Infected Mushroom – B.P. Empire (2001 album)

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/infectedmushroom/sets/b-p-empire

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3QayeW548wxn5HQdlnzz9q?si=sEM_ZYdhQXKbIB1FJ1lsqw

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lTJgIwQYMylCjNX_3_MpzYHmUnWTr2wjY

 

Introduction: Infected Mushroom. You’ve heard the name on this site before already, so I don’t need to give too much of an introduction. It seems they may be taking a jab of some sort at BP. I’m not sure what they’re expressed goal is. The album art doesn’t really answer any questions.

 

Anyways, regardless of Infected Mushroom’s intentions, this album begins as somewhat of a transition to what’s to come of the duo. It isn’t until the next album that everything truly changes, but there are some notable differences between this album and the last two. Let’s explore them, shall we?

 

Infected Mushroom – Never Ever Land (7.25): Infect me. There always to be some line in the opening song of these first few albums that make for a perfect introduction to an Infected Mushroom album. This one is somewhat of a combination of the last two interesting enough. Taking the “me” from “Release me” and “infect” from “Aliens infected us. It’s about time we infected them.” Am I stretching? Probably. Actually definitely. But I found it fun to talk about regardless. It’s still got Infect in there. You can’t deny that. There’s also the chanting of title of the song in final couple minutes of its existence, but I have less to say about that.

 

Vocal samples aside, this song definitely seems to be aiming for an unsettling vibe as many of the early tracks in the Infected Mushroom discography do. This time around, the song seems to have a smoother pace to it. There’s a lot more emphasis on ambiance than usual for much of the song. I’m particularly referencing the ever-present strings and the lead synth of the song with short melodies that simply provide a subtle unsettling texture to the song. The vibe of this ambiance seems to borrow a little bit from Disco Mushroom, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does feel like it’s not as good.

 

One other notable thing to mention that I’m having troubles fitting into the other paragraphs is how much I enjoy that guitar. I guess it gets a paragraph of its own then. I like the guitar. It’s got a nice groove to it. Ok, I guess that’s all I have to say about that.

 

Infected Mushroom – Unbalanced (7.25): Infected Mushroom shows a lot of growth in this album by not relying solely on the psytrance basslines and instead working on creating their own environment of sound unique to themselves. Yes, they’ve always been creative, but this song only has a few short sections with the psytrance bassline and it’s quite subtle. The rest of the song has Infected Mushroom feeling out the sound design as it breaks away from the mold with its own basslines. It’s here that the duo really begins to establish who they are.

 

Well, they start to find out who they are. As they’re really just exploring out into the unknown at this point, there is a mixture of what I enjoy and would rather go without. Pretty much anything that involves a bassline is good (I don’t think Infected Mushroom has ever been weak in the bassline department though so this is no surprise), be it the funky bassline in the introduction, or the rare use of psytrance bass (though the latter is subtle and has a good chord progression, so it helps the track stand out quite well from the rest their discography thus far).

 

There’s also some neat Foley in there with a creaky door, whining as it closes near the beginning of the song and a spinning coin settling itself on the top of a metal table as it begins to lose its balance. Or fi you want to make some kind of pun or play on words, you could say that the coin becomes unbalanced. The drum design is rather cool too in places. It’s always four on the floor as most trance songs are, but the snares when they appear sound almost rather industrial. There’s also some points where the drum completely disappears

 

And lastly, we have the lead synths. These are the parts I’m a bit more mixed on. There’s plenty of variety offered in this department, which means I have to deal with the fantastic (the bell melody and guitar solo is my favorite part of the song, but there’s a few synths here and there that are a bit too scratchy for my tastes). Some of the subtler instruments like the organs or ghostly ambiance also fit into the song quite well.

 

Infected Mushroom – Spaniard (5.75): I was beginning wonder if this album was going to be consistently 7.25s, but there appears to be a slight dip in quality right here. The Spaniard, does very little to stand out on its own. It still relishes in the slightly unsettling vibe that’s already been established in this album, but it’s not really doing anything new with it. Yes, there’s plenty of haunted synths providing the ambiance for this track and I do appreciate those, but the only noteworthy melody I can find is the one that appears a bit over 5 minutes into the song. Everything else other than the outro (with the creepy ambiance/decent bassline combo and the short vocal section of little substance) isn’t unique to the rest of the first age of Infected Mushroom. And even then, I don’t find the outro to be exceptional.

 

Infected Mushroom – B.P. Empire (6): It’s a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself it was only a dream. This quote is apparently from some movie about samurais that I guess Duvdev and Erez enjoy. It claims to have a good viewpoint on looking at the world as a dream. Honestly, I’m not certain if it truly is a good viewpoint. Really just feels like an excuse to cut off your emotional attachment to the world around you. And while that may work well for nightmares, I can’t really get behind this way of living. Too emotionless, too detached, too apathetic to the issues that we face in our lives. If we just see it as a dream, we’ll never face them at all.

 

Anyways, this titular track goes as minimalistic as it can for Infected Mushroom. Start with a creepy quote, add in a drumbeat and then put a nice Infected bassline in there. For the most part, that’s all this song does. The bassline admittedly does transform throughout the song so there’s a bit of variety, but there’s nothing to be said about melody. It’s all about bassline this time around.

 

Unfortunately, the bassline variety does have some issues. While I will say that all of the basslines are good, that does actually prove to be a problem. When none of the basslines are bad, very few of them stand out either and even the variety becomes somewhat monotonous. With no other elements to change along with the bassline to complement its strengths, each iteration seems to overstay it’s welcome. I find myself surprised to say this, but even with variety, most of this song is tedious and monotonous.

 

There’s only one bassline that stuck out to me around 5 and a half minutes into the song. Something about it has a slightly stronger groove than the rest. But there’s seven other minutes of lesser content surrounding it. For some reason, they decided this bassline wouldn’t last nearly as long as some of the others, before being overtaken. If it were any bassline, I wouldn’t complain, but when it’s the best bassline in the song that gets snubbed, I can’t help but feel that the song could’ve been a bit better had it been given the chance to shine.

 

Infected Mushroom – Funchameleon (8): at first, from the title, I thought it was depicting a chameleon that was fun, but after listening to the song, it’s quite clear that this is a chameleon that’s funky. Just listen to those basslines. B.P. Empire had at least tenfold the variety of basslines in it’s 7 minutes and yet not a single one of them measures up to the funky groove of the chameleon. My favorite bassline by far is the one introduced at the 2.5-minute mark of the song. Definitely one of the funkiest sections of what I’d consider to be the first era of Infected Mushroom (The Gathering thru Converting Vegetarians).  I’d have to brush up on the next album to be certain, but we’ll get to that one soon enough anyway.

 

Now, this one funky bassline doesn’t detract from all the other basslines in this song. Nor does it detract from any other elements this song has to offer. It certainly is the standout part, but I don’t find myself missing it when all of the other basslines and melodies are at work as those bits are interesting enough to occupy my interest in the meantime. Even before that perfect funk is introduced, we have a smooth growl (if that makes any sense). And after the funky beats temporarily cease, we have plenty of arps and melodies that have their own strong points, in particular the melody that almost sounds like a slow arp at the 5-minute mark. There’s even a second strong bassline at that point in the song that nearly gives the Funchameleons’s main funk a run for its money. It’s not really a contest, but it’s remarkable that anything can come close.

 

Infected Mushroom – Tasty Mushroom (7.5): Do you want to have a tasty mushroom? That is the beckoning of the deep voice that offers a delicious snack midway through the song. And I’m not sure how to answer the question. If by Tasty Mushroom, the dude means he wants to know if I want to listen to this, then I’ll do it, it’s a good song. If he means he wants to offer me some mushrooms to make a soup or put on a pizza, I’m into that. If he’s asking me if I want to have a power-up from some Mario game, I might question whether or not he means in-game or if he somehow made the shape-shifting fungus a reality. If the former, then I guess I’ll take it. If the latter, I may want to know how much it’s been tested before I actually partake in eating it as long as it’s not purple. If he’s offering drugged shrooms (or infected mushrooms I guess), then I may have to decline. I’m not really into drugs. Music is my high. Then again, I seem to be perfectly fine with consuming scientifically tested Mario power-ups so maybe I’ll need to reconsider some of my hypothetical life choices.

 

Like I said, this is a good song. It perhaps is in the middle ground of this album, but this album’s middle ground is good, so it’s not really an issue. My only problem is that the funky vibe at the slight funky party vibe at the beginning feels a bit out of place as very little of the rest of the album incorporates that vibe. The trumpets return for a short reprise midway through the song, but if the bassline returns with it, it simply fades into the background as the stronger psytrance basslines overwhelm it. Still, it is a nice throwback. It would be neat if the song involved it more.

 

The other part of the song that stands out to me is the ambiance used at a few different points in the song. For the first, half any use of ambiance is subtle, but while the Tasty Mushroom is offered, everything fades away except for a distant choir (actually this reminds me of Disco Mushroom in a lot of ways, funny they have such similar names. Disco did it better though).  There’s also a bit more of that tasty ambiance at the end as the song fades away.

 

Infected Mushroom – Noise Maker (6.75): Go play your music. Play it so loud that nobody can sleep. Noisemaker. Heh, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. Blasting Infected Mushroom in my room so loud that no one can sleep. Except it’s noon. And no one is home. But no one is sleeping either so it’s totally relevant.

 

Listening to the beginning of this song, I would normally expect a song called Noise Maker to be… well… noisier. It’s rather calm for a song about blasting music, but then again, this is one of Infected Mushroom’s calmer albums. Though if you really think about it, all music makes noise regardless of the volume. It’s just that even when full blasting this tune, the song remains to be somehow soothing and relaxing. The culprit of this relaxation is definitely the pads introduced at the very beginning of the song. They sweep away my soul into a state of soothing. At least that’s how it goes for the intro of the song.

 

As the song progresses past that vocal sample midway through the song, there are some louder basslines introduced to my ears that prevent the relaxation from fully seeping into my body and soul, but they don’t feel extra noisy compared to anything else done on this album (and this album is rather relaxing for Infected Mushroom anyway). Plus, in the middle and end of the song, the soothing calmness returns. Perhaps it’s a bit wavier and distorted than it was at first, but there’s still sleep. Despite, the noise maker, there’s still sleep…

 

Infected Mushroom – P.G.M. (6.25): Seeing as this song, has very few remarkable moments in it, I’ll be brief. There are only three things about this song that stand out. There’s the short cries of a choir interspersed throughout the song, which for some reason is the most memorable part of the song as it’s barely unique. The second thing I can enjoy in this song are the simple descending melody that appears throughout the song, often accompanying the vocals. Not incredibly unique, but it does its job well enough. I think the most enjoyable 20 seconds of the song is the guitar melody that appears midway through. It gives the song a little bit of flavor, but it’s a flavor given to several Infected Mushroom songs of this era and most (if not all) of those songs did a better job of using the guitar melody within the song. P.G.M. only uses this very simplistic melody 5 times (and four of those times are consecutive. It doesn’t really contribute to anything beyond the 3-minute mark of the song). There’s a couple build-ups that are somewhat decent, but if this song disappeared, I wouldn’t miss it.

 

Infected Mushroom – Dancing with Kadafi (8.5): When I reviewed Classical Mushroom about a month ago, we ended with a long song known as The Missed Symphony. It was not worth its length. Here, we have a song of nearly the same length as Missed Symphony, but this one is actually worth the time it takes to listen to it. I have mentioned at least a couple times in the past that I quite enjoy it when a song constantly introduces new variety to it as it develops (often over a long period of time). I call such songs journeys through sound. This song in particular was one of the very first songs I’d heard that fits into this category. And because of this, I consider it to be the epitomal standard for what a journey of sound should be.

 

Summarizing a journey such as this one is a rather tricky task to tackle. It would be so easy to do a play by play recap of every single different change in mood and melody this song goes through, but I fear that would be tedious. I will say this though; the song never goes a full minute without some noticeable change in its mood. Every single moment of this song is good on its own but it’s the way these varying moments flow flawlessly together that makes this song work. From melodies that almost sound as if they’re asking a wordless question to a beautiful duet of piano and strings to a funky jazz vibe to a satisfying victorious melody that answers the question we started with

 

Part of me wants to go even further in depth with this masterpiece but I fear that doing so might contaminate the beauty of the track. Sometimes, it’s best not to overanalyze every single detail, but instead to simply let the experience wash over you.

 

Conclusion: I feel like this album was tricky to review at times. While, The Gathering and Classical Mushrooms had songs that were quite clear of what I’d rate them, I found many songs in this album to be a bit more ambiguous. Perhaps it was because the entire vibe of the album had progressed to a more mysterious tone ripe with uncertainty. It’s definitely one of the softer albums in their discography. Yes, everything still has a trance BPM, but there are several points where the drums are subtler or even non-existent.

 

It’s noteworthy that this album has very few vocal samples in it in comparison to the last two. They begin weening off those vocal samples in this album, which I feel is an important step in their musical development (nothing wrong with samples from movies, but the tradeoff is quite worth their absence).

 

It’s also worth mentioning that the way this album is mixed allows each song to flow seamlessly into the next (It’s like a journey through sound… but 70 minutes long!). I quite enjoy albums that do this, as it encourages listening to the entire album in full, much in the same manner I described in that final sentence of my thoughts on Dancing with Kadafi. Let the music wash over you as you relax your mind and soul…

 

Overall, I say that this album is consistent with the trends of their discography so far. Giving it a good rating similar to Classical Mushroom. It serves as a nice transition between the two albums we’ve heard just far as well as the next album, which I’ll review some time in the future. Though beware, that album is both longer and more drastic in change of tone than this one.

 

Final Score: (7/10)

Ashbury Heights – Morningstar in a Black Car (2008 album)

Album links

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: n/a

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/23qyXix4jSKwPcZxR276dB?si=isfukz35ROSEJIhtpD7TwA

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQ58A9BSeYlH1FIRtevk9xXHHG3w-qWdm

 

Introduction: Welcome back to the ever-edgy Ashbury Heights. Oh boy did we have fun last time with the abundance of edge to uncomfortable limits. Thankfully, Ashbury Heights’ edge is a bit more tolerable this time around so this review should go a little bit more smoothly. Anyways, there’s no point in wasting an excessive amount of time introducing the duo as I think I did a pretty good and thorough job in the last review. Let’s get on with the music.

 

Ashbury Heights – Morningstar in a Black Car (5.5): Starting off with the title track I see. Actually, this is interestingly the only album in their discography to have a title track (unless they decide to prove me wrong sometime in the next few years). My opinion of this song is fairly similar to Bare Your Teeth, the introductory song of the last album: mostly due to its cryptic lyrics. The music itself is an improvement though, but that might be partly because the piano has more character than the unremarkable synth from the first. The bassline in this one is a bit of a disappointment and I’m afraid it does make this song a bit blander than I’d like. But that’s not too much of a problem as Ashbury Heights have the capability of adding some good lyrics to their songs to save something that would otherwise get an average rating.

 

Except when they’re cryptic like this. I could sum up what’s said in this song in a few bullet points, so I’ll do exactly that.

  • Verse 1. Ander describes himself with a few edgy™ adjectives
  • Verse 2: More edginess concentrating on nihilism and resigning to suffering
  • Chorus: Just says the title of the song and I have no idea what it means.

Regardless, the lyrics are too vague to glean any real meaning (and the song suffers because of it), so I think I’m just going to move on to the next song.

