Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
Released: 1999, Dream Catcher
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
Anyone remember this band? Back in 1993, this side project of Napalm Death and Obituary released an album called "Embedded", which was everything a side project should be: a different direction, sound, and style than the main bands. In 1996, at an ill-fated Napalm Death show, I asked guitarist Mitch Harris if there would be another album. His answer: "Oh yeah! Definitely!" Well that was a long time ago, and I was about to give up hope. But finally it's here! And get ready for quite a change. Judging from the band's direction on the debut album, I figured they would move towards a more electronic or industrialized sound on the second album. Well they sure did. And although I would have wished they didn't, the new disc isn't all that bad.
Mitch Harris has been one of my favorite guitarists for a long time. Not because he is an amazing soloist and guitar hero, because he just isn't. I admire they way he writes. He is great at writing strange, tense, and disturbing riffs. "Embedded" was just full of these. More are present on "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth" ("B.I.B.L.E."), and it is his guitar work that beckons me to listen. The overall music is more atmospheric and textured, due to the electronics. The aggression and anger of the first album has been reduced significantly, at least from a musical standpoint. Lyrically, it is hard to say, because there was none provided (damn it!). The album seems to take on a more spiritual feeling in general. Vocalist Trevor Peres (Obituary guitarist) is out of the band, and Christophe Lamouret takes his place. He is quite different from Trevor in that he actually sings, which helps add to the atmosphere created by the music. He reminds me of Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad/Ocean Machine). I miss Trevor deeply, as I thought the variety among his vocals really kept things interesting. But Christophe fits the band perfectly. Also out of the band is drummer Donald Tardy (Obituary). Donald's performance on "Embedded" was excellent, as in traditional Obituary style but with lots of new, unheard beats. His departure is sad, as new drummer Ian Tracy's performance is not quite as interesting. Ian does a fine job, but doesn't present anything new like Donald did. And like the first album, drum programming has been added alongside the real drums for that same twist. But on this album, the programming much more prevalent. Bassist Shane Embury is actually listed as a band member now, and knowing how much this guy can write, I am curious as to how much he contributed compared to Mitch.
Production of the album has been handled in part by Simon Efemey, whose work can also be heard on Cancer's "Black Faith" album, among others. He has done a superb job too…great balance, and a clean yet heavy sound. One thing I did notice though is that there is a very short pause between songs. Listening closely, it sounds like the songs were intended to segue, but for some reason they don't. It is annoying when a song starts with the same sound effect that the song previous song ended with, together with a one-second gap of silence between tracks. Hopefully this gets noticed and corrected. Hell, I'd buy a new one! And something's odd about the track listing on the CD booklet and the tracks actually on the CD. But I will let you figure that one out for yourselves!
All in all, this album is much different from "Embedded". "B.I.B.L.E." sounds like a cross between Prong's "Rude Awakening", Ocean Machine's "Biomech", and latter day Napalm Death, with just a very slight touch of Godflesh. This album may be too "alternative" sounding for you die hard metalheads. But if you love Mitch's guitar work and songwriting as much as I do, check this album out! This is a great CD to listen to in the dark and just space out with.