Review Summary: Gorgeously compelling, at times.
It’s fair to say that Klayton’s last decade has been a busy one, really.
The FiXT label continues to grow at a fantastically rapid rate, taking on more new artists with each passing year, in the hopes of bringing further talent of ranging genres into the spotlight. Not content in just stopping after building a successful music label, Klayton’s efforts have branched out into even further avenues, such as ‘Outland Industries’, the sister clothing brand operating alongside FiXT, and ‘Refractor Audio’, Klay’s attempt to produce further sampling gear and material for hopeful musicians to utilise. While operating as a rather successful entrepreneur and business owner, Klayton, rather impressively, hasn’t shied away at all from his true passion of producing and creating music himself, and has still been actively releasing and re-releasing material under the various monikers he has adopted over the years; Circle of Dust, Scandroid, and of course Celldweller.
With the Celldweller project easily being Klayton’s most successful and most well-known work, newest record Offworld
’s announcement came at first as a very surprising, albeit welcome one, especially stylistically. From teasers alone, the record immediately showcased a drastic departure from the electronic metal extravaganza that has become such a signature element to the project’s popularity, to the point where Klayton himself has commented that he was “uncertain whether or not anyone would particularly like it,”
before immediately going on to then state that regardless of this, “that’s pretty much how I make all my albums.”
It’s worth nothing that considering how much of a businessman Klayton has become, and FiXT’s overall reliance on the success of the Celldweller project, it can be quite confidently be argued that Offworld
’s stylistic shift could quite easily be an Achilles heel to the whole affair, and may result in a far less successful release overall. In spite of these factors, however, Klayton seems far more focused on artistic integrity this time around, regardless of how marketable the record may be in the long run, and this immediately makes Offworld
much more intriguing.
Right from the very start of the record, the shift in tone and direction is immediately apparent, if it wasn’t already from lead single, ‘The Great Divide’, and the various samples made available prior to the record’s release; opening track ‘Offworld’ begins the album incredibly fittingly, with a solemn build of tender piano, gentle synthesizer samples, and Klayton’s vocals delivering a far more soothing performance, which continues for the bulk of the record. Lyrically, Klayton’s penchant for sci-fi themes and imagery once again makes itself obvious, and admittedly is starting to wane and become rather dull subject material in Klay’s repertoire, but ‘Offworld’ echoes of the familiar ‘Venus’, from Soundtrack for the Voices in my Head Vol. 2
, and opens the album well nonetheless. Thankfully, the sci-fi lyrical themes take something of a backseat for at least a few of the tracks that follow, such as the very next ‘How Little I Must Know’, which homes in on a bit more of a soul searching experience, rather than focusing on how large Klayton’s toy spaceship collection must be. The short acapella transitional piece, ‘Mothers Arms’, an old demo track that was originally made available 5/6 years prior to the album’s release, again focuses on a more intimate level, and the album easily takes second place behind the original Celldweller
record in terms of how personal it all comes across to the listener. This is massively refreshing to see, following the huge level of concept material implemented into previous studio efforts Wish Upon a Blackstar
, and End of an Empire
While the record’s instrumental backbone feels slightly stripped back compared to your everyday Celldweller record, Offworld
hardly suffers because of this. In fact, Klayton’s use of moody reverbed guitar work, and far more toned down drum work and synthesizer’s, all come together extremely effectively to enhance the mood of Offworld
and add to the record’s themes. Sure, the production is as crisp and clear as anything released previously by the Detroit multi-instrumentalist, but one of Offworld
’s key strengths is in fact drawn from Klayton’s ability to show a little restraint this time around, and not overdoing things too
much. Originally by Scandroid, cover track ‘Awakening With You’, displays a wonderfully ethereal atmosphere of ambiance, without suffocating the listener, and the presence of acoustic guitar work on ‘The Great Divide’ easily contributes to it being one of the stand out tracks on the record. On a slight flipside, ‘Last Night on Earth’ ventures into heavier territory, but is far more doomy and sluggish, fitting with the rest of the tracks nicely. All in all, instrumentally, Offworld
is nothing short of fantastic. It’s an incredibly cohesive and solid experience on an instrumental level, and would still prove itself massively enjoyable if the vocals were completely removed from the record.
is not without a few issues that really holds the record back from being truly fantastic, the most glaring weakness seen on the album being a very simple matter; a lack of original
material. To clarify, the album features ten tracks, not counting the ending eleventh track, a remix of ‘Awakening With You’ by Ulrich Schnauss. Of these ten tracks, five
of them are either reworked versions of previously released material, or covers; ‘Awakening With You’ - originally released under Scandroid, ‘Mother’s Arms’ - a Celldweller demo, ‘Into The Fall’ - combines elements of Circle of Dust’s ‘Malacandra’ and ‘Embracing Entropy’, ‘Own Little World (Offworld Reprise)’ - another previous Celldweller track, and finally ‘Too Many Tears’ - originally by The Call. While each and every cover/version have their own merits, and Klayton has
done them justice to a degree in making them feel fresh to revisit, to market and release Offworld
as a brand new Celldweller studio album, with only half of the material actually being brand new, comes very close to being incredibly insulting to a very loyal fanbase. It’s borderline ludicrous. Sure, maybe it’s a little unfair to count ‘Too Many Tears’ among the rest, being an actual cover of a completely different artist’s material, but the fact remains that Offworld
now comes across as lazy and nothing more than a compilation album, with a few new tracks mixed in with the rest. Had the album actually been released with that knowledge far more out in the open, and been marketed as a compilation
of reworked previous and new material, this issue would evaporate instantly.
That all being said, the fourth Celldweller record is an enjoyable one. It marks a change in direction stylistically that works to the advantage of the record, and proves itself a far more intimate experience than most in Klayton’s ever growing discography. It could be argued that an even more stripped back production would potentially further add to the record, and enhance the experience, but the truth is that everything sounds as good as it possibly could, regardless of how good the actual material is. Would it make for a better album if the production was far more stripped back? Perhaps, but it wouldn't be a Celldweller record without it.
It’s just a shame Klayton didn’t spend more time writing new material for Offworld
, and make it something that could have been truly spectacular.