When ReGen Magazine published its listing of the Top 20 Albums of 2014, featuring Cocksure’s much revered TVMALSV debut in the #2 position, Jason Novak referred to the list as “the stuff of intelligence, taste, and a great attitude towards edgy and dark music, crossing through different styles and sounds, all the while respecting a common theme.” This writer can think of no better description for a certain music festival spearheaded by Novak and WTII Records’ David Schock, held in Chicago every September as a celebration of the life of producer/musician Jamie Duffy and the music he loved and helped to create: ColdWaves. Since the festival’s first entry on September 7, 2012, ColdWaves has steadily risen to become one of the underground music scene’s most anticipated events due in no small part to its bringing together of both the past and present industrial/rock scene – groups that have been long disbanded have reunited for the occasion, while others have appeared in different incarnations alongside newer acts that have been redefining the sound and the style for the next generation. It is this communal spirit that has made ColdWaves a special event as each year a dynamic roster of artists and groups come together to remind both the audiences and their peers what made and continues to make this music so special.
ColdWaves III – September 26-27, 2014
ColdWaves III presented something of a milestone not just for the festival, but also for the city of Chicago as the two-day event not only saw the resurgence of legendary imprint WaxTrax!, but the return of one of the label’s most beloved artists to the Windy City, and one of the industrial and electronic music community’s most revered acts: Front 242. ColdWaves II set a standard for the event as one night showcased a harder hitting array of more rock and metal oriented groups, while the other would focus more on the electronic end of the spectrum. While there has certainly been no small amount of overlap, it was CWIII that amply showcased this stylistic dichotomy, with cyber/metal legends Fear Factory taking up the headlining mantle for the first night while 242 held the second. Newer talent had always been a component of the ColdWaves presentation, but CWIII took things further than before with the inclusion of some of today’s hottest new acts.
On the first night, 3TEETH made quite the impression for while this writer had initially found the adulation that band had been receiving throughout the year somewhat dubious, those doubts were assuaged just as suddenly at witnessing 3TEETH’s live performance. It can be argued that any musical entity’s true appeal and ability can only truly be assessed in the live environment, and in the case of 3TEETH as the band members exhibited their familiarly harsh yet grittily forward thinking industrialized metal sound in fine form, blasting out album favorites like “Nihil,” “Final Product,” and “Dissolve.” Front man ΔLΞX1S is an especially striking figure onstage, decked out in his trademark shades and handlebar mustache as his virulently processed growl resonated amid XΔV1ΞR’s mechanical synth lines, ΔИDRΞW’s insistent and precise beats, and CHΔSΞ’s scalding guitar lines. Without a doubt, 3TEETH demonstrated all of the bravado and energy of a band of seasoned veterans. That same evening, while Tristan Shone has been active for the past decade, it seems that his star is shining brighter than ever as he brought his brand of doom-laden industrialized soundscapes to ColdWaves.
While Douglas McCarthy’s stripped down, more lightly toned brand of electro-pop was not the most integral of performances the previous year, Shone operates his arsenal of customized drone and dub machines with all the fervor of a full band, filling the air with an apocalyptic and classic industrial vibe the likes of which are rarely heard outside of Godflesh. The second night proved to yield even greater surprises, the more electronic vibe of the overall lineup bringing not only a plethora of longtime rivetheads but also a few new faces more interested in the less densely distorted atmospheres of the first night. From the hauntingly melodic and achingly beautiful sounds of ΔAimon’s witch-house inspired brand of electro, with the vocal interplay between Nancy and Brant Showers adding to the occult-like qualities of the band’s music, as if each song is a ritual unto itself, to the punk-inspired aplomb and proto-EBM vibe of Youth Code, bearing some likeness to Skinny Puppy in its formative years; it was clear that the next generation of industrial and electro music was determined to hold its own placed next to the heroic veterans, all of whom put forth their own vibrant displays that one simply had to be present to fully grasp the impact.
With Caustic’s lineup comprised of front man Matt Fanale and a regular cast of contributors and compatriots including Everything Goes Cold’s Eric Gottesman, Null Device’s Eric Oehler, and past-and-present members of The Gothsicles Katja Lunde and Brian Graupner, respectively (the latter donning a monstrous mask for the majority of the set), it was quite easy to get lost in the spectacle; even a non-fan of Caustic like this writer found the band’s set greatly enjoyable based on showmanship alone.
