Review Summary: Remarkably well-crafted, Fun With Knives’ groundbreaking electro-industrial aggression would go to help define what Industrial music is all about. With plenty of channeled rage, aggression, and malice, the album also packs plenty of substance with expe3 of 3 thought this review was well written
It’s hard to dispute the impact that Velvet Acid Christ had on the emerging industrial scene in the late 1990s-early 2000s, for VAC on Industrial music were practically synonymous. But, Bryan Erickson was not some newbie to the industrial scene. He had established himself early on as powerful musician capable of producing stunning (yet not innovating) music. Fun With Knives is a testament what VAC can be at the top of his form; aggressive, danceable, stunning, sad, sadistic, spooky, and memorable.
Thematically, the album is very in line with Bryan Erickson’s history at the time of the album’s release: he was an avid drug abuser, so it should come as no surprise that the topics of drug-abuse, self- hatred, political abuse, emotional pain (and violent retaliation to such), and serial killers (surprise surprise) make their appearance. Unfortunately, the album tends to shift its thematic tone without much preparation for the listener, so shifting from self-loathing to religious bashing isn’t as smooth of a transition as it should be. Another important thing to note is that when the lyrics aren’t being aggressive, moody, mournful, or hateful, they are being dreadful. But, when you’re on the dance floor, lyrical themes probably don’t hold their weight as much as they would elsewhere, considering that Erickson uses the same unintelligible distortion effects for every song.
With that being said, today, this album probably doesn’t pack the punch it once did. Usually, when a musician sets a high bar, or manages to become has widely known as VAC, other groups form and copy the sound. Today, 4-to-the-floor beats, heavy synths, distorted vocals, and movie-sampling has now almost become a gimmick. Fun With Knives does not retain all of its former glory, but it’s not hard to appreciate the album for what it once was: an amazing testament to what industrial music could be.
The album starts off with the atmospheric Decyhper, and this song manages to showcase the album in such a fantastic manner. The cynical, aggressive lyrics are accompanied by moody synths and spacey pads that do justice for the ‘Acid’ portion of the band name. The depressing dance-epic Icon is filled with layers of mournful aversion, as is the instrumental The Dark Inside Me. The hidden Track 66 is also an respectable dance track is appropriate samples from plenty of respectable science-fiction films, but it does little for the album overall. Fun With Drugs’ wanton abuse of movie-samples from Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas only go to strengthen the song’s themes of abuse and excess. The surprising Slut showcases the softer side of Velvet Acid Christ with soft overtones and female vocals, (this style of VAC is unfortunately underexplored). However, not all is perfect. The brooding hatred of the religion-bashing (and melodically tragic) There Is No God almost becomes too much. The spastic Speedball O.D. sounds a bit ridiculous the first listen through. The title track Fun With Knives is a bit intense, but it doesn’t really do anything surprising. The worst song on the album is the dreadful Psycho. The whole song is a painful juggling act between lyrics and grinding industrial melodies that switch up so much that making it to the end of the 6 and ½ minute song is too much of a chore to be likeable.
Thankfully, the good moments outweigh the bad. The finer parts of this album are enough to hook you on tightly. Fun With Knives, despite its shortcomings, is an incredibly good electro-industrial album that highlights why Velvet Acid Christ was a such a force to be reckoned with. Even if the band never returns to the highest set by this and following records, Bryan Erickson definitely earned his place in the history for the electro-industrial scene. Fun With Knives is a prime example of the power of Velvet Acid Christ, and it should not be passed up.