 

Ashbury Heights – Spiders (7.5): This was actually my first Ashbury Heights song (though it was a group effort of some songs off of The Looking Glass Society that really got me into them). Spiders continues the trend of Ashbury Heights nihilism. And like usual for this album in particular, the song definitely has some cryptic lines. I mean, the main theme of the song is clearly about the never-ending passage of time, always marching forward as we near closer and closer to our own ends. That much is clear. But I have no idea how this relates to the duo’s apparent distaste for crawling spiders. That’s fair. spiders are a bit creepy. I do relate a tiny bit too much to the rest of the song. Partly because I have a habit of planning way too many projects for myself, so even at 22 I’m already worried about my mortality. Probably over worrying myself, but it’s there.

 

The music is a bit of a step up from Morningstar in a Black Car. The bassline is definitely a couple steps higher, the melodies are a bit more memorable, and there’s a bit more depth to the song in general. Also, it does help that I find most of the vocals in this version to be a bit catchy compared to the monotone Morningstar.

 

Oh, this one also has a music video so I guess that could be worth mentioning. I’m not the hugest fan of most music videos. Usually, it’s because the video sometimes contradicts the vibe I imagine when first listening to the song. This one kind of works, as it does seem to focus on fleeting mortality, assigning countdowns to all of the people appearing in the video. Countdown to their death I presume. Then again, that means that Yasmine and Anders die at the end of the music video as they approach one another. Eh, it’s not the worst video I’ve ever seen. The general message is still there. The aesthetic is just a slight bit more edgy than I prefer. It’s honestly not all that flattering, but music videos don’t contribute to the score anyway, so this is really just an extra little thing to look at if you don’t mind a low budget edgy music video.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COtbOoes2dg

 

Ashbury Heights – Die by Numbers (8.25): Die By Numbers is one of the two upbeat originals on the album along with World Coming Down. Interestingly both songs have to do with how bleak the future is. They also both have an interesting variety of instruments used within the song. This one in particular has the best bassline on the album. There’s a smoother bouncier feel to it, and it’s always rising and falling in pitch unlike the more monotone basslines of the last two songs.

 

There’s also a fair number of synths in the song to keep the song in a constant state of variety. Most of them are quite enjoyable. There are some simple melodies in the first part of the verse and some stabs in the second part of the verse. However, there’s also a slightly scratchier… noise that comes into play along with that first melody. It’s the worst part of the song unfortunately, but the quality of the rest of the song, thankfully isn’t brought down because of it. It’s not even really that bad. I’m just slightly mixed on whether or not I dislike it. A similar synth appears in the chorus as the main, melodic hook of the song, but I think the melody helps make it a little more palatable.

 

Ok, looking at these lyrics, I’d like to offer some constructive criticism to Ashbury Heights’ method of hygiene when it comes to their hygiene. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always found that a good helping of soap and water can really get the grit and grime off the hands. I don’t frequently bathe my hands in blood, but when I do, I find it stains my hands more than anything. But then again maybe I’m doing it wrong because that only happens when I accidentally (important word to include concerning the last album) cut my finger. Does it work better when you use someone else’s blood? I’m not sure if I feel like testing. It doesn’t sound like it would work.

 

Oh wait. Silly old me. It’s probably a metaphor for how societal trends continually make the future look bleaker and bleaker. We live in a world filled with mistrust, division and violence. From what I see, it hasn’t gotten much better. Every day we move through our lives, not knowing what to do in order to reverse this trend. It’s so easy to resign to a mindset where you just assume society is flawed and can’t be fixed. And maybe it’s true. But maybe not. Maybe this division and mistrust can be turned around, provided that new generations commit to avoid following their ancestors.

 

In the meantime, our inaction only guarantees the bleak future this song predicts.

 

Ashbury Heights – Smile (7): A sickening feeling builds in my gut as I hear this love song begin playing, but that’s only because I’m reminded of the toxic nature of Three Cheers for the Newlydeads and I shudder in fear for the edginess that I’d expect from Ashbury Heights. There’s only one love song on this album (two I guess if you really want to count the remixes as separate songs) and it’s thankfully much better than any of the songs on the last album. No toxicity. No suicidal thoughts. Just a nice heartwarming song about adoration of his love’s smile. The lyrics are definitely a bit better in tone. Sure, it does sound like the singer is a bit timid in expressing how much his love means to him. It is Ashbury Heights after all. The song has to have at least the tiniest bit of edge. But timidity is a much more relatable issue to me, and I believe a relationship with a bit of timidity can still work.

 

As for music, there isn’t an excessive amount to talk about. The melodies kind of blend in with the arp which sounds like it could be a bad thing, but I feel like it works well with the flow of the song. The bassline is subtle but definitely present, though it’s kind of hard to judge how good it is, seeing as I just listened to Die by Numbers and comparing this song with that one just isn’t quite fair. But all comparisons aside, the song works well for what it is.

 

Ashbury Heights – World Coming Down (6.5): Alright let’s see if I have any bleak future existentialism left after Die by Numbers. Because World Coming Down is once again quite bleak and yet quite upbeat at the same time. In fact, I’d argue that it takes both of these aspects to greater extremes in comparison to Die by Numbers.

 

Starting off with the music, it only takes a mere 5 seconds for this song to kick into full overdrive at BPM soaring above 200. This is admittedly a bit excessive and I’d be a tiny bit more into it if the drum design was a bit better, but that snare doesn’t work very well when played that frequently. There are some points where the song dies down a bit to slower BPMs but it’s not a common occurrence. I’m not going to hold this too much against the song. Snares are kind of tricky to do after all, but I feel like this song would’ve done just fine as a kick. That’s just the drumbeat though the rest of the melodies are plenty energetic enough to fit that BPM. Whenever they are able to get the spotlight like at the very beginning of the song, the outro or any other point in the song where the snare isn’t dominating my attention. Unfortunately, that just isn’t often enough. Admirable concept, but the snare ruins it all.

 

How about them lyrics though. They are about bleak futures, right? I seem to have implied that much. And the song is called World Coming Down after all, so that doesn’t sound like the dup has the highest hopes for our future. Well, this song is incredibly clear about what it has to say and incredibly vague the rest of time. The only clear thing is that one only has to look around them to see that this world is deteriorating. The signs are everywhere. That much is clear. What’d not clear is what Anders sings of in the verses. There’s a lot of distorted religious imagery with repeated mentions of heaven, Lucifer, crucifixion and likely some others that are seeping under my radar. But what does it all mean? My only possible assumption is that the distorted religious imagery refers to how anything in this good has been distorted beyond comprehension into the mess that we find ourselves lost in. That’s kind of profound. I think I’m going to go with that. Still not fully certain though. Songs like this and Stormbringer from the last album are just impossible to figure out sometimes. Thank goodness I don’t have to review that one ever again

 

Ashbury Heights – Stormbringer (Aerial remix) (6.5): Wait…

 

So, the second half of this album is a small collection of remixes. What’s annoying is that both Spotify and the Youtube playlist I linked don’t display these songs any differently than their original counterparts. Only immediate visible difference is that this song in particular has different album art on its face (seeing as its origin comes from Three Cheers for the Newlydeads). Thankfully, with some digging I was able to find a track listing with some more details on where exactly these remixes originate from and have therefore been able to add the remixer on to the end of the title to help differentiate them from the original. This won’t help you when listening to the album in either of the linsk I provided, but perhaps it will help slightly in the second half of this review.

 

I find remixes to be a little bit trickier to review. Listening to this song in a vacuum it’s pretty alright, not too much different from what I’d rated the original. There’s a reason for that. This remix is almost exactly the same as the original. Let’s go ahead bullet point the differences

  • Intro is 5 seconds longer
  • Bridge is 5 seconds shorter
  • Verses bring the choirs more into the forefront of the song, which I enjoy.

That’s it. There’s really not much for me to say here that I haven’t already said in the original review. If you want to know my opinion of the lyrics check out what I said on the Three Cheers for the Newlydeads review. This is an example of the most disappointing type of remix. So little changes, that if you don’t compare the songs side by side you won’t notice much of a difference. This version is slightly better musically, but it’s such a slight improvement, I’m not sure if I really want to change the rating.

 

Ashbury Heights – Spiders (UnterART remix) (8): Spiders on the other hand is the good kind of remix. Instead of doing next to nothing with the song. UnterART adds his own unique spin on the song. And I say that this version is the better one of the two. Lyrics and vocals share the same vibe as last time, so I won’t go over them again, but the music is entirely different and it’s definitely an improvement.

 

The other version of Spiders was pretty good, but it was still lacking in some of the categories that this version excels in. The bassline in particular is noticeable throughout the song. In the original, the bassline was only a couple steps up from the titular song. Here however, the bassline improves a couple steps even higher with its smoother groove. In addition, there’s also a fantastic 15 section that stands out as one of the best moments in the entire album, excluding anything that happened in Die by Numbers. The original version of course, not the…

 

Ashbury Heights – Die By Numbers (Agonize remix) (2.25): Oh dear. This is unfortunate. Guess we can say goodbye to Yasmine because, Agonize decided she wasn’t worthy of this remix. Instead they decided to replace her with their own gritty pseudo-screamo vocals in the chorus. I’m sure some people are into this, but like I said in the last Ashbury Heights review, I have a limit to my edge. And overly gritty vocals can really ruin a song. Case in point. The verses aren’t as bad as the chorus. They have more of a distorted technological feel to them (think Mind.in.a.box but not nearly as good. These vocals just blend into the background and is barely noticeable).

 

I’d go more in depth with the music itself, but it’s so uninteresting, I can’t figure out anything to say about it except how it’s incredibly disappointing seeing as the original version is the best song on the entire album. This low point unfortunately brings the album down a notch. I’d rather pretend it doesn’t exist, but I’d be deluding myself.

 

Ashbury Heights – Smile (Marsheaux remix) (7): Our final remix for the album is a fairly decent one. It has a slightly different tone from the original and therefore is able to stand out unlike the Stormbringer remix. However, it isn’t necessarily an improvement like the Spiders remix (or an awful downgrade like that Die By Numbers remix). It’s really on the same level as the original, just with a focus om some new aspects.

 

For example, if we start with the bassline, it’s clearly a bit more prominent in this version, allowing for a slightly bouncier feel. Progressing onwards to the leads of the song we have one synth playing a slow-paced melody and the other playing lines upon lines of quick staccato notes. That second synth is used the most within the song, staying present throughout the whole vibe, while the other one is really only important at the beginning and the end. Instead the majority of the song replaces that melody with some variation on the bassline here and there.

 

Like I said, this is overall a fine remix. It definitely has a different vibe compared to the original, but it’s equally as good.

 

Conclusion: Overall, this album is a bit better than Three Cheers for the Newlydeads. There aren’t quite as many strong songs on this one, but the only bad song we have here is the one remix that ruined the best song on the album. Overall, that’s definitely an improvement. Still has the edge that seems to be an integral part of Ashbury Hearts style, but this one doesn’t go nearly as dark. No fantasizing about suicide and self-harm here. Just contemplating crippling mortality and the bleak future that society faces. Much more uplifting!

 

Also, worth noting is that this is Yasmine’s second and last album accompanying Anders as the female singer of Ashbury Heights. Of the three females to be part of the duo so far, Yasmine is likely my least favorite. She’d left following this album in favor of working on her modeling career. Fine by me. The vocalists improve as time goes on. I’ll talk more about them when they’re introduced.

 

But regardless of Ashbury Heights transitioning out of one age and into another, Morningstar in a Black Car turns out to be a quite good album. There’s a dip in quality here and there (Can you say Agonize?), but that doesn’t prevent the album from getting a score well above average.

 

Final Score: (6.5)

Daily Hat Track Roundup: January 2019

I’ve been posting these every day on Twitter for the past month so if you’re not following me yet, there’s a direct link in the menu if you simply scroll up. Or you could click on this one right here. Either will do. The wording of these short micro reviews may work better in a daily setting so this whole collection might seem a little disjointed but I’ll work on that tone a bit better as time progresses. Oh and at the bottom of this post I also have linked a playlist of all the 2019 Daily Hat Tracks so you can listen through that if you’d like.

 

https://twitter.com/BeretBeats

 

If you’ve already been following me for the past month, then this isn’t going to be much new content for you, but it’s a nice recap of what I’ve been listening to as of late.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 1 (Donbor – Backward): Discovered Donbor today. Fantastic discovery. I’m a bit mixed on some of his albums, but this album in particular and this song in particular is outstanding. Love the guitar in the beginning and everything else that follows

 

Daily Hat Track: January 2 (DROELOE – Looking Back (Manu Dia remix)): This remix stole the spot for today’s track minutes ago. Loved the original lyrics about the internal struggles of adulthood and this remix with music box vibes and the other melodies that greatly improved upon DROLOE’s style.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 3 (Durs – Redemption): Couldn’t hold myself back from posting psytrance for too long, now could I? This one’s got some exceptional basslines to keep me in the groove. Had a lit of fun with it on loop this evening.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 4 (Moby – Like a Motherless Child (Broken Places Remix)): Spotify’s Release Radar made sure to deliver this captivating remix to me. Broken Places does a better job of matching the emotion of the song’s lyrics than Moby himself. At least, that’s my preference.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 5 (Andy Hunter & Christine Glass – Amazing): Didn’t really discover much new music today, but that’s not gonna stop me from posting something. How about a classic? Andy Hunter was my biggest introduction to EDM and this is my current favorite song of his hailing from 2002.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 6 (The Avener & Ane Brun – To Let Myself Go): Beautiful tracks with a good drive are one of my weaknesses. Here’s a recent discovery of mine from that category. Listen carefully to every single element and instrument as you listen to this one. Because each one is a small part of a masterpiece.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 7 (Comaduster – Far From Any Road): This ominous entrancing track definitely caught my attention today. The tone of the song has nice unsettling feel to it. And the lyrics are even more unsettling so if you’re into that (I am) then make sure to give it a listen!

 

Daily Hat Track: January 8 (Ashbury Heights – November Corrosion): Embrace the break of day with yesterday still in motion

 

This song is actually about pulling an all nighter due to existential crisis. I’m posting it now because I forgotten to post a track last night so yesterday is still now.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 9 (Ecepta & Azaleh – Shadow Truths): It’s way too late for me to still be up so here’s a chill vibes Daily Hat Track that I heard today. Let us all read and rest in the shadows.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 10 (Ehrling – Groove): The main reason I live Ehrling’s stuff is the saxophone. The saxophone is likely one of my favorite instruments in existence. If you’re unaware of my love for the saxophone, then your ignorance of my saxophone loving shall soon fade away.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 11 (Torul – Ausverkauft – Frozen Plasma remix): My favorite track from today’s Release Radar is the great Futurepop synthwave combo that is this Frozen Plasma remix. Haven’t delved into the lyrics quite yet but the vibe is great regardless.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 12 (Infected Mushroom – Bust a Move): Classic Infected Mushroom song and totally not a hint at what album I’m reviewing next.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 13 (Lemon Jelly – 64 aka Go): This song is a journey in two ways. Firstly, the theme is about embarking on a lengthy journey so that’s that. Secondly, the variety within the song (especially the guitar at the end) makes it a journey through sound.

 

BONUS THREAD (worth the read I promise): https://twitter.com/BeretBeats/status/1084941640366804993

 

Daily Hat Track: January 14 (Justice – Planisphere): I’m not certain why Spotify decided to put a nearly eighteen minute song in my Discovery Weekly, but it was still well worth the time to listen to every last bit of it.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 15 (The Other Colors & Marie Mööre – Pretty Day (Remix): Today’s weird enough already so let’s add some more weird to it with this trippy edgy track with the cutest lady singing about how pretty death is as everything around her descends into madness.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 16 (Eddie Bitar & Psycrain – Vertical Poetry): Who wants more psytrance? I’m always wanting more psytrance. Eddie Bitar is a recent discovery of mine. His collabs with Psycrain are his best and this is the best of those so this is the best Eddie Bitar.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 17 (Bjørn Torske – Clean Air): Yeah, I know it’s the 18th but this is the track I meant to post yesterday and I’m sorry for being so late on it. But I ain’t gonna get stressed I’m gonna take a step back and breathe the clean air that is this beautiful track.

