Album: Technology Implies Belligerence
Label: Negative Gain
Members: Steven Archer (Ego Likeness)
So here is another album I have had for a while and have played many times fearing the daunting task of trying to describe the intense emotional and musical impact of this record in an effort to do it justice. Steven Archer is a mainstay in the goth/industrial scene from his band Ego Likeness which I have reviewed before. Their credentials in this scene are indisputable with several albums to their credit that have all hit the mark. I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous Stoneburner albums however with “Technology Implies Belligerence” Steven has achieved another plane in his musical expression and I will do my best to capture some of that concept in this review. I’m put in mind of Phillip K Dick when he wrote the Valis trilogy. An artist who had critical and commercial success that had earned the freedom through his labors to produce a piece of magnificent art that tested his own boundaries and redefined the genre. This record was completely un-tethered and unapologetic in it’s scope and daring combining sounds and concepts which pushed the edges of synthesis through technology . It is brave, it is meticulous, and it addresses poignant themes which speak to the struggle of current human existence.
To appreciate the full scope it has to be said that Archer is a modern artistic renaissance man. Playing in several projects on a variety of instruments. In addition he is a noted visual artist (I was lucky enough to have him do the cover art of my own album). As a visual engineer he made a series of accompanying videos with practical effects he created himself. This album also broke ground in the access he offered to fans with an interactive discussion group where he shared technique and answered questions on every stage of the creative process. A truly novel and cutting edge idea for the modern digital age. Industrial music often pays homage to the cyberpunk ideology of science fiction and Archer has dug deeply into some of his literary keynotes making the songs a thesis on one of his favorite works from Peter Watt’s “Blindsight” dealing in first contact higher conciseness and personal freedom. This blending of literary theme, visual expression, and musical emotion formed a groundbreaking multimedia art piece in a point and click surface world.
Ok we have gotten this far and I haven’t discussed the music yet. Stoneburner features many of the staples of industrial music. Syncopated distorted guitar sounds. Pounding drumbeats in body blow intensity. With effect laden vocals lashing out in varying cadence. Where Archer pulls back the throttle and rises towards uncharted ground is in the use of world beat percussion sounds layered with pinprick sitar guitar riffs. Listening while watching the sound wave file really gives an appreciation for how much thought went into the purposeful dynamic shifts and emotional crafting. Not known as a vocalist Archer dives in with passion and intensity filtered through a barrage of electronic effect using his voice and samples as an additional driving percussion instrument to unleash a sincerity and terrible beauty with the raw power of his words. Can you take the diverse expressive sounds of Dead Can Dance and force them through the meat grinder of Coil’s chaotic destructive power. I wasn’t sure until i heard it happen.
This is a concept album, you need to hear it all song to song. However I will speak to some standout tracks:
Dry Gun – This song astounded me. The percussion is intensity held at bay with greasy chains. This dancing pinprick guitar lines lending an eastern feel with a guitar effect from Roger Waters. The swooping cello synth pad and jagged leading dynamics create such primal movement that when the unorthodox vocals samples come in you are already dancing with reckless abandon. This song owns your body.
The Angel of Abscess – Brooding and dark intro spreads out with subtlety and danger. I really enjoy the grinding metal effects. Stevens vocals come in with a distant chant while new sounds are added and built. A desolation and fear scrolling through the emptiness of darkness. The repeating melody line has an almost Celtic feel which seems to get faster and faster until you are hurtling towards oblivion in a rapidly decaying vehicle.
Identity by Diagnosis – You can’t travel to the edge without questioning the reality you are seeing. This song brought me back to the questions of my own minds perceptions. Again achieving that frantic sense of speed and motion while maintaining a medium pace without relying on volume to create intensity. I think what amazed me most in this record was the deliberate effort that seemed to go into every decision and every note. If you have ever had to find reason in the modern world of chemical science you find yourself empathizing with this storytellers journey.
Overall this was a staggering emotional journey of a record that found a way to do something so difficult in the modern times. Touch on new and undiscovered ground in music. I honestly feel like this record will be something we look back on as a new beginning of a branch of future sounds to come. Try and really breath in the power of that statement. I hear so many new albums these days and this isn’t something I say lightly. If you are a person that appreciates art for what it is capable of stirring in human emotion. If yours is a mind that quests for a deeper challenge and greater understanding. You owe it to yourself to get this album and play it loud enough for the neighbors to hear.