Jun 2012 25

Celldweller - Wish Upon a Blackstar (Deluxe Edition)Celldweller
Category: Industrial / Dubstep / Drum & Bass
Album: Wish Upon a Blackstar
Stars: 5
Blurb: Cosmic, celestial, universal, epic – all are words to identify this long awaited second full-length from one of this generation’s most exciting and exploratory artists.


Nine years is a long time to wait for a new album from any artist or band. In the case of Klayton and Celldweller, he has certainly done well to stay productive and keep his audience satisfied since the 2003 debut. With numerous remix releases and compilation appearances, Klayton embarked on his second offering under the Celldweller moniker, titled Wish Upon a Blackstar. Already a progressive and mixed bag of varying styles, melding together elements of alt. rock, drum & bass, and industrial, the incorporation of dubstep in recent years has given rise to even deeper and more exploratory production sounds and techniques, all of which culminate on Wish Upon a Blackstar. As well, Klayton presents a lyrical narrative full of celestial wonder and cosmic implications to give the album a cohesive, even conceptual thematic narrative; ambitious indeed, but par for the course for this singular artist.

From the brief intro of “The Arrival” breaking into the rhythmic throb of “It Makes No Difference Who We Are,” the stage is set as the song builds steadily from a melancholy and anthemic melody that explodes into a burst of industrialized grandeur, full of layers of synths, guitars, and vocal choirs. “Blackstar” then pulses its way in with a vicious jolt of energy as powerful beats and squelching synths instill a nail biting tension that pervades throughout the song, Klayton’s copious and polished production gleaming as countless layers of vocals intertwine with the electronics and guitars without ever once become muddled or incoherent. With half of the album already released in the preceding four chapter EPs, it is in the effortless transitions that create a constant and identifiable flow that keeps them interesting, from the extended intro of “The Best It’s Gonna Get” stemming from the ethereal and trippy “The Seven Sisters” to the almost imperceptible shifting from “Louder Than Words” to “The Lucky One,” the album moves at a deliberate pace with a high level of urgency and excitement. As ever, Celldweller is a veritable mixed bag of musical genres to create a style so individual and difficult to categorize in any single word. From the mix of drum & bass fluidity with hard rock aggression on such songs as “Eon” and “I Can’t Wait” to the marriage of soulful R&B and dark pop on “Tainted,” from the spastic dubstep delirium of “Unshakeable” to the orchestral frills that augment the alt. rock assault of “Birthright,” and finally to the melodic ambience of “Memories of a Girl I Haven’t Met Yet,” no musical stone is left unturned.

Celldweller - Wish Upon a Blackstar (Standard Edition)As stated, the album was originally being released piecemeal as a series of chapters, although it has now seemingly outgrew the limitations of this approach to take on an even greater epic scope. Available in standard and deluxe editions, Wish Upon a Blackstar presents an intriguing dilemma in terms of its concept. While certain phrases and lyrical passages appear at various points throughout the whole, there is a strange disconnect among them on the standard edition; the songs stand apart from each other and in an order that seems to bear no specific linearity or progression. While this is not a problem in and of itself, especially given the strength of each individual song, it does little to provide the listener with the appropriate experience that Wish Upon a Blackstar demands. On the other hand, the reordering of the tracks and the inclusion of proper segues that allow the songs to move in a stream of consciousness akin to a DJ set, appropriate to Celldweller’s overall aesthetic, allows for a great sense of cohesion and completion. No longer are the mentions of the Pleiades – the open star cluster in the Taurus constellation, often referred to as the Seven Sisters – and humanity’s awaiting of those who come “riding in on a Blackstar,” as they are “orchestrating” events mere lyrical devices; the continuity offered in the deluxe edition of Wish Upon a Blackstar creates the impressions of a vast, mystifying story that is up to the listener to decipher.

