I've been a big fan of Armalyte's output for some time, with a whole string of great bands to get excited about (Je$us Loves Amerika, Concrete Lung, i!, Paresis, not to mention Interlock once upon a time), so it's always good when I get contacted by them with another promo to check out.
Zero One [Redux]
Indeed, I get sent a lot of promos – both by artists and labels I know well, and quite a number besides that I don't. This is a one-man website (aside from one recent post all input on here is by me, and there are no plans to change that), though, so I can't write about them all – but I do try and include what I can along the way, even if it is in a passing mention on a Tuesday Ten. I do my best to listen to everything, though – and at least on first listen I ignore any promo material (PDFs, etc) that come along with the music so that I can make my own decision first without it being coloured by what those releasing it want me to hear.
This release was a perfect example of this. I first listened to this on a journey across town (a favoured time for listening to music), and after hearing most of it, I was instantly onto my note app on my phone to get a few thoughts down somewhere. This was my initial takeaway:
A cold, calculated feel permeates this EP, as if it was assembled from a set of focus groups aiming for maximum impact with fans of industrial rock, a point rammed home by yet another fucking eighties cover – this time of Duran Duran's Wild Boys, and it manages to miss the target by toning down the most striking and memorable part of the track, the quasi tribal drums.
Clearly they are aiming for being a new Nine Inch Nails, or Sulpher, but to me they have barely reached the level of Orgy when they had run out of ideas.
The thing is, I probably need to elaborate on this. And for that, I need first to go back to the press release I got with the EP. What I hadn't realised that the band used to be a "scream-core" outfit called Ourfamous Dead (have a listen to what they used to sound like here, a band covered by Kerrang and KerrangTV, among others according to the press material, and the cynic in me wonders – was more of a future seen in more electronic routes? As I put down in my first notes on this, there are more than a few elements of other bands here.
Opener Ghosts is a distorted fuzz of guitars, distorted vocals and sludgy beats, all buried beneath what sounds like FM radio fuzz. The guitars sound exactly like what I might hear on a Sulpher track, and the one positive I'll take from this is that it is over in under two-and-a-half minutes. The Corruptor lasts twice as long, and follows a similar template, but with vocals that sound far too strained in the chorus, and a tedious, seemingly-never-ending breakdown in the middle before the chorus comes back to apparently repeat ad infinitum.
Worse still is Stars, which contains one of the most weakest choruses I've ever heard. It clearly wants to be anthemic – pretty much the only time the vocals are brought high into the mix – but fails thanks to the awful lyrics: "We are stars in the digital sky / We are damaged / We are ready to die". Thanks for that insight, guys – and the song isn't helped either by the plodding, pedestrian rhythm.
After all this, the stab at Wild Boys is the best thing here, and even that is not exactly high praise. Once again everything has a sheen of distortion (the sonic equivalent to me of a digital visual feed being oh-so-slightly-glitchy), and to me the constant fuzzy sound is absolutely infuriating. At least the song itself is solid – although with an eighties anthem like this, it's hard to fail – but it still feels like the heart of the song isn't really there, but it's hummable enough and will certainly grab them some attention.
The fifth and last track is a remix. Where i! weave their usual restless electronic charms all over Ghosts. They tear the track up, keeping the broad feel of the track but adding elements of their own that make it a far more satisfying listen, as it sounds far less one dimensonal in their hands.
And this is the main problem Jensen appear to have. A popular cover will take them so far, but without their own songs of sufficient quality and originality to back them up, I can't see exactly what the next steps will be. This is, to me, a tedious, poorly-produced and meaningless release that has little to redeem it – a novelty cover and clever remix aside. There are many better industrial/rock hybrids available – some of which are on the same label – go hunt those out instead.