 

Daily Hat Track January 18 (Sean Tyas – Chrome): This week’s Release Radar was mostly a flop. This is the only one that really stands out to me. It may just be trance with pseudo-inspiring lyrics at the beginning but it’s good trance with pseudo-inspiring lyrics at the beginning

 

Daily Hat Track: January 19 (Sesto Sento – Louder): It’s getting louder and louder and louder and louder. It’s getting LoUdEr and LoUdEr and LoUdeR and LoUdEr. It’s getting LOUDER and LOUDER and LOUDER and LOUDER

 

Daily Hat Track: January 20 (Ehrling – Tequila): Is it cheating to do to Ehrling tracks in one month? Because this one has an even more energetic upbeat melody (plus more sax, always more sax, the EP is called Sax Art and it is flawless).

 

Daily Hat Track: January 21 (Ghost – He is (HEALTH remix): Today’s track has a slight bit of edge and despair to it. An emotion that might ward off some listeners but I’m definitely into it. Though as you may see this Friday, I have limits to how much edge I can take…

 

Daily Hat Track: January 22 (Henry Saiz & Band – Downfall (Overture): Great song about finding beauty within the inevitable chaos of this world while also focusing on the similarities and differences between what we dream of and what we see in reality. Plus the music is just plain ol’ good

 

Daily Hat Track: January 23 (Ashbury Heights – Penance): Finishing up Friday’s review so I haven’t listened to much else. Here’s a sneak peak of the edgiest review yet! Not the best song on the album because I’m leaving the best for later but there’s some good existentialism in here.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 24 (Etherwood – In Stillness):  What a beautiful album opener. Such a gorgeous track about slowing down in life to finally find peace.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 25 (Neelix – Mosquito (Interactive Noise remix): It got really late this Friday. Here’s a new remix of one of Neelix’s more creative songs with synths made of mosquitoes. It’s not quite as good as the original (this one is less subtle and not as majestic) but both are worth checking out.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 26 (Yanni, Marc Russell, David Scheuer & Tinatin Japordize – What You Get): Today’s track comes from a brand new discovery of mine, Yanni. Dude has a massive discography but I’ve only just brushed the surface with these genius piano melodies and the surrounding almost cosmic environment.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 27 (Royalston – Oscilla): DnB songs are always good. Take this Royalston track for example. The melodies in the middle of the song really have a soothing feel to them, but the variety the rest of the track offers is pretty great too.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 28 (The Anix – Mask): It can be quite easy to hide behind a mask. I sometimes wonder if I’m hiding under a mask even from myself (nonsense I know). Well, The Anix tackles masks in this song. If we wear a mask, what truly hides behind in the shadows?

 

Daily Hat Track: January 29 (Sesto Sento – Musik Make U Feel (Live mix)): So basically I listened to a bunch of music that would be fun to party to. Except I was working at the time so not really a party. But feel that musik. This and Louder are great tracks for getting in that partyin mood

 

Daily Hat Track: January 30 (Mind.in.a.box – The Dream): I go a little bit overboard with this guy’s stuff when reviewing. The story is real dense here so here’s a sneak peak at tomorrow’s review. Fittingly I chose the song, The Dream from the album Dreamweb.

 

Daily Hat Track: January 31 (Pendulum – Propane Nightmares): Sorry if today’s tracks seem a bit lazier. I’m trying to do my best to match the tone of each day (if that makes sense). I listened to a lot of Pendulum today and while this track isn’t a new discovery, it definitely is a classic.

 

https://open.spotify.com/user/beretbeats/playlist/4CIZYAQAzctqYqFG89HIv2?si=0ZHfkQeIQw6QhRE6vUVEmg

 

Mind.in.a.box – Dreamweb (2005 album)

Album links

Bandcamp: https://mind-in-a-box.bandcamp.com/album/dreamweb

Soundcloud: n/a

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3wJLkm6XJEwfoGfN8a7To7?si=RDIKci-cR8mnFF8VnzWVAg

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nsZvd85DCMrxWiwsIMpp-BPQO91jb4tFI

 

 

 

I̸̧̪̱̻̬̟̜̖̓́̍̃ṋ̵̨̬͓͔͚̣̞͖̘̒̇̓̓̈́̊̒̿̍̄̈̕͝͝ͅt̶͓̖̠̮̜̙̓r̵̨̞̹͕̝͎̜͓̥̩̤͔̈̑̑͒̔̀͐̈͊̈́̽̎ō̷̝͕̗͇̦̪̰̩̩͎̖̱̳̒͆͘d̵̢̑͌̋͋̏̐̔͗̽̽͒̑͒͜͠͝ụ̴͔͎̺̜̗͍̖͔̹̟̞̥͙̤̆̇̾̃̆̄̐̔͆̂͘͝͝ĉ̴̡̛̳̟̦͈̮͇͉̭̫͉̦͈̀̃̿͌͋͒̑̋̂̉͘̚̚t̵̢̧̛̯̟͕͙̖̪̻̩̗́̾͗̐̈͑̋͑͋͆̓̾̋̂ͅi̵̛̻͎̤̣̝̣̇̋̄͊̑͑̌͌͜͝͠ó̵̧̟͒͆̈̊̋̀̓̽͘͠͝ň̵̞̣̘̩̣͔̗̣̝̪͉̲̠̰͂̏̉͊̏̆͐͐̊̋̆͐͠: ……………………………………………………………………….

 

 

 

Last time on Mind.in.a.box: An agent is tasked with following a hacker, hoping to eventually capture his target before the man teams up with a mysterious woman whose identity and purpose currently remain obscured from our knowledge. All the while, he contemplates his past, worrying about the memories that seem to have become hazy within his mind. And he worries that the future may be equally hazy, as change looms on the horizon. Conflict arises within his mind. Will he be able to embrace the change that seems inevitable? Will it crush him? Is there any possible way to avoid it? Can he prevent himself from falling into a world of chaos, trapped in a feeling of aloneness as the world grows ever more distant? A world in which he can no longer trust what is real?

 

No.

 

For the hacker has escaped the agent’s clutches. He has found a way to the other side. He has entered an entirely different reality.

 

He has entered the Dreamweb.

 

And nothing will ever be the same again.

 

So the agent flees…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Tape Evidence (7.5): Hopefully, my recap isn’t too redundant, as Tape Evidence somewhat reviews past events as well. It’s not as clearly stated as the paragraph I typed up, but the recap definitely has a unique style that a paragraph can’t capture, even if it’s less thorough. Half of the albums in the Mind.in.a.box discography following Lost Alone start out with a reminder of where our agent currently finds himself on his mind-bending journey. There are a couple of exceptions (Revelations is too vague, R.E.T.R.O. isn’t canon, and Broken Legacies… well it’s best not to talk of Broken Legacies right now). I’m planning on giving my own little recap myself in future Mind.in.a.box reviews, giving a clearer outlook to where the story has left off. This song, for example, takes us to a room where the agent is currently staying. His sleep is suffering. His dreams haunt him. He hazily remembers the events of Lost Alone but his memory is proving hazier more and more as time goes on. There must be something wrong with his head. Natural deterioration? Or more? Who can he really trust?

 

And then he receives a mysterious package at the doorstep. The person who’d left it seems to have vanished without a trace, leaving only their evidence behind. The agent plays the tape, finding it filled with recordings of his calls to his employer as he lost the trace on the hacker that had disappeared that fateful evening…

 

Serving mostly as a recap of past events, this song doesn’t really add much new information to the story at hand. If anything, it only brings us more questions. What’s in the agent’s head? Why have his dreams begun to haunt him more and more? And who left the tape on his doorstep.

 

Well, regardless of the answers to these questions, I must admire the way this song integrates the world around our agent into the song. He doesn’t just tell narrate the events that happen to him. You can hear his emotional state in the music itself: the unsettling feeling as he describes his dreams, the thunder and pounding in his head as he cautiously approaches his door wondering who could possibly approach him at this hour. The mysterious arp and bassline that plays as he relistens to the tape depicting the events of the last album and questions begin to arise in his mind. The foley in the scene involving the tape (doorbell, door opening and closing, and inserting the tape into a player), also is a nice touch.

 

But most interestingly, I also enjoy the way that this song integrates past songs from Lost Alone within the song. There’s the line from Leave, “This is not what I wanted,” providing some continuity for the agent’s arc. And when the agent listens to the tape, you can here actual clips from Forever Gone depicting the agent’s panic as he loses the hacker. Interestingly, the song also features clips from Certainty, the next song on the album as a vocal sample during the first portion of the song and as the agent falls asleep with his headphones on. Speaking of the next song on the album…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Certainty (7.75): Certainty is a solid introduction into the more musical tracks of Mind.in.a.box. It’s certainly not the best song we’ve heard from him so far. Nor is it the best song on the album, but it doesn’t really have any weaknesses either. It has a slightly gritty technological vibe with a bassline made entirely of sixteenth notes and some simplistic melodies for texture. Most of all it has several different voices distorted to create reflect the conflict with in our protagonist’s mind

 

Certainty has left the agent. His world has begun to fall apart from the inside out. His questions have been burning within him for far too long and he has begun to wonder if they’ll ever be answered. He tries to find peace in his lack of knowledge, but the burning desire for his questions still remain. He no longer cares of anything else but certainty, but absolute certainty is unobtainable. And so, his world begins to shatter. He desperately clings to anything he can find in his life that he can hold trust in before his mind breaks from the pressure of the chaos. But if he can no longer trust his own mind, how can he trust anyone else?

 

I can somewhat relate. I’ve never had it quite as hard as this agent, but the unreachable desire for certainty has somewhat bothered me from time to time. In the past, I’ve felt like I need to figure out how exactly this world works, how to figure out my place in it and how to find that perfect state of peace. I’ve slowly begun to discover that I’m better off accepting that I’ll never fully know the answers and that it’s best if I take life as it comes to me instead of overwhelming myself for the perfect meaning of life. I’m not fully certain if perfection exists. Maybe that’s the point. I haven’t fully overcome this struggle. Sometimes I regress back into the plague of trying to find out exactly where I belong. But it’s never permanent. It’s important to remember that there will always be days in the future when one is certain enough in themselves that they don’t need to unravel the exact nature of the universe.

 

Then again, that might be most days for some people. I’ve brought this struggle upon myself.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Lament for Lost Dreams (9): This is the first song to directly confront the agent’s memory loss. It was hinted at in Falling from the last album, but that was a bit more vague. Lament for Lost Dreams goes a bit more into detail, expanding not only on the memory loss introduced in Falling but also of the dreams that seem to be plaguing the agent more and more as this album progresses (It is called Dreamweb after all). As much as the agent tries to recall the memories of his past, it remains hidden, obscuring the path he’d taken. It leaves a deep hole in his identity and he doesn’t quite feel like himself as he is no longer certain that he is his true self. But what I love most about this song is that he doesn’t let it destroy him. Oh, sure he definitely despairs for some time. Having a haunted past that leaves you uncertain of who you are isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. But he doesn’t let his past (or lack thereof) consume him. Instead he looks to the future, for there are choices, crossroads up ahead that he must face. And if he’s continually consumed by his past, he might not have the clarity of mind to make the right decision… if there is one…

 

This song definitely stands out in its verses. I know it’s not much but focusing on a solitary bassline (though it has drums and a synth in the second verse but they’re so subtle I didn’t even notice the first time) as the agent attempts to confront his past definitely allows some true focus on the torment and resignation in the agent’s mind. And the simplistic experience doubles up it’s purpose by allowing the arp filled chorus to stand out, both by giving a slight bit of variety to the music as well as solid driving drumbeat to demonstrate how the agent tackles the path ahead of him. He walks forward, leaving the effigy of who we was behind.

 

All that matters are the crossroads ahead.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Machine Run (9): Machine Run is certainly the most memorable track from the album and therefore I find it to be one of the best. Part of this comes from its unique feeling from the rest of the songs to the album. Instead of just devoting itself to a purely technological vibe. Machine Run goes ahead and brings some rock influence into the mix right at the beginning with a heavy hitting guitar intro. The rest of the song has a fantastic feeling to it too. The sheer variety that we see in this track is phenomenal. Their song continually flips back and forth between the grittier rock vibe (where the agent stares ahead at the routine to which he’s committed himself) and the slightly calmer arpeggio forced portions with cleaner vocals (focusing on his desire to escape the routine as he contemplates the futility of what this routine will do to him).

 

Yeah, I summarized those lyrics up pretty well while describing the two different vibes that this album gives us, but that’s no reason to stop there. The agent is beginning to take a step back and look at the situation he’s found himself in: working with a mysterious employer to find a mysterious man while his memories escape him entirely. He attempts to suffocate his nightmares by fully dedicating himself to his work, but what if, he suffocates his own individuality in the process. Is it truly better to ignore the thoughts that plague him, letting them fester inside as he distracts himself? To dampen his emotions as he chases unreachable peace?

 

Well, by my tone, it’s pretty clear that my opinion is no, but at this point in his life, it’s seems to be difficult for the agent to see what path he must choose. Yes, he could face his nightmares head on, regardless of how disturbing he might find the blurry images of his past, but he doesn’t seem to be at a point in his life where he feels he can face them. He’ll have to eventually. Without doing so he’ll never be able to redefine himself. Waiting any longer will extend his suffering, but for now he waits.

 

For now, he runs.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Loyalty (6.5):  This song serves as a partner to You Will See from the last album, so it also runs the risk of going down the bad path of focusing on the bad aspects of love. And if you read last Ashbury Heights review, you can tell that this could be a big problem as I’m kind of sick of the concept. Of course, the relationship in Mind.in.a.box is much healthier than the ones depicted in Ashbury Heights’ debut. Then again, that’s not saying much.

 

This one doesn’t do quite as well as You Will See. Where You Will See was about overcoming the fallout of a relationship, Loyalty is about looking back on the relationship and putting all of the blame on the other party, which is an unhealthy way of moving on. Better than not moving on at all, but there’s no learning experience here. No strive for possible change. Instead, here’s focus on how the agent used to receive joy from the relationship, but now that his love has broken his heart, he has fallen lower than ever. The holes in his mind grow more painful every passing day.

 

Perhaps, I’m being too harsh. Giving the agent the benefit of the doubt perhaps his love had truly been problematic and he’s only just now realizing the flaws in their past relationship. The trust he had has evaporate and now he must move on. Credit where credit is due, there is a hint of determination in the second verse in which he determines that he won’t let the tragedy that has occurred destroy him. He will move on and look forward to overcoming his struggles. This is admirable, but it’s not done nearly as well as in You Will See.

 

Unfortunately, the music is rather bland too. There’s a simple bassline and arp, but they don’t do much of interest. The melody at the end is even more unremarkable. Probably the blandest melody I’ve heard in a while. There’s a portion with the guitar that’s pretty good, but it’s not enough to save the song (and pales in comparison to Machine Run). Overall, it might be over average as far as ratings go, but that’s pretty under average for the expectations I have of Mind.in.a.box

 

Mind.in.a.box – Sun & Storm (7.75): After the slower more plodding (Ignore the fact that the first line in this song has that very adjective in it) feel of Loyalty, the more upbeat tone of Sun & Storm is very well received. The technological drive I love from Mind.ina.box has returned. The bass and arp join forces in this one, forming on single entity. It works better than you’d think. Leaves some nice room for the ominous stabs as that occur every four beats as well as some more beautiful melodies that provide an interesting contrast to the rest of the song (which I find to be much harsher). The last third of every verse also features a piano which is absolutely lovely. And there’s also a synth that’s really just a highly distorted iteration of the chorus which I think is absolutely masterful.

