Having reviewed Plaguewielder‘s excellent third album Covenant Death last year, I was intrigued to see where main man Bryce Seditz would go next. The easiest option for Seditz would have been to cut, paste, and repeat another album in Covenant Death‘s vein, but he has instead decided to take a bolder step with the new project Above & Below.
In the album’s promo-notes Seditz mentions how he had always wanted to release an Industrial sounding project but hitherto he hadn’t the means. Now that he has, he has teamed up with Disorder Recordings label boss/Chrome Waves and Deeper Graves frontman Jeff Wilson who assists with bass, manipulation, and production. Chris Smith‘s artwork should leave you in no doubt as to the type of music you can expect, for me, it harkens back to Frontline Assembly’s album covers as designed by the legendary Dave McKean who worked with that band for nearly twenty years (from the mid ’90s to circa 2021).
Anyone who is a black metal aficionado will know that the idea of melding black metal and industrial is not entirely a novel concept as Snorre Ruch’s legendary Thorns project will testify to. Opening track Ghosts builds upon this idea but instead of a pummelling barrage of noise, there is more of a funkier/hip-hop laden groove going on that complement Seditz‘s anguished vocals exceptionally well. I dare say that at times I was reminded slightly of Follow The Leader era Korn, make of that what you will.
The following track Rust takes some influence from 3Teeth, a band of whom I knew very little if anything until now. There are real emotions present and a musical density that is not usually found in the coldly dystopian and robotic sounds associated with the industrial genre. Indeed, Seditz himself states on MXDWN that ‘Lyrically, Rust is all about being lost as a human being. Feeling like there is nothing worthwhile in this world for you anymore’, these are themes Trent Reznor undoubtedly would have touched upon in Nine Inch Nails earlier work.
There are real emotions present and a musical density that is not usually found in the coldly dystopian and robotic sounds associated with the industrial genre…
Hope is the longest track on the album at nearly six minutes and more of a slow burner, making it a good deal more understated than its predecessors. The combination of harsh vocals and clattering industrial noises remind me in spots of Fear Factory’s brilliant remix album Fear Is The Mindkiller. From the longest track to the shortest, Isolate features guitar more prominently and has a definite post-black metal vibe present. Although I have been enjoying the album so far, the track feels like a necessary diversion and affords the listener an opportunity to take stock before the industrial onslaught continues. Dead with its sledgehammer Helmet style riffs is a heavy arse slab of alt-metal with some Geto Boys style attitude (I was reminded particularly of their track Still as used in the film Office Space) thrown into an industrial blender. It’s rather wonderful truth be told.
The penultimate track Tear recalls the grinding drone of early Swans (Cop era), which obviously appeals to these ears, while Covered ends the album in an intriguing fashion with some Autechre Glitch meshing with atmospheric and melancholic post-black metal. A combination that sounds like a potential disaster on paper, but which thankfully works very well in reality.
This is an album that needs to be treated on its own merits, is it up there with the industrial classics by Ministry, Skinny Puppy et al? Not really. But as a first attempt at forging a new sound, it is a pretty darn decent effort that lays the groundwork for a promising future.
Scribed by: Reza Mills