1. Death, 2. Atrocity, 3. Precious, 4. Forever, 5. Special, 6. Sorry, 7. Rise, 8. Away
When you listen to an album that begins with a mix of looped, agitating sounds of hammering and machines, supported by quick and heavy guitars, then you’ll recognize the genre straight away. Indeed, Exit is a direct trip into the mainstream industrial metal music of the 1990s, just as fans memorized its best characteristics back then, with a distinctive sound that created a whole subculture.
Heretics in the Lab (the original spelling is hERETICS iN tHE lAB) is a one man band from Virginia, US formed in 2004. Thomas Morgan, who uses "h3" as his artistic moniker, is a self-taught passionate who does everything literally from A to Z. Both recorded songs and music video singles that promote various tracks from the band's discography come from him. Obviously, additional live musicians are hired for live shows, but the entire studio work is done entirely by h3.
The newest album brings eight, highly (and equally) energizing songs. If you, the 90's industrial rivethead, had lost hope for the arrival of any flooring albums by once recognizable industrial rock and metal artist such as Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails or Powerman 5000, then Heretics in the Lab will make your dreams come true, in lieu of these bigger names. People new to the genre can find the album entertaining as well, thanks to its dynamical, aggressive vibe.
Let's look into the tracks in detail now. 'Death' is the intro to the album, with a plainly industrial theme mentioned before. It is also enriched by sampled speech. The track sounds mighty thanks to a skillful blend of briefly scratched, predatory guitar riffs and drums laid only in places where the composition requires and allows that.
Sonically, the introduction's foretaste shouldn’t mislead you, since 'Atrocity' begins with a closely packed, pulsing sound of some device, of possibly a medical purpose. Medical references – nurses, syringes, hospital, blood, scars, drips, patches, and bandages are often utilized in modern but not less mainstream industrial music, thus you've got a bit of a refresher here. The high beat is then empowered by a deeper drumbeat and the listeners are taken into a twister of all kinds of overlapping sounds. These are still kept under rigid control by the overall composition, which can be witnessed in the song's very end when the wall of sound is slowly cleaned and pulled down, leaving only the buzzing guitar to accompany you on your way to the next track.
The industrial opening of 'Precious' sounds very haunting. The song is accompanied by a promotional music video single (check out the band's YouTube), full of rapidly firing, thought-provoking images - long-time industrial music fans should be familiar with such visuals. Since they are matched with the song's aggressive theme and rhythm very well, I don’t think many viewers can complain. The sound effects and memorable vocal lines combined with raspy guitars will guide careful listeners back to ”the best of NIN” and act as a strong reminder of the vibe known from the now legendary Broken and The Downward Spiral albums.
'Forever' brings a lot of clicking electronica in the beginning, but then lashes out with metal through slow and heavy guitar riffs. Surprisingly, vocals are kept rather high and peaceful here. After hearing the intro, metal fans would obviously expect growling, expressive screams or other emotional explosions found within the verses. This changes a bit when the chorus comes, the vocals however are mixed with a voice effect that makes the song's overall vibe mechanical. When accompanied with spoken rather than sung lyrics (similarly to many other songs on this album), the track becomes a good reminder of Manson's mortuary, somber, tormented music, not deprived of memorable dynamics either.
'Special' is a potential hit with its clearly and rhythmically spoken lyrics, dynamic bass, drums, and noisy guitars - as well as highlighted moments of anger. It’s very memorable and will definitely work well during live performances. After that, 'Sorry' arrives with a bit more of synths, making it sound like an 8-bit game music memorabilia at times. Aside of distorted vocals, edgy vibes and a slightly 'outer-space' atmosphere (through the aforementioned synths), you'll also come across a sweet electro-pop melody appearing in choruses.
'Rise' is a track partially different from the others. Not only is it entirely instrumental, but also driven by a distinctive, graded, simple and recurring bassline. This, blended with a melancholic piano gives the song a flavour of NIN, Primus, and Joy Division smelted together. Listeners would perhaps expect more of that theme to be extended further, since the melody and mood progress in an intriguing direction.
The grand finale of the album titled 'Away' is a lovely tribute to NIN with its typical setting within arrangements made for lyrics and shortly outlined guitars, as well as a groovy, haunting background including synth and drums. Everything in 'Away' is pure synergy spiced up with matching vocal expressions and yet, it's skillfully connected with 'Death', the album's opener. This is an excellent potential hit that deserves either a music video single or serving as a soundtrack to a short movie.
Overall, Exit is a pleasant and engaging listening experience. All tracks are pretty short but it's almost required for catchy and potentially popular songs to stay under the five minute mark nowadays. In addition, many of these tracks could make a good match with s/f and adventure movies (think of the Marvel series or David Lynch's weirdness). Special attention should be paid to the vocal work of h3, who perfectly catches up with any tempo changes present throughout the album. Industrial metal and rock music fans are highly advised to get this album and support h3's endeavours – you won't be disappointed.
(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Music Magazine, April 18th, 2016. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)
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Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine