(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by California-based Author & Punisher, which is being released by Relapse Records today.)
It would have been easy for Tristan Shone to have just coasted for the rest of his career by being known as the dude who makes music with these machines he built. His early work consisted of very aggressive and dense slabs of industrial steamrolling that droned you into submission.
It was a very powerful-sounding juggernaut. Just creating a sound was something he was content with, and by Women and Children” he added more atmosphere and melody, writing songs that stuck with you and placed him alongside any of his peers. This earned him a spot on my list of most anticipated albums of this year. He has exceeded my expectations with his newest release. It is not likely this album is going to convert you into a fan of industrial music, but will at the least endow fans of heaviness with respect for what is being done here.
Photo credit: Becky DiGiglio
The opening track “Drone Carrying Dread” was one of the lead singles, and upon first listen it struck me as being a heavier industrial-strength take on what Depeche Mode does. Now after repeat listens, the dark haze of multi-layered synths creates a sonic wall that reminds me more of Type O Negative. If a foray into more melodic frontiers is not something that sounds appealing, do not fear: His vocals get more aggressive on the second song.
There remains a pervading sense of atmosphere over the songs, which does nothing to soften the blow of the crushing heaviness that his cyborg instrumentation continues to dish out even with a gray haze overlaying it. “Centurion: is the first of the two songs that feature an appearance by members of Perturbator and Tool (Carey and Chancellor). It is dark and very bleak with a swelling tension. It does not rely on the guests to grab your attention as it is business as usual for him when it comes to the din churned to life by his mech orchestration.
“Maiden Star ” hits with a more abrasive crunch, offset by the more organic warmth of the almost krautrock synths. “Misery” gives Danny Carey’s drumming more breathing room. For Carey this very deliberate pounding is a rather straightforward affair compared to Tool. It is one of the album’s best songs, not due to the guests’ contributions but instead to the fact that it is just well-written.
If you are going to do a cover then follow Shone’s lead and obscure the song in your own sound. It took me almost the full first verse to realize that “Glorybox” is a cover of a Portishead song. There is a more Skinny Puppy-like chaos created by the experimental “Blacksmith”.
In contrast to the previous song there is an almost rock sensibility to the title track that closes the album. This is most felt in the delivery of the vocals, which is some of the album’s most dynamic work while not adhering to any form of traditional rock hooks.
Shone strikes a remarkable balance between experimentation and starving to push himself as a singer and songwriter rather than a collector of cool robotic sounds that are heavy as fuck. Anyone who thinks of him as simply working a gimmick should give this album a listen. These songs will cause you to reconsider your stance, as the tracks here are very gripping. If this is post-apocalyptic it is in a more reflective manner, one that does not pine for the humanity burned away, but rather contemplates the hope that the demise of mankind might still carry. It is darker but in shades of cast-iron gray; the beauty in the heaviness found here will leave your ears ringing from joy.