• Jack Wells

Music Review - Seven Lives by In Strict Confidence

Seven Lives + 13 tracks = One amazing EP!

So it's been a while since I've made any updates to the site. There's a myriad of reasons, but as I'm starting to type them out, they all sound like "blah blah blah" and "excuses excuses excuses". So, since things are a little slow right now, I figured I'd mine the depths of my (very!) old Amazon reviews, and maybe get some bands on some radars! That said, let's get to the reviews!

The second single to be lifted from the phenomenal album Holy, the Seven Lives EP continues along the same path that ISC has established over the course of the past two albums. While most of the songs on this release are remixes of various songs from "Holy", there are 4 non-album tracks as well, making this a true EP, a mini-album of reworked and brand-new ISC material. Most songs clock in at 5+ minutes, bringing the total CD running time to nearly 80 minutes, which is longer than the album Holy itself! Fans of the current In Strict Confidence sound and style will definitely want to pick this EP up, as several of the remixes and a couple of the non-album tracks are up there with the best that ISC has to offer. Add in the once again excellent CD artwork, and you have a CD worth adding to any Industrial/Darkwave collection.

Seven Lives (Extended Version) - Exactly what the title says, this track is simply a longer version of an already great song. The beginning is a little more subdued than the original, but quickly returns to the familiar synths and beat of the original. There's really not enough variance between the tracks to easily distinguish between them, but if you like the original, you'll like the extended version.

Seven Lives (Clubmix) - Quite a departure from the original mix, the Clubmix of Seven Lives starts out with a reverb effect, before flowing into a semi-poppy, upbeat groove, complete with a simple but effective synth sequence. The bass line comes next, and the vocals follow...but wait, what's this? Dennis Ostermann is not the vocalist on the remix. Instead, it's Ion Javelin, who did backing vocals on the original Seven Lives. His voice is quite different from Dennis', and gives the same lyrics a completely new feel. Dennis' vocals are still used for the chorus near the end of the track, but it's mostly Ion's song this time around. Though it tends to be somewhat repetitive, it's still an enjoyable listen.

Open Skies - Now here is where the fun begins. For all those who loved Antje's vocals on Sleepless and Emergency from Holy, and who wished that Dennis and Antje would have done a song together, your prayers have been answered. Easily the crown jewel of the Seven Lives EP, Open Skies is an amazing track, and one of ISC's best songs ever. Orchestral strings give the beginning of the track a menacing feel, but are soon eclipsed by the heavy bass line and kick drum. And then the first verse hits, with subtle sequencing nearly hidden behind Dennis' and Antje's vocals, punctuated by the driving beat. Less industrial and darkwave, and more in the same mainstream feel of Seven Lives, this track simply soars along, especially with Antje singing her heart out on the chorus. Hopefully Antje will make a return in the future, as she definitely complements any ISC song she lends her voice to.

Seven Lives (De/Vision Remix) - Quite a departure from the mainstream sounding original, this is one of the standout remixes on the EP. I have only just begun looking into De/Vision's body of work, but if their own songs sound this good, then I think I'll be happy with what I find. Distorted vocals delivered over a mostly percussion driven chorus start the song off, with the sequencers taking a backseat to the driving drums and hi-hat. The second half of the song ventures into somewhat minimalist territory, with a simple sequence and drum line carrying it along. The song ends with a quasi-Depeche Mode guitar piece, before fading out completely.

Eye Of Heaven (Silversilence) - The original Eye Of Heaven was a mid-tempo track with guitars and synths helping to propel it along. This version is much more laid back, feeling almost like drum & bass territory. A sample of Galadriel from The Fellowship Of The Ring movie starts the track off with an ethereal feel, which re-emerges at various points throughout its 6 minute playing time. This remix has a very similar feel to various Haujobb remixes, which tend to focus more on atmosphere than momentum. Unfortunately, not much happens in this mix, to the detriment of the track as a whole.

Der Teufel - The second non-album track, and definitely one of the more unique ISC tracks out there. This song begins very slowly, with a very basic sequence and digital samples as the only accompaniment. Dennis sings this one in German, and his voice is as slow and measured as the music itself. But right before the song lapses into too much laziness, the main synths drop out, a mild sequence kicks in, and an angelic, operatic voice emerges, bringing a ray of hope to an otherwise sad and somber track. Drums emerge at the halfway mark, but the song retains it's slow and steady approach. Sometimes orchestral, sometimes very much darkwave, but always atmospheric, this is the second best non-album track on the EP, right after Open Skies. Haunting and yet beautiful at the same time, Der Teufel is definitely one of my favorites.

Walking Shadows - This is the third non-album track on the EP, and it's definitely a return to the established ISC sound after the totally new direction that was Der Teufel. A basic four on the floor beat drives this song along, with trademark ISC sequences and samples adding depth to the verse and chorus. In fact, this song almost feels like it could have been on Mistrust The Angels, as it has a similar pace and vibe to Herzattacke and Lost In The Night. All in all a very standard ISC track.

Slowmotion - The fourth and final non-album track, Slowmotion is an instrumental, and does not have much going for it to make it stand out. In fact, it's just another Alpha Centauri, but a little more upbeat, with some tribal drums and other percussion forcing it along. Fortunately, this is also the shortest track on the EP, so it doesn't stick around too long.

No Love Will Heal (Lucas Boysen Remix) - More analog sequencer driven than the original, it's a stripped down version that sounds more like an edit than a remix. A simple kick and snare drum arrangement provides the beat, and the sequencers plod along in a repetitious fashion. Another drum & bass sounding remix that really doesn't bring much to the table.

Seven Lives (Monozelle Remix) - The same folks responsible for the fantastic artwork of this EP have also provided a remix, and surprisingly enough, it's actually very good! The song opens with a pulsing heartbeat, with distorted vocals chanting "seven lives" over and over. And then an Egyptian sequence kicks in, giving the remix a more exotic feel. Guitars accompany the chorus, with the low bass sequence flowing alongside. The vocals are the same as the original, but the distortion on the synths and guitars give this remix a unique feel. Definitely one of the best Seven Lives remixes on the EP.

Seven Lives (Iris Remix) - Beats and crossfading sequencers start this track off at a march, which pretty much carries through the entire remix. The first chorus sequence drops off a bit, which feels a little strange. Pro-tools make an appearance on some of the accompanying synths, which makes this remix sound a little commercial. Not a bad remix, but just nothing amazing either.

Babylon (Drumgrip III) - Again, my bashing of HECQ continues, as he provides yet another uninteresting deconstruction of an ISC song. The original vocals, which were prominently in your face, are now whispered and barely audible. Various samples and sequences come and go, crossfading from channel to channel, with some ghostly synth strings floating in the background. Technically amazing? Yes, this remix is that, as are all HECQ remixes. But interesting and enjoyable this remix is not. It simply fails to compel in any way.

No Love Will Heal (The Crüxshadows Remix) - Rogue adds his own little spoken word piece before the actual beat kicks in, and he follows Dennis's vocals from time to time as well, which makes for an interesting sound. Faithful to the original in pace and content, this remix still manages to sound unique and fresh. Different instruments are used to achieve the same basic sound, so it all sounds familiar, but new at the same time. The Crüxshadows are a very talented group, and they definitely work some magic on an already good song.

If you are a fan of the great album Holy, and don't already own this EP, then stop reading this review and buy it NOW! The overall length and number of tracks, coupled with some very excellent exclusive songs and remixes, as well as the detailed artwork, make this one a no-brainer. This CD gets heavy rotation both at home and in the car, and will probably continue to do so until the next ISC EP or album comes out.

5 out of 5 immortal and vengeance seeking stars!

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