14/06/2004 § Leave a comment
Butterfly Messiah first came onto the Gothic scene proper in 2002 with Priestess, an album that was neither here nor there as far as electro went. It was a gesturing stab at the genre from people who obviously knew where they wanted to go, but hadn’t even started packing the car up yet. Butterfly Messiah have a cult following as one of the up and coming acts from the Gothic Industrial genre. No metal here, but dark, sometimes dancey electro beats with synths and ethereal, soaring female vocals. So those of you who pride yourselves on being the most open-minded of people because every so often you might mix in the odd Gothica CD with your metal purchases to be really kooky, well, you can now go further and take a few strides in a different direction.
After hearing Priestess, which was surprisingly lauded by the Gothic press in spite of its banality, I wasn’t too sure about how this band would fare on their next release. However, maybe Butterfly Messiah were the victims of First Album Syndrome because this time round they’ve come up with something a lot better. The sound on Eternal is more rounded, mature, and actually has a direction whereby Priestess was a lost child in the Industrial realm, wandering round and hardly knowing what to do with itself. Eternal is more grounded, the songs are more self-assured, and carry a certain belief and confidence that the numbers in Priestess couldn’t brag about.
The strength of this album lies in the assured heaviness of the synths and how they generate a dark, sometimes sinister, yet energetic feeling throughout the songs. This is shown nowhere better than on It’s Time, one of the best Industrial tracks I have ever heard, Shannon’s vocals elevating what could otherwise be quite a black and trenchant number. But this is what Butterfly Messiah seem to do so much better than other bands. So often with these kinds of electro songs, the murky, grim mix of keyboard slush ends up bogging down the entire musical edifice and we’re all left feeling depressed and rather sickly. I’ve had enough of power noise making me feel like I’ve eaten twelve black forest gateaux. Shannon, however, has the ability to lift up a song no matter what the instrumentation seems to be doing, so the band has the power to have a field day with the grittier, darker side of electronica. The only problem with It’s Time is that its best features are its worst features – it’s so good and popular that the band could well get sick of it if they aren’t already, and the fact that it stands out above the other tracks on Eternal like a goth in a Ku Klux Klan meeting means that nothing else really touches it. This is clearly the territory that BM need to visit more often, unless they end up turning against It’s Time for fear of not being recognised for their other tracks, and doggedly biting the hand that has fed them, bought their albums and sold their tickets at random rivethead club nights in Florida.
It all still good, though. On the rest of the album, not only are we served up a dish comprising of rather dark growling synths, but there are some nice EBM sounds in there as well, vis-à-vis the title track and Ascension. There’s also some quiet repose in Believe [probably only jammed in for the sake of giving the album some variety], the harsh, abrasive mechanical chords of The Circle and the beautiful two-toned and bubbly Falling Stars. Butterfly Messiah lay the foundations for their sound in eerie, mysterious Industrial, but are also not closed off to throwing in different elements. Surprising then, that in spite of this, each track on Eternal does not come across as being particularly dissimilar from the one before it. Musically it’s unclear what the aim of the album is, whether it’s to relax you, uplift you or want you to go mad on the dance floor. My only guess is that it attempts to be an all-rounder, keeping one finger in every pie that it can, but failing to do anything particularly clever with ethereal music, which is unusual since When Autumn To Winter Resigns was the only good track on Priestess.
Still, I get the impression that BM are a band who are well aware of the importance of developing their sound and I’m sure that Eternal is just one step on a long road of self-discovery for them. Like metal, the Industrial genre is dominated by male vocalists, so though Epsilon Minus, Ayria, The Azoic and Icon Of Coil all have their place in femme-fronted Industrial, no other band apart from BM has the ability to exploit the darker and richer sides of the electro scene with such bravado. The only shortcoming of the band is where they try too hard to do things which are actually outside their scope, as in With Roses, which is an embarrassingly disappointing experiment in spite of the lyrics which are rather good. Nevertheless, Eternal is a beautiful and unignorable rush of darkwave Industrial beauty, and one that many of you would do well to open your minds and wallets to. I get the impression that this lot will be around for a long time, and each step will bring new elements and new improvements. A very welcome credit to the genre.