Category: Industrial / Rock
Blurb: Despite a short runtime, the sophomore outing from REVillusion is strong on concept and execution as it offers up a darker, heavier helping of prime bite-sized industrialized metal.
Following up a strong debut album is no easy task, especially for a group like REVillusion. Spearheaded by Brian E. Carter, the band began as a means for the Philadelphia musician/producer to synthesize a revolution, calling on a variety of guest singers to give an organic and emotive voice to his coldly cybernetic stylings. HEART(less) now finds Carter joined by Mike Stewart, Matt Kurtz, and Kirk Camardelle to round out a core lineup, employing an even wider range of collaborators to present another 10 tracks of prime bite-sized industrialized metal.
While New Extinction recalled the dystopian themes of technological dominion over humanity akin to The Terminator and much of Fear Factory’s discography, HEART(less) takes on a more human, more personal approach that addresses issues in the current social and political zeitgeist. One need listen no further than the de facto title track, “Heartless,” for the best example of this contrast between the two albums – Stabbing Westward’s Chris Hall returns to once again give the song his signature soulful yet seething delivery, a more human persona than the dreaded automaton of “New Extinction.” Pensive pianos and percussion like a heartbeat, backed by Tina Guo’s hovering cello lines, give rise to an explosion of guitars and rocking drums in the chorus as Hall desperately howls “I never want to ever love again!” With its mournful and darkly atmospheric tone, it’s quite the standout track on an album full of raging industrial/rock, but its placement in the middle serves to propel the themes of HEART(less) as it marks the turning point from the cautionary first half to the confrontational second.
For example, “Bleed WITH Me” acts as a warning to listeners of the reckoning brought about by their own actions, as EN ESCH in the flesh sings in his inimitable rasp lines like “This chaos has consequence” and “This is what you want, what you pay for, what you got.” Later, “Bleed FOR Me” almost revels in the resultant suffering, Waylon Reavis melodic yet guttural roar reminding you that “This is payment for your sins,” the unmendable consequences warned about in the previous track, the line “This is how it ends” evoking the apocalyptic poetry of T.S. Eliot. In a similar vein, Chimaira’s Mark Hunter roaring lyrics like “Make no mistake – time on this earth is limited” on opening track “Beautiful Gift” are almost pleading in their melodic fury, while Reavis condemns the oversaturation of social media on the rather catchy “#AsYouWatchtheWorldBurn” as it reinforces the corruption of reality in favor of “a selfish way to be” and “a foolish state of mind.” But later, this is all offset by the unyielding brutality of “Midnight at High Noon,” the rhythms and guitars practically forcing their way down your throat as Mark Morales voices the beastly societal aftermath where compassion and justice is replaced by the cancer of martial law, the lovely but quieter harmonies of “We are the victims of circumstance” almost impotently begging for an unattainable forgiveness.
This writer has often expressed a certain discontent with certain “supergroup” formations, often referring to them as possessing an inconsistency in tone due primarily to the disparate vocal styles presented. REVillusion has managed to completely evade this issue, for while each vocalist has a distinct tone and range, they all serve to augment the music and the lyrical narratives in a manner that makes for a cohesive package. Even though Raymond Watts’ presence on “Pure Pollution” does give the song an undeniably <PIG>-esque sound, its lyrical themes of humanity’s almost lustful and self-serving obsessions keep it firmly grounded in the sound of REVillusion’s HEART(less), Some might even say that “FUNK YOU!” makes for an odd closing with its upbeat, almost party vibe, Ronnie Bass’ Saxophone and Wes Raymond’s vocal swagger making it another standout on the album, albeit a catchy one. However, after listening to Reavis’ melodies atop the remnants of a decayed world in “Salvation” and Morales’ defiant declarations of “picking up the pieces” in “Mended Broken Glass,” “FUNK YOU!” takes on a more insidious foreboding, its lighter tone only a brief (if welcome) respite that will ultimately lead to a repeated cycle of humanity bringing about its own downfall.
Brian E. Carter had already demonstrated his musical and production finesse on New Extinction, and he certainly expounds on that with a sharper focus on a heavier, darker, more metal style of industrial/rock on HEART(less). Although not buried in the mix by any stretch, the electronics do take on a more diminished, subtly textural role beneath the bevy of incendiary guitar riffs, thunderous bass, and pummeling drums. With the majority of the album’s tracks clocking in at less than three-and-a-half minutes, there is a palpable sense of urgency and speed to the record, as if to urge listeners to take action and stem the tide of evil and sin before it’s too late. Although this does lend itself well to the narrative, it does somewhat restrain the listening experience, leaving one hoping for longer, more expansive arrangements to bask in the slick production and tight musicianship on display. Of course, it does encourage repeated listening and the potential for a remix companion, so this is a minor complaint on an otherwise strong sophomore outing from REVillusion.