Countdown: 2016: Albums

Part three of the round-up of 2016 comes to you from the final week of our honeymoon (from the warm sunshine of the Dominican Republic). Sorry, not sorry.

Countdown: 2016

29-Nov: Best Compilations and reissues
06-Dec: Best Tracks
13-Dec: Best Albums
20-Dec: Best Gigs


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Countdown: Albums

2015: Dead When I Found Her – All The Way Down
2014: 3 TEETH – 3 TEETH
2013: Front Line Assembly – Echogenetic
2012: Dead When I Found Her – Rag Doll Blues
2011: This Morn’ Omina – L’Unification Des Forces Opposantes
2010: Edge of Dawn – Anything That Gets You Through The Night
2009: Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue
2008: Aesthetic Perfection – A Violent Emotion
2007: Battles – Mirrored
2006: In Strict Confidence – Exile Paradise
2005: Cyanotic – Transhuman
2004: Rotersand – Truth Is Fanatic

Still, read on, as this is the albums of the year.

2016 has been an odd year for albums. There have been a handful of truly exceptional albums, a lot of good albums, and then a few not very good ones (but let’s not talk about those, I’d rather stay positive). I say a lot of good albums, and I mean it. When I initially started collating the list this year, I was considering keeping it down to thirty, but in the end I struggled to keep it to forty (and probably could have made it to fifty).

This comes from a long list. In 2016 I added 86 albums to my collection (in the form of CD, vinyl and download), so I’ve done a whole lot of listening across the year.

A few things are admittedly missing from the list. David Bowie’s Blackstar is one, I’ll admit, and there are a few others too, including Izsoloscope and STRVNGERS (the latter just didn’t do as much for me as I’d hoped).

So. Here goes with the albums of 2016.


Night Thoughts
Suede Ltd

A New Morning excepted, pretty much all of the Suede albums have been worth listening to, and this, their second since their reformation, is another solid release. It was released accompanied by films for each song, and has a moody, oh-so-gloomy atmosphere for the most part. But what is most interesting is how strong the band sound. They’ve made something of a clean break with their past, in that while happy to revisit it live, on record they’ve surged forward with new songs – and sometimes subtle changes to their style – without the weight of expectation that perhaps held them back in the past. Who would have thought that the last of the big “Britpop” bands standing would be Suede?

I don’t know an enormous amount about this band, other than that they are from Naples, Italy, and slot nicely into the recent resurgence in darkwave, or electro-post-punk sounds. There is something very much of the early eighties about their sound, with drum patterns characteristic of the time, basslines that propel the rhythm, and a detached, near emotionless vocal that fits the style perfectly. Yeah, so they aren’t exactly re-inventing the wheel here, but it is a snappy, high-quality addition to the ranks.

I wasn’t expecting revolution from Tom Shear, and nor did he try to – and that’s fine by me. Shear has long since been one of the more thoughtful artists in our scene, and this album continues his run of top-quality, anthemic synthpop that tackles emotional issues and/or concerns, and Shear’s talent as a wordsmith means that he rarely repeats himself – very much an unusual case after sixteen, maybe seventeen years since his debut album. Long may he continue to flourish.


Amen: Requiem for Heart Fragment

An album that – like so many others this year, it seems – arrived in November, this was an artist that had piqued my interest after their appearance on the excellent collaboration with Architect and Sonic Area last year. But even that didn’t quite prepare me for this. An impressive work of electronic music, that pretty much takes elements from wherever it feels across the electro spectrum, with techno, dubstep, instrumental hip-hop, ambience, quasi-classical string samples, IDM and a few others besides – all impeccably produced and constructed, and crucially is an engaging listen from start-to-finish.

These French tech-metallers are relative old-hands now, on their sixth album already, but there is nothing old about their sound. Hyper-technical metal, with nods to the likes of Meshuggah among others, but what sets Gojira apart from their peers is their ability to make their sound accessible. Entirely unafraid of using hummable melodies, massive choruses and tricks from more radio-friendly areas of music, this album is the easiest to get into that they’ve done, but they’ve not given an inch from their technicality. The best example of this is the squealing guitars and chugging maelstrom of Stranded that also happens to be their catchiest song in years.


