Review Summary: Zeromancer come in from the cold.
‘I used to like them till they changed/got big/went mainstream…’ is the saying of disenchanted fan, alienated from a band they once admired. Unfortunately over the course of a bands career, a body of their fan base will utter these words. I was one of these fans, and Zeromancer was the band. Following the bands 2003 release, Zzyzx, which saw a departure from the dark-angst ridden industrial rock sound I had adored, I felt as if I had lost a good friend. It wasn’t that Zzyzx is a terrible album; it is more that the album moves away from the core elements that firstly attracted me to the band. Thankfully, 7 years later my friend has returned. Borrowing emotionally from NIN’s ‘Broken EP’ and Orgy’s ‘Candyass’, and combining it with the seductive appeal of Marilyn Manson’s ‘Mechanical Animals’, ‘The Death of Romance’ is Zeromancer returning to a sound that initially gained the band the attention of Trent Reznor and Nothing Records over a decade ago.
The chilling opening track, 2.6.25, features a sample from a female cellmate of a former member of the Manson family. The grotesque description of an individual’s derived pleasure sets the scene for the upcoming themes of the album. ‘Industrypeople’ and ‘The Hate Alphabet’ together are a cathartic release of anger from someone burnt. Infectious hooks, ‘Wont let this stand in our way’ (Industrypeople) and anthemic choruses ‘I hate you in a loving way, but I bet you don’t feel that way’ (The Hate Alphabet), both backed by hypnotic synth, driving drums and seductive guitar licks, provided a 1-2 combo and show a return to the bands core elements. These musical and lyrical qualities are continued through ‘Murder Sound’ and the relentless, ‘Revenge***’.
Interestingly, in much the same mould of industrial rock pioneer NIN, Zeromancer are accustomed to a two tiered song writing approach; combining all out aggressive tracks with slow burning, yet just-as-aggressive tracks. Moklebust delivers his most impressive vocal performance on the contemplative ‘Mint’. The unsheathing of his vocals from the number of filters/modulators the audience has grown accustomed too creates a vulnerability and sincerity that is reminiscent of NIN’s epic ‘The Day The World Went Away’.
However what stops ‘The Death of Romance’ from a truly great album appears to be a lack of commitment. High energy, driving tracks accompanied by well-constructed ballad-esqe numbers, is Zeromancer to a tea. It is when the band falls between these that issues arise. The mid-paced album closer, ‘V’ is a prime example. In a track in which it feels as if no instrument wants to actually take the lead, Moklebust gives us enough horrible word play to make Marilyn Manson cringe. You want to dance along, but the beat isn’t full enough, you want to sing along but the lyrics are bland, shallow and derived, leaving you with just the skip button. Similar, the albums title track feels like a number of leftover pieces clicked together eventually into a song which struggles to find the right tempo and flow. And again, lyrically the hooks don’t hook and leave you wanting to skip to the next track. The worst thing about these tracks though is that they both disrupt the flow of the album and leave a sour taste in the audience’s mouth. The lesson to take away is: Never finish an album on your weakest number.
Overall though, The Death to Romance is a positive step back in the right direction for such an influential band. While many of their contempories have since moved on Zeromancer decided they still had what was needed to craft a good album. Reconnecting with the core elements that brought them respect and a cult like fan base shows that no matter what fans should never lose faith.