Category: Electro / Industrial / EBM
Album: On Blackened Wings
Blurb: Next in the long line of the often reviled remix album, Shiv-R’s newest release is a track-for-track reconstruction of the most recent full-length album, Wax Wings Will Burn.
The remix album – first coming to prominence in the ‘80s thanks to artists such as Madonna and Pet Shop Boys, such releases have become an almost inevitable addition to the discography of many electronic acts. If we’re fortunate, these releases can be the summation of daring experiments, a work of art in their own right. Other times, such a record proves to be nothing more than a simple cash grab, a way for bands to capitalize on their 15 minutes before the time is up. Look to your own physical or digital collections and see for yourself just how popular and enduring remix albums are. In truth, precious few ever rise above the obscurity in which they’re naturally introduced, and scarcely any become as memorable as a band’s standard output.
It’s in such a light that we must examine any remix record. In this instance, we get to study On Blackened Wings, the first such collection released by Shiv-R, an Australian duo comprised of Pete Crane and Ben Lee Bulig. On Blackened Wings takes the more unusual approach of featuring all of the remixed tracks in precisely the same order as they first appeared on the source release, 2014’s Wax Wings Will Burn. Available as either a limited edition CD or a digital download, On Blackened Wings is a staunchly underground creation. Featuring the remix stylings of near complete unknowns such as Cellmood and Sleepless Droids, it also presents us with versions constructed by better known artists such as Acylum and L’Âme Immortelle. It quite favorably avoids a common pratfall of many similar releases by evading multiple versions of a single track. The result is a recording that is varied enough to respectably avoid monotony and reiteration.
Beginning with the bleak and somber “Asylum,” remixed by The Ladder, we’re treated to a steady and mournful ballad replete with longing and pleading. While the original version was comparatively stripped down and nearly bare bones, this remix feels heavier and weightier. The percussion has become more emphasized and there is simply a thicker atmosphere at work. The music builds in vigor and pacing with Freakangel’s remix of “Monster,” which is in turn followed by the excitable and club-friendly “Eye of the Needle” as tweaked and manipulated by Thanosmylonas. On Blackened Wings follows the same moods, rhythms, ebbs and flows that its predecessor and source material laid out. Fans of Wax Wings Will Burn will be hard pressed to choose a favorite version of any given song. While some versions are more mild and others more aggressive, in most cases, the various tracks are not so altered as to be completely new and original. In one instance, the original version of “Wolves” has a faster beat and is more oriented to a club style, while its remixed counterpart is slower and more deliberate. That track enhances and highlights the group’s lyrical prowess and Crane’s vocal abilities. In that particular case, one could argue that the remixed track is the superior effort. As a general rule, however, it’s clear that both releases are able to stand firmly on their own without one being greater or lesser than the other. On Blackened Wings is more correctly a mirror for Wax Wings… as opposed to a brutal or esoteric departure. As Shiv-R’s music has consistently been directed toward the danceable club and EBM styles, it is pleasing to note that these remixes aren’t amped up simply for that mindset. An attempt has been made here to skew these songs enough to see them in a different light, while keeping enough of their original elements. It’s safe to say that anyone being introduced to Shiv-R via this recording won’t feel the typical remix onslaught; the end result is that it feels ultimately like an original album. To finish it all off are two new versions of the band’s bigger hits, “Pharmaceutical Grade” and “God is Art,” two tracks originally featured on 2011’s This World Erase.
While this collection is a fine enough work and a great introduction to newcomers, some of this album’s strengths are also some of its weakenesses. Even though these new versions are danceable, listenable, and enjoyable, On Blackened Wings simply isn’t bold or daring enough to truly distinguish it from its progenitor. Additionally, it’s not forceful enough to rise above the din of similar acts; just a couple more adventurous versions, or a mixed up track list, and this recording would have stood out more. Fundamentally, you are left with a refurbished version of a record not yet a year old. So which one should you choose? With the inclusion of the remixes from This World Erase and a more sophisticated rendition of “Wolves,” I say pick this one up instead.