Angelspit: 'Hideous and Perfect' - CD Review

That hardworking electro-industrial unit from Down Under known as Angelspit have been steadily pounding away for about five years as a staple of the international goth/industrial/EBM club scene, and their cult following continues to expand across the globe – built largely on their exotic presentation, with heavy emphasis on elaborate fetish costuming, as well as a riotous punk attitude and grotesque, snarky, rage-fueled themes.

But this year they’ve slammed the sonic machine into even higher gear with the ambitious new release Hideous and Perfect, which debuts next week (on 09-09-09, no less) from Metropolis. This duo specializes in extreme razor-edged electro, and their brand of sleek, hypersexual cyber-horror is not for the weak... so naturally, I had to get in there and cop a listen. Slip into your best PVC skivvies and see what I’ve brought back from the kinky side of hell...

The duo of DestroyX and ZooG already had considerable momentum going when they released their first full-length album Krankhaus in 2006, and followed up with last summer's Blood Death Ivory. The band declared that they were taking the music in a new direction for their third studio project - a strategy which began with the band designing many of their own instruments, including found percussion objects and custom-built electronic equipment with sweet names like 'Multiple Orgasm,' 'Anal Compactor' and 'The Skull Fuck.'

The DIY pieces were integrated with other classic hardware (ranging from a rare Moog/Oberheim hybrid synthesizer to a mammoth modular synth nicknamed 'The Middle Finger of God'), and most of the percussion parts were recorded in an abandoned Sydney shipyard, where I'm guessing some of the rusted-out naval scrap was transformed into makeshift percussion as well - which ventures even deeper into the 'authentic industrial' territory pioneered by bands like Einstürzende Neubauten. Combined with heavily-processed guitars, this potent metal cocktail flips the material a notch above Hoover-heavy club fodder and into something way more provocative and sinister.

Make that VERY sinister. For a band already known for kicking evil beats, this album is as raw, intense and deranged as they come. I didn't get the sense that many of the tracks on Hideous and Perfect were designed with the dance floor in mind, unless those clubs were located in a region not unlike the domain of Clive Barker's cenobites...then again, I've actually visited a few venues that came close to that, so I suppose that's not such a far-fetched notion. But I can say that, like Pinhead and company, attempting to groove to some of these tunes just might tear your soul apart.

Opening track Ditch the Rest lays out all of the principal tools that will be used throughout all thirteen cuts: robotic, layered talk-singing, angst-ridden lyrics, fat hyper-crunchy guitar riffs, and metallic clangs & rattles, beneath a cloud of surprisingly delicate high-range synth patterns. From here, the duo both share and trade off lead vocal duties, sometimes blending further electronically-mangled layers until it's hard to tell whether the primary voice is female (DestroyX) or male (ZooG). In fact, the following track Cold Hard Cash fuses the two so completely, they become a kind of androgynous Trent Reznor hybrid.

Glitchy effects in tracks like Fink and Let Them Eat Distortion, when combined with the heavy impact of the metallic DIY percussion objects, transform the beats into strange, chaotic patterns that feel like the sonic equivalent of a fractal image. Those slamming steel tones combine with heavy, up-tempo bass lines in cuts like Princess Chaos - which also features some of the album's heaviest guitar riffs and a surreal, angelic choral counterpoint to ZooG's spoken lyrics – and take on a super-ball bounce beneath the guitars' grit-heavy sleaze in Hyperlust.

The anthemic influence of KMFDM is evident in the roof-raising chants of Fuck the Revolution and Channel Hell - the latter being the best track on the album, thanks to DestroyX's defiant, accusatory lyrics ('your life is fucked and it's all your fault... you used to be dangerous and fun/before you got that mortgage... now you vote conservative') and pounding piano lines blended with a grinding synth bass.

The brief instrumental break On Earth combines cone-rattling bass throbs beneath vibrating steel structures (very Neubauten, this one), and is concluded later by the sweeping album closer As it Is in Heaven, which meanders a bit at six minutes, but nevertheless rounds out the package as a haunting and surreal mood piece.

For an album which basically extends its middle finger at the conventions of electro-industrial and EBM genres, Hideous and Perfect has amazingly strong production values and a clean style that balances out the raw, rough instrumentation and harsh lyrics. The result is a mix that will make your heart race and your fists clench, but won’t exhaust your ears with an oppressive blanket of distortion. On a good system (decent headphones work too, but not as well), you can hear even the tiniest synth patterns creeping in the background, even as you’re being bludgeoned with huge industrial riffs and sternum-stabbing bass. There’s a certain sameness to the vocal delivery, but enough clever songwriting and stylish manipulation of voice elements to keep the soup boiling. Definitely worth a listen, if you favor the extreme end of the music spectrum.