A New January

Category: Industrial
Album: Cold And Naked

Tightly-constructed, A New January comes across as a band with much promise. But something remains lingering in the back of my mind, nagging at me, as I listen to the tracks.

The tracks have a tone and structure akin most prominently to Celldweller, music that is not industrial so much as rock music constructed with electronics. And that sense of melody and construction is translated well in A New January, yet at the same time, there’s a certain lack, seemingly somewhere in the vocals.

Despite the tight song structures, the vocals often lack any range or passion, the choruses are no more imperative or energetic than the verses. The lack of change on a song-to-song basis becomes apparent the farther one gets into the album. And the lyrics, not generally a point of contention amongst industrial fans, stand out oddly. The vocals, the backbone of rock-structured music, seem atrophied or underdeveloped and the music suffers for it.

Not to say that it is bad in any way. For an independent production, it is as good as any I’ve ever heard. It just seems to lack the energy and soul that drives you to listen to a band again and again. Despite the catchiness of several of the tracks, I have no desire to reach for the album again. And that’s quite a shame, because this is a band deserving of attention.

Hopefully, in time, they’ll find their stride and meet up to all the potential and promise that they have.

 

from ReGen Magazine (7/2004)

 

Unit:187

Capital Punishment
(C.O.P. Int’l.)

After a long hiatus and band restructuring, Unit:187 has returned. Those familiar with their previous 21st Circuitry releases, especially “Loaded”, will find more of the same here, only in a more refined form.

Unit:187, now only John Morgan and Tod Law, is in a finer form than they’ve ever been in the production and programming departments. Dark and minimalist, though, it lacks the catchiness and easy enjoyability of their earlier works. Where is the “Lardass”, “Nobody”, or “Shitlist” for this album? The material, in general, doesn’t grab on and refuse to let go like it did on previous ventures.

Another obstacle for the band to overcome in their search for new fans is the fact that this is, essentially, a remix album for unreleased material. Included on this nine-song disc are Unit:187 originals of the dark and brooding “Angels”, the hip-hop-ish “Second Class Citizen”, the muted and atmospheric (though dancey) “Euphoria”, and the crawling rhythm of “Infested”. All the tracks are dirty electro with exemplary programming, though the vocals are so minimalist that it hurt my enjoyment of the album. Tod’s vocals are sparser than ever before, receiving almost as little time as the samples.

The other five tracks are remixes, one each of the songs “Second Class Citizen”, “Lust Poison #9”, and “Capital Punishment”, and two remixes of “Anger Management”. Hearing these tracks remixed by Chris Peterson, Anthony Valcic, and others only makes you want more, especially to hear the original Unit:187 versions, but none of that will be found here (though Unit:187’s website [www.unit187.com] promises that all the non-album tracks will show up eventually for free). Decree’s “Dry Heave Mix” drags “Lust Poison #9” through the mud, making the song sound dirtier and noisier than I could have imagined, having heard a clip of the original song. The Anthony Valcic-mixed “Capital Punishment” is enjoyable and shows what promise the song could have, but lacks focus and a real vocal track to add a spine to the song. The real gems of this album lie in the remixes of “Anger Management”, varying from a female-backed dirge to harsh electro goodness. It proves to be the best song out of the lot, for my taste.

All in all, the album (if you can really call it that) has its weaknesses: mainly brevity of material and a lack of Unit:187’s identity within all the mixes. But Unit:187 fans should take note, this band is back, harder and harsher, more grim and smooth than ever before. And it also shows a depth of growth in writing lyrics as well as music, as they’ve strayed from lyricising about inner conflict to take on a more overtly political stance. If they had only included all the original versions as well as remixes, this would have been a rival to the underrated “Loaded”.

(C.O.P. International Records, 981 Aileen St. Oakland, CA 94608)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18 (2003)

 

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult

Golden Pillz: the luna remixes
(Sleazebox/Underground Inc.)

We all know that Thrill Kill Kult isn’t the most “industrial” band anymore. They’ve been toying with more techno and dance sounds over the years, from the disco of “Sexplosion!” to the straight-up ’50’s kitsch of “Hit & Run Holiday”. But since “Industrial” is in the magazine’s title (and since that’s what I prefer to listen to), let’s take this review from that particular angle.

