vessel knows how to make use of it’s greatest strengths. The songs on this album ring very personal. They use a lot of dynamic motion pulling instruments forward and back to make you sway with them in this moment.
“A Beautiful Curse” is just that. These songs are aesthetically pleasing to the ear. At the same time so full of dark themes. The album is strong track to track and doesn’t throw anything away. You really hear a lot of isolation in these songs. Where some post punk has a definite “city” feel this album conjures such a feeling of isolation from the world moving around it. That serene feeling of beauty and sorrow kept drawing me back to the title.
So many absolute can’t miss tracks on this record but I will choose a few:
Dig Deep – I hate to be on the nose and choose a single, but this song is such a jam it can’t be ignored. It’s razor movement and star point keyboard sounds. The drums on this track are so crisp and resonant of Depeche Mode (Black Celebration). Each beautiful line delivered in a cascade. Try not to dance to this.
Killing Time – This turns the speed up to make a more 80s new wave feel. Slade takes his vocals into the higher range. “Poison mind, killing time” Again those simple keyboard lines that fill so much space. Martin Gore would be proud.
Trust me – Taking it down a notch this gentle builder lets Templeton use a whisper to draw his listener in like a snake charmers whistle. Again that great dynamic keyboard pan and heartbeat drum sound. This song is a tempter song. A dare to fall prey.
This album is a truly visionary compilation of styles and feelings that fit together with The rich passionate vocals and wonderful sense of timing. That timing from song to song really sets it apart. However I also want to discuss the wonderful contrast it has with the new EP “Illusions”
“A Beautiful Curse” on Bandcamp:
So something I feel has been sorely lacking in darkwave/post punk music lately is pizzazz, taking all that works well in driving bass lines and accent keyboards and then hits it with the old razzmatazz. The showmanship, the slightly over the top emotion in the vocals that doesn’t cross over into cheese. David Bowie had it, Roxy Music had it, and now Crying Vessel has tapped into that glam show that makes these songs feel like an epic production of visual stage show using only music. It’s a little extra breath in the voice, an extra millisecond holding the note, a dueling guitar with different levels of echo right out of Reeve Gabrels playbook. This EP made me swoon, and it did it in 3 songs. I was left longing for more and hope that Slade pursues this style further. For a lot of bands taking a little edge off and turning up the croon could take away from the dark sound he established. This album does quite the opposite. It found another step on the ladder and I couldn’t get enough.
All that is Real (Featuring She Pleasures Herself) – Here those Cure style guitars take us back to the forest and ask the question if love is real. It’s gorgeous, it’s relatable, and it brings that swagger. It ends on a note that leaves me begging for more songs.
What an eye opening wow follow up to an outstanding album. This is a must have for any fan of the dark music genre. I am extremely excited to see what Slade and company have on the docket for us next.
“Illusions” on Bandcamp
Slade Templeton of Crying Vessel Interview: “A Horror Movie Soundtrack For Life”
(Ken) So your style has a feel of taking you to a place by the sound of your music. I feel transported when I listen and that is a big part of what draws me in. Tell me about where you are from, the city, the scene, and how it contributed to the songs you write?
(Slade) I feel that the sound of any artist is always reflecting something they really reach deep for. At least in most cases. My love for horror definitely reflects in the music with a bit of that spooky nature, which also then relates directly with my love for emotion and movement, so adding things like pads and FX to create atmosphere and depth, is always a must for me to ‘feel’ what I am writing. If I, myself, do not feel ‘transported’ like you do when making the music, then I won’t ever feel complete. I also think the listener feeling what I feel in terms of emotion or movement is a huge part of being on the same wavelength. You and I, for instance, must come from the same mold in a lot of ways. Whether this is life events, view on life, feelings and emotions or just overall love for certain tones and character in music. This is why music means so much to me. It’s an unwritten and unpredictable language between human kind.
These songs have such a dynamic feel, as a listener I am following the rise and fall of your music and how expressive it is. Tell me about your process for writing these songs, what do you do to get from an idea to the song we hear?
