Aftermath dark electronic music festival 2015

Aftermath 2015: Toronto’s dark electronic music festival

If Terminus was Industrial Summer CampAftermath felt like an ultra distance triathlon …through a minefield!

It was so intense.

Over the course of three days, no less than twenty-four amazing acts took to the stage in Phoenix Concert Theatre.

Aftermath was a rapid-fire drill of illustrious acts, spanning many dark electronic music genres: industrial, EBM, futurepop, synthwave, noise, darkwave, aggrotech.

Aftermath Festival c. Darker Side of Light 2015
Aftermath Festival c. Darker Side of Light 2015

Aftermath is the only festival of its kind in Toronto and I’m extremely grateful to Darker Side of Light Promotions for bringing all this amazing talent to our doorstep. The 2015 edition was a mind-bending bombardment of incredible performances.

The afterparty of the festival also marked the end of a long-standing Toronto venue, Velvet Underground, and there was a lot of feeling packed into this farewell.

Day 1

Peter Turns Pirate

Opening for Aftermath is a tough job: especially when it’s 6PM on a Thursday night. In spite of all that, Peter Turns Pirate brought the energy needed to galvanize the crowds trickling in. Perched atop his lightbox, Neal launched into his performance with characteristic gusto.

Peter Turns Pirate performs at Aftermath 2015
Peter Turns Pirate performs at Aftermath 2015

He’s a total prankster, theatrical to the last drop. A healthy industrial rock set kicked off the whole weekend in high gear.

Alter Der Ruine

Alter Der Ruine blind-sided me. Wtf happened to these guys?

I really don’t mean that as slight onto the band’s vision: they were fun to watch and their sound is certainly more mature than before. It’s just that I really really, REALLY love powernoise. It’s the barely-tolerated-mutant-bastard-sibling genre of the dark electronic music festival family; its the weird kid at a dinner party of freaks.

Alter Der Ruine performs at Aftermath 2015
Alter Der Ruine performs at Aftermath 2015

Alter Der Ruine have morphed into a bouncy but moody electro-rock-dance concoction. During their performance, I thought this is what IAMX might sound like if Chris Corner was straight-edge. Among peers in its genre, it was great… but I still kinda feel cheated: I wanted powernoise!

Ego Likeness

Come on, it’s a Frank Herbert reference, that makes them instantly cool.

The Maryland artists were among the most anticipated acts of the night. Ego Likeness are responsible for many alternative club anthems of the last decade. Remixing them for the dancefloor is an industrial DJ rite of passage.

Ego Likeness at Aftermath 2015
Ego Likeness at Aftermath 2015

And for good reason: Donna is a superlative vocalist and Steven is just… batshit brilliant. Both these artists took to the stage multiple times during the Aftermath weekend, showcasing their range of talents. Ego Likeness stands out amongst all their projects for that sexy-angry vibe I love.

FGFC820

After EL’s sultriness, FGFC820 were like a booted kick to the face. New York’s DWA veterans do exactly what it says on the tin: violent, civil unrest.

FGFC820 perform at Aftermath 2015
FGFC820 perform at Aftermath 2015

They’re harsh-EBM incarnate, with militaristic beats and skull-ratting growls. At Aftermath, FGFC820 vented their trademark aggrotech rage on the crowds and set them into a frenzy of stomping and cheers.

William Control

FGFC pack away their sonic weapons of mass destruction and out comes William Control in a three piece suit.

Bam!

William Control at Aftermath 2015
William Control at Aftermath 2015

William and his Neuromatic boys have released a prodigious number of albums and played more shows than you can count all over the world. His darkwave stylings can also be heard on the soundtracks of horror flicks Saw V and Underworld.

When he’s not making videos, writing books or running his own label, he probably spends a lot of time practicing microphone-rope-dart tricks.

The Dreaming

Stabbing Westward and Orgy were the soundtrack to my angsty youth, and a gateway into industrial music.

The members that transitioned into The Dreaming mash hard rock stylings with electronic riffs in blasphemously awesome ways. In spite of the numerous permutations, The Dreaming retained their energy and passion.

The Dreaming perform at Aftermath 2015
The Dreaming perform at Aftermath 2015

Who wants to hear a SW song?”, Chris shouted. Uh, like everybody, ever, all the time? But as far as I’m concerned, it was their Garbage cover that stole the show.

Bruderschaft

Bruderschaft is a charity project set up by DJ Rexx Arkana (FGFC820) to raise funding for cancer research. It’s a series of collaborations with futurepop heavy weights, from Apoptygma Berzerk to VNV Nation.

Being such a hybrid supergroup, you can imagine seeing them live is a very rare treat. Unfortunately, I missed Bruderschaft because I just couldn’t stay any later that night.

