There’s still a debate whether industrial metal was a product of its time in the 1990s, or whether it still lives on as a sub-genre. The bands that followed hot on the success of Nine Inch Nails’ wild commercial triumph of The Downward Spiral in 1994 had their time in the sun and made a lot of money riding the wave of nu metal and the rise of shock rock in this era. Look at some of the names that went gold and platinum – Powerman 5000, Orgy, Stabbing Westward. What happened to these artists?
While England’s Parrilla share some of the same influences as the American bands that peaked at the turn of the century, it’s clear they love their Depeche Mode and Sisters of Mercy as much as their Ministry and have a deep affinity for the European synth-pop bands that dominated the major charts of the early 1980s. These chaps know their goth and darkwave heritage and show their penchant for mixing the two with metallic guitar hooks on opener, ‘Law of Texas’. Eerie keyboards and electronic dance beats provide a strong backbone for the crunchy guitars and give vocalist, Dani Messmer, a platform to demonstrate his mix of sultry baritones and a muscular Killing Joke bark. A glance at the lyrics leaves us under no illusions that this will be an album steeped in romantic self-destruction and grandiose love gestures that will never impress the female deity that haunts this record like an ancient fertility Goddess.
Combining the coquettish daring of synth pop with the aggression of metal is something few bands mastered in the heyday of the 1990s, but Parrilla illustrate how to do it on ‘Bleed, Cry, Pray, Die’. This one starts like Orgy and infuses the unforgiving guitar tone of Godflesh with the deviant erotic edge of Pete Burns from Dead or Alive. It would be difficult to reproduce the over-polished whispered vocals of the chorus in a live setting, but the possibility that you’re imagining what a gothic rock version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood would sound like shows you how engaging they are on this track.
The inevitable Nine Inch Nails inspiration arrives on ‘Show Me’, yet you’ll hear the industrial metal groove of Filter (remember them?) on the excellent ‘Mannequin Complex’. This is one that will annoy you at first and then grow on you after three listens. In the end, the chorus will implant itself in your mind like a goth-tinged Stock, Aitken and Waterman anthem. Make of that what you will.
If there’s one thing to query, it’s the strength of the choruses on songs that need to be pulling you in like a vortex. Using synths, melodic hooks and metallic guitars accentuates the need for a strong anthemic refrain, and Parrilla’s struggles with this on closing track, ‘Femme Fatale’, teach us that only Depeche Mode are capable of such a supreme standard on a consistent basis. (Listen to Depeche Mode’s Singles: 86>98 for proof of their genius.) This one ends up like an underwhelming pastiche of Soft Cell when it should be forcing you to assume a Jesus Christ pose.
Nevertheless, there’s never a dull moment on Femme Fatale I: Ensnared by Venus, which speaks volumes about the enjoyment you should harvest from this record in the right frame of mind. Parrilla are not trying to resurrect a pop cultural phenomenon from the 1990s and early 2000s, nor do they care about the way people perceive them. They needed to write this album and went with the tools that fit their vision for a hopeless romantic banquet with Lady Death.
Release Date: 30/07/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Law of Texas, Show Me, Mannequin Complex
Suggested Further Listening: Prong – Rude Awakening (1996), Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981), Orgy – Vapor Transmission (2000)