ARTIST: Assemblage 23
ALBUM: Early, Rare and Unreleased, Volume Two
LABEL: 23db Records
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
The second limited edition collection of Assemblage 23's early demos and rarities, this release goes as far back as the late '80s and offers some fascinating insights into project founder Tom Shear's musical evolution. His earliest work already displayed the melding of bittersweet synthpop hooks and bigger, EBM-influenced rhythms; "Black Day" and "Beneath the Silence," from 1988 and 1989, respectively, both sound like something that could've been released in the past few years, if not for the slightly dated production values. More interesting are the less expected offerings. "Graverobber" is pure moody synthpop in the vein of Depeche Mode's "Flies on the Windscreen," while "Relationshit" is an unabashed EBM stomp, all pounding beats, bass synth, and fuzzed out vocals. "Psychotic" is even heavier, with looping synthesized guitar blasts; though it's kind of cheesy, it's fascinating to hear Tom Shear, best known for his melancholy and emotive compositions, trying his hand at Ministry-inspired industrial metal. Another sort of interesting failure is a techno-infused cover of Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way." Again, it's hardly brilliant, but the replacement of the original version's melodic blips with metallic clangs is enough to make it worth a listen. Little of the material here will be of much appeal to casual listeners, but as a limited edition peak into the archives, it was never intended to be. This offering is aimed squarely at Assemblage 23's most devoted fans, and there's no doubt that they'll be intrigued by what's on display.
Visit Tom Shear at www.assemblage23.com.
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