Remarkably, it’s now nearly five years since Transhuman first made it’s splash into the industrial world, and my full marks review still holds. And, I’m delighted to say that the new album is also brilliant, taking similar lyrical themes (scene apathy and fashionistas, medication, politics) as before but advancing the lyrics and the music that goes with it to a striking degree. Most of the songs you have already heard have been tweaked (some more than others), but it is perhaps most interesting that the best of the songs are the ones we hadn’t heard up to this point.
The Medication Generation
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Note: Some elements posted on my LiveJournal on 02 February 2010. An edited and amended version of this review appeared on Connexion Bizarre on 12 July 2010.
Which brings me to those songs. Med:Gen introduces things with a mash-up of samples setting the stall out, with additional assistance from Homer Simpson, the film Role Models and god knows what else, and works nicely as a little breather to get you ready for the slug in the gut that is Dose Responsive. Honestly, if you had any reservations that Sean Payne’s band couldn’t match the heights reached on the first album, here’s your answer. They can, and have done.
A short sample from A Scanner Darkly, and the blastbeats then come through the walls at you. It’s fucking loud, brutally heavy, massively anthemic, densely packed with samples and bleeps, has an awesome cyclic riff across the chorus that would suit Fear Factory in their prime, and is the perfect way to reintroduce Cyanotic in a similar way that Order Out Of Chaos bust the doors down the first time around. Fuck psy-trance, I want this kind of thing filling industrial dancefloors.
What else is new? Dissonant Dissident grinds out a slower groove, the mechanical, electronic rhythms overlaid by crunching guitar riffs. It doesn’t appear to be that impressive a track to start with, but give it a few listens on headphones and all kinds of details become clear – a recurring theme through many tracks on this album. The level of detail and intricacy in the mix of this album is truly extraordinary. Nothing goes to waste, no sample is out of place, and the heaviness, of which there is a lot, is never overdone.
The real gems of the new tracks, though, are a run through the middle section, begun with the searing, snarling f@5h10n v1k+um5, a tirade against the type of industrial club whose punters are rooted in the one style along with the music. Apparently written about a particular venue in Chicago, it’s themes resonate here in the UK too – and I don’t doubt in other places too. Appropriately enough, musically it’s as far from a standard “industrial” dancefloor track as you might find, drenching the pounding beats in reverb and twisting guitar lines, and stretching out the pauses between verses and choruses to breaking point.
It gets better. The Same is effectively the intro to Programmed, and the pair are *astounding*. Bass drops abound amid a surging beat that picks up pace into a monster of a chorus that reminds me of Pitchshifter at the peak of their powers, while lyrically continuing to tear into those who stick with what they know rather than pushing forward. Unlike the track, which continues to build up a formidable head of steam throughout and sounds fucking huge. I love the synth line that it exits with, too.
A reminder that Cyanotic don’t do everything at full pelt comes with the dubby, lengthy Monochrome Skies. It starts out delicately enough – well, aside from the masses of bass – with a dreamy guitar line, but it’s swiftly put to one side for the awesome, chugging riff that dominates sections of the track. It’s also, notably, probably the first Cyanotic track I can recall that is even remotely downbeat, and also brings to mind both Meshuggah and Massive Attack in it’s crushing heaviness. After all, it’s pretty much what Angel would have become if it had been written by a load of metalheads. And this is a good thing, obviously.
Things end kind of strangely, too. Comadose is mellow and languid, and feels like the track that should be ending the album, but it’s followed by the most overtly metal track here, Sentient, where Sean Payne unleashes his inner Rob Flynn to impressive effect – just check that monster of a riff that tears out of the speakers.
What of the tracks we already know? After all, some of those songs have been kicking around for a good couple of years now, so it might have been seen as a bit cheeky if they were simply left alone and put onto the album. Happily enough – and Sean Payne has form with this here – most of them have been tweaked at the very least. Alt Machine has been shortened a little and toughened up to sound every inch the armour-plated dancefloor stormer it should be, The Static Screens is now actually the sensory and media overload it is meant to represent (and it kicks hard, too), while on Brutal Deluxe they’ve somehow pulled the trick of toning down the guitars and making the track much, much heavier. It’s dominated by a thunderous breakbeat that socks you in the gut, hard.
Only Efficiacy and Drek Kick have been broadly left alone from previous releases, which is no real worry – the former remains an intriguing, delicate electronic instrumental that is so different to everything else here that it still stands out (and I’d love to hear more of this left-field electronic experimentation), while the latter’s collaboration with Rabbit Junk into industrial-punk realms is still fun, but feels a bit too long in the grand scheme of things (it’s over six minutes long).
But that’s only a minor quibble. With the rest of the album, there’s nothing to complain about. Sean Payne and the rest of the band haven’t wasted the five years since the release of Transhuman – in fact, it’s been quite the opposite. They’ve taken in new influences, grown their sound, and reached for a form of sonic perfectionism that in some hands would sound like they were trying too hard – but in these hands it’s resulted in an astoundingly detailed and rewarding listen that brings new treats every time you listen, as the sheer depth of the production means there is a lot to explore. Do I really need to tell you this is to be best played very loud indeed?
Let’s just hope Sean keeps his promise of a third album following rather sooner than it took for this. In the meantime, I’m going to be playing this to everyone I know to remind them that cool new bands are there if you look and listen for them. Industrial just got a fresh shot in the arm.