Updated: Mar 6
Concept albums are a great idea in theory. Using an entire disc, sometimes two, to tell a story across all of the tracks makes the album feel that much more like an experience. Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, Devin Townsend’s Ziltoid the Omniscient, and Cradle of Filth’s Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder are a few of my personal favorite yarns put to music, all with different source material influencing the presentation.
Hungarian avant-garde act First Aid 4 Souls have spent the last decade plus blending trance, electronic, and industrial music alongside concepts some would consider loftier than others. Their latest offering, Keep This World Empty, draws upon the novel Ice by Vladimir Sorokin, in which a meteor gives way to a cult who believes they now have a way to make one’s heart speak. A post-apocalyptic landscape is a tried and true backdrop for the realm of modern industrial music, but the eastern European duo somehow take this and make it something to behold, with no two tracks sounding that much alike.
Admittedly, I was worried that the first couple of tracks were going to ruin the experience for me. The opening and title track was fine, but it didn’t blow me away. “Increased Sensory Perception,” the single from the offering, starts off with a bang, and perhaps it should have started off the disc. “Your Social Skills Demised” nearly turned me away from the album altogether.
Then the fourth track, “Cold Frozen Arts,” brought me back. With its haunting opening riff, that song grabbed my interest, just as it was about to fade away. It is such a moody, slow-build track, as the percussion is added, then the vocals, then another layer of synths. The way it sways along through its five and a half minutes is hypnotic and downright compelling.
“Eternity Will Never Remain” picks up the pace, whereas the first four numbers have been mid-tempo at quickest. While most of the higher BPM tracks are not as infectious as they maybe should be, this one serves to be an exception. The follow-up “Verdict That Condemns” brings forth a very 90s-era darkwave sound that I didn’t know this record needed. “Good Men Don’t Bleed Just Die” was alright, though the previous three tracks were tough acts to follow.
“Awaken Tomorrow” has a modern sound to it, right in line with the source material’s science fiction / dystopian themes. The auto-tuned, AI-like vocals of “Mortal Birth” weren’t quite enough to put me off from it, as it is still one of the strongest tracks from the disc. The vocals on “The Wrong and Fault in Me” were less palatable still, but the overall soundscape was still noteworthy.
“Phrase Fractal” caught me off-guard with how much I enjoyed it, with its faster pace and repetitive riffs. “False Devotion” was another fast song that didn’t move me quite as much, but it was solid nevertheless. The album closer, “Return to Me,” feels befitting of a true finale, with choral chanting punctuating the ride coming to an end.
Though the disc as a whole has a couple of missteps here and there, this is still a fine offering. With the band re-releasing old material through the wonder of Bandcamp, now is the time to give First Aid 4 Souls a spin, and this newest offering is not to be neglected.
Keep This World Empty is available through Alfa Matrix Records. To purchase the album, as well as any of the Alfa Matrix catalog, check out their Bandcamp page.