Synthetic Breed (EP)
Released: n/a, Self
Illidiance are a young Russian act that play what they call cyber-metal. In 2009 they were second at the nation-wide Na Vzlyot contest competing against more than 1000 rock bands, and also finished second in a contest held by Metal Radio, with over 500 other Russian bands participating. Also in 2009, they released two EPs, CYBERGORE NATION and SYNTHETIC BREED, and also their second full-length, NEXAEON. The band contacted me to see if I would review SYNTHETIC BREED, and I was sufficiently intrigued to give it a shot.
Now, I have to admit, I have a long held prejudice against electronic music, even when it’s incorporated into metal like in Fear Factory – and it’s a prejudice born of ignorance. Now I know what an outsider looking into metal is experiencing. The mental paths one takes to coming to an unreasonable conclusion is pretty much the same. For example, I lump all electronic music into the same pile, and make no effort to differentiate house, dub, drum ‘n’ bass, techno, trance, noise, cyber, electro and dance. To me, they’re all the same. I really had no interest in learning more about a genre of music that prioritises “beats” and “party” and mindless repetitiveness, synthetic-sounding samples and percussion, a genre that actively tries to remove almost all human elements in the performance (and in some cases, the composition) of the ‘music’.
And yet, we metalheads commonly accuse the media and the authorities of misunderstanding metal. We cry foul over the popular notion that metal is a bunch of noise and screaming; we point to the multitude of genres with their own distinct sounds and wonder why these glaring differences aren’t recognised. Metalheads are perceived as a bunch of braindead head-swirling satan-worshipping drunkards; we point to examples of articulate, literary- and politically-conscious bands, musicians who are virtuosos on their instruments, the diversity of our beloved genre, the ideologies and philosophies behind certain sub-genres…
But it’s the same, isn’t it? The popular notion of metal and metalheads are just like most other popular notions: misguided, misrepresented and inaccurate. Now, I’m forced to step outside my comfort zone to review this EP by Illidiance, SYNTHETIC BREED. What will I do? Will I dismiss it outright, based on my preconceived notions of what I THINK techno/cyber is about? Will I do some research on the subject to at least know what I’m criticising? Will I fall in love with the enemy? O the suspense…
I did do some research on wikipedia and youtube about the genre in question, and while I wasn’t interested enough to continue my pursuit into the subtleties of it all, I did find more respect for some elements and the attached subcultures of electronic music than I would have thought possible. So now, I’m approaching SYNTHETIC BREED and the music of Illidiance with more knowledge behind me about what they’re trying to achieve.
…And I can definitely see the potential. They have chosen a solid mixture of melodeath/metalcore with mathcore stylings as their metal foundations, so you can expect Killswitch Engage at times, and Meshuggah at other times. The vocals are decent with the clean-and-dirty, call-and-answer so beloved of bands like 3 Inches of Blood, and thankfully they have a real drummer instead of using a programmed shitty sample. In the circumstances, these are all good things.
The cyber influences come relatively unobtrusively in the form of squeaky sound samples that don’t affect the songs too much during the verse and chorus parts of the song, only appearing usually during the intro, outro and bridge sections. Obviously, rhythmic catchiness is provided by the guitar riffs and the drums (especially the kick) mirroring the riff, and the sound samples give an otherworldly effect to the songs which are essentially melodic metalcore in style.
To the extent that they’re trying something different, you have to give them credit for marrying a genre of music that most metalheads haven’t a clue about with metal, and they undeniably keep the basis of the songs metal in nature. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the cyber elements actually enhance the songs, they definitely provide a different dynamic that I’d actually like to hear more of in the future.