Review Summary: Screw thinking, I'll be out dancing.
It is often said that formulaic music is the death of creativity. Never really defended with evidence, these words often fly from the mouths of those who hate Dragonforce. Yet, there is something seriously wrong with this sentiment, and Pendulum’s Immersion is a perfect example of why they can be successful within a certain framework. Pendulum are a drum and bass/rock band from Australia. They have a specific blueprint with which they create their music, at least for this album. This consists of a slowly building introduction, catchy opening melody, an even quieter build, and finally an explosion of synth and bass tones. Every sound is meticulously produced, as the searing tones fly high over the rumbling of the kick-drum/bass line. The song, then, will transition, maybe switch time, and end on a tone that allows for easy transition into the next. While it would be difficult to argue that this pattern carries every single song, it would be much easier to state that this formula is a dominant theme throughout the work.
At this point, the purists would have their opportunity to jump in. With accusations of monotony, as soon as the recipe is identified the work is disregarded. At the same time, however, Pendulum have an ace up their collective sleeve. This album is catchy to the point of ridiculousness. Every melody soars, every bass throbs, and every chance for an anthemic chorus is taken. Almost to the point of cheese, the lead synth lines jump out and demand attention, while at the same time either a simple 4/4 house or jazzy drum and bass beat keeps the listener distracted with cascading low-mid tones. Pendulum are known for their live shows, and with this evidence it should be easy to see why.
The album is what it is: fun, predictable dance music. At some point, the choice must be made whether musical equations add or detract from the work’s reception. All music relies on some kind of formula; yes, even Yes. Even if the outward product is new and innovative, at its very core music is composed using micro-patterns. Chords are simply two patterned notes played for a certain effect. Certain passages evoke certain emotions, and are designed to do just that. While some bands abuse this foundation, all bands rely on it for structure and sensibility. A formula is what we use to package our music into neat little boxes; through this, music is sorted, identified, categorized, and ultimately divided.
Which box will Pendulum find themselves in? A few, actually. While the d&b and rock boxes are easy choices, multiple influences project themselves on this work. Their recent work with their dubstep side-project Knife Party got an early showcase in the middle section of Salt In the Wounds, with a slowed 2-step tempo switch for just enough time to be interesting. Crush clearly has some sort of ties to punk, with the steady riff galloping under Rob Swire’s vocals. Songs with both melodeath legends In Flames and prog-mastermind Steven Wilson display their own respective influences, and convey mixed results. Self vs. Self, the track featuring In Flames, functions on at least a vague level because it keeps with the hard rock formula, even if it really is just an In Flames song featuring Swire. The Fountain, on the other hand, is almost a pop song and sticks out like a frail thumb. With so many to choose from, its a wonder how they limited themselves to their blueprint while poking new territory at the same time. With this formula and list of influences in hand, Pendulum seems to have struck commercial gold. While they count their gold coins, I’ll be out dancing.