Suicide Commando – When Evil Speaks (Deluxe Edition)

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Suicide Commando is long overdue for some substantive change.

Album Rating: 3.3 –good but not great.

Underground-acclaimed Belgian musician Johan von Roy is Suicide Commando, an electro-industrial (often referred to as “Aggrotech”) project that has been around since 1986. Johan is considered to be the most influential artist of the style by fans of this particular niché combination of electronic and industrial music. He is also often credited for having been one of the first to have created this style, a sub-genre coined as Aggrotech, that is also sometimes called “Hellektro.” While it may or may not be true that he was one of the first, it is certain that he is one of the oldest artists with music that accords this particular off-shoot of electro-industrial music. Suicide Commando’s work is qua dance music with, “harsh” screams for vocals, a heavy reliance on bass synthesis, and dark lyrical themes purporting murder, war, death and other general forms of violence. Such characteristics are very epitomic of descriptors used to identify music that is considered to be “Aggrotech” and have consistently remained as hallmark features of Johan’s work as Suicide Commando.

Up until the release of his full-length album Axis of Evil from 2003, his music had primarily been instrumentally slow-paced and repetitive. The most commodious and effortless manner of enjoying his music was by paying more of one’s attention towards Johan’s foreboding lyricism and  synthesized  instrumental textures. After his 2003 release, the music of Suicide Commando had evolved to blend danceability with the dark and violent nature of the themes Johan purported. It is then that his releases became most akin to contemporary Aggrotech played by artists such as God Module, Reaper, Detroit Diesel, Freakangel, Psyborg Corp. and many other new electro-industrial projects. His latest release, entitled When Evil Speaks, combines his pre-2003 inclinations while keeping the element of danceability that has characterized him as part of Aggrotech’s contemporaries.

Whether intentional or not, this combination takes a step backwards to the earlier days of Suicide Commando and has consequently  regressed the nature of his music. The new album, independent of the “deluxe edition” bonus CD, is difficult to enjoy because the material is the same music Johan has been making his entire career. It can be said that Suicide Commando has had two phases that the project has undergone throughout the near-30 years that it has existed. The first phase comprised of the initial 17 years while the latter phase has been the last 10. Re-listening to the music that Johan has released during this segment in time is already difficult because, after a few albums, all of the music becomes foreseeably unchanging—except that it becomes progressively more dull—albeit he underwent a style change in 2003, which is now a negligible difference after more than several really similar releases since then. While there is no doubt that remaining consistent is important, at some point there comes a time in every artist’s discography when fans are no longer satisfied with the same taste that they’ve sampled for years. They need new flavour and the artist must spice up their offerings to keep their fans hungry for more. Suicide Commando is long overdue for some substantive change.

Although When Evil Speaks is not entertaining or whelming the bonus CD that comes with the deluxe edition is. It comes with a wealth of well-crafted remixes from over a dozen other EBM and Aggrotech artists, and more than half of them are better than the original music featured on disc 1. Most of the musicians that created these remixes are fairly average at writing and producing their own original work, so it was surprising to hear adept submissions from them. However, there were a few artists that participated who are reasonably popular in the electro-industrial community and are known for contributing top-notch music. Albeit they are much younger than Suicide Commando, it’s fair to place Die Sektor and Unter Null at the forefront of today’s elite for the sub-genre. Their remixes stand out as a result of the popularity and approbation that Die Sektor’s 2006 full-length To Be Fed Upon, and Unter Null’s 2010 full-length Moving On, have attracted over the years since their irrespective releases. While none of the 13 remixes that come with Disc 2 of the release are fit to be on club playlists, each of them are moderately lively and danceable like much of Suicide Commando’s newer work.

Unfortunately, the deluxe edition of Suicide Commando’s When Evil Speaks is a great listen only because of the remixes that come with the second disc. As a stand-alone, the original album does not have enough energy invested in it to animate it as an effectively entertaining release. It is also mundane and slightly irritating because it is overly reminiscent of everything that Johan has released since the inception of his project. For that reason in particular, new fans, and individuals listening to his music for the first time, will likely find When Evil Speaks more enjoyable than people who have followed his work for years. There is certainly more that could have been done to enhance and progress the music and, even if there’s no intention of expanding on what has already been done for this project, the remixes are evidence that typically average artists can create solid tracks by showing just a little more than their ordinary interest in making music.

