(We’re veering off our usual beaten paths in this post, as DGR reviews the latest releases from The Algorithm and The Luna Sequence.)
We don’t generally cover techno/electronica/dj acts here at No Clean Singing, and I know that my presence has largely been the reason we might have in the past. You’ll likely never see the more straightforward of such acts here, but I will wholly admit to being drawn to the hybrid monsters — the ones that have combined their music with heavy metal and over time have morphed into some strange creatures. Those have been a huge draw for me, and when it comes to artists who I think are doing it particularly well, then you’ll see that I’ll make some continuing attempts to cover them. However, I understand that taking up the front page when there is so much more traditional metal news out there might irk some folks, so I’ve combined two of the more recent works into one huge mega-review article.
Both of these names, The Algorithm and The Luna Sequence, should be familiar to a bunch of you more regular readers, as I have made efforts in the past to share their work, which I’ve quite enjoyed over the years. It just so happens that both artists managed to have new albums, Octopus4 and Fearful Shepherds Hunt Their Sheep respectively, hit around the same time. And thus we find ourselves in a huge review where you can witness me talk out of my ass about electronica music — of which I know between fuck-all and absolute zero — and heavy metal, about which I’ve made writing a huge hobby. Below, you can watch me thrash about between the two moods while I try my best to articulate why exactly I’ve found myself enjoying the hell out of both The Algorithm and The Luna Sequence releases in recent months.
In all honesty, I don’t think we’ve gotten the chance to cover The Algorithm too much in my time here at NCS. I know, from time to time, Islander has highlighted some of the band’s more recent activities since he knows that I love this project — but as far as a full in-depth review, I can’t remember if we’ve done one or not on this site, outside of a small shout-out to Polymorphic Code in one of my first year-ender bibles. A quick introduction is probably required then; because even though this project is popular, I imagine that the Venn Diagram for those who read NCS and those who regularly listen to The Algorithm probably consists of about ten people. We cater to the heavier side of the metal spectrum, but that doesn’t mean that on occasion we won’t reach beyond our usual sphere and cover something we think you’ll enjoy.
photo by Ben Davies
The Algorithm is a project belonging to French musician Rémi Gallego that is currently signed to Basick Records. It is in large part an electronica project that has sought to hybridize a bunch of heavy metal influences — including a pretty undeniable helping of djent/tech-metal/whatever-label-it-goes-by these days — to create a pretty intense style of music. It is at times very aggressive, but also includes a bunch of moments where it is entirely electronic, with Rémi using whatever tools he has at his disposal to create music that could actually be heavy metal were it played entirely on instruments and not through a series of drum programs and various dj loops. He’s also kept a bunch of guitars in the mix as well, to interchange between the two at the drop of a hat. One of the things The Algorithm has done especially well is creating analogues between instruments and the various drum programmings and synth work heard in the music.
I stumbled onto this project via Last.fm, which decided to play pretty much all of his Critical. Error, Identity, and Doppler Effect releases to me over the span of a week or so. Naturally, it spoke to me and I’ve been following the project ever since, including his Basick Records debut Polymorphic Code — a disc so absolutely willing to throw everything and the kitchen sink into one song that it became joyous in its excess. I have a lot of love for Polymorphic Code, especially the madness that is “Access Granted”, though that album as a whole has gotten a tremendous number of spins on this end. Which means, of course I was watching for the new release, Octopus4, like a hawk. Some time has passed since the disc hit, but I’ve had the album since day one; like Polymorphic Code, there’s a lot to take in, but in a different sense. Octopus4 is a very different album, one that sees The Algorithm going more toward the electronica side of its musical spectrum, as well as attempting tell a story.
For a significant portion of its runtime, Octopus4 consists of music that is in sharp contrast to the sounds that made up Polymorphic Code. It’s actually pretty conservative in its musical aspirations for much of the album, up until the last few tracks where things get more familiar to those who embrace the joyous excess and ‘fuck everything’ sensibility of the electronica that made up the last album. Up until the song sensibly titled “Will_Smith”, Octopus4 is an exercise in the varying degrees of techno and electronica, including the song “_MOS”, which is a fun, catchy tune that sounds like it is made up of SNES-era samples of various squid-like creatures and fauna from games. It has that bouncy, inky sound that seemed to be the motif for that sort of character or enemy in that era of videogames. However, Octopus4 progresses from the more conservative and electronica side of music to the one with which fans are more familiar, toward the end of the album. It’s all part of the story, though I have no idea what that story is.
[Editor’s Intrusion: Per a press release lodged in my in-box, “The album is named after a Commodore 64 computer virus with a vicious love of Will Smith and tells the story of OCTOPUS4 escaping in an alternate universe and changing the face of the world forever.”]
The turn starts around the aforementioned “Will_Smith”, but really kicks into gear ‘long about the time you hit “Synthesiz3r” and its polyrhythmic-flavored breakdowns and beats. It’s also one of the first where the synth really starts to step into place as an analogue for the guitar, although the prior track “Pythagoras” has a legitimate guitar throughout much of the music. After those songs, the album lines up more for people who loved Polymorphic Code and it bounces all over the place — including a real strange tangent into what I believe is French rap (it’s on the inoffensive side, providing an interesting color to the section afterward, which is one of my favorite moments on the disc). It’s a super-heavy descent into an almost metal-core esque breakdown, though there are no instruments — just a wall of bass, some intense drum programming, and heavy synth work.
