Review Summary: 16Volt return with the most consistent and diverse album of their career. Crushing industrial delivered in a post punk wrapper.
When I first received this album I didn’t really have a lot of time to listen to it. I think I may have played the first song and possibly the second, at most. My first impressions were that this was a total let-down. Here was a band that had released four albums of crushing industrial delivered through a gritty post punk wrapper and suddenly they sounded weak and uninspired. I have to admit that I only made it through the first three tracks the next few times I played this, and from there I started to develop the review in my head. I was fully prepared to drop such overused clichés as “phoning it in” and “oh, how the mighty have fallen” without shame. I was going to compare their new sound to the mainstream approach of Filter
except without the good songwriting, adequate vocalist, or energy. Of course, I completely intended on eventually forcing myself through the rest of the album, but I figured that it was going to be more of the same and that the review was pretty much already written itself in my head.
I finally gave in to the fact that in order to adequately review this I needed to force myself through the entire album at least once. As I had a few times in the past, I struggled through the first three tracks while hoping that the album would be short. The problem is that once the fourth track started playing, the album did a complete 180 and it continued down this path for the rest of its duration. This left me conflicted since I now had an album that was just as cool as their older stuff, but I also had a fairly complete review that was now total ***. I decided to compromise by not trying to write another professional-style review, and instead tell a story of how laziness and pre-conceived notions can bite you in the ass. I can’t really explain why the band would include the first three tracks at all (except to throw off assholes like me), but when the title track kicks in it’s totally apparent that they have returned with another great album.
Not only did they return with a great new album, they also continued to further push the evolution of their sound. 16Volt had always delivered their brand of industrial through a post punk filter (think Pandemonium
-era Killing Joke
), but their sound was still cold and mechanical. On this album, the band took on a more organic sound that owes as much to post punk as it does the alt. industrial of bands such as Stabbing Westward
and Machines of Loving Grace
. The riffs aren’t simply crushing walls of sound anymore and, instead, have their own identities that can be catchy one moment and gritty the next. This change, on its own, could have solved one of the band’s biggest problems (the tendency for their albums to become repetitive), but it wasn’t the only adjustment they made – the band’s songwriting has also improved immensely since SuperCoolNothing
(I know there’s an album between that one and this one, but I’ve never heard it).
The song writing has improved in a number of ways, but the most prominent enhancement is through the band’s improved use of electronics and beats which more fully integrate with the songs. Also, they’ve diversified the types of songs present on the album. In the past it seemed that the band knew how to write two types of songs – crushing industrial anthems and plodding mellow tracks. They still have plenty of heavy industrial songs, but they’ve also learned how to create mellow tracks (such as “It Turns All Bad”) that aren’t boring. In addition, they’ve got a new type of song that takes a more mainstream approach to their sound. Songs such as “To Hell” take high-energy beats, strong vocal melodies, and catchy choruses and combine them to create songs that would appeal to the mainstream industrial crowd (those that believe that Static X should be anywhere on a top industrial list). The only real problem with this album (besides those three opening tracks) is its overall length. Despite every song being good (except the obvious exclusions), the album ultimately ends up suffering from its overly-long run time. At fifteen tracks, it could have benefited from the removal of about five songs in order to lend it a punchier, more direct feel.
Pre-conceived notions are a bitch. Based on the merit of the first three tracks, this album is a complete failure. They feel like watered-down Filter tracks that Richard Patrick would never even consider using. The problem is that they don’t end up being representative of the album at all. The rest of the album is a great continuation of the band’s sound, but with a stronger sense of songwriting, more developed riffs and a lot more diversity. This is an album that uses the cold, sterile electronics of industrial as its base but delivers them with intensity and punk attitude, as well as a powerful, organic sound. This is an album that proves, once again, that all the hype that has been thrown at this band since its inception is justified and is well worth picking up for anyone into industrial metal that’s looking for a little more effort in the songwriting department.