Every new release from Eric Kristoffer saw him refining the sound of Unitcode:Machine, but with Critical Fault, he has made perhaps the most significant strides toward becoming one of the current electro/industrial scene’s most exciting artists. Where this writer had said the previous Themes For a Collapsing Empire was damn close to a perfect record, this album reaches a level of excellence that one would be hard-pressed as to how to improve upon it.
Everything about this album exudes strength and sophistication, most especially Kristoffer’s songwriting, which although steeped in the traditional pop structures, executes so well that one simply must sing along. Not that these qualities were absent on the previous album, as rhythmically charged songs like “Surface,” “Against the Pale,” and “Blind,” or even the slower mid-tempo numbers like “Keep Above the Water,” “A Violent End,” and “Undone” demonstrate the same propensity for gritty and distorted synth textures and emotive melodies.
However, where Unitcode:Machine has truly stood out was in Kristoffer’s vocals – not only can he sing, but the muscularity and robustness of his tone is not often heard, even in the heavier sides of electro/industrial. His command of rhythmic cadence is as on point as ever, but the amplified poignancy of “Love Like Lies” and more so on “Nothing Left” amid strapping drumbeats, steely synth arpeggios, and grinding guitars stand in this writer’s mind as his finest works; seriously, these songs deserves to be hits. The scorching synth leads and breaks of “Emptiness” could transport one back to the heady post-EBM days of the mid-to-late ‘90s, leaving the brooding and celestial atmospheres of “Take It All Away” to conclude Critical Fault on a morosely beautiful note.
Of course, one could easily attribute all of these developments on the presence of Stabbing Westward’s Christopher Hall, his production and mix bearing the hallmarks of his established and celebrated pedigree. But this would be a disservice to Kristoffer’s own maturity as an artist to have attained a level worthy of Hall’s experience – the proof is all laid bare on Critical Fault, each song projecting his growth in composition and performance. Bravo!