I definitely think my past history of working with Dance music has a lot to do with this. As you probably know, electronic dance music is all about builds and drops. This and my love for soundtracks and movies or film/video and how it embraces audio dynamically, with the rise and fall of emotions, sheds heavily into the music we write and create. As far as the ideas laid out, I know a lot of people say “I wrote the song because I had a melody stuck in my head”; but I actually kind of work backwards from this. I always start with beat and textures, also probably a bit part of my Dance music roots. Then the last thing to do when a song is about 80% done (more-or-less), is start working on the lyrics and vocals. Sometimes a melody comes sooner but usually towards the end. Then I will come back with synths and guitars even more or tweak what I had laid down to kind of ‘wrap’ around the vocals and lyrics I just laid down. This gives it a nice kind of musical nurturing style to whatever the voice just did and react in a fluid way. It feels much more cohesive in the overall concept, I feel.
You have been churning out incredible records lately. What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment in music and what is your hope for 2019?
First off a HUGE thank you for the kind words. That means a lot to hear that! And this is a very hard question actually; because I am the type I never feel fully confident in what an accomplishment really is. Is it record sales? Is it exposure? Is it just completing a few new songs? Or is it as simple as playing our first gig? But I would say getting our live show off the ground and it becoming exactly how I had it in mind since 2010! Basil (my band mate and drummer) and I work extremely well together, and with his talents both in and out of the studio, such as working on videos for us, it has made a magical process for us to work now that we can literally create an entire world together. So that feels like a great accomplishment that has been in my mind for many years. This whole concept of a 2 piece band, one drummer and one guitar with vocals, with a full multimedia experience of visuals and wall of sound… that’s finally come together and we couldn’t be more excited.
I feel like you do a great job building on the sounds of the past I hear in your music and taking things further, who were some of the artists and bands that inspired you and that you hear in your own songs when you listen to them?
I think its definitely compiled from my many years of listening to 80s Darkwave, Synthpop, Coldwave, Goth and Industrial. Type O Negative, The Cure, Gary Numan, Nine Inch Nails, I think its all there. But I feel that it took me a very long time to find “me” and us to find us in “crying vessel”. That goes for vocal delivery and overall sound and movement of the music. I think in the last album A Beautiful Curse, and with this latest EP “Illusions”, we are finally onto something that is truly Crying Vessel. I used to do loads of Trip Hop, but funny enough in-between the Trip Hop, it was this 80s sound. First album Necrozine had it through out the album off and on, and then there was a very unknown EP I did called “Floating Hearts” back in 2011/2012, and it had a lot more of this actual current sound in it, but kind of in a baby-nurturing-newly to develop, kind of way that I didn’t explore again until A Beautiful Curse. Like I tapped into the sound then stepped away, and now pulled from all of the past to make something that is becoming ‘us’. I think this is how it feels for any artist though, and if you ask me again in 10 years I will say the same thing again, but with any of the current music I am making at the time.
People make music for a lot of reasons, some are artists preforming for the story they are telling, musicians playing just to make the right sound, or performers playing for the energy of other people. Why have you chosen music as a medium of expression? What do you play for?
Honestly, this is a good question. With Crying Vessel, it’s about feeling complete. Without it I feel like I have a big empty hole in me. I am not even sure why. I make a living in Music Industry, but it’s not Crying Vessel that does that for me. I am a Record Producer and Engineer full time, which allows me to put my efforts back into my own project with Crying Vessel. It’s not about making it a huge name or sound that breaks the charts, because I’m not about the fame. It’s about my own relation to myself and my music and how it comes to be as an art form to others. It’s about relating to those that ‘get it’, and being on that same wave length with people who may understand what we are trying to do. It’s something that words can’t fully describe really… its like asking someone why they breath.
The music industry is often a love hate relationship for artists. If you could change one aspect about how the industry works using a magic spell, what would it be and why?
