Another fantastic album from Aesthetic Perfection founder Daniel Graves that defies the cliches & labels of the style & sound of what Alternative Electronic music tends to cling to. ‘Into The Black’ feels familiar in some respects, whilst totally fresh in others. Taking inspiration from the catchy, much-loved aspects of classic Industrial & EBM styles, with the trademark ‘AP’ characteristics (particularly Daniel’s unmistakable vocals) and mixing in so many other musical ingredients to really shake things up and challenge the listeners’ expectations.
Many of the songs on this album manage to offset dark & uplifting tones so naturally, which have become synonymous with Aesthetic Perfection’s style. Embedded within Daniel’s playful, ultra-catchy & anthemic choruses are some poignant, deeply reflective and often introspective lyrics, whilst tracks like ‘YOLO’ & ‘We Wake Up’ ask some serious questions from spiritual disillusionment to life, death & mortality.
It’s fantastic to see a whole host of guests lending their talents on this release too, spanning the Industrial, Metal & Electronic soundscape. Guests include Richard Z. Kruspe (Rammstein), Jinxx Ferguson (Black Veil Brides), Krischan Wesenberg (Rotersand) & Mick Kenney (Anaal Nathrakh). To top it off, the production is slick and really packs a punch.
The album is an exciting multi-genre journey through various moods & emotions, which kicks into high gear from the moment you press play. Opener ‘Gods & Gold’ delivers some grimy, guitar-driven dubstep, thanks to some guest riff-work from Rammstein’s Richard Z. Kruspe, fused with a trippy, syncopated pop chorus and Daniel’s signature pipes hitting those emotional high notes.
The next couple of tracks offer up some tasty, pumping modern EBM, with ‘Wickedness’ delivering a thumping kick & warm sub-bass, signature granular synthesised vocals and even a distinctly Reznor-esque vocal refrain towards the close. ‘No Boys Allowed’ has a more minimal, New Beat approach. It’s got a 90s Berliner bass melody with a very simplistic instrumental structure and repetitive melodies. What it lacks in complexity it makes up for by being a loud, boisterous, party track.
One of my stand-out selections is actually a more understated, mid-tempo track entitled ‘Supernatural’, which offers up an unforgettable, supercharged chorus complete with stuttering, staccato lead & bass synths. The bass has a wicked buzz that cuts through the mix like a hot knife through butter whilst Daniel’s vocal delivery is sublime. For a mid-tempo track it manages to conjure up a lot of energy both musically & vocally.
‘Echoes’ is another down-tempo track and once again very bass-heavy. It’s definitely more melancholic than ‘Supernatural’, the clean guitar emphasising that vibe, whilst offset by distorted synths adding a gritty edge during the bridges. I can’t help but hear a certain 90s Ace Of Base track here too, which I’m sure is unintentional, but I can’t help myself.
Another opportunity for some guest appearances, as Jinxx & Wesenberg offer their services on ‘We Wake Up’ with a surprisingly Alt Folk sound mixed with subtle Synthwave styling from the lead synths. The verses are a mellow affair, but give way to more lively choruses, complete with uplifting ‘voice’ melodies and stylings akin to acts like Bastille. This is a strong track and there is depth in the lyrical content too.
Continuing the reflective lyrical theme of the previous song is ‘If I Die’, which features regular use of vocal sampling (“If I die today”) & overdriven-guitar riffs. Less tuneful but highly rhythmic, this is another infectious, catchy number where droning basslines perform against a backdrop of tuneful lead synths.
‘Saint Peter’ is next up and dives straight into the subject of spiritual disillusionment. Musically this track is instantly satisfying, especially when hearing that familiar warped piano sound I fondly remember first hearing on the ‘Violent Emotion’ album. This is not a nostalgia trip by any means, as the piano is supported by an array of driving basslines and a punchy kick to add plenty of power, alongside the distorted, buzzing synths and a chorus that is full-on epic, complete with bright, 80s-style lead synths. Vocally this is one of the more venomous on the album, as demonstrated with commanding lines like “No faith, no light, no end in sight!”.
Surprisingly, I never thought I’d see a song called ‘YOLO’ appear on an album released this year, but I’ve been proven wrong. But thankfully this doesn’t appear to be one of those shallow attempts to be edgy or trendy by using acronyms, or symbols instead of letters – something cringingly common in mainstream pop culture. No, the purpose of ‘YOLO’ is much more serious than the title implies, highlighting mental struggles and illnesses that can plague just about anyone at some stage in their life, whilst balancing this with the religious disillusionment mentioned previously by implying that we must waste less time in the here and now because we only have this life – essentially emphasising just how precious life is and we mustn’t take that for granted. Whilst this is a sobering message, there is a positive outlook at its heart and with lyrics like “why do we waste these moments? – so precious and so brief” there is a sense that Daniel may be suggesting “it’s never too late to start living – you can’t just wallow in the past and give up on the here & now. Life is a gift and we only get one crack at it”. It feels as though Daniel writes these lyrics from personal experience, but it’s also testament to the mental fragility & struggles of creatives, as we’ve seen in the high profile suicides of musicians in recent years, with one of the most recent being Keith Flint of The Prodigy, who sadly ended his life earlier this month. Songs like this are a reminder that we’re very much mortal, no one is indestructible, but it’s also a message that if we share our feelings and our struggles we can rebuild and enjoy the beautiful moments in life, as emphasised by the words “One Life. One Shot” and repeated sample “Heading for self-destruction”.
To close the album is the lamenting down-tempo song ‘Mourning Doves’. This track features some gorgeously deep, swathing synth pads that compliment Daniel’s vocals, which are delicate yet powerful, as opposed to being fragile. From the very first listen, this song gave me flashbacks to the slower, more emotive material of Shiny Toy Guns. It’s a wonderful finale for this album and the epic guitar solos toward the close cap it off beautifully.
So, it’s album number five done & dusted for Aesthetic Perfection and one helluva strong release, full of memorable songs of varying styles and moods, with practically all of them deserving high praise, in particular for the mature & deeply sincere approach to the more serious topics being tackled. The production is solid, the execution almost flawless, bar a couple of personal niggles that are barely worth discussion. More importantly, as for longevity, it’s one of those albums I’ve been happy to listen to all the way through multiple times and I definitely have a strong urge to revisit key tracks regularly, so the early signs are promising.
In addition to the album’s release, Aesthetic Perfection will be performing live in the UK as part of their ‘Into The Black World Tour’ this April. Full UK tour dates are listed below.
AESTHETIC PERFECT w/ support from PRIEST & AMELIA ARSENIC
Wed 10th April – Bristol, The Fleece
Thu 11th April – Glasgow, Ivory Blacks
Fri 12th April – Wolverhampton, The Slade Rooms
Sat 13th April – Manchester, FAC251
Sun 14th April – London, O2 Academy Islington
LISTEN TO / ORDER THE ALBUM AT THE OFFICIAL BANDCAMP PAGE: