- Bryon Harris
Shadows & Mirrors ARIA Packs a Punch for Fans of DarkWave Industrial
The album ARIA is a first-rate dark-wave-electro-synth album by Shadows & Mirrors aka Brian Diamond. It delivers a powerful industrial soundscape sprinkled with alt-goth-punk-rock that will surely garner respect and enthusiasm from dark-wavers looking for something introspective and intelligent that packs an emotive punch in a driving atmosphere you can lose yourself in.
Shadows & Mirrors is fueled by lyricist/composer Brian Diamond who sings all the lead vocals, plays guitar and keys, does all the drum programming, producing and mixing. ARIA is Shadow & Mirrors second release on Nub Country Records, following his first EP, “Dangerous.” It was mastered by Barry Grint at Alchemy Studios in London. Grint has worked with icons like Radiohead, Madonna, Prince, Oasis, Gary Numan, INXS, and David Bowie. The album is getting significant, worldwide airplay from Rusty Egan's Electronic Family Tree, The Synthwave Show with Rob Green, Phoenix 98.1 FM with Rob Harvey, The Fix on TBFM, and many others. ARIA opens with the song “The Stranger” which is a perfect introduction to Diamond's work. It’s raw and to the bone with elements of thick, punk-rock guitar. I love the addition of moaning, ghost-like vocals that rise above the chorus mid-way. There’s word-poetry half way through, “I’m talking about the moment that your soul and spirit leaves this body and you breath no more ….are you ready for that day!?” Enters a chorus and some deeper vocals that I wish there were more of because it sounds great. We get a full wall of sound and one can almost hear a mirror breaking, glass falling. And who is this stranger? It is yourself, perhaps, looking back at who you were. This song foreshadows the recurring themes you will hear throughout the album of life and death, truth and lies, sin and redemption, inward and outward reflection – it’s all there and Diamond is no stranger to it. Moving on, “I Don't Mind” gets you into a groove from the first beat. It starts with a whisper-effect in the vocals, “What you doing tonight, because I got money to burn.” And here some thematic work returns about money and greed, truth and lies, and lessons never learned, a fatalistic journey of addictions. “Say good bye forever cause you’ll never learn.” About a minute into the song, after the first two verses, there are four cascading harmonic sequences. These cascading harmonies drop you into the chorus; later there is a guitar solo that thickens with a counter synth melody driving into a sixteenth note drumming sequence then back to the hollow, cascading harmonies and chorus. I like this structure; it is well composed and high-energy.
The third track, “Empty” rocks out with attitude. “I don’t feel like I’m empty and I don’t feel like you care.” It’s full of that resonating deep bass synth solo work that pounds out fuzzy, dirty quarter and half note melodic lines at the foundation. About two minutes into the song, you get this sharp, light percussive attack that literally sounds like finger-snapping—again it has attitude. It’s as though Shadows & Mirrors is standing there, for just a few seconds, snapping his fingers, sort of playing with us in the way that you know something is going to happen. And it does. Completely unexpected, Diamond flavors the song with what I’m going to call word slam, a sort of industrial rap, where he talks about money, greed, and power. Diamond is an intelligent writer who offers meaningful lyrics that observe society with a dark, keen eye.
When I saw the title of the next track “Confession,” I couldn’t wait to hear it. I had a feeling that “Confession” was going to be a bit more introspective and I was right. The song starts out like a hollowed-out chant, something you might hear in a dark monastery. It reminded me of Gregorian chant from the medieval period, full of the kind of darkness born from religion. There’s something mysterious lurking in the short violin-like phrases, then enters two instrumental voices that sound like a call-and-response, a dark hymn of sorts. Here I’d like to give major kudos to Diamond for composing music that utilizes word-painting very well. This song is full of word- painting as the music perfectly describes the story, the setting, the mood, and the cast of characters. “Help me Father, say a prayer, I’m gonna make your sons and daughters beware. Seasons are sweet, but not for certain. I am the man behind the curtain.” And there you have it. This song isn’t about a confession – it is a confession and it’s a confession with a dark twist – Is this confession from the man behind the curtain? And who is that man, the sinner or the one who proposes to be a saint? I was hoping the song would end with more of that dark chanting I heard in the beginning, but the pulse keeps going to the end true to the outro-form found throughout this album. It is fitting because Shadows & Mirrors has no intention of letting you down gently; in good dark-wave form, once the rhythmic groove is established – he takes it all the way to the end. “In the Dark” is a solid track, one of the best tracks on the album, and there’s a killer video to go with it. All of Shadows & Mirrors videos are excellent. In great story telling form, midway through the video there’s a clip where a young woman injects a needle into a television set, extracts her poison, and then injects it into her arm. Statement received. We are a consumer driven society; we itch for the material media and our daily injections keep us “In the Dark.” This is a great piece of art and ripe for our times. Take a minute to listen to and watch the "in the Dark" video.
The “Sedative of the Ceremony” is the album’s most seductive composition. There are multiple themes here including the topic of decaying youth, “sun don’t shine forever, poets lose their rhyme,” as well as subjects of love, loss, and pain in a fast world. In “Sedative of the Ceremony” you have another guitar and piano duo mid-way and a gap in sound where the synth wall thins out and Diamond’s voice becomes emotive “Youth won’t last forever. Each day another line. God likes to destroy our pretty people out of time.” The drum fills and claps are excellent on this song. Dare I say that this is the one song that offers up a bit of comfort to the darkness “I try to listen through the pain in her smile.” Oh come on honey, if you ever even loved me, this world is fading fast.” Great ending on this cut, a full and rich anthem-like landscape that drops down to a single note – like the lyrics state, life is fading fast and can end abruptly like the drop of a single note.
“No Fever” burns up the album – “I burn like you bleed and I remember everything.” It is the most epic of the songs, almost eight minutes in length. A second vocalist joins Diamond in the song’s chorus. Her name is Mali Bonavia. Since this is mainly a one-man show, Bonavia’s entrance is welcome on a song of this length – this was a very good call by Diamond and it makes the song pop. Although it’s a longer song, it’s less heavy and it keeps your interest with a lot of variations on the song’s motifs. I hate to say it, but this song might just have dark-wavers singing along…there’s a synth-pop sensibility to it.
And last, but definitely not least, is “100 Years.” The intro is a heart-stopping, 32 beat foreboding pulse that sounds like a shark in murky music waters and this shark is coming straight for you, but there’s no time to decide if you’re going to stay in or get out because as the sound gets closer, a rhythmic pulse begins and the soundwaves swallow you whole, taking your body and mind into the torrent. Enter Diamond’s vocals, “Don’t you stop, you’re my new favorite habit, the truth is forever, but you can’t have it.” Even hours after hearing the tune, the melodic content is still in my head. “Oh my God, it’s time to drown…when the needle stops, I’ll take you down.” Diamond is a noteworthy lyricist. His lyrics stick with you and every word fits into the rhythmic pulse with ease. Vocally, Diamond has a good timbre that distinguishes itself above the sound production. As the song pushes forward, the stage has been set and you can no longer sit still and listen on the sidelines, you are up and moving. Diamond envelopes his verses with guitar riffs that reinforce the melodic line, giving you space to wander further into your world, or his. Mid-way, the song reaches its developmental climax in full synth-wave style; all the stops are pulled and the chorus arrives. The song lays to rest with an inspired guitar solo and the beat stays on to the very end, never letting you go.
This is a great album; the lyrics are excellent as are the melodic lines that go with them. My only unfulfilled desire would be for Diamond to explore his deeper vocal range, maybe double up on some of the vocal lines with some resonating octaves to give it more power – that would be icing on the cake.
Coming up next on Shadows & Mirror’s radar: "In The Dark" will be featured in an upcoming indie horror film titled "The Reckoning" and Diamond will be working with film maker Travis Legge on a new project "Summerland" which is currently in production mode. And there are talks of a worldwide tour in 2017. Fans can purchase the ARIA on Shadows & Mirrors website . It is available in digital download. There is also a limited edition 180G vinyl record, produced at Canada Boy Vinyl. For those who prefer it, Shadows & Mirrors is available on iTunes and Amazon.