COMA Music Magazine: CD Review: 16Volt – Beating Dead Horses
Review by: William Dashiell Hammett
Eric Powell founded 16Volt in 1991 and has slowly but relentlessly built a name as one of the top industrial rock bands in the scene. With six original, two compilations and appearances in video games and films, 16Volt is releasing their latest effort, Beating Dead Horses, on Metropolis Records. And while the term “beating a dead horses” generally means is an idiom that means to continue in any endeavor is a waste of time as the outcome is already decided, this album is most certainly not a waste of time and perhaps 16Volt’s best effort to date.
Starting with the title track, the album begins with a religious laced sampled diatribe condemning those who do not believe and follow the same god as the speaker. The song then kicks off with the grinding guitar line that 16Volt is known for. Heavy drums and well-mixed aggressive vocals move the song along, carrying you with it. “The Wasteland That is Me”, begins with some very interesting percussion sounds backing up a heavy guitar line. The vocals are captivating, understated to a point of almost being down-tuned and backed by so many different layers of sound it is quite easy to get lost within the tones.
The track “Fight or Flight” comes next and simply challenges you to make that choice. Aggressive to the point of almost being an actual physical attack, it is relentless and eerily reminiscent of some 80s hardcore in its tempo and pace. The song “Burn” slows things down to an almost sedate pace in comparison to the previous track. Plenty of sounds layer and move giving this song a very expansive feel.
“You Will All Go Down” comes next and for some strange reason sounds to me like an aggro version of a Pink Floyd. Starting with a long, atmospheric intro it is easily one of the more dynamic songs on the album. Moving with a deliberate pace, the track projects depression and sadness. The next track, “Breathing Water”, starts with a short stringy synch sound before a much more upbeat guitar line comes in wiping away the melancholy feelings left by the previous song. While the music is much more positive laced, the lyrics are sometimes downright dismal, so listening closely to the lyrics can result in a refill of your Prozac prescription.
“Ghost” starts with a steady drumbeat and synth pulse before a guitar joins in holding the main melody in its gritty paws. The vocals begin unstated, almost relegated to the background, before coming on strong during the chorus with some rather interesting harmonization effects. The track drifts past, slightly below your consciousness, and before you know it, it ends leaving you almost empty.
Follows is “We Disintegrate”, a much harder and more aggressive track. With some very interesting panning synths and a nice vocal doubling effect it is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Next is “Dissembler” bringing back the aggro Pink Floyd feeling. With vocals almost atmospheric in nature, the song is an excellent example of Powell’s vocal ability.
Starting with a heavy guitar line, ” Sick Sick Sick” comes in and shatters the somberness “Dissembler” had created. Again, some very nice synth samples accent the main melody and the interplay between the sung and shouted lyrics is well mixed so that while they both have distinct sounds, neither overwhelms the other. The drums are heavy and fast, again reminiscent of 80s hardcore and driving the song onward.
With the track “The Carrion” the heavy hitting as well as the more ethereal 16Volt collide. While the synths and some of the vocals hint at the atmospheric tones from “Ghost” and “Dissembler” the guitar and drums keep the song from descending to far into the melancholic. “Veins” begins with probably the most atmospheric sample and percussion ever to be devised for an industrial track. When the guitar comes in during the first verse, it hints at the heaviness that explodes with the chorus. Some of the vocals toy with the death metal growl, as I like to call it, while remaining melodic. Thankfully, they only tease and stay much more lively.
The final track on the album, “Somewhere New”, starts with a steady beat held together by a drum machine and ride cymbol before being joined by a bass line. The vocals had me wondering if Edward Ka-Spel had decided to go industrial for a moment as Powell uses the same cadence Ka-Spel uses so often on his LPD releases. Probably the most sadate track on the album, it is an excellent denouement to the track as it dissolves into almost nothing at the end.
This is not the 16Volt that appeared on the Primal video game soundtrack, but rather a higher, more musically evolved, 16Volt. Eric Powell and Mike Peoples have taken their act to a new level and produced what I can easily say is their best album to date. Fans are sure to find Beating Dead Horses to be very enjoyable while new listeners should appreciate the dynamic soundscapes offered by 16Volt. I thoroughly enjoyed this album and hope the creativity and growth shown continues with their next release.