Updated: Oct 4
In modern rock and metal, the term “heavy” gets thrown around with nigh-reckless abandon. Some people think that Five Finger Death Punch is as heavy as it gets, while some pinpoint Slipknot as brutal. These same people’s brains may explode when listening to so-called “extreme metal,” like say, oh, I don’t know, Cattle Decapitation. What is the benchmark for heavy, anyways? In the era of Pro Tools and copious amounts of post-production, where is the line between heavy and weaksauce?
Perhaps that debate is played out, but I will gladly make the argument in favor of heaviness for Black Magnet’s debut album Hallucination Scene. Their brand of crushing industrial metal is akin to the early Nineties era of the genre, such as Godflesh, early Fear Factory, and Pitchshifter. In the span of about twenty-five minutes, Black Magnet craft a cacophonous eight tracks with harsh electronics, dissonant guitar lines, and an overall uneasy sound.
“Divination Equipment” kicks things off with a pounding drum part and dissonant guitar lines. It’s eerily melodic and wholly unnerving, a stern warning that skulls are about to be on the wrong end of a hydraulic press. “Anubis” starts off with a greater presence from the guitars and a looping percussion line. Whereas the first track dabbled in noise and ambience, this track is a more of a composition that is somewhat easily consumed. The punk-flavored “Punishment Map” is a quick burst of fury, clocking in at under two minutes of metallic mania, and bleeds right into “Neuroprophet,” which may be the most metal-sounding track of the album. The guitars and drums are first and foremost, without much of an electronic sound present.
“Trustfucker” has an undeniable groove about it, reminiscent of Nineties-era Nine Inch Nails in the verses, and newer 3TEETH in the choruses. It’s an accessible track, but no less aggressive than anything else on the album. “Crush Me” is aptly named, a short sharp shock among a collection of songs that are just that. The dissonant lead on “Hegemon” makes this song all the more uncanny, with a deliberate mid-tempo groove and unflinching industrial swagger to it. The assault on the senses ends with the bleak atmosphere of “Walking in the Dark,” with its persistent mechanical alarm not letting the listener go quietly.
I’ve used the phrase “uneasy listening” to describe some music in the past, but this time it can’t be more applicable, though I must stress that such a label isn’t a slight against the music. This is not an album that goes down smooth. This isn’t hangout, chill, or study music. It is hit you over the head till you stop twitching sort of music, the kind that cyberpunk nightmares are made of. It sounds so sleek and well-produced, and yet it’s the kind of thing that will kill you in large doses. So in that regard, analogy established for the “machine” as a whole.
Hallucination Scene is available now via 20 Buck Spin.