Review Summary: A solid effort from one of the most important bands of the modern cyber metal attack that will please almost any fan of melodic metal.
Cyber metal is a genre that has surprisingly remained unloved and overlooked despite its obvious appeal. Pioneered by groove metal masterminds Fear Factory, the genre presents a fusion of electronic music and extreme metal similar to traditional industrial metal, but presented in a much more epic and polished fashion than the cold, grimy, sludgefests of bands such as Ministry or Godflesh. Strangely enough, Fear Factory’s popularity is about the extent of the genre’s popularity as a whole, which is sad considering the amount of modern cyber metal bands who have been making consistently great music for the past decade without anyone even batting an eye. Be it the apocalyptic cyber-melodeath of Sybreed, the progressive pulses of Neurotech, or the crushing symphonies of Mechina, the genre has more than enough to offer in the way of originality and heaviness, and it is a much understated tragedy that such a movement has been able to thrive right under our noses without very many people even bothering to take a whiff. One of the most overlooked bands in this overlooked genre is a personal favorite of mine, Illidiance, a band from mother Russia that has covered a lot of territory in the metal soundscape throughout their discography. Originating as S.C.A.R.D., the band began their career as a rather impressive symphonic black metal band, before eventually transitioning into the epic cyber metal band they would become at the peak of their career. After the awkward and flawed transitional album that was 2007’s Nexaeon, the band’s 2009 EP Synthetic Breed marked a change in the band’s sound that gave a more prominent role to the industrial aspect of their music and favored more straightforward and focused songwriting to the storms of symphonic power displayed on Insane Mytheries to Demise. This change of sound would later be displayed in its most complete and best executed form on Illidiance’s magnum opus, 2010’s Damage Theory.
From the time you turn the album on, you get a pretty good taste of exactly what you’re dealing with on this album. Illidiance’s sound here is a very unique blend of other styles of extreme metal and industrial music that cannot be mistaken, and it gets a bit repetitive, sure, but it never sounds so overdone that it becomes unbearable to listen to. Personally, the synth arrangements remind me a lot of bands such as Children of Bodom and Norther, and there are some tracks such as “Cybernesis” where there is an apparent resemblance to other cyber metal bands, most notably Sybreed. There is also some very clear melodeath influence (mostly from bands such as Scar Symmetry and In Flames) which isn’t the star of the show, but it is definitely noticeable throughout. There is very little of the band’s black metal roots to be seen here, and the most “black metal” characteristic of this album is that there are some sections which sound a bit like Samael, which makes sense considering both bands belong to almost the same genre. Every member of this band is fantastic at their respective instruments, and no one member’s talent ever seems to overshadow the rest of the band. There of course some members who stand out, especially drummer Anton “Cyclonez” Brezhnev, whose mechanically precise and virtuosic performance carries the album on a lightspeed wave of rhythmic bliss throughout. We even get a taste of his blasting ability on “Cybergore Generation,” which is one of the few truly extreme moments this album has to offer. Clean vocalist and keyboardist Artem “Syrex” Shkurin also stands out, both for his orgasmically intense and emotive clean vocals and his dazzling keyboard lines which dance beautifully around the album’s continuous tornado of foundational guitar riffs and Cyclonez’s impeccable drum performance. The theremin-like keyboard parts on “Infected” and the music box-like intro to “Fading Away” are also a nice touch. Lead guitarist Dmitry “Xyrohn” Shkurin’s gut-rumbling growls are as well an essential part of Damage Theory’s sound, perfectly contrasting the omnipresence of melody throughout and supplementing the more extreme aspects of the music.
Damage Theory’s biggest downfall, unfortunately, is the common musical plague of being very good, but also very repetitive. The most subversive track the album has to offer is track five, “I Want to Believe,” which isn’t as soft as it is more melodic than the other already saccharinely melodic tracks the album has to offer. Despite the repetitiveness however, there are a few standouts. The opening track “Hi-Tech Terror,” the album’s most popular song and my personal favorite from the band, is arguably the best display of the band firing on all cylinders, and it’s nothing short of glorious to listen to. The anthemic “New Millenium Crushers” is fantastic as well, and the Scar Symmetry influence is very strong on the fantastic track “Fading Away.” Interestingly enough, The first five tracks and “Fading Away” are the only songs on Damage Theory which are exclusive to the album; the other five tracks are all re-recordings of songs from the band’s Cybergore Generation promo EP and their Synthetic Breed EP. This is a bit sad, considering that this means that almost half of the album consists of re-recordings of old material, but the songs never disrupt the flow of the album or feel tacked on. In fact, “Mind Hunters” and “Razor to the Skin” are two of my favorite songs on the album, and the album would not be complete without them.
Damage Theory is a far from perfect album, and while I would by no means consider it melodic metal masterpiece or a classic cyber metal release, it’s a fun album that fills a much needed role in its genre. By fusing their great musicianship and love for melody with relatively good songwriting and fantastic production, Illidiance were able to create an album which remains a very entertaining listen despite its deficiencies, and while it drags a little bit near the end and gets a bit tiring by the time it’s over, the unique sound that the band displays on this album and their obvious ability with their respective instruments is more than enough to outweigh this and make the album worth the time of anyone who loves solid melodic metal. If you are a fan of modern melodic death metal bands such as In Flames, Children of Bodom, Kalmah, Norther, Scar Symmetry, or even Soilwork, this album is definitely for you, and it’s also definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of Fear Factory, Mechina, Sybreed, or just cyber metal in general. If you’ve never been a big fan of melodic metal or cyber metal, I would urge you to still consider giving this album a go. It’s nothing earth shattering or that will change your world, but it’s a fun listen that fans of pretty much anything heavy can enjoy at least a little bit. It’s an underrated album by an underrated band in an underrated genre that deserves much more love than it gets.