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A review on Critical Mass (Lysergene) written by ConcreteWeb

This is a rather strange thing. It is not impossible that you heard of Esoteric before, one of the most impressive Extreme Doom acts from the U.K., no, from Mater Terra. This is not a review about them, but they are top! They just are… I like about everything they did… Oops, once again, this review deals not with an Esoteric recording, I am sorry…

So, what’s going on? Well, actually, the ‘strange thing’ is this. Despite being rooted deeply within the (Funeral / Psychotropic) Doom scene, Esoteric have some side-projects that are quite different from the band, or better: some of the members have a solo-outfit that has nothing to do with Doom or Metal, or Doom Metal whatsoever. Olivier Goyet surprised undersigned a lot (and I do mean: A LOT!!!) with his Dead Beat Project solo-outfit (I bought the Breaking The Shell-album a couple of years ago, but actually it was release via Aesthetic Death in 2007), which brings quite a remarkable form of electronic / ambient Music. Around that time, I also bought a split in between Dust To Dearth and Lysergene. The first project out of these two is one of the outfits by our beautiful Mandy ‘Murkrat’ Andresen; the latter is a solo-outlet by Esoteric’s Gordon Bicknell. And to assure your comfort: since the label did send that split to us in quite an impressive package of new and older releases, it will be reviewed by undersigned in a couple of days, weeks, centuries too. Another album within that parcel was a full album by Lysergene, which I had not listened too (nor bought), called Critical Mass. And that’s what this review will deal with.

Critical Mass was written and recorded entirely by Gordon, and just like the Dead Beat Project project, it has nothing to do with Metal at all. Actually, both solo-projects are sort of definable within a same genre, i.e. ‘Electro’. But of course, just like ‘Metal’, ‘Electro’ is more than just a one-directional genre.

Critical Mass consists of nine pieces and has a total running time of seventy five (!) minutes. It consists of nine lengthy creations, starting with the title track. This one opens with some alarm horns, noises, spoken word samples… stuff that makes the listener anxious and / or curious… Then, after almost two minutes, electronic beats and rhythms appear, carrying the very same malignant atmosphere as the introduction. There are even quite some hints of Noise underneath the many layers. That is sort of the spine where the whole album is built upon. It combines all those elements, with an electronic basement to carry the whole adventure, yet injecting the whole journey with twisted elements from, droning Noise, Chill-Out Industrial, Space-Ambient, Acid / Techno and Eighties-inspired EBM, created by both ‘instrumental craftsmanship’ (haaaarghhh, I must be joking) and sampling.

One of the nicest things is the variety, for everybody will find something attractive. Sometimes the whole makes you wanna hip and hop, dancing all over the place, then again you want to sit / lay down and dream away, letting your mind flow to dimensions yet to explore. All drugs will do to reach any state of mind, might be the sonic intention.

A strong element too is the natural and fluent transformation in between the different pieces. It’s as if this album is a one-track trip, divided into several individual chapters. And despite this rather oppositional amalgam of styles, the coherence makes Critical Mass a consistent album, which you might like, or you do not. Or something in between…

But it’s the whole experience that draws the listener’s attention. The narrow-minded ones need to skip right here, but seen the multi-layered aural dimensions, you will find out new elements over and over again, that will make you craving for more, or for ‘again and again’. Each piece tries to tell a story, though it’s often of a disturbing, psychotropic kind (surprised? I am not either). Especially in the beginning it’s rather of the danceable kind, then turning somewhat more chill-out, and at the end it even includes the purest funereal attitude – which I will come back to right now.

Reason: 1) this site was born out of a ‘Rock / Metal’-attitude, and 2) Esoteric! No, there are two pieces at the end that are strongly differing, by suddenly bringing monolithic and minimal funeral Doom à la Sunn O))), Until Death Overtakes Me and, of course, Esoteric. It’s quite remarkable and surprising to hear The Groke starting off after more than three quarters of an hour of electronic beats. Simplistic yet ultra-heavy and rather nihilistic guitar riffing bring desolation, asphyxiation, discomfort, which stands in utter contrast with the danceable sounds from before. I like this, but it’s not truly fitting??? Or am I just crazy about all these approaches, with a preference for this malignant and malicious, masochistic and maniacal mastership? Next comes The Becoming, which refers to the first half of the album (Electro / Industrial-oriented, if you want it to be labelled in a general matter), yet with a much more obscure and droning identity than before, slowly turning into the last composition, Shock Treatment, which is even more blackened, droning, massive and haunting as The Groke. It’s like Swartalf joining forces with Khost, and then being covered by Woods Of Belial. Total madness, brain-smashing insanity! So once again, the difference in between the first 3/4th or 4/5th of the album and the last part is so different that I am not sure if it’s correct to do so. I mentioned my appreciation for both the electronic part (the majority) as well as the funereal part, yet still…

Anyway, quite the main difference in between this project and Dead Beat Project is the latter dwelling rather within ethereal and ‘esoteric’ (hehe, got it?) spheres, and this one floating into realms of harsher, less subtle electronic aggression (with exception of those two Funeral Drone compositions). Yet I cannot but admit that this piece is enormously attractive too!

Read this article on the author's website: ConcreteWeb.
More info on Lysergene and on Critical Mass or browse the press archive for more articles.