Review Summary: 'This is probably the first record I've ever done that I haven't hated.'
Scott 'Klayton' Albert wasn't always the man known for blending metal riffs and distorted screams with big theatrical chorus's and dubstep bass wubs. Long before the era of Wish Upon A Blackstar
, after steadily working his way through a series of modestly successful metal acts, and garnering himself a wide and fairly devoted fan following, Klayton turned his back on the metal band formula that he had grown to despise so much, formed the electronic rock project that would become his biggest success, and released what is arguably the best work of his career: the self titled Celldweller
album. Upon the albums release with the help of Grant Mohrman, after struggling through various budget issues, spending much of the time living on other peoples couches, and numerous delays (something that seems to have become somewhat of a tradition regarding Celldweller releases), Klayton finally lamented; "This is probably the first record I've ever done that I haven't hated."
Musically taking on a style most akin to industrial rock, the 18 track self titled (15 if you discount the 3 'cell' tracks) is a production heavy beast. A self proclaimed perfectionist, Klayton's high level of editing and tweaking for the sake of bettering a song thankfully doesn't do the opposite and drown the album in an overproduced mess. Most notable to avoid this trap is the most successful song of the album, 'Switchback', a track that endured going through over 50 demo versions before the final cut. Instead, what we find here is an album that benefits from a strong electronic backing and production that brings everything in the mix forward into the spotlight, and further strengthens the overall style of the album. Instrumentally, Klayton's 'jack of all trades, master of none' approach to things brings a strong performance to the record. Although lacking anything close to a lead guitar, the wall of rhythm guitars riffage more than does the job, with songs like 'One Good Reason' and 'Own Little World' featuring a catchy, guitar driven sound. Kennedy James and Jarrod Montague join Klayton on the drums for the record and the results are excellent: Songs like 'Under My Feet' and 'Symbiont' flourish in percussion driven segments, and the blend of acoustic and electric drum kits found throughout the album works exceedingly well.
Notorious for a few future tracks with the lyrical depth of a blunt axe ('The Lucky One', we're looking at you), Klayton has never really been one praised as a respected wordsmith in his work. That being said, the writing on this album is by far his best. In contrast with his later work, Klayton's vocal delivery on the album largely remains moody and features far less production, benefiting the darker nature of the lyrics greatly, and giving songs like 'Fadeaway' a big boost. The crown jewel of the album, 'The Last Firstborn', stands as the embodiment of everything this album is: a blend of electronic trance with metal screams and a big wall of guitar distortion. The lyrics are minimal and remain cryptic throughout the track, and with Klayton's whispers of "I hear the sound of a heart, from the shadow in the dark, waiting for the poison to hit its mark," what follows is just shy of 8 minutes full of visceral electronic rock.
As a testament to the albums long standing positive reception, many have argued the style of Celldweller
should have been continued, and while I've tried to maintain a tone not including my personal preference throughout this review, I must admit part of me wishes the same. It was listening to 'One Good Reason' and suddenly feeling the gigantic gulf between End of an Empire
and the original self titled record that caused this review to be written, despite enjoying modern Celldweller releases. Perhaps it is down to the triumph through adversity it took for this album to become a reality, but I can't help but feel that the pure catharsis found in this album is lacking from Klayton in future releases.