A Tribe Called Quest
We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service

One of Hip-hop’s greatest innovators and thoughtful voices return for one last time, with a glorious, sprawling album that features the late Phife Dawg (his vocals and much of this album was recorded before he died earlier in the year), and while in some ways it is a poignant tribute to him, in other ways it feels like a victory lap. Old collaborators (most notably some scorching turns from Busta Rhymes, in his best work in years) return, new school rappers join in, even Jack White and Elton John (!) add musical assistance. But most importantly, despite all the extra hands, this still feels like Quest. It has a wonderful, languid feel, even with a busy mix of masses of voices, samples, beats, guitars, and whatever else they felt like chucking in, offering words of wisdom and ways to survive in this world like they only know how.


A Moon Shaped Pool
XL Recordings

A band that everyone made their minds up over a long time ago, and a band who don’t need to release anything anymore, and sure as hell couldn’t give two fucks about what any critic says about them any more. Truth is, they’ve happily been following their own path and whims for pretty much two decades now – the experimentation didn’t begin with Kid A, it began with OK Computer, and for a good while Radiohead set the bar for just how much a band can fuck with perception and still be brilliant. So, after a few albums that were…ok?…this album is notable in how good it is again. It is book-ended by two brilliant moments, the string-laden tension and fear of Burn The Witch (Radiohead’s best song in some years), and then the gloriously pretty True Love Waits, a song most Radiohead fans have heard in one version or another over the years, but this is surely the definitive version. In between, there are many ballads, but none ever get boring, and tracks like Identikit remind that they haven’t forgotten their space rock diversions, either.


Strange Little Birds

That time spent reminiscing, touring and re-issuing their much-loved (including by this site) debut album over the past couple of years has, like a few other bands in recent times, had an influence on new material that followed. Unlike the thinner, rockier sound that the band had moved towards, this album was a notable step back towards the denser, electronically-led sound of their earlier days, and it was all the better for it. Yeah, so not every song hits the button, but I’ll give any number of missteps for songs as great as Empty and Magnetized.


The Blinding Dark

As I noted in my review of this album recently, this was Covenant coming out of their often insular shell and commenting on the world around them – and the bleakness of the world outlook was reflected in what was a cold, forbidding album, but not without it’s highlights. Indeed despite it’s short length – and too many instrumentals – this is the most coherent, complete album from Covenant in a long time, and indeed contains a few of their best songs in an age, even if this reflective work is not generally one the dancefloors will ever be troubled by.

Adamson always seems to have flown under the radar somewhat – and this is despite a career that has seen him working with Magazine, Buzzcocks, Visage and most notably Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, as well as his own solo work and a whole host of soundtrack work. That latter work, perhaps, is the most notable part of his latest album, with a distinctly cinematic feel to many of the songs, as if they are soundtracking films Adamson dreamt up in his head, with jazzy, noir-ish textures to many of the songs. But also, it’s the sound of an artist that has the ability to enjoy what he does, to indulge his own whims and write and perform songs in whatever style he damned well pleases – and does so with sly, smart humour. Many other artists should take note of such an attitude.

A meeting of minds between Jason Novak and Sean Payne that works out rather like I’d expect, really – the filthy, dirty bass-led grooves of both Acucrack and Cyanotic loom large here, but to their credit they do forge out a sound of their own. Forge is an operative word, here – it seems like the title of the album really does refer to the industrial darkness of Tetsuo: The Iron Man in particular, and sounds have been created from metallic origins, with human voices howling from the heart of the machines. In addition, some of the grooves here are absolutely killer.


EK Product

We might be still waiting for the follow-up to Cardinal Noire’s astoundingly dense debut album (#12 in this list last year), but late this year vocalist Kalle Lindberg returned with a side-project of even harder-hitting, more direct industrial. Less about atmosphere and chaos, and more of a proverbial punch in the face, this is music aimed at (admittedly open-minded) dancefloors, and wields beats and guitars like offensive weapons as it bludgeons your skull – think Rabies or The Land of Rape and Honey with modern technology and less drugs, and you’re not far off.

Five years or so since their last album (with an EP inbetween), a successfully crowdfunded album has seen KT return, without too much of a change from what they’ve done before. It’s still industrial-tinged rock, with some excellent grooves and a talent with ballads that many bands drop the ball on, and there are some brilliant songs here. On the flipside – and the reason this drops down the list a bit – this album has lost much of the sensuality of past work, and there are a couple of songs that really dip the quality level a bit.


Fires Within Fires
Neurot Recordings

Thirty years into their career, Neurosis returned with their eleventh album this year – and intriguingly their shortest in some considerable time. By their standards, a five track, forty-minute album is pretty much an EP! Anyway, for anyone new to Neurosis, this isn’t really a good place to start, even if it doesn’t break much in the way of new ground. The balance between scorching, electronically-assisted metal and bluesy melancholy is still walking on a tightrope, and they still appear able to write elegant songs that no-one else comes near.