I would like to see more of the bands that work hard, and pay their dues, get the respect they deserve in terms of their talents and art. This is nothing to do with me, by the way. This is for all those out there pushing so hard. I think this is exactly why I truly do love the scene we are in, because it seems the fans and scene truly care. People like yourself, or RULE of THREE, or Cold Transmission, or Icy Cold/Manic Depression Records, etc. They get it. But as far as the music industry overall, this is NOT the case 90% of the time. There is so many styles and genres that have artists doing so much of what they love and for all the right reasons, and that push and push and people just never hear them because they may not have the money, and support, or understanding of how it works, that some of the other names do. But this is like anything in life (and nothing new from years ago in the business)… its the same whether in politics or entertainment… money paves the way in most cases and I think that’s the biggest affliction of the arts. The good news is, most don’t do it for any other reason than to express, and with websites like Bandcamp or apps like Spotify, its getting much more common people can be heard… as long as everyone sifts through the bullshit first.
You recently did a song with Rule of Three that was a Trisome 21 cover of “The Last Song” which was absolutely heart breaking and beautiful. Tell me about how it came together and what it was like to work on the project?
It was truly the most challenging thing I have done with Crying Vessel. Mainly because the vocal style isn’t exactly mine. I had to make it mine. I also wanted to reflect what we are doing currently in terms of sound, but also stay true to the original and give respect where respect is due to Trisomie 21. The vocals I had to practice and redo probably 100 times before I was happy with it being me, but also not me, if you know what I mean. It ended up a really cool song that I can listen to without finding issues in terms of “is it REALLY Crying Vessel? Is it REALLY a cover?” I also have this habit when doing remixes or reworks to redo it so much that it doesn’t sound like the original anymore, and becomes a whole new song… with this one, I feel like we truly made it a cover song, which was very exciting.
This genre of music is going through a bit of a Renascence after being in the back seat for quite a few years. So many great bands are finding success and coming to the forefront of the world stage. Who is someone new or old that you dream of playing live with?
Definitely the legends as you would expect. Sisters of Mercy. Depeche Mode. The Cure. All would be great to share the stage with. I feel like its entirely possible due to our sounds colliding in a unique way, kind of both the old and new worlds coming together.
I always ask this for my gear head fans, if you had to choose a piece of gear that is absolutely critical to your sound what would it be?
Oh, yes! The gear head fans. I’m a gear head myself, so this is always a good topic. Space Echo RE201. Not sure any of my synths of guitars would sound anything near what they do without this piece of gear, or any tape delay for that matter. And when it comes to the mix down, the Distressors are everything for the drums or vocals punch and grit, or for instance, the U47 microphone on my voice. I used SM7B and Peluso 251 on A Beautiful Curse, but the latest material is all with U47, and its truly a gem for where my voice sits currently.
If you became such an immense star you could ask for pretty much anything in a rider contract and get it for your green room before a gig, what would you ask for?
I was never an immense star, but (funny enough) was at least big enough in the DJ/Club circuit doing dance music for many years, that I had a rider like this. One of my colleagues/friends and I were on a tour, and for fun put a chicken costume as a must before a show once, and sure enough, laying on the hotel bed was a chicken costume. I think he thought it was funnier than I did, but I still had a good laugh (and felt sorry for the promotion team all at the same time). I made him wear it at the after party to be sure it got some use. But I am honestly never someone or the type that needs a lot of anything. I’m kind of a minimalist, and this is same for my shows hospitality riders. As long as I am comfortable (because I am a very nervous and anxious person), then I am golden. Our tech rider is way more important, Ha.
Band: Crying Vessel
Album: A Beautiful Curse/Illusions
Members: All songs written, produced and engineered by Slade Templeton of Crying Vessel.
All Lyrics by Slade Templeton.
All songs vocal recordings were assisted by Chris Geissler.
All songs written, recorded, produced at Influx Studios (Bern Switzerland/Berlin Germany).
Interview and review by: Ken Magerman (Sounds and Shadows)