God Lives Underwater

Empty

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The hints of what would become an even clearer influence over time -- Depeche Mode -- start coming to the fore on Empty, God Lives Underwater's full length debut. There's little immediate change in the overall elements -- heavy, clipped feedback slabs, experimentation with keyboards and loops, Reilly's slightly whiny, ghost of Layne Staley singing style. But there's a subtle sense of studio exploration, finding new ways to process and play the guitar parts, playing with the mix. Consider "All Wrong," which makes the vocals much more prominent than the drums, while flattening out the guitars in the middle, then adds some sudden midsong breaks where it's nothing but Reilly and some very low-key beats indeed. Again, God Lives Underwater aren't breaking any new ground, but in their own way they're finding a reasonable balance between hard rock and electronic arrangements. "23," based around a heavily swirled, endless guitar loop and a slow, steady pace, not to mention some of Reilly's most affecting singing and lyrics, is a definite standout, even allowing space for a brief vocal/acoustic guitar part. That touch is expanded in full on the concluding "Scared," which reverses things to bring in the full electronic assault only for a brief moment. As for the Depeche Mode touches, there's everything from the multiple quirky sample-based melodies to the sheer elegance and beauty of some songs, such as the wonderful cascading chorus of the title track. Not everything is perfect -- sometimes Reilly's more extreme yelling disrupts rather than works with the music, especially when quieter keyboard parts are added. But on balance, God Lives Underwater started finding their feet fully with Empty, with the future looking ever brighter from that point on.

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