Italian natives Army Of The Universe (currently residing in L.A) are taking you deeper into to their grimy, down-and-dirty world with the release of their third album ‘1999 & The Aftershow’. Expect gritty, lo-fi distorted beats & synths, mixed with rock-esque guitar and a diverse range vocal styles, delivered with plenty of attitude & swagger.
The album launches straight into energetic title-track ‘1999’, a Prodigy-meets-Cubanate / Be My Enemy stomper guaranteed to get any nightclub (NYE) party jumping. This is the perfect way to start things off by grabbing attention from the get-go.
Onward to ‘Down Till Dusk’, which features, hands-down, the most misleading intro of the whole album. It starts out Lo-Fi and bit-crushed, stylistically taking what seems to be an Electroclash direction, or possibly something along the lines of Shiny Toy Guns, but just as the initial verse is playing out, all preconceptions leading up to this point are thrown right out of the window. What follows is the filthiest bassline you’ll hear throughout this album, combined with an eardrum-pounding kick-drum and topped off with a grimy buzzsaw synth. At the drop of a hat, this track becomes one hell of an aural assault … and I love it!
The style of vocal processing for lyrics “Dusk Till Dawn, Dawn Till Dusk…” during the mid-way break is the perfect fit for the vibe of this track, whilst the synth-chord build creates anticipation for more slamming bass, slow, grinding dub rhythm, and heavy beats to play this track out.
‘Another Escape’ takes a different direction, with a trip-hop rhythm, female backing vocal and a retro feel to the synths, whilst mid-tempo stomper ‘Digital Slag’ kicks off with a guitar loop that starts off catchy, but becomes very repetitive by the send half of the song, which is unfortunate.
‘Zeus (My Own rebel)’ consists primarily of layer upon layer of crunched, distorted electronica and heaps of frequency filter sweeps. It’s a simple formula that works as an album track, but isn’t one of the stronger tracks and, like ‘Digital Slags’, doesn’t really develop enough to maintain interest.
Dark, dirty and brooding ‘I Lost My Sound’ is actually a short interlude track. It’s fairly atmospheric, so I was disappointed to find that it didn’t develop into anything beyond a small time-filler. A real shame.
Switching gear again, the Aftershow’ has serious rockstar swagger. This is as close to a pure Rock vibe you’re going to get on this album, as the bit-crushing and distortion is stripped back to reveal a cleaner, slicker mix, but without sacrificing any of the attitude.
‘Little Paranoia’ surprises with a sudden switch into ballad mode. Lyrically it’s not some gushy nonsense; instead it’s an honest, straight-talking song that doesn’t mince words, leaving me with that sobering reaction by the close.
Short-but-sweet, ‘Snake Was Right’ is a cool, trippy, yet typically gritty track, with air-raid sirens and vocalist Lord K oppressively dictating “Do Nots” in a very Orwellian dystopia-like fashion – the irony of the very last line “the land of the free” directed purposefully at the USA. It’s a shame it’s only just over 3 minutes long because I really enjoyed the way it was building, particularly the synth lines playing off the groove-laden rhythm and bass. Melodically it’s got a similar ring to the ‘Blood Rave’ tune from the vampire nightclub scene in the movie ‘Blade’, only it sounds grimier!
Towards the end of the album, the songs switch sound and structure once more, starting with ‘Late Detroit Nights’. It primarily features modern Disco beat, complete with claps, cymbals and hi-hats, although it has been treated with dirty, Lo-Fi filter effect throughout.
Picking up the pace, ’Nobody 2.0’ features possibly the most tuneful and uplifting chorus of the album. Additionally, sandwiched between the last two choruses, the infectious middle-8 break keeps the adrenaline and excitement going. It has a great structure and doesn’t suffer the same lack of development heard in earlier tracks.
Finishing off the regular album, ’The Albert Hotel’ has a lengthy, slow build until two thirds of the way through, when a pounding Detroit House-style beat takes over, almost raising the roof for a moment before denying me the bit climactic finish, instead choosing to slow down for a cinematic score outro. To be fair, my preferred choice for closing the album may have been a predictable way to end and by using such a well-timed swerve, the cinematic strings and soft vocals do effectively provide a fitting closure.
Bonus track ‘Ninety Ninety Noise’ is simply an alternative take on opener ‘1999’ – in fact it would be fair to call this a remix. I would have preferred a completely new song as a bonus track as opposed to a re-worked version of the title track, but it’s only one song and besides the brief moments of monotony and a couple of short tracks, the rest of the album has been fairly enjoyable.
Most tracks stick to a simple, easy-to-learn, chant-along chorus, which is fine by me as the majority of songs’ verses tell enough of a story to make them interesting. As for repeat value, I think I’d choose to listen to a number of the songs but there are some I could quite happily skip past – not to say they’re not likeable or listenable, rather I would only wish to listen to them on the odd occasion.