It's fucking great when a band emerges fully-formed with such a strong sonic identity. Athen's Entertainment craft a postpunk spin on gothic music the way god and nature intended - sticky, cavernous and dramatic. Equally evocative of early LA deathrock and punk - Christian Death, TSOL, Adolescents - and British postpunk weirdness - the Cure, pil, Cabaret Voltaire, Bauhaus - "Gender" is defiantly outsider art. A gritty, dirty, stripped-down sound.
I was pleased at the audacity of going for an epic "Double Dare" type vibe on opener "Romance In A Rain," all stutterstep tribal tattoos and guitar strangulation with the added diversion of keyboards that sound like one of those noise-activated “Boooo” ghosts you can buy at Halloween at your local drugstore. "A Seduction Walks" is fuelled by manic bass/drum lockstep propulsion that woulda had Ian Curtis' right leg jerking insanely while the rest of his body was locked in thousand-yard stare comatose daze - and those echoey, overwrought vocals are outta sight. And then when the vocalist purrs, "the look of love," the song upshifts into a whole new form of heat, with a guitar solo that sounds like shards of stained glass. Best track on the album. And just wait until "Patroness" kicks in with a minute to go – total overheated death disco or virus funk. It’s like ten-ton columns of sleek black marble, distorto glam-dub riot. If the whole album could be that one minute, mmmmm, we'd be in a new heaven.
After that it's just one tribal punk nightmare after another, with style and poise to spare and a mastery of crepuscular atmospherics that even Bauhaus might covet. That drummer really fucking cooks and every other player knows that silence can be just as terrifying if not more than everyone pulling out all their tricks at the same time. Simple basslines boom and echo like good Cure or New Order. The vocals are a breathy, androgynous yelp closest to Rozz Williams in the flush of youth circa the first Christian Death album. Can you even consider music like this a throwback when a band follows in the footsteps of bands that the popular consciousness is not even close to catching up with yet? The smoldering tension and release power-plays of "Confusion of Senses" masks epic Bunnymen-esque pop heroism. The coda of closer "Flesh" is just two much, jagged guitar harmonics shimmer on top of a truly thuggish bass and drum interplay with the vocalist yelping and screaming far away in the background and then twenty seconds of bass and drums pounding away and then nothing. Silence.
- Matthew Moyer