Rhys Fulber first entered my orbit via his production work with Fear Factory as well as his long-standing tenure with Canadian EBM/Industrial legends Front Line Assembly. Aside from these, I confess to being unfamiliar with the rest of his output. With a resume as extensive as Rhys‘, you could be forgiven for not being up to speed with it all.
Like many artists during the pandemic, lockdown(s) forced a pause in the touring cycle but as far as recording was concerned, most took advantage of the downtime and became exceptionally prolific ala Gridfailure and Jeff Wilson. Fulber too was far from idle with the release of now three solo albums and Mechanical Soul; the latest from Front Line Assembly. The album’s concept, in case you were curious, centres around ‘the contrast between Brutalist architecture and nature, the legacy of humanity in conjunction with nature and its juxtaposition thereof…’ and this can be seen to be reflected in both Brutal Nature’s artwork and title.
Central State Institute 16 alternates between moments of sheer ambient beauty and relentlessly dark techno. The track’s title has you thinking of a towering Soviet-era monolith; grey, stark and cold within with an overriding uniformity and conformity akin to Brave New World and 1984. A powerful yet unsettling opener. Chemical, the first of three tracks to feature vocals by ‘Jeza‘ (the other two being Marginalized and Fragility) contains a robotic rhythmic quality not totally out of place on a Kraftwerk album, coincidentally Rhys Fulber was taken to see that band by his father as a child, so the comparison is far from surprising. The track also brought to mind now forgotten British trip-hop band Olive, which helped add a warmth to proceedings. Marginalized has a slightly heavier industrial tinge which recalled latter period Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks era.
ethereal vocals and lush soundscapes, akin to Cocteau Twins if they went in a more electronic direction…
Fragility is gorgeous, ethereal vocals and lush soundscapes, akin to Cocteau Twins if they went in a more electronic direction, definitely one for the dream-pop/shoegaze fans. Pyrrhic Act is the longest track on the album at over nine minutes and sees a return to the dark hard techno of Central State Institute 16, while Pressure builds the tension and is the ideal bedfellow for the heist scenes in movies like Drive, Heat, and Thief. It has you on edge waiting for an explosive climax that never quite passes.
Night Render is positively eerie, one can envisage living in an isolated house with neon lighting and a swimming pool with only nature for company, a brilliantly atmospheric piece. Rogue Minority meanwhile is pure sleaze with some filthy beats tailor-made for the dance floor and thereby tips its hat to the club influenced tracks of Fulber‘s recent solo output.
Nature Reclaims is one of the mellower pieces on the album and the kind of track one could easily lose themselves in, who needs substances when you can crank this one and get a natural high? Concluding track Stare At The Sun features the harsh vocals of Sara Taylor (of Youth Code) and brings one back to the classic days of EBM era Ministry. If like me, you adore that band’s Twitch album then you’ll be drooling as you hear this.
The hook for metalheads will be the aforementioned Fear Factory connection, and while the album does have heavy-ish moments, it is mainly an electronic work. If however you’ve been prepped by the likes of Fear Is The Mindkiller, Remanufacture, and Front Line Assembly‘s dancier EBM orientated material, there’s a good chance you’ll latch onto this. An overall fun listen.
Scribed by: Reza Mills