Black Line

Live at the Regent Theatre

Downtown Los Angeles, CA

September 15th, 2018

Review and photos by Travis Baumann

Black Line are an evolving group of musical collaborators that produce moving electronic structures and take elements of industrial, EBM, and experimental sub-genres, giving a modern take on the scene.

Focusing around the vocal talents of Douglas McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb fame, Cyrus Rex and Ken "hiwatt" Marshall layer in the synths and percussion while Douglas' longtime coconspirator, Bon Harris adds in live e-drums, modular magic, and additional vocals. Zack rounds out the group on guitar and also sings backing vocals.

This was Black Line's second time performing in Los Angeles, the previous was just as their debut album, "Treason, Sedition, And Subversive Activities" was released last year.

The Regent had a good crowd that had been thoroughly warmed up by special guests, Belief Defect and were ready for Douglas and company.

They started off the set with an instrumental intro which consisted of both "First Moment" and "The Last Moment" off of the album. The electronic soundscape built and transitioned to "Keep Digging" as Douglas joined the rest of the band. This is one of my favorite songs off the album so it was cool to start off with it.

Douglas moved about the stage, a consummate performer, gesturing and dancing as he sang. His signature voice brings authority and emotion to any project he is a part of, but Black Line is definitely the best thing he has done outside of Nitzer Ebb.

"Losing You" is probably the song I listen to the most on the entire album, it resonates with me lyrically and I love the emotional build, getting heavier as the song hits its crescendo.

Cyrus Rex and Ken "hiwatt" Marshall have a side project called "djmrex", which Douglas also sings on and they included a couple of their songs in the set list tonight with "Rules of History" being the first. I was not familiar with the song prior, but it was really cool live - not sure how I missed this on its initial release.

An instrumental interlude led into "Layers" which starts off mellow and then blasts into a heavy electronic assault. They continued with "Sedition" which is the album opener and more or less the title track.

They crested the half way point of the set with "Can't Breathe" which incorporates a bit of country swagger and references bar fights and pickup trucks and ends up with Douglas "face down - no sound, I can't breathe".

The second "djmrex" song of the night was "Being You", another exciting new track for me with discordant rhythm sections as Douglas sang.

Zack traded off the guitar for an extra set of sticks for "Snap" and perhaps his star turn of the set was the opening vocals for "Shut It Down" which in many ways represents a theme song for Black Line.

"Big City" has a very enticing Ebbhead pace and feel to it. A second interlude led into "No Crime" which completed the entire album.

Instead of the set being over, this is where it got even better. Two unreleased songs punctuated the end of the set with "Get It" and "Dark Days". The latter was especially interesting as Bon and Douglas exchange vocal roles for a moment as Bon sang the traditional verse with Douglas coming in on the chorus. It was a definite highlight of the set, and really cool to see live.

The band took a short break but was cheered back to the stage for one final song. They played an excellent cover of Iggy and the Stooges' "I Want to Be Your Dog" before saying good night to the crowd.

It was an excellent set. I highly recommend Black Line to any fan of industrial-electronic dance music and especially to any fans of Nitzer Ebb as you get that same classic duo doing all new material with a completely different edge thanks to the others involved.

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