Black Line

Live at The Teragram Ballroom

Los Angeles, CA

July 7th, 2017

Review and photos by Travis Baumann

Black Line is a new collaborative industrial super group based around the legendary Douglas McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb fame along with his chief coconspirator Cyrusrex.

A group of talented musicians coming from all different paths join in on a song by song basis for their debut album, "Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities".

Calling upon an impressive number of these members for their first live show, the stage was filled with electronic gear and musical instruments, each manned by an artist of some renown.

Long-time partners in crime, Bon Harris returned to the stage as did Nitzer Ebb's frequent drummer, Jason Payne. Paul Barker of Ministry and Revolting Cocks lent his bass guitar skills. Ken 'hiwatt' Marshall , Jon Bates, Zack Meyers, Brad Apodaca, Anthony Baldino and Michael "prophei" Dietel rounded out the group.

The layers of percussion, synthesizers, guitars, and vocals combined perfectly, crafting moving electronic structures that ranged from club friendly electro-industrial anthems to emotional ballads, and at times went into instrumental esoteric soundscapes.

The new album is amazing and brings an instant feeling of both new and cutting edge, as well as a familiarity bordering on nostalgia.

They opened the set with "Keep Digging" which definitely falls into the clubbing essence from mid-era Nitzer Ebb realms. Honestly, this is some of the best stuff I have heard since Ebbhead in many ways.

They followed that with the album opener, "Sedition". This one gets stuck in your head almost instantly. While minimalistic in many ways, it shows how much can be done with electronic music structures and vocals that invoke feeling.

The emotional "Losing You" shows its power through Douglas' voice. Quite frankly, he could sing about anything and it would sound good but Douglas outdoes his previous solo efforts and collaborations with this album.

"No Crime" and "Big City" both show the propensity for enticing rhythms but it still surprises me how quickly the words and lyrics get caught in your head. I woke up with the chorus for "No Crime" going through my mind.

"Layers" builds up just as the name implies with a crescendo punctuating the title and theme that is hard not to dance to.

It would be hard to pick a favorite song from the new album but "Can't Breathe" definitely stands out. It has a different tonality to it and the back up vocals add an accessibility. Its hard to place the feeling, it almost reminds me of a southern swamp friendly twang and shuffle at moments but is still rich with electronics, the audience reacted the most to this song it seemed.

Intense is a pretty good descriptive word for the album as a whole. "Snap" continued that intensity and led into the final song of the set, "Shut It Down". Jon Bates from Big Bad Delta provided the name's sake chorus vocals that added a great juxtaposition against Douglas's signature voice.

The band left the stage while the audience cheered and shouted for more. After a short pause the group returned to the stage and played a cover of the classic Stooges song, "I Wanna Be Your Dog".

It was an awesome show. The sound was perfect, the lighting dark and moody with a large projection of an icy mountainscape sporting a large black line through it provided an escapist back drop.

All in all, it was amazing as is the album. I just found out about Black Line a few weeks ago and it has quickly moved into the most played album I have at the moment, I highly recommend checking it out.

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