Recently FEARnet has been tracking the extreme music movement often dubbed Terror EBM (also known as Hellektro or Black Electro), which has its roots in gothic-industrial dance music and draws inspiration from electronic sound-shapers like Skinny Puppy, and we've turned the dark spotlight on some of the best-known or most aggressive bands of the genre, including Psyclon Nine and Infra Black. Florida-based trio God Module is currently one of the most enduring of these groups in the US, founded in the late '90s by Jasyn Bangert (also the band's lead vocalist and songwriter) and still going strong today. Their most recent album Séance is one of their most accessible releases to date, and you couldn't ask for a creepier disc to spin for the Halloween season. Read on for a full review...
It's been over four years since Bangert and company released their previous full-length album Let's Go Dark, but finally last year they premiered some of their most accessible new material in the EP The Magic in My Heart is Dead, which revealed slicker, cleaner production values and richer melodies. Séance delivers very well on the promise of Magic, with musical support provided by Bangert's wife Courtney and new member Clint Carney, veteran of dark electro bands Systen Syn and Imperative Reaction. Carney's contribution is very evident in this project, and includes some new and well-fitting vocal textures.
While the end result is often a more accessible sound, I won't say Séance represents the band going soft... which is good, because God Module are known for surreal and nightmarish sound experimentation, and there's plenty of that to be found on this record. Their old-school EBM roots still go very deep, and there's more than a few clear nods to '90s underground electro and gothic club grooves, but fortunately nothing in Séance feels like a rehash of those genres.
The gothic mood begins within the opening strains of "Ouija," a throbbing, piano-tinged piece peppered with dialogue from '80s horror flick Witchboard. The vocals are less distorted than most of the band's early output, blending whispery tones to create an ominous, ritualistic mood. "Devil's Night" is more straightforward EBM, with the basic four-on-the-floor dance pattern and sawtooth chords, but definitely benefits from Courtney's smooth melodic backing vocals and a harpsichord-like synth lead. "Plastic" is darker in tone, but with a bouncier, heavier bass pattern. Lighter melodic tones float over the buzzing rhythms of "Doppelganger," a more experimental piece that incorporates some disturbing noise and glitch elements – plus a nice riff on The Stepford Wives in the break.
Rapid-fire analog blips and stabs give the minimalist beats of "M.D.K." – a reference to the term "Murder Death Kill" from the movie Demolition Man – its tense, frantic edge; the cinematic washes of glassy synths in "Extinct" make a perfect backdrop for Clint 's more melodic (but no less aggressive) vocal style, which create a solid balance between Jasyn and Courtney's spoken-word backing. The frantically up-tempo "Rituals," with its seismic kick, sliding lead synth and sultry female vocal samples is an ideal choice for the album's first single, emphasizing the band's skill at channeling and focusing dark sonic energy. "Into the Outside" makes its horror stamp with a classic soundbite from Lucio Fulci's The Beyond, but it's actually one of the more melodically low-key entries on the album, with Courtney trading melodic lead vocals with Jasyn's gruff industrial-style delivery.
Sawtooth synth rhythms ricochet off the walls of "Video," which like "Rituals" is one of the fastest cuts on the record, but this one is not nearly as memorable as the single. The excellent track "Remember," one of the strongest and most memorable on the album, goes deep and nasty with its bass line, bringing in electronically-treated vocal samples and finally giving way to a soaring melodic lead vocal from Carney, who really shines. "Fake Fame" is another tense, suspenseful tune, with low, angst-filled vocals and steam-engine percussion, and the explosive closer "Afraid of the Light" releases that pent-up feeling with bursts of industrial noise, sampled shouts, screams and childlike mutterings, followed by a teeth-chattering piano pattern.
Your enjoyment of Séance may depend on your taste for '90s-style analog beats, caustic vocal distortion and those familiar big, echoing synth stabs, but as with any EBM project, the beat's the thing, and in any genre formula (film, music, you name it), it's all about what the artist weaves through the well-established framework. In this case, it's that little taste of tension and terror, plus a lot of haunting atmosphere, that identifies God Module's stake in the crowded dark electro dance scene, and their current lineup and production style makes their music surprisingly accessible to newcomers and well worth a listen.
Want a sample of this ghoulish groove, complete with a nice wet montage of bloody horror imagery? Then viddy the band's DIY clip for "Doppelganger" below!