Review Summary: This EP falls immensely short of its full potential and wallows in its own shortcomings.
Once upon a time, I loved Celldweller. While Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor struggled to recreate the critical success that initially stemmed from NIN's crown jewel, 'The Fragile', Celldweller took the helm of industrial rock and steered the genre into fresh territory. In 2003, Celldweller's Scott Albert (known as 'Klayton' among diehard Celldweller fans) single-handedly created one of the most unique and technically impressive albums in industrial rock. The self-titled album has aged particularly well, and it stands as a monument to a golden genre that has since been devoured by innumerable dubstep artists and post-era wannabes.
But the times have changed and, unfortunately, so has Celldweller.
I greatly enjoyed 'Wish Upon a Blackstar' due to the album's impressive amount of polish and refinement, but I couldn't help but wonder if Celldweller was headed down a dark, dreary path when the album was released in 2008. Sure, Scott Al... er, Klayton, demonstrated his command of electronic music in such a way that puts even Skrillex to shame. And sure, each song on 'Wish Upon a Blackstar" was masterfully crafted and proved rewarding with each and every listening experience. Regardless, I couldn't shake the feeling that Celldweller was being sucked into a massive wormhole leading to a synthetic wonderland with an overabundance of dropped basses and cliched electronica. Celldweller has released a handful of lackluster songs since 2008, but even the redundant and generally uninteresting singles such as 'Tough Guy' or 'Meteorite' are a cut above what Klayton has done with his new EP, 'Blackstar Act One: Purified'.
The EP boots up with 'Retros', an electronic ditty that sounds like it was ripped straight from the 'Mass Effect' soundtrack. A cheesy voice utters the word 'Retros' all throughout the song, and the synthesizers are painfully repetitive and unoriginal. Now, before I continue, yes, I understand that this EP was written as a soundtrack of sorts for a novel based on Celldweller fiction. However, there is nothing preventing Celldweller from creating a soundtrack that is relevant to both the novel and the casual listener. Coheed and Cambria does an excellent job with their soundtrack/album hybrids, so I refuse to excuse the shortcomings of 'Blackstar Act One: Purified' simply because I'm not listening to it within the correct context.
Moving on, 'Purified' is just as predictable and uninteresting as 'Retros'. The song falls into the trappings of mainstream dubstep and offers little in regards to originality or quality. This song is essentially a rehash of the dubstep/electronica segments from 'Wish Upon a Blackstar', but the intricate songwriting and polish is missing. Next up is 'A Dystopian Utopia', which is purely atmospheric and doesn't have any real instrumentation to speak of. The track has a dense, dark vibe and is pleasant to the ears, but there isn't enough substance here to warrant more than a single listen.
'The Possibilities of Purpose' reverts back to the overused futuristic synthesizers found in 'Retros', and Klayton opted to include power-drums reminisce of the percussion used by varying pop bands from the 80's. The result is clash of sounds that is genuinely unpleasant to listen to, and the track has a seven-minute runtime to boot. Similar to the earlier track 'A Dystopian Utopia', 'On the Surface of Scardonia' is purely an atmospheric song that primarily consists of background noise and nothing else. There is absolutely no reason to listen to this fourteen-minute track, and I'm still baffled as to why it was even included on the EP.
'Blackstar Act One: Purified' is a huge step back for Celldweller. Even as a soundtrack for a novel, this EP falls immensely short of its full potential and wallows in its own shortcomings. Does Klayton need to go 'back to basics' in regards to the style of his music? I don't know. Regardless, Klayton needs to drastically alter his approach to Celldweller if he plans for his music to be relevant for the remainder of the decade.