Review Summary: It won't have you eating worms.
Desperation is like a cancer. It eats at you, pervading your every thought, action, and motive. Whatever you’re desperate for is what you are consumed by, impassioned by. No matter what emotion that desperation causes, it will invade every little nook and cranny of your life. So, if you’re struggling with both a drug and pornography addiction that you’re losing your life to, you’re probably desperate to escape as soon as possible. Enter TD Benton, the Ringleader, lead vocalist, and percussionist of industrial rock group White Collar Sideshow. The whole band is devoted to drawing attention to the darkest parts of our lives, parts we hide behind closed doors, and exposing them so they no longer make us so guilty. Thus, you will be uncomfortable at some point listening to The WitchHunt
, because it’s extremely convicting, disturbing, and haunting. However, you’ll be relieved that somebody else wants point out addiction for the hellish habit that it can become, so you’ll be roped in nonetheless.
On the band’s self-titled EP, this haunting tone was still present. However, other than a few key moments, desperation wasn’t. The band didn’t seem emotional enough to fully convey their ideas, and this was mainly due to lack of actual vocals. That’s different this time around. In the fashion of Trent Reznor, TD switches from animalistic yelps to disturbing yet calming clean vocals. He doesn’t scream at the harsher parts per say, but he’s definitely using harsher vocals. Through Benton, it’s plainly obvious that he’s been through hell and wants to prevent other people from the same hell, making him trusting and “everyman.” At no point does he convey the “holier-than-thou” edge that some Christian can give off (Mattie Montgomery can tend to border on this), which is fitting due to the dark subject matter. In addition to a new vocal approach, two new members joined the show for this album. Keyboardist/programmer Brandi and new percussionist The Leech (TD and Veronica’s teenage son Tristan) expand upon the unique formula from the EP without causing it to become stale, especially Brandi. As for bassist The Faceless Woman (Veronica Benton), she still plays a prominent role, and also experiments with synthesized bass and deeper tones. Drummer Herr Schwein basically just does what he did last time around, but it’s hard to notice that.
“Monster Me” is uncommonly unique, but it works. The foundation of this construct is classic WCS percussion and drums, but there’s also some synthesized bass, and even a NIN-esque programmed section that’s jumpy and exciting, yet also calming and soothing. Both “American Lies” and “Go Eat Worms” are literally inflamed with rage, as all three percussionists beat pretty much everything from trash cans and empty bottles to conventional drums with conviction, and Benton growls darkly and miserably. “Go Eat Worms” is the closest he’s ever come to screaming, and it works incredibly well. The last of the harder rockers is “Black Heart Hearse” and though the title is repeated ad nauseum, the music makes up for the lack of lyrical creativity. “This Is A Kill” actually begins with some church organ and creepy electronics and bass, which is new for the group and a nice change, though the breakdown in the middle racks straight back into the self-title’s chaotic hurricane-like force. “Moonshine” is predominatly dominated by electronics and a funky, tribal dance beat that even feels poppy. Finally, “Light Up The Dead” stands out because it actually uses an actual electric guitar, and though the guitarist isn’t credited, the punky, John 5-esque riff burns through the song and ends the album brilliantly.
If you watch only one interview with the members of WCS, they’ll tell you they aren’t afraid to shy from hard topics. They don’t want to be Christians who can’t relate to nonbelivers, but rather want to reach the world. So, though both “God” and “Lord” are used throughout the record, most of the lyrics reside in the neutral territory. “American Lies” deals with the war inside with the person you never want to become, the nightmare you never want to accept, but you eventually accept anyways. “Go Eat Worms” rages against Satan, and accuses him of “raping my mind” with porn and drugs, and effectively ruining TD’s life. The pulsating electronics that duel with his vocals in the chorus work perfectly, as a sidenote. Similar to “A Shameless Apprentice” from White Collar Sideshow EP
, “Watch Your Thoughts” is a short, minute-long lesson about guarding your thoughts from evil, because your character is formed by your thoughts. Though this is deeply personal, White Collar Sideshow’s refusal to back away from dark content because they care about their listeners is refreshing.
It’s pervasively dark, slightly creepy, and overbearingly uncomfortable. However, similar to Reznor’s masterpiece The Downward Spiral, it’s also engaging and suspenseful. If you can weather the dark clouds and stormy seas, hop on the ship for the WitchHunt