Review Summary: Wes likes throwing his curve balls.
Rabid, foaming at the mouth and crying themselves to sleep at night; these are the fans waiting for a new Black Light Burns record to drop - and little sign of ever seeing it happen. After 2013's phenomenal concept album, Lotus Island
, Wes put the project on hold and joined his new girlfriend's band, Queen Kwong. Since then nothing has propped up in the way of more BLB material - or any other solo project for that matter - until now... On 3rd May, Wes Borland inexplicably dropped a mysterious profile picture update on BLB's Facebook page; a picture painted by the man himself with the title "Wes Borland - Crystal Machete" slapped in the middle of it. Dig a little deeper and some might be a disappointed to discover there isn't a new BLB's record on the way - the good news, however, he's just dropped an ambient solo record on our laps without anyone even noticing. Oh, and it's one of the best pieces of work he's ever done.
Though most of his projects outside of Limp Bizkit are his solo projects, with a different name - and sees him writing everything himself - this is the first time he's used his actual name for a project. And yet, even though Crystal Machete
is a brand new slate, it still utilises a lot of the softer elements of Black Light Burns; the album's mainstay is the psychedelic, ambient jam sections found on a lot of the BLB tracks - and if you were a fan of these sections you are in for a treat. The LP is a trippy and relaxing journey that throws layer upon layer of synth, reverb guitars and spacey jams at you - with a few surprises along the way: from the Pink Floyd soundscapes of "Main Titles" and "Jubilee"; 80s era New Order with "White Stallion"; the swelling epic of "Cliff" and the grooving "Vltava" ensure complete variety to hold the listener till the end. The album is a heavy homage to 80s synth and retro vibes. Bands like Floyd and New Order are in there, but contemporary acts like Tame Impla and Mogwai seem to have left a lasting impression on Wes as well, it's just implemented in a way that lets Borland use the usual stamp of psychedelia he's well known for. Simply put, it's a really engaging album, and one that really pushes Wes' creative mind into a different league to where he's ventured previously.
It's funny I mentioned Lotus Island
earlier, because Crystal Machete
and Lotus Island
are very similar in tone. For those that don't know: Lotus Island is a concept album based on the movie Holy Mountain; it was almost entirely redundant of vocal work and conventional song structure. Crystal Machete
feels very much the same way - like it was designed to be a score/soundtrack for something - and is crafted in a free-flowing manner. The difference between Lotus Island
and this is that the whole experience feels a lot less cynical; everything is lathed in energy and bright vibrancy, with a dark shadow lingering in the background. As said, Wes Borland's core sound is still at the heart of this thing, but it moves the game into a different playing field: eccentric, epic, beautiful and brooding - all done in a very refreshing way. "Salbard" is the largest track on here and best sums up the album; the song is grooving and eerie, yet emits an overwhelming feeling of joy from listening to it. It's a weighty album, yet it somehow manages to hold your attention throughout. Overall there really wasn't a dull moment here, everything felt justified and worthwhile, which is a rare thing when it's so easy to make things bloated. It only dragged its heels once and that was during the middle section of "End Credits", but even then it was still a solid track. Either way, Wes did a great job on this and it's an achievement in itself to bring such an engaging instrumental album to the table.
All-in-all this was a fantastic surprise. Not only was the album completely out of the blue, it turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable listen. For an album of this size, and the fact it has the instrumental handicap (with a few minor vocal parts here and there on the likes of "Svalbard") it held up extremely well, and kept me completely immersed and invested in it the whole way. If you're a fan of Wes' work, or you like ambient, instrumental albums, I wholeheartedly recommend you check this.
Special Edition: N/A