SKULL231

DEFCON, Flat Black Philosophy (2010, Bit Riot)

The skull:
We’ve seen skulls in niches before, but this is the first metaloskull in a technoniche (such as would fittingly honor this guy). And while the skull is obviously just spray painted, I have to say, I’m at least a little impressed by the composition here. Someone came up with the marginally interesting idea to reframe this ancient scene in modern, post-industrial trappings, and it works. Sadly, the cover doesn’t make any sense in the context of the title, but at least there is, as I shall presently explain, a thematic bridge from the cover to the music.

The music:
Remember Circle of Dust? Of course you don’t. They were a Christian industrial metal band on the REX label (along with Believer!) who released three moderately good albums in the early/mid-90s before main dude Scott Albert ran off to do an album or two with frat magician Criss Angel (called Angeldust, get it?) Now he’s working the dubstep circuit as Celldweller. What does this have to do with Defcon? Absolutely nothing! Well, except that Defcon sounds, to these ears, identical to Circle of Dust. And that’s not a bad thing. Industrial metal is notoriously hard to pull off; many have tried, but few have succeeded in blending what seems eminently blendable. The fundamental problem, I think, is that the dancier demands of industrial require steadier beats and less variation in the arrangements compared to metal, where the best bands tend to cycle through a lot of riffs and rhythms. Finding the middle ground is obviously harder than it would appear, and groups that fail tend to sound like half-assed KMFDM tribute acts, which is to say, most fail on the side of the side of industrial. Sometimes Defcon falls into this trap, and the Ministry lifts are many, but for the most part, Defcon makes the formula work. Their programming is appropriately sinister, and the riffs, while not especially creative, are at least properly metallic. I’m even occasionally reminded of Passage-era Samael. Defcon aren’t about to dethrone Pitch Shifter as the greatest industrial metal group of all time, but considering how rare a beast is the enjoyable industrial metal album, Flat Black Philosophy is a welcome addition to the canon.
— Friar Johnsen

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