When Evil Speaks was released on May 14th, 2013 through Metropolis Records.

Tracklisting:

CD One: “When Evil Speaks”
01. Feeding My Inner Hate
02. Cut_Bleed_Eviscerate
03. My Blasphemy
04. When Evil Speaks
05. Monster
06. Attention Whore
07. Repent Or Perish
08. In Guns We Trust
09. Time (Rewind)
10. Unterwelt
11. Evacuate – Where‘s The Exit Remix
12. Song Of No Tomorrow

CD Two: “When Hate Prevails”
01. My Blasphemy – Die Sektor Rmx
02. Attention Whore – Incestuous Rmx by Alien Vampires
03. When Evil Speaks – Shiv-R Rmx
04. My Blasphemy – Absolute Body Control Rmx
05. Repent Or Perish – vProjekt Rmx
06. When Evil Speaks – Sin Dna Rmx
07. My Blasphemy – Dust Rmx by ES23
08. Evacuate – Apocalyptica Remix by Betamorphose
09. Attention Whore – Hydra Division V Rmx
10. Monster – Unter Null Rmx
11. My Blasphemy – Cygnosic Rmx
12. God Is in The Rain – First Black Pope Rmx
13. Attention Whore – Nano Infect Rmx
14. Song Of No Tomorrow – Controlled Collapse Rmx

Boards Of Canada-Tomorrow’s Harvest

Tomorrow's_Harvest_CD_cover

There’s always a moment in every good album that grabs you and thrusts you into its world without warning and without concern for your soul. Tomorrow’s Harvest accomplishes this feeling with its opening notes, a feat rarely achieved by any group. The album opens with a fuzzy horn fanfare before rapidly devolving into a nightmarish dreamscape of blaring noise samples and warm analog keyboards. Before I was even finished with one track I knew that Boards of Canada had done it again. Their music still speaks to my soul at one moment and makes me nervously gaze over my shoulder the next. Their signature brand of IDM is still beautifully lo-fi and atmospheric, and teleports me back to the better times of life, or times I don’t even want to remember. What I’m trying to convey is that their music still carries weight, and is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Tomorrow’s Harvest is the band’s best output in over 10 years and is of such great quality that any other artist regardless of genre would kill to create something like it.

Perhaps what impresses me the most is how Boards of Canada (hereby referred to as BoC) have managed to grow so much as musicians but somehow stay so true to their musical identity as well as themselves as people. The trademark PBS samples and cryptic use of numbers is still present, but an entirely new aura has emerged in the musical backdrop. The nostalgia of Music, the sinister undertones of Geogaddi, and the spaciness of Campfire; BoC somehow meld them all together immaculately. The interlude “Telepath” and concluding track “Semena Mertvykh” could have easily fit anywhere on Geogaddi, with the latter standing up against “You Could Feel The Sky” as the most frightening track under the band’s name. On the contrary, there are also cuts like the marvelous “Split Your Infinities” which kicks the album’s quality into turbo near its conclusion. “Split Your infinities” is a beautiful, synth-driven piece of music that rivals some of the most sublime moments on Music and Campfire. One thing that is extremely immediate about the album is the fullness of the sound. All of the band’s previous work had this sense of restraint to it, even on louder tracks like “Roygbiv”. On Harvest, restraint is out the window (for the most part). The album is more grandiose than anything the group have ever produced, proven by just one listen through the steady trek of “Jacquard Causeway” or the thunderous opening chords of “Sick Times”. The group also occasionally harkens back to their earlier days, offering two moments of tranquil splendor on “White Cyclosa” and “Sundown”.

“White Cyclosa” is the third track on the album and fades in immediately following the bombastic second half of “Reach For The Dead”. This is the point where the record shows both sides of its personality, and how they will be expressed on the remaining tracks. Harvest presents an undeniable sense of ebb and flow, possibly being the group’s most complete work. The way the music can change in an instant and garner different reactions from each listener based on their perspective is something that only BoC can do this well. What I learned while listening to Tomorrow’s Harvest is that Boards Of Canada are the masters of contrast. Despite the record’s extremely cohesive nature, it allows itself to jump around to different areas of the listener’s psyche without sounding forced or jerky in any way. Placing the haunting “Uritual” between “Split Your Infinities” and “Nothing Is Real” may seem ridiculous on paper, but Boards Of Canada make it work because of how well they invest their audience in what they are doing. They manage to be progressive while sticking to their roots, and their sound still cannot be compared to any other act on the planet. Everything on the record sounds natural and essential to what BoC are trying to accomplish with their music. Not only is this the record we’ve been dying to hear for eight years, but it’s the record that the group was dying to make.