 

As for the lyrics, Sun & Storm continues the development of the agent’s lost memories. Or more accurately, he abandons those memories and reaches forward into the future. A sequel to Lament of Lost Dreams if you will. Unfortunately for him, his struggles aren’t over as soon as he casts aside these tortuous dreams. The world still begins to collapse around him as he continues down the path for a future of freedom. His will begins to shatter as everything changes around him. Pleasure is now pain. Those he knew are spiteful to him for some reason. He can’t seem to escape his past as easily as he’d originally thought. Wherever he goes, it’s there lurking in the back of his mind. Whatever he does, it’s hiding in the shadows of his subconscious. His struggles haven’t fully disappeared. Perhaps they never will. They’ll always be there, but without working to overcome it, he will resign to suffering.

 

An interesting side note in the second verse as there appears to be some new information here regarding a person who’d originally came into the agent’s life providing a small sense of security of the chaos. But something went wrong. They fell to the darkness. The agent still stayed but suffered because of it.

 

It’s very well possible that the person in question could be the lost love… but I have the sneaking suspicion it’s someone else the agent knows…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Out of Time (8.25): This song isn’t too particularly musically interesting, or more accurately, the lyrics are so interesting I don’t want to spend much time with the music because there just isn’t enough to say in comparison. It’s got your general Mind.in.a.box vibe with a heavy focus on layers upon layers of arps organized in a fashion that gives off a technological environment. But that’s enough of that. This song has a story to tell.

 

The state of being out of time is quite a mind-bending concept. As simple as it sounds on the surface, time has always been a constant force in our lives. And if we were to slip out from under time’s grasp, then could we even comprehend what we’ve found beyond? With such a strange concept, this ends up being one of the more mysterious songs on the album. It took me a few listens before I made a breakthrough on what this song represents within the story, but it honestly should have been obvious from the get-go.

 

Out of Time is a sequel to Forever Gone.

 

When we last left off in Forever Gone, the agent had found our hacker sprawled out on the floor. He and his employer suspected the man had crossed to the other side, into The Dreamweb itself. The hacker has broken his mind down into code, allowing him to live in his impossible virtual world of the Dreamweb, claimed to be forever gone. Gone into a world that cannot be found.

 

And now, as the agent continues to ponder the events of that evening. As he questions where the hacker has gone and how the Dreamweb works, perhaps wishing to escape himself, we can still hear the voice of the hacker speaking through the Dreamweb. The Dreamweb is out of time. It’s where our hacker resides out of reach of the agent and his employer but it’s as much of a prison as an escape. One can’t help but notice that he’s lost alone in this new prison of his. The Dreamweb isn’t quite easy to navigate as the hacker had planned. He’d likely entered in haphazardly when he realized that he was being traced in the last album.

 

Of course, it’s also very well possible that the “he” in this song is the agent himself. That the hacker is speaking through the Dreamweb about an inevitably. Perhaps the agent himself will enter the Dreamweb in due time…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Dead End (9.25): our agent has been watching for this mysterious woman for a while now. She was last seen speaking to the hacker months ago and now the agent and his employer have found a lead that she’ll be at this club this evening. Who is the informant? We don’t know yet. Check back later. But that doesn’t matter, for as the agent continues observing the people entering the club, he begins to realize that they’re beyond the time that the informant said she’d be here.

 

So he goes in.

 

In a hectic fury, the agent pushes his way into the club, desperate to find this woman. Following the events of Forever Gone, she has become the only lead on what could have possibly happened to the hacker and she may just be the key to figuring out how the employer can find a way into the Dreamweb to apprehend the man. The agent keeps his mind clear and his focus straight. Nothing matters but the target. Nothing matters but capturing her and bringing her in. Nothing matters except the music…

 

The music?

 

A chaotic drumbeat begins to seep away at his mind. He tries to break away. He has to find her. She is the only thing that matters right now to the mission. She’s the only lead. But the music? A bassline roars into his mind. It overwhelms his thoughts. A constant distraction from his goal. His goal. His goal is right there. He can see his target in front of him right within his grasp. He approaches her but cannot reach her. He cannot reach past the music. The music? Arpeggiated progressions flow into his mind. Reality begins to distort around him. He begins to see visions of another place, another realm? An endless corridor reaching up into the sky. Rain falls down on his face despite the fact that he’s indoors. Where is she? The lead? There’s no one there. There’s nothing there. The music overwhelms our agent…

 

He blacks out.

 

Mind.in.a.box – The Dream (7.75): I don’t know if you’ve caught onto this by now, but dreams play a big role in this chapter of the Mind.in.a.box story (The title of the album is Dreamweb after all). After seeing the hacker escape into a dream of his own, the agent has found that his own dreams have begun to haunt him. Especially after the events of the last song. All of this comes to a head in this song, The Dream.

 

The song definitely has a great eerie vibe at the beginning. Only introducing slight elements. One simple melody echoing from the shadows. One ominous bassline creeping in from the shadows. And a simple three kicks with the occasional snare slowly echoing through the night providing a nice plodding feel to the song. Here, the agent reflects on his current state of mind. His dreams have haunted him to the point where he can no longer tell if the few memories that remain are real.

 

And then a voice invades his mind: “You fell asleep and now you’re mine… Just let go and embrace your dream…” The agent’s supposed mental deterioration isn’t natural. It’s the cause of someone who seems to have infected the man’s mind. Someone who claims to have taken control of the agent’s dreams. Someone who has been tormenting the agent for some time now, manipulating reality before his very eyes. The agent pleas in response to this voice, desperate for he has been broken by these dreams. He no longer knows who he is.

 

The song begins to develop from this point onwards, adding in some arps and quickening the drumbeat to new levels as the agent continues to converse with the voice in his head, but when the beat takes on a full four-on-the-floor pattern, the voice in the agent’s head takes over the song completely. The mysterious voice gloats on how much the agent’s world has been distorted. Anything he had before his mind had been invaded has since disappeared. He finds himself lost in a confusing world in which he can trust no one, not even his own mind. His past has been taken away from him and so it must be left behind.

 

The agent responds as the song gives more focus on the arps. As the voice says, the agent is surely lost. He may have found his place in the present for now, but something about this life he’s living feels wrong. Almost as if the missing past and the present don’t match up. The agent had wallowed in his pain in the past as he’d wandered the streets of life, searching for a place for his mind to call home. But now, when faced with the dream that has been residing in the back of his mind, he gives in to the voice. He embraces the dream instead of the reality before him.

 

But whose to say the dream isn’t reality as well?

 

Mind.in.a.box – Reflections (8.75): The story of the agent’s search for the hacker and his Dreamweb (along with the search for his own identity) has gotten quite complicated as of late. The agent’s thoughts and dreams have been scattered across this album in a seemingly orderly pattern, but in reality, we’ve been viewing this chapter in the Mind.in.a.box story nonchronologically. We may have started this chapter at Tape Evidence, but we should really perhaps it would be best to take a step back and observe the events that led up to Dead End and the aftermath of the hallucinations and dreams that overtook him that evening. We’ll need to go deeply into the story presented so far in this album in order to make sense of the narrative. Something that this song does quite well. But before we dive into the bigger picture, we’ll have to start at the beginning…

 

Following the disappearance of the hacker, it has taken nine months to finally find a lead on how he switched over into the Dreamweb. The woman who’d he’d spoken to that evening of his disappearance is the only possible lead that they have. It’s only when the agent’s employer (who from now on shall be referred to as White as he has finally been named) finds an informant that knows of the woman’s location that they’re able to finally make some headway.

 

Queue the events of Dead End.  The agent sets up his position outside the club late evening on October 22. And after haphazardly entering the club, he experiences a song like no other. A song that digs into his brain making him envision another world before stealing his consciousness away from him. He awakens in a gutter early morning, disconnected from his employer and his mind succumbing to a state of eternal confusion. It is then that the dreams begin to truly infect his mind. All thanks to the music at the club.

 

Thankfully, despite being disconnected from his employer, he finds White shortly after awakening. Not only do we get a name reveal (technically a codename but it’s still significant) from the employer, he makes a physical appearance as well, an unusual event according to the agent. Further piquing my interest is the tape the agent is given. This slightly mirrors Tape Evidence, though it should be noted that this is a different tape. Unless of course one method of receiving the tape only occurred in his imagination. It’s not like his mind is the most trustworthy at the moment.

 

Well, if it is a different tape, then one must wonder what’s on this one. Furthermore, one must wonder exactly who this person in the club was, the informant from earlier perhaps (can he be trusted?).  A thought crosses my mind though it might not have crossed the agent’s yet. Was the club perhaps a trap?  Could the informant possibly be allied with the hacker and the agent’s female target? Was the music at the club specifically played in order for these people to get into the agent’s dreams? Of course, that goes under the assumption that the dreams are coming from the hacker’s allies. They could be very well be coming from another party… I believe it would likely have to be someone who knows a thing or two about the Dreamweb as the dreams are likely connected to the reality the hacker had escaped into.

 

As the dreams continue to plague him, the agent returns to his home, exhausted from the life changing events that had occurred last evening. He tries to fall asleep, but the music is still there, pulsing in the back of his mind. He can feel them in his head. Interestingly, at this point in the song, it isn’t the ominous pulsing bass from Dead End that is playing in his head, but the guitar from Machine Run perhaps this is the point in time that the agent introspects on the endless routine that he finds himself trapped in. Should he escape it or succumb to it? Impossible to tell at this point.

 

As the song ends the agent finally falls into a deep sleep. Perhaps when he wakes up, there will be a tape on his doorstep…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Between Worlds (7.5): Not really too much to say about this track musically, I haven’t perhaps doing the best at paying attention not the instrumental parts in this album, most because of how story-heavy it is. There’s simply not enough time to do so. This one does have a few good melodies here and there, but I don’t think any of it is significant enough to step away from talking about the narrative.

 

The agent’s exhaustion continues as we approach the end of this chapter with this penultimate song. Now that Reflections has caught us all up on the events of October 22-23, it’s time to explore further where this leaves the agent as he’s begun to accept his dream (see two tracks ago in The Dream), he’s found himself suspended between two worlds. The reality he’s lived in for his entire life, and the Dreamweb of the hacker’s own invention. And both worlds are changing constantly, shifting the agent’s perspective as he struggles to find a place that feels right despite the wholes in his memories (Has his mind been wiped?).

 

As the agent frantically searches his mind, trying to figure out what went wrong to lead his to this predicament, he finds himself suspended between two worlds. Will he have to choose his place between the two worlds to finally find peace?

 

It seems he is at a Crossroads

 

Mind.in.a.box – Escape (7.75): While the dreams of our agent have remained central to the conflict of this chapter, there is another underlying conflict burning in the background. And as the last few songs have begun to wrap up the conflict with his haunting dreams (though permanent resolution is still distant), we can take a closer focus on another struggle the agent has been having. Shall he stay where he is, committed to the routine of his life working with White to seek out the hacker in the Dreamweb? Or shall he try to break free from the machine he’s been running for? Is it time to run from the machine itself?

 

The agent has a burning desire to reach out for a greater meaning. He’s felt lost in this city for far too long and still hasn’t found a place to rest his mind. A place where he can finally feel comfortable as the person he is. A place where he can find the person he is. He desires an escape from the rain that he’s envision falling from the sky ever since he’d heard that music in the club. The music that’s been plaguing his mind ever since. If only he could find a place where he can find peace…

 

But instead, he finds himself trapped in his routine. He merely follows White’s orders as they attempt to track the hacker and his Dreamweb. But as the chase drags on and becomes more and more complicated, more and more taxing, the agent has found himself sacrificing his own self, his own identity. Perhaps that is why he’s begun losing his memories. I’m not saying that his memories naturally disappeared due to this overtaxing endeavor. If the hacker can escape into an alternate reality such as the Dreamweb, then it’s not out of the question that one could pick and choose which memories to keep, and which ones to remove. What if the agent could choose to remove those memories? What if there was a way to manually extract any distracting thoughts of the past, allowing the agent to concentrate solely on his present mission? What memories could have haunted him to the point where he had to choose to remove them in order to focus on his mission?

 

Of course, who’s to say the agent was the one to make that choice…

 

To be continued…

 

Conclusion: I wasn’t able to go as in depth with the music in this album as I had in Lost Alone as the narrative really took up a large percentage of the review. Overall, I’d say this album was better than Lost Alone as far as music goes. Very few of the songs on Lost Alone stood out with their music (Walking is an exception). Here, however, several of the songs have a unique feeling to them as Mind.in.a.box hones his craft. I was able to sneak little bits and pieces in there as there are some points where the music is outstanding like in Machine Run, or absolutely integral to the story like in Dead End. But in the end, the narrative really overtook this review quickly as the agent chased the people involved with the Dreamweb as well as the truth in his own mind.

 

Speaking of the narrative, Dreamweb definitely kicks the storytelling up several notches above Lost Alone. The plot thickens greatly as the agent finds himself torn in several different directions. He’s torn between his past and his present as his lack of memory leaves him unsure of who he really is. He’s torn between different realities as he begins to have visions following his experience at the club in Dead End. He’s torn between the choice between sticking to the routine he knows, or breaking free from it, abandoning the little he knows in this world for the chance of finding peace.

 

He finds himself at a Crossroads. He must make a choice.

 

Final Score: (8/10)

Ashbury Heights – Three Cheers for the Newlydeads (2007 album)

Album links

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: n/a

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/0RbQZBV1Wh10NSrB6DPcFG?si=ic8b4FBYTuepvuvmlABJpA

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lCW9gFlwKUIpX6qtgTJegXASSuBVcLcuM

 

Introduction: Does this look edgy enough for you? A young couple with heavy eyeliner and a monochrome? How about the fact that this young lady (Yasmine Uhlin) looks like she’s about to strangle the dude (Anders Hagström) with his own tie? The dark greenish tint to the whole decaying cover? The fact that the album title seems to imply that we’re celebrating recently deceased people? Well if you’d like to avoid the edge, I’m sorry but that’s what we’re doing this week.

 

Ashbury Heights is certainly the edgiest group in my top ten artist of all time. In fact, they have grown to be perhaps the best group for maximum edginess without going overboard. Now, some might find this a bad thing. When many people think of the word “edgy” they think of people and songs that are overwhelmingly angsty and depressing. Well, those people are absolutely right. And I love it. I’ve honestly been on the edge of edgy since I was a young lad (so about five years ago as I’m still a pretty young lad). It takes a lot to find the edge to be fully overwhelming and as long as the lyrics are down to earth enough and the vocals don’t get too gritty (See Project Pitchfork, Asethetic Perfection and especially Combichrist).

 

Of course, I did say that they reached that maximum nonoverboard edginess over time. This is the first album in their discography and it does delve quite deep into some dark themes that may make some uncomfortable, so I guess this is my warning to you.

 

Actually, you know what? That vague warning isn’t good enough. I was going to save the “revelation” for later in the review, particular discussing it at the end, but I do not want to allow you to dive into this blindly, considering its content. This album is unusually dark, even for Ashbury Heights. If I didn’t have a completionist obsession with doing each artists’ discography in chronological order, I would just skip this album entirely, not only because of some of the themes it handles (suicide in particular), but because these themes are handled very badly, so if you’d rather not read that sort of thing I’d advise you to hang tight until next week. This review could get ugly.

