I’ve long had a thing for the gothic/darkwave sound, and although I don’t seek it out as rabidly as I do metal, some great bands in this style have been coming my way of late.  Last year saw Ghost Noise releasing a promising debut album and the past few months have been all about Bad Psychic’s stunningly beautiful Soon.  Now we have Gainesville, FL trio Ars Phoenix gracing us with yet another must-hear take on the genre in the form of Violent Rain.

Sonically, Violent Rain reminds me of Gary Numan circa The Pleasure Principle; all manner of electronic bleeps and bloops are harnessed in order to bring each song into being, bound together by layer upon layer of robotic synths, w/ repetitive electronic beats burbling underneath it all.  Ars Phoenix have a keen pop sensibility, utilizing dual male/female vocals to drive hooks in deep, but they also keep things dark, dense and ever-so-slightly menacing.  The tracks are just slow enough so as not to be particularly danceable in the conventional sense, but this doesn’t stop them from being ridiculously catchy.

Indeed, each song is expertly crafted, and one can tell instantly that the band spent a great deal of time making sure everything is in its right place.  This meticulous approach pays off handsomely for Ars Phoenix, as there isn’t a single dud to be found here.  The ridiculously consistent quality makes it difficult to pick standout tracks, but for these ears “Chlorophyll” “Elegant Vapor” and “Who is Watching the Neighborhood Watchmen?” are the catchiest of the bunch.  All that said, there is a sinister streak just under the surface of Violent Rain; difficult to put a finger on but most definitely there all the same, a ghost in the machine lurking amongst virtual shadows.

Ars Phoenix have made quite the impression on me with Violent Rain; it’s melancholic, malevolent, paranoid and pretty, sometimes all at once.  It’s also likely one of the best albums in this style you’re going to hear in 2014.  This moody masterpiece is available on CD, vinyl or as a pay-what-you-want download via Bandcamp.  You know what to do.

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