This is a new beginning in the Boards Of Canada canon, a last hurrah to the group we knew last decade. Tomorrow’s Harvest may not be Boards Of Canada’s best record, but up to this point it is their most important. It’s been fifteen years since the release of Music Has The Right To Children, and this record is two men showing how they have changed in this period of time. Not only as musicians, but as people. This record is two men living in sick times, feeling that nothing matters, and that the earth is cold and has come to dust. It represents a struggle, a portrait of their lives and all that has happened to them which nobody knows anything about because of their peculiar, reclusive behavior. The album cover shows the sun rising, and a distant city over the horizon. It summarizes the record perfectly, as the group and all their listeners look forward to tomorrow. Boards Of Canada are asking us to plant new seeds with them. I happily oblige.

4.5/5.

Tracklist

1. Gemini

2. Reach For The Dead

3. White Cyclosa

4. Jacquard Causeway

5. Telepath

6. Cold Earth

7. Transmisiones Ferox

8. Sick Times

9. Collapse

10. Palace Posy

11. Split Your Infinites

12. Uritual

13. Nothing Is Real

14. Sundown

15. New Seeds

16. Come To Dust

17. Semena Mertvykh

World Of Metal And Rust – Songs For Prisoners

Songs For Prisoners cover art
“We’re all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.” – Tennessee Williams –
Isolation can be a wonderful thing. Some of the best art the world has ever seen has been created whilst the artist was being secluded from the rest of the world. Ian Curtis wrote many of his best songs whilst separating himself from those around him, and even Kurt Cobain was deemed a prisoner of his own loneliness, which may have been a reason for his suicide. The fact that World Of Metal And Rust use instrumental tracks devoids all the songs presented here of a human aspect, resulting in fifty-four minutes of isolation, away from the human world.

World Of Metal And Rust is a one-man project from the US comprised of Ross Dabrowski. Straight from opening track “Prisoner A,” it is evident that the music presented here relies heavily on atmosphere in order to create the soundscapes that Dabrowski aims for. Atmosphere is created through his use of repetition of samples, echos and volume swells. Though repetition is a common feature throughout the album, more often than not, it never seems lazy. One might think Dabrowski is repeating something purely to fill time, but instead it adds to the overall mood of each piece. As is evident in most songs on the album, the repetitive beats and samples lull the listener into an almost hypnotic trance. Many of the dissonant volume swells in the album opener seem incredibly ominous, again reinforcing the idea that this is not joyous music – “Songs For Prisoners” is not an album you listen to during your break at college whilst talking to all of your friends – it should be enjoyed in the very way the title suggests, in isolation.

“Prisoner D” deserves a paragraph all to itself. It opens with what can only be described as the sounds of steam, followed again by more volume swells. Dabrowski chooses to lay an echoing hip-hop drum beat over the top, which is sure to please fans of Massive Attack and Burial. Halfway through the track the song cuts to silence and we see the song build itself back up through its use of volume swells and dissonance. The atmosphere Dabrowski strives for is most successful here, as the latter half of “Prisoner D” is absolutely horrifying and unsettling. Upon my first listening in my darkened bedroom I had to close my eyes and pull the covers over my head, hoping – praying – that the song would end soon.

That’s not to say Dabrowski’s experimentation is always successful. The latter half of “Prisoner C” sees one particular drum beat get louder and louder, but it’s hip-hop stylings contrast (and not in a good way) against the dissonant piano line, coming off as silly sounding, as it completely breaks the mood and undermines what the album has been working so hard to achieve for the previous eight minutes. Again, the drum sample that fades in during the start of “Prisoner E” seems a little too loud in the mix, and like “Prisoner C,” counteracts what Dabrowski is aiming to achieve. While it could be argued that at nearly fifty-five minutes, both the running time and the ambiance push the limits of accessibility for the casual listener, making it seem a little pretentious and overbearing, the album’s successes overshadow its pitfalls.

