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Second full-length, Neonism is usually classified as a black metal album, but it really fits into a category of its own, or perhaps one also occupied by Arcturus, Fleurety, and very few others. There are definitely elements of black metal in this music -- the shrieking vocals that are sometimes used, the big gothic keyboards, etc. -- but there are other parts that would infuriate (and have) any sort of black metal purist. Most notably, there are the occasional electronic beats and half-spoken, half-rapped vocals (as on "Speed Increased to Scaffold"). While unexpected, these parts actually work well. It also helps that the lyrics are so well written, as evidenced by lines such as "she swallows the light/only to throw up shadows minutes later/on a broken public toilet" ("Fluroescent (The Total Orchestra)") or "part of him feels like a new kind of Noah/but all he can carry is some hexagrams of Goa" ("Backpacka Baba") -- they are highly literate while also not typical of black metal (or any other genre for that matter). Getting back to the music, there are several other unexpected moments worth noting, among them the robotic, almost Devo-esque breakdowns on "Third Person Plural." One can also make out hints of David Bowie, death metal, and occasionally straight-up punk rock (well, that is, if the keyboardist from Cradle of Filth were sitting in), along with some Frank Zappa/Mr. Bungle-type instrumental trickery. There is even one song that uses just piano and vocals, "4:34 PM," and it shows how well the duo's songwriting skills hold up without all the other diverse sounds or unexpected change-ups. Together with the expected great musicianship -- in particular the vocals, which are done in about six different voices and cleanly sung for much of the time -- it is the memorable songwriting that really makes this album work. As stated before, this album has drawn criticism from metal purists since it strays pretty far from the course in that regard, but open-minded listeners -- whether they are experienced metal fans or not -- who enjoy smart, ambitious, diverse, and yet still also aggressive and heavy music should be ready for what Neonism has to offer.

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