Music Review, Various Artists, Occult Box

Published on June 26th, 2015 in: Culture Shock, Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Jeffery X Martin

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Pssst. Hey, kid. C’mere for a second.

You look all dark and stuff. Nice black clothes, you’ve got the choker going on, some oxblood nail polish. Well done. But you’re not quite done. Oh, I know you think you are, and I know you’ve seen The Hunger more than three times, but trust me. You still haven’t quite made it to the dark side. Not without this, anyway.

Cleopatra Records has curated an amazing collection called Occult Box and it is chock full of music to cast circle to. It’s full of CDs, a 7” vinyl, a booklet, some postcards, and a pentagram pendant and chain. Oh, and get this: there are only 666 of them in existence. That’s right. It’s the box set of the Beast.

There are bands you would expect to see here that aren’t. There’s a refreshing lack of Bauhaus. The Sisters of Mercy make no appearances here. The cuts here are deep and fascinating. There’s a heavy electronic presence throughout the set, but how often do you get to hear that juxtaposed with Gravediggaz?

Switchblade Sisters are represented here, as is Ogre from industrial demi-gods Skinny Puppy. There are also tracks from Front Line Assembly, Tangerine Dream, and You Love Her Coz She’s Dead. There’s so much here, it’s damned near impossible to consciously take in. The best way to enjoy a collection such as this is to play it all and see which songs sink into the bottomless pit of your soul and resonate.

Some of those tunes might include “The Beast (Invocation)” by Rozz Williams, the late, lamented singer for Christian Death. It’s an Echoplex blender of doom, swirling guitars, and Williams pleading for new life, screeching about “attachment and revulsion!” It’s a chilling track, dripping tension. Equally as unsettling in a different way is Nico vs. Apoptygma Berzerk. This remix of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” is a pitcher plant of a song; it’s initially beautiful and familiar, until you get into it and realize you can’t escape.

Not all of the songs directly reference occult topics, but that doesn’t seem to be the point here. The Occult Box is evocative, not provocative. Each song is chosen specifically to steer you into a corner, eyes shut, letting your brain reach back into the collective memories of humanity and pluck out imagery for you.

A good example of this is the inclusion of that old industrial warhorse, “Supernaut,” by 1000 Homo DJs. Sure, that’s a song you teach your kids when they’re little, but when is the last time you really listened to that song? We get the Die Krupps remix, which is heavy on the guitar and goosestep, turning it into an anthem for the uprising.

Not every track is a powerhouse, of course, but there’s not a single song in this set that stands out as being awful. The weaker songs fade into the background, still strong enough to keep the mood going, until a song comes on that grabs you by the darkness.

So yeah, kid. I get it. Somebody offered you cookies and you came to the dark side, hoping you could at least find someone to dance with you. But if you’re serious about this whole spooky thing, then you need this Occult Box, my young darkling. It’s an essential collection, bringing forth visions of the occult even when it doesn’t reference it directly. It’s all perfect music to spin widdershins by, and you can bet your cloak on that.

Occult Box was released by Cleopatra Records on May 12.

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