Octopus4 has its merits, for sure. It will probably turn off a bunch of the people who may be inclined to the dent-via-electronica sound that has made up a huge body of The Algorithm’s work — but it is still an enjoyable disc. Since it is an album that feels distinctly bi-polar in its movements, it speaks to two different sides of my own musical enjoyment. There’s the side that willingly and frequently submits itself to the more brainless and less challenging electronica, techno, edm, and various other shades of computer-powered music out there, the side that finds itself really enjoying the first half of Octopus4; and then, as the sound blends, my mind switches to the side that was drawn to this project in the first place, the side that enjoyed the heavy metal by way of differing dj techniques and sounds, the approach that really defined The Algorithm’s earlier work. It’s a different disc than Polymorphic Code for sure, an album that really sees the two ends of The Algorithm’s formula pulling at each other in a brutal tug of war, but that still has a lot of playability to it. Also, the way this album ends is just grand.
THE LUNA SEQUENCE
The Luna Sequence is another project — like The Algorithm above — that I came to because, although the music that makes up the majority of it is electronically based throughout its varied genres and spectra, it too uses rock and metal as its foundations. However, The Luna Sequence has seemingly gone in the opposite direction from the last band because it has only gotten heavier on the metal side, including an increased focus on adding hammering guitar and thrash to death-metal-influenced drumming to break things up.
The Luna Sequence belongs to musician Kaia Young, who has had an eventful year, including a pretty big relocation to the best goddamn State in this wonderful union known as California, and more specifically to the Bay Area. It has seen The Luna Sequence working super-hard to get music going in the midst of the usual rigamarole that a big move may involve. Unlike The Algorithm, though, I know we’ve covered this project many times before, which is why the name may seem more familiar to the more constant NCS readers. It’s also why I couldn’t pass up the chance to do another review when The Luna Sequence returned with its newest album in June, Fearful Shepherds Hunt Their Sheep. You’d never know guess that anything had happened with this project other than time spent between The Day The Curse Grew Stronger and this disc listening to a bunch of heavy metal, because for a pretty good chunk of its runtime, Fearful Shepherds Hunt Their Sheep contains some of the most consistently and authentically heavy music that The Luna Sequence has put out yet.
The core of The Luna Sequence still remains the same as it has been over the last few discs, which means that the closest you’ll come to any sort of vocalist the use of keyboards to provide some sort of lead or orchestral backing to the more epic sections of the music. Usually, you’ll find that these leads tend to be sustained notes, which could as easily be sung as played on a guitar, but it’s as close to a vocal melody amidst this hybrid of electronica and rock/metal that you’ll find. Alongside that, The Luna Sequence has gotten really good at taking the differing varieties of electronica, from its more bass-heavy leanings to the DnB varieties, and making them into analogues for metal tunes.
A few of the songs flip everything on their heads and are just full-blown metal songs that feel like an electronica artist is trying to invade them, and what you essentially get as the final product is the war between the two. The switch is often flipped flawlessly, meaning that when the two aren’t combining into what makes The Luna Sequence what it is, then the trip to the opposite hemispheres often happens without any sort of jarring, ‘Oh, now we’re in the synth heavy section…’ transitions. Case in point: the closing track “From Unrest To Atrophy”, while at its core being a heavy as hell metal tune, shifts from the thunderous drumming and guitar chord desecration to the more calming and ambient piano with about the same effort it takes most folks to breathe.
Unlike The Day The Curse Grew Stronger, which was probably the most metrically heavy album this project has produced, with songs like “Visions” and “Lacerate” for instance, Fearful Shepherds Hunt Their Sheep spreads it out through the whole CD, with the result that the album is a more consistent experience rather than one in which these awesome, concentrated blasts of heavy metal have been packed into a smattering of really good electronica/rock hybrids. That doesn’t mean that Fearful Shepherds doesn’t have its moments of blasting fury though; it’s just that it is more blended into the overall sound now, which means that the heavier songs on the disc are backed by just-as-angry electronics works as well. Even the more synth-and-drum-loop-focused songs find themselves taking on a sinister air at lends itself well to headbanging.
Of course, The Luna Sequence is still filling a very difficult niche; combining the two genres can often lead to people becoming opposed to them like polarized magnets. It seems that the people who embrace this project have a very special and odd bit of musical combination going on in their minds, myself included, with a heavy history of industrial music alongside my requisite Satan worship and circle head banging. Yet it’s hard to deny that The Luna Sequence has a serious draw if you meet those requirements. Every release so far has been enjoyable, and the current tangent into the heavy metal side of this, from This Is Bloodlust to The Day The Curse Grew Stronger, to the current Fearful Shepherds release, has been a lot of fun to hear. It’s music that loans itself well not only to deep listening, but also to just providing a good background, especially to a marathon video game session.
So yes, Fearful Shepherds appeals to an odd Venn diagram of listeners, but if you manage to fall right into that intersection, then the experiences it offers are fantastic. The album’s potential crossover appeal is also tremendous, and I hope people have found themselves traveling from one side of the aisle to the other as they find different elements of each song that they may like. The project may be an odd bridge, but it is one built to be incredibly solid and one that is currently getting really, really good at writing heavy as hell metal songs.