Over the last several releases under his Stoneburner moniker, Steven Archer has been gradually expanding the project’s parameters and stylistic focus, with Beauty is Terror standing as something of a tour de force. Very effective is the use of vocoder manipulations and effects that do not belie the aggressive energy of the vocal performance; at times, even enhancing it with its strange tonality, as on “Autochaoticassassination,” which shifts dramatically between acerbic industrialized rage to dissonant and robotic. Similarly, the rhythmic quality they add to the slow and glitchy menace of “Amnesialand,” the effects making them an ambient accompaniment to the verses while seething with a more traditionally “industrial” distortion in the chorus; the artist seems to instinctively blend the voice as an instrument as well as a lyrical element. The same can be said of “We Walk On Secrets You and I (Eye),” the caustic arpeggios stuttering amid a blistering dance beat, the vocals creating a droning pad that crystalizes the track into a cybernetic fury. Full of forceful rhythms that are danceable, and yet still manage to evoke the tribal/ethnic infused atmosphere of earlier, more cinematic Stoneburner material, tracks like “The High Priest of War” and the opening title track present an evolution of the style into something a little less esoteric, while still possessing enough of the exploratory production flourishes to keep it above the level of most industrial dance and hard electro. “Are You There the Way I’m Here” is notable for building its strutting rhythm around a sample of jazzy audio noir, the monotone yet resonant vocal moving into a cloudy but highly melodic chorus, the subtle echoes and feedback working with the metallic clashes, along with the steely bass and bouncy synths in the bridge to make for one of the record’s catchiest and sonically satisfying tracks. And then there is “London” with melodic layered vocals reverberating over a stormy blend of minor key pianos, distant samples, and thunderous drums shimmering in a gray skied haze that may not necessarily conjure images of the titular city, though still a gorgeous track. No longer simply a series of soundtracks for a science fiction universe set thousands of years in the future on distant desert worlds, Stoneburner is now something more, a means for Steven Archer to explore said worlds within a more grounded context of what modern electro and industrial can become. It’s this kind of adventurous approach that makes Stoneburner so special and makes Beauty is Terror one of the act’s finest efforts to date.