Greeted As Liberators/Prototype

Some seven years since his first album, Joseph Byer has returned to his v01d project once again, for a bitterly political, intriguing excursion into a number of musical styles. There is bulldozing industrial rock (album highlight Hoof To The Sky), there are proggy passages too, but in the main, this is an exceptional, experimental take on what industrial could be with some thought.

A second album accompanied it, too, the album that was meant to be his debut from about ten years ago (but never got released). I’ve had two of the tracks for a long, long time – Retrograde was on Modern Destruction, an early Glitch Mode release, while Revolutions made it onto Dark Sonus vol. 1 around the same time. Both of these two – seemingly dusted down and remastered a bit – are highlights here. Retrograde is a monstrous, stomping slab of tech-industrial, with a groove that could move continents, while Revolutions is the link between this early material and what was eventually released in 2009 – a smoother, sleeker sound that was content to remain in the shadows. Elsewhere there are furious drum’n’bass attacks, dancefloor-aimed industrial weaponry, and ambient interludes.

Unlike Cohen, who was looking ahead towards his own death, Nick Cave instead was dealing with the death of his own son. Apparently much of the album had been written, and some of it recorded, prior to the event, but the whole album exists under the cloud of death. It is perhaps the most stark, minimal album Cave has ever been involved in, and frankly is something of a tough listen – even if you don’t know the circumstances around it. But, amid the darkness, this is an album of beauty – of Cave trying to make sense of the world around him, of questioning god (this is by far the most secular I can recall Cave being), of questioning himself, and the beauty manifests itself in the arrangements and songs. As ever, it seems, brilliance comes from the hardest of times.

The last few RC albums have been steady evolution of their sound, and perhaps Guidance has reached the pinnacle of that. This is instrumental “post-metal” taken to an almost regal level. Melodies weave through a mix of delicate, picked guitars, and crunching, soaring riffage to impressive effect – the two sides being best shown by the seamless flow from the folky swoon of Asa into the thundering swell of Vorel, like a sea suddenly churning up into a maelstrom without warning.


The Waiting Room
City Slang

Nearly twenty-five years into their career, Stuart Staples and his band continue to mine a seam of music few others touch. Their downbeat, soulful music exists in the after-dark shadows, often invoking feelings of desperate loneliness and lovelorn futility – and we wouldn’t have them any other way. This latest album seems more sparse than before, the usual elements all present and correct, but it is quieter, more reflective, and perhaps a little more jazz-based than soulful. But no-one does despair quite like this band, and long may it remain so – particularly on the glorious Hey Lucinda, an absolutely smouldering duet between Staples and the late Lhasa de Sela.


Leonard Cohen
You Want It Darker
Columbia Records

Far from the only album to deal head on with death this year (the other most notable example this year being Nick Cave’s harrowing new album, recorded in the midst of grief for a lost son), but intriguingly this was Cohen facing up to the fact that he didn’t have much time left. He initially rowed back from some of the comments made in an extraordinary New Yorker piece somewhat – but that, his devastating, sweet letter to Marianne in the summer and then this album left you with no doubt that Cohen was absolutely preparing to face up to death, and so it proved when his death was announced on 10-November.

The album has a lush, orchestral backing to much of it, with Cohen’s magisterial voice providing kind of gravitas that the subject matter deserves – not to mention it being the best album Cohen has done since The Future. A fitting full stop to an extensive, fascinating career.


The Gospel

Raymond Watts returns with his first full album under the PIG name in eleven years, and it’s great fun. Watts never made his material too serious, and this album has the distinct feel of an artist doing an album because he is enjoying it. As the title suggests, he returns to the gospel-industrial feel of old here, with relative choirs of backing vocals, quite a few potentially sacrilegious moments, and a brand of industrial rock that, as I’ve noted elsewhere, sounds like an alternative (and vastly better) future that KMFDM could have taken if Watts stayed aboard.

Ok, so not all of it hits the spot, but the opening pairing of The Diamond Sinners (a full on industrial-gospel devotional) and Found in Filth (Watts hamming it up, glam-style, for all he’s worth), and then the stellar, delicious darkness of Viva Evil make this an essential purchase just for them. The live show was a hell of an hour of fun, too, but that will be talked about more next week…

In a year where a number of men either made themselves look like fools or exposed themselves (as it were) as the unpleasant sexual predators that they were, that an album from anyone was released that preoccupied itself with the effects of masculinity in the modern age was very interesting. This was my route into the band, too – I’d never really been interested in them before – and it turned out to be not what I expected.

