Review Summary: An aptly titled album, Welcome to the Horror Show is densely packed with electronic, danceable beats and seductively cinematic hooks.
It’s important to broaden one’s horizons every now and again, so on a whim I bought an Anders Manga album. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. What I found in Welcome to the Horror Show
was a rich feast of haunting electronica, a soundtrack to a movie never made.
Now, the album is hardly a genre-redefining masterpiece, but it does what it sets out to do, and damn does it do well. Beats are pretty standard, but electronica was never about complex, indecipherable rhythms like Rush, it’s about groove and finding something you can dance to. And I assure you that you will be grooving to this for days on end.
What sets Anders apart from many of his contemporaries is his darkly cinematic songwriting, smoky baritone voice, and unusual sense of melody. You’ll notice immediately with the opening song of the album, The Shrine
. The synth heavy, pulsating track with its catchy hooks and Anders’ sinister moaning sets the tone perfectly.
The title track is quite a stand-out song in its own right with a haunting piano melody interspersed throughout, creating a feeling of barely restrained urgency. The lyrics in the verses show a clever rhyming scheme with repetition for reinforcement, and then opening into a melodic chorus that will remain stuck in your head no matter what.
Another highlight to the album is Residual Fear
, a highly danceable tune with multiple hooks and a sinister air. Listen closely in the chorus for the theramin in the background. In the verses, Anders carries the melody with his voice, but that’s not to say that the instruments are slouching. Quite the contrary, this is one of the most musically impressive tracks on the album along with the title track, Welcome to the Horror Show
By the time you get to the start-stop rhythms of Beautiful
, you begin to see another recurring pattern to Anders’ music. He’s a true wizard in the studio, utilizing his voice as if it were another electronic instrument. Pitch shifters and multi-tracking allow him to harmonize with himself, while phase shifters, reverb, and other engineering tricks lend inhuman qualities to his voice at specific passages of the music, elevating the otherworldly vibe of the music overall.
Speaking of Them
, this one is worth noting as it maintains the characteristic sounds of the rest of the album, but also seems to flirt with Industrial in its rhythms and choice of synth effects.
Half-way through the album is the only instrumental track on the album, 5150
. This is actually a surprisingly minimalist track carried almost entirely by a piano solo backed by a series of sampled sound effects, such as the omnipresent sound of an old-fashioned film projector. Among an entire album of densely layered synths, heavily engineered vocals, and cryptic lyrics, this stands as perhaps one of the most enigmatic songs on the album simply because of what it [i]doesn’t[/b] say. It’s also worth pointing out that this track is placed appropriately in the album as it provides a stark demarcation between the intensity of Residual Fear
and the more low-key half of the album beginning with Here
and You Should Be Dead By Now
is one of the weaker tracks on the album. It drags on about a minute longer than it needs to, and lacks the variety of other tracks on the album.
Lovely Sort of Death
has more of the energy of the previous tracks, but doesn’t stand out quite as noticeably. Anders’ Ian Curtis-esque moans elevate slightly above the herd, but it remains one of the lower points of the album.
The penultimate track is the only ballad on the album and also the only cover. The Mercy Seat
was originally written by Nick Cave and was an exceptionally creepy story, but in the hands of Anders Manga it takes on an even darker, more sinister sound than ever before. The lyrics describe the story of a man on death row weighing the nature of truth and lies as he is lead to the electric chair and prepares to face his final judgment as the current begins to run through and stop his heart.
Without a doubt, The Mercy Seat
is the heaviest song on the album in terms of lyrical content, and a cover that equals the original.
The album closes with You Should Be Dead By Now
which meets the slower pace of songs like The Mercy Seat
and the up-tempo assault of Residual Fear
half way. A highly danceable track, it’s over unexpectedly and ends the album on a rather tense note.
All together, Welcome to the Horror Show
is not Anders’ most diverse album (that would be 2007’s Blood Lush
), but it is a compelling, groovy album of hauntingly seductive dance music and electronica. If you’re looking for something new with an infectious sound, a highly recommend this.