Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2021
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

A remarkably good piece of experimentation. - 83%

ForNaught, May 21st, 2009

Infotainment? is the first full-length release by British industrial band Pitchshifter after leaving their industrial metal sound behind. Nowadays known as an industrial nu-metal outfit, they were originally a Godflesh-inspired group, who played a very cold, dark, and sludgy style of metal, sample-laden but chilling. This release essentially bridges the two eras, but it is not the awkward hybrid or safe halfway house that might be expected, but a rather more experimental release.

The album opens with a kind of hypnosis session, accompanied by a left-right channel- bouncing sound, in the absence of a visible pendulum. This quickly fades away into a strangely-placed orchestral swell, and then segues into the first proper song, Underachiever. This track very much typifies the sonic profile of the bulk of the album, and it will become very obvious very quickly that the gloomy, almost robotic metal anthems of previous works are a thing of the past. The sound is big, utilising a very loud and heavy guitar tone, and some interesting drum work, which is now based on a mix of live drums and samples rather than the relentless, metronomic drum machine of older releases. The bass is chunky, down-tuned, and often effect-laden; the vocals are either roared in a somewhat harsher analogue of the older works’ death grunt or sung cleanly but again generally effect-saturated. The production is far cleaner than the dank, cavernous factory sound of earlier works. In short, this sounds an awful lot like nu-metal.

However, it doesn’t have the predictable, almost “safe” sound that would later become attached to the band. The radio-friendly tunes of Deviant or PSI are notably absent. Instead, the majority of the songs are very, very aggressive—not nearly as threatening as, say, most death metal, but this is by far the most abrasive record of the band’s whole career, including the metal days. As a result, the release is actually quite cathartic to listen to. It’s a very pure kind of aggression, which rages against consumerism, collectivism, and commercialism. In terms of lyrical quality it lies somewhere above the juvenilia of later releases; it’s reasonably similar to their earlier works, but far less lyrically minimal—the Godflesh influence seems to have mostly worn off in most aspects of the music at this stage.

Although the music is indeed rooted in nu-metal, with a good deal of experimentation mixed in and an industrial edge to it, it’s actually pretty damn interesting to listen to. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, the percussion is really varied. As noted, it combines samples/programming with live drums, and this has allowed the band a great degree of freedom. It seems to have been influenced by certain styles of hardcore electronica such as break beat more than anything; it by no means features the steady driving pulse/beat which pervades dance music, but does embrace the lightning-fast, rhythmically-strange, almost neurotic-sounding snare work of more complex and organised-chaotic electronic styles. This is unusual when juxtaposed with the heavy guitar work, which isn’t metal in its riffing for the most part, but still hints at it from time to time. All kinds of additional drum sounds, mostly various pieces of unusual-sounding percussion, have been mixed into the drum lines also.

The vocal performance is also very varied and entertaining. It is different to both the later albums and the metal material. The most often-used style is a kind of half-sung half-roar which is fairly reminiscent of the performance on Desensitized. However, it has been spiced up with some cleaner vocals, closer to later performances but not all the way there yet, some spoken material (usually just a word or two here and there, not rapping!) as well as frequently using various effects on the vocal, including sample manipulation. Reading back on my description I realise that this sounds extremely suspect; however, it works remarkably well in context. The vocal is also fleshed out throughout by liberal use of samples—this is Pitchshifter’s most sample-heavy album. Interspersing the vocal parts in all the different styles with samples creates a remarkably intricate and varied sound.

As noted above, this is also a fairly experimental release. It’s clear that Pitchshifter were not entirely comfortable with their new direction at this stage, and as such were playing around with unusual elements to see what worked best for them. Consequently, this album is far more interesting and less straight-forward than their later, more solidly nu-metal releases would be. Aside from the “hypnosis sessions” of the intro and interlude, which don’t really mean much, this experimental edge is portrayed in a number of ways throughout the release. There’s some overlap with my commentary on what exactly makes the album interesting, here. The very varied and exciting percussion parts use many strange and unusual sounds, to create some quite odd and intriguing sound textures. The same might be said of the vocal performance and samples. Additionally, some of the non-vocal samples are used to insert quite strange noises into the music at intervals—even the most innocuous tracts and riffs are augmented and kept from becoming pedestrian. Most of the songs, although short, are also quite intricately-structured—a far cry from the verse-chorus structures of later releases. One other notable feature is Hangar 84, a track not like anything else in Pitchshifter’s catalogue—it’s an instrumental drum and bass track, filled with samples relating to the Roswell incident. Again, although this sounds awful, it actually works extremely well, due to the very intricate nature of the drum programming and the impeccable use of samples.

Overall this is a really unusual and interesting release. It marks the beginning of Pitchshifter’s downward slide into mediocrity, with each full-length being worse than the previous (although the next two do have their moments, at least). It’s also their last album without filler. This has resulted in a fairly short playing time—there’s actually only about 30 minutes of actual music, omitting the intro and the free samples at the end, which really does leave one wanting more. Understandably, it’s going to put a lot of listeners off due to the nu-metal influence, both due to the attached stigma and the fact that many people just can’t tolerate the style in any shape or form. However, for those who will give it a try and find that they are not put off by these elements, it will be prove to be far greater than the sum of its parts, and a very rewarding listen.