I did however hear that Verena May and Daniel Myer contributed to this year’s Bruderschaft show. If anybody has decent audio or video of this show, please hit me up, I’m raw from how hard I’m kicking myself for missing their performance.

Leaether Strip

And then I also missed the headliner for the first day of the festival. 2AM on a Thursday night is not something I could commit to.

Leaether Strip at Aftermath 2015
Leaether Strip at Aftermath 2015

Claus Larsen is a force to be reckoned with in the international EBM/Industrial scene. Leaether Strip IS industrial; it’s at the (hard)core of so many subsequent projects and genres.

Claus has inspired entire generations of freaks. They’ve been making music for exactly my whole life and they were this badass from day one!

Day 2

Dead On TV

“Ok guys, we’re gonna play some goth music”.

No complaints here: way to kick off the show Dead On TV!

Dead On TV at Aftermath 2015
Dead On TV at Aftermath 2015

Among the more acoustic acts I heard over the weekend, DOTV were a riot. Punk-rock-a-billy-goth-clash accompanied by witty banter. Vocalist Dan Evans is hilarious and his attitude drove the whole act.

And yes, that is Footloose on the screen. What a bunch of weirdos…

Stoneburner

Here is the war cry of the Arrakis! Thanks Aftermath, finally some freakin’ noise!

Remember how I said Steven Archer is batshit brilliantStoneburner is his solo project and it’s insanely awesome! It combines harsh electronic noise with tribal sounds and rhythms. Steven looks like some sort of technoshaman on stage, a character torn out of the pages of a dystopian novel.

Stoneburner performs at Aftermath 2015
Stoneburner performs at Aftermath 2015

His newest album The Mouse Shadow comes out October 16th. Preorder it now! I can’t even begin to describe the complexity and savage beauty of his sound.

Kevorkian Death Cycle

It’s been fifteen years since electro-industrial act Kevorkian Death Cycle last performed in Toronto and the crowd welcomed them back with a roar. the LA band brought their best game to the stage with synthesizers and guitars.

Kevorkian Death Cycle perform at Aftermath 2015
Kevorkian Death Cycle perform at Aftermath 2015

After touring with names like FLA and Front 242, KDC went on a long hiatus. They remerged just a couple years ago with the release of God I Am. The new sound seems more coldwave than the pre-millenial incarnation, but nevertheless entertaining and well produced.

Nitronoise

Another DWA talent hailing from Montreal, Nitronoise took the stage by storm and poured out wicked aggrotech.

Nitronoise perform at Aftermath 2015
Nitronoise perform at Aftermath 2015

They brought guttural death growls, set to distorted bass and the pounding, brutal rhythms characteristic of harsh electronic music. They reminded me a lot of FGFC in their energy and militaristic aesthetic, and to no surprise, the two bands have release reciprocal remixes.

Mr Kitty

When Mr Kitty was announced on the Aftermath line-up, he came with a very strong recommendation from my network of trusted electro snobs, so I decided to give it a pre-listen.

I was hooked: I listened to his music compulsively for days leading up to the performance. The delicate and melancholy sound is universally cathartic.

I’m very picky with synthpop. In fact, I outright dislike most of it. The exceptions are few and far between, and I think I found a new favourite in Mr Kitty. There’s something about his synthpop style that makes it a delicacy of the genre.

Mr Kitty performs at Aftermath 2015
Mr Kitty performs at Aftermath 2015

The ethereal vocals, the clean beats, the bright synth lines all captivated my attention. It’s been three days since Aftermath and I’m still listening to him and Mend on a loop. I’m willing to sacrifice badass-noisehead-brownie-points and admit that I’m now in love with Mr Kitty.

Ludovico Technique

When Ludovico Technique climbed on the stage I was still in a trance from Mr Kitty’s performance. After his minimal aesthetic and sound, the initial experience of LT was true to the Clockwork origin of their name.

Ludovico Technique perform at Aftermath 2015
Ludovico Technique perform at Aftermath 2015

I totally respect the theatric aspect of this band. Sure, tubby bald guys make the best music (thanks Storming the Base), but it’s still awesome to see artists express themselves throughout their aesthetic.

15Ludovico Technique look like a bunch of pissed off vampires who make an aggressive breed of industrial filled with hissing, distorted vocals. They’re like a living Anne Rice novel. LT have such a powerful stage presence and so much energy I couldn’t help but fall in step.

Tactical Sekt

Anthony Mather was behind Aslan Faction, one of my early EBM influences, and I was suspicious when he first introduced Tactical Sekt as a more danceable project.

