Category: Industrial / Electro / Rock
Album: Conducting Chaos
Blurb: While not without its appeal in bridging old-school sounds and styles with modern sensibilities, the lack of imagination on display makes the latest album from this Belgian trio a lukewarm affair.
Hailing from Belgium, Doganov is a band that has perhaps skirted beneath the radar of the global electro/industrial scene; however, with the group’s latest effort, Conducting Chaos, the trio makes clear its intention to rise above these confines, and make a lot of noise while doing so. Often compared to Die Krupps for its blend of EBM friendly dance rhythms and grating heavy metal guitars, Doganov’s music makes no attempts to rewrite the book on industrial/rock, seemingly preferring to include a hopefully interesting chapter. Throughout Conducting Chaos is a decidedly abrasive quality that is carried not only by the guitars but through every single element, from the caustic synths to the forceful beats and vocal harmonies that skate the fine line between Teutonic belligerence and melodic grandeur. For example, “A Call Upon the Underground” is driven by an acidic and distorted synth riff that should be familiar to anyone with an ear for early ‘90s techno, Filip Marchal’s guitars and Karl Cleeren’s growling vocals only serving to amplify the song’s in-your-face attitude that should see more than a few fists waving and a few boots stomping. Similarly, “Sun” hits full force with a breakneck pace of pulsating synth arpeggios and noisy synths and guitars, Cleeren’s voice alternating between a smooth croon in the verses to his howling metal rage in the chorus. From these two tracks alone, the comparisons to Die Krupps are immediately palpable, as would occasional nods to the likes of Cubanate and the later Neue Deutsche Härte sound of Megaherz or early Rammstein. The latter is particularly evident in Frederic Cipriani’s programmed beats and rhythms, often blending danceable four-on-the-floor straightforwardness with hints of militaristic bombast, as on “Distorted Nursery Rhymes,” as well as on “Trilogy,” the stabs of brassy synth tones evoking an orchestral feel that contrasts quite well with the song’s energetic pace. However, this is not to say that Doganov is strictly for fans of the old-school; when not restricting himself to the harsh growls and retaining a sense of melody in his higher registers, Cleeren’s voice reminds this writer of the likes of Everything Goes Cold’s Eric Gottesman, while the glitchy staccato arrangements of opening track “Mad to the Sane” and the insidious title track draw a distinct line between the subtle complexity of older style electronics with the overwrought mania prevalent in today’s EDM. As well, on the slower and appropriately haunting “The Ghost, Pt. 2,” the ominous ambience of reverberating guitar arpeggios and shimmering synth effects make for one of the album’s more notable tracks. All of this sounds like a winning combination to make Conducting Chaos one of the best albums to emerge from Europe’s underground music scene, right? And it is… for the most part. As stated, every single element is stridently abrasive and powerful, and while the verses at large provide the listener a few moments to breathe before the onslaught of the choruses, it becomes clear after the first few tracks that each song follows a distinct formula from which Doganov rarely deviates. This is even exemplified in the band’s thunderous cover of Front 242’s “Headhunter,” which in this writer’s estimation is the album’s most unforgiveable misstep; while Belgium’s electronic and industrial music scene owes its very existence to Front 242, the fact that Doganov did not see fit to cover any other song from the pioneering EBM act – along with their own repetitive song structures – shows a clear shortage of imagination. Overall, Conducting Chaos is not a bad album by any means; for what it sets out to achieve, it succeeds in creating a harshly danceable and rocking experience for the listener. It’s simply a shame that it offers little more than what you see and hear at face value, making what should have been a beacon to an overlooked gem in the sea of the Belgian music scene more a mildly interesting pebble.