A sleek, r’n’b/funk-infused indie-rock band, whose songs reeked of sexuality and sleaze in their arrangements and rhythms, but the lyrics frequently questioned exactly what a man actually wanted, and whether he was doing the right thing. As a result, digging under the skin here actually resulted in a very different result, and a really, really great collection of songs.


The Anchoress
Confessions of a Romance Novelist

One of the more interesting artists to appear over the past year, Catherine Anne Davies’ debut album was released right at the beginning of 2016. Co-produced by Paul Draper (of Mansun fame, of course) – and with Catherine herself having quite a list of collaborations prior to this – it is a complex listen with fascinating lyrics (a singer with a PhD in Literature and Queer Theory might be expected to be able to do more with words) and some glorious songs, that work so much better as a complete album than they perhaps do as single songs. Not far off impossible to classify, this takes time to get into but is well worth putting the time in do so.

A second album from this collaboration, and you know what? It’s better than the first. Broadly the same idea – a mellow, often orchestral backing from Teardo that strays into familiar Neubauten territory fairly frequently, while Blixa happily moves between languages (German, English and Italian this time around) while unfolding a number of curious tales – and the album is near worth it alone for the glorious, sprawling Ulgae, a tale of a queen of a nation in a petri dish and her attempts to widen her horizons…


The Fall of Hearts

Ten albums in – and their harsher, death-growl beginnings long distant – Katatonia have settled into a niche that suits them well. It is still, well, doom and gloom, but in a heartbreaking, swooning way, Jonas Renkse often sounding like he is on the verge of a sobbing breakdown. But this isn’t an album of morose navel-gazing musically – it frequently soars, with both moments of gritty metallic heaviness, and elegant, near-prog passages, and continues the band’s near-effortless ability to write songs that come deep from the wells of human emotion.


Asphalt for Eden
Profound Lore

Always one of the most interesting hip-hop acts out there, Dälek returned with their first album since a five-year hiatus this spring, and it was like they never had gone away. Their rolling, bass-heavy beats are still present and correct, as are the dense, industrial-influenced electronic storms that shroud those beats from start to finish, with MC Dälek providing his harsh, booming raps over the top, with politically conscious rhyming that examines the self within the wider world. Coming as it did six months before the US lurched way to the right in the Presidential Election, Dälek’s views on what has happened since should be interesting next time we hear from him.


The Negative

In some ways not a million miles from his main work in ΔAIMON, Brant Showers’ solo project returns to the darker, earlier material of that work, with thundering rhythms, crashing chords of synths and portentious vocals.

Described by Brant himself (in an interview with this site earlier in the year) as “a place to work through personal issues with ritualism and alchemical motifs”, it is certainly an intriguing piece of ritual, quasi-tribal industrial that, like the album cover, exists almost entirely in differing shades of grey and black.

Once again, Rotting Christ spread their horizons well beyond the norm, with another album of staggeringly powerful death metal, accompanied by tribal incantations and (mainly) European folk music that creates an extraordinary atmosphere of mainly satanic devotion. This time, too, as well as their native Greek, there are also parts of songs in (deep breath) English, Latin, Sanskrit, French and Egyptian, not to mention a song that uses verse by William Blake.

This breadth of folk traditions brings in sounds and intonations that are entirely unexpected in some ways, but always are relevant to what the band are doing – this is a second look at the world of dark worship, and as such is not far off an anthropological study, never mind a brilliant death metal album.


Suicide Songs
Bella Union

A striking, unusual album that had a cover to match – a shirtless man with a knife balanced on his head. This frankly, sounded like no other indie band this year – devotional, quasi-choral music that owes a lot to early Verve (that is, A Storm In Heaven and even earlier), and is frankly amazing. Their Mancunian origins – and something of the cliched swagger of bands from there – comes across a bit in the wonderful, soaring opener I Am The Lord, but with songs as good as that they can swagger all they like. The rest of the album matches it, though, and peaks again with Night Came, a nine-minute epic drenched in reverb that builds to an ecstatic climax, and then most joyously with the ebb and flow of the extraordinary All My Life, where the sweeps of guitars and strings feel like a release after what has come before.


