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Taking a lift somewhere darker | FESTIVALPHOTO

Taking a lift somewhere darker

A review of Purple Nail’s ‘Blood Tonight’ and ‘Turn to Dust’
By Amanda Beadman

Everything in life has its place – and the place for the latest two releases from Swedish goth-lite band Purple Nail is firmly within the newly established sub-genre of Elevator-Emo.
If an Evanescence fan wants to catch an elevator from the first floor to the 10th to enact a tortured break-up with their self-mutilating beloved – this is the soundtrack for their upward journey.
Both ‘Blood Tonight’ and ‘Turn to Dust’ offer half-committed vocals wrapped around darkly romantic lyrics, watered down power ballad-esque background compositions and shaky operatic bridges wedded together by a kind of musical Fugue state.
This is music that is bereft of highs or lows, a tranquilised thing with sleepy synapses that crawls through its vague musical landscape like an injured fawn on its last legs.
The band has chosen to use faux-soprano wailing against a passion-less soundscape that neither soars nor plummets. The overall feeling is of something whitewashed and drained of all impact.
But this isn’t an attack on a sub genre. Elevator Emo done well has an alluring dull glow of its own and it comes to us bespoke and self-contained. Music with a true grasp of the moody darkness that Purple Nail seem to be chasing is able to drift along with a kind of numbness that rouses us somewhere outside the realms of logic or analysis.
That is perhaps why it cannot be faked, despite the consistency of the elements that comprise each of its parts. It is impossible to build something that does this sub genre justice if the approach is purely formulaic.
It’s worth remembering that this is a musical style defined by stasis and resignation. It seems settled into the mortal coil, perhaps to the point of creative indolence, because mortality itself cuts a swathe across much of its lyrical direction.
The very spirit of the sub genre itself is at odds with anything questing, dynamic or evolving. This isn’t anything that wants to try too hard during the course of our dimly lit passage from cradle to grave – strewn as it is with tortured tears and emo-heartbreak and vampiric turmoil.
It doesn’t want to try to be anything – it just wants to ‘be’. This underlying philosophical gambit makes its ability to succeed as a form of expression understandably nebulous. Added to this is the fact that cliché resides comfortably in the land of Emo Elevator.
Mirrors and angels and darkness and veils abound in a way that, in any other musical style would simply be interpreted as lyrical laziness. At worst it could be seen as unimaginative and amateurish.
There is the potential for a kind of New Romantic tribute, complete with clichés, if musicality and talent and sincerity form part of the package.
But that isn’t achieved in this offering from Purple Nail.
The result allows cliché to morph into something dangerously close to caricature, and the potentiality of tribute becomes nothing more than ineffective and inferior posturing.
What is missing is the element of moodiness that brings a tepid undertow to the boiling point of creative purpose.
Without that, there is nothing here to infuse a levelled out mid-strength delivery with the necessary momentum and weight to justify its theatrical lyricism – which is always teetering on the edge of melodrama.
Dark-lite is never going to work as a concept. People who do gothic music well, in any of its variants, possess the unique gift of being able to touch with a light hand and leave a lasting memory. It is possible to use minimal creative infrastructure without sacrificing substance.
In ‘Blood Tonight’ and ‘Turn to Dust’ the fire of creativity is reduced to a tepid revision of better versions of itself, as though infinite carbon copies were taken from the height of the New Romantics, leaving us with a filmy, bloodless soundscape of what might have been something darkly magnificent.
There isn’t anything here that’s even worth wallowing in – it’s all been done before, and back then it was done so much better.
My advice would be to skip the elevator and take the stairs, by plugging into music that means something.

Writer: Amanda Beadman
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