Wish Upon a Blackstar proves itself to have been well worth the nine-year-long wait since the self-titled debut; the product of an artist ever honing his craft and taking his skills as a musician, producer, and writer to their utmost and presenting the results in a manner most intriguing. As well, Klayton employs not only the assistance of his standard complement of co-producers and co-musicians – including Bret of Blue Stahli, producer Grant Mohrman, and drummer John Whitney among others – but also brings the fans in with the “Cellmate Worldwide Mass Choir” on “The Lucky One,” truly helping to emphasize the album’s diverse and universal themes. Some may lament the abundance of dubstep elements that permeate throughout, seeing them as latching onto the trend of the day. However, this would discount the skill with which Klayton infuses the best elements of the style into his own, still combining them with various other ingredients for a truly unique musical concoction. Some may find the conceptual framework of the album pretentious, as is always the risk with such recordings, which would make the standard edition all the more appealing to those listeners content with a simple helping of rocking electro music. Wish Upon a Blackstar offers something for everyone and stands as a modern work of pure musical art.
Track list:
Standard Edition

  1. The Arrival
  2. Unshakeable
  3. Blackstar
  4. Eon
  5. Louder Than Words
  6. Memories of a Girl I Haven’t Met
  7. I Can’t Wait
  8. Gift for You
  9. The Lucky One
  10. The Seven Sisters
  11. Birthright
  12. It Makes No Difference Who We Are
  13. The Best It’s Gonna Get
  14. So Long Sentiment
  15. Tainted
  16. Against the Tide

Deluxe Edition – Disc 1

  1. The Arrival
  2. It Makes No Difference Who We Are
  3. Blackstar
  4. Louder Than Words
  5. The Lucky One
  6. Unshakeable
  7. I Can’t Wait
  8. Eon
  9. So Long Sentiment
  10. Gift for You
  11. The Seven Sisters
  12. The Best It’s Gonna Get
  13. Memories of a Girl I Haven’t Met
  14. Birthright
  15. Tainted
  16. Against the Tide
  17. The Departure

Deluxe Edition – Disc 2

  1. Unshakeable (Instrumental)
  2. Blackstar (Instrumental)
  3. Eon (Instrumental)
  4. Louder Than Words (Instrumental)
  5. Memoires of a Girl I Haven’t Met (Instrumental)
  6. I Can’t Wait (Instrumental)
  7. Gift for You (Instrumental)
  8. The Lucky One (Instrumental)
  9. The Seven Sisters (Instrumental)
  10. Birthright (Instrumental)
  11. It Makes No Difference Who We Are (Instrumental)
  12. The Best It’s Gonna Get (Instrumental)
  13. So Long Sentiment (Instrumental)
  14. Tainted (Instrumental)
  15. Against the Tide (Instrumental)

Celldweller Website http://www.celldweller.com
Celldweller MySpace http://www.myspace.com/celldweller
Celldweller Facebook http://www.facebook.com/celldweller
Celldweller Twitter http://www.twitter.com/celldweller
Celldweller ReverbNation http://www.reverbnation.com/celldweller
FiXT Music Website http://www.fixtonline.com
FiXT Music MySpace http://www.myspace.com/fixt
FiXT Music Facebook http://www.facebook.com/fixtmusic
FiXT Store Website http://www.fixtstore.com
Purchase at:
Amazon CD (Standard Edition)
Amazon MP3 (Standard Edition)
Amazon MP3 (Deluxe Edition)
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)


  1. Rachel says:

    It sort of reminds me of Nickelback mixed with Backstreet Boys and Skrillex. “The Lucky One” even has the “heyyy hey yeahay” yelps that Back Street Boys are known for with lyrics that seem as though they were ripped out from a book of cliches. His biggest weak point are his lyrics which get more and more cliche as the album progresses. The heavily auto tuned vocals are also a weak point. I don’t mind his over-production as much because I guess it’s a style he’s going for but the vocals at times sound straight out of a Nickelback record or a 3 Doors Down record then at other times the melodies sound identical to boy bands like Back Street Boys. Can anyone say with a straight face that “Actions speak louder than words” and “The Lucky One” doesn’t sound like it would fit quite nicely on a Back Street Boys album in the early 2000s? It’s a record trying to be popular, it’s all about business. What separates Celldweller with an artist like Nine Inch Nails for example is Reznor is an artist and creates art that is a business, Celldweller is a business man writing songs specifically for video game soundtracks and movie trailers.

    • Ilker Yücel says:

      I get why you and maybe some other people don’t like Celldweller and make comparisons to Nickelback or 3 Doors Down. ‘Cuz for all of his electronics, he’s also writing alt. rock with pop appeal. That’s his thing.

      But I feel there’s a very artistic side to Klayton and how he does it, be it through his excellent production or just his ability to actually bring all of these sounds together into a cohesive package that is appealing to a variety of tastes.

      What Trent was doing in the ’90s is no different than what Klayton is doing now.
      At least in attitude and drive. The sound is different, but that’s because the music and the time is different. All Trent did was bring industrial production into a popular mindset, manipulating what were essentially pop/rock songs, but mutilated and manipulated to sound very different and “other.”

      That’s what Klayton’s doing now. Who cares if he’s writing music that can fit into other media like video games or soundtracks or whatever? His music has that kind of variety, just as Trent’s did. And besides, what is Trent doing now? Movie soundtracks. He did Quake in the ’90s. What is wrong with applying one’s creativity to a business mindset?

      Your statement of Trent writing art as a business vs. Klayton being a businessman makes no sense to me. Music IS a business. Both Trent and Klayton took their talents and their creativity and made a business out of it, and now they can tailor their approaches to suit a certain sound, style, or medium.

      If it’s a statement of taste and simply not liking the fact that Klayton draws on different influences than Trent, that’s fine. So he likes the pop appeal of alt. rock and maybe the polished production of boy bands. At least he’s writing his own music and putting a lot of effort into it and not hiding behind some facade of selling out. He does everything on his own terms and does really well with it. If it’s not your taste, that’s fair enough.

      And I can say with a straight face that those songs wouldn’t fit on a Backstreet Boys album… because Klayton’s music is far better. ;)

      Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated.

    • TweakerRay says:

      @Rachel: I don’t get what you mean. Comparing Celldweller with Nickelback + Backstreetboys + Skrillex ? I mean come on… Backstreet Boys ? Really ? I think you totally misunderstood this album. Maybe you should have also listened to the commentarytracks (for example of Louder than words – and you would get a better view about the lyrics and the overall expression of the song) …

      Music is always taste… seems that you didn’t enjoyed this album. But your arguements are a little strange if you compare this artist with the bands you name… I also agree to everything Ilker Yücel said before…
      And by the way… I liked the review here… very well written !!! Thanks Regenmag !!!

      Cheers TweakerRay

  2. Luke says:

    I’ve been into Klayton since I got the first Circle of Dust cassette when I was in Jr. High (http://youtu.be/vtFJeB3s8vs) He’s a mutating, evolving, multi-talented artist who is always ahead of the curve. His best work is the DISENGAGE album by Circle of Dust, in my opinion.

    I’m not into the highly commercial mainstream sounding songs he’s come up lately, but I understand why he does it: Because he can. He has put in plenty of time in the ‘obscure genius’ category and if he can expand his audience, he should.

    I always think of similar genius producers Razed in Black and Apoptygma Berzerk, when they reached the crossroad of ‘selling out’ or ‘fading away’. One sold out and is making shitty music now, and the other kinda stepped back into the shadows.

    • Ilker Yücel says:

      Disengage is most certainly my favorite work of his, and I do lament that he’ll probably never revisit that sound or those songs as he did with “Goodbye.” That said, I certainly agree that even if one is not into the commercial aspects of his sound now, he deserves respect for having cut his teeth long enough and having the talent and ability to reach a wider audience on his own terms.

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