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The Electric Hellfire Club Electronomicon

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Wednesday, January 2, 2002 @ 9:36 AM


(Cleopatra)

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Although industrialists The Electric Hellfire Club rated some ink in the black metal expose Lords of Chaos a few years back - largely because of ring leader Thomas Thorn's satanic proclivities - the band's glam-slam schtick made them seem about as genuinely evil as, say, the resurrected Misfits. They couldn't hold a candle to the book's other miscreant main character - Emperor, Burzum, Mayhem - whose exploits, both musical and criminal, in the "satanic metal underground" of Scandinavia horrified most of continental Europe. In the time since, however, Thorn and company - who hail from Chicago, by way of Wisconsin, and owe more to the old Wax Trax collective than any evil metal scene - have worked to remedy the situation - musically, anyway - shedding the dance club campiness for a more sinister vibe and bulking up the heavy side of their sound.

With Electrononicon, EHC's fifth release, the band deliver a demonic tour de force, an album that tramples all over Rob Zombie's comic book vision of electric hell. EHC prove they mean business here by recording at Sweden's Abyss Studio, the spawning ground for just about every European black metal band worth a damn, and enlisting guest musicians like Dark Funeral's Lord Ahriman and Hypocrisy/Pain frontman/Abyss Studio chief Peter Tagtgren. The results will make believers out of anyone. The band lose none of their industrial strengths - the wall of guitar bluster, thundering percussion, hit-and-run electronic effects and samples or Thorn's creepy vocals - on Electronomicon.

This is no cheap stab at black metal - you won't find blast beats or cat-with-his-ass-on-fire shrieking. But with some expert hands to guide them, EHC transform their usual cyber-horror into something leaner, meaner, louder and more forbidding. Despite a seductive keyboard backing, "Tannhauser Gate" shudders under Ricktor Ravensbruck's massive riffs. "Sons of the Serpent" achieves much the same effect, sans the keyboards, while "Wired In Blood" rides the pounding drums of Klem Kthulu to deliver the sort of thundering industrial anthem Ministry used to do so well. "Hymn To The Fallen" and "Broken Goetia" - which features Lord Ahriman on guitar - is about close as Electronomicon comes to black metal. But as ferocious as it is, it seems almost dirge-like when compared to, say, Dark Funeral's buzz-sawing fury. Thorn does a fiendishly clever job of weaving demonism, dark fantasy and cyberpunk into his computer age horror stories on Electronomicon. And though the band largely steers clear of camp, his wicked wit is sharp as ever, which makes tracks like "Hypochristian" - with it's hilarious sample "Obviously you take this Satan shit real seriously, man, 'cuz I feel butt-fucked by the devil" - or "Whores of Babylon" much more engaging than the dead-serious satanic screed of, say, Deicide. Electronomicon is out this month. Miss it at your peril.

****


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