(Our long-time supporter and occasional contributor Booker returns to NCS with this review of the new album by Finland’s Diablerie.)
Music goes through phases, some of them short-lived trends. And let’s face it, metal is no different. But there’s always some stallion musos that keep true to their hearts and let fly with the rhythms and sounds that light their own fire, regardless of the changing moods around them. Like those stalwart bands that kept cranking out solid thrash throughout the ’90s and 2000s, while grunge and nu-metal captured hearts and minds, only to see the hunger for riffs and blazing solos come back full circle into fashion again.
Strangely, one branch of metal which the world seems to have shied away from in recent times is industrial. I say strange, because given it’s got solid, heavy rhythms, the fusing of “traditional” metal instruments with experimentation – in the form of electronica, synths, and samples – and often bleak and dystopian lyrics and themes, you’d think it would fit right into a cover of “these are just a few of my favourite things” sung by a true kvlt metal fan.
But for reasons beyond my comprehension, the world’s gaze has shifted elsewhere, and industrial has largely been left to fade into the background. Well, if you’re like me and have a penchant for riffs that slam like concrete sledgehammers and aren’t afraid of synths that would fit in an ’80s soundtrack, fear not: because Finland’s Diablerie are one of those bands who have been toiling away in the shadows and quietly following their own industrial compass. And now they bring us their second full-length album The Catalyst Vol. I: Control via Primitive Records.
Like many bands these days, NCS was the first place I was introduced to Diablerie, specifically back in April 2013 when Islander featured two tracks, “Selves” and “Osiris”, which Diablerie had posted online. I swear if Soundcloud embeds were like cassette tapes I would have played those tracks to the point of stretching and distorting the code, given how addictive I found them. A month or so later Islander fed my adrenaline-fueled fever even further, like a dealer hooking in a junkie, with another track, “Rabid (Dogs of Church and State)”.
All of these tracks feature on The Catalyst – although revised somewhat since those early versions. So clearly this album’s been a while in the making, and I’m happy to report these Finnish lads have baked it to just the right mix of raw and crispy, maybe even a little blackened on the outside (yes, I actually just used that word in the culinary sense!).
Diablerie’s website and record label describe them as “industrial death metal”, and while I think there are more than just those influences on display here, it is a fitting description in that death metal is certainly not just an afterthought, but a solid backbone to their approach. Sound-wise, the mixing and tone has been kept sufficiently raw to avoid the trappings of a “too polished” sound, but still packs a punch and has enough clarity to distinguish the individual instruments. In fact, I couldn’t help but think the guitar tone and mix were reminiscent of Strapping Young Lad’s City, probably helped by “Selves” also featuring the same sample as used by SYL on “Fucker”: “All obsessed… with the taste of flesh” (sometimes I wonder about the content of my mind given I recognized that straight off).
The opening track “Hexordium: the final realisation that you don’t matter” begins with whispered voices but quickly drives into alternating sections of screaming with blast beats and a slower thumping bass drum section providing the backdrop to samples or spoken words that sound like they’ve been recorded via an unstable interplanetary radio connection. It’s a good intro to “Selves”, which follows the same tempo and very much feels like “Hexordium” launched into full gear.
“Rabid (Dogs of Church and State)”, featuring a guest appearance from Mika Luttinen of Impaled Nazarene on vocals, ups the ante with a faster tempo, which lets up in places to allow more room to breathe and some — god forbid — clean vocals. Thankfully, across the whole album, the clean vocals are not drawn too far towards the “here’s some melodic cleans” approach to song-writing and fit the music well. “Wear My Crown” brings the synths more to the front and could almost pass for a heavy dance track in places, only to die out and surprise you with a choral interlude, before launching back again into its headbang-inducing pneumatic-like chorus.
“Odium Generis Humani” is arguably the most “straight metal” track on the album and wastes no time in reassuring you that metal is indeed the backbone to their sound, guitar solo and all; it’s a deliciously infectious track. After an interlude track “You Stop You Die”, Diablerie hit full gear again with “Grey”; it’s a track where the bleak lyrics “you will never see the light of day” are juxtaposed by being sung melodically over an upbeat keyboard line. Oddly, given the lyrics, it comes across as energetic and uplifting. It’s a bit of a mindfuck, and just to throw you off balance a little more the track ends with a velvety smooth outro that could form a mellow interlude between peaks on a techno dancefloor.
Just in case you’re worried this is venturing too far from the usual beaten path, “This Drastic Clique” brings the album solidly back into metal territory, before hitting the penultimate track “Osiris”. I’d fallen in the love with the preview track to such an extent that it’s still a little odd to hear the same track done slightly differently, but there’s no doubt it’s a great place to start if you’re looking for a taste of the diversity of approach on offer on The Catalyst.
The final track “I Am The Catalyst” follows a similar vein to early Fear Factory closing tracks like “A Therapy For Pain” or “Ascension” and dials back into a quieter, largely instrumental, piece. It sounds like the soundtrack to a religious experience of a synthetic life form, and lulls the listener into robotic musical hypnosis before throwing a few surprises at the end.
It’s been five years since Diablerie’s previous Transition EP (and 16 since their first full-length Seraphyde). The step up in sound and songwriting is noticeable – whereas Transition did sound in many ways like a band in transition, The Catalyst sounds like they’ve gelled and forged a metallic-synth(etic) hybrid machine which is much more focused and sure of itself. And that only makes me hungry to hear what they’ll come up with next. I, for one, would love for Diablerie to still be going strong, having kept their dark mechanical hearts beating in the overlooked shadows, when the next industrial musical revolution comes back full circle.
The Catalyst Vol. I: Control can be bought in CD or vinyl from Primitive Reaction:
Diablerie on Facebook:
A full album stream is available here. Two tracks are below.