What better way to get started than with a review of Society Burning's Internal Combustion? The first new album of theirs in 13 years - not counting the 2009 releases of State.of.Decay, originally set for release in 1994, or the remastered and expanded Entropy.Lingua.Reloaded - sees the welcome return of Boom, Dave and Twitch. Formed as The Watchmen back in 1991 (hey Dave, still waiting for those Watchmen tapes man), settling for Society Burning a year or so later, these guys put out some of the defining coldwave/synth rock music of the 90's alongside other legendary acts such as Hate Dept., Chemlab and 16volt. Always with a heavy cyberpunk vibe both musically and lyrically. Their latest album picks up where 1997's Tactiq left of, bringing their music into the 21st century without losing anything of what made them so great in the first place.
Describing the sound here, without referencing earlier Society Burning albums is difficult. While they might have drawn somewhat on the sound of say Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy early on, Society Burning quickly took a path of their own fusing the electro-industrial of those bands with a kind of punk vibe. I dare say that the sound of Society Burning is unique, while still firmly placed in the style found among the 90's Re-Constriction bands, even though they don't really sound like those bands. If that makes sense? If anything, I would trace them back to the 'forementioned FLA and 'Puppies rather than to the NIN-brand of industrial.
Moving on to Internal Combustion. The album kicks off with a short intro leading into the beat-driven heavy groove of "Nausea Ad Nauseam", a stomper of a track which would get any dancefloor moving had there been any justice in the world. Next up is "Honestly, I'm Lying (Lie)", which has this lazy, almost trip hop like vibe apart from the chorus with its guitars and smatter of drums.
Next up we've got two instrumentals, "Double Plus Minus" and "Inflatable Buddha", surrounding and latching on to the slowly chugging rocker "Detritus" with lyrics aimed towards our consumerist, anti-ecological society ("If we rob from the future, we can keep living in the past/Investing in something, that was never meant to last"). Both instrumentals have this really cyberpunk feeling (can't really explain it any other way) with lots of glitches and effects. While they stand on their own, especially "Inflatable Buddha", I prefer to think of all three as one whole.
"Internal Combustion no. 2" (no. 1 being the intro) is one of my absolute favourites here, together with "Internal Combustion no. 3" with which it shares its fantastic chorus. There's a slowed down drum and bass (breakcore?) feel to the rhythm here. This one's followed by the instrumental "D1sinT3gRat10n", featuring a similar sligtly sped up rhythm and added guitars. Next comes "The Monster Under Your Bed", a huge industrial rocker which is probably the closest in sound to what was found on Tactiq. Crushing, highly distorted guitars and an oppressive mood. After another short instrumental ("Splinter Cellphone") comes "Living in the Shadow of Myself", keeping with the breakcore mood and more of an industrial rock vibe to the chorus.
"Very Small Openings in the Skin" is a very ambient, glitchy instrumental which much like the other instrumentasl does a lot for the general cyberpunk atmosphere of the whole album. The following "Exile" competes with "Nausea ad Nauseam" as the funkiest track on here, according to Dave an attempt at writing a "pop" song. There's almost a kind of 80's new wave feel to it, only with a lot more edge in part due to the distorted guitars I guess. If all "pop" sounded like this, I'd be a happy camper. One more glitchy instrumental ("Vapor Lock") leads us to the final "proper" track of the album - "Internal Combustion no. 3". As mentioned above, this one shares its chorus with "Internal Combustion no. 2" but does away with the drum and bass/breakcore in favour of a more coldwave/synth rock feel, getting into glitch territory towards the end.
Rounding things off, there are two well-done remixes. PRODUKT strips "Nausea ad Nauseam" down a bit, emphasising the melancholy feel of it (kicking in with some buzzing guitars towards the end though) and UCNX adds some more menace and aggression to "The Monster Under Your Bed".
All in all, this is a fantastic album and essential for any fans of industrial rock, synth rock, coldwave or whatever you want to call it. It's slightly more polished than Tactiq, and somewhat less aggressive - but still very much sounds like Society Burning and no one else. It's also obvious that both audio technology as well as the skills of everyone involved have progressed since 1997. There's an infusion of electronica, drum and bass or breakcore, which I suppose might in part be traced to Boom (check out his solo stuff over at CD Baby, as well as the previous Society Burning albums). Cannot praise this album enough and I urge everyone to hurry on over to societyburning.com to get a copy of the limited run of 300, while stocks last!
Was it worth the 13 year wait? Most definitely. Just don't make me wait another 13 years now, ok?