Out Out

fearmongers, liars and hypocrites / claim to love their country / they don’t give a shit

The hook of opening track Shut Up! sums up the attitude nicely. This is viciously angry album, mainly about the state of Mark Alan Miller’s home country (which since the album was written, of course, the near-unthinkable has happened in Trump being elected as President), and the opening two tracks Shut Up! and the thundering, groovy-as-all-hell Look Up, Hannah (whose title, of course comes from Chaplin’s legendary, climactic speech in The Great Dictator) blast the doors open in style. It’s perhaps true that this comeback album, after a good few years, perhaps loses a bit of momentum along the way after those two brilliant openers, but there are many reasons to stick with the album – not least as it is another great update on a “classic” industrial sound, but also because this album has something to say. And in these darkening times, we need that more than ever.

Judging from comments around the time of release, this album has – not for the first time – brought various tensions in the band to the surface, as disagreements occurred over direction. Listening to the album at the time and since, the divergence is fairly obvious, as songs go in both spacey, dreamy directions and grindingly heavy rock – although saying that, this is hardly new from the band. And while this isn’t Deftones’ best album – for me, Diamond Eyes easily wins that battle – it still has some astonishing songs on it (the title track in particular), and Chino Moreno’s oblique, cryptic lyrics and imagery help add an enigmatic feel to a band whose restless invention should continue to be celebrated.


The Glowing Man
Young God

Billed as the last album of the current incarnation of Swans – one that has pushed the sound of the band forward thrillingly, and perhaps resulted in a very different set of albums than maybe we’d suspected when they first announced the reformation/resumption in 2009/2010 – this was, once again, a lot to get the head around. Eight songs, two CDs, and beyond two hours of material, once again it is really an album to be digested in one go, and if this really is the end, this is some way to bow out – particularly the astounding, twenty-eight minute title track, where Swans power collides with krautrock, motorik grooves to jaw-dropping effect.

I was kinda surprised to realise that Marc Heal had never had a solo release previously – Ashtrayhead and the MC Lord of the Flies/PIG releases of course both being collaborations. But clearly, working on his own material suits him well – even after so long way, this is assured, clever stuff – I dubbed it “Adult-Orientated Industrial” (since used by another site to review it, too, to Marc’s concern, I think!), and I stand by that.

This is not industrial music, really – this is electronic rock music from an artist writing about his life experiences, which nowadays are an Englishman living in the Far East, and much of the lyrical content here is Marc examining his place, his beliefs, and how his way of life clashes and compliments that of the locals. What is more remarkable is how well it works – a slower pace to most of the songs, Marc taking a different approach to his vocals, these are great songs.

Dais Records just keep on signing great artists. Body of Light are the latest, and the initial buzz and promise around this duo is only set to get louder as more people hear this album. Seriously, it’s a glorious synthpop album that takes in elements of both “classic” and “modern” synth styles, but like all great music of it’s kind, it stands and falls upon how good the songs are – and Body of Light have this area down pat. One of those album that had me hooked from the off, pretty much everything they touch here turns to gold.

If you ever wanted evidence of industrial influences slowly permeating further afield, you could do worse than using Pop. 1280 as exhibit A. A band seemingly of curious influences (not least their name), and while “cyberpunk” by their own definition, I get the distinct impression that is less in the industrial-punk form and more in the Gibson form and thematics. Unsettling samples and jagged synths – not to mention screeching noise at times – tear through their already-bent-and-broken rock base, and Chris Bug’s sneering vocals fit the sound perfectly.


Youth Code
Commitment to Complications
Dais Records

We already knew this, I guess, but just to be clear – Youth Code’s second album absolutely blasts any possibility of them being a one-album wonder out of the window. Everything here has been turned up – their hardcore blasts, their industrial fury, their songcraft, the lot – and Rhys Fulber’s production simply adds additional and impressive layering to many of the songs.

It isn’t just that, though. It’s also that they’ve widened their palette. They dial back the hardcore pacing at points for slower, more measured tempos, and the results are no less impressive (particularly album standout Doghead), but when they do let rip…christ. Opener Transitions has a scorching, heavy-as-shit industrial breakdown midway through, while Avengement is 142 seconds of pure, fiery fury. The lyrics suggest all has not been well, perhaps, but Youth Code as a band sound in rude health.


deux furieuses
Tracks of Wire

The more 2016 has progressed, the more relevant (even more than it was) this album has become. The name of the band is no accident. Translating into English, literally, as “two furious”, as far as I can tell, they are two women playing rock, and they are very, very angry about their own place in the world, and also the place of women in the world generally. At points they can be very blunt – Are We Sexy Enough? details the many places women could be raped or attacked, and sneeringly asks variations on the title as a male “justification”, while the (belting) opening salvo are Can We Talk About This? and Now You’re Gonna Listen. Clear enough?

