Review Summary: Modern rock and highly prolific vocals come together to create something that is wholly satisfying. Featuring the excellent vocals of Garm, and the music of David Cardoso, the album immerses you in a sea of atmosphere.
Oh modern rock, what a pit you’ve dug yourself into. Your very name has been tarnished by the bands you have sought to make popular, your image depreciated by ridiculous antics and music that doesn’t have an ounce of originality. You, sir, should surely rot in the 7th chamber of Hell, along with the worst of the worst.
1 word to describe that statement: BULL***.
While it’s true that the majority of radio friendly rock bands couldn’t write original music to save their lives, there are some true gems out there. Yes, those bands usually don’t get as much airplay as their generic, Nickelback esque brethren, but they are out there. You just have to look a little bit. Especially this year, there have been some bands that have been formed that DO have some talent to them. There’s Wolfmother (who, in all fairness, haven’t really done anything new), and on the other end of the spectrum, there’s Head Control System.
Formed in 2003, Head Control system is a combination of Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Daniel Cardoso and Norwegian vocalist Kristoffer J. Rygg, also known as Garm. Needless to say, the duo has been quietly yet methodically forging their own path in the modern rock scene with their debut album, Murder Nature.
Head Control System - Murder Nature
- March 4th, 2006, on The End Records
Kristoffer J. Rygg - Vocals/Lyrics
Daniel Cardoso - All instruments
Head Control System is a really bizarre band in the sense that they don’t completely know what they want to be. There’s stuff you’ve heard a million times on here before. The everclassic lowtuned power chords in aggressive patterns pop up more than a fair few times that anybody who was 11 years old has heard before. However, they always seem fresh and original due to Cardoso’s ability to layer effects on top of effects on top of instruments. While you’ve heard a good portion of the riffing before, at the same time it’s the first time you’ll hear it.
Cardoso is no slouch at his instruments. Guitars are atmospheric, crunchy, crushing, and melancholic, often all during one song. Bass...meh, you don’t really hear it much. It’s modern rock, after all. The drums, I can’t tell if they’re programmed or not, but whatever they are, excellent, excellent drums. Finally, Cardoso’s piano and synth abilities pay off for him big time here, as the atmosphere they create are one of the keys to what makes this band better than the rest.
And, of course, there’s Kristoffer, one of the best vocalists period. Extremely versatile voice, he can adapt to many different vocal stylings. All one has to do is take a look at his track record: he’s been in bands such as Ulver, Borknager, and Arcturus, and has appeared on Ihsahn’s recently released solo album, albums by The Gathering, as well as multiple other projects. Simply put, the man knows his way around his voicebox, and presses it into effect beautifully, often employing multiple vocal tracks, all harmonizing around a central theme.
Speaking of central themes, that is another calling card of this album. Under all the instruments, there’s usually a theme that is introduced in the beginning of the album that keeps circulating throughout certain parts of the songs. Baby Blue
, for example, starts with a fade in of a riff of what sounds like alternating minor seconds, and the riff is repeated throughout the WHOLE SONG, all 6:30 of it. Granted, the riff never takes front and center, save the intro, but you’ll always notice it there.
Lyrically, I’m not quite sure what this album is about, seeing as I can’t find the lyrics anywhere, even in the booklet that comes with the CD. However, I remember reading somewhere that Kristoffer said that this album was about girls. That WOULD explain his constant reference to “wet dreams” in Skin Flick
When your band is compared to the likes of Tool and Faith No More, it’s bound to be weird. Which this is. Even with its outer shell rooted firmly in modern heavy rock, it really isn’t anything like it. Odd time signatures, polyrhythms, bizarre harmonizations, even a few soundscapelike songs all make their appearances on here.
A few recommended tracks:
- The aforementioned track with the riff repeated throughout, it is a good representation of the album. Nice heavy guitars, some background synth work, and Garm’s excellent vocals are the perfect introduction.
- One of my personal favorites, and one of the more accessible tracks on here, as well as the album’s single. This song contains some of Garm’s best vocal work on the album, and the chorus is undeniably catchy. Also, the musical portion isn’t as drop dead heavy as some other tracks.
Masterpiece [Of Art]
- In a complete 180 degree turn, the intro riff to this song will be instantly recognizable if you grew up with some form of nu-metal in your life. Downtuned, pounding, that aggressive chord pattern that’s perfect for letting all your teenage emotions run rampant, it’s even got a turntablelike effect in the background. This one is aggressive, but never loses its Garmish charm (teehee, a rhyme).
- It’s what the title says it is. It’s an instrumental piece. The guitars never completely fade in. They have that background effect thing on them, as if they’re far away in the distance. Cardoso adds some piano over it that serves to keep the listener on edge. It sounds very urgent.
- A somewhat lighter song, this one also features that central theme idea in the form of what sounds like an arpeggio with some added notes into it. As usual, Garm pulls out his great vocals.
- Ugly intro. Granted, it’s a good intro, but ugly is really the only way to describe it. It’s very dissonant and displeasing to the ear, yet it’s still got some factor that keeps you listening. Gradually transitions into a standard HCS song.
- This album isn’t for everybody. It’s a bit bizarre, and even with all its layering, underneath it all are the same patterns that you’ve heard before. However, put Kristoffer in a band, and the band is automatically good. Thankfully, he has a great backing group that manages to churn out some interesting music, even if it isn’t as memorable as some other stuff. A wholly solid effort, and I look forward to more releases from this band.
Final Rating - 8.5/10