Sep 2016 06

16volt - The Negative Space16volt
Category: Industrial / Rock / Coldwave
Album: The Negative Space
Stars: 4
Blurb: Thus begins the third wave of 16volt, returning from a brief hiatus to once again lay the band’s own distinguishing signature on machine-driven rock.


 

Having laid 16volt to rest in the summer of 2014, Eric Powell embarked on a new musical crusade with Black December, bringing his style into a new collaborative effort that sought to shed the shackles of the machine-driven rock that had defined him for so long. Sure, the Black December album had the hallmarks of his songwriting style and was not without a fair amount of technology to still give it something of that classic coldwave sound, but in the end, it was perhaps just the break from the norm that Powell needed to give his return to 16volt the right amount of poignancy and power.

The Negative Space marks not only the beginning of 16volt’s third wave, but also the band’s first self-released effort, having departed a long association with Metropolis Records; as such, the album hits hard with a confidence that can only come from years of successfully honing craft and playing to the strengths and signatures that audiences have come to love and expect from 16volt. “The Electric Pope” makes this clear with a pummeling mechanical beat as Powell chants “Light the fire, let it burn,” gradually raising the intensity of guitars and vocals and even infusing a hip-hop vibe that makes the song one hell of an opener. Other songs like “The Hunter” and the anthemic “The Perfect One” resonate with all of the hallmarks of 16volt’s sound, from the caustic guitar riffs to Powell’s abrasive lyrics, topped off by thunderous percussion that skates the edge between mechanical precision and organic vibrancy; both songs, along with the offbeat staccato rhythms, steely bass, and energetic headbanging of the title track are sure to be new favorites at 16volt live shows. The same can be said of “The Internal Paramour,” the subtle harmonies in the chorus being a particularly noteworthy touch that gives the song a much greater melodic appeal past its raucous attitude.

Like Filter, while 16volt has never strayed from infusing an almost pop sensibility, with songs like “The Last Time,” “The Ever Immortal Nurse,” and the almost shoegazing U2-esque “The Greatest Worst Thing Ever” being excellent examples, The Negative Space shows the band willing to tread off the beaten path and experiment with newer modes. Take, for instance, the processional cover of Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around,” the combination of bagpipes and strident acoustic guitar from Spineshank’s Jonny Santos and galloping rhythms, Powell’s voice quietly telling its morose tale amid a lovely piano accompaniment, all evoking a ghostly ballad the likes of which hasn’t been heard before from 16volt. Similarly, while female vocals have appeared on past outings from the band, the striking beat and pianos underscoring Alison Scharf’s saccharine melodies on “The Heavy Dreams” make for a decidedly lush and lovely moment on the album.

With The Negative Space, 16volt frees itself from the confines of the genre the band helped to cultivate and create, delivering an album that is both familiar to the band’s longtime fans and experimental in such a way that many will be taken aback. Never one to withhold the emotional core of his lyrics, Eric Powell shows no signs of allowing either himself or his audience to settle for comfort or convention, which is an admirable trait in any artist, but especially one whose music has for over two decades helped to define an entire subculture. Aided by co-writer and producer Marc Jordan and mastered by Howie Weinberg, the progression from 16volt’s previous sound through the Black December interlude to The Negative Space is both palpable and organic. Those expecting a straightforward one-two punch of vitriol would do well to stick to the “hits” of 16volt’s past, while those willing to dig deeper into the band’s subtler and more musical qualities will find much to enjoy on The Negative Space.
 
Track list:

  1. The Electric Pope
  2. The Internal Paramour
  3. The Last Time
  4. The Greatest Worst Thing Ever
  5. The Hunter
  6. The Ever Immortal Nurse
  7. The Heavy Dreams
  8. The Man Comes Around
  9. The Perfect One
  10. The Mission
  11. The Negative Space

 
16volt
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud
 
Purchase at:
16volt Webstore CD
16volt Webstore MP3
 
2016-09-16
 
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

3 Comments

  1. Mischa says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I was really surprised when I heard it – but in an EXTREMELY positive way. Great to hear him sounding this confident.

  2. Jonathan Gourdeau says:

    The Negative Space is an incredible album from old school industrial rocker Eric Powell but your review is disgustingly pandering mate. I love how the guy drives into new territory without fear and regret but the album is far from being perfect. Maybe I miss the true industrial years too much but some tracks on this album are just too awful. The Heavy Dreams is a fucking disaster and The Internal Paramour is also a pain to listen. I must admit The Ever Immortal Nurse is probably one of the best 16 Volt song I ever heard… but the album lacks POWER, and although most of the time it works as an experiment, It feels more like the soundtrack of someone who is lovesick rather than the true 16 Volt essence. It still deserves a 4/5. Enjoy bitches!

    • Ilker Yücel says:

      “Disgustingly pandering?” Wow… y’know, I find it interesting that you’ll make such an insult while ending it with “It still deserves a 4/5.” I mean, really? It’s like saying, “Fuck you for liking the album for different reasons than I did.”
      Well, now that I’ve gotten over the initial insult (fuck off, BTW).
      While I appreciate the comment and the discussion, I am not one to pander, nor do I formulate my opinions lightly. Not only because of the band’s stature but also because it’s one of my favorite bands, I hold 16volt to a very high standard, and having listened to the album on repeat for several weeks, I stand by my ReView. I think you’re right that you do miss the “true industrial years” as you put it, but you referred to the album lacking “POWER.” I disagree – its power is of a different sort, one that I felt through the band’s willingness to break from its usual mold. After all, I did say that it didn’t have the one-two punch of the past 16volt. I’m not a nostalgic person – the past will always be just that, and I have those past albums, so if I need to revisit it, I can listen to those anytime. 16volt’s been around long enough that they not only can experiment, but should, and I personally feel they mostly succeeded.
      But hey, we can agree to disagree if you didn’t like songs that I did; I’m sure we’d likely rip each other’s heads off about songs you liked that I didn’t, or that you didn’t and I did from a hundred other bands including 16volt.
      Thanks again for the comment and discussion.
      Fuck off again for the insult.

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