Whilst “Songs For Prisoners” has its flaws, World Of Metal And Rust show potential to make an utterly fantastic album in the near future. The album’s successes lie in its ability to communicate absolutely horrific imagery to the listener, due to its incredible use of ambiance. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to retreat back to the comfort of human interaction to make the dark room I’m sitting in a little less scary.

4/5

Dorena-Nuet

20130315-130050-35983c1d8876a37159762b0fa5b960dd-300Hailing from the musical wonderland of Gothenburg, Sweden, Dorena are slowly but surely making waves in the music industry with their original style of post-rock. Dorena decide not to focus on crashing climaxes and putting all their energy into the last minute of a song, but instead on atmosphere and entrancing the listener with their beautiful melodies. It’s amazing how smoothly their music can go down when one learns that just six years ago Dorena was a screamo band. Nuet is the band’s third album and it shows growing signs of maturity and blossoms of disciplinary songwriting. It also drops a few hints that the band is on the verge of a creative breakthrough and that their next effort could be even better than their previous three put together.

Nuet relies on instrumental ebb and flow to get its point across, the drums thumping in the background as lush keyboards and heavily reverbed guitars glide through the speakers. The album is produced wonderfully, with everything being crystal clear and nothing overshadowing anything else, perhaps with the exception of the bass on occasions. The bass mostly just follows the guitar or drum rhythms, but the effects used by the bassist and the way the sound is harnessed in the studio make it a valuable asset to the music being played. Electronics quietly pulse in the background throughout, specifically on the songs “Her Comforting Touch” and “Young Hearts Of Summer”. On these tracks the electronic rhythms lock in tandem with the steady drumming to form a powerful groove. The drummer also makes contributions by adding a melodic touch of glockenspiel throughout the album, which adds vast layers of texture to the quieter, more sparse moments of Nuet. More than anything, Nuet sticks out in the post-rock arena because of its restraint. The band doesn’t spend all of its time building up the music just to break it back down; the music has a tendency to tense and release, only to tense back up again, leaving the listener on the edge of their seat.

Based on the end of the previous paragraph, it should come as no surprise that the band has dynamics down pat. The fifth track “My Childhood Friend” sees the band adhering to a post-rock formula more than they do anywhere else on the album, with the instrumentation steadily rising in tempo and volume until it sounds as if it will collapse in on itself. What follows is the climax of the track, the most memorable two minutes on the record and perhaps in Dorena’s entire discography. The drums are comparable to wave crashing onto a shore, rising achingly slowly for the longest time until they finally hit with unrelenting force. The guitars in this section are markedly staccato but still bathed in delay and reverb while the bass adds a stomach-churning low end to the sound. Not only can Dorena create an enthralling buildup and climax, but they are also exceptional at turning down the volume. Tracks like “A Late Farewell” and “Semper” see their best moments during the more low-key moments. “Semper” features an oceanic pulse of keyboards and sound manipulation in the middle section of the track which not only makes the melody more complex but also makes the music denser and more emotionally hard-hitting. “A Late Farewell” features another stellar performance by the band’s drummer who is the true meaning of a musician. Never on this album does he overplay, but he also is incredible at keeping the listener’s attention.

The final thing about Nuet that makes it such a fresh addition to post-rock is the way vocals are used on the record. It’s not like vocals have never been used in post-rock before, but the way Dorena uses them is fantastic and ingenious. Vocals rarely appear, but when they do they act as another instrument, floating gently above the delicate waves of guitars. The best use of vocals is easily on the album’s centerpiece “Dandelion” where they are melodically chanted, vaguely resembling a drone. More and more vocal tracks are added as the songs goes forward as the string playing slowly becomes louder and more violent. Not only do they provide atmosphere, but the vocals also help build up the music.

