Bella Morte - The Best Of Bella Morte (1996-2012)
Goth, Darkwave One of the things I've learned about writing for Brutal Resonance is that I'll never hear every band of note in the scene. I used to think it possible, but not any more. Sure, reading through the reviews gives you a chance to sort the stuff you might like from the stuff you never will, but there's always going to be some bands you miss. And Bella Morte managed to release eight studio albums and various other recordings before I got round to listening to them. And then this compilation comes up for review, and as I'm not adverse to a bit of "American Gothic" (yeah, naming genres after paintings, how cultured!), I decided it was time to catch up.

The newcomer isn't helped by the fact that the compilation isn't in chronological order. This means that their early synth-based recordings sit alongside their more guitar driven style of later years. Anyway a few minutes of research with Discogs.com soon allowed me to establish some kind of pattern to their backcatalog. And for those of you who find me too verbose, I'll tell it like I hear it here: Started synthy, went punky, then metally, then went all mature and ballady.

Admittedly, there's a part of me that wishes they'd kept their original sound. "Fall No More", a compilation track from 1999, kicks off the disc, and it's amongst the finest examples of darkwave pop you'll hear, descending piano synth, twinkling synth motifs and yearning lyrics. It's not unlike "The Rain Within Her Hands", a well-executed synthpop tune that follows all the 'less is more' mantras to a tee.

Even more minimal is "One Winters Night", the oldest track here, being the sole representative from their 1997 debut 'Remains'. The synth string line might sound dated to modern ears, but it harks back to an era when there wasn't a big divide between the deathrock mafia and the EBM army. Yes, synth-heavy goth has always been a soft spot of mine. The most stripped-down track of all is called "Winter", all tuned percussion sounds and cubic yards of reverb (how's that for a descriptor?). With plenty of empty space in the mix to hold all the atmosphere, it harks back to forgotten era, before music production was all about filling every space in the mix with some form of noise.

Anyway, somewhere around the turn of the millennium, Bella Morte discovered guitar amps and the bulk of the remainder of this collection is given over to rifftastic action. Even here you can chart development. "The Coffin Don't Want Me And She Don't Either" is a noisy post-punk track from 2001's 'The Death Rock EP'. It a competent take on the style, even if it's a complete about turn from what they released only two years previous.

And one year later, we're onto the album 'The Quiet', and straight into buzzsaw guitars and snarled vocals as heard on "Logic". It lacks the fine art of anthemic song-craft, but it certainly makes more of an impact that the title track of the same album, which despite being featured on a 'Best Of' like this, sounds like a 12" B-side from a 80s Cure wannabe? Perhaps I was wrong to look for patterns after all?

Luckily, this is a rare blip in what is already proving to be a promising if somewhat haphazard journey of discovery through a sizable discography. A brief return to a more electronic style came in 2004 on "Many Miles", but they then delivered huge, power-chord laden numbers such as "Flatlined" (2005) and "Find Forever Gone" (2008). At one moment I thought I was listening to Paradise Lost, and that has to be a good thing. In between this, we did get "On The Edge", a gritter metal number, but one that at least knows the benefit of a cheesy electronic melody as an kind of 'instant hook'.

I have to admit to not liking Bella Morte's most recent works. "Here With Me" comes from their most recent studio album (2011's 'Before The Flood'), and it's a tedious six minute of e-piano navel-gazing reflective balladry which brings little goodness to these ears of mine. There's also a remake of their old track "Evensong", but it's sounds like a 'will this do?' garden-variety trad-goth filler.

But I have to admit - I'm very tempted to give the actual Bella Morte albums a go now. For the balance of their career, they explored the limits of the space occupied by darkwave and gothic rock and as a newcomer to the band, my curiosity is piqued. And then it all made sense. In the recent past the highest marks I've given in Brutal Resonance reviews have been to The Beauty Of Gemina, Grooving In Green and now this. Here I am, trying to present myself as a one-man lone EBM soldier, battling the invading forces of dubstep and suchlike, and all along I could have just Played Some Goth.

