What more can truly be said about Klayton? It’s fairly well known the sorts of obstacles he has overcome and the stylistic adventures he’s embarked on throughout his career, with Celldweller emerging as his perhaps most widely regarded moniker. Satellites marks his fifth full-length studio album under this project, following six years after Offworld; in true Celldweller fashion, the record sees Klayton cybernetically fusing disparate aspects of exploratory electronics, pulsating EDM textures, frenetic drum & bass rhythms, crunch-laden metalcore, and topped off with dramatic and even catchy melodies that relay lyrical concepts of mankind’s’ shortsightedness in the face of a transcendent cosmic destiny. It’s a familiar formula that longtime fans have enjoyed, and likely will enjoy, but there are some qualities to Satellites that make this writer wonder if the artist’s previously unquenchable inferno of creativity had been dimmed to a few short sparks.
This isn’t to say that Satellites doesn’t deliver on those elements that have made Klayton so renowned as an extraordinary talent, for the eight songs presented are as virulent and as vibrant as any in the past Celldweller catalog. Those familiar with past offerings like Wish Upon a Blackstar or End of an Empire will recognize the sonic architecture at play here – every song is a complex composition riddled with dynamic shifts in rhythm and structure befitting the progressive rock and metal genres. The interplay of metal and electronics remains at the forefront of Klayton’s style, prevalent in songs like “Blind Lead the Blind,” “My Disintegration,” “Baptized in Fire,” and the opening “Into the Void.” Others like “A Matter of Time” and “Soul Parasites” feature some rapid fire sequences that hint at his love for hip-hop, while “Electric Eye” is a breakbeat-laden sojourn into the farthest reaches of space. The most conspicuous track would have to be “The End of the World,” which slows the tempo to a processional and meditative crawl, electrified pianos and ambient swirls taking centerstage in a manner more akin to Offworld… in fact, the last lyric calls out to that album rather dubiously.
This brings us to the ultimate issue with Satellites, for while it is as masterfully constructed as any in Celldweller’s oeuvre, it does little to differentiate itself from them. As stated, the framework of the songs is all too familiar to what we’ve heard Klayton do up to now, and though the recurrence of the song titles throughout the lyrics does reinforce the sense that the album is indeed a complete conceptual presentation, but the themes are a virtual rehash of previous offerings. On top of that, a noticeable majority of Satellites had been revealed over the course of the last several years, with “Electric Eye” even predating Offworld; though pre-release singles are standard practice for the FiXT imprint and the music world at large, there is some disappointment in realizing that six singles over the past six years turned out to be three-quarters of the final record, with the accompanying remixes providing the only deviation. One might’ve hoped for at the very least a few interstitial transitions or interludes. Or could it perhaps be the artist’s own subtle and personal statement on the obsolescence of the album format in the digital age? Hmm…?
There’s even a disparity in the artwork, with Ninja Jo’s incendiary dystopian sci-fi depictions adorning the singles, while the final album is much more austere and clinical. It’s a lovely presentation when taken on its own, but the contrast is rather jarring that it must be asked what the overarching concept of Satellites had initially been…. or even if there was one? Of course, none of these criticisms are likely to affect Celldweller’s audience, which has proven to be steadfastly loyal, and for as long as he’s been making music, that is undoubtedly who Klayton is aiming his sights at. Satellites may not be a gamechanger, but it doesn’t need to be by this point. Maybe it’s enough to simply say that it’s Celldweller – you know what you’re getting, and there’s an enjoyable comfort in that.