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Lots of bands take sharp left turns, but this one really surprised me. Electrocution's full length "Inside the Unreal" is bludgeoning, pretty straight-forward death/thrash; it's also one of my favorite obscure metal albums. Naturally I was enthused when a guy I've traded with in the past told me he could snag this rare single from a used records shop near him.
When the package arrived I opened it up and took the 7" directly to my turntable. Needle down, sound started coming out of the speakers - and my jaw dropped.
The title track opens with a little jazz, played on what sounds like a cheap keyboard. Programmed drums play a gentle swing rhythm and one-notch-above-Casio piano tones come together into a few plinky chords. A few seconds later, the band takes over (whew!) and brings the metal. But it's not the neck-snapping, hyperfast stuff of their previous release. Instead the drums are all over the place, playing crazy rhythms. Guitars tend to squeal away at lead parts (and riffs that sound like lead parts) more than play palm-muted thrash riffs. The bass is extremely prominent, slapping and popping like crazy throughout the whole song, and sounding closer to Sadus or Cynic than any previous Electrocution track. The vocals are almost the only familiar harbor, but even there the band throws a curveball, introducing some harmonized clean vocals (!!!) in a couple of places. Oh, and did I mention the frequent intervals of classical-influenced acoustic guitar? In some respects this song feels like all of Atheist's "Elements" and "Unquestionable Presence" crammed into three and a half minutes, with a healthy dash of Electrocution's old style coming through in the vocals and some of the riffs. It's bizarre, it's unexpected... but it's pretty cool I guess.
"Chained to Life" stakes out the same territory immediately, opening with gentle cymbals dancing around burbling bass and very pretty acoustic guitar. The song goes electric after about half a minute, but even then it's not especially heavy, and the rhythms are too proggy and erratic to inspire headbanging. Also, the singer uses some clean/pitchless speak-singing for a weird break from his usual deep growl. Finally, around the 50 second mark, the song goes into a quick thrash tempo and a more brutal riff, but it's short-lived as the band soon returns to a rumbling bass-heavy break and more acoustic playing. I could go on describing all the discrete parts of the song, but suffice it to say that just like side A, "Chained to Life" is tech death at its craziest.
It will take several listens to find the pulse and structure of these songs. Luckily they are short and fascinating enough to keep the listener coming back. It's too bad Electrocution never made a full length in this style; while it probably could not have been as gut-punchingly awesome as "Inside the Unreal," any fan of Atheist/Cynic/later Pestilence/later Death would have surely loved the hell out of it.