 

Ashbury Heights – Bare Your Teeth (6.25): Bare Your Teeth is a rather simple introduction to the album. Ignoring the lyrics (which shall be the usual focus of Ashbury Heights), the music is rather run of the mill. I’m not saying it’s mediocre or anything, but it doesn’t really do anything to exert itself. Yeah, it’s got a decent drive and some alright melodies, but I could say that about nearly any song. That doesn’t make it good. None of it stands out enough to speak of, so I’ll just move on to the meaty lyrics

 

Or they would be meaty if it weren’t hard to see where early Ashbury Heights is going sometimes, so please bear (your teeth) with me as I try and parse exactly what’s going on here and try to determine if there’s a hidden meaning to speak of. I feel that the crux of this song must surely be the line “We’re all Mad Underneath.” Maybe it’s just because that feels like one of the more existential lyrics in the song, but I feel it does fit the general theme of Ashbury Heights. When you dig deep enough into the essence of any human being, you will find flaws within. Whether you recoil in horror in the absence of perfection or find comfort in the company of the imperfect is up to you.

 

Ashbury Heights – Waste of Love (7.5): The verses on this one are definitely reaching for that edge of despair, but before we get into that, I need to talk of the music very briefly before I get distracted by the existentialism.

 

The melodies in this song are miles above Bare Your Teeth. Where Bare Your Teeth singular bouncy melody that just doesn’t quite mesh with the song in the chorus, Waste of Love has a more slowly paced melody that can be played along with Yasmine’s vocals seamlessly. Where Bare Your Teeth had a monotonic synth playing every eight beats in the verses, Waste of Love has a less energetic melody that fits in a little better with the desperate vibe this song has. It’s just an all-around better song in every aspect.

 

Speaking of desperation, Waste of Love’s verses are incredibly desperate and depressing. The angst and depression in this song is quite apparent and the whole message of the song seems to promote a bleak sense of nihilism, which is not the most uplifting message. However, the chorus does change this sentiment a bit. It’s not overt, and for all I know it wasn’t the intention, but there’s something slightly inspiring about the second half of this message. Move on from the sorrow and ride forward in life. Keep your expectations realistic. Know that you won’t always be able to keep your spirit up. But whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep striving for greatness. And offset from the grief in the verses, I can’t help but find this to be quite powerful.

 

Ashbury Heights – SmAlLeR (8): With SmAlLeR, we introduce a theme that Ashbury Heights seems to explore a lot more in the past than in the present. Relationships on the verge of breaking. This can be a bit of a problem in my enjoyment and I guess there will be some biases here and there (or everywhere) in the album because of it. This song is relatively not all that bad in comparison to some others, but there is a risk of this topic as it’s quite unlikely for me to enjoy it. So I apologize for now and in the future when I feel mixed on these songs’ lyrics.

 

I want to do everything I can to look at this song vaguely because I seem to enjoy picking songs apart and giving my own existential meaning to them, but that’s sometimes a slight bit difficult to do. I’d have to figure out who (or what) the taller man represents. Perhaps he represents the aspects of ourselves that we find discomforting and yet seem to take over our life at times, overwhelming us until our entire world seems to tower over us, threatening to collapse and bury us under the rubble. Ok, that’s actually a better interpretation than I intended to write. I think I’m going to stick with it.

 

Though if I’m to look at the song without infecting the view with my existential lenses, it’s likely the song is about a relationship in which the man appears to outgrow our singer and she begins to feel lost as her view of the world becomes less focused on the one person she’s with and more focused on the chaos of not knowing where one is going. An overwhelming chaos. Of course, this seems to imply that she’s distressed at his self-improvement instead of striving to follow in his footsteps (which is honestly a bit to negative for me. Self-improvement is something to be lauded, not frowned upon)… except the first verse speaks of his growing sadness and all-knowing tears… so yeah maybe this interpretation is wrong too… Was I actually right the first time? I was honestly just making it up on the spot.

 

Well, regardless, of what the lyrics mean, this song is once again a musical improvement. The song transitions a bit more smoothly than it has before. With a lot of focus on the bassline made up of a rapid-fire onslaught of lower notes that rise and lower to the mood of the song. They really prefer a stronger backbone for the rest of the song, including the melody. The melody feels a bit smoother too, introducing itself naturally by hiding subtly in the background when vocals are in the way and then playing a smooth descending melody. I feel it’s likely due to the synth choice, but if that synth choice works, then the song is better because of it.

 

Ashbury Heights – Stormbringer (6.5): …I have no idea what this song is about. Oh I pored over these lyrics thoroughly but I can’t find a hidden meaning behind this imagery of an apparently conscious storm with a calmness underneath. Does this represent how so many people have a harsh exterior that hides a vulnerable center? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a story of a judgmental storm of a monster that insists on us all being well groomed and dressed nicely or it’s climb in our windows and kill us or eat us alive or something equally horrifying like suffocating our life’s dreams until our ambition shatters (actually considering what I’ve been focusing on lately, that’s the most horrifying thing I can think of).

 

So, seeing as I’m not going to receive anything but madness from these lyrics, the song stands to receive all of its judgment from being one of the faster paced songs on the album with choirs singing the distance. But what of the melodies? I speak a lot of melody work in this album, but this song has some arps that are worth mentioning too. Arps, when done well, have a great energy to them. This one is a bit subtler than some of the arps I mentioned back in the Mind.in.a.box – Lost Alone review, but I believe it complements the upbeat tempo quite well. The main melody, on the other hand, could use a bit more. It’s not bad, but it does feel a bit overshadowed by the rest of the song.

 

Ashbury Heights – Derrick Is A Strange Machine (3.25): Jealousy is quite a toxic emotion. Hidden jealousy can fester and weaken any existing bond between two people, mostly directed at the jealous person in question. Expressed jealousy won’t necessarily make the jealousy fade away. It will merely prevent the festering from fully infecting one’s mind and bring down the target of jealousy down a notch towards feeling guilty. And when you get three people involved in the jealousy in a love triangle… things get quite complicated (heaven forbid it become a love quadrilateral by introducing another party).

 

This song is all about jealousy and the singer’s opinions on Derrick. Feels like Anders may be calling out someone specific that he may be having jealousy issues with and I’m honestly finding the whole toxicity within this song to be rather off-putting. The song starts out healthily enough as he seems to be at peace with a broken relationship he has exited, but his all-consuming jealousy of Derrick and his insistence that the new boyfriend is nothing but trouble is not really all that enjoyable for me to listen to. Now, I have no clue about who is involved in this toxic love triangle or even if real people are involved. Heck, maybe Derrick truly is a strange machine that should be avoided at all costs. But for someone who continually says he doesn’t want to come between by obscenely tattling on Derrick’s past actions in an effort to ruin her love, he sure seems to do a lot of coming between by obscenely tattling on Derrick’s past actions in an effort to ruin her love.

 

Music is good though I guess, but the lyrics bring this down to the lowers score I’ve put in a review up to this point, though that might change later on…

 

Ashbury Heights – Cry Havoc (4.25): Anders, I seem to sense some hypocrisy here in these lyrics. But maybe that’s part of the point. Cry Havoc touches a bit on the toxic relationship theme of this album. In the verses, Anders calls out to a girl begging her to stop romanticizing the darkness within her soul. And yet, immediately as we get into the prechorus, the whole tone switches. Cut away at your life*** as your inner demons overtake you and savor your grievance. And then the chorus goes further to setting those monstrous demons free and let life devolve into chaos as both the singer and this girl he was begging to abandon the darkness only minutes ago embrace a life full of deception and death. Who’s romanticizing the darkness now? Like I said, hypocrisy abound in this song. And the darkness does reach levels that teeter a bit too close to the edge of max edginess. There are themes in here that I feel go down an unsafe route that one might find at the existential crossroads. And they do cause a massive deterioration in my opinion of the song.

 

So what of the music itself? The lyrics aren’t going to help very much with my opinion, but perhaps the music has some hidden within that I can enjoy. Well, unfortunately for the rating of this song, this one is rather average with the music. It does admittedly have a darker vibe to it, matching the tone of the lyrics, but how it reaches that darker tone isn’t exceptionally inspired. Basslines area bit harsher. Melodies are practically nonexistent except for this high-pitched synth that plays in the prechorus. And I don’t even really like it very much. The best part of the song is the melody in the bridge which is actually a bit more enjoyable. Also, the chorus is actually incredibly catchy, though I’d prefer if the message of the song wasn’t so mixed

 

***looking a bit closer at the cutting line, this might be referencing self-harm which I implore all to avoid under any circumstances. This is the wrong path to take. Seek something positive to overcome the darkness, find anyone you possibly can for support. I think I made it clear in that Mind.in.a.box review that you are never truly Lost Alone. No matter what, there is someone out there who understands your struggle. They might not be easy to find immediately, but they are out there.

 

Ashbury Heights – Swansong (1.25): Alright, so let’s see how dark we can go as this album progresses. Because this one is about a dying man who asks for the DJ to play one last song for him. Now, this dying man could be on his deathbed due to some severe illness… but this debut album does seem to have a fascination with the darkest parts of depression… and I fear that this death may be the end of a path filled with depression and despair. Contemplating suicide is a very dark place, one that I thankfully have been able to avoid thanks to my core values of self-improvement and change. I’m a bit concerned by the whole namedrop with this suicidal man desiring to hear a song by Ashbury Heights. Sounds like the duo sees themselves as popular with those who may turn suicidal. And I’m not certain how I feel about that. The whole song is lyrically hazy for me…

 

Perhaps we can find something in the music itself to enjoy. The main melody of this song fits the upbeat vibe quite well and I do quite enjoy the constant choir pad that is ever present in the song. There’s also a neat bassline that comes in here and there, but all of these are small elements of the song. And none of them can truly make me forgive the song for its lyrics. The audacity that Ashbury Heights has to theme this song around listening to it as one takes their final breaths is quite horrendous, which is why this song is rated so incredibly low, not because of the musical content but because of the horrifying implications.

 

Ashbury Heights – Illusion (2.5): Illusion is Ashbury Heights’ most sexual song and I don’t like it. As of this point in time, I haven’t really gone over some of the more sexual themes in music. Most of my favorite artists stay away from the topic and since I’m only reviewing my favorite artists, that makes sexual songs rare to review. But here we are. Early Ashbury Heights. They made this song and it has an uncomfortably creepy sexual theme to it.

 

So in procrastination of looking at the lyrics let’s look at the music. It’s a bit harsher than the rest of the songs on the album. There’s just a whole lot more grit to it. The drums, the bass, Anders’ vocals. Only Yasmine and a few synths are untouched by this grit and it kind of detracts from my enjoyment slightly. I can think of much worse examples of this type of edge. Ashbury Heights doesn’t go all the way to the screaming of Combichrist, but it still does irk me slightly.

 

I thought I might have something to say about the lyrics by now, but they just don’t appeal to me on any level and I can’t figure out how to explain any further than “overly creepy and sexual.” I’m sure some people out there might enjoy this type of stuff, but I’m not one of them.

 

Ashbury Heights – Angora Overdrive (6.5): Ok, so we’re back at our usually edgy Ashbury Heights love song. Well, I guess the last one was also an edgy Ashbury Heights love song, but that’s a whole different level of edgy. If each song on Ashbury Heights depicts a different relationship, this is actually one of the healthier ones. There’s very little angst here. Just two people who are devoted to each other, that feel they complete each other, that consider each other irreplaceable.

 

However, it doesn’t matter whether or not the relationship is edgy. The song is edgy anyway. No better way to start a romantic song than with the line “Porno movies could never substitute you.” It seems that Yasmine’s two verses depict the two sides of the coin when it comes to the relationship depicted here. First one is entirely physical, mostly focusing on comparisons to porn and how lust is what keeps the relationship going (at least it’s not falling apart). Second verse explores the cognitive depths of their minds more. I believe this verse tries to deconstruct what love is and fails to do so due to how complicated love can be.

 

Taking a look at Anders’ chorus there’s more of a neutral balance between the physical aspects and cognitive aspects of their love. And credit where credit is due, this works quite well, with the two drastically different verses. The meaning changes subtly depending on where you are in the song. The two are incredibly reliant each other both due to their physical needs and their cognitive needs. As edgy as the verses feel, this chorus is the most wholesome you’re gonna get from this album.

 

As far as the music goes (almost forgot about the music), it’s got a decent vibe but it’s nothing spectacular. The bassline has a good feel to it and there’s a synth that sounds slightly choirlike in the chorus that I enjoy. However, the main melody falls kind of flat for me, which really takes down much of the possible charm the song could have had.

 

Ashbury Heights – Corsair (5.5): Corsair is about doomed love. How uplifting… To be fair, it seems a lot of Ashbury Heights’ early stuff focuses on doomed love. Over time Anders and whatever female accompaniment he has at the time begin to lean towards more focus on the inner workings of the solitary mind (which I love), but for now, it’s edgy doomed for much of the album. This one in particular focuses on Anders pining over someone that might destroy his heart in the process (whether due to inaction, rejection or unhealthy relationship is unclear but none of them sound pleasant). The man constantly underestimates himself throughout the song, thinking he has no chance with her. On one hand, I’d tell the dude to just go for it, but judging from the rest of the toxic relationships on this album, perhaps he’d be better off single. But eh, that’s his decision. The lack of confidence doesn’t really help my opinion of the song though.

 

Don’t have much to say on this one musically for the most part. The melodies are mostly uninteresting. Only noticeable one is in the chorus and it’s rather repetitive. I do like the higher notes of Anders’ vocals in the prechorus though. I take a liking to male vocals that feel they suddenly reach up an octave beyond the regular range.

 

Ashbury Heights – Christ (5.25): If you think the fact that this song is named after Jesus, the son of God makes it a wholesome Christian song, then you are dead wrong. This is 2007 Ashbury Heights. Why would you expect anything else but maximum edginess? Yeah, this one goes across the edge of edgy for me like some of the other ones on the album (see Cry Havoc, Swansong and the upcoming aptly named track Suicide Anthem). However, those all cross the line in an uncomfortable way. You see, two roads diverge from that line of edginess and Christ takes the one less travelled by, and that makes it extremely laughable.

 

Yeah, this song tries a bit too hard to be edgy, but for some reason, the duo didn’t take the dark decrepit topics of the horrors of giving in to extreme depression. No, this song declares that you should praise Ashbury Heights for they’re basically your god now. Oh, but beware, they’re an evil god. SO EDGY! And I can’t help but laugh at the obscenity of the song. I apologize to Anders and Yasmine if they were trying to send some kind of message with this in the verses, but I can’t see the song as anything but a joke. A highly amusing joke, but a joke nonetheless.

 

Honestly, it’s so easy to get distracted by these likely unintentionally humorous lyrics, that I have troubles focusing on the musical details. It doesn’t really stand out but it ain’t bad either. I have nothing else to say about it.

 

Ashbury Heights – Suicide Anthem (3.25): Oh boy I wonder what this song is about? More, importantly does it handle the topic well? The answers to these questions are suicide and no. To be fair, it’s quite nearly impossible to deal with a subject as suicide with grace. It can be done, but Ashbury Heights doesn’t do it. They’re much better off backing up a bit and just dealing with existential depression itself (which they do in later albums, but we’re not talking about later albums right now, are we?). So yeah, when it comes to the lyrics, it can all be summed up as “Life sucks, No one loves me, I’m gonna go die now,” which sounds like an absolutely tasteless way to talk of suicide, but that’s exactly what this song does. It tastelessly speaks of suicide.

 

On the bright side, this song has a nice upbeat vibe with the occasional good melody. So, I’ll give it credit for that. Then again, Yasmine’s vocals are extra annoying this time around so any enjoyment this song is kind of negated by her (and the tasteless suicide).

