1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Although I know little about electronic or industrial music, a few bands have been with me since I was a wee little lad. With a family friend driving me to and from elementary school everyday with Covenant, Mind. In. A. Box ., Haujobb, and Epsilon Minus (among others) on the stereo, I’ve come to like, even love, some of these artists. Later we moved away from Derek, and I had no one to give me music that I enjoyed, and just listed to whatever mother listened to. Years past and occasionally one or two songs that I remembered came on from mom, though I yearned for more. Thus when I grew a little older, I started looking backwards for the music that I’d ‘lost’. Apoptygma Berzerk, the brainchild of vocalist/composer Stephen Groth, was one of the many cast out in the dark, and one that I’ve loved.
Carrying many songs that were familiar to me, Welcome To Earth is Apops’ fourth outing, released in 2000, and was one of the first albums I’ve listened to fully. This magnificent achievement features the band at a pinnacle turning point: away from Electro-Body-Music and more to experimentation, while embracing a somewhat more poppy sound. Call that statement contradictory or a paradox, but truth lies in it. Weird sonicscapes, offhand beats and mystic atmospheres intertwine with stuck-in-your-head melodies and great, loveable vocals, found in many songs on the album. Examples include Kathy’s Song (Come Lie Next To Me), which features a softer style of APBs electronic music with soft, yet upbeat beats, haunting, downtrodden vocals and a cold atmosphere, while retaining the ‘dark, yet accessible’ theme for the album. And Soultaker, a track that emphasizes harsh, pounding beats and dry sounds at the front, then explodes into the songs full, absolutely danceable melody and hook near halfway through it, then quickly dissolves to the next track, LND3 (Love Never Dies Part 3).
Accordingly, and probably intentional by Groth, it leaves the listener (like most of the tracks) awed at the amount of progression, and actual music
, that a synth-ridden, keyboard layered genre has to offer. Many, many tones are set on the album here, from sad and bleak, broken and resentful, to inspirational and happy, yuppie and giddy. A lot of that comes from Mr. Groth’s vocals, as he uses it as an instrument rather than a intercom box for his lyrics. But rather than using a falsetto, Stephen either harmonizes or tags along his vocals to his music. While not exclusive or repetitive, he hardly needs any operatic tinges; his lines are amazing with the tunes he has. It is also very soothing, a fresh voice, but can fit in with the various moods the album has to offer (angry, Soultaker, uplifting, Moment Of Tranquillity, etc.) nearly flawlessly. The last point I want to make about Stephens voice is that it's not 'fixed', or not his own. Sure, there are some takes with effects to his voice, but at the core his voice is real, making a very welcome part of a synth album.
And though enough cannot be said about Welcome To Earths’ honorable qualities, there are a few drawbacks, tedious as they are. Many of the cons of this album are due to the tracks 64k, Untitled 3, and Time To Move On. The first two mentioned are complete nonsense; hardly any actual music lies therein, just spoken samples of people over some score (Untitled 3), or is simply not up to par to the rest of the album (64k). It would be fine if they would be somewhat like Radioheads’ Fitter Happier, but they hold no water at all and fluster the flow of the album. Time To Move On also falters because of a ten-minute silence followed by a two minute happening of crazy, directionless techno. While the fun, mindless techno isn’t completely worthless, it’s the ten-minute wait for it. Waiting awhile for a few minutes of absurdity that has no connection or similarity to the album is not something many will appreciate for. But that’s what hidden tracks are for, right? Well, if it’s to another song
, not a babble of fast techno.
However, the rest of the album, being ten tracks, does take command hundreds of times over. Containing structured, catchy melodies, dark, melancholic takes, an incredible voice, lots of well-executed progressions, and an overall accessible, yet not sacrificing musical integrity or values, Apoptygma Berzerk creates an opus on Welcome To Earth, a worthy look-into and a rewarding listen even if you might have a passing interest.