Similarly, while Die Krupps has been a venerated force in rock-induced EBM, the band has never been a favorite of mine; nonetheless, thanks partially to the inclusion of percussionist and CHANT mastermind Bradley Bills (making another appearance after taking the stage with Evil Mothers the previous year), and most especially to Jürgen Engler’s bombastic stage presence, one could only walk away from the set with nothing but respect and admiration for the band’s history and performance. Jason Bazinet has made a name for himself as a reliable session and live drummer with the likes of Chemlab, 16volt, and Front Line Assembly, but with his own SMP, he was allowed to shine in his element as an aggressive front man and vocalist as he attacked the audience with his hip-hop flavored brand of industrial/rock. Delivering favorites like “Pure Uncut Anger,” “File 484,” and my personal favorite “F*** You,” and even joined by guest keyboardist Wade Alin for a well received and welcome rendition of Christ Analogue’s “No Daughter Icon,” SMP packed quite a punch for CWIII.
After the pre-party on September 25 featuring False Icons and The Rabid Whole, Cyanotic had the pleasure of opening the proceedings on the first night, and with quite a lot of history to draw from; not only having been a major player in modern coldwave for the last decade, but also helping to carry the torch in Jamie Duffy’s name. Besides Sean Payne’s performance at virtually every ColdWaves event since the beginning (taking on Duffy’s role in Acucrack at CWII), and having worked closely with Cracknation since the Cyanotic debut album, Transhuman, in 2005, there was something very visceral and warmly inviting about seeing guitarist Chris Hyrniewiecki utilizing Duffy’s blue Schecter in a fitting tribute to bring to life such modern coldwave classics like “Deface” and “Alt.Machine.” And then there was the duo of Jason Novak and Chris Connelly – collectively known as Cocksure – bringing their own brand of WaxTrax!-inspired bass-driven mania to the stage; drenched in fog and rhythm, doused in belligerence and libido, Cocksure’s music draws the fine line between the acidic electronic sounds of the second night and the grating rock energy of the first.
However, it was the headliners for both nights that ultimately ended each night on a magnificent high. To see and hear Fear Factory in concert is an endurance test for sure, as right from the opening metallic clanks and guitarist Dino Cazares’ dystopian riffs of “The Industrialist,” the mosh pit was set to full throttle; those without the constitution for such a pleasurable beating simply should steer clear and take in the music for all of its cinematic and cybernetic glory. It’s a testament to the communal power of ColdWaves that Fear Factory headlined the first night of CWIII, for after vocalist Burton C. Bell appeared at CWII the previous year as a special guest, it was clear that he simply couldn’t stay away… and the crowd clearly enjoyed every android thrashing moment through well known songs like “Shock,” Edgecrusher,” and “Demanufacture.”
And then there is the aforementioned Front 242, whose influence in post-industrial dance and EBM is felt not simply in virtually every drum loop and bass sequence heard in the underground music scene since the band’s first appearance in 1980, but also across the electronic board; as evidenced by the more diverse crowd of the second night, 242’s music has led to just about anything and everything that can be heard in today’s so-called EDM and electronic music scene, from the opening pulsating sequences of “Moldavia” through to the pounding rhythms of “Together” and “No Shuffle” and finally to the beloved throbs and forceful counting chorus of “Headhunter.” And besides that, as one of the original WaxTrax! heroes, it was a truly triumphant and emotional moment when Richard 23 took to the stage alongside his co-vocalist Jean-Luc De Meyer, saying to the city of Chicago, “It’s good to be home!”
ColdWaves IV – September 25-26, 2015
It seems like every year is becoming a tougher act to follow as the organizers work hard to maintain the audience’s interest with an ever more dynamic set of bands to perform, all the while staying true to that spirit of Jason Novak’s quote – “the stuff of intelligence, taste, and a great attitude towards edgy and dark music, crossing through different styles and sounds, all the while respecting a common theme.” However, given the accolades the event seems to receive each year, even amid all of the financial and personnel struggles, Novak and David Shock are clearly undeterred and remain determined to pay tribute to Jamie Duffy’s memory and push for the musical community that they and their ilk love.
This year’s roster of artists certainly ranks as one of the most unusually diverse this writer has seen for a festival event of this type, and while there is yet again a fine balance of prominent headliners with lesser known but no less impressive talents, the musical styles on display are sure to turn a few heads; at least, at a glance. If CWIII proved anything, it was that the energy of the live environment and the communal spirit of the crowd both will overcome any stylistic differences that may, at first, seem uncharacteristic. While CWII and III demonstrated a clear transitional divide between the two respective nights, ranging from a more rock and guitar-laden first night to a slightly more electrified and ambient second, the lineup for CWIV seems to follow a different format, one that truly emphasizes the “dark and edgy” aspects of underground industrial music.
