Almost year after year it is time for a new Black Sun Empire album, and like Christmas it promises a lot whilst keeping little. And thus the short and bitter forecast: From The Shadows has got its stimulating moments. But that’s about it.
Depending on the version, the accumulation of 12 to 28 tracks (whereas the mega-compilation contains a lot of old material in incoherent selection) starts with -what else?- the collaboration with Noisia, Feed The Machine, one of the album’s highlights. Perfectly shaped by the most outstanding skills of the other Dutch trio, the track resembles a highly energetic, trancey tour de force, with the necessary variety (as always with Noisia) and a level of pressure that would bring honour to the hoover dam. Thus it combines the two main musical aspects of the fifth BSE-album: jolly chainsaw-massacre accompaniment on the one hand, rave-style attempts on hypnosis on the other, which mainly rely on the as always superbly crafted eerie atmospheres. The direction they headed with Lights & Wires is withal present by means of sound, yet there are no Dubstep tracks at all for that matter. With this in mind and Noisia behind one, one can only hope that it continues that way.
The following track Salvador (feat. Bless) is a distinct sign of the return to more traditional virtues, which is emphasized by the bass lines similarity with Dom & Roland’s Mammoth Hunt, though it doesn’t really evolve beyond a trifle tweaking. But as so often with BSE, it is not the bass, but what happens far above it. And so the high degree of noise-wise disturbance makes Salvador a proper track.
The album’s best song -according to my humble opinion- is the collaboration with Rido, Thunderbolt, because it manages to do what a great many other tracks fail to accomplish: taking the 3 notes from the narrow BSE-claviature and coordinating them in a way to achieve something new. Thunderbolt is also quite break-laden (very much against the tendency of the other songs), consistently detailed and enthralling, and all that makes the track not only a dancer’s but also a listener’s experience.
Unfortunately the attempt of reinvention of the trichord didn’t always work out so well: Everybody with at least a little knowledge of Black Sun Empire’s discography should be able to instantly name at least a dozen tracks that sound just like Tripel (feat. State of Mind); likewise outmoded appear Descent and the rocking Drizzle (feat. Audio) and Homage (feat. N.Phect): Altogether tunes that would have been hits about 10 years ago, but simply suffer from the effort of clean, contemporary production that strips them from their essential thickening layer of dirt (-this being a problem of many senior acts as I see it). Dawn Of A Dark Day (feat. Foreign Beggars), a nice, but not fully elaborated track, is just perfectly in line with the above mentioned; albeit asking the question how many more songs the Foreign Beggars will start with ‘Yeah, yeah!’, as well as how many more X-Files theme tunes BSE have got in petto.
As we now have slowly approached the abyss, let’s also take a critical look on the shady sides of the album: first thing we find is the programmatically entitled All Is Lost (feat. Thomas Oliver & Youthstar), the probably heaviest (in terms of comprehension) track in imperial history, with its countertenor-techstep intro culminating in a wall of electricity, spiked with the ghastliest of Dubstep sounds and most straightforward and dull drum&bass rhythmics. ‘Just be bad!’ is what they might have thought abandoning style and control, and as to me I cannot really cope with neither that attitude nor its results.
Just as little as I can cope with the utmost oddity of the album, Adaptation, that arouses the question if an Autobahn-poster in the studio would not have sufficed, and if this Schlager-tribute to Kraftwerk was truly essential. But besides that it actually inspired a feeling of gratefulness towards living in the digital age inside me: If the recdord had been on LP, it would have gone through the window by now – yet throwing out the entire computer just didn’t seem worth it.
So all in all From The Shadows remains a typical, at times half-baked BSE-album, being just as characteristic as it is resistant to progression. As ever, the songs have a certain drive to them, but too often one can’t really recognize what is actually driving them; and too many sequences (above all the 3-note melodies and eight-note-subbasses) are simply exhausted from overexposure and hence dry of their desired effects. Subtracting Feed The Machine and Thunderbolt, one is left with a merely mediocre opus, that indeed carries forth the distinct Black Sun Empire-sound (and therefore will hardly disappoint the fans), yet contributes but little to the music of the present and scarcely anything to the music of the future. Chainsaw massacres are just not en vogue anymore.
Black Sun Empire (feat. Audio, Bless, Inne Eysermans, N.Phect, Noisia, Rido, State of Mind, Thomas Oliver & Youthstar) – From The Shadows (Black Sun Empire) – http://soundcloud.com/blacksunempire/sets/fromtheshadows/
Dom & Roland – Mammoth Hunt (Dom & Roland Productions) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CnX76Wg_7s
Kraftwerk – Kometenmelodie 2 (Kling Klang) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy1NzQ937l8
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