Once a force on the UK black and death metal scenes, Jamie Blacker is the mastermind behind Electronic Substance Abuse, aka ESA. His extreme metal past has informed both sound and visual components of this project, creating rattling rhythms and harsh beats sure to decimate your local dance floor. Across seven albums and several more EPs, Blacker’s brand of EBM has crushed audiences and their expectations, and with the latest disc, Burial 10, the man behind the machine has given industrial a powerhouse of an album. Adding twists of dark trip hop, classic industrial, and heavy bass, the album’s eleven offerings add up to a graphic gateau layered in darkness. Upon my first listen, I finally understood what all of the hype behind ESA was about.
“Relapse” opens the feedback floodgates with loads of low end. It shows that Burial 10 is not interested in easing the listener in, guiding them by the hand. No, with “Relapse,” the welcoming party is armed with madballs and all hell is fit to break loose. What does go down easy is the transition from the opener to “One Cut Too Many,” with its up-tempo pacing and stomp-ready tone. I say a soft prayer for anyone’s favorite boots as they vent their frustrations to this track, or anything on this record, frankly. For an eight-minute track, it doesn’t feel that long, and keeping things fun and evil for that long is something of an achievement.
Jo Hysteria, with whom ESA had previously recorded “Carry That Noose,” brings her bilingual talk-singing to “Cloak and Dagger,” in all of its alternative hip-hop glory. It’s got a nasty beat, with production ranging from drum n bass to EBM. It’s a track that left me gobsmacked the first time around, and still manages to floor me every time after. “Wither” is a bass monster, with kicks you can feel in your chest and fuzz for days. The key changes for the first time in the record with “I Remember,” another skull-basher of a song with growled vocals and rattling bass. The last two tracks are a bit more mindless, more set it and forget it, but that’s not a slight against them, as they’re well put together.
The title track is another fast affair, with flavors of classic industrial mixed with some prominent bass. It is in the running for most true-blue industrial/EBM track on the album, though the following “Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown” brings in elements of what made industrial music what it is. Sampled machinery, syncopated clapping, and rapping courtesy of Lecture throw it back to old-school. The bouncy rhythms in “Her Body Prints Secrets” reminded me immediately of another uncanny classic, “They’re Coming to Take Me Away,” if it was informed by house and techno, with a well-placed kick in the ass for good measure.
“You Are Safe Here” features the hypnotic vocals of Caitlin Corlyx, and is easily the most accessible song of the record. It’s a strong, catchy number, with an earworm of a hook to boot. Until something better comes along, if that ever actually happens, this will be the track that gets people into ESA. It is not as complex or deep as some of the other songs on this record, but that is far from a mark against it. It is a song that serves as an advertisement, giving everything there is to expect from Burial 10. We get another bass monster, or perhaps more of an Eldritch horror, with “Hold Your Tongue,” another droning melody with flourishes thrown in here and there. “Blessed with Bruises” does as much as it can with its ten minute runtime, with compressed vocals and an organ section around the halfway mark. It’s an interesting choice to close out the album for sure, but it is fun to see Blacker get all of his shit in with the time he’s allowed himself.
The hype behind Burial 10 is damn real. I have not been this impressed with an industrial record since Moris Blak’s The Irregularity of Being last fall. It handles itself so adeptly, there’s no questioning the quality. In a genre so saturated, it’s refreshing to see something stand so tall above the crowd, and the titan that is Burial 10 does just that.
Burial 10 is available now on Negative Gain Productions.