Just don't ask me to do the look, though. All that dressing up ain't for me.
4
Brutal Resonance

Bella Morte - The Best Of Bella Morte (1996-2012)

8.0
"Great"
N/A
Electroracle
Spotify
Released 2013 by Metropolis Records
One of the things I've learned about writing for Brutal Resonance is that I'll never hear every band of note in the scene. I used to think it possible, but not any more. Sure, reading through the reviews gives you a chance to sort the stuff you might like from the stuff you never will, but there's always going to be some bands you miss. And Bella Morte managed to release eight studio albums and various other recordings before I got round to listening to them. And then this compilation comes up for review, and as I'm not adverse to a bit of "American Gothic" (yeah, naming genres after paintings, how cultured!), I decided it was time to catch up.

The newcomer isn't helped by the fact that the compilation isn't in chronological order. This means that their early synth-based recordings sit alongside their more guitar driven style of later years. Anyway a few minutes of research with Discogs.com soon allowed me to establish some kind of pattern to their backcatalog. And for those of you who find me too verbose, I'll tell it like I hear it here: Started synthy, went punky, then metally, then went all mature and ballady.

Admittedly, there's a part of me that wishes they'd kept their original sound. "Fall No More", a compilation track from 1999, kicks off the disc, and it's amongst the finest examples of darkwave pop you'll hear, descending piano synth, twinkling synth motifs and yearning lyrics. It's not unlike "The Rain Within Her Hands", a well-executed synthpop tune that follows all the 'less is more' mantras to a tee.

Even more minimal is "One Winters Night", the oldest track here, being the sole representative from their 1997 debut 'Remains'. The synth string line might sound dated to modern ears, but it harks back to an era when there wasn't a big divide between the deathrock mafia and the EBM army. Yes, synth-heavy goth has always been a soft spot of mine. The most stripped-down track of all is called "Winter", all tuned percussion sounds and cubic yards of reverb (how's that for a descriptor?). With plenty of empty space in the mix to hold all the atmosphere, it harks back to forgotten era, before music production was all about filling every space in the mix with some form of noise.

Anyway, somewhere around the turn of the millennium, Bella Morte discovered guitar amps and the bulk of the remainder of this collection is given over to rifftastic action. Even here you can chart development. "The Coffin Don't Want Me And She Don't Either" is a noisy post-punk track from 2001's 'The Death Rock EP'. It a competent take on the style, even if it's a complete about turn from what they released only two years previous.

And one year later, we're onto the album 'The Quiet', and straight into buzzsaw guitars and snarled vocals as heard on "Logic". It lacks the fine art of anthemic song-craft, but it certainly makes more of an impact that the title track of the same album, which despite being featured on a 'Best Of' like this, sounds like a 12" B-side from a 80s Cure wannabe? Perhaps I was wrong to look for patterns after all?

Luckily, this is a rare blip in what is already proving to be a promising if somewhat haphazard journey of discovery through a sizable discography. A brief return to a more electronic style came in 2004 on "Many Miles", but they then delivered huge, power-chord laden numbers such as "Flatlined" (2005) and "Find Forever Gone" (2008). At one moment I thought I was listening to Paradise Lost, and that has to be a good thing. In between this, we did get "On The Edge", a gritter metal number, but one that at least knows the benefit of a cheesy electronic melody as an kind of 'instant hook'.

I have to admit to not liking Bella Morte's most recent works. "Here With Me" comes from their most recent studio album (2011's 'Before The Flood'), and it's a tedious six minute of e-piano navel-gazing reflective balladry which brings little goodness to these ears of mine. There's also a remake of their old track "Evensong", but it's sounds like a 'will this do?' garden-variety trad-goth filler.

But I have to admit - I'm very tempted to give the actual Bella Morte albums a go now. For the balance of their career, they explored the limits of the space occupied by darkwave and gothic rock and as a newcomer to the band, my curiosity is piqued. And then it all made sense. In the recent past the highest marks I've given in Brutal Resonance reviews have been to The Beauty Of Gemina, Grooving In Green and now this. Here I am, trying to present myself as a one-man lone EBM soldier, battling the invading forces of dubstep and suchlike, and all along I could have just Played Some Goth.

Just don't ask me to do the look, though. All that dressing up ain't for me. Jul 18 2013

Jonny Hall

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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