As my friend Holly put it when she saw them earlier in the year for the first time:

riot grrl that grew up, got a job, and decided it wasn’t taking any shit from anyone

An exceptional album that is much-needed right now.

The more I listened to this album, the more I loved it – and still do. One of the more surprising musical left-turns in some time, Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato stepped away from the technical metal/hardcore carnage of that band, for an album of fascinating, downbeat electronic soul that had so much going on that multiple listens were necessary to get under the skin of it. There is the retro-electronics of much of the synthwave du jour, but in addition there is very much a nod back to some of the ultra-smooth, synth-dominated soul of the 80s, particularly in the soaring choruses and feel of the songs. A world away from that other band, who knew Greg Puciato was such an accomplished soul man?

Not many bands continue with any work once a core member passes away. But Alejandra Deheza chose to complete the work her and Benjamin Curtis had begun before he died, and judging on how astoundingly good this album is, she made the right call. I don’t doubt, though, that it was an extraordinarily difficult thing to do.

That permeates through some of the songs – Deheza’s tired, drained vocals at points, the wistful lyrics referencing the now-vanishingly small issues within their relationship – but on the flipside, the album from the off is a celebration of love, of life, and the whole album absolutely blazes with both. Deheza was clearly determined to do the best for her bandmates memory, and this album delivers everything that School of Seven Bells always promised in the past but never quite delivered. It merges shoegaze, electronics, indie rock, r’n’b, trip-hop into a weightless whole, and finally gives Deheza’s vocals the backing they deserve.

Signals may be the best song here, but there is a hell of a lot of competition. Ablaze sets the fires of love, while Open Your Eyes leaves me on the verge of tears every. single. time. A fitting tribute, and also a sad goodbye to a band who finally, finally, provided that near-perfect album.


Dead When I Found Her
Eyes On Backwards

First up, let me be clear – that this year, DWIFH don’t make album of the year (after two successive album of the year awards from this site in 2012 and 2015), doesn’t mean that their standards have dropped. Far from it – maybe it’s that others have upped their game instead, as this is still an outstanding album. Considerably shorter and more aggressive in tone than All The Way Down, this is Michael Holloway taking things in an alternate direction, something made abundantly clear by the extraordinary opening track Tantrum (also featured last week), and reinforced elsewhere by similarly heavy industrial treatments – but crucially it’s not all one sound, with a number of more restrained songs featuring too.

It was noted in a recent interview with Michael that this is an album about nostalgia, connections to the past, and how you deal with revisionism – what’s intriguing to me is that once again this is a successful move to using those tools of the past to forge something pretty much unique. No-one else is producing music like Dead When I Found Her right now, and it really is quite something just how brilliant they remain after four albums, with no dip in quality.

I’d heard the buzz about KANGA sometime before I actually heard the music, and indeed, the first couple of songs I heard did little for me. Particularly the ballad Tension, which drifted past without offering any hooks for me.

Or so I thought. It took the Saturday opening slot performance at Cold Waves V to convert me, and I was already onboard two songs in, and by the closing Vital Signs, it was straight off to the merch table, to pick up one of the handful of pre-release copies of the album available. I’ve pretty much had the album on repeat since, and after many, many listens, I’m still finding it difficult to find any fault with any of the ten songs (and you know what? Tension makes *so* much more sense as part of a larger whole).

Yes, there are a few (quite obvious, if you know what you are looking for) nods to other bands – in particular Something Dangerous betrays someone who listened to The Fragile an awful lot, while I’m sure Animal has elements of Nirvana’s Territorial Pissings in it, even if it is just a very similar melody.

But those points aside, this is hard-edged, processed industrial rock with a beating pop heart, a phenomenal line in catchy hooks (Viciousness in particular has a habit of sticking your head for days, and Animal has similar staying power), and some seriously adept programming and production (I know Rhys Fulber was involved in some of it, but as I understand it KANGA did a fair amount of it herself too) that allows a pretty much bulletproof set of songs to absolutely shine.

This appears, from interpreting the lyrics, to be an intensely personal album, one of someone who is alternately jaw-droppingly confident in every way, or deeply, deeply insecure in their feelings, and both come across in different songs. That confidence, at the very least, has resulted in a quite astonishingly accomplished debut album that is endlessly listenable, and has been the easiest choice for the album of the year in some years.

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