The newest release from Chicago-based industrial/rock band Programmable Animal can be summed up in the lyric “I’ve seen it all before” from the lead single of the newest release One Step to Hell. While inherently not bad by any measurement, the elements brought to the table on this release fail to bring forth any new or interesting ideas or concepts, even when compared to the previous full-length album, End of the Tail. However, this is not to say that this release isn’t worth checking out, though it truly depends on what one expects to get from it. If you grew up a fan of the Deftones, Marilyn Manson, early Powerman 5000, or post-2000s era KoRn, you would find plenty to enjoy from this record. In fact, this album is produced by one Sean Beavan, whose work includes production and mixing on such records as Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, as well as Pretty Hate Machine. If familiar with Programmable Animal’s previous material, the upgrade in production quality is immediately apparent. This album is well mixed, well produced, and from a sound quality perspective is the best that this band has ever released.
Lead single and title track “One Step to Hell” sounds as if it was directly pulled from a 2000s era industrial/metal playlist, definitely leaning more on the heavier elements of that time frame with booming guitars and aggressive vocal delivery. Lyrically, this track deals primarily with the theme of being perpetually close to sin and pain, personified by the concept of hell, with salvation and hope being several steps away. Lead singer and founder Drepsea refers to this album as a personal message of perseverance and pushing through chaos and pain, with several tracks echoing that theme, including the title track, “As Above, So Below,” and “Backstabber.” While it is far and above the best, most consistent, and well produced material Programmable Animal has yet put out, these themes and concepts fail to create anything that is inherently different from much of what has existed in the world for years prior to its existence. Ultimately, there is still an audience out there for this record, and the quality of the production, accessibility of the lyrical themes, and familiar nature of the sounds presented make One Step to Hell perfectly acceptable if a consumer is hunting for a polished (albeit generic) album of this ilk.