With Ready End User released on the day of the band’s 30th anniversary, the New Mexico industrial/rock outfit Society Burning takes a sardonic look at life in the midst of a global crisis, addressing societal, cultural, and political shifts that define the zeitgeist. The opening introduction sets the tone as samples from a military training film from 1943 explains the suggestibility of individuals in times of discord and tension to gravitate toward any voice of authority; not only does this contrast wildly with the prominent view of the military as lackeys for said authorities, but also is all the more palpable as society seems to have learned nothing.
Lyrically, the album is a rather poignant indictment of the modern era, with a song like “Vox Populi” cutting right through the “both sides” arguments, addressing the effectiveness of conspiracy theories, and a quote from George Orwell’s 1984 examining the lengths to which power corrupts and the degrees to which the populace allows for it, the chants of “We are the political class, and we don’t give a damn about you” stinging all too well. “War on the Truth” is even more straightforward as its title would suggest, while the raucous and ritualistic cadence of “My Protection” is sure to resonate with many as it speaks to the mindset of all affected by the isolation of the pandemic lockdowns, suggesting a skepticism of their efficacy but also decrying those whose flippant dismissal led to further disinformation and death; it’s thought provoking, while thankfully not devolving into diatribe or equivocation.
Musically, Ready End User doesn’t offer many surprises, each song a confident display of the industrialized rock style Society Burning has cultivated for three decades; the production is solid, the guitars appropriately dirty but slickly executed, the synth and drum programming tight and controlled, never quite standing out but simply doing the job as they should. The ‘90s techno vibe of the ending title track is particularly noteworthy as those vibrant staccato pianos are just delightful. There are times when Daveoramma’s vocal capacities are stretched as he doesn’t always hit the notes he’s aiming for, but the emotive force he infuses in each track more than compensates for these, giving the album a raw energy that simply works. Other times, when singing in the lower registers like on “Emotional Contagion,” “Americant,” and “Phantoms,” he almost sounds like Trent Reznor in his more pensive and bluesy moments, but this feels more a result of the band’s long pedigree; besides, the interplay between he and guest vocalist Tara Saavedra of Morgue VVitch on “Phantoms” set against chilled pianos and gritty guitar harmonics makes for one of the record’s finest moments. The same can be said of “Americant,” the call-and-response of “Hey dad” and “I know Son” a tad whimsical, but quite potent given the song’s themes of youth facing the consequences of the previous generation’s failings and transgressions.
Also adorning the album are The Clay People’s Brian McGarvey, Sean “Satyr” Tracy of PRODUKT, Los Vincent of Kounter Mezhure and Torque Order, UCNX’s Douglas Sudia, and even an appearance by the Electronic Savior Jim Semonik, with mastering by Out Out’s Mark Alan Miller, all helping to make Ready End User an even more solid helping of modern coldwave and machine rock. Sure, no new ground is broken and some of the more pointed themes pertaining to the current crisis may not be as relevant down the line, but Society Burning’s overall deportment on the issues that led to it and that will likely continue to affect our daily lives ensures that the record has a more lasting impact.