Al Jourgensen, of Ministry, has been noted to say that his best work happened to occur when a Bush was President. I believe Mr. Jourgensen’s estimation is accurate as I have noticed this too. Both Presidents Bush were perfect foils for Ministry vitriol. Mr. Jourgensen and his inspired catharsis via Ministry would not be the only example of this connection. Extreme music tends to become most creative when there is an increase in political hypocrisy, social inequality, or general disenfranchisement with the world across the board. We are arriving at one of those times, once more.
Enter Chicago’s Cyanotic, who have arrived from a bleak dystopian future to warn us… No, wait, that bleak dystopian future is already here it seems… oh, well… Plus, Cyanotic has been around for a while, we may not have noticed them. Lyrically and thematically, Cyanotic often capture the desolate view of the future. Their topical themes focus on the intersection between man and machine not that dissimilar to the pessimistic futurism proposed by Fear Factory. Whereas Fear Factory are a metal band, Cyanotic take a leaner, electronic approach to expressing their dissatisfaction with that rapidly approaching future. Fans of Fear Factory and Skrew would be most appreciative of Cyanotic’s oeuvre.
However, Cyanotic’s latest, “Tech Noir,” is a departure from that sound and that style. The guitars that were so prominent and gave Cyanotic a sharpened, metallic edge are either missing or greatly diminished. With “Tech Noir,” we are mostly left with the electronic bare bones of the Cyanotic’s industrial carcass. On prior releases, when Cyanotic would have a song with greater proportion of electronics to shredding, the guitars would sonically support the aggression and hone the attack.
The opening track, “Mainlining Tension,” begins with the refinery clank that seems to be a necessary sample to all industrial artists before moving into a NIN ‘Pretty Hate Machin’e – era mechanical groove. There is a disguised optimism in the lyrics as demonstrated by the first lines of the song. Sean Payne’s moderately distorted voice exhorts us to “Remember / Every day is War / Assemble / The weapons of your choice.” The cadence of the vocals has the same rhythm as Circle of Dust’s “Brainchild” album.
The plodding synthetic rhythms of “Surveying City Ruins” would be the perfect soundtrack as drive through the projects of any urban city. The next song, “Deadweight” is a positively upbeat number compared to the previous track. Lyrically, “Deadweight” attempts to motivate by instilling hope in one’s ability to make a change and take advantage of the moment, rather than stagnating in life. The next track, “Clear A Path,” sounds like a more resigned, grittier version of Orgy.
“Hyperaware” starts off with a poppy, almost ‘80s synth beat. The song progress along with various anachronistic (or throw back if you will) samples of electronic sounds. After that hypomanic interlude, “Survival Instincts” brings back the mechanical industrial hammering. Cyanotic give us an ethereal and mechanical instrumental with “Neo-Tokyo Skylines.” The final track, “Salvage The Excess” sounds like a song that would be on the Terminator’s playlist, with its mechanical and choppy beats. It is a bleak, relentless technological assault on the ears. The chorus of “No One Is Coming To Save Us” suggests we need to recognize our own responsibilities in the mess we’ve made of ourselves and society.
“Tech Noir” is lacking the sneering aggression that is found on “The Medication Generation,” “Worst Case Scenario,” and “Transhuman.” The sharpened guitar riffs combined with technology and various media samples are what attract me to this style of extreme music. The guitars had added a primal and organic element to the otherwise cold and calculated vibe that the electronics create. The eclipse of the guitars by the electronics on “Tech Noir” have done a disservice to Cyanotic’s uniqueness and has made them indistinguishable from lesser industrial acts.
As a result of the diminished guitars, “Tech Noir” comes off as being more withdrawn, resigned, and alienated. Perhaps this is intentional. Perhaps this is an experiment. Perhaps stripping by stripping their sound down, Cyanotic are testing themselves. Whatever the case maybe, I will say, “Tech Noir” is a challenging and somewhat disappointing release from an excellent band.
I think I’m going to go and listen to their prior works, pine for the past, whine about this release (to those who will listen), and wait for them to add more guitars in the inevitable remix of “Tech Noir.”