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I brought Godflesh’s Streetcleaner without the faintest idea of what Industrial was. I’m sure that everyone here knows what it feels like to discover an entire new genre. You get the sense that there’s an entire new plain of incredible music awaiting you, and that all you have to do to seize it is to walk forward - you have the obligatory classics and founders of the genre, the mid level bands whom the adamant fans always mention with a superior air, and then you have the hordes of others, and you hope you’ll be the ones to find some gems among them – and you can’t wait to start exploring. This was the feeling that greeted me with Streetcleaner.
The first step is generally to research the classics of whatever genre you’ve just broken into. A bit of asking around and I was given a fairly comprehensive list for Industrial. This list included bands like Swans, Pitchshifter, Skin Chamber…and Head of David. They looked perfect. I was told by several associates that they were one of the founders of the genre, that they were an amazing band, and that they had Broadrick on drums. The one thing I never asked about is what album to get. When looking at their albums at CD Universe, Seedstate was the cheapest. Okay, I thought, this seems to be the place to start. I decided to check on metal archives to see if there was anything about that album, but there wasn’t, so I took a chance and pushed ‘order.’
The intro was nothing like what I expected, and served to put me on edge. Still, I decided to wait to pass judgment until the album got going. The first track, Honey Lives, took my forebodings, exaggerated them, and then recorded a song with their nightmares. This isn’t Industrial Metal. No, this is something far closer to Pop. The drumming doesn’t drive the music anymore, although I suppose it’s still the key instrument. The beats have some surface-level similarities to those on albums like Streetcleaner, but it goes no deeper. These are far more repetitive, and utterly lack the calculated, mechanical coldness that was the main charm of Godflesh’s. The bass generally follows the drums, but it merely grooves along without ever doing anything worthy of note. The guitar merely sits back and only comes in to back up the rest of the music with cheesy chords and poorly done lead-esque passages every once in a while. The vocals are one of the worst offenders. They’re laidback and completely clean. They completely drive the music, and when they’re absent everything just pointlessly waddles around for a few seconds until they come back.
In this matter the songwriting is utterly asinine and completely predictable. The drums generally form a repetitive beat, everything else just follows along making noise, and the vocals lead everything forward toward the billboards. As if to underline just how stylistically similar this is to Industrial METAL, there are countless moments, generally intros and the like, which sound great. A great example of this is the intro to Human Feel. There are a few really cool bars of lead guitar and drums, and it sounds like it’s going to be a terrifying, desolate track. Instead, the guitar changes to a far more comforting, pointless passage which repeats aimlessly until the singer comes in. What about Broadrick? How on earth did he play on Seedstate and Streetcleaner only a few years apart? Well, my answer came soon enough. It turns out that he left the band before this album, and has been quoted saying that his bandmates new material has an unhealthy interest in Bon Jovi.
Alright, so I think we’ve established that this isn’t metal. It lacks any sort of heaviness, is completely vocal driven, and there’s nothing on this CD that can even loosely be described as a riff. But is it good Pop? Well, I can’t say. I’m not an authority on Pop, and I don’t pretend to be one. I know that this album bored me, and that I had to force myself to listen to it. In fact, I’m going to make a confession: I broke my own rules on this one. I try and force myself to listen to an album three times before reviewing it, but this is the second time, and I’m shutting it off the second I finish this review. Why? There’re no secret depths to be explored, I know what it is, and it’s Pop.
I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, if it’s not even BAD Pop, why am I giving it such a low score? Is it just because it’s not metal?” Well, yes, it is. It’s not an objective score, and it’s not supposed to be. If you say that you objectively analyze music, you’re deluding yourself. It’s an impossibility. I personally think that having drums blast at 200 BPM, having guitars play random chords, having an inaudible bass, having incoherent shrieks as vocals, layering the whole thing in distortion, and recording it live on an eight track makes for great music. Most of my friends think that’d be something equivalent to sonic torture. I disagree. Is there opinion objectively more or less true? Of course not. I think that radio friendly beats, Poppy songwriting and a complete lack of metal qualities as a weakness. Is it objectively one? Of course not. “Now wait,” you’re probably saying, “Would I find it okay if a country music fan came on here and gave Conqueror a shitty review?” No, I would not, but not for the reasons that you think. This is a metal site. He should know what he’s getting into. You shouldn’t hunt down stuff to hate. On the other hand, if he bought War Cult Supremacy under the influence it was some kind of Satanic, Canadian, Country music, and wrote it an awful review on a Country website telling others to stay away and that they’re actually not Country in the slightest; I’d have no problem with that. This isn’t an objective declaration of shit, this is merely a warning to fellow metalheads that this isn’t metal and that if that’s what you’re looking for, stay away.