Solar Soul (Nuclear Blast)
by Martin Popoff
Vorph and Xy have trod strange pathways through a singular career, beginning life as a poisonous black metal cabal, moving through luminous, magical industrial metal (an o-Xy-moron there? Not in these capable hands), through too much techno, and now, back to a happy, heavy medium. Still, Samael will be ridiculed, but, perhaps as microcosm of this crunchy record as a whole, I’ll direct you to the title track, in which headphone-heady layers of gorgeous song skill erupts come break time. Then there’s “Suspended Time” on which Xy finds a way to groove his drum machine somewhere between Pantera and Static X. And again, capable, confident stuff happens at chorus time and beyond, with massaged-in keys, a deep down female vocal, and those exquisite Zeppelin-esque melodies (see also “Quasar Waves”) these Swiss watchers pull out at will (for some reason, it’s galvanizing like when Rich sings a Stuck Mojo chorus (er, just to keep the discourse Century Media ’96). In fact, rarely is there an album so cool simply as an exercise for production fans. Who would’ve thought that one could listen one thread-like in vigilant study of classy, complicated drum programming – erudite tom fills are all over “Valkyries’ New Ride” – the same way folks play instrumental guitar albums to follow John 5, Paul Gilbert, and Satch solos? So there’s that, the measured, sparing melodies, the production pageantry, and then a fair bit of the dour, militaristic, march-y stuff that gives industrial a bad name and will similarly have critics dismissing these guys as not human enough or trendy, even though the trend aspect of all this saw its peak in 1993.