Artist: Individual Totem
CD title: Kyria 13
Label: Artoffact Records
Released: August 6th, 2013
Individual Totem is one of those bands that always surprise me with new releases. Mostly because so much time lapses between them that I forget about them. But when that new album comes out, I am rarely disappointed. 6 years after their last album, Kyria 13 sees the return of the Industrial veterans who take the listener on a trip to a far off planet that is facing certain doom. These 10 songs are the final thoughts and trials of a doomed alien race, and as a concept I'm in love with it.
At first I was tempted to write off the story being told on Kyria 13 as a poorly disguised warning for humanity and Earth's own plight, but after listening to it, Individual Totem does a great job of establishing the tone and atmosphere of this alien realm. I was able to close my eyes and imagine the tale as it unfolded without any cynical "heed our warning" moments sneaking through. I was also able to enjoy the album in random mode on my media player as the songs stood up well on their own. No context was needed regarding the greater story they contributed to. As far as the album sound, Individual Totem embrace a futuristic and strange atmosphere. They fuse industrial rock elements with 1980's inspired sci-fi soundscapes. The beats aren't too hard or aggressive but effectively incite a sense of urgency and determination in the listener.
While the entire album was enjoyable a few tracks really stood out for me. Being a sucker for space opera soundtracks, "Astral" immediately became a must-listen. Somber droning synths with whispering vocals over a steady marching beat. This is the second to the last track as the intrepid heroes seek wisdom and salvation in their final moments. Alone I could listen to this track for hours just meditating. "Lost Souls "start off slow with a nice plodding beat, but soon turns into a frantic run with synth loops that remind me of early Juno Reactor, and the repeating lyrics "Delete My Body, Save my Soul". "Bluesky" ensnared me with its Middle-eastern infused drums and cautionary lyrics, but lost me with off-key vocals. If there was a weak point to the entire album I would say it was the vocals. I love the fact that Individual Totem doesn't resort to shrieking or hoarse harsh whispers, but the vocals wavered here and there, and often pulled me out of the Sci-Fi trance that the music sought to slip me into.
My complaints with the vocals aside, Kyria 13 was a treat to listen to. Individual Totem has reemerged with a strong concept album that doesn't pander to the current norms of industrial music, and also doesn't stray too far from their signature sound for long time fans. I wouldn't expect to hear this in your local club too much, but really to truly appreciate Kyria 13, you need to be able to sit down and listen. If you enjoy Individual Totem, Science Fiction, or just really spacey sounding music go listen to this album now.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Take a Listen: "Lost Souls"
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