It’s one thing for a metal band to be technically proficient, displaying super fast chops that could send a lightning bolt from The Bronx to El Paso in 60 seconds flat. It’s another thing entirely for a metal band to embrace technology, such as Fear Factory or most black metal outfits, thereby adding an element of science fiction or gauzy ambience to an otherwise crushing sound. While most metal bands feature some of the best musicians on the planet, and synths have had their place in metal for quite some time now, it’s a unique and amazing thing when a band can combine both types of `tech’ and push them to their (il)logical extreme.
Enter Philadelphia trio Genghis Tron, a band whose M.O. entails gauzy IDM interludes interspersed with extremely brutal spazz-grind pummeling. To compress them under one singular genre umbrella would be to deny them justice. Genghis Tron isn’t even so much a band as an evolution, a perpetually morphing vehicle for all things heavy, with sounds so diverse and advanced, in many cases two songs in succession on one GT album may sound like works of entirely different bands. Alas, this is but one band, and without a live drummer, at that.
On Genghis Tron’s sophomore full-length and first for Relapse, Board Up the House, the spastic tech-grinders sound crisper, and with greater clarity, though their burly pile-driving thrash is no less punishing. In the leadoff title track, a waltzing electro-bounce opens the proceedings with a burst of energy. Of course that energy soon explodes into a manic grindcore pound, then dissipating into a dirge-like midsection, which finds vocalist Mookie Singerman (yes, the singer’s name is Singerman) singing melodically after a bout of fierce shouts. This six minute epic opener jolts into countless directions, majestically setting the stage for what’s to come. Hyper-speed riffs and flickering strobe light intensity drive “Endless Teeth,” while “Things Don’t Look Good” balances sludgy power chords with Hamilton Jordan’s superhuman fretwork.
It takes three menacing tracks to get there, but by track four, the group changes the game entirely, swapping their destructive tendencies for a melodic, Prefuse 73-like ambient hip-hop track titled “Recursion.” Next in line, the six-and-a-half minute “I Won’t Come Back Alive” finds a happy medium between ear-splitting walls of distortion and ethereal electronics, revealing their Jekyll and Hyde personality at its most bipolar. Of course, this song is also one of the most awesome here, even if the mathematical riffage isn’t as showy. Leave that to “City on a Hill,” in which speed and volume are the prime driving factors.
Those whose listening habits are dictated by clearly defined genre boundaries may have a bit of trouble with Genghis Tron. They are a confusing bunch. Thankfully, they happen to be a truly creative and talented force, fusing electronic music and metal in ways that most others fear to attempt, or just don’t care to. Adventurous souls will be handsomely rewarded for delving in, but brave listeners, take note: Board Up the House isn’t just a clever title, it’s a warning. Once these dudes get going, they tear straight through everything in their path.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.