 

Ashbury Heights – Penance (7.75): Huh, Penance is actually good. I mean, I shouldn’t be too surprised. There had already been several other good songs on the album, but the last several have been embarrassments to my claim of Ashbury Heights being one of my favorite artists/groups. But this song takes a step back into the right direction. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s still edgy, but I can’t really expect Ashbury Heights to not be edgy. I think they have only one song that I’d consider to be fully wholesome and it took over a decade for them to reach that point. At least this one talks of slightly brighter topics. Like how there’s suffering all around the world and we’re teetering on the edge of nihilism due to our brief mortality (Fun!).

 

I will agree that the world we live in is certainly more than imperfect. It can be easy to get caught up in the suffering and deception frequently mentioned within the song. Even the purest things can get distorted over time if not properly cared for. And if you look at the world from a religious standpoint, one might fear that the devil is in more control of the world than God (which, in a way, is true to the religion of Christianity, which advises followers to aspire not to live the ways of this flawed world. Of course, this song goes a few extra miles with that idea and claims God has abandoned us, which doesn’t quite match up as well). Regardless of how you view the world with this song in mind, it looks like the world is deteriorating and if we don’t do anything to change it, the world will continue to deteriorate into nothingness…

 

The music in this song is also pretty good, the main melody has a slightly chilling feel to it and the arp works well with the drumbeat to provide a good drive to the song. My only gripe, and maybe I’m crazy (wouldn’t be the first time), is that I have this weird feeling that the arp resembles Megalovania despite predating that song by several years. It’s such an odd association and it doesn’t necessarily detract from the song regardless of whether or not the resemblance is there. I only mention it because I want to check and see if anyone else can hear what I’m saying or if I’m just crazy.

 

Ashbury Heights – I Paint Nightscapes (8.5): I Paint Nightscapes is about the very lowest moments in life. The moments where not only depression has a hold on you, but it’s nearly suffocating. The darkest one can go, without resorting to the less savory themes in this album (you know the ones. I’ve been complaining about their callousness for quite a while now).

 

Seeing as my enjoyment of the song mostly stems from the lyrics, I’m going to skip talking about the music and focus solely on vocals (not saying the music is bad, it’s just overshadowed. Even my favorite nonlyrical part of the song is the backing vocals in the chorus. Guess the piano bit in the bridge is cool too). This song, as you may have noticed from the rating, is certainly the most outstanding on the album, mostly because it actually resembles the message and tone that I love from more modern Ashbury Heights songs. Yes, it’s overall kind of depressing, which is fairly normal for Ashbury Heights. I feel like they’re best as an accompaniment to those low moments one experiences, those moments when it feels like the grip of negativity is unflinching and you’d give anything to reach a reality in which you could view your life more positively. This song truly focuses on those deepest depths of depression without actually going overboard, which if you remember from my introduction a while back in this review, is precisely why I consider Ashbury Heights to be among my favorites in the first place. This album doesn’t necessarily reflect that love, but this song definitely does.

 

Ashbury Heights – Eternity at an End (5.75): Eternity at an End is a great name for a closing song of an album, which is good because this is the closing song of the album. However, unfortunately, the lyric that really strikes me most here is “Long live mediocrity” and the only reason I’m pointing out that one is because it fits the whole mediocre feeling I have towards this song. Well, maybe a bit better than mediocre (as that’s my definition for a 3/5), but it does feel like it’s rather run of the mill. The tempo of the song is quite average, neither reaching those higher tempos like in Stormbringer or I Paint Nightscapes, nor the slower tempos like in Waste of Love or Cry Havoc. And while I do enjoy the arp… I always enjoy arps, The rest of the song is mostly unremarkable. I just like arps.

 

As for the lyrics, it’s a fairly bleak song. You can’t do anything in this mediocre world. There is no god and there is no meaning. Life is going to end and there is nothing you can do about it. Honor is dead and someday you will be too. And while it is easy to get caught in this line of thinking in this hectic world, I highly do not recommend it from experience. Because if you strip all meaning away from the world around you, what is left when even eternity ends?

 

Conclusion: And so, concludes the worst album of Ashbury Heights. This is one of those times where I begin to reconsider whether or not it truly is a good idea to do each discography in chronological order, but clearly, I did it because here we are. There are a few gems here and there dotted throughout the album. SmAlLeR and I Paint Nightscapes are both fantastically introspective songs. However, anything that is good in this album is cancelled out by another song that is downright awful like Swansong and Suicide Anthem.

 

And those awful songs really kill the album, holding it back at an average rating despite having some pretty solid songs. I believe the worst song of the album is definitely Swansong, not because of its musical quality, but because of how it paints the rest of the album. I believe that suicide is a very sensitive topic that should be handled with care and caution. The overwhelming callousness displayed in this album worries me of the possibility that someone might choose a song like Suicide Anthem as their swansong as they head to their self-inflicted death. I think I’ve made this clear several times in this review, but I feel quite strongly against suicide and while I’m sure my reach as a small blogger with giant music reviews is small, I would like to do my best to urge you to give life another shot. It can always get better even when all seems hopeless.

 

Final Score: (5.5/10)

Infected Mushroom – Classical Mushroom (2000 Album)

Album Links:

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/infectedmushroom/sets/classical-mushroom

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2grGW8nXZXzIcQbVKcDx88?si=NeiBQfHtSSuaqmtld40ZUA

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kXwEb9OaV83_vAopEGm3bYVNIOOtD3B3Q

 

Foreword: Alright let’s get back into some more Classic Infected Mushroom music. Hey what a neat coincidence. That’s nearly the title of the album. I totally didn’t plan that (yes I did). I don’t think I need to go further in depth of what I think of Infected Mushroom as my review from two weeks ago pretty much covered all of the information I want to talk about. That’s what happens when you do a repeat of an artist (which I will be doing often). Anyways, enough rambling. Let’s talk more of some good ol’ psytrance.

 

Infected Mushroom – Bust A Move (8.25): Starting out with the most iconic of the nine, we have Bust a Move. This is the song I’m most familiar with of the bunch, though I will admit I do prefer a certain remix that I may or may not talk about later this year. But that’s another story for another time.

 

Bust a Move is easily a step up from the average track from The Gathering. And I feel that some of that has to with a greater variety of instruments used, many of them coming from non-electronic means (well, l guess it’s possible that they’re computer generated but if so, they imitate the real thing quite nicely). Now I’m not going to say that physical instruments are inherently better than the synths one can generate with a computer. I think it’s more about how the instrument is used in the song, the melodies and patterns that come together to make a fully fleshed song. Honestly, I think many of my favorite songs use a combination of electronic synths and more recognizable instruments. Bust a Move is a good example of such a song.

 

It’s hard to get into the specifics of this song, because this song is not only consistently amazing, but also quite diverse. I don’t think the song goes a full thirty seconds without introducing a new instrument or a new melody, or in some cases an entirely different mood. I think if I were to highlight one moment (and believe me this was a difficult choice). I’d have to go with the sudden switchup at 5:40. This is perhaps the largest jump in tone in the entire song, with a new instrument, playing a simple 4-note melody. I want to say the new instrument is a particular type of keyboard instrument but I can’t be held accountable for how my actual musical knowledge pales in comparison to my simple emotional passion for the artform and how it pleases my mind. Regardless this switch up along with the fast-paced piano that accompany it in the second half of this section really bring an extra level of flavor to the song that stands out.

 

And it’s obviously intentional but it’s fun how the vocal sample from Species II speaks of getting infected and infecting aliens (maybe that ugly looking thing on the cover playing the mushroom piano is an infected alien. It certainly looks ugly enough) and it’s Infected Mushroom and oh I am just so easily amused sometimes. Funny how both this introductory song and Release Me from the last album seem to have hidden (or not so hidden) puns in the samples used.

 

Infected Mushroom – None of This is Real (7.25): Oh boy. Talk about an existential title. Though really it is only surface level existentialism. Sure, you can feel like all of reality is fake and meaningless sometimes, but, where do you go from there? It’s not like the song provides much to add to the subject as it’s just a vocal sample of some dude from The Crow: City of Angels giving the song its namesake, but hey at least it drew me in.

 

The music for this one does have a decent amount of focus on how Infected Mushroom can distort the guitar to suit the mood of their song. There’s the acoustic guitar at the beginning which is left alone for the most part, just there to add a little flavor to the overall unsettling vibe of nothing being real. And the rest of the distorted synths, both the metal basslines and the howling melody, continue the creepy vibe quite well. I do feel that this song is still a bit weaker overall than some of the others in this album. It’s still good but I don’t really feel it pushes the boundaries that Infected Mushroom is capable of breaking.

 

Infected Mushroom – Sailing in The Sea of Mushroom (6.25): While it’s the same tempo as the rest of the album. Sailing in The Sea of Mushroom, instantly sounds more energetic. This is, of course, thanks to the melody at the beginning which has a driving vibe even with its irregularity and lack of drums backing it up. Unfortunately, while this melody could set the tone for a fantastic song, it instead puts the best ten seconds of the song at the very beginning and everything that follows feels empty and underwhelming. Even when the same melody returns for the midpoint of the song, it just doesn’t have that same punch. I’m not saying that the rest of the music is bad. It just does very little with the huge expanse of time it has. There are some points admittedly that do have an alright groove to them and while it doesn’t have the same energy, the melody at the 2 minute mark is rather decent, but for the most part the song just doesn’t live up to its intro.

 

Infected Mushroom – The Shen (6): The opening of the Shen is strikingly memorable to me for some reason. I haven’t truly come back to listen to some of the really old Infected Mushroom tracks until rather recently, but that melody was incredibly familiar despite the fact that much of the rest of the song is rather less memorable. I can already see I’m getting into the same pattern I did with The Gathering. Infected Mushroom may have upgraded their sound to incorporate more realistic instruments and overall be higher quality, but the album still doesn’t have too much variety for tone. Some of the songs simply feel a bit too similar to the rest. This is one of them. There is a middle bit that’s a bit different with a pitched down vocal sample from who knows what (Either Merlin or Virus according to Wikipedia) that stands out a bit more in tone, but that’s like saying a black marble stands out in a sea of white marbles. It’s still just a black marble.

 

Infected Mushroom – Disco Mushroom (8.5): Disco Mushroom is definitely one of the songs that stand out among the rest. It is easily the most cinematic of the bunch. The introduction alone has an ominous choir bringing in the oncoming storm that is Infected Mushroom psytrance. While I wouldn’t say this song is as diverse as Bust a Move, it still does have a fair amount of material to offer. From the cinematic rise and stab that initially brings the beat into play to the bells and chimes used to play some of those first few melodies to the xylophonic melody played at the end of the song. All of it comes together to create one of the more immersive experiences on the album. In fact, I think that the more immersive experience of Disco Mushroom actually makes it a slight bit better, making it the best on the album

 

I think the most enjoyable moment by far is the switchup (I love switchups apparently) following the utterance of the second “I’m not afraid any longer Mommy” from In Dreams. At least I think it’s from In Dreams. Wikipedia is rather unclear of which samples belong exactly to which films but that’s my fault for using such a simple source and for not being all that knowledgeable of 90s films (which I believe are mostly obscure but I wouldn’t know because I’m no expert. Music is my passion, not movies and I’m kind of all over the place with my music knowledge too.)

 

Shoot I got distracted. The Switchup! It’s a great moment where all fades away but a small solitary melody for a brief moment. The near silence, even if it’s short, gives me chills every time. Of course, the song becomes a bit more instrumentally complex again following another cinematic rise and stab. But still. It’s the little moments that get me sometimes.

 

Infected Mushroom – Dracul (6.75): Fittingly, the sample used in the beginning of this song hails from a 1992 film titled Dracula. Just, it seems Infected Mushroom felt that one a was enough for the iconic vampire lord. So we have the shorter title, Dracul. Why? Well, I can’t really read their minds and seeing as the duo have produced nearly 2 dense decades of psytrance since then, it’s very well possible they’ve forgotten as well.

 

Regardless of the title’s origin, Dracul aspires to be one of the creepier songs on the album (or maybe I just feel it should because the title could fit well with a Halloween theme), which is quite the challenge as early Infected Mushroom is often quite unsettling. I honestly feel that Disco Mushroom did a bit of a better job at the whole creepy unsettling vibe, but this song does get close at times. The main two unsettling elements of this song are the strings introduced at the beginning of the song and the lyricless vocals sung throughout.

 

Now, the strings don’t fully commit to the whole creepy vibe that I’d expect from Dracul, but there is an integral tension to them. They drawn me in with a sense of sorrow and despair (though that could also be because of the vocal sample, but the strings do help. The lyricless vocals are a bit more interesting. I feel that they compliment the strings well and despite the fact that they may just be one of the two growing into the mic to a simple melody. Either way, the vocals do have somewhat of a dramatic introduction not them and they serve as the most unique part of the song. Plus they get tremoloed a bit at particular points which is definitely enjoyable.

 

Other than these two elements though there’s not much in this song that’s particularly noteworthy. Which is fine the song works well enough on its own anyways. And I am perhaps being a bit too harsh insisting it must be creepy, but it does feel odd that the two songs on either side of it are a bit more unsettling overall.

 

Infected Mushroom – Nothing Comes Easy (7.5): So yeah, I just claimed that this song is a bit more unsettling than Dracul. Honestly, I’m probably over-exaggerating, as this one is slightly more enjoyable perhaps, but when you get right down to it, the factors of this song that make it stand out in its unsettling mood are very similar to what makes Dracul good: the vocals and the way they’re distorted. Instead of a groaning melody, this time we have a much smoother choir, which I personally find a slight bit more unnerving somehow. Just something about the tone is a bit more mysterious. And the way the vocals phase in and out definitely adds to the song.

 

As for the music in this song, there are some strings near the end playing a sweeping melody that eases up and down in waves as the song reaches its conclusion, but it’s not excessively better than Dracul’s strings. Not sure if I can truly compare the melodies as they are oh so very different from one another even though they basically have the same effect on how they contribute to the unsettling vibe of the song. So, I guess it’s a draw when it comes to the strings.

 

However, the strings are just one small piece of the song, there’s plenty of other elements that contribute to the unsettling mood that I’d consider to be a staple of the first age of Infected Mushroom at this moment. There’s some other deeper distorted vocal instruments that appear midway through the song, several different layered melodies that take up the second half of the song as well as a short chilling melody that introduces itself before the strings come to take us away from this song and onto the next…

 

Infected Mushroom – Mushi Mushi (6.5): Hey, as long as we’re talking about creepy and unsettling tracks, let’s take a look at this powerful, magical and evil track, Mushi Mushi, a creepy track, that happens to be the next song on the album (or is it that the next song on the album happens to be creepy? The latter probably). Honestly, it’s really just the intro that especially creeps me out. Those first 40 seconds give my blood a slight curdling what with the eerie echoing synth and the Merlin sample from which I pulled the adjectives I used to describe this song earlier (Powerful, magical and evil).

 

Unfortunately, putting the maximum creepiness at the front of the song causes this track to fall into the same pitfall as Sailing in the Sea of Mushroom from earlier on in the album. The rest of the song is just kind of underwhelming. I don’t think it ends up quite as bland as Sea of Mushrooms did, as there are some subtle melodies that are slightly interesting and the creepy melody from the intro continues to influence the track here and there, maintaining its unsettling aura whenever it arrives to take the spotlight (though I will admit that my favorite part is the melody that begins at the 4 minute mark, when our creepy spotlight melody isn’t present).

 

In the end, this song has a lot of potential, but it falls short of the glory it deserves simply because of the way it’s organized. This is why you save your best melodies for the later parts of the song. They’re much more powerful there. A lesson Infected Mushroom will learn and demonstrate several times in later albums, but for now, I’ll take the quality given to me.

