Dismantled - "The War Inside Me"

dismantled_war-inside-merating-4.0Label: Metropolis Records/Dependent Records
Year: 2011

I stopped paying attention to industrial around 2005. It wasn't so much the fact that I didn't care about industrial music anymore; it was more that industrial music had left me behind and had become a monotonous ball of sameness. I awaited another Hate Dept. or Flesh Field or Penal Colony album, while the rest of the industrial scene was busy masturbating and producing endless revisions of Suicide Commando.

Years have passed and, despite my waiting, nothing had caught my attention as particularly worthwhile or indicative of a return to something meaningful.

After seeing Dismantled live with Front Line Assembly, I picked up the new album and, almost surprised with myself, I couldn't stop listening to it. I don't think that I've had an occassion to have an album so firmly entrenched in my head since 2004. This is not to say that "The War Inside Me" is a work of staggering musical genius, but it struck a chord in me that hasn't been touched in the slightest in far too many years.

I had listened to Dismantled in the past; though my study of the Front Line Assembly-influenced self-titled album and "Post Nuclear" was little more than cursory, there were several tracks from "Standard Issue" and "When I'm Dead" that had ended up on my regular playlist for years. I had heard "Anthem" and "Breed To Death" dozens of times. I was familiar with the tone and content of Dismantled's work, or at least I felt I was.

"The War Inside Me" is a new breed of Dismantled. Whereas "Standard Issue" took on the cliches and cliqueish bullshit of industrial music with a sarcastic, bitter bite and "When I'm Dead" rode a line between standard industrial electronics, garnering comparisons to Nine Inch Nails, and more melancholy notes, "The War Inside Me" is filled with aggression in a way that even the angered undertones of the previous albums hadn't foreshadowed.

Some might say that "The War Inside Me" bears more in common with the tone of Combichrist's work than with Dismantled's. It's true that the shift into pounding, noisy rhythms was not foretold in the previous albums, but the lyrical tone and undercurrent was. And it's an insult to Dismantled to even compare this album to Combichrist's semi-literate horseshit.

I can't say that I appreciate the "blood and knives" aesthetic of industrial music that has arisen over the past several years, nor would I trumpet this album for its lyrical achievements. (Hearing a preview of "The Bathroom Floor" well before the album's release had me declaring that the whole thing would be a stupid piece of shit.) It could easily be argued that it's a juvenile album, full of misogyny and violence against women. Sure, whatever. But there also exists a thread running throughout the disc that connect its tracks in a story of sorts; somewhere between an album about serial killers and songs written in hyperbolic metaphor about the disappointments and rage of relationships is where you'll find these tracks. Maybe it's just a bunch of ditties about people being run over by cars, committing mass murder, killing their girlfriends and burying them in the woods, or unleashing Kafka-tinged rage in gouts of violence. You can write them off as heavy-handed or insensitive, but I think you'd be missing the point.

The music, on its own, is a totally different beast than the de rigueur Dismantled. While minimalist in construction, the perfect layering of driving beats and noise create the perfect backdrop for a wall of hoarse-throated screams. I appreciate plenty of albums, but I found myself with the tracks stuck in my head for days and the constant urge to listen to the album yet again. It's a special kind of song that keeps you awake at 5 AM because you can't stop it repeating in your head. And while several of the songs are less than stellar, foregoing the fast, hard pace of the earlier tracks for dark soundscapes, the overall product is more than worth the investment. Songs like "Insecthead", "Kill Or Be Killed", "Dead On Impact", and "The War Inside Me" (or "The Whore Inside Me", if you have the European edition; I don't know what's up with that) will immediately jump out at the listener, but, over time, you may find yourself going back to tracks like "Disease" or "Excess" that you may have initially written off.

Despite the fact that the content can seem, on the surface, to be purile and that many may be turned off by the "I'm going to kill everyone, you're a whore, I'm going to be covered in blood" overtones that the album beats you with, mercilessly, it's hard for me to imagine it not drilling into the listener's head and taking hold. It may not be perfect, but it gives me hope that there might still be industrial music that will surprise me and keep me listening in the future.

discogs    amazon

:wumpscut: - "Fuckit"

wumpscut_fuckitrating-2.0Label: Metropolis Records/Beton Kopf Media
Year: 2009

When I had asked most people what they thought of the new :wumpscut: album I was usually met with the reply of "they have a new album?" For those living in the United States it's not hard to believe that industrial and EBM music isn't on the pop charts or receiving radio play. So of course I wasn't surprised that people hadn't heard of it. In fact the nearest retail location to me that even carried the album was a Hot Topic. Most people interested in this form of music don't want to be seen stepping foot into there. Not caring about the petty stigma, I stepped right up and purchased my own copy.

