Achromaticia (Expanded Digital Reissue)
The original pressing copies of "Achromaticia" (1997) are coveted by collectors even today. After all, it's not only the debut full-length CD by Disjecta Membra (which is one of the most respected names in the scene) but also it's a perfect release to rediscover the Gothic Rock essential sounds, albeit they're imbued with the New Zealanders' distinctive personality. The line-up (from 1996 to 1997) consisted of Michel (guitar, vocals, programming and production), Ben Cauchi (bass) and Tamlyn Martinovich (keyboards). For the first time in over a decade, the digital reissue of "Achromaticia" is now available comercially, also featuring rare bonus tracks from Disjecta Membra's classic era and a printable CD artwork redesigned by New Zealand artist Melanie Tahata. The original print errors have been corrected and sleeve design, album credits and track title listings are now as they were originally intended.
Legendary "Cathedral" opens the release. Bell tolling samples, synthed organ lines, solemn choirs and piercing screams (by the band's bassist), made up an appropriate horror film backdrop for the scary, Lugosi-like declamations. Being set up the mood, "Skin Trade" follows. This tune is driven by ceaseless machine drums, around which some piano notes and guitar distortions swirl. The unusual contrast among the different instrumental sections becomes yet worrying with the next track "Malcolm". Like a simulation of breathings and heartbeats, some industrial noises and low chords increase the tension from the beginning. Only the chanting female voice and a twisted melody (sounding like a childish music box) break the monotony in the first third. Then the song turns violent through a rabid guitar episode. "Third Song" alternates Mission-esque string patterns with electric discharges of drums and riffs. Deep and mournful vocals, along with the sequenced classic string melodies, provide an unsettling ambiance to the track. The instrumental "Androgyne Waltz" comes next, sounding such a psychotic perversion of an ancient ballroom dance. Just after, the band's classic "Rats" makes its appearence. Sinister guitar soloing and agressive riffing, operating from the distance while machines fix a relentless pace. Michel's distinctive low timbre adds great depth to the song's overall sound. Again, the soundscape becomes hermetic and melancholic with "From The Cradle...". Repetitive keyboard notes build up the hypnotic core. Vocals full of dispair (echoed with a distortion effect), computer tribal thuds and sacred chant samples surround this tune with a frightening atmosphere. "Necrophilia" gives continuity to the previous ambiance, with a stronger drumming pace and ominous strings and keys. Next one is one of the Disjecta Membra's most acclaimed anthems "(Candlemas): Cauldron of Cerridwen", which is one of the album's crowning moments. Ancient ritual percussion, solemn organ simulations and delicated synths propel the song into a memorable passage of genuine gothic rock. Dizzying electronic drums, sneaking guitars and aggresive chords made up an epic tempo. Even the track is focussed on rhythms, underlying synthesizers retain the mystic aura of the song's ouverture. The ritual vibe extends into "The Sleep" which is another high point in this repertoire. This tune comes with prominent bass notes and assertively played strings, even though it's driven by a slowed-down pace. As the track moves forward, voices and guitars evolve progressively into a massive wall of sounds with some Eastern touches. Both sections are impeccably executed, leaving enough space for improvisation. Following the ethereal "Water-wings", the corrosive "Cathedral (Deus ex Machina Mix)", and the complex "Danse Macabre", which remarkable lyrics are sung emotively. Up to here, the original CD's tracklisting. The bonus content includes the "Cauldron Of Cerridwen" (Single Version), the mythical "Antoinette Marionette" (from their lost release "Sybilline Leaves"), where sharpen cymbals, meandering violin melodies and dramatic vocals curl round the powerchord rhythms, and the instrumental closer "(An Epitaph)", with martial drumming, sombre piano notes and mournful guitar soloing.
"Achromaticia" marked a milestone in the Second Wave which continues in force yet today. This expanded digital reissue provides a great opportunity either for reliving the nineties' Gothic Rock splendor or approaching Disjecta Membra's cult music for the first time. Essential album.
Review by Billyphobia