Monday, June 27, 2011

Deathstars - Night Electric Night Album Review

In my high school and early college years I listened to a LOT of Rammstein. They had a very unique sound that stood out from other metal bands (and it wasn't just that they sung in German). It was because of this unique trait that I latched onto them so heavily. Later on, however, I learned that the genre they were a part of was huge overseas and, as I often do when I discover something I newly enjoy, I gorged on those bands, so much so that I eventually soured on the sound altogether. I gave up on the Rammstein-esque bands up until a couple of years ago when I started to receive some submissions from overseas, one of them being this Deathstars album. I quickly remembered why I gave up on this genre--everything is very, very, very derivative of everything else in the genre. There is such little room for change that I feel like bands don't even try to mix it up, Deathstars included. So I again went back to sparingly listening to the genre. For reference, this was originally published on June 24, 2009.

Remember the late 90s and very early in the new millennium when Rammstein was awesome as hell? I was in high school when Sehnsucht came out, and it floored me when I borrowed it from a friend, so much so I never returned it. German industrial metal by a bunch of crazy-ass pyromaniacs… it was the type of music made for adolescent males! However, their luster eventually faded, and a lot of people realized that most of their music wasn’t really all that interesting. Couple that with the fact that copycat bands such as Megaherz never quite took off, it was clear the genre was mostly a flash in the pan. Today, the novelty of industrial metal simply doesn’t have that much of an appeal, but someone obviously forgot to mention that observation to Deathstars.

The band formed back in 2000 when industrial metal was still cool, but since then the band has done very little to mature other than adding some gothic keyboards here and there, since that’s been huge in Europe for the last decade. Night Electric Night is supposed to be Deathstars’ breakout hit, as it is their first album to have a wide US release, but I just don't see that happening. If this album were to have been hitting store shelves in 1999, I’m sure it would put Deathstars on the US metal map, but as it is now, this fad is beyond worn out.

Nearly every song on Night Electric Night plays out like either a bad Rammstein cover band trying to write their own music or a back closet Rammstein b-side. Not helping their cause is how ridiculous the band comes across in their presentation. On the cover of the album, the band is all decked out in goth gear, complete with white makeup and red lipstick (which they also wear during live performances). Then if you take a look at the band members' names, you’ll notice they have given themselves ridiculous monikers such as Whiplasher, Beast X Electric, and Nightmare Industries. With all of this cheesy imagery, it’s hard to even attempt to take the band seriously.

If you can somehow ignore their image, the lyrics will be what throws you over the edge. I have to believe they wrote these songs in a totally tongue-in-cheek manner because if they’re trying to be serious and menacing, they just aren’t doing it. Take this passage from “The Mark of the Gun” for example: “Well, the D is for Destroy (under the gun) / The E is for Enforce (under the gun) / A is for Absolute (under the gun) / And D is for Darkness / D.E.A.D. (the mark of the gun).” It’s hard to even stomach the majority of the band’s lyrics, even if you try to put them in an ironic light because, even if they were trying to poke fun at the unneeded seriousness of most goth lyrics, it sounds more like they’re channeling The Lonely Island than any of their peers.

One thing the band does right is on display during a few of the slower passages of the album. They manage to use some influences from Within Temptation and their ilk to craft a muted song structure where the keys create a depressing atmosphere and the guitars are moved down in the mix to form a more honestly downtrodden sound. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often.

Deathstars are a throwback to an earlier time, which is unfortunate because the time that they remind us of isn’t usually looked back on too nostalgically. It’s going to be hard to get a foothold in today’s metal scene playing with such a dated formula. Industrial metal in general has also fallen out of the limelight in favor of gothic metal and melodic death metal. Night Electric Night is going to have a hard time finding an audience in today’s music scene, simple as that.

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