Citing influence from the ‘90s and wearing them proudly on the sleeve, Virginia Beach’s Modal Citizan certainly creates a rather eclectic sound on the band’s latest record, Control Alter Deplete. From the opening moments of the “Pragma” prelude, Mellotron-like strings and despondent vocals make for an atmospheric intro that although not bearing that much of a tonal similarity somehow evokes a certain shock rocker; this can also be said for later tracks like “Crossing Over (When I Rise)” with its marching shuffle and ominous piano and bass tones, the explosive roar of Adam Fueston’s guitar and Ryan Kali Jones’ screaming vocals recalling the disaffected rage of Holywood or even the earlier days of Portrait of an American Family. Other tracks like “Out of Scope (The Slit),” “The Descent,” and “The Diamond (If)” feel closer to the emotive dirges of Nine Inch Nails thanks to trickling pianos and spacious atmospheres offset by droning distorted guitars, as well as the shouting repetitions of lines like “If I kill you, I cannot kill you again,” “I wish I never met you,” and “I don’t care anymore,” although they also will surely remind many of the post-grunge teen-angst that dominated much of the alternative rock scene of that era. Other influences seem to come into play as David Fueston’s insistent beats and martial rhythms on “Trepidation” and “Bitter Noise (In My Head)” have a more classically rock & roll flair to them, while “Reason” is actually a pleasant diversion with its major-key melodies, guitars moving between harmonic simplicity and flourishes of funky wah and country slide, and Jones’ soaring vocal feeling not far removed from Peter Gabriel in his earlier more experimental days.
However, for all of the sonic intrigue and intricate production savvy on display, Control Alter Deplete does suffer from an excessive length; with more than several tracks clocking in well past six or seven minutes, the album tends to test one’s patience as the songs linger to the point of tedium. Jones crafts some complex ambient narratives, the arrangements are not restricted to the typical verse/chorus formula, while the interplay of shrill keyboard lines and fiery guitar solos keeps the momentum going, but all too often one gets the impression of the band aimlessly filling out space rather than composing in earnest. As a result, even with mixing and mastering assistance by veterans like Sean Beavan and Amir Derakh, Control Alter Deplete feels like an unrefined effort; the album really could have been at least 20 minutes shorter and thus more effectively achieve the kind of lyrical and musical poignancy that is clearly present.