 

Infected Mushroom – The Missed Symphony (7): Last song on the album here is The Missed Symphony. Must have been lost or forgotten at some point, but thankfully it’s been found in time for me to review it. And oh boy is it a long one. We’ve got ten minutes of music here, but it is truly ten minutes of content? Does it deserve the length it receives (definitely on the longer end of Infected Mushroom songs)? Well, to be brutally honest, I’m going to have to say no. Now, don’t get me wrong. The song is definitely still enjoyable. I just feel like if they’re going to go for a full ten minutes, Infected Mushroom should instill a little more variety into the work (which they do more often in later songs in their discography).

That being said, there are still plenty of good elements to this song. The main melody with the strings is chilling. Each melody that serves to accompany it in this ten-minute journey serves this chilling vibe well, from eerie notes that sound like they’re echoing from a distant cave (see 1:30) to the piano that shows itself around 7 minutes as well as the intro and outro) to the synth that introduced itself immediately afterwards. All of these melodies are definitely good. But there are too few and too far in between to really justify ten minutes worth of material. Still, it’s a pretty good song, so I guess I can’t complain all that much. I guess the distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success. And this song just isn’t quite the success to be truly as genius as it could be… Ok that quote doesn’t work quite great for this particular situation, but I wanted to incorporate it anyway.

 

Oh, one last odd thing. The way that this song ends with the song beginning to step backwards into reverse as we reach those last 20 seconds is quite an interesting ending to this album.

 

Conclusion: And so, concludes the second Infected Mushroom review. Definitely a visible improvement from the last album. There’s still a bit of a mixture of quality songs in there. But the best is certainly better than the best of The Gathering and the worst is still well above average. Like I mentioned near the beginning for this review, this album uses a few more physical instruments than the last one and the combination of all of the pianos, strings, and psytrance noises definitely makes for an enjoyable experience. The duo still hasn’t hit their peak potential but they’ve definitely made something good here.

 

Final Score: (7/10)

Mind.in.a.box – Lost Alone (2004 album)

Album Links:

Bandcamp: https://mind-in-a-box.bandcamp.com/album/lost-alone

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/mindinabox/sets/lost-alone-1

Spotify: n/a

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mB4hmJLL7W2VacrUEK1r0CPMpi2MjKF9Y

 

 

Introduction: Mind.in.a.box is truly an underrated mastermind of an artist. Obviously, I consider him to be one of my favorites, as that’s the reason I’m stepping into his discography for the occasional review. But the man (named Stefan Poiss by the way) has a knack for immersing me into a world full of cyberpunk noir and technological existentialism. You see, each of the albums in Mind.in.a.box’s discography (sans R.E.T.R.O. but I’ll talk of that one another time), are merely chapters in a story focusing in on a currently unnamed agent and his interactions with his employer as he tracks a mysterious hacker in a world where the minds. Or at least, that’s what the first album is about. The world expands and grows more complicated as time goes on and I plan on revealing more and more about this world as I analyze each chapter of the story (though not all at once, I don’t plan on necessarily rushing through this discography. It could take a few months or so to finish it). I’ll be frank with you, as much as I’ve listened to Mind.in.a.box, I’m not really fully an expert on the full story but I have a rough idea of it all. Still, don’t take my theories and analysis as 100% fact (I mean, it’s a fictional story so none of it is factual by default). Feel free to ponder this guy’s stuff on your own.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Light and Dark (8.25): Light and Dark is our debut song for Mind.in.a.box so it has a lot sitting on it to pull us into the world. And while it is very minimalistic in the lyrics department, the overall tone is still a good introduction for the album. The arps and the drumbeat highlighted in both the beginning and end of the song make for a great technological drive along with the heavily distorted vocals (you’ll be hearing a lot of these). However, it’s the middle of the song, starting at about 1:40 that I really want to highlight. Here, the beat may have been taken out for a bit, but the bassline keeps the drive going and every other aspect of the song, from the swaying pads to the continued arps to the simple melody rising and falling with the rest of the song.

 

And It’s also here where we’re introduced to the main lyrical chorus of the song. Before I get into the lyrics (you’ll soon discover, I really love getting into lyrics), I’d like to comment on these two voices you hear in the song. The first you hear is a computerized female voice, which makes up a good chunk of the vocals throughout Mind.in.a.box’s discography. The second is a deeper throaty voice, which I believe are sung by our main character of the story (for now), the agent I mentioned in the introduction (though there are some songs with the first voice that work well with the agent’s story as well. Like I said, I’m not a full expert. I just enjoy the music). Also, just a fun little note. Stefan does all of the vocals himself. He’s just really good at vocal distortion

 

I feel sad, so left alone. Words are not enough for me to live on. These are the lyrics of light and dark and while they may notreveal much about the story, my enjoyment of these vocals do reveal a bit about myself. I’m no stranger to feeling depressed and isolated. My mind just seems to default to that mood. Trust me, we’ll get into all the existential ramifications my mind likes to ponder on more as we progress. It’s an inevitability I hinted at in my last review and the odds of such feelings bleeding out in this review are quite high. For now, let’s just sum up the fact I can relate to this song and leave it at that. There’s much more to get into.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Change (7.5): See, I’m all about change. I spend a lot of my life trying to change and improve myself into a better person than I was yesterday. The transformative development of all people is kind of one of my core values. So, obviously, I would enjoy a song titled Change. Well… Not necessarily. This is quite early on in the story so while change becomes important later on. This song is about the paradoxical desire and denial of change. Gotta be honest, I’m slightly conflicted.

 

Well, while I think it over, let’s take a quick look at the music of the song. While I still enjoy the Mind.in.a.box vibe, I don’t feel the music in this one stands out as much as in the last song. There’s a good solid syncopated drumbeat in the verses and some nice stabs here and there, but it never really immerses me like Light & Dark or some of the songs later into Mind.in.a.box’s discography. The music in the chorus isn’t quite as interesting to be honest: just a 4 on 4 drumbeat and some chords. The song does develop as it goes on so some arps get involved the second time around, but still, Mind.in.a.box can do so much better.

 

Alright, so the main issue with the lyrics of change is the paradox of desire and denial. Repeatedly, the speaker of this song desires change. There’s a great fear and loneliness expressed throughout the song. Yes, they desire change in their life, but I think the important part is that they refuse to change themselves but instead wait for someone else to change the core of who they are. They wait for life to get better instead of putting the effort forth to change themselves. And I’ll admit that this is an easy mindset to slip into. I’ve gotten into points in my life where I desire to improve but feel stuck and instead wait for life to change around me as I go through the actions. But in the end, I’ve found that it’s only when I take action for myself that change can occur.

 

As for the narrative itself, well this is more of a setup for the changes that the agent will find himself going through as the story progresses. An establishment of the theme. The agent can’t deny change forever. It will happen.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Falling (7.25): The next song on the album returns to playing form the agent’s perspective with the throatier vocals. Here we get into the existential pondering of the agent as he questions his purpose (oh boy, that sounds familiar to me). This song has a bit more of a drive than the last one with a more prominent bassline and a good fast-paced melody. The sound of this song overall is a bit lesser than many of the other songs on the album, but it still does work and it does have some good points to it. The deep breath taken by the agent at about 2:20 is a great touch that slipped by my ears the first couple listens, but now that I’ve heard it, that one breath will not go unappreciated any longer.

 

The lyrics in this song, while introspective, really just begin setting the scene of the situation for our main character. He feels as if he’s been falling into the cold night. Like I said, he’s a bit existential here, wondering where he is and why he’s there. Most importantly, he seems to have lost his memories This will come up later.

 

We’re barely scratching the surface here, so I don’t have too much to say specifically. We’ll go more in depth to the emotions of the agent as the discography progresses.

 

Mind.in.a.box – You Will See (7.75): One of the more surprisingly funky songs on the album. The bassline has a bit more of a bounce than I’d normally expect from Mind.in.a.box. But the funk doesn’t really interrupt the technological vibe that attracts me to Mind.in.a.box. Just gives the song a unique feel compared to the rest of the album. In fact there’s some points in this song (like the last minute or so) that have a more upbeat technological feel than usual. That last minute is actually my favorite part of the song. I get some nostalgic feels from it as it reminds me a tiny bit of one of my very first favorite artists (I’ll review Andy Hunter another time. He’s not a priority at the moment).

 

As for the lyrics, this song delves into the few memories that the agent does have. Thankfully, they’re not all erased fully. Unfortunately, they seem to focus on a past love of the agent. The whole past love thing does come up in the story from time to time and I’ll admit it’s probably my least favorite element of the story, but there’s a possibility I’ve simply overlooked it. That’s mostly because my attraction to the existential overshadows any hint of love. Love songs don’t really capture my attention and break-up songs especially are a bit lower on my list of enjoyed musical topics.

 

And yet… this one works. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard this before elsewhere (probably exists, but I either haven’t heard it, or was simply oblivious). Black doesn’t bash his former love (well maybe a little, near the end but that’s not the focus). He acknowledges that the time he spent in that relationship was a pleasant one, regardless of how disastrous it ended up in the end (apparently due to misuse of trust). Black has fallen far from this relationship, but it’s important to note that he doesn’t drown himself in sorrow either. You Will See is about rising up and overcoming the pain. He will climb up to the heights of glory he felt so long ago. He won’t let the despair consume him. It does sounds lightly out of spite that he aims to put his life back together, but there’s still a tone to it that’s oddly inspiring.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Questions (7.75) : Ah yes. The neverending onslaught of questions. This one’s a bit vague as far as the story goes, but it’s still important thematically. True to its title, this song is about the existential questions that constantly plague the mind of the agent. He fills the song with violent metaphors of his relationship with these questions. He can’t fully escape them. He can’t fully get rid of them. But worst of all, he can’t fully answer them. His mind will continually wander among the existential pondering of reality regardless of how it pains him. And it will continue until the day he dies. Yeah, this one’s a bit more desperate than the last few. I mean Mind.in.a.box has already proven to be somewhat of an edgy existential concept so far, but this song really delves into the almost nihilistic view of these never-ending questions. I find myself occasionally falling into the same mindset as the agent here (you may notice that I relate the agent in a lot of ways. That may have to do with why I enjoy Mind.in.a.box so much). I can get out of it occasionally, but it’s not an easy feat.

 

Almost forgot to talk about the music for this one. I feel like it’s a bit lesser than the rest of the album so far. Its edge matches the edge of the song’s lyrics. It’s almost a bit too much. This is particularly noticeable in the first minute of the song with the bassline. It’s not too bad. But it does take a little bit of time to grow on me. The song is a lot better during the more arpeggio focused section. Still, whatever part of the song I listen to, I’ve gotta admit it’s got a fantastic drive to it.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Waiting (8.25): Waiting is the first full-on storytelling song in the album.  Yes, the rest of the songs introduced elements of who the agent is and the themes of this world. But this is the biggest trove of information we’ve had so far. There’s at least two of these each album, most of them focusing on the agent’s conversations with the other characters, though a few of the more recent songs in the discography focus more on reflections of past events or viewpoints from other characters (though those don’t happen until Crossroads and Memories, respectively.

 

(Just want to make a not before I forget, every single instrument as varied as they are from the guitar to the piano to the bassline to the arp, all blend together so well. Yeah, the focus of this song is more about the story than the music but the music is so outstanding I had to mention it. Ok. Back to the story now).

 

In this chapter of Mind.in.a.box’s story, the agent communicates with his employer about a hacker they’ve attached a trace to. For the moment all seems well. The hacker is unaware of the trace and doesn’t appear to notice the agent observing him. He appears to be looking for a mysterious woman that goes unnamed so far. The agent recommends taking the man out now, but it seems his employer recommends to stay according to the plan in place. He won’t be able to escape…

 

Of course, every chapter of Mind.in.a.box’s story raises more questions than answers. We’re now introduced to most of our main cast although one of them is simply silent on the other end of the phone. Still, the employer’s silence speaks volumes of unanswered questions. What is the significance of these two people the agent is watching? Are they working together and if so, why does the woman not recognize him (yet)? What exactly is it that the agent and his employer worry that this hacker might be able to do? And what will they do once the agent is able to corner the hacker? All of these questions will be answered. Though perhaps some of them will wait until another album. For now, let’s enter into the second half of Lost Alone.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Lost Alone (7.5): And so, we’re here at the titular track of this album, Lost Alone. New vocal style here. I’m not certain if this one appears as much as the other two we’ve heard so far. I’m not a huge fan of the final result. My guess, and this guess is reaching, is that this could actually be coming from the Hacker from earlier. Or maybe I’m overthinking this and it’s just that Stefan, like me, decided that this vocal style was too difficult to understand with its crushed distorted style (If he didn’t put all the lyrics on his site, I’d have a hard time reviewing it).  Either way, it appears that someone is reaching out to the agent, telling him that he’s not alone in feeling lost alone.

 

It’s honestly rather encouraging to hear this song. Feeling lost alone results in some excruciating emotions in my experience. That may be why I enjoy listening to music that focuses on such concepts. I find comfort in the knowledge that someone else has a similar experience to my own. It makes feel less… well… alone. No one is truly alone. There is always someone out there that can sympathize. They might not be immediately present, and it might not be easy to find them, but they are there.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Walking (9.5): Yeah, I could definitely see myself walking to this song… or running … or maybe a happy medium between the two with some odd kind of powerwalk. Speaking of happy mediums, I find these vocals to be a happy medium between the two distorted vocals we’ve seen so far in this album: the more feminine style of Change and the overly crushed style of Lost Alone. And it seems that that list boost of flavor from change is exactly what the vocals from Lost Alone needed, because I absolutely love these vocals. Unfortunately, these vocals aren’t as common in the Mind.in.a.box discography as the other two styles we’ve seen so far (not counting Lost Alone). It does appear from time to time, but I can only think of two songs that use it off the top of my head and neither of them are as good as Walking, which I personally consider to be the iconic song from this album.

 

So, what is it about Walking I love so much? Pretty much everything! I’ve said I could definitely powerwalk to this so that makes it clear that there’s a good drive to it. The melodies and textures in this song are the most outstanding on the album. I always prefer to highlight a couple of moments that I find particularly enjoyable, but it’s really hard to in this case, because all of it is fantastic. But let me give you bullet point list of all of it because I need to share how amazing it is.

 

  • I believe that little subtle melody right there at the 50 second mark is responsible for much of the vibe this song has.
  • There’s a high-pitched short melody that appears once and only once at one and half minutes in, but that moment is one of the best parts of the song.
  • The chorus in the middle of the song that starts at 1:54 has some fantastic ambiance to it with both the chords and the echoing drumbeat that fades in and out. Absolutely captivating. The fact that the chorus has fantastic lyrics (get to them in as bit) helps a lot as well.
  • Immediately following that chorus is the best melody on the entire album. It has so much more energy to it and it contrasts really well with the typically gritty atmosphere that I’d usually expect from Mind.in.a.box. It doesn’t clash either. It’s just a great vibrant light in the middle of the darkness.

 

And then there’s the lyrics. As if this song wasn’t fantastic enough already. This song has the audacity to make me feel the perfect mixture of existential despair and the inspirational desire to move forward in life anyway. Well, that second part isn’t as immediately obvious as the lyrics about sadness are very nearly overwhelming. But I’m one who enjoys a bit of reflection of the despair I feel from time to time. Sometimes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the path we travel, especially when the future is so hazy.  But the despair isn’t permanent. I’ve been putting a bit more effort into overcoming my fear of the unknowable future, and while I haven’t fully escaped the existential despair that threatens to overtake me, I have found myself able to resist it. I’m not going to just sit here and let the fire in my soul burn out.