Let’s just get that straightened out:

Tactical Sekt is by no means dancing music. It’s stomping music. The best stomping I’ve had in a long time.

Tactical Sekt performs at Aftermath 2015
Tactical Sekt performs at Aftermath 2015

They’re harsh EBM at its finest, the shit that wrecks club sound systems and makes the building foundation rattle. Burn Process is one of my favourite albums, especially where it descends into full-blown powernoise. Watching the entire Aftermath crowd deliriously bounce around to them was awesome!

Velvet Acid Christ

Well aren’t I spoiled: I got to see VAC twice this year! And still I want more. More. Moaaaaar.

Velvet Acid Christ are profound and melodic with a harsh industrial bass and beat. I’ve loved them for as long as I’ve owned black eyeliner. Their moody melodies were a fundamental influence and to this day, I still get completely lost in their music.

Velvet Acid Christ perform at Aftermath 2015
Velvet Acid Christ perform at Aftermath 2015

There was just one thing missing from their performance in Calgary: my absolute favourite song by VAC. When Donna from Ego Likeness got on stage with them, I screamed myself hoarse: I knew exactly what was coming.

It was a sublime performance and it left me speechless… for days after.

Day 3

Coffee. Coffee. Advil. Rinse, repeat.

Glenn Love

I love Glenn Love. Toronto loves Glenn Love, because above all else, he’s a really freakin’ nice guy. Seriously, you’ll never meet a more approachable and merry person in this whole city.

We loan him out to the rest of the world because on top of being an awesome spirit, he also makes really wicked dark electronic music that spans from EBM anthems, to bouncy joie de vivre synthpop. But make no mistake, he’s ours, and we expect him back in one piece!

Glenn Love performs at Aftermath 2015
Glenn Love performs at Aftermath 2015

Every time I’ve seen Glenn Love perform, he looks like he really loves what he’s doing. That’s a rarity: most industrial artists put on their serious, mean faces on stage. Glenn just exudes happiness and love for his craft. Watching him is such an invigorating experience, especially kicking off the third marathon day of Industrial Summer Camp.

Electrovot

Futurepop ain’t usually my thing, but I dug these guys. Electrovot had a cool contrast of bouncy techno beats and upbeat synth lines accompanied by bleak melodies. I heard the likeness of Assemblage 23 and Seabound in their sound, but with a unique vibe.

Electrovot perform at Aftermath 2015
Electrovot perform at Aftermath 2015

Electrovot blend the apocalyptic thrill of electro-industrial with arpeggiated synth riffs and emotional vocal stylings. With their second album out on COP just last year, this band’s prospects are very exciting.

Mend

Mend were my Aftermath epiphany.

Mend perform Aftermath 2015
Mend perform Aftermath 2015

Atop the stage, surrounded by what looked like an electric forest, Kassi and Max were a pair of surreal apparitions. Mend‘s music defies genre; it’s the song of post-apocalyptic sirens, experimental and disjointed beats atop delicate ambient arias.

Mend perform at Aftermath 2015
Mend perform at Aftermath 2015

If it’s not abundantly clear from the superlative description above, I loved Mend. That glitchy-beat-ethereal-electronica sound instantly gives me chills.

Autoclav, Gridlock, C.DB.SN and Mend – these guys don’t make music – they build worlds through sound. Mend’s music transports and transforms you, it’s a journey into a perilous yet beautiful fantasy land. They are legend; go buy their damn music.

Squid Lid

This is where things got seriously weird. UV-jungle-zombie-freakshow-weird.

Squid Lid are such a treat and we’re lucky they play shows in Toronto all the time. This crazy pair were by far the most epic stage performance of the whole festival, and anyone who’s seen them before expected no less.

Squid Lid perform live at Aftermath 2015
Squid Lid perform at Aftermath 2015

Splattered in UV paint, with glowing LEDs for eyes, they let loose with their unique breed of sound. Squid Lid‘s music is the soundtrack for a circus freakshow. Their influences are diverse: dubstep, hard industrial, electro-house, glitch-hop. The medley is mesmerizing, as is their presence on stage.

Squid Lid perform live at Aftermath 2015
Squid Lid perform at Aftermath 2015

You can check out their music on Bandcamp, but listening to it alone doesn’t do justice to what Squid Lid are. Look out for a local live show to truly understand what makes these extravagant weirdos so amazing.

Gofight

Whatever electroscuzz is, I totally dig it. Chicago natives Gofight wrecked the stage with their dirty, stomping beats and animate chanting. They’re a grungy industrial, the kids from the wrong side of the tracks all pumped up and ready to break shit.

