Review Summary: Driving Insane doesn't come off as a debut album for any type of artist because it mixes elements perfectly well without sounding stale and overwrought.
While the title is aptly named Driving Insane
it still uses its jungle elements in a fantastic and paced way, but to specifically call this a jungle period piece would not be sufficient. For one the scene has faltered after its height in the mid 1990's and secondly there are too many different instances on Driving Insane
that make it more of a modern drum and bass album than an old school jungle relic. The terms can be debated by anybody and while there isn't a clear definition of jungle and the difference between it with drum and bass they are no doubt closely related to each other. Some saying jungle has spawned drum and bass after its decline around the mid-90's. To keep it simple it would be best to call Black Sun Empire's debut somewhat of a homage to its earlier roots that dominated for only a few years and what would wildly evolve in the second half of the 90's and later in the new millennium.
The compositions are strictly instrumental (samples are only in the title track) and add a hint of dark atmosphere, but not to the point of succumbing the album into that limited spectrum. A few bass-less areas are fleshed into and transpire to burst with a more lively energetic drum and bass. Black Sun Empire approach most of these songs with a quiet confidence, it's evident because the tracks here evolve with a simple few drum beats into a beast of breaks and bass lines. The album as a whole conjoins practically flawlessly, but for most listeners it may be too closely stitched together to merit too much praise.
Honestly what is most frustrating of any type of drum and bass artist is the fact they really have no idea how to pace themselves. Black Sun Empire instantly keep the tempo in check; earliest showings can be seen in "B'Negative" where the bass line sticks to its movement, but the drum beats bpm increases and subsides in the right moments. And you need this type of composure when dealing with the patient listener, if not then they can disregard it in an instant as a mash-up of how quick can you make the beats go, sort of reminding me of several Venetian Snare affairs. There are a few distinguishing features that make the 6 minute 30 second average track time worthwhile. This isn't a repetitive, alike song structure setups as most listeners seem to hear when going through some DNB artists. In fact it's far from it. Sure the drum breaks are apparent, it's practically what makes it the stated genre, but Black Sun Empire mix with low driven bass lines and an all-around ambient overtone in "The Rat" (Kemal Reix) and more traditional DNB methods with its introduction to the album "Arrakis". Black Sun Empire shift their movements seamlessly within their first album as it if it was second nature, top hat hits are more prevalent after the first half of the album and you can instantly hear it. "Stasis" plays beautifully, introducing synth notes 4 minutes in to a silent, short, and calming section until it breaks out with more quick-fired beats.
When comparing Driving Insane
to their contemporaries they match up well and obviously have a knack for mixing ambient sub passages within a highly complex structured drum and bass album. It's an amazingly strong showing for a first outing and the album evolves from a standard DNB moment with "Arrakis" to a more complex and organized mixture of ambient tones within "Boris The Blade", "Stasis" and "The Rat". The trip may be a bit overwhelming by the average track time on Driving Insane
, but Black Sun Empire's introduce themselves as skillful players in the DNB game.