(In this post Todd Manning combines reviews of new albums by Arizona’s Realize (coming on September 25th via Relapse Records) and Oklahoma’s Black Magnet, released on September 4th by 20 Buck Spin.)
It’s easy to look to the past with rose-colored glasses, but the late eighties and early nineties sure do seem like a distant utopia at times. Yet, that time period spawned the unholy marriage of Industrial music and Extreme Metal, which can often produce some of the most nightmare-ish tunes this side of the river Styx.
It’s only fitting that this kind of stuff is making a comeback nowadays as the material seems well-suited to describe the not-so-slow-motion apocalypse we are being forced to live through. Bleakness and relentless tragedy are the order of the day, and Realize and Black Magnet are two bands diving headfirst into this chasm.
Realize hail from Arizona and are set to release their second-full length Machine Violence on September 25th via Relapse Records. From the start, it is obvious this group performs with a single-minded, mechanistic focus. Kyle Kennedy and Matt Underwood, both from Powerviolence/Grind outfit Sex Prisoner, are joined by Matt Mutterpurl to form Realize, and they draw heavily from Godflesh and the criminally underrated Meathook Seed for influence.
The guitar work is full of catchy yet brutal riffs, and the bass guitar, a vital component in this sub-genre, provides a deep gravity well for the rest of the instruments to orbit. The drumming is key as well. The key to the style is to sound machine-like and hypnotic, with almost drum machine-like beats, yet to interject enough unexpected twists and turns so as not to come across overly simplistic.
“Ghost in the Void” illustrates this well, the drums pounding but always threatening to disappear and reappear every few measures. The tempo rarely falters, but the accents shift all around. This is even more true on the crushing “Slag Pile”. The beats ricochet this way and that, yet create a sense of relentless bombardment that seems to nod to Godflesh’s classic song “Pulp” but expanding the complexity of that blueprint as well.
Black Magnet also pull a lot from the aforementioned Godflesh and Meathook Seed, but also add more classic EBM influences such as Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and Skinny Puppy to the mix. What they lack in the singular focus of Realize, they make up for in a more expansive listening experience.
On their debut album, Hallucination Scene, Black Magnet summon crushing moments evoking the spirit of early Pitchshifter on opener “Divination Equipment”, and follow it with the NIN-inspired “Anubis”. Luckily though, their more “dance-friendly” tracks don’t ever come too close to the sort of radio-friendly tripe that initially tanked the genre in the nineties, always opting instead for a more abrasive and challenging sound palette instead.
The highlight of the album comes in the form of “Hegemon”, which spends its first half in a slow burn before the Skinny Puppy-like menace gives way to a heavier, hypnotic groove. Here, they expertly invoke Ministry’s “Cannibal Song”; heavy guitar work skins the listener alive while the subdued vocals lull them into numbness.
Does anyone remember the first iterations of this style? Well I’m sure many do, but so much has changed. Cyberpunk is now, and with constant surveillance and hunter/killer drones menacing the world, Skynet must surely be poised to activate anytime. This music has found its relevance, and has found its time, and that time is now. This is the soundtrack for 2020 we didn’t know we needed.