And FYI, this happened:

Gofight perform at Aftermath 2015
Gofight perform at Aftermath 2015

Yep. Donkey show. I don’t even…

3Teeth

Many of the Aftermath bands claim industrial roots, but 3Teeth are purists. Now I understand all the hype around them, they were spectacular! If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought it was old-school KMFDM shredding the sound system.

3Teeth perform at Aftermath 2015
3Teeth perform at Aftermath 2015

Don’t get me wrong, I love all the dark electronic music fusions, but clean, straight-up industrial was so refreshing. 3Teeth make Numan and Reznor look like pussies. They’re a force to reckon with and I stomped my feet raw to their music.

Conjure One

FLA and Delerium veteran Rhys Fulbert performed as Conjure One at Aftermath. I should just stop there, because if you know either of the aforementioned bands, you understand how insanely awesome this is.

Conjure One perform at Aftermath 2015
Conjure One perform at Aftermath 2015

Conjure One brought a gentle electronic ambient, much welcome after all the stage fury that preceded them. The downtempo set was rejuvenating and up-lifting.

With complicated layerings and furtive use of sampling Conjure One creates haunting soundscapes. Rhys Fulbert’s music has always had that ethereal appeal, and through CO he distills all his expertise into making dark fairy music.

Haujobb

Daniel Myer is god. Full stop.

Haujobb is one of those delectable genre mixes. IDM, breakbeat, techno, D&B, electro-industrial all come together to produce one of the most unique and mature sounds of the entire festival. They’re a very old love of mine and a transitional influence from industrial/EBM to harsher noise, trip hop, breaks and all kinds of other awesomeness.

Haujobb perform at Aftermath 2015
Haujobb perform at Aftermath 2015

Man, Aftermath artists this year were just chockfull of awesome sci-fi references. Haujobb were the sixth: gold star if you caught all of them.

I’ve seen Haujobb twice in as many years and both times they played one of my favourite songs of all time. They’re a finely-tuned beat machine and this song contains all the subtlety and sophistication that makes Haujobb so amazing.

Day 4

The closing party of Aftermath welcomed to the stage Matt Hart (Slimelight UK), Joe Letz and Rhyf Fulbert doing back to back sets on the Velvet Underground stage.

It was also announced as the final night for the legendary Toronto venue.

I’m more heartbroken about Velvet than all the alternative bars and clubs that have shut down in Toronto’s recent years. I have met so many amazing people and was exposed to such a swarth of incredible music at Velvet over the years. I will miss it sorely.

I showed up before doors and reminisced with old and new friends about Velvet’s history. As I walked in for the final night, my head felt like it was filled with jet fuel and my heart with lead. Visions of a thousand nights superimposed themselves in my mind. All those familiar faces, all the awesome freaks that have made my life so wonderful, they all came out for one more night.

It was magical. I couldn’t even keep track of who the hell was DJing, I was so lost in the wonderful atmosphere. We danced and laughed and drank the bar dry by midnight and wrecked the speakers and pilfered our select memorabilia.

So long Velvet. You’ve been good to us.

Oh yeah and props to whichever DJ played Pneumatic Detach.

I realize this is a terrible review of the closing party, but, seriously, you had to have been there to understand the energy and vibe. The sound was shit, the liquor was shit, the toilets were literally overflowing with shit and it was still the singularly best Velvet night ever.

*

Under the red moon, we said goodbye to a home, but the love for dark electronic music will never die in Toronto.

May we remember this venue and through our collective efforts, keep amazing events like Aftermath alive!

 

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5 thoughts on “Aftermath 2015: Toronto’s dark electronic music festival

  1. Michael Jenney

    As the founding member of ADR I had no issue with the opinion you formed about our live performance until you wrote you felt “cheated”. How did we cheat you when it’s you that hasn’t bothered to listen to us since about 2008? Then admit we were good but dog on us because it’s not what you expected? Our last heavy album came over 7 years ago. The last 5 years or so have been filled with heartache and tragedy for us, we wrote about it and that’s what came out. Feel free to send me a paypal, I’ll refund your ticket.

    Like

    • synescape

      I used the word “cheated” in a cheeky manner, it’s pretty obvious I actually enjoyed the performance. To be fair, I have not heard anything from the band in years, I admit total ignorance on the history that brought you to the current form.
      However, expressing a personal preference and a reaction to infringed expectations is hardly “dogging” someone. Have you ever had a shitty review? It doesn’t usually include the word “great”. There were 23 other acts and I enjoyed some less than ADR – maybe I should ask them for a refund?
      I think you’re being unnecessarily abrasive. Maybe it comes from the emotional journey you’ve had; whatever it is, power to you man, keep making music. But try not to be so quick to anger, it hardly serves you or the music community at large. We all have different tastes, but we still manage to come together.

      Like

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