Artist: Assemblage 23
CD title: Bruise
Label: Metropolis Records
Reviewer: DJ Kantrip
Assemblage 23 is one of those acts I had to warm up to over the years. It wasn't until Defiance that I finally became a fan. I'll give Tom Shear credit for his way with words. His personal sounding lyrics and rather blunt way of expressing those twisting unresolved feelings that lie in many of us, have an amazing way of cutting straight to the core. A few of my DJ friends and I have talked about the one A23 track that cut through our posturing and cynicism and made us finally just break down and listen not only to the words but the emotions that vibrated with them. Overly poetic? Maybe, but this reviewer remembers very clearly the, night that "Drive" made him get up, get in his car and just go until he broke through some creative blocks he was having. So there's that.
I don't like being so personal in my reviews, but I only share this with you readers because the new Assemblage 23 album is full of those songs that grab hold of your brain and your heart so well. Put aside any eye-rolling and immediate dismissal of "another club-fodder EBM album" that some of you may have. Bruise is easily one of the best Assemblage 23 albums to date.
Bruise is the 7th full-length release from the Seattle-based project. Brainchild of Tom Shear, Assemblage 23 has been one of those electronic acts that has stood the test of time and fickle musical tastes of the Gothic/Industrial Scene. Following up 2009's Compass, Bruise delivers more of the well-produced, thoughtful, and oontz-heavy EBM that has been packing dancefloors since 1999.
Musically this release comes off as very balanced to me. Compass and Meta had lots of peaks and valleys when it came to the emotional and musical tone of the albums. Fast-paced and unleashing question after question to a world that's seemingly gone insane, and then slow and introspective for a few tracks before getting angry and determined again. These were jagged erratic musical journeys, but the latest album is a clear focused run. There are answers to all these questions in the horizon, and Assemblage 23 is determined to get to them. No stopping.
To put it in less flowery language, every song on this CD is club worthy. The opening track “Crosstalk” wastes no time in letting the listener know that this isn't going to be a slow trip. Voices speaking through radio distortion jumps into bouncy synths and then give way to a steady yet gentle beat. A perfect opening that gets you tapping your feet, if not shaking your butt in your chair. I had little complaint with any of the songs on this album. If you are an Assemblage 23 fan then you know what to expect here. Lots of melodies, four to the floor dance beats, and clear vocals. Shear doesn't deviate from what works, but still makes it sound completely new and unique from his previous albums.
One of the standout songs is “The Last Mistake”. It starts off as a rather sweet sounding piece about missing someone and bridging that gap that has divided two close people for so long. By the chorus and second verse it goes straight into creepy-stalker-Misery territory. It was one of those moments where I lost myself in the music until I became aware of the words behind it. As the expressions of possessive love and affection become darker and darker, the urge to keep dancing around to the steady plodding beat and synth melodies increases as well. I'm sure there is a deeper meaning here about being able to clearly see and hear danger signs in abusive relationships, but still be entranced by those qualities we believe are in someone, but that was just my personal deep-dive into the lyrics. I have to give massive kudos to Mr. Shear for writing such a beautiful yet completely unnerving song.
Other notable tracks on the album are “The Noise Inside My Head”, which is an anthem for anyone who's mind or body will not let them get more than a few hours sleep a night. “Darkflow” is a surefire club hit. It is one of those songs that will completely take you, mind and body, on the dancefloor. The “Other Side of the Wall” is the perfect song for anyone who is having a hard time watching someone near to them struggle with problems and aren't quite sure how to help. And almost as if answering that cry of "How can I Help?", “Talk Me Down” answers back with a track about being on the edge and wanting nothing more than to be back on solid ground. Bruise closes with “Otherness”, the only slow song on the full-length that addresses the core truth behind a lot of the walls and bravado that people put up. The fear of being hurt and seen as weak when opening up completely to someone.
Bruise is 11 tracks long but there is a deluxe edition available with a second CD containing 8 remixes and 3 additional songs not featured on the main album. Cesium 137 and Geoff Pickney of Tenek remix “The Last Mistake”, while Daniel Myer and ivardensphere remix “Rain Falls Down”, one of the additional tracks. The most popular song to remix is “The Noise Inside My Head” which is revisited by Grendel, Sonik Foundry, and Alter Der Ruine. The 3 bonus tracks, “Rain Falls Down”, “God is A Strangely Absent Father”, and “Reckless” all would have fit in perfectly on the core album. Due to getting a digital copy to review, I almost thought that “Rain Falls Down” was the actual closing piece upon my first few listens.
Bruise is hands-down the strongest Assemblage 23 release to date. Every song on the album has its own voice and doesn't get lost in the sea of oontz that most EBM albums become after 3 or 4 tracks. Shear's vocals are clear and unwavering in their emotional delivery, which is perfect for making sure you can hear every single word. And trust me you want to actually listen to what this album has to say. Lyrically it is blunt, honest, easily relatable, and feels completely exposed. Give it a listen and you will understand why it is appropriately titled, Bruise
Take a listen to "The Last Mistake"
|< Prev||Next >|