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.
CD One: “When Evil Speaks”
01. Feeding My Inner Hate
03. My Blasphemy
04. When Evil Speaks
06. Attention Whore
07. Repent Or Perish
08. In Guns We Trust
09. Time (Rewind)
11. Evacuate – WhereвЂs 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