Dec 2012 05

Tactical Module - Dead ZoneTactical Module
Category: Industrial
Album: Dead Zone
Stars: 1.5
Blurb: Poor vocals, poor production, instantly forgettable.


 

Based in Poole, UK, Tactical Module is an industrial project created and executed solely by college student Michael Davis. Seeking to escape the creative restraints that a group dynamic can sometimes impose, Michael prefers to explore what he calls “a much darker and more aggressive side of electronic music” as a one man show. Since founding the project in 2010, Davis has released a small smattering of EPs, including 2011’s Defcon and 2012’s Where Angels Rise on current label Engraved Ritual. Tactical Module’s latest offering, Dead Zone features somewhat of a newer element to Tactical Module in the vocals, handled here by guest OD Drx of Mexican industrial act Acrophilic Project.

“Dead Zone” opens with the kind of moody atmospheric synths familiar to even the occasional industrial music listener. Quickly dropping into some time honored drum & bass percussion flutters, OD Drx’s vocals are introduced. The vocals – your standard industrial whisper/scream ran through a vocal effects processor. When the drum & bass flutters drop out, we transition to a mixture of chugging guitar and oontz-oontz beats with a clean, catchy synth to break up the monotony. Quick, forget I ever mentioned this act’s name or history! Does it sound like I could be describing any number of forgettable industrial acts? Perhaps I’m reading aloud from an “Industrial for Dummies” how to guide? Therein lies the problem with the entirety of this release: absolutely nothing here feels fresh or engaging.

As a music fan, one would be foolish to expect new ground to be broken with each release that reaches the ear. There is nothing wrong with a sense of familiarity or cohesion with other projects. In fact, one can often enjoy picking up on the figurative building blocks laid by other acts and sensing where an artist’s influences lie. On the other end of the spectrum, some artists’ work comes off as clichéd and uninspired. This, ladies and gentleman, is the murky water Tactical Module is currently treading. Nothing found on Dead Zone arouses any great revulsion in the listener. While some would argue this as a triumph, the problem is that Dead Zone elicits no feelings whatsoever. The vaguely angered screams and mindless chugging guitars fail to grab the listener at every turn because there is simply nothing else behind the curtain. One is not led to feel any sense of urgency behind why any of these elements were used, feeling largely expected rather than inspired. Beyond this, the substandard production (especially the vocals) is immediately evident and keeps the release from even the ho-hum designation of “okay.” With the abundance of cheap, effective software out there, this simply comes off as lazy or amateurish. The “Venom System” instrumental, long-heralded as a filler device with industrial acts, takes that very roll here. The track gets points for being produced better than “Dead Zone,” but never goes anywhere interesting enough to stand without vocals. At best, “Venom System” feels like a holdover from the score to a shitty science fiction movie. The In You mix by Acrophilic Project leads in nicely with a simple beat and has a satisfying buildup, but ultimately tanks hard when the lackluster vocals and guitar hit, much the same as in the original mix. The Cortex Defect mix of “Dead Zone” fares only marginally better, largely removing the muddy guitar work and focusing on the cleaner synth and beat. The vocals, however, are still a major sore spot and serve to distract rather than enhance. Moving on, the TOON Skull remix changes gears a great deal with its dub-inspired drops and increased use of the drum & bass flourishes on display in the original. This track is almost a stomper. Arranged in a more dynamic fashion, there is more to keep the listener’s attention, but the original’s terrible guitar tones keep things feeling just a bit off. The Code:Red Core remix is the best offering on the release. The track does a lot to improve the vocals, placing them in a much more appropriate place in the mix. Brought forward like this, the screams (while still substandard) feel like they at least belong within the track. Dumping the messy guitar entirely, this track at least ascends to the level of serviceable EBM. The listener’s head is kept nodding, the beat is driving, and your hips want to move a bit. There are still far better tracks out there displaying exactly the same considering the source material, you have to give credit for the large amount of polish and improvement.

Ultimately, everything on Tactical Module’s Dead Zone can be heard elsewhere. Though many of the elements on display are oft-praised components of industrial music, this release is truly less than the sum of its parts.
 
Track list:

  1. Dead Zone (feat. Acrophilic Project) (Original Mix)
  2. Venom System
  3. Dead Zone (In You Mix by Acrophilic Project)
  4. Dead Zone (Cortex Defect Remix)
  5. Dead Zone (TOON Skull Remix)
  6. Dead Zone (Code:Red Core Remix)

 
Tactical Module MySpace http://www.myspace.com/commandotacticalunit
Tactical Module Facebook http://www.facebook.com/TacticalModule
Tactical Module Reverbnation http://www.reverbnation.com/tacticalmodule
Tactical Module Bandcamp http://tacticalmodule.bandcamp.com
Engraved Ritual Website http://engravedritual.com
Engraved Ritual Facebook http://www.facebook.com/engravedritual
 
2012-09-10
 
Richard Reich (DJRichardReich)

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