I was excited, anxious and impatient. The package was open the moment I got into my car and it was playing as I pulled out of the parking lot. Little did I know my excitement was going to be met with disappointment. The album started off with promise; I swear it did! After the first track I thought I was about to be wowed. I was already in love with the cover art that was reminiscent of Bolshevik propaganda; but the allure didn't last long.

As the album progressed I began to feel like something had gone wrong; that perhaps something was missing. Did :wumpscut: devolve? Was the album title more than just a last resort catchphrase attached to the album or did it have some sick meaning that you would only get after buying it?

I made a mental check list:

  • Spooky and ethereal synth? - Check!
  • Stomping beats? - Check!
  • Angry lyrics? - Check!
  • Rudy moving you with all the above?

I was unmoved. Rudy Ratzinger's music typically stimulates my imagination and makes me want to dance. Not once did I imagine dancing to one song or imagine anyone hounding the DJ to hear any of these tracks. It felt as if the title Fuckit was just that. Fuck it. I wondered if he was being lazy or if this was his one time disappointment amongst a plethora of outstanding projects and albums?

Rudy Ratzinger began as a DJ in Bavaria in the early 1990's and was inspired to make a shift from playing music to making music. I am sure he had no idea that he would set a standard in his genre and become an inspiration to many musicians. He more than likely never imagined the fan status he would receive in the U.S. club scene and around the world.

Most unfortunately, after over 40 CD releases under Metropolis Records and Beton Kopf Media, I am seeing a lot of fans disappointed. Ratzinger has never toured as :wumpscut: and probably never will. It would be a financial disaster if he toured for  this album.

Despite the inefficacy of this album, I was amused by the end track "Gulag". The song is a dedication, it seems, or a musical interpretation of the punishment handed down to Max in the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Complete with samples from the movie, it does make a good ending to this album full of short, repetitious songs with less-than-titillating lyrics.

I didn't expect :wumpscut: to one-up previous accomplishments; but I did expect the one-man-music-machine to once again pull his listeners in and make the rest of the world disappear.

discogs   amazon

Idiot Stare - "Welcome To Babylon"

idiotstare_babylon.jpgrating-4.5Label: Self-released
Year: 2006

Idiot Stare's "Welcome To Babylon" was my pick for the best album of 2006. That's sort of a mixed compliment, given the fact that I didn't really listen to any CD's in 2006, but, comparing it to the variety of CD's that did make it onto other people's "best" lists, it easily blows the competition away.

Idiot Stare took steps to make this their best album ever and it paid off. Chad Bishop's band had always been enjoyable, but the songs previously lacked a certain layer that was added when, shortly after 2000, Insight 23's Blayne Alexander was brought into the fold as a vocalist. It filled out the sound and, with his vocal and lyrical bolster, catapulted the band up to the par of any of the best industrial-rock bands out there.

If there are any disappointments about this album, they are generated entirely in my head. Recording and writing for this album lead to demo tracks as early as 2002, with the "Ghost" single arriving in 2003. Further tracks were released in their component parts for remixing purposes... Between all these outlets, eight of the album's ten songs were out there and I had been listening to them for the better part of four years by the time the album arrived. Given that, I was shocked by how little new there was for me on the album, but for anyone who has never heard the album before, it is a beautiful step back to the days that industrial-rock used to be both well-written and enjoyable to listen to, something of a novelty now.

Living with these songs for so long and listening to them constantly over the years, it's hard for me not to be somewhat disappointed by the outcome, as there were no surprises for me, like a child knowing every gift they would receive Christmas morning, and I get the feeling that, having listened to the tracks so much that I can immediately spot where a guitar line or drum fill was changed for the final album, I know the tracks even better than the band.

Sure, I still think the demo version of "Porno" is better than the album version and I prefer my remix of "Mainframe God" over the album version, but this is one of the best albums to come out in years and tracks like the aforementioned "Porno" and "Mainframe God", as well as "Hold Me Down" and "Humiliation", will go down in the annals of industrial-rock history as some of the most fun and well-made songs of the 21st century.

