Verena von Horsten - Alien Angel Super Death
Synthpop Why Swiss avant garde vocalist and songwriter Verena von Horsten is not yet being lauded as the next Bjork, Siouxsie Sioux or PJ Harvey is an absolute mystery. Her heady blend of hedonistic, tribal vocals and eerie synth pop is certainly on par with these indie legends, and is sometimes even more raw, experimental and creative. Perhaps the current musical climate is not conducive to such an out there species as von Horsten as it was in the late 80s and 90s, but if that is true, said current musical climate is in a sad state of affairs.

Nevertheless, Verena continues to produce her highly personal, passionate and sometimes political brand of experimental indie synth pop for those who would listen. Her second full-length album, Alien Angel Super Death, released on January 13, is even more raw and passionate as it deals with the loss of her brother to suicide. The album is dark, twisted and frenetic in keeping both with von Horsten’s musical style and with the torments of mental illness. Now more than ever she is claiming her style in the name of silent sufferers and of those bright souls the world has lost to such a devastating human condition.

Alien Angel Super Death opens with a track called “The Hymn”, but the track is anything but a hymn in the classical sense of the word. With a tribal, almost vampirish synth pop beat to back them, von Hosten’s vocals reach out and slap their audience, demanding that the listener pay attention. This is not background music to read or play video games to. Intermingled with this heavily charged song, however, are vocal parts which do sound somewhat like a hymn, and where von Horsten shows her almost operatic vocal range. The juxtaposition of this beatific vocal track with the overriding dark synth pop shows what a gifted composer von Horsten is. The effect of the overall track connotes the chaos of mental illness and the powerful grip it can have on affected people and their loved ones.

The next track on the album, “All About”, shows another side of mental illness: the sadness, the fear and the loneliness. No stranger to psychological trauma herself, van Horsten digs deeper with this track into the real impetus for suicide; the hopeless feeling and the notion that fighting is futile and that eventually the illness will win. Obviously slower and less frenetic, “All About” shows the tiresome side of living with mental illness; a side perhaps more dangerous than the angry and manic parts connoted in “The Hymn”.

Alien Angel Super Death is not without its hopeful moments. Von Horsten herself calls the album a healing journey after the loss of her brother, and she used her creative process to both understand the loss and to heal from it. In the album’s first single, “Fire”, the hope and the healing come full circle for von Horsten. The music and vocals still show darkness and confusion, yet there is a clear lifting up in tone and timbre throughout the track which seems to incite a lifting of spirit; it’s almost evangelical. The video, released in advance of the album, it a declaration not only of healing but of von Horsten’s desire to fight for better care for and transparency into the issue of mental illness. To wit: the video opens with von Horsten burning a sign with the word “suicide” on it. There is also a display with images of her brother. She burns each of these as she dances ecstatically surrounded by fire. This may seem strange in the face of the loss of a loved one, but watching the video with the song, it become clear that this effigy burning is a real healing for von Hosten. It’s vulnerable, beautiful and honest on top of being a declaration. She seems here to have gained as much as she’s lost.



The album is meant to be linear, tracking von Horsten’s journey through dealing with her brother’s illness, the loss itself and her own healing. After “Fire”, the album takes a turn towards hope and healing, but von Horsten never loses her edge and creativity. The fire never wanes, only changes direction. Tracks like “The Love We Have Forever”, “A Healing Moment” and “The Believer” show this shift but don’t lose that intensity of spirit for von Horsten.


Alien Angel Super Death it a truly brave piece of work as it’s not only cooky, different and experimental, but it’s fraught with real emotion and a real issue which von Horsten faces head on and declares war against. This combination of free creativity and open, vulnerable emotion is why Verena von Horsten should be counted among the greats, and it’s definitely why anyone who’s lost a loved one or battled with mental illness should listen to Alien Angel Super Death. 

5
Brutal Resonance

Verena von Horsten - Alien Angel Super Death

Why Swiss avant garde vocalist and songwriter Verena von Horsten is not yet being lauded as the next Bjork, Siouxsie Sioux or PJ Harvey is an absolute mystery. Her heady blend of hedonistic, tribal vocals and eerie synth pop is certainly on par with these indie legends, and is sometimes even more raw, experimental and creative. Perhaps the current musical climate is not conducive to such an out there species as von Horsten as it was in the late 80s and 90s, but if that is true, said current musical climate is in a sad state of affairs.

Nevertheless, Verena continues to produce her highly personal, passionate and sometimes political brand of experimental indie synth pop for those who would listen. Her second full-length album, Alien Angel Super Death, released on January 13, is even more raw and passionate as it deals with the loss of her brother to suicide. The album is dark, twisted and frenetic in keeping both with von Horsten’s musical style and with the torments of mental illness. Now more than ever she is claiming her style in the name of silent sufferers and of those bright souls the world has lost to such a devastating human condition.

Alien Angel Super Death opens with a track called “The Hymn”, but the track is anything but a hymn in the classical sense of the word. With a tribal, almost vampirish synth pop beat to back them, von Hosten’s vocals reach out and slap their audience, demanding that the listener pay attention. This is not background music to read or play video games to. Intermingled with this heavily charged song, however, are vocal parts which do sound somewhat like a hymn, and where von Horsten shows her almost operatic vocal range. The juxtaposition of this beatific vocal track with the overriding dark synth pop shows what a gifted composer von Horsten is. The effect of the overall track connotes the chaos of mental illness and the powerful grip it can have on affected people and their loved ones.

The next track on the album, “All About”, shows another side of mental illness: the sadness, the fear and the loneliness. No stranger to psychological trauma herself, van Horsten digs deeper with this track into the real impetus for suicide; the hopeless feeling and the notion that fighting is futile and that eventually the illness will win. Obviously slower and less frenetic, “All About” shows the tiresome side of living with mental illness; a side perhaps more dangerous than the angry and manic parts connoted in “The Hymn”.

Alien Angel Super Death is not without its hopeful moments. Von Horsten herself calls the album a healing journey after the loss of her brother, and she used her creative process to both understand the loss and to heal from it. In the album’s first single, “Fire”, the hope and the healing come full circle for von Horsten. The music and vocals still show darkness and confusion, yet there is a clear lifting up in tone and timbre throughout the track which seems to incite a lifting of spirit; it’s almost evangelical. The video, released in advance of the album, it a declaration not only of healing but of von Horsten’s desire to fight for better care for and transparency into the issue of mental illness. To wit: the video opens with von Horsten burning a sign with the word “suicide” on it. There is also a display with images of her brother. She burns each of these as she dances ecstatically surrounded by fire. This may seem strange in the face of the loss of a loved one, but watching the video with the song, it become clear that this effigy burning is a real healing for von Hosten. It’s vulnerable, beautiful and honest on top of being a declaration. She seems here to have gained as much as she’s lost.



The album is meant to be linear, tracking von Horsten’s journey through dealing with her brother’s illness, the loss itself and her own healing. After “Fire”, the album takes a turn towards hope and healing, but von Horsten never loses her edge and creativity. The fire never wanes, only changes direction. Tracks like “The Love We Have Forever”, “A Healing Moment” and “The Believer” show this shift but don’t lose that intensity of spirit for von Horsten.


Alien Angel Super Death it a truly brave piece of work as it’s not only cooky, different and experimental, but it’s fraught with real emotion and a real issue which von Horsten faces head on and declares war against. This combination of free creativity and open, vulnerable emotion is why Verena von Horsten should be counted among the greats, and it’s definitely why anyone who’s lost a loved one or battled with mental illness should listen to Alien Angel Super Death. 

Feb 02 2017

Layla Marino

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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