Tom Shears' debut release as Assemblage 23 is a powerful tour through a broken emotional landscape. Pulsing electro melodies hover over ethereal sweeps of sound and play against the sometimes complex rhythms and beats. On top of the layers of sound, Shears' rich vocals resurrect the notion of undistorted vocals in electro music.
The mix of moods varies, ranging from upbeat at the album's beginning ("Surface," one of the few tracks sporting vocal distortion), to melancholy minimalist ("Sun"), to plain scary (such as the pounding melodies of "Skyquake"). "Purgatory" has all the makings of a genre classic -- uplifting melody, contrast and complexity, and a stable dance beat. The three remixes at the end provide an interesting contrast and fresh perspective on the album, featuring artists from Pain Station and THD. Despite the album's strengths, some listeners may find that there isn't the variety of sound to hold their interest (arguably partly due to the mastering of the album, which at times can seem flat). This is the only weakness on an otherwise impressive debut album, which solidly puts Assemblage 23 on the map of electro music.