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Senmuth - Neocortex - 40%

ConorFynes, January 11th, 2011

Another album that shows Senmuth experimenting with some more European folk music under the banner of industrial metal. To those yet unaware of this man's music, Senmuth is an artist that has crossed over a very wide range of music, from the light nuances of electronic ambient, to dark ethnic world music, to the crushing distortion of the heavier metal music for which he is known best. With 'Neocortex', we are taken back a few years to the style Senmuth used most when this prolific experimental project was still in it's infancy. Industrial metal with hints of ethnic music is the order of the day here, and while the album here is spiced up by a couple of very fun covers, the music here shows that Senmuth's typical industrial metal has been stretched a bit too far.

It's difficult to speak of 'Neocortex' on it's own, for besides the two cover songs here, there is nothing new to Senmuth. Simple guitar work with plenty of distortion makes up the main body of music, along with the weird, distinctive and slightly annoying singing ability of lead man Valery Av. When held up against other albums of similar sound however, there is less of a Middle-Eastern/Egyptian sound to the music, instead opting for some fresher accordions and pianos to lead things. Barring that, the music reprises what was done years before with albums like 'Cognitive Discord.'

Without a doubt, the three final songs of 'Neocortex' are the highlight of the album, and ultimately the work's saving graces. As for the two covers, it's pretty impressive on it's own that Senmuth would have the gall to follow up a Bangles cover with a song originally penned by black metal innovators Mercyful Fate. Both covers are very fun to listen to despite their vast differences, and the puns Senmuth throws into the music makes for a very tongue-in- cheek vibe (the singer pronounces the Mercyful Fate song 'Come To The Senmuth'). Unfortunately, the melody and complexity of the covers (especially 'Come To The Sabbath') make the original numbers pale in comparison.

'Neocortex' certainly has some strength to it, but nothing of note; it has nothing of it's own to sport, instead choosing to dine on the style of previous albums, seemingly note-for-note. With the exception of the two fun covers here, there isn't much to 'Neocortex'.

Dogfights in a wormhole over the desert - 83%

Crick, May 18th, 2009

There are some things in this world that simply make you go "...What the bloody hell was that?". Whether it be the latest ridiculous music video, or be it that duck you saw in the pond that had two heads it left an impression on you that'll stay with you for a long time. I like to think that's what good music strives to do - confuse you, maybe even cause you to hate it. So long as you remember a piece of music, the artist in question can consider it an at least partial success. This album, however, is no partial success. This is something special.

Now, despite how peculiar this album is, it's also another one of Senmuth's more traditional works. Much like Sigh's "Gallows Gallery" or Alchemist's "Tripsis", the production on this is insanely thick. At first, I was under the impression that most of the riffs were near inaudible under the many layers of keyboards, symphonics, vocal effects, all that. A second listen proved me quite wrong, and the more I listened the more I heard. This is a wonderfully deep work that's a testament to Senmuth's ability to create a completely new sound with each release. Industrial metal with a hint of gothic metal influence would probably touch upon what you could call this, but only at the base. A mix of exotic folk elements, some very strange riff structures and one of the weirdest vocalists ever might say more than a simple genre description. But even then, this doesn't want to be labeled as just one thing, this is one of those albums that wants to be everything.

I really do suppose this could qualify as almost anything. Senmuth may seem like a normal guy, but his vocal performance here prove he's clearly a bit off his rocker. Though at times he may treat you to an awesome soaring chorus line or more gruff voice that sounds reminiscent of Adam Agius, he often breaks off into completely unnerving tangents. His crooning and whispering over the brooding melodies of "Kamni Aravniy" send tingles down my spine, as if he's speaking directly in your ear. Other times he seems blissfully unaware of the chaos of the music going on around him, or is singing in an almost mocking yet nasal tone. Senmuth's opted for a slight return to his more unconventional vocal effects as well, at times doubling his vocal lines over themselves and adding layers of fuzz or digital effects.

What's more, what really shines through musically is his ability to be emotionally varied. Many of the songs on here straddle the line between brooding, aggressive, and epic. "Avtoritarnost" treats us to some almost brutal sounding industrial riffing broken up occasionally by a strange seemingly happy electronic section where Senmuth seems blissfully unaware of whatever he was doing before before seemingly jumping back into his angrier riffing as if he has split personality disorder. The upbeat trance-style keyboards remind of the soundtrack from the Matrix trilogy, by the way - and that's just cool. "Goryaschiy Voron" sounds like some sort of awesome showdown theme with it's just plain weird riffing and organ-synth that reminds of classic video game boss fights.

Of course, at times this seems a bit TOO experimental for it's own good. Senmuth experiments with some odd start-stop riffing and some strange timing over the course of this, and some sections seem to meander a slight bit. For what it's worth though, I feel they're at the very least overshadowed by the cooler riffs and completely fucked up atmosphere this album has. Even better, the ever lovable accordion makes a return here after a long time in retirement (it was originally used on "Nature", then made a brief cameo on "Velichie..." in some remixes). Where? The song "Syn Kamnya", the most epic of all the tracks on here. Senmuth's vocal lines soar with an echo over the marching riffs that make it seem as if he's leading a war in space (thanks to the ever-present alien keyboards, of course). From there, it evolves into a wonderfully fucked up beast of a song that should impress fans of Sigh's more "trippy" moments.

Just to top this off, there are also two cover songs on here. While they're both fairly cool, I generally dislike cover songs on full-length albums that try to be as epic and grandiose as this. It tends to screw with the flow unless it's something like Carnival in Coal's version of "1308.JP.08". Still, the cover of "Work Like An Egyptian" is addictingly sticky and I have to give Senmuth credit for that. The Mercyful Fate cover also stays somewhat true to the original song, but also takes a good injection of weirdness and some of Senmuth's own riffing. It's done very nicely, but just seems out of place on this album.

Overall, this is a very, very strange album. There are indeed a few times when it just doesn't seem to work quite right, and the production does hurt it slightly. However, it's one of Senmuth's most "out there" albums to date and is definitely something avant-garde fans should look into. The amount of soundscapes this explores is so impressive, so attention grabbing that I can't help but enjoy it. The majority of the time it does what it's trying to do damn well. Recommended for fans of Sigh, Alchemist, avant-garde music and any manner of psychedelic hoosawhats.

Highlights: Skoly I Uzory, Avtoritarnost', Kamni Aravniy, Goryaschiy Voron, Syn Kamnya, Work Like An Egyptian