Collide: 'Counting to Zero' – CD Review


Photos by Dave Keffer

From their early years as cult heroes among goth/darkwave club circles to their music's prominent placement in films like Resident Evil: Extinction and hit TV series True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, Collide have never lost their DIY work ethic, and continue to satisfy their loyal core audience with smooth, sexy and sometimes crushingly heavy electro rock – all built around the driving hypnotic soundscapes of multi-instrumentalist Statik and the darkly sensual vocals of frontwoman kaRIN. Over the past fifteen years, they've tooled and streamlined their sound from the gothy grooves of their 1996 debut Beneath the Skin into the industrial-strength mood rock of 2004's Some Kind of Strange, adding more organic-sounding elements four years later with Two Headed Monster (check out our review here).

Their latest full-length record Counting to Zero fuses some of the more aggressive rhythms and riffs that characterized popular singles like "Euphoria" onto the more entrancing, experimental vibe of their later work, and the end result is a sonic force that chills your bones, heightens your pulse and makes hot, sweet love to your neurons. (Maybe I'm pushing the metaphors a little bit here, but damn, it sure feels good to me.) Check out the full review below...

As if to assure the listener that the band's signature sound is still in play, the mellow and moody opener "Bending and Floating" is pretty much Collide concentrate, containing all the elements their fans (yours truly included) have come to love: Statik's intricate spiderweb of synth and guitar structures over simple but solid down-tempo dance beats, with kaRIN's purring, alto-range vocals sliding over and through the mix, treated with harmonic layers, pitch-shifted effects and wide reverb until it often becomes an additional instrument in itself. The result is truly cinematic, and once again you're reminded why film and TV producers keep coming back for more.

Once they've put their stamp on things, the pair move immediately in a new direction with "Lucky 13," a sauntering waltz-tempo piece with an incredibly powerful bass line and an equally striking vocal performance – definitely a high point for the album and the band. One of the more straightforward dance cuts is "Mind Games," the album's first single, which casts aside doomy dynamics to recall the band's dreamy darkwave days, with intricate voice-manipulation that gives kaRIN's lead an alien edge. "In the Frequency" drops the tempo and the pitch, simplifying the rhythms and giving kaRIN's feather-light vocal and Statik's doomy guitar more room to explore the soundspace.

The energy level ramps up for "Clearer," a glitch-filled industrial rock number with a death-machine bass line and huge walls of guitars and synth strings,making it another strong repeater. It's followed by the title track, which has a more exotic texture thanks to some middle-eastern touches, and a warm piano/strings figure beneath cleaner, more centered vocals. "Human" begins as an ambient soundscape, introducing an intimate piano, Blade Runner-style synth washes and a silky torch-song delivery from kaRIN, whose voice completely drives the emotional ups and downs. Remaining in a pensive mood, "Tears Like Rain" calls up dark and haunting images of a beautifully fragile soul trapped in a cold, black mechanical world.

The melancholy of those previous tracks is blown apart with "Further From Anything," the fastest and most aggressive song on the album. It's almost too overwhelming, with kaRIN's lower-range vocal nearly smothered by massive bass stabs, but it's packed with so much energy that it still manages to sweep you along with it. Appropriately enough, it's followed by "Slow Down," which does exactly that, pushing rhythms far to the back in favor of twangy guitar and softly passionate vocals. "Letting Go" sticks more closely to the structure of "Lucky 13," but with a more uplifting tone that closes the album on a warm and positive vibe.

Counting to Zero comes together as a seamless construction of Collide's early club sound, the industrial-strength riffage of their mid-'00s period and the eerie space-rock of their more recent material, making it an ideal introduction to the band's body of work. While the album itself benefits from more diversity in song styles, the core Collide sound is still unmistakable from track to track: kaRIN's hushed, seductive and slightly otherworldly vocals and Statik's skill with sculpting massive grooves out of simple beat patterns allow the band to stretch in different creative directions without losing their sonic identity... which is a very good thing, because with this album they've established that persona more clearly than ever.

So you can see, hear and feel what I'm talking about, I'll float you out on the surreal, dreamlike video for "Mind Games"...