Dubstep, drumstep, glitchstep, chillstep, fill-in-the-blank-step... the electronic dance music field is growing at an exponential rate, leaving its underground roots far behind as some of my favorite established electro-rockers like Celldweller and Front Line Assembly incorporate modern EDM elements into their sound, metal bands mash up their riffs with dubstep elements (like Korn's collaboration with electro-house superstar Skrillex), and more genre crossovers are being born than I can possibly keep up with. The landscape is so overrun now that it takes an artist with unique skills to stand above the herd... and a dark and spooky image doesn't hurt either; it's certainly one way to get my attention. That finally happened this year, when I was introduced to the ominous team Blackburner, whose stage identities are concealed behind bizarre robotic killer rabbit suits with glowing Cylon eyes. If you're having trouble picturing that, I've included images and clips showing these bass-dropping bunny-borgs in action.
Formed just last year by Skyla Talon (guitarist for horror-rock unit Scum of the Earth), the Los Angeles-based “Bionic Bunnies of Bass” have been incredibly prolific, making a name for themselves through a series of remixes and singles, including old school tunes like Iron Butterfly's “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash; many of those mini-projects found their way onto compilation albums released on Cleopatra Records' side-label Hypnotic. The band then unleashed their debut album Feel the Burn, which featured synth contributions from Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese (I'm a lifelong TD fan, so that's a major plus in my book) and remixes of Led Zeppelin's “Kashmir” and AC/DC's “Back in Black.” The single “Freak You” from that album became a modest hit, thanks to its placement in a Verizon ad campaign and America's Got Talent, and soon the band was opening for industrial metal masters Ministry and performing at this year's South by Southwest. The science fiction-themed album Planet Earth Attack followed, inspired by a meeting between Talon and William Shatner – who contributed vocals to the title track – and sporting promo art that looks like the Easter Bunny as imagined by H.R. Giger.
The rest of the album spans the club-friendly spectrum: we get some cool sci-fi experimentation on "Alien Lover,” a helping of old-school dub on "Bass N’ Drops,” spooky gothic overtones in "Angels On Mars,” shimmery electro-house with "Bass in Your Face,” whiplash breakbeat loops on "Bass Raids,” chaotic industrial noise on "Motor Pussy" and the sweeping, colossal closer "Fantasy Lives.” The dynamics are in constant shift, ramping up from roof-raising anthems to chill beats, with plenty of sonic shocks and surprises along the way. It's just as spooky, aggressive and unpredictable as their previous work, but with an added cinematic sheen that plays well into the whole dark future soundscape.
Even if you're dubious about the whole EDM explosion, these three releases may push you over to the dub side before you know it. Having been raised on industrial and hard techno myself, I usually like a shot of intense electro stirred into my rock 'n' roll, like a splash of good whiskey in strong coffee. It's that kind of kick that put Blackburner on the charts, and for now they're still rapidly rising in the ranks of a genre that needs a few bold, larger-than-life artists to lead the pack.
You can spin some more sample tracks and purchase all of these albums through iTunes and Beatport. But don't go yet... dig this!