One of the many great things about walking alongside the good folks at Noise Pollution is that I have been set many challenges and been supported as I work on them. I’ve heard all sorts of music, been to many gigs, met a multitude of outstanding mammals and written quite a few reviews.
Recently I was set the challenge – what are my Top Ten Darkcell songs?
I have no formal training in music, nor any training in writing reviews. However, I am acutely aware of the impact that music has on me. Having seen Darkcell a time or two, many of the songs, when I listen to them on an album, have me connecting to a concert experience.
So, all of that said, what follows is my personal reaction to the music of Darkcell and my Top Ten. Don’t shank me…
10. “Hail to the Freaks”
The carnival opening and that guitar fret slide! Add in lots of “Hail”. And, “Hail! Hail! Hail to the Freaks!” Hey, that’s US!
Matt gives a masterclass of guitar technique in a restrained rampage. The lyrics are freakishly clever, like, “Look into the mirror… Tell me what you see!” This is delivered by a seeming army of Jesses. The more the merrier!
Machine-like drumming and the melodic, screaming vocals at the end, partnered by a sound like a malfunctioning machine wind this mischief up appropriately.
This song is The Black Sheep’s anthem. It is OUR anthem.
9.”Stitch Your Heart”
My beautiful wife and I were in Brisbane to see Motionless in White. Some cocky upstarts from Brisbane sauntered onto the stage and opened with this gem. I turned to my wife and asked, “Who are THESE guys?”
I was hooked.
I loved the premise of this song – taking a piece of your heart to fix that of another. It’s a song about deep connection, that at soul level.
But the disturbed sounding organs, a riff that jams, the heartbeat-like rollick in the chorus… it’s dark magic about a disturbing love. The gradual build up of the song in sound and intensity adds to the tension.
Because, “Every day’s like Halloween, for you and me”.
Jesse’s frustrated scream sets the tone. I hear the “La la la la” part and think about normalising the abnormal ideals of religion, of mindlessly following the masses.
The guitar riff – pause – guitar riff – grabs me each listen, in its subtle intensity. The Egyptian sounding guitar and percussion adds a totally different air than any other song.
I admire the percussion in this one – those rhythms have me thinking that Jay is an octopus…
This is another treasure when seen live. It’s intensity and depth of meaning strikes at the heart and soul of all. Because: “You. Can’t hold me down!”
7. “Hate Anthem”
We’ve all felt this way – deep feelings of loathing against all manner of plastic and conventional people and things. This song gives voice to that and lets us know we’re not alone.
From the mad opening and the pumping chorus, we can be comfortable with our hate – it’s a snuggly blanket that keeps us warm.
Jesse’s frustrated breathing and maniacal screaming adds to the depth of emotion. The simple keyboard is a compelling counterpoint to the frenzied, thumping percussion and a guitar solo that rips.
6. “ Reign of the Monsters”
It fires up from the very beginning and Jesse asserts, “Let’s go!” That has stuck with me – I use it with my family, myself and with colleagues and kids at school. I smile every time I say it – it’s origins are a dark and pleasant secret.
I really love the guitar and bass interplay and the lyrics – like “Creatures hiding… in my mind” or “boogeyman coming for you”. We’ve all had those voices in our mind, joyously telling us all sorts of nonsense. This is a song that might as well be written about us.
The percussion has real bite – from punching you in the spleen to clever flourishes. Monstrous.
The tinkling, music box-like opening gives way to a maniacal wall of sound. I find it impossible to keep still to this song.
Those slinky riffs are enriched by liberal sprinklings of “666”. Jesse’s growls set the neighbour’s dogs off and ours hide under the furniture.
The sweet opening is soon made terrifically toxic by a Vincent Price-like interjection. It’s immediately atmospheric and THAT bass line, partnered by perfect percussion! The simple guitar riff plugs straight in, making this all a heavenly harmony.
This is another track that seems to be about us – we, the people with monsters in our head.
A track that we all can scream along to. We’ve all had these urges, to communicate our displease vocally and physically, born of frustration and discontent. But, such moments and realisations often leads to action – it’s how the downtrodden rise up!
The song itself – the heartbeat-like moments, that chugging riff and a badass breakdown…
Live, this track is an anthem, with the crowd united in displaying their fists, then their fingers, enabled by the band. Unity in anarchy.
2. “Burn the Witches”
Right from the sound of the marching of the angry towns folks, I get chills every time. The engineering is masterful form the outset, with amazing use of left-right balance to give the impression of action. The whole arrangement is one of a suitably spooky atmosphere.
The line “Coz we don’t want this curse no more” has me shouting it every time I hear it. Curses. No-one wants them.
The riffs caper and careen with abandon and the keyboards slip and slide from side to side. At the end Jesse is seemingly captured in, and sings from, a dark cell (see what I did there?), before he is locked in.
The distorted sound that creeps up on you, into a heavier, syncopated sound is simply disquieting and positively possessed.
Abundantly clever writing – “I am my own man, I don’t need an exorcist” and “fuck your God of Lies” makes this a compelling listen. Partnered by Jesse’s seemingly being like Legion – with a thousand voices- this is an exercise – exorcise? – in powerful metal. Add THAT guitar solo and this makes me do a happy wee wee. Or similar…
Live, this song is an absolute banger.
And, “I’ve got a middle finger for you, right this way…” I’ve said that.
So close to making the cut…
“Rest When I’m Dead” – I was at a set of traffic lights once, work crippling my resilience, some pressing family matters and I was running late for a meeting. Tears streamed down my face. This track came on. It reminded me to just get the FUCK back on with it. Thank-you, Darkcell.
“The One I Fear” – I reckon we all are in danger of becoming the one we fear. The way this track soars half way through still gives me goose bumps.
“Paranormal” – a ripper in its own right, but it’s not in my soul. Yet.
“The Great Big Nothing”- rough and raucous, a great one to scream along to.
So, there you have it.
This was super hard. I was tempted to just give a list of 10 and not split them. But, that would be the easy way out.
I enjoyed going through all of the songs and considering them. I recommend this process to anyone about any band – it served to remind me how much great music these folks have made and how much it means to me.