“A Crime For All Seasons” was a major change for the TKK. It was a return to a very industrial style for the band, brought back guitar into the mix, and was their best work since “Confessions Of A Knife”. Their follow-up, “The Reincarnation Of Luna”, was very similar, but the tone was more dark and electronic than the previous album. It was more of a culmination of all the styles the band has encompassed over the years, from retro-trash disco to electro industrial-dance. So to follow this successful creation, the first release for their new label, they decided to produce their first remix album.

Now, like I said before, I’m an industrial fan. And I did enjoy “Luna” very much, though not with the thorough ferocity of “A Crime For All Seasons”. So it was with great disappointment that I listened to “Golden Pillz”, a collection of dull techno/house re-creations and bastardizations of previously good songs.

Vermyn (of Eat Static Productions) starts off the proceedings by turning “Temptation Serenade”, formerly a hard electro-dance track, into wah-guitar-filled house music, something that you might hear at a very bad club on a night that you thought was industrial/fetish, but, when you arrive, you fine nothing but 4/4 house, guys in khakis, and spiky-haired, big-panted kids with glowsticks. A mediocre remix of the also mediocre “Asylum Disciple” chases on its heels, not really hurting my feelings nearly as much.

The “Silverado” remix of “Radio Silicon” by Diamond Galaxy is the first track actually worth notice and turns the only real “industrial” track from “Luna” into a fairly enjoyable, though minimalist, dance track. TRS-80, though sometimes experimentally interesting, can’t seem to make anything out of the not-very-interesting “Hour Of Zero”, one of worst tracks off of “Luna”. It only serves as an opportunity for him to add some weird effects to the vocal tracks and a bizarre breakbeat ending that comes out of nowhere to disorient and confuse the listener.

Laying across the middle of the album like a dead hooker are the incredibly uninventive remixes of “Girl Without A Planet”, “Flesh Playhouse”, and a remix of “Temptation Serenade” by Francis A. Preve that sounds like a bad Apoptygma Berzerk track (as if such a thing as a good one exists). All are about as interesting as a Tiny Tim ukulele solo, which, now that I think about it, would have been a nice touch.

Even the incredibly reliable and talented Julian Beeston turns in a lame and limp techno remix of “Radio Silicon”. It’s as if this album is actively trying to assault your senses with wave after wave of disappointment, redundancy, and mediocrity. And, as such, Julian’s folly is followed by weak and/or pointless remixes of “Asylum Disciple” and “Flesh Playhouse”, the latter by Diamond Galaxy, ruining whatever credit they received for their earlier “Radio Silicon” mix.

Buzz McCoy manages to turn in two fairly cool remixes, giving a totally different spin to “Jungle Of Love” and “The Untouchable Class” (which is unfortunately tarnished by badly effected vocals). Juttajaw’s “Hour Of Zero” remix tries to ruin whatever momentum Buzz has created and Bill Van Ryn closes the album out on a totally decent but uneventful note; maybe I’m just imagining it’s better than it really is because that means the album is over and I can take it out and throw it back to the obscurity of my CD collection.

Regardless, not a CD to be listened to by anyone but fans of the TKK who happen to be techno-kid, glowstick-bandying, raver house-junkies.

(Sleazebox Records, P.O. Box 608215, Chicago, IL 60660)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18

 

The Chaos Engine

Escape Ferocity
(Wasp Factory Recordings)

The greatest flaw in logic regarding music is that every band must be new, fresh, original, and brilliant. This is a fallacy. Clichés in music are almost unavoidable; a good band makes you forget about those clichés while you’re listening to their music.

The Chaos Engine is just such a band. Combining hard (but synth-y) guitar riffs with electro programming and impeccable vocals, “Escape Ferocity” is a perfect example of The Chaos Engine’s body of work. Having existed for some years in Britain, but receiving virtually no notice Stateside, the time is ripe for this band to break out on our shores. If only some American label or distributor were smart enough to pick up The Chaos Engine’s backcatalog from their label Wasp Factory, started by the singer/programmer to showcase The Chaos Engine’s talents. One could take my statements for meaningless hyperbole, but this truly is one of the best CD’s I’ve had the luck to come across in years. It combines some of the minor elements of a band like VNV Nation with the songwriting structures and guitar sound of a band like Gravity Kills and creates a really great synthcore band in the middle, just as good for the rivet-metalhead’s stereo as the DJ’s dance floor.

If you’re scared off by the mention of “corporate” industrial, guitar, or music that might not help your status as an elitist, don’t look into this band. Anyone who can accept an electro-industrial-rock band with a great pop sensibility is urged to search this group out.

