Review Summary: As with most albums in the genre there are a few misses, but this is not an album to be ignored by any means.
Apoptygma Berserk (also known as APOP) has been dishing out some of the best tracks and remixes in the futurepop scene since their debut albumSolia Deo Gloria
in 1993. Being a late comer to the musical prowess of APOP my introduction to the band came in the form of the absolutely wonderful form of “Kathy's Song” and “Unicorn,” both of which still remain some of my favorite tracks to date. This lead to a hard fought love affair, with me trying to find a way to procure the vast majority of the bands discography. After much searching my local DJ mentioned that he had most of APOP's albums and live recordings, and I've been enjoying the audio bliss ever since.
is the bands fourth studio album, and surprisingly enough there was some controversy over the album; long time fans were annoyed at the “mainstream” appeal that some of the tracks received while others praised the more personal lyrics due to lead singer Stephan Groth's (then) recent divorce. Personally I could care less about the fans infighting, as Harmonizer
has a lot of excellence to offer.
The album opens “More Serotonin...Please” that at first glance seems repetative, yet as synths are layered on it builds into a wonderful introduction to “Suffer In Silence.” The song rides high on Groths unique intonation, making lines like “I said enough/please help me hide from the ghosts/from my past/for awhile” have an ambiguous quality rather than fall into the often sad path that seems to pervade most futurepop albums. With a running time of nearly six minutes the track could easily overstay its welcome if it weren't for the afore mentioned layered synths, making “Suffer In Silence” more than just a blasé opening track.
The synths are a strong, driving force behind every track as personal favorite “Rollergirl” illustrates. The track opens with a repeated beat/synth combo interlaced at intervals with electronic chimes. The distorted vocals add to the sense that this a track perfectly at home with technology, and when the moans of a nameless girl enter the mix around the 2:10 mark it doesn't feel sleazy or like something from a Combichrist track. The lyrics are strongly centered around love, “Rollergirl” succeeds at combining fun and sentimentality together into one package.
Towards the end of the album “Something I Should Know” stands out, reminding me heavily of 80's-early 90's Depeche Mode. Opening in relative silence the band succeeds at making the listener complacent, only to have a high-low pitched synthline, a simple overlaid beat, and distinct distorted synths bring the audience once more into the bands grasp. The vocals enter with “I've got a feeling that tells me somethings wrong/I guess I'm just jealous/I'm afraid you know something I should know” and once again Groth uses his intonation to add depth to the music; combined with its upbeat nature “Something I Should Know” oozes happiness.
Depending on the version of the album Harmonizer
can have up to four versions of “Unicorn” featured proudly throughout, and still the album remains diverse. Standing high on Groths vocal delivery, song writing, and the bands masterful use of synths Harmonizer
simply excels, and in reality the only prominent complaint I can see fans of the genre having is that “Unicorn” is featured so many times and “Detroit Tickets” seems out of context in relation to the entire album. A futurepop offering with emotions other than the two that have come to be associated with the majority of the genre is a welcome change of pace, and both Apoptygma Berserk and Harmonizer
deliver in that regard.