Despite how original it is, Nuet is not a perfect album. There are some rather glaring negatives about the album, mainly in its first half. The track “Her Comforting Touch” is very much lacking compared to the rest of the record. The glitchy electronic blips in the background are much too high in the mix and are for lack of a better word extremely annoying. The track also does not seem to have any sort of point B. This point B doesn’t have to be a climax played at an ffff dynamic, but all the buildup should lead somewhere. This track just sort of whimpers out after five minutes of the same music being played. Honestly, if this track were nixed from the album I wouldn’t mind one bit. The other main con is prevalent in every track, which is that every motif or melody seems to linger on just a bit too long. Just when the listener is most involved in the music, Dorena do absolutely nothing to sweep their audience off their feet, eventually losing the audience to one of music’s most deadly killers-boredom. Perhaps with the exception of “My Childhood Friend” there is a moment in every track on Nuet where a motif is repeated to the point where it simply becomes stale.

Nuet is a monumental stepping stone in Dorena’s career, and perhaps this is the creative spark the band needed to create their first masterpiece. I was truly inspired by some of the work the band accomplished on this record, and I have very little doubt that their next could truly make waves in the post-rock scene.

3.7/5.

Tracklist

1. Semper

2. Her Comforting Touch

3. Young Hearts Of Summer

4. Dandelion

5. My Childhood Friend

6. A Late Farewell

7. The All-Clear

netra – Melancholie Urbaine

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Born out of the streets of France, netra are able to make quite the impact by melding very different genres together seamlessly and with style. Due to an unconventional mix of black metal and trip-hop, the tone of their music ranges from extremely laid back to aggressive, and sometimes both at once. What’s even more unique however, is that all the music is composed by the hands of just one individual. His name is Steven Le Moan and he is the reason the music is able to flow so fluently. He just has a natural ability to craft songs that take huge risks, but never seem to feel gimmicky or tiresome. This is exactly what he does with 2010’s Melancholie Urbaine. Although it’s only about half the length of his most recent effort Sorbyen, it doesn’t leave any less of an impact on the listener.

With paranoid dialogue and song structures, Melancolie Urbaine is truly haunting at times. ‘Outside…Alone’ is one of the eeriest tracks on the album as it mixes depressing and sometimes manic dialogue with some groovy but relaxed bass and bluesy guitars. It might sound like a strange combination, but the added sounds of everything from cars to seagulls flying over the angry dialogue gives the song a lifelike feeling. It seems Le Moan’s goal was to capture the sounds of the city life and he hits the nail square on the head as we are immersed into his vision. The song starts out sounding quite relaxed, with some low, depressing vocals over some chill drum beats and bass.  However, everything changes after you get past the 2 minute mark. The sounds of crashing waves, demented laughter, and almost suicidal dialogue work together to create a complete monster of a track. As the mood shifts from dark to darker, Le Moan also brings in the muddy guitars that don’t seem to waiver throughout the schizophrenic speaking sections. Sure, it’s not the most uplifting thing I’ve ever heard, but it certainly seems to be one of the most gripping. Another standout track, ‘La Page’ flaunts the band’s softer side with some atmospheric downtempo electronics that lead the way into some scratchy black metal-esque vocals. However, the screams are followed by some unexpectedly poignant vocals slightly reminiscent of Tool that should be enough to get anybody’s attention. It’s a perfect example of Le Moan’s ability to switch between various vocal styles, while sounding fresh each time. His talent as an instrumentalist isn’t any less impressive though, as tracks such as the opener ‘City Lights’ and  ‘Outside…Maybe’ rely on almost nothing more than his delicate use of electronics and some doom-like guitars.

While Sorbyen is surely just as good as Melancolie Urbaine, there’s just something about this album that goes down easier. Due to every track being placed perfectly, the short album goes by even faster and it’s one of those releases where you’ll find yourself listening to it twice in one sitting. Even despite some very blunt and angry dialogue that takes up a decent amount of runtime, pieces of beauty are scattered throughout the release which gives it a nice balance and flow. Ironically,  the word ‘netra’ itself actually means emptiness, but the music created by Le Moan is anything but that. It’s generously filled with imagination and packs quite the musical punch in less than 30 minutes. Anybody looking for an atmospheric metal album that shifts sounds without ever dragging on or becoming unfocused can’t go wrong with “Melancholie Urbane.”

