Aug 2018 29

AlterRed - Trauma: Trauma ReinforcedAlterRed
Album: Trauma: Trauma Reinforced
Blurb: Although the songwriting and vocal chops are still present, AlterRed’s further incorporation of guitar driven industrial/rock textures don’t do them justice, making this a bold but disappointing effort.


On 2015’s In the Land of the Blind, Mikey AlterRed began to veer away from the darkwave synthpop and dark cabaret inclinations of AlterRed’s past output in favor of a more industrialized rock mentality; still wrought with layers of synths and poppy melodies while aiming for richer textures and tonalities. With his latest effort, Trauma: Trauma Reinforced, which seems to indicate the first of a planned series (?), he delves further into these industrial/rock sensibilities with what one would hope to be a more refined approach; alas, in the ears of this writer, it’s simply not the case.

Throughout the record, there is a distinct late ‘90s sensibility to AlterRed’s production sound with these more industrialized rock elements, right down to the juxtaposition of gritty and guttural guitar riffs that chug with great fervor but little variation. Of course, this is compensated for by the layers of synths, which always remain the highlight of AlterRed’s sound, along with the drum programming that is at times quite excellent. This is especially so on a song like “Only Way is Down,” which is perhaps the most reminiscent of the band’s earlier darkwave output, the pianos distorted and even glitched out amid some scathing sound effects that evoke a horror movie vibe, as well as some tight drums. The same could be said of tracks like “You Got Nothing” or “Dead & Cold,” on which the atonal vocals and layers of synths seem to almost intentionally go out of key with each other, creating an air of tension and unease that is offset by an actually catchy chorus.

Unfortunately, Trauma… ultimately falters in these same areas, for while this ‘90s style production sound is not a damning quality unto itself, it does little to hide the mundanity of the album. The aforementioned lack of variation in the guitar riffs could also apply to the arrangements as most of the songs tend to follow a standard verse/chorus formula that becomes quite tedious as the record proceeds. A good example of this is on the single “Wait for the Recoil,” which begins features a familiar synth pulse and some persistent and pernicious guitar riffs and a rather fetching chorus before switching to a pummeling double speed rhythm after the second chorus, the chants of “Run, hide, or fight” very quickly losing their potency after too many iterations. Similarly, “PS Fuck You” is rather novel in its belligerent lyrics and samples criticizing religion, but aside from its swinging beat, the track is rather humdrum, and while the klaxon that begins and ends “Mad Dogs” will appeal to Star Wars fans, it’s a bit of a jarring effect in a song whose only saving grace is a passionate vocal performance, one of the few in an album filled with some rather monotonous moments; Mikey AlterRed can indeed sing, but his penchant for the higher registers throughout this album tend to detract from its energy rather than add to it. This is most obvious in the cover of Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys,” which is ultimately faithful to the original, but also lacks its cinematic punch and vocal nuance, rendering it rather impotent.

It’s almost painful to state that AlterRed’s potential on earlier releases has been squandered in favor of a formulaic brand of industrialized electro/rock that makes Trauma: Trauma Reinforced a rather boring listen; painful because Mikey AlterRed has the chops and the skills to produce a truly great record, which he has come close to doing in the past. This is sadly not the case with this latest album, for while the songwriting chops are still present, the lackluster production and arrangements that remain simply in the realm of competent and little else make Trauma: Trauma Reinforced a disappointing affair.
Track list:

  1. Out of the Cold
  2. Speed Test
  3. Dead & Cold
  4. Wait for the Recoil
  5. Mad Dogs
  6. Only Way is Down
  7. Breaking News
  8. Wild Boys
  9. PS Fuck You
  10. You Get Nothing
  11. Bohemian Class

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WTII Records
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Purchase at:
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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