Reviews
Aurelio Voltaire’s Raised By Bats – A Review

By Jordan Mooney.

It is no secret to Cat on the Wall regulars that we love Goth. Since Whitby Goth Weekend last year, Goth has become a big part of our webzine’s roster and readership. Perhaps it’s the humour. Perhaps it’s the sheer elegance, or perhaps we just love black.

Perhaps, in fact, we were just brought up by those leathery-winged creatures of the night…

VoltaireEuropeanTourPromoPirateShot

One of the pulsating epicentres of the goth movement – one of many, mind, but this one is particularly substantial – is a man called Aurelio Voltaire. A tall, lean, devilishly handsome gentleman whom has, over the past twenty years, provided the finest in elegant and often hilarious gothic folk music, aided by violins, cellos and brass. His deep, smooth tones have excited many a man and lady. The glint in his eye has, too, provided us with many an animation, vinyl figure and T-shirt.

Aurelio Voltaire is, simply, an independent powerhouse of the macabre. All self funded, all self-taught, he is a renaissance man of all mediums, and so help me, he’s a hell of a lot of fun to keep tabs on. He’s continuously productive and he keeps us informed every step of the way.

Over the past few months, he has been particularly busy with possibly his largest musical escapade yet, an album he is touting as his first ‘actual Goth album’. This is an unforeseen dive into the world of death rock, a loud, loaded and incredibly catchy foray into the turn of the Goth movement so many years ago, when it was a young growth on the side of Punk culture, readying itself to jump off of the leather-clad shoulder of its mentor and grow at such a pace it eclipsed the sun into permanent darkness.

Alright, the movement isn’t quite that big, but there’s time… and do you know, this album might well be a good push in the direction. It sounds so genuine it might as well have a flux capacitor with every sale to prove the authenticity.

 

Raised by Bats (a fine title, I’m sure you agree!) is effectively twenty years of triumph, a loud, cheering, head banging look back at the life of a man who simply dressed a little different as a young boy. With such shredders as Ray Toro of My Chemical Romance, Knox Chandler of Souxie and the Banshees and Depeche Mode, and Frank Morin of World Inferno Friendship Society providing a massive accompaniment. They practically dominate the rhythms behind Voltaire’s oh so chocolaty voice as they rip guitars open as a lion would a particularly supple lamb’s stomach. Brian Viglione of the impeccable Dresden Dolls and Violent Femme joins them, smacking a set of drums until they crumble into a fine powder, while Craig Adams, bassist of Mission UK, The Alarm and The Cult strums the bass with all of the skill of a gigolo tickling a wealthy female’s undercarriage. This album is definitely not short on talent.

In fact, it’s leaking talent and a suspicious black liquid from my headphones, even when it’s not playing. It’s very viscous. Would probably taste nice spread on a cracker. Remind me to try that…

Anyway.

Voltaire has suddenly turned himself from a man dressed as a pirate strumming on a guitar while drinking shitloads of booze into a pelvic-thrusting, mike-stand humping rocker dressed as a pirate drinking shitloads of booze.

It’s a fairly small change on his part, and he’s never lacked confidence, but now he sounds like he’s in his late twenties playing to a gigantic crowd of screaming females exposing their breasts. He sounds aggressive, triumphant, loud and giving it every last ounce of effort. Voltaire would have made one hell of a rock star. He says this is the album he’s always wanted to make, and do you know, you can feel that urge in every single syllable. Passion in a musician is important – with Voltaire, it comes part and package. Here, it comes drenched in that black, viscous liquid.

I tried it on a cracker. Um…don’t.

Joined by a gigantic range of vocal talents from the likes of Zombina and the Skeletones, The Birthday Massacre, Bella Morte and Julia Marcell, that side of the album has a fair staffing to match the man’s talents, and it ends up morphing into an absolutely incredible blood red concoction.

 

Describing this album is difficult. But I’ll give it a go…

Now, we’ve got Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney in a room. They’re all drinking rum and watching Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost, only for the scene with the Hex Girls to start playing. Following this, all four dark, dramatic minds brimming with thought and inspiration, Twisted Sister, Meatloaf and Iron Maiden suddenly break in and start the most badass rock concert ever. A fire starts, and by the end of it, everybody’s dressed as a pirate with Goth make up on and by chance we’ve ended up with a really kickass, really macabre, really entertaining death rock group joined by three animated Gothic ladies. All of this is happening now in a gigantic black cathedral in the middle of the woods at the dead of night, joined by the ghost of a church organist who has lost all sense of the holy and god-fearing and is now playing with far more enjoyment but the same dignified talent. Combine with a strange gothic sea-shanty and stir for a little while. Add some red dye, some steak and maybe a crack of pepper. Throw a snake in there, too, and maybe a bat skull. Stir again, simmer for a few months and apply to the plastic disc in a thick but thorough covering.

Does that sound Goth enough to you?

‘Course it does.

That’s your album right there. Dignified, elegant, esteemed and intelligent, but balls to the wall, animated, turned up to the top and a little bit piratey. Very meaty and satisfying, but it may cause stomach problems for those whom aren’t used to such complicated flavours…

 

A definite tip of my fine silk top hat has to go to Oh My Goth! to start with. Based upon a comic strip that Voltaire brought us some time ago – and due to be adapted into a fully fledged feature film – it tells the tale of a fictional (although one wonders just how fictional…semi-autobiographical perhaps..? We know your secret, Voltaire!)  group of Gothic rogues, lead by an extraterrestrial reanimated skeleton,whom has taken on human form to kidnap bands and babes, and his robot chum, travelling in space in a gigantic rotating black cathedral to protect Earth from his own planet, which just so happens to be built of graveyards, whom aim to turn Earth into a giant landing strip.

