Review: Dome Runner ‘Conflict State Design’

Dome Runner are a complete old school industrial metal throwback. For those of a certain age and disposition the cover art for their debut album Conflict State Design immediately evokes comparisons to Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine, Godflesh’s Streetcleaner and mid-nineties classic Roadrunner Records output like Nailabomb. Which is fitting as that is exactly how they describe the influence on their sound and their mission seems hellbent on reminding us just how good that period of industrial music was.

Dome Runner ‘Conflict State Design’

If the thought of more recent modern introductions to the genre of dub beats, techno/EDM and the embracing of dance music culture bring you out in hives, then Dome Runner, the sludge heavy industrial metal act from Tampere, Finland are ready for you to declare them your new favourite band.

They waste little time getting to the meat of the matter as Fuji Cracks starts with a slow-building, gloomy atmosphere, filled with clanking and banging like some mechanised Terminator making factory, crawling with rats as that is the only organic life tolerated. The fuzzy, grinding bass is slowly introduced before feedback heralds the stabbing, staccato guitar riffs and the barking, guttural vocals in the vein of Justin Broadrick and Burton C Bell at the peak of their powers. It’s not, however merely a slavish copy as droning synths effects introduces twisted melodies giving the track subtle textures.

Imprisoned Existence is a ferocious speed rush that again belies the self-professed Napalm Death/mechanical thrash era of Ministry influence of their biography. Howling, multi-layered vocals, machine gun like drums eventually give way to a mid-pace passage of relative calm before the chug of lead track Unfollow crashes in, laced with samples and tortured screams that lead to a shout along chorus. One thing Conflict State Design has in spades is plenty of big, chunky riffs that make you involuntarily bang your head.

Later tracks like The Undemonizing Process show a more nuanced promise to the band’s material. The initial monstrous anger gives way to a slamming off kilter beat that unsettles and throws you off. Never stopping, it shifts and morphs, mercurial and almost alien like before In Pain comes with a drumbeat like The Stone Roses I Am The Resurrection reimagined as a nightmare acid trip.

slow-building, gloomy atmosphere, filled with clanking and banging like some mechanised Terminator making factory…

Sandwiched between them is the mouthful of a title that is Impure Utility Of Authoritarian Power Structure. As the longest track on the album, it serves as the epic, defacto centrepiece of Conflict State Design and is probably the best of the eight offerings. Almost progressive and expansive in scope, it’s a slow burning, terror inducing number where Dome Runner seemingly find a voice of their own for it’s entirety and create a dirgy, atmospheric bridge between the safer elements of the first half of the album, and the more experimental turns of the latter. Taken in the context of both the album, and as a stand-alone track, it’s the most impressive thing the band has put their name to by far.

Industrial music has produced some of its finest works by not progressing the development of the genre, but turning its gaze inward, refining and exploring the path already travelled. One of the best examples of this is Ministry’s Filth Pig where tracks like The Fall focus on creating a dense, claustrophobic atmosphere, treading, and re-treading on the same ideas until they’ve exhausted them. Conflict State Design often feels like a greatest hit of ideas, which is not entirely a criticism, but there are times when, despite the incredible execution and sound on the album, it feels like you’re listening to a perfect blend of Godflesh and Fear Factory.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Dome Runner however, and there are snatches of moments in several tracks where they throw in something that feels 100% their own, like the ending to Expire where they drop the Hymns era Godflesh sonics and create a maelstrom of sound that drags all their elements into a howling winding tunnel of urgency, before the Demanufacture style pulsing effect closes out the album on Exit Design.

Over the last decade I’ve probably used the phrase ‘not reinventing the wheel’ at least once a year and I apologise for doing so again, but that is the case here. If you want an album to fill the gap until Godflesh release their next album, then Conflict State Design is near perfect. My hope for the band is they use this platform to show the world the talents they clearly have and start striking out in their own direction as based on the flashes they show here, make the genre a more interesting place for it.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden