Full-throttle underground electronic darkwave 

The Crüxshadows tour Indy with Ego Likeness and Ayria

In the darkwave/electronic dance music circuit, few bands have been able to shatter the glass ceiling dividing underground bands from internationally recognized touring acts. Trudging through 15 years of musicianship, Florida’s The Crüxshadows, led by vocalist Rogue, has exceeded 11 CD releases, an acclaimed DVD (2005’s Shadowbox), countless compilation appearances and nearly 100 live shows per year in countries as far away as China. Last September, the band’s single, “Sophia,” off the new album, DreamCypher, even kicked Beyoncé’s “Déjà Vu” to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Singles Sales chart. “We’re not just a footnote anymore,” Rogue says.

At a Crüxshadows concert, one thing is promised to the audience: It will be a live performance like none you have witnessed. Sharp choreography, lighting and sound merge in unison behind the creative eye of frontman Rogue. Dancing jigs with audience members, inviting fans on stage and climbing the walls engage the crowd in an overwhelming interactive experience. Rogue explains, “It’s a matter of mind, body and spirit firing on all cylinders.”

On tour for Crüxshadows’ first full-length album release since 2003’s Ethernaut, Rogue brings Rachel McDonnell on electronic violin, George Bikos on guitar and Pyromantic on keyboards to Indianapolis for a performance at Talbott Street this Friday. As the newly released DreamCypher adds to the collective body of work produced by the legendary band, staple back-up singers Jessica Lackey and Sarah Poulos also add dance to the band’s performance.

The Crüxshadows’ music has spiritual elements, according to Rogue, who has been moved by the writings of Khalil Gibran and Edgar Allan Poe, even having been known to recite Poe’s poetry during live performances. “In all honesty, what comes with the spoken word is the desire to unlock some emotional depth that’s not as easy to do in songwriting,” he says.

Not everything has come easily to the band, which will tour the U.S. and then Europe throughout the remainder of the year.

“These days, everything is a challenge,” Rogue says. “It’s especially hard to tour during the winter. You’re constantly dealing with heaters that dry you out and colds, but once you get into the swing of a tour, the throat has a kind of muscle memory. It’s like exercising if you’re an athlete.” Rogue uses saltwater saline to clear nasal passages and licorice drops to soothe his vocal chords before singing. It’s his voice that leads the music, luring fans back to the band year after year.

“Crüxshadows’ fans are a special breed,” Rogue says. “We impact them emotionally, intellectually and physically … I’ve had people who have had real tragedies happen in their lives and have come to [our music] to strengthen themselves and deal with the things around them. That shows the worth of what we do.”

Touring with The Crüxshadows are Ego Likeness and Toronto, Canada’s Ayria.

Supporting the band’s new album, The Order of the Reptile, singer/keyboardist Donna Lynch of Ego Likeness says the project appeals to the dancier elements from their last release, Water to the Dead. She and her husband, guitarist and artist Steven Archer, have also been exploring other creative projects. Lynch’s novel, Isabel Burning, is undergoing final editing, and she is working on its sequel. “It’s about a young woman who goes to work for a doctor who is insane,” she says. “She falls under his spell and into his madness ... Writing a novel is different than song lyrics, but it all comes from the same place for me.”

Archer plays in side bands Hopeful Machines and Blind Till Now. “He’s constantly working,” Lynch says, “but it’s very low maintenance, really.”

Over the past year, Ego Likeness has contributed songs to the best new compilation CDs in the darkwave scene, including Where’s Neil When You Need Him? and Dancing in the Dark 2006.

“It makes us happy that we can look at the catalog of all we’ve contributed to,” Lynch says.

Another female-fronted band making their first stop in Indy is Ayria — the brainchild of vocalist Jenn Parkin, formerly of Epsilon Minus. She is working on another CD, untitled thus far, for release in early 2008. “I’m writing it the same way I wrote Flicker,” she says.

The mathematician with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Waterloo learned how to play guitar at age 17, later altering songs like “Disease” into electronic projects. “I was kind of a nerd in high school,” she says. “I’m interested in a lot of science.” Her interest has bled into songs like “Red Shift,” from her 2003 debut, Debris, she says, but a knack for math and science is not the only surprise she keeps up her sleeves.

“I want to do more aggressive stuff,” she says. “Hopefully, we’ll surprise people.”

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