Review Summary: Collide build upon their darkwave/industrial foundation, but forget to make sure the new influences work with the old.
If a band is around for enough time it is almost inevitable that they’re going to start making changes to their sound. From a creative standpoint it makes sense that musicians would start to feel limited after repeating the same formula for multiple years, and it only stands to reason that the solution is to evolve or quit. It seems apparent that, after their third album, Collide found themselves in that very situation facing the same choices. Five years and one side-project later, Collide have come back with their answer in the form of their fourth album, Two Headed Monster
The answer, of course, was to evolve their sound while still incorporating most of what attracted their initial fan base; mainly the sultry vocal style of Karin. This is obviously the ideal way to go for any band, but often something seems to go wrong during the actual execution and that is the case here. The problem with Collide’s attempt at combining the old with the new is that they just don’t work together. The previous albums’ strengths were found in layers of slow, brooding synth placed over chill industrial beats all combined to create a vessel for Karin’s sensual vocals. Certainly there was the occasional guitar riff or outburst, but those elements were always used to complement the atmosphere and Karin’s voice.
The music’s ability to complement Karin’s vocals is essential to the band’s sound because, although she is good at what she does, she doesn’t really have a strong voice. That means that songs such as “Tongue Tied & Twisted” or “Pure Bliss” are perfectly fine as long as the band is sticking to the subdued beats and dark synth-work of previous albums, but as soon as a new element such as a dominating guitar riff or obtrusively discordant noise is presented she just can’t deliver. The increased use of guitars and white noise simply drowns her out, ruins the atmosphere, and severely limits the appeal of the song. Ironically, the songs that move in a whole new direction have the opposite problem.
The problem with guitars being employed within the band’s old framework was that they destroyed the atmosphere by overriding every other element. The songs that Collide have taken in a whole new direction don’t have that problem because they’re energetic and rhythmic, and even contain some rock influence. That means that they don’t really have an atmosphere as much as they simply have a motion or rhythmic movement. In these songs the weak link is Karin’s vocals. Her thin, wispy style is great for the slow, erotic nature of past albums and she even scrapes by on songs such as “Chaotic” since it is mainly comprised of subtle synths (despite the rhythmic beat), but she is simply out of her element on all other occasions. A song such as “A Little Too Much” is quite literally a little too much for her to handle amid its Madonna-esque beats (Ray of Light
era), guitar licks and prominent choruses.
When a band decides to change their sound they should really make note of what worked previously. More so, they should take a candid look at directions that won’t work due to band member limitations; this album proves that Collide didn’t do that. The slower, standard Collide songs do well with their goth melodies over unhurried industrial beats. Those songs allow Karin’s vocals to create the sensual atmosphere that she does so well, but they’re ruined whenever another guitar riff begins dominating the music. On the other hand, it is Karin’s vocals that are out of their element within the energetic songs. Her voice simply isn’t powerful enough to compete with the new level of chaos, dance beats, and guitar riffs present and that is a shame. Basically, the new direction works without Karin’s vocals and the older style works without the new elements, but that leaves the listener with an album that never works since the two cannot be separated.