When two revered figures in any music scene embark on a new collaboration, the hope is that the result will be more than the sum of its parts – an amalgam of the artists’ individual qualities, strengthened and honed into a new paradigm. Sadly, this is not entirely the case with Not My God, in which after touring together in the latest live lineup of Psyclon Nine, Tim Sköld and Nero Bellum have joined forces to create a brazen and morbid album of dark electro/industrial. If you’re expecting a vicious merger of the two artists’ industrialized rock and metal, you will be sorely disappointed; no, the formula the two have adopted for Not My God relies more heavily on the sort of shrill and decrepit sound design Bellum has been exhibiting on his latest solo material, focused more on modular synthesis and bleak atmospheres.
Indeed, the instrumentals on the record are intriguing enough on their own – from the punchy bass of songs like “Equalizer,” “Nevermore,” or “Birthright” to the thunderous beat structures of “Until the Pain is Gone” and the cold pianos of “Persephone” and “Sowing Discord,” or the mechanical loops and scathing pads of “Decay, Decay” evoking a factory in decline, and the all-too-brief burst of processional organ on “Murder Suicide.” However, most of the tracks tend to wallow in monotony, with only a few occasionally offering something in the way of a bass line or chord progression, which leaves Sköld with the unenviable task of songwriting. At times, all it takes is a change in his vocal inflection, as in the opening “Fiction” when he moves from a high melodic tenor in the verse to a raspy screech in the pre-chorus, or the switch from a nasal and disaffected verse to a harmonized emotive wail on “Birthright.” On the other hand, he remains in a particular range on “First Blood,” the layering of his low and high voice sticking to a mid-range, even in the chorus, the dynamics of the instrumental taking more prominence. “Cold Black” seems a culmination of all of these elements, with Sköld employing all of his vocal prowess and Bellum infusing the music with every production flourish he can muster, making the song seem like it should be a strong highlight… and indeed, the sound design is something to behold, but as a song, it’s simply lacking in character.
One can certainly hear all the elements that have made both Sköld and Bellum so well regarded, and though Not My God was a valiant attempt to bridge their collective strengths… well, it would be perhaps too harsh to call it a failure, though it was not a total success. Add some guitars, and it would’ve easily sounded like another SKOLD album; take away Sköld’s voice, and it would’ve been another Bellum solo outing. Together, it doesn’t quite achieve a personality of its own, but perhaps the pair will reach that goal on a future collaboration.
Not My God
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)