 

I’ll keep walking forward.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Take My Soul (8.5): Take My Soul is the most upbeat song in the album. Doesn’t make it the best, but it does stand out compared to all the other songs that give off an underlying darkness to them. Take My Soul still adheres to the technological vibe that is Mind.in.a.box, but lot of the instruments in this song still have a slightly gritty feel to them, especially the lead synth in the chorus. And yet there’s some cleaner instruments as well, such as the stabs in the verses and the piano that appears in the intro, prechorus and intro. I feel that even the drums and vocals are a bit cleaner than usual. In fact, those clean vocals may even signify that this song isn’t sung by the agent (well what really convinces me is the lyrical content, but I’ll explain why later).

 

Take My Soul is all about escapism. It’s easy to feel that the reality we live in is flawed (not that perfection is really possible anyways) and we desire to escape from it. We imagine a perfect life and we wish to escape into it. Well, the singer of this song, who I believe is the hacker that Black has been following has made such an escape. No longer is he confined to the drab dark picture he paints in his first voice, but he instead immerses himself into a dream (can’t help but notice this word choice) in which he can find peace. It doesn’t matter to him that it’s unreal, that there’s not really anything there. That he is becoming complacent (a great fear of mine actually, maybe I should use this song as a wake up call for my own escapist habbits). He is living his dream. He has found escape…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Forever Gone (8.25): The hacker has escaped. The trace has disappeared. He is no longer cornered by whatever trap the agent and his employer have set in place. The man has completely disappeared and Black is only able to find him later at a bar, sprawled out on the ground with some unspecified technological gear nearby. He’s switched over to the other side. To an alternate reality made up of his own dreams. A place where Black and his employer can no longer find him. Their mission has failed…

 

It’s really hard to compare the two narrative tracks on this album. As far as the music goes, I think Waiting is a little bit better. It has a better blend of real instruments like the guitar and the piano while this song focuses almost exclusively on arps (not that there’s anything wrong with that). However, when it comes to the story itself, the stress of the agent losing his trace on the hacker in this song really has a stronger effect than simply watching the hacker from a distance. Plus, it has an additional chorus as a message from our hacker, taunting the fact that he has escaped the clutches of Black and his employer. He has escaped into his own dreamweb…

 

He is forever gone…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Lost Alone 2 (8.25): And so, we’re here at the titular track of the album… again… I believe that Lost Alone 2 is the agent’s answer to the message from the last Lost Alone. I’d consider this to be the superior iteration of Lost Alone. Mostly because the vocals are tons better. The themes are relatively similar. In a way, we’re all lost alone. Confused and isolated. Perhaps some more than others (and perhaps I’m biased due to my existential tendencies), but we needn’t be fully alone. Take comfort in the fact that no one is perfect and that there are people out there that sympathize with your struggles whatever they may be. We might not necessarily know this person. But I can promise they exist.

 

Not knowing where you belong is definitely a big theme in Mind.in.a.box’s discography. The agent’s future is riddled with the pondering of this question. The agent, like most of us, finds himself lost in a world that makes him question who to trust. A world that makes him question what is real. A world that tears apart his mind until he can’t help but question the very essence of his being. And yet, even in simpler times, before the storm that is about to happen to him. The agent is lost. He likely won’t ever fully feel certain.

 

But that doesn’t mean he has to be alone.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Leave (8): Leave is the closer to the debut album of Mind.in.a.box. It was where we end the first leg of out journey. A journey that has only just begun. As the closer of this song, Leave has a slightly more majestic feel to it. Not quite as dark, mysterious and brooding as the rest of the album. All of the melodies feel brighter, almost as if the rest of the album took place at the dead of night and this song is seeing the sun rise before the album fades away. Actually, seeing that this is a narrative album, it’s all too possible that this is exactly the case. After a long night of tracing the hacker and then finding nothing but an empty body, the agent finds himself in a mind-numbing situation. His mind is racing a hundred miles an hour and yet he’s paradoxically paralyzed in his doubt. He needs to find a new place. Somewhere he can clear his head.

 

And so, he leaves…

 

To be continued…

 

Conclusion: Mind.in.a.box is perhaps the most conceptually exciting artists I’ve ever heard. I’m not saying all music should have a narrative like this, but I wouldn’t complain if I saw it more often. However, I doubt any of them would be able to truly top Mind.in.a.box. Stefan has provided an excellent mindbending story exploring many mental twists that I seem to find quite relatable (not sure if I should find this concerning but I guess that’s just the case I’m dealing with at the moment. Black and I are quite an existential pair.). And as for the music there’s both a fantastic technological sound of his whole discography as well as some great vocals, be they clean, gritty, or distorted. All of this together makes for a splendid artist. The best part is that, as solid as this debut album is, it’s actually one of the lesser Mind.in.a.box albums in my opinion. It gets even better than this.

 

Final Score: (8/10)

Infected Mushroom – The Gathering (1999 Album)

 

Album Links:

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/infectedmushroom/sets/the-gathering

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5Oqb46QRDn3RpaWToqjuzk?si=jJX7-ah6QSKo4jguVbzpDg

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lNUOtcibniKkj1nQRqI4rpZOG0tRpTpec

 

Foreword: Oh dear, the cover art for this album is a slight bit more risqué than I remember what with the thorny bosom and the upskirt mushroom with a phallic stem… What a lovely first impression I’ve made on you all… Well, this was the initial impression Infected Mushroom made to the world and they’re currently at the top of my favorite artists of all time, so hopefully this initial impression of myself has a similar effect, though perhaps becoming your favorite music reviewing hobbyist is getting a bit ahead of myself. I am, after all, only getting started. And for my first review, I’d like to start, fittingly at the beginning of one of my favorite artists of all time.

 

Infected Mushroom – Release Me (7.5/10): Release Me is a great opening track to The Gathering for multiple reasons. I feel it does a good job of introducing the dark and somewhat ominous tone that resonates throughout this album. This tone wouldn’t last the entire Infected Mushroom discography, and I will admit that I prefer their last decade or so a bit more, but it is still a well-done introduction. Also, the fact that the front song of their first release is literally titled “Release Me” is rather amusing, regardless of whether it was intentional or coincidental.

 

Now at eight and a half minutes long (normal length for an Infected Mushroom song to be fair), this song has a lot of space to fill, hopefully with a variety of patterns, be they basslines or melodies. We, of course, have the psytrance drumbeat driving the song forward from beginning to end. That’s a given on this album and shan’t be mentioned again. Besides that, we have some good guitar riffs in the first half of the song as well as some strings providing the groundwork of the ominous vibe that the duo was likely going for. My personal favorite moment of the song is the slightly calmer section with the strings at the song’s midpoint. The tone at the beginning of this section as well as the harp in the middle just provide a nice bit of flavor that’s always needed in these longer songs.

 

Lastly, just a quick nod to the namesake of this song, a sample from the alien interrogation scene of Independence Day. Many of the songs on this album feature little clips like that. Independence Day is the only one I’ve seen and while this sample does fit in with the vibe of the song, I don’t really have any further thoughts on it.

 

Infected Mushroom – The Gathering (6/10): The titular track of the album is a slight step down from Release Me. Not saying it’s a bad song. But it is certainly one of the lesser songs of the album. There’s simply less to offer in my opinion. Yes, it’s still a decent psytrance song with the little distorted splashes of style that one would expect from Infected Mushroom, but very little of the song actually interests me. There’s some decent percussion here and there and I do enjoy the section around the 5-minute mark with what I believe is a marimba, but there’s very little to make this song stand out from the rest.

 

Even the vocal sample in this case is rather bland, perhaps even detracting from the quality. I would assume that these vocals (which apparently comes from Grand Theft Auto), were not originally recorded at the pitch you are hearing right now. Infected Mushroom likely distorted it to their liking. And while I absolutely adore the way they play with vocals in modern days, this pitch-up is rather uninteresting at best and slightly annoying at worst.

 

Infected Mushroom – Return to the Shadows (8/10): Return to the Shadows is, in my opinion, the most memorable track from Infected Mushroom’s debut album. Perhaps it’s the ominous ringing synth played at the beginning of the song. Perhaps it’s the percussion that sounds like a clanging of metal accompanied by the yells of men hard at work. Or perhaps it’s how they play with the bassline throughout the song. Every melody that’s played feels like it branches well off of the bassline and it all meshes together quite well. However, the melody that stands out the most is perhaps the one that also differs from the bassline the most. At the six-minute mark, the drums fade out to reveal nice funky pattern of notes that contrast a bit more than usual from the bassline.

 

And then there’s the sample hailing from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Are you afraid of the future? A common fear, I must say. Or at least, it’s a fear I happen to have. I always find myself wondering exactly what my future has in store for me, but I’m never quite certain if success is awaiting me or if I’m always edging on towards a spiral of failure. And before I ramble on into endless existential mode, perhaps we should move on to the next song…

 

Infected Mushroom – Blue Muppet (6.25/10): This is one of the lower points of the album to be perfectly honest. Once again, not a bad thing, just not quite as enjoyable as the rest. The main reason for this is that for the first 6 minutes of the song, I really am not hearing anything of note to talk about. Nothing that makes this song stick out to me. Well that is until we get to the sample from what I’d assume to be a favorite movie of the Infected Mushroom duo (it appears two other times on the album), The Island of Dr. Moreau. The sample itself isn’t what improves the song. It’s the guitars that follow that bring the song back to the good quality I’d usually expect from Infected Mushroom.

 

Infected Mushroom – Psycho (6/10): I remember this being one of the first classic trance Infected Mushroom songs I heard when I first discovered them. This was likely due to the fact that my edgy teenaged mind was as attracted to the title, “Psycho” as it was to the title, “Becoming Insane” (my first Infected Mushroom song overall, but I’ll cover that much later). Oh, who am I kidding. The person I am in my twenties is still incredibly attracted to edgy stuff, perhaps even more so.

 

Interestingly enough, despite this being the first song I’ve heard in this album, it’s also probably one of the least memorable. Only part of the song that really jogs my memory at all is the screaming of the word, “Psycho.” To count that might be cheating though, as that’s the title of the song. I can see why I don’t remember much of anything else though. While this album is enjoyable to listen to, a lot of the songs sound quite similar except for a few small differences here and there depending on the song. This song doesn’t really have any such differences. There’s some ambiance that sounds like a plethora of sci fi doors opening and closing. Judging from the information I’ve scrounged up from Wikipedia. I’m guessing these sci fi doors samples come from Star Trek: First Contact. The means that the Psycho scream comes from Batman and Robin. As the uncultured swine I am as far as cinema goes, I am unsure what to do with this information.

 

Infected Mushroom – Montoya Rms (7.5/10): I will not be speaking of any of the samples that appear in this song. For this time around, Infected Mushroom forgoes any vocals and simply takes me and any others who might be listening on a splendid journey over the course of about eight minutes. What makes this song work so well for eight minutes is the amount of variety compared to everything else we’ve heard so far. Yes, each of the songs (except perhaps Psycho) have some bit of flavor that helps differentiate it from other songs on the album, but Montoya Rms goes all out and makes every single moment stand out from the rest. I am unable to truly choose a favorite moment to point out nor do I desire to go over each and every one of these elements one by one. Not only would this be a tedious task, but it might just take away from the enjoyment of this song. Half the fun is wondering exactly where the song will go next and letting every intricacy of every melody flow through your soul. Perhaps I am overselling it a bit, but I would highly recommend listening to it for yourself. One of the best songs this album has to offer.

 

Infected Mushroom – Tommy The Bat (7.25/10): Of the nine songs on this album, I feel that Tommy The Bat resembles the vibe of modern Infected Mushroom the most. Oh, it’s still drastically different. But there are elements in this song, that Infected Mushroom has played with in similar ways to this very day. The most notable of these elements is certainly the distorted vocals. Yes, I did mention that the titular song of this album had distorted vocals as well. But that was just high pitched talking. Here, Infected Mushroom chops up the vocals (apparently from a song called Tommy The Cat by Primus), spreads them across the song, and adjusts their pitch to create an entirely new melody. Much of the rest of the song is a few steps closer to modern Infected Mushroom as well. A good example would be the bass at the beginning of the song that’s a bit slower paced, focusing on distorting the sound more than playing the notes rapidfire.

 

The sample which again comes from The Island of Dr. Moreau. states “Please tell them that I am God.” An ominous prideful statement that given the right fire, could spark a theological debate, but I believe that’s too large of a jump in the flow and tone of this review and I’d rather not wander too far into existential territory yet, so perhaps I’ll cut myself short and move on to the next song…

 

Infected Mushroom – Virtual Voyage (5.75/10): Virtual Voyage is a fantastic song name. I like to go on several virtual voyages myself. Or at least that’s what I like to call them. In reality a better description would be lapses into procrastination on the internet, but eh, it’s something I’m working to overcome. Regardless, Virtual Voyage is unfortunately another run of the mill song with very little to specifically note. I did expect to have a few of these while jumping into this review. Unfortunately, I am not prepared to figure out what to say about such songs. I could very well copy most of what I had said about Psycho. The song simply doesn’t have enough unique about it for me to pick it out among the rest of the songs on this album. In fact, this song is even worse off as it has neither any unique ambiance to it, not does it have any memorable vocal samples of someone screaming “Psycho!” There are some parts that diverge from the pattern here and there. A slight melody graces us with its presence about midway through the song but it’s not particularly memorable as it fades away from my memory as soon as it’s over (and it’s honestly, not the most graceful melody to begin with Overall, this is a relatively average song that could have come from any psytrance artists in the 90s

 

Infected Mushroom – Over Mode (5.5/10): Over Mode serves as the closing song to The Gathering. I’m honestly not a huge fan of this one. Not only does it not serve its space well with any unique pleasures to make it stand out from the rest of the songs, but there is also something I find a bit bothersome about this one. And unlike The Gathering, which only bothered me with the occasional pitched vocals. This annoyance is a bit more constant. For a good half of Over Mode, I find myself subjected to the sound of something clinking against glass. Almost as if this song is perpetually calling for a toast that never comes unless perhaps this toast is in dedication to there being “no more scientists, no more laboratories, and no more experiments”. Then again if that were the case, then the clinking would stop after this last Dr Moreau sample was voiced. It does not stop. It keeps going. I will admit that there is still a significant amount of time absent of this clinking, but its presence is still quite irritating to say the least and holds this song back.

 

The rest of the song is relatively decent, not exactly exceptional, but not quite as underwhelming as Psycho or Virtual Voyage either. There’s a fair amount variety to it that allows it to stand out in pleasant ways. The section starting around five and a half minutes into the song with the wavering melodic synth is particularly enjoyable. However, all of this is, again, held back by the clinking, which unfortunately makes it my least favorite song on the album.

 

Conclusion: Over all, The Gathering is a fair debut album for Infected Mushroom though it is admittedly a mixed bag. For every great song on the album, there’s one I’d consider to a bit more average for one reason or another. Still, the album has aged well enough despite being over two decades old. Over those two decades, Infected Mushroom has changed and grown, transforming their music into something new again and again, and while I may prefer later iterations of their style, it is still an enjoyable experience to come back and look at where it started.

 

Final Score: (6.5/10)

Happy New Year 2019!

I would like to personally thank you for coming here to the Red Hat Reviews site at it’s debut (or for searching for the beginning of my posts if it’s a bit beyond January 2019). Either way, I greatly appreciate your visit and hope you’ll be coming back time and time again for album reviews.

 

Speaking of which, the first album review will be out this Friday, January 4. So make sure to check back then and every Friday afterward til the end of time (or til I decide to retire this site, which I don’t plan on doing for years but we’ll see. Also I plan on dying at some point. No specific date set in mind. It’s just an inevitability). You may also want to check my Twitter as I’ll be writing mini-reviews of one song each American evening.

 

This is just a basic overview of what to expect. but if you click on the About tab, you’ll get a more in depth look at what these posts shall fully consist of.

 

Have a wonderful year. I look forward to gathering a plethora of my favorite artists, albums and songs to share with you.