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A Majestic Journey Through A Dying World - 85%

Frank Black, February 7th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Independent (Digipak)

I came across Conflict, an industrial/death metal band from Moscow, on a social media fanpage for Fear Factory. Perfectly logical to find them there; they've covered FF and wear a lot from that old hate machine on their sleeve. In fact, they even have a certain Burton C. Bell as guest vocalist on this record. But still, this is no Fear Factory, not musically because the drummer Mikhail Conflictov knows that there's more to life than just quick fuck-off double bass patterns. And thematically Conflict also differs. This is a concept album but it has a lot more to do with philosophy than anything FF has ever done.

The first two songs, "2048" and "Autonomous", set the tone (especially the latter, a hate-filled crazed little fuckbunny of a song). You're immediately introduced to the most recognizable feature of this record: the extremely cold synthesizer work which counterpoints the riffing (the first 9 seconds of 2048 might sound like Eurodance to some people were it not for the minor keys). The synth is in your face sometimes but it makes sense after a while. It's where the melodies are birthed.

We live in the age of ProTools and Autotune where anything can be touched up. Imagine then my elation when I heard the growling vocal hook leading into the chorus of third song Act of Resistance. It comes up twice, and the vocalist does it differently each time. That's love of detail, and it feels real. Remember this, kids.

Which brings us to one of the main points of discussion about this record, lead vocalist Anna Milyanenko who could well be Russias best kept secret. Here's a violent vocalist with a growl to scare the dentures out of your grandma. And her screams are actually even more impressive. And then at times there's that ethereal melodic singing over sweeping synth arrangements and a wall of guitars.

Again, if you want to compare this to FF it's not easy (apart from D-Evolution which comes straight out of the Cazares song formula book and don't let anybody tell you any different). FF rely on poppy choruses that stick like gum in your hair but Conflict actually seldom go that way. In fact, the more I listen to this record, the less I'm reminded of FF.

Where the band excels though, and especially Milyanenko, is the chorus on "Speechless" where her melodic vocals soar cleanly over the music and the larger-than-life synth work to create a contrast so beautiful and majestic that nothing like it is found on the record. Wonderful voice there, and actual singing. We need more of this.

I have a few troubles with the record. First, the instances of the djent sound. On the pleasure scale I place djent music right next to being disemboweled with a wooden cooking spoon, so every taste of it here gives me a rather nasty headache. Also, some of the melodic vocal passages and choruses could be better written. And there's a sense that Anna's screams could be utilized more. But make no mistake. This is one hell of a record, and worth noting is the album's sort of centerpiece "Megapolis", a barely three minute long instrumental consisting of soft guitar picking – and a goddamn saxophone (!). Not kidding. And it's a heartfelt piece that instantly places you in the rainy streets of some Blade Runner world.

Bottom line: Decision Code is a hulking beast with world class production. And there's a broken majesty to it; everything portrayed feels like humanity being beaten into submission among dark, bleak, cold and withered ruins in a windy landscape; small humans darting in and out of the shadows of colossal corpses of buildings. In a nutshell, music for the end of the world.

The fifteen points I subtracted are a result of what's lacking in the songwriting department. Other than that, pretty much world class stuff.