Emerging anew in the wake of personal loss and the broader pandemic, David Giuffre and the Brainclaw enclave return with Deceptor. Initially recorded pre-2011 before a series of logistical and personal complications hobbled the album’s release, Deceptor comes after many years of label fluctuations and lineup changes, most notably the loss of Brainclaw co-founder and Giuffre’s former partner, Tara Lessard; from out of a renewed sense of artistic purpose, Giuffre remastered the album tracks, describing it as “the end of one era and the beginning of another.” With classic goth/pop and techno club chic, the album follows in the footsteps of a long line of electro/industrial beat-heavy bands, channeling shades of Gary Numan and KMFDM.
The opening tracks “Deceptor” and “Damage Control” bounce along, oozing glossy synths worthy of nighttime driving and overdriven guitar in the vein of Mark Durante and Tim Sköld – surely some partial influence on guitarist and Carfax Abbey co-founder John Ruszin III. “Downsect” continues the high energy on the dance floor with driving beats, percussive distorted guitar, and choral synths resounding in symphony. Droning pads and sequencers lead into more brooding and downtempo territory with “Tryst”, which rounds out into something of an industrial ballad capped off with a soaring lead from Ruszin, a tasteful touch resulting from Lessard having encouraged Giuffre to involve the guitarist rather than simply sampling him. However, it is around this point in the album that some of the calling cards of Brainclaw begin to follow something of a compositional schema in terms of dynamics and progressions. “Matte Black Smile” begins to bring the energy back up with an infectious combo of synth and drum holding down the pocket as the guitars grind away, but it doesn’t quite break into unexplored sonic territory. “Dyschordian” brings a second undercurrent of menace and melancholy, although some of this unfortunately dissipates as the song unfolds.
“Dysciple” returns to a higher, more palpably kinetic energy, Lessard’s fierce backing vocals evoking Lucia Cifarelli. “Taken Down” then brings tribal drumming to the beginning bellicose war chant and is one of the album’s more varied offerings. “Treason” slinks down into a steady snare sequence with glorious and ethereal backing vocals, but the dynamics here again begin to succumb to earlier patterns in terms of energy and compositional progressions. “Desperate Measures” begins with almost beat poet-like delivery before the guitar and synth countermelody ensue, veering almost into spoken word poetry by the bridge – a nice change of pace, but a polarizing choice depending on the listener’s bias. Finally, “Wasting Away” is an obsequious dirge that evokes a more heavily electronicized Genesis with a splash of balladic David Draiman-esque delivery – another change of pace that could have merited exploration in other numbers on the album. The Larval remix of “Downsect” follows as an extra offering to fans, delivering some interesting touches in vocal production that give it more oomph and evoke the band’s past prominence on A-list Hollywood soundtracks; this too shows a variance that at times is lacking in the early numbers on the album, but nonetheless nicely hearkens to Brainclaw’s earlier musical stylings.
Understanding the sheer and vast number of factors that conspired against this album’s release, it is laudable for Giuffre to have brought Deceptor to completion. However, at times some of the lyricism and delivery is to this writer lacking a slight shade of subtlety and nuance that could broaden its appeal to listeners outside or on the periphery of the genre; nonetheless there are a number of songs that excel at creating catchy hooks and would play well in one’s local goth/industrial watering hole. Devoted fans of early to mid-millennial industrial will no doubt find some new hits to spin from the album.