It really is remarkable how time flies by so fast. This is Necro Facility’s third album, and their debut The Black Paintings dates back to 2005 (and second album The Room is already four years old now). To be honest, both of those albums were something of a solid effort in hero worship, though. Basically a take on classic Skinny Puppy, they had the creepy samples, the not-quite-right rhythms and electronics, the distorted vocals, but not always the songcraft. Still, they were something of an interesting anomaly, and when things went all quiet it was wondered if that was that – particularly as it appeared that the two members of the band, Henrik Bäckström and Oscar Holter, had been busy with other music (Holter in particular as a pop producer in his native Sweden).
The first notice that things had changed with this band was the brilliant and-all-too-short Do You Feel The Same (runner-up in my tracks of the year 2009) – where industrial met pop, and got along famously. The Skinny Puppy-esque beats were still there, as were the vocal stylings, but the song is first and foremost a glorious pop song, just with a harder, darker edge.
The wait for anything new following that was a long one – in fact it was well into 2011, about fifteen months or more later, that anymore new material arrived, and that was a couple of promo tracks, finally heralding the arrival of the long-promised Wintermute.
Both tracks showed a different direction again, of sorts, but crucially both were in the same pop-oriented sphere. Cuts starts out in a darker, intense realm, before blossoming into a slow-burning and elegant ballad. The more immediate of the pair, though, was Supposed. And as this track first kicked into its turbocharged chorus, the reasoning behind the first few ecstatic reviews of the album became very clear indeed. Basically, this track takes the now long-out-of-fashion idea of â€œfuturepopâ€ and basically takes every other so-called peer back to school. This is glorious â€“ a build, a beat, a pleading, yearning vocal…and then an utter monster of a hook and chorus that should see this band in the singles charts the world over. This is far too good to be just for the industrial scene â€“ it is pop music, pure and simple, going for the mainstream by stealth, as it still has a hard-edged industrial feel to the rhythms. I’ll even suggest now that this might well be the best track I hear in all of 2011.
Some of the above was written a couple of months ago (in making Supposed track of the month for May), and the latter bit still stands. Like some songs this strong, though, it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the album, simply because the whole damned album is so brilliantly put together.
And crucially, it doesn’t just rely on one pace, one synth preset or even one style throughout the album. There are a variety of ideas here, even if broadly they are industrial shone through a pop prism. But it is the execution that seals the deal. Opener You Want It is not a million-miles from Neptunes-esque, futuristic R&B, while Fall Apart is a ray of sunshine amongst otherwise darker-sounding arrangements, shimmering synths, string samples and poppy vocodered-vocals over a quick-paced breakbeat. Ignite initially sounds – with crunching guitar riffs stabbing their way through a tough industrial rhythm – as if it might be the heaviest song here, before the storm clouds part for yet another glorious, poppy chorus, while Skrik does a similar trick, but goes from a dub-by, languid beat into a wonderous old-school EBM workout.
While much of the album is indeed a clean break from the past – at first listen at least, this sounds nothing like their previous work, it is only after a few listens that the links to the past start to make themselves known in the main – there are moments where the old, familiar influences are clearer than ever. The stabbing synths of Explode are one, while the thundering beats of the slightly aimless Waiting For The Snow are very nice, but don’t really go anywhere – a very rare misstep on this album.
Like all pop-oriented albums, I guess, there has to be a ballad somewhere, and this album has it tacked onto the end – All That You Take sounds rather dreary to begin with, but it does eventually rouse itself into life. But seeing as it is the one song here that goes on too long, indeed many of the songs here are too short, it just seems to be a bit of an indulgence.
Which is surprising, as the rest of the album is simply so focussed. This album bears the hallmarks of a long period of work on it, as almost all of the rough edges have been smoothed out, almost every song engineered to sheer perfection. All that work in the pop realms as a producer have not gone to waste, either. This is a genuinely poppy “industrial” album, one of a couple recently (the other being last years’ wondrous Edge of Dawn album)that has inherently understood the tightrope between industrial darkness and pop sunshine, and somehow walks along this tightrope with its eyes wide open – in full confidence of how good it is, despite a band name that now really does sell them short somewhat, suggesting something very different from what they now are.
An album so good it should come with an applause track. Certainly I’d feel like joining in.