Bold and evocative. Lean and focused. This is an album full of intangible brilliance.
Celldweller – Wish Upon a Blackstar
In 2003 a musician/producer called Klayton released his project ‘Celldweller‘ to the world. This self titled release quickly garnered a huge amount of cult favour due to its crossover appeal to metal,dance & industrial fans alike. Klayton seemed to effortlessly meld a huge amount styles and genres cohesively together and many a fan held their breath to see what the enviable follow-up album would bring. Who would have know that it would be almost 10 years until it would see the light of day. This is not to say that Klayton has been pulling a “Chinese Democracy” on our collective asses…in the last nine years he has released a few covers (“Tragedy” by the ‘Bee Gee’s’ and a wicked cover of the John Carpenter’s “Halloween” theme) a few remix albums and two full albums of soundtracks albums, this isn’t even taking into account his setting up of a record label, promoting Apple’s premier recording software ‘Logic’ and his music featuring on programmes and film trailers. This guy is a workaholic!! But 9 years we have waited to hear the second ‘Celldweller’ album…so to say I was excited to get my hands on this album is an understatement!!
Firstly its worth taking into consideration that this album features 50% of tracks which have been in the consumer domain already. To keep interest going for the new Celldweller album, Klayton decided to release the album over a series of different chapters (two songs per chapter). Chapters 1 & 2 were available in 2009, Chapter 3 surfaced in 2010 and almost a year on Chapter 4 was up for purchase. So as a keen fan I was all over that shit from the get-go. Through these 8 tracks, Klayton laid out a pretty definitive statement that he intended to build on his first release and adding to the foray some new influences of dub-