Alec Empire

The Golden Foretaste of Heaven

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His puerile but fun anime-inspired digital hardcore days in the rearview mirror, Alec Empire moves further toward accessible, mainstream dance fare on The Golden Foretaste of Heaven. Where he once mixed Aphex Twin-style drill'n'bass with the baiting punk sneer of the Sex Pistols, this album sees him singing in a fuzzed-out distorted vocal style that's equal parts Lou Reed and Trent Reznor over similarly distorted dance beats not that far removed from Moby. That's not to say there isn't bite to the subject matter and an overall foreboding tone, but songs like "1000 Eyes" are less sinister than he likely intended. This song in particular portrays the Reed influence with Empire's deadpan phrasing and atonal guitar slabs both immediately reminiscent of the Velvet Underground. The expensive-sounding mix with its shiny veneer removes some of the power. The album is a ball of bouncing noise and distorted beats, like Curve with less melody, more bass, a hangover, and a Lou Reed impersonator at the mike. Compared to likeminded artists Tarwater, who also straddle these Berlin-inspired Teutonic vibes, Empire's work here feels somewhat wimpy in its studiedness. You would think a song called "Down Satan Down" would at least feel slightly evil coming from a guy who once peppered full songs with noting but murderous screams, but Empires vocals are so produced you can almost picture him recording them separately from the music. Yes, "On Fire" and a handful of other tracks pull out the stops, but even then, there's less fear produced than your average Primal Scream track. Like Moby's self-sung work, these songs ultimately fail or succeed on a listener's willingness to accept the singers' mimicking of their inspirations. The album is at its best when Empire loosens up and gets loungey, as he does on the futuristic, funky "Robot L.O.V.E." and when he gets playful on "Death Trap in 3D." The Golden Foretaste of Heaven is never less than fun, with some fine individual songs only truly hindered in that Empire's often lackluster vocals aren't compelling enough for extended listens and the clearly intended menace lacks bite.

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