Review Summary: Let's hope that the Blue Stahli show has just begun
While it didn’t turn the industrial music world upside down, Blue Stahli's pre-debut compilation Antisleep Vol. 01
did prove to be, at the least, a light-hearted and eclectic mix of electro-rock with a dancey feel bound to forge expectations for the project’s first album. Even if the compilation did lack a certain theme to it, the musical side itself was splendid, with Brent Autrey, the man behind Blue Stahli, effortlessly switching from heavier industrial rock cuts to danceable electro-rock/big beat hybrids to his own experimental electro style, which included dominant break beats, driving tempos, delicate guitar backing, varied loops and quirky, swirling electronic effects. It basically sounded like Autrey decided to throw together as many electronica/industrial styles and effects as possible and somehow made it all work. With that in mind, it might come as a surprise that for his debut album, Autrey has adopted a more conventional industrial metal style. But there is no need to fear, because the man clearly knows how to make a great record.
To be honest, while I did say that this change in direction is a little surprising when looking at the experimental leanings of Antisleep Vol. 01
, the circumstances were very favorable, seeing as how Blue Stahli is under Klayton’s (ex-Circle of Dust and Argyle Park, current Celldweller) FiXT label, which prides on pumping out exactly the kind of smooth industrial rock/metal that is featured on Blue Stahli’s self-titled debut. Besides, songs like "OVERklock" and "88 Rounds Per Minute" off Antisleep Vol. 01
demonstrated how well this style suited for Autrey. And while the cool, swirling electronics and tightly formed break beats have given a lot more leeway for brisk guitars, they are still there, important as ever.
The album's first cut, "ULTRAnumb", gives moderate indication what the rest might sound like while simultaneously leaving some loose ends. Sharp guitars attack the listener right away, with fuzzy, laid-back beats and high-octane, ever-swirling electronic effects tightening and thickening the sound. It is energetic as hell and versatile enough because the guitars, while salient, leave enough room for the electronics, not to mention Autrey's vocals that are mixed perfectly, being dominant but never obtrusive. The rest of the album follows suit, more or less, with Autrey playing with the balance between electronics and guitars, so that the more metal tracks hit harder, the in-between ones stay interesting throughout and the ones leaning more on electronics slow down the generally fast-paced tempo to exhibit the more relaxed side of the album, only to let the following cut raise the intensity levels up again. This constant back and forth movement between guitars and electronics gives Blue Stahli
a mighty edge and boosts up its replay value as well, since all the songs sound vigorous and different from each other, all the while carrying forward the whole album's distinct feel.
My favorite part about the album though is the way it mixes utterly danceable rhythms with slithering guitars and great energy. Whether it be a guitar-driven track, like "Takedown", or an electronic affair, like "Kill Me Every Time", the album never ceases to offer smooth industrial rock tracks that just dare you to bust a move. It is so cleverly put together that this record should easily appeal to both open minded metalheads and club dwellers alike. You can almost picture this being played in both rock- and nightclubs simultaneously, and that's what makes Blue Stahli
so goddamn good.
The beats are turned down, the electronic effects are less crazy, the song structures are a lot more polished and it all sounds more orthodox, but at the end of the day, who cares as long as Blue Stahli still sounds this good? Of course I miss the eccentric approach and out of the blue effects of Antisleep Vol. 01
every now and then, but what Autrey has sacrificed in experimentation, he has gained in maturity. Blue Stahli
sounds a lot more cohesive, a lot more substantial than its predecessor, also boasting something Autrey’s previous works lacked - an identifiable theme. Besides, the trademark break beats and swirling electronics are still there, only this time, they share the stage with the guitars and are more restrained. The underline is that a more settled sound hasn't hurt the quality of Blue Stahli's music and his self-titled debut album is one excellent piece of smooth industrial metal. Now, if Bret Autrey could somehow mix the experimental side of Antisleep Vol. 01
with the more guitar-heavy stylings featured on Blue Stahli
, all the while retaining an identifiable feel, then he very well has a chance to rattle the industrial world.