Having recently made a triumphant return to activity after more than a decade, the purveyors of desolate and doomy industrial/metal Godflesh will be headlining the first night, much to the glee of this writer whose admiration for this eminent and influential act runs rather high; needless to say, Godflesh is one of the models by which many of today’s most prominent acts in both the underground and the mainstream draw from, due to Justin K. Broadrick’s juxtaposition of clean melody with guttural rage to his equally vicious guitar riffs skating the edge between dissonance and delight atop thunderous and mechanical drumbeats. Indeed, the only way to top the harsh atmosphere exhibited by Author & Punisher and Fear Factory at CWIII would be to up the ante and book the progenitors of the style. Oh, and speaking of Author & Punisher, Tristan Shone will be present once again to grace the audience with his singular brand of bleak atmosphere and decrepit emotion, and alongside Godflesh and the dark ambient soundscapes of Lustmord and the caustic noise constructions of Prurient, the first night of CWIV already promises to be a uniquely intense experience that will rival the darkest recesses of any rivethead’s psyche. In addition, the experimental concoctions of found sounds and droning ambience that is Two from the Eye will be making an appearance, but audiences will perhaps find the most to behold in the newly reformed Lead into Gold – a project of celebrated bassist Paul Barker, one that demonstrates his sonic versatility and sense of darkly rhythmic dimension – as well as Lab Report, performing its first live show in 15 years. Suffice to say, the first night of CWIV will be delivering quite a nightmarish mélange, such that more than a few in the audience will be hoping for respite by the next night’s proceedings.
Perhaps less steeped in audio decay, but certainly no less grim in the emotional impact, the second night’s lineup of musicians may prove to be a far more energetic affair at the very least… and perhaps thankfully so. After all, with a headliner like Front Line Assembly, there is sure to be a fair amount of dancing involved as the band has for nearly 30 years offered up some of the most rhythmically engaging and caustic hits the industrial dance floor has yet heard; always adopting new styles and technologies with each album, FLA is still as fresh and as vital as ever, still fighting the communication war with Bill Leeb’s lyrical sociopolitical diatribes.
Also on the bill are veteran acts Severed Heads, Pop Will Eat Itself, and Rorschach Test, all offering up a venomous and vibrant mix of classic alternative and industrial sounds, while newer talents like Human Traffic and High-Functioning Flesh will also appear with their own decidedly stylized retro proto-EBM and post-industrial brands; indeed, anyone who was thrilled by Youth Code’s punk-like energy at CWIII will find much to behold in these two acts, drawing on the groundwork laid by the likes of early Nitzer Ebb and DAF in a manner that is absolutely suited to ColdWaves. As usual, there is always more to any ColdWaves event than just the primary two night event, for this year’s kick-off party on Thursday, September 24 will feature Jason Novak’s flagship act Acumen Nation with a special performance of the band’s debut album, the now legendary Transmissions from Eville
, celebrating its 20th anniversary. As well, Die Sektor and Rabbit Junk will be appearing, both bringing their own aggressive and vicious sounds to the stage and kicking off ColdWaves IV with an absolute bang!
What began as a single night dedicated to one of Chicago’s most beloved musicians and sound men has now grown into a full blown event celebrating an entire genre of music, held in a city whose history with industrial music simply can’t be understated. Bridging the past and the present in a manner so edgy and powerful gives rise to a brighter future, one in which even more innovative music may be created; and all the while, ColdWaves continues its association with Hope for the Day, raising funds for the eminent charity for suicide prevention.
In conclusion, this writer can only express his own anxiousness and anticipation for this year’s event – it was Jamie Duffy who first suggested that I come to Chicago, then for the purpose of conducting an InterView with him; upon his passing, the great city has become something of a second home for me, a Mecca whereupon I must return at least a few times a year, and most importantly in the month of September to attend the event in his honor, celebrating his life and the rich musical history of industrial and alternative music in Chicago. As is stated on the ColdWaves website, “this is our history and our future, the melding of man, woman and machine, the sound of melody, muscle and hate, basking in the glow of attack ships on fire down the shores of Pluto.”
ColdWaves Website http://coldwaves.net
ColdWaves Facebook https://www.facebook.com/coldwavesfestival
ColdWaves Twitter https://twitter.com/COLDWAVES_
Cracknation Website http://www.cracknation.com
Cracknation MySpace http://www.myspace.com/cracknationrecords
Cracknation Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cracknation/285988987668
Hope for the Day Website http://www.hftd.org
Hope for the Day Facebook https://www.facebook.com/hopefortheday
Hope for the Day Twitter https://twitter.com/hopefortheday
Metro Chicago Website http://metrochicago.com
Metro Chicago Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MetroChicago
Metro Chicago Twitter http://twitter.com/metrochicago
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photography by MizTabby (MizTabby)