4.3/5

1. City Lights
2. La Page
3. Outside…Alone
4. Through the Fear
5. Terrain Vague
6. Outside…Maybe
7. Blasé

Release Date: 2010

Boards Of Canada – Music Has The Right To Children

2591***Written In celebration of Boards Of Canada’s new studio album Tomorrow’s Harvest***

It’s been fifteen years since the release of Boards Of Canada’s first studio album, and it hasn’t aged a bit. Music Has The Right To Children is still as fresh and inviting as it was on its release date, and new intricacies can still be found in the music if one listens attentively enough. This truly is a record that stands the test of time and becomes more exciting with each new listen rather than growing stale. One of the reasons this works is because of how the album uses time to its advantage. MHTRTC takes the listener back to several different times in their lives, some of which may not even exist. The nostalgic qualities of this album are so stunning that they are difficult to put into words. Songs such as “Bocuma” will have you bobbing your head while simultaneously reminiscing about some vague childhood memory that may not even be yours.

Emotional qualities aside, the album is also a treasure trove of musical ideas. The group’s musical process mainly consists of layering analog keyboards and samples over thick, reverbed hip-hop beats. Some songs feature intense, disorienting sound manipulation (“Smokes Quantity”, “The Color Of The Fire”) as well as thundering drum beats and loops (“Sixtyten”, “Aquarius”). The samples that the duo dug up are obscure, intriguing and at times quite frightening. The sudden uttering of “I love you” on “An Eagle In Your Mind” will warrant different reactions from each listener. Some will be chilled out of their skin while others will be sucked into the music even further. This rabbit hole only descends further on tracks like “The Color Of The Fire” where a sample of a child is tampered with to the point of being nearly unrecognizable by the track’s end. This is often considered the eeriest track on the album, but this reviewer respectfully disagrees. “The Color Of The Fire” is one of the most nostalgic tracks here in my opinion, akin to someone feeling true love for the first time in their life. The keyboards are sunny and warm, and put me into a deep trance every time I’m within earshot of them. Boards Of Canada also run the gamut of several different types of electronic music, dabbling in dub (“Telephasic Workshop”), trip-hop (“Rue The Whirl”, “Aquarius”), experimenting with drops (“Pete Standing Alone”), and even adding touches of ambience (“Olson”, “Open The Light”).

One of the best things about this record is how well it flows. Not a second is wasted on this album and at the end of my first listen, I heard absolutely nothing I wanted to change. About fifty listens later, I still feel the exact same way. The album flows seamlessly, gliding by without so much as a single hitch. The way the group splices drawn-out electronic epics with short, melodic vignettes gives the album an entirely new layer of depth. Even a sudden curveball like the extended endings to “Triangles & Rhombuses” and “Sixtyten” doesn’t feel even a centimeter out of place. Repetitive sections like the first half of “Rue The Whirl” don’t feel boring, but rather entrancing. The duo of “Bocuma” and “Roygbiv” are perfect companion pieces, supporting each other and kicking off the greatest string of songs on the album. Besides this, the second most apparent pro of the album is its production. The album truly feels as if it is a disorienting time warp, thanks in part to the mildly fuzzy keyboards and drums that sound as if they were bought in a rundown store for $50. When listening, one just might get the strangest feeling they’ve heard the music before.

Music Has The Right To Children is a triumphant achievement in electronic music and music in general. It stands as Boards Of Canada’s greatest work and is the greatest electronic album, I personally, have ever heard. The influence of this album is massive and the way it uses human emotion to suck the listener deeper into the music is genius. If you haven’t heard this album, I strongly recommend it. It was released fifteen years ago and still shows no signs of aging.

5/5.

Tracklist

1. Wildlife Analysis (1:18)

2. An Eagle In Your Mind (6:24)

3. The Color Of The Fire (1:46)

4. Telephasic Workshop (6:36)

5. Triangles & Rhombuses (1:51)

6. Sixtyten (5:48)

7. Turquoise Hexagon Sun (5:10)

8. Kaini Industries (0:59)

9. Bocuma (1:37)

10. Roygbiv (2:32)

11. Rue The Whirl (6:40)

12. Aquarius (5:58)

13. Olson (1:33)

14. Pete Standing Alone (6:08)

15. Smokes Quantity (3:08)

16. Open The Light (4:26)

17. One Very Important Thought (1:19)

18. Happy Cycling (Bonus Track) (7:51)