The new listener will be immediately delighted by the styles and songwriting of the album, which delivers the industrial-rock of the 90's that now seems to be forgotten by today's bands, more intent on cranking out thier boring and self-obsessed electronic bullshit that has sucked the fun out of the industrial landscape until it seems that writing an enjoyable song is comparable to treason (unless it's synthpop, in which case its fluffy disposable catchiness is encouraged).

Thank god someone's willing to bring back the fucking bite of industrial music that made most people love it in the first place and, if no one else hears it, it's still a hell of an achievement to single-handedly be keeping a dying genre alive.

Kudos to Blayne, Chad, and the boys on putting together an album that does what most other bands of the past decade haven't been able to do: make music fun again.

Other industrial bands take note.

discogs   amazon

16 Volt - "FullBlackHabit"

16volt_fullblackhabit.jpgrating-3.0Label: Metropolis Records
Year: 2007

16 Volt has done what I never imagined they could as I drove around listening to their CD's while delivering pizza in 1998: they've gotten boring.

The "they" in this case is really just Eric Powell. His technical construction is there, but all of the catchiness of his tracks has somehow dissolved in the long, hard decade it's taken him to create a new album. This decade has left the bodies of bandmates and tracks along the way, leaving us with an attempt to return to the guitar-industrial tone of "Supercoolnothing" with this release, adding in some of the melody of Ringer, his emo sideproject with Crazytown/Virus 23's Krayge Tyler, and stripping down the electronics of ye olde industrial days to leave more of a layer of programming coated with the metal riffs of "Supercoolnothing".

In fact, if anything, it feels like many of these riffs are just recycled from the last album, which he seems to have subsisted off the memory of for this last decade, young listeners preferring his almost nu-metal sound to that of earlier gems like "Wisdom" and "Skin", where he really showed his talent for song contruction.

The softer touches of the album and the recycling of the catchy "Suffering You" from the limbo of the past decade's songwriting still doesn't bring this album up to the par of any of his other work. The younger fans will love it, as it has plenty of rawk-ass tracks to get down to at the nearest date of 16 Volt's inevitable tour. The little moshers out there will appreciate half of the album, the more nuanced listener will prefer the other half, and many of the old-school listeners will just not get this assemblage of rock-industrial tracks. I think I may be in the third camp.

discogs   amazon

SD6 - "Between Noise And Transmission"

sd6 coverrating-4.0Label: 23db Records
Year: 2007

I don't review my friends’ albums merely because they are my friends. Their music has to really had to stand out if I'm going to write anything about it. Take that how you will. Anyway, "Between Noise and Transmission" is a tasty little treat that should appeal to those into stuff like Melotron, Assemblage 23, Depeche Mode, Cleen/Cleaner, Battery and other bands of that nature. Though Tom Shear of A23 fame produced and mixed this album, I'd like to note that the only track that has a bit of that A23 sound is the first one, "Fallen", and it's good enough on it's own that it really doesn't matter if it's got the "Tom Touch" (that sounds... creepy... sorry, Tom) or not. By the next song, "Twilight", anyone will be able to tell that they're in for a real powerhouse of a musical offering. Seriously, kids, I didn't expect it to be THIS good. Really, it's just what I look for musically.

"Between Noise and Transmission" has got it all: groovy dance music; thought-provoking, well-written lyrics; a nice mix of vocal styles, especially with the female vox ("Untruth" standing out in that department; very cool); complex and engaging musical programming that doesn't seem sterile or boring; and it's memorable, which is a nice change for this musical scene. This album has a terrific team involved, so kudos to them all for doing such a wonderful job.

I've seen and heard places before regarding comparisons to Underworld. I can understand, kinda, but I sure wish Underworld was as interesting as SD6, then I might listen to them more (apologies to hardcore Underworld fans out there... I like them, a lot even, but much of their music I barely remember). Not that it's bad to be compared to Underworld or anything, I just think it's not wholly accurate.

All in all, this first SD6 offering is very, very good. Yeah, no new musical ground is broken as it doesn't scream with originality, but "Between Noise and Transmission" doesn't need to explore too much new territory. In a world where good synth-pop-EBM is dominated by European acts, it's nice to hear a band that can step up to the plate like Assemblage 23 and Imperative Reaction have and hold their own.

I highly recommend this to all fans of fun, thoughtful and interesting 80's pop influenced "body music". No, really, go out and buy it. I did, and I don't regret a single penny. You won't either. Now, Brandon, Jess and Nicole... Get working on the next one!

discogs   amazon