Aesthetic Perfection’s brand of industrial pop is at the forefront of the scene. Daniel Graves, the man behind the perfection, left his California home in 2006 to find refuge in Berlin, Germany, and went on to create several albums, including AP’s debut Close to Human and All Beauty Destroyed. Their most recent offering, Into the Black, came to us this past Friday via Close to Human Music, following the success of his Patreon goal of 500 supporters. While overarching themes of existence, religion, and things bigger than ourselves populate several of the album’s ten tracks, Into the Black has plenty of hits with very few misses, and is on the whole a strong, mature-sounding album.
“Gods and Gold” opens the disc with an off-kilter drum beat and the guitar work of Rammstein’s Richard Z. Kruspe, as Graves displays his harsh vocals in fast-talking verses. Rather than the quiet verse, loud chorus dynamic popular in alternative music, the trope is flipped upside down, offering a chilled-out chorus in between heavy verses. While most of AP’s recent work has only sparingly used guitars, this track benefits from the fretwork of Rammstein’s axeman, kicking off this album with a heavy, dancey track.
“Wickedness” follows the opener, and dare I say that this track gave me the most complicated feelings of the album, or of any of AP’s work to date. The verses reminded me much of one of their previous singles, “LAX.” The pre-chorus hearkens back lyrically to “The New Black,” from the band’s Til Human record. The hook almost perfectly mirrors another industrial pop song, that being KANGA’s “Viciousness.” While the first two nods serve as fun Easter eggs for carefully-listening fans, the KANGA reference is an odd one. Given that KANGA previously remixed the aforementioned “LAX,” I assume that this was a shoutout to the Negative Gain Productions artist.
“No Boys Allowed” is a welcome underground club track, with a mid-tempo groove fit for stomping out one’s aggression on the dance floor. The chime tones that fortify the main riff during the chorus and pre-verse sections are a welcome touch. The bridge’s cries of “I’m not a man, just a boy, like they wanted” kick off a fun breakdown section, wrapping up this harder side of the record, at least for the time being.
“Supernatural” was easily one of my favorite tracks from this album. It is dripping with religious themes and iconography, with lines like “The silence from above / Is proof the prophet’s false / Salvation’s up to us.” Perhaps this track is a nod to Blackcraft Cult, with whom Daniel Graves has collaborated on several occasions. The message of believing in yourself, of exploring yourself and the unseen for answers resonates through this track, as it lets ever so slightly off of the accelerator that the first three tracks hammered down.
“Echoes” continues the chilled-out approach, while bringing forth themes of existential uncertainty and living “inside an echo,” or hearing what one wants to hear and accepting what is comfortable. Graves’ vocals lean on the softer side for this track, reminding some of “Never Enough” from their previous effort, Blood Spills Not Far from the Wound.
“We Wake Up” adds a dreampop layer of sound to things, with words describing nightmares and the aftermath. The scream in the bridge a haunting turn for an otherwise flowy track, adding to the atmosphere of the track and giving a straightforward pop song that extra darker edge that makes Aesthetic Perfection one of the foremost industrial acts in the game.
“If I Die” has a heavy opening guitar riff. The gear shifts on the album with this track musically, but not quite lyrically, as the words speak of leaving a legacy and making an impact that can be felt long after one has left this mortal coil. A personal moment of pause came for me when a dual guitar harmony came towards the end of the song. Guitar solos in industrial music are far from common, but somehow, this one in “If I Die” feels less than forced. A risk was taken, and it was executed well. After several poppy tracks, a more guitar-oriented track is a nice change of pace, and serves to bring in some of the more metal-minded among us to give this track a shot.
“Saint Peter” is another dance hall track, with a four on the floor groove and even more religious overtones. This is just a fun, mid-tempo groove that could easily serve as a cooldown track at an industrial club. The bridge brings harsh vocals to this melodic track, and it breaks up the repetition in the song quite well. Upon my first listen, I very nearly slept on this track, but after another play, I have to say that this track stuck out to me as one of the strongest of this record.
“YOLO” had me scratching my head on the title alone, but the lyrics eased my fears about this being a party song. Rather than encourage young kids to do dumb, crazy, Snapchat-worthy shit, the lyrics of “YOLO” instead stress that we only have one life, one shot, and our energy should be focused on making the best lives for ourselves, rather than being caught in “what if?” situations or serving the status quo. Musically, this is classic AP, with a deep robot voice repeating the bridge’s lines of “One life, one shot.”
“Mourning Doves” is a very familiar soft closer for the album. Aesthetic Perfection is no stranger to the chilled-out closing track, and “Mourning Doves” hits all of the notes of a great album closer. It’s one you can envision singing along to in concert, with its ballad feel and self-reflective lyrics, these about a persona who appears to have showed a side of them that doesn’t usually show itself to others, therefore mourning what could have been. Another dual guitar solo comes into play, although unlike the one in “If I Die,” this one feels a bit crowbarred in. I love a good dual guitar harmony, but this one felt just a bit out of place in what is still a solid final track for Into the Black.
As an industrial pop record, Into the Black ticks all of the boxes. It has chilled out, head-bopping tracks mixed with dark, danceable tunes, all with a generous sprinkling of contemplative songwriting and solid production. This record is for the longtime AP fan or for the newcomer, but in either case, any industrial pop fan would be remiss to pass up Aesthetic Perfection’s latest offering.