Think a drunken, gothic Star Trek with a hard rock cover of The Munsters‘ theme tune for a soundtrack and you’ve got a fantastic ambassador for this little number. Gleefully animated, upbeat, catchy and like one big living cartoon-B-Movie with green stage lights, it makes for the perfect Halloween party song… and any Goth will tell you – EVERY day is Halloween!

 

Next honourable mention has to go to The Night (1988 Death Rock Version), which is a song written by Voltaire when he was but seventeen years of age. This song has appeared in another form on his album, Almost Human, back in 2000, as more traditional Vorutanian fare – a song of dark, gleeful seduction at the hand of a female, living, breathing interpretation of the darkness in every person’s life. It rang up ideas of Parisian streets in the rain, running alongside dense forest as a man is worked upon by a beautiful woman in his apartment, the curtains drawn but billowing in the wind…

This new version brings about a whole new interpretation. This is a loud, thundering rock anthem that needs to be hailed with the horns. Church bells, organs and choirs join this leviathan of a musical celebration of the dark, producing such scale it feels like one of those legendary, historic rock tracks on so much as the first listen. One can imagine Voltaire roaring through a dead forest on a chariot, hauled by a vicious black unicorn which is aflame, followed by bats and several thousand skeleton soldiers in smaller, but equally intimidating, black chariots of the night – all flooding from the derelict remains of a tall, spindly cathedral. With that sort of imagery one can’t resist thinking of the designs and covers of Meatloaf. The full cycle of a great rock track is complete..!

This is a real anthem. Every bit of it. And, quite possibly, one of the best hard rock tracks I’ve heard in years.

 

The rest of the album flows in and odd out new and old, from the more standard, elegant sort of material that Voltaire produces – that itself is really quite far from the ordinary – to the more unusual rock and roll tracks that we’ve rarely – if ever – heard from Voltaire before.

There’s two very notable personal nods to real people on this album, the first being The Devil and Mr. Jones – a track about Mr. Doug Jones, a name you should all know as a very talented ‘monster man’ in today’s film industry. Abe Sapien in the Hellboy series and The Faun in Pan’s Labyrinth are just two of his massive repertoire of heavily costumed performances, and this track deals with the dilemma of heaven and hell fighting over such a wonderful man – whom is often a monster on the outside, but always an angel within.

The second is Captain’s All – a tuneful thank you to Adam Ant of…well, Adam and the Ants, whom is responsible for Voltaire being…well, a little piratey, just like Adam himself. It’s a hark back to a specific line in an interview a young master Voltaire watched on television, and effectively changed his life. It’s not the most incredible track on the album, but it is the perfect ending. A thank you to one of the men responsible for it all. A little more like his usual affair, and none the worse for it, this track is a particularly pleasant number that is…well, simply pleasant. It’s an idolisation of a fine, fine man in music who really did start off a massive chunk of sub-culture. God speed!

 

The rest…well, you’ll have to see for yourself.

What you can be sure of is it’s well worth buying.

What’s most notable? This isn’t a phoned in imitation – it’s a real hard rock album. A genuine, hard, loud and loaded piece of Goth music from the late 80s, early 90s – reborn, better than ever. It doesn’t try too hard, in fact, it comes across as effortless. Natural. Passionate. And with every intention of doing it properly.

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Voltaire may not be what most of you would dub a rock act. True, his music doesn’t follow that path very often if one looks at his long, varied career and sizable back catalogue, but rock is only fifty percent music, ladies and gents, and the rest is attitude. On that basis alone, our dear pirate will always be rock and roll!

This album was partially crowd-funded by that ever-useful resource, IndieGoGo, and Voltaire aims to sort out rewarding all whom assisted in the production of this fine release before really tooting the horns of triumph and fully announcing it completed and available for sale. It is available from CDbaby and iTunes… but really? I think you want a physical copy. You do, you want a physical copy. Give him time and they’ll be available.

 

Special credit does have to go to those whom helped with getting this finished with the aid of their hard earned cash. The results were massively impressive – over £50,000 was raised on the IndieGoGo – five times the original target – and have all gone to making an album that can only be described as an absolute gem. Maybe a black sapphire. If you’re sitting at your door waiting for the postman to arrive with your copy or download, let me tell you – this is well worth waiting for, and you – yes, you – are partially responsible for a truly great album. I know I’m very proud for throwing in some of my cash and hearing the results that came from it..it’s like Da Vinci using a canvas you gave him.

Congratulations to all involved. This is a masterwork of a master musician. Quite extraordinary.

 

Voltaire graced us with the presence of works in progress and snippets of songs while they were trickling through the studio on his personal soundcloud account – it’s a great teaser for the album, and when you’ve heard the finished piece, it makes for a fascinating glimpse into the recording process.

 

And to get the announcements for those oh so lovely physical copies, sign up for the Voltaire noose-letter on his website and like his Facebook page!

Voltaire’s Official Website

Voltaire on Facebook

 

 

About the author

Compulsive hat wearer, eccentric, fan of all things audio-visual, part time Goth, historian, and railway enthusiast, Jordan is the closest you can get to everybody's weird uncle. Except he's less than 60 years old.

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