Amazing how time flies – the beginning of next month marks ten years since I started blogging, so the corresponding post next month may be slightly different to usual. In the meantime, here are ten songs you should hear from the past month – with, for the first time in a while, a heavily industrial leaning to proceedings.
There are, as is often the case, other songs I’ve held over that I’ll mention another time…
Track of the Month
Front Line Assembly
So, it turns out that the quite brilliant Airmech (released late last year) was a useful pointer towards their future sound after all. As promised, the new material is guitar-free, for the first time in a few years, but from the first couple of tracks they have lost none of their furious power by doing so. Prototype is closest to Airmech, perhaps, a brooding, lengthy instrumental with all manner of bass drops, while the second track is something else entirely. Killing Grounds is an immense track – frankly it utterly fucking *destroys*. Think an Caustic Grip-era industrial dancefloor assault, with ten times the bass, monstrous drops and a rhythm designed to rip the dancefloor to shreds. I’m now seriously fucking stoked for the album, and really, how fucking good have been pretty much *all* of the old hands in the “scene” this year?
Last Dance EP
Like FLA, Skinny Puppy and perhaps even NIN, a look back to their past in one way or another seems to have spurred Covenant onto heights greater than they’ve reached in years. I think more than anything their recent retrospective live work, looking back at Dreams of A Cryotank (and an associated re-release), has made them re-consider their sound, and it has paid off in spades here. There is still the epic, sweeping sense of melody that the band have so brilliantly harnessed for a good many albums now, but there is also a little more subtlety, a little more of the unknown, in the electronics used, and by showing that bit of restraint, paradoxically it kicks that bit harder. Yeah, so the remixes are great, but the original is a killer track, and hopefully this time the whole album will be a satisfying listen.
Came Back Haunted
When I heard the announcement of the return of Nine Inch Nails, I have to confess that I wasn’t all that excited – mainly as much of their later period material was, frankly, little more than filler (and I don’t recall much of it being played on the “Wave Goodbye” tour four years ago, either). So colour me very surprised indeed when the first track released from the forthcoming new album broadly ignores later evolution of the band’s sound for a return in particular to their nineties sound, if you will, with a brutal, layered production that builds and builds and builds, and sounds absolutely amazing really loud. All of a sudden, I’m really looking forward to hearing the new album (and on a geekier note, I’m also impressed that the old NIN font has returned, too).
Debt Is King
(No Longer Available)
I’ve mentioned this mysterious new-ish Sheffield artist before (with their first track The Markets last year), and now they return with another furious, industrial-rock track that is bang on the, er, money with it’s subject matter. Yes, it’s fucking political. Like previous material, vocals are broadly replaced by well-placed samples, and the thundering, guitar-assisted industrial rhythm is like Ministry if they’d remembered how to be good again – but crucially this is music that actually has something to say. In a country where austerity is apparently the only game in town at present, and there is an ever-growing housing crisis, our chancellor’s answer at solving the latter has been to encourage yet more debt: and this song is a timely rage against the stupidity of it. On another note, look out for an interview with this artist on this very website soon.
Talking of new-ish British industrial, here’s another. System:FX were a new band to me, really, when I saw them at Infest last year, and they impressed greatly. And after another strong gig recently (disclosure: I was the DJ for the night), I was even more impressed once I’d given the new EP a listen. While the previous EP was good, this is another level entirely, four tracks of storming industrial metal with not a single weak moment. Pick of the EP for me, though, is the snarling, seething title track, which balances the industrial and metal sides brilliantly and the vocal performance is a marvellously sneering take on a world that doesn’t have a great deal going for it. The work with Be My Enemy (they are part of Phil Barry’s live band) has clearly rubbed off on them – the production here is great – and while they clearly owe a debt to Cubanate, don’t dismiss them as a carbon copy. They are anything but, in fact taking a similarly shaped sonic template and taking it into different electronic realms.
Master of Decay
Quick as a flash, this new industrial artist from LA have released two songs, and it is a measure of the quality of them that the first track (the decidedly ‘Puppy-ish Pearls 2 Swine) was pencilled in to appear in this list…until this monstrous track appeared. An astonishingly dense six minutes of swirling, disorientating industrial rhythms, with malevolent vocals floating over the beats, synth lines attacking from all sides, and jagged guitar samples stab from the fringes. Future developments, like with Randolph & Mortimer, I’m looking forward to.
Ĵєannє d’ Λrç
Mystery appears to be the order of the day at the moment, as here are another act who have for now remained in the shadows – in fact, much like partners in crime V▲LH▲LL, who again share an equal number of tracks on a split CD, and I’d swear this one is even better than the last. Yeah, so this is what is loosely termed “Witch House”, but the band have termed this “Bloodwave”, which is a way cooler term but I can’t imagine it will catch on…but I have been wrong before. Anyway, this release is a substantial step forward for both acts, but this track is the real killer here. Rather than shrouding the electronics in a thick fog, as is often the way with this act, most of the distortion (aside from the near-whispered vocals, of course) is stripped away, to reveal a slowed-down EBM jam, and it’s awesome.
Inform Educate Entertain
Curiously the second band featured this month to be one to eschew vocals for samples, but this one really couldn’t be any more different. Glorious, propulsive krautrockian rhythms provide a low-key backing to the real stars of the show, the samples of the titular fixture of the past, which are so well-placed and used that I can’t help but wonder why this hasn’t been done before. Yes, I’m late to the party once again, and how on earth did I miss this early on?
This glorious, shoegazey song recently saw a release on a split-7″ with London band Blindness (whose contribution was previous track of the month Last One Dies) – and fully deserves a full mention here, as does the beautiful packaging of the vinyl, done by Boxing Clever Records. The song itself has a languid, sensual groove, with squalling guitars atop a pretty, fuzzed-up female vocal and an elegant, yearning chorus.
Product of a Poor Self-Esteem Case Two: Drunk and Delusional
I Am but the Sum of My Conditions
Thanks to Matt Fanale for putting me onto this – an intriguing mix of scorched-earth industrial noise and emotional vocals, a combination few have attempted (the only others I can think of are Navicon Torture Technolgies and Manufactura, but this feels a more satisfying listen than both – and appears a damned sight less misogynistic than the latter, too). The whole album is taken at a slower pace, but with even the vocals shrouded in fuzzy, groaning electronics, it is not an especially harsh listen, and indeed is perhaps a lot more enjoyable than the description may suggest!