Review Summary: Coming into their own.
After the release of their 1991 debut "Industrial" and follow up EP "Submit," Pitchshifter experienced a couple major lineup changes and signed to legendary extreme music label Earache before entering the studio to record their follow up album "Desensitized." Most notable among said lineup changes was the recruitment of live drummer D.J. Walters and the addition of J.S. Clayden as the sole vocalist. J.S. had been with the band since they formed but only provided backing vocals on "Industrial" while splitting lead vocals with his brother Mark Clayden on "Submit." With a new lineup, label, and vocalist the band aimed to distance themselves from accusations of being a mere Godflesh clone and mature into their own independent style. Thankfully, "Desensitized" is a resounding success in that regard.
Right from the opening chords and drum beat of "Diable," you can tell Pitschshifer are moving heavily away from the crawling, industrial, lurch of their debut and towards something more melodic and groove laden. The riffs on "Desensitized" have a bounce on them that are absolutely infectious and the addition of a live drummer helps compliment the memorable rhythms immensely. Standout song "Triad" even has a catchy vocal hook that you may very well get stuck in your head as J.S. belts out "Break it down if I want to/break it down if I please" against a throttling, yet surprisingly fun riff. Don't mistake the addition of melody and catchy grooves for the band going soft though, this is still a heavy, industrial metal album that will absolutely crush you when it wants to, like on the pulse pounding "(A Higher Form of) Killing." The band also continue their experiments with sampling, sound collages, and atmospheric electronic effects that they toyed with a bit on their debut, illustrated best on tracks like "To Die is to Gain" and "Gatherer of Data."
The move to Earache clearly afforded the band a much larger recording budget than they had in the past, the guitars are crisper, vocals clearer, and electronics more prominent than on their previous releases. The better production really helps elevate "Desensitized" over its predecessor and compliments the newer, more melodic approach very well. Vocalist J.S. Clayden also excels in his role, trading his brother's gutteral growls for a more mid range scream that feels both punchy and easily discernable which is a nice change of pace from the near unintelligible vocals of "Industrial." Lyrically, he begins to take the band in a somewhat more political direction as well, something that would be pushed even further on subsequent albums.
"Desensitized" is an improvement in all regards over it's predecessor; the sound of a band maturing and coming into their own. Though still a somewhat repetitive listen at times, Pitchshifter overcame all accusations of just being another Godflesh clone, matured as a band, and layed down a great, unsung industrial metal album in the process.