Review Summary: Wes Borland and friends deliver an unrestrained, and exposed album of electronica, industrial and hard rock fusion.
‘Cruel Melody’ is the first installment released from the Black Light Burns, the project masterminded by ex-Limp Bizkit song writer/guitarist, Wes Borland. Whilst Wes has stepped to the front of the stage and taken the lead on most aspects of the project, other industry big names are also involved. These include ex-NIN / APC band member Danny Lohner, also the albums producer, current NIN drummer Josh Freese and sound designer Josh Eustice. Whilst many may remember Borland’s efforts in Limp Bizkit, his recent involvement with Danny Lohner in the production and remixing of components of the ‘Underworld’ motion picture soundtrack indicates his intensions to move from the nu-metal genre that made him famous, to the growing semi-industrial complex area of music dominated over years by such acts as NIN, Orgy and the emerging Puscifer. To review this album I will dissect each song separately:
‘Mesopotamia’ - the song said to have come to Borland in a dream so vividly that he had to wake and write it immediately. Pounding repetitious drums, hypnotic guitar and bass riffs and Borland’s circus ring master vocal still welcome us to his new pet project. As the song unfolds I am greatly reminded of ‘Millionaire’ from QOTSA’s Songs for the Deaf. Whilst many may see this song as boring, subtle changes in drum timing, vocal delivery and altering background noises are effective at capturing the listener. 4 / 5
Lyrics – I’ve never know another city to burn
Animal – sexy and sleazy electronica best describes the second song on the album. The use of programming and multi-track is on full display, with the resulting product running closely with Muse’s ‘Super Massive Black Hole’. Ensure that this song is heard in a good set of headphones so that the unbelievable drum solo is truly experienced, one word amazing. 4 / 5
Lyrics – I thought I was above you, I hate that I love you.
Lie – the first single released from the album, Lie is one of the albums better all-round performances. For fans of the guitar sound and style from Limp Bizkit, this is the song to listen to. Lie features ex-NIN members Danny Lohner on Bass and additional programming by Charlie Clouser, both which benefit the song and along Borland to focus on other aspects i.e. Vocals. A much fuller sound musical, accompanied by a better vocal performance by Borland on display. 4.5 / 5
Lyrics – Cause confidence is key, when violating trust
Coward – the second song of the album to feature the efforts of producer Danny Lohner on guitar and bass, and the guest vocals of Sonny Rivers. Coward is the first low point of the album. The pace and feel of the song feels more like a track lost from the most recent Linkin Park album. Whilst still clean and well produced, this background does highlight Borland’s limited vocal range. 2 / 5
Lyrics – I’m aching for you, but you’re bound to bleed if I adore you
Cruel Melody – the albums title track is a disturbing ballad. The eclectic atmosphere of the song does appear to act as a playground for Borland and his new found freedom, and it works. The introduction of an acoustic guitar, haunting backing vocals care of Carina round and Borland’s pleas towards the ending to ‘take him away’ take a song from a very meek beginning to a very unsettling ending. Listen for the applause at the end. 3.5 / 5
Lyrics – Take me away, I might as well be yours.
The Mark – Potentially a major single from the album The Mark incorporates many elements from previous songs. The hard edged guitar and bass return, precision drumming and Borland’s unique vocal style emerges again. The electronica previously shown is shelved for a full rock assault. 4.5 / 5
Lyrics – Sometimes you kinda have to get lost, if you’re ever gonna find your way back to where you came from
I Have A Need – Features ex-Limp Bizkit band mate Sam Rivers on bass, however even with such a talent this is another low point in the album. Again much like ‘Coward’, ‘I Have A Need’ is a well produced, planned and executed song, yet never captures the listener. The slow pace of the song with Borland’s vocals causes the song to drag. The songs major highlight is the juxtapositioning of an atmospheric guitar solo and programming with full rock drums. 1.5 / 5
Lyrics – This dark fever is unstoppable, this burning chill is unstoppable
4 Walls – Limp Bizkit minus Fred Durst is ‘4 Walls’ straight away. Overdriven not distorted guitar, up tempo vocals, exploding nu-metal chorus, refined low instrumental bridge with explosive outro. This song feels as if Borland was ready for this to be taken to his former band, yet pulled it back at the last moment. A good song but hard to hear without thinking of Fred. 3 / 5
Lyrics – I’ll keep digging down deeper in you until I find what makes you scream
Stop A Bullet - The influence of NIN members past and present can be felt in this dark sample based song. Comparisons between The Downward Spirals ‘Eraser’ can be drawn for the majority of this track. The repetitive drums, distorted wall of synth noise covering the songs background layered with Borland’s drone vocals are broken for the songs break down and final chorus by a similar guitar sound to that heard in ‘4 Walls’. The final section of the song almost sounds to be punctuated by brass. 3 / 5
Lyrics – You can’t stop a bullet, I’m giving you my trigger but you better never pull it.
One Of Yours – Wes Borland 101 guitar opens ‘One Of Yours’. Fast, overdriven, almost out of tune, naked guitar coupled with sharp, dramatic keys intrigues the listener drawing them in. Quiet possibly the best song on the album, ‘One Of Yours’ encapsulates the entire Cruel Melody album. Well constructed melodies not quite executed, obscure unique and yet predictable guitar and bass combinations, precision drumming, with intriguing use of synth. 4.5 / 5
Lyrics – What if one of yours turned a color you didn’t mean for it to be.
New Hunger – ‘You wanna swim with us, you got to get to the water’, are many listens to this album this line is what sticks in my head. An almost entirely electronic song aside from drums and strings, ‘New Hunger’ is a beautifully produced recording with multiple layers to enjoy. Haunting ‘lullaby-ish’ samples with pained vocals create an environment that washes over you. 4 / 5
Lyrics - You wanna swim with us, you got to get to the water.
I Am Where It Takes Me – Featuring Johnette Napolitano, this song to me has the greatest disappoint of the album. Borland attempts to construct an un-nerving ballad driven by powerful vocal performances. Whilst every aspect is achieved it is Borland’s own vocal range which drags this song down. Napolitano’s voice with distant drum and synth sounds is quite beautiful and makes the song a must hear. 2.5 / 5
Lyrics – I run, it follows, I speak, it swallows, I am where it takes me, I love, it breaks me.
Iodine Sky – The final song is sound scape. However do not let this deter you; the feeling created is that of a fallen world/metropolis and the realization of an end point. To stand on the balcony of a sky scraper in the movie, Bladerunner is to experience ‘Iodine Sky’. Subtle, distant ringing, multiple revolving layers ensure a full sound is witnessed. The length and monotonous nature of the song can become overwhelming and are the only draw backs to a finely crafted ending.
3 / 5
- Extremely well produced and constructed album with out going over the top
- Borland brings a new element to the musical table as a front man
- No Fred Durst
- Collaborations predominately benefit the album
- Borland’s limited ability as a front man
- Some trademark Borland performances
- Trent Reznor aside, one man struggles to achieve a high level of consistency in every facet of every song. Some elements are sacrificed.
-One of Yours
Black Light Burns is:
Wes Borland: Vocals / Guitar / Bass / Programming / Percussion / Synths / Piano / Rhodes /Violin / Cello / Drums
Danny Lohner: Additional Guitar and Bass / Programming / Sound Design
Josh Eustice: Synths / Sound Design
Josh Freese: Drums / Percussion
Wes Borland: Vocals and Guitar
Marshall Kilpatrick: Drums
Nick Annis: Guitar
Sean Fetterman: Bass