Tweaker: 'Call the Time Eternity' – CD Review


There's hardly a musician on my favorites list (or yours, probably) who hasn't crossed paths at some point with industrial rocker, drummer, programmer and producer Chris Vrenna at some point. Whether it's Nine Inch Nails, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Rammstein, Rob Zombie, Metallica, Lords of Acid or dozens of others, Vrenna's distinctive style has played a massive role in shaping the dark side of multiple music genres over the past couple of decades. Aside from his association with all those iconic names, Chris has also nurtured his own sonic brainchild – an eerie gothic entity known as Tweaker. The project actually dates back to the late '90s, when Chris was still drummer for Nine Inch Nails, but Tweaker solidified as a touring group in the mid-2000s, when Vrenna was joined by guitarist/keyboardist Clint Walsh. After the release of their 2004 album 2 AM Wakeup Call, the band toured with Skinny Puppy and recorded the theme to Doom 3, then faded into the shadows for several years. During that hiatus, Chris has continued working as producer, drummer and programmer with many other artists, until the beast known as Tweaker began to stir... and at last, it has risen.

Given Vrenna's solid ground as a percussionist, it's easy to understand how Tweaker would be a beat-centered unit with the explosive drumming he summons here... but Call the Time Eternity is far from your typical electro-industrial groove, instead using a wide assortment of traditional rock and electronic tools to craft an ominous post-apocalyptic landscape filled with moments of sheer terror and beauty; the colossal gates to this domain are opened by the madly crackling rhythms and grumbling bass of “Ponygrinder.” Tweaker is also known for high-profile guest vocalists (earlier works have included The Cure's Robert Smith and Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory), and this record is no exception – Jessicka Addams of Jack Off Jill and Scarling provides a smoldering lead vocal for the fierce bump-and-grind of “Nothing at All,” and kaRIN of Collide lends her seductive siren song to “Grounded.” Both of these tracks sit at the top of the album's achievements, and as singles they'd deserve to stake out high ground on the gothic/industrial charts. Abhorrent Derelict provides a creepy talk-sung treatment to the moody closing cut “Fine,” which has  the floaty, minimalist quality of a half-dream... although with sudden shocking outbursts of ground-pounding beats. Vrenna himself takes up the mic on the creepy, skull-busting track "Areas of the Brain,” which also showcases a more exotic percussion style, locked in perfect step with Walsh's tight but supremely dirty guitar riffs, and he also performs a surprisingly straight and incredibly powerful cover of Phil Collins' '80s hit “I Don't Care Anymore,” even replicating the tribal feel of Phil's massive multi-tracked toms and '80s-style synths.

Solid, danceable electro-rock structures dominate the album and Vrenna's rock-solid drums rule the realm, but there's also a fair share of bizarro experimentation woven through these eleven tracks, including the chilling broken-machine madness of "Hoarding Granules," the chaotic noise and scattered loops of “This Is Ridiculous” (which could just have easily been titled “This Is Insane”), the sub-destroying nightmare bass of "A Bit Longer Than Usual,” the typewriter sample of “Wasted Time” and the alien buzz-fest “Getting Through Many a Bad Night.” They're just odd enough (and fairly short) to shift the dynamics and remind you that Tweaker's world is unpredictable and occasionally frightening, but shouldn't throw you too far off the main road.

It's already a major thrill to hear Tweaker kicking it after nearly eight years of silence, but it's even more exciting to know they've returned at the top of their game, expanding the scope and scale of their sound and reminding us how crucial Chris Vrenna's skills have helped shape much of modern rock and metal... sometimes in ways so subtle you may not even realize he's doing it. But when it's time for Chris to take the command chair, you'll sure as hell know it... and you'll realize why he's been the brains and muscle behind so much awesome music.