Every song is wholly enjoyable on this CD, with the exception of “The Guiting Power Institute For Supreme & Unnecessary Evil” (which comes off to me as a dull “Angel Dust”-era Faith No More song). Songs like “Nerve Opera” and “Naphephilia” show an ability to craft strong melodies and harmonize vocals, while songs like “Jesus Christ v2.0” and “Broken Children” show their ability to write a song that could get any crowd moving. And “Custom Built For Anger” is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a good while.

Of course, the album does have it flaws. Most prominently, the production quality is quite lacking. Sometimes it sounds more like it was recorded in 1992 than 2002. The mixing is weak and causes some elements to stick out in a bothersome way, while burying others amidst the noise. Certain songs sound as if all of the music is trying to fit out of one tiny speaker, the noises overlapping and turning into a dull rumble. The Chaos Engine could seal their status as one of the best acts today if only they’d raise their standard of production value and mix the album to be less… well, chaotic. Though don’t let this deter you from giving them a try. The songs may promise more than they deliver sometimes, but The Chaos Engine proves that they could take all the clichés of industrial-rock and repackage them as the album of the year.

(Wasp Factory Recordings, P.O. Box 270, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 9YE)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18 (2003)

 

Various artists

Notes From Thee Real Underground: Volume III
(Underground Inc.)

Compilations are a hard sell… It’s all a matter of economy for the most part.

The sad fact is that most content on compilations just isn’t very good and you will likely have a hard time justifying a $14 CD purchase for 1 to 3 songs by bands you actually like, depending on the broadness of your taste. If you are in the market to try new things, then the compilation might appeal to you as a good means of sampling the widest array of new music, shy of cruising the cesspit of mp3.com in the vain hope of finding gold.

If economics is the main issue, then Underground Inc. has at least seen fit to tempt you with their “Notes From Thee Real Underground” bargain-priced compilation series.

Up to its fourth volume, “Notes” (and Underground Inc./Invisible in general) is an eclectic array of avant-garde alternative,industrial, and electronic music. The series may not sit well with the average rivethead and good music must be carefully picked from the piles of refuse that litter these (usually) two-disc sets. Volume III shows off some interesting tracks from the likes of old-school industrial-rock darlings Acumen Nation, slightly kitschy but enjoyable More Machine Than Man, incredible Devo impersonators Sump Pumps (my favorite of the discs), Eye Kandy, and Emergence. Sadly, much of the rest is wholly mediocre listening, with some contributions so offensive that I contemplated piercing my eardrums with a ballpoint pen. Avoid atrocities such as irritating hip-hop artist Myself, depressing alterna-rockers Goalie, the horribly cliché Flood Damage, and musically-challenged Things Outside The Skin.

Ask yourself, are two discs of new music worth the gamble?

(Underground Inc., P.O. Box 16008 Chicago, IL 60616)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #18 (2003)

 

SMP

Terminal
(Underground Inc.)

Don’t get me wrong… I like SMP a lot. I mean, “Terminal” was, for me, the best album of 2000. Unfortunately, this is not “Terminal”. This is, in fact, a “Jason Bazinet’s greatest hits” album, collecting songs from “Terminal” and “Ultimatum”, as well as new tracks, “Acid Drop” and “Analogue Assassins”, from the “Notes From Thee Real Underground” series.

In all fairness, it isn’t quite right to even call it “Terminal”, as it contains only 9 of the original 17 tracks, having trimmed out everything touched by Sean Ivy after his departure from the band and replaced them with some of Jason’s favorites from the past two albums. A fantastic and well-balanced electro-punk-rap album now sounds very hollow in its new form.

I understand the need to release an album that you can tour behind and Underground Inc. is a great opportunity for SMP’s music to finally see daylight. And I admit tracks like “Chemicals”, “Pictures Of You”, and “Megaton” still satisfy, but this is a case of insufferable revisionist history. It doesn’t seem right to finally offer fans easy access to your album nationwide, but make no attempt to tell them that this isn’t the album they think it is. And without upbeat tracks like “Policy”, “Dirt”, “Anthem”, and “Mothkiller” on this “improved” album to balance out Jason’s more downbeat industrial-rap, this “Terminal” is inaccessible.

Fortunately for fans, ADSR Musicwerks still has copies of the original version available.

(Underground Inc., P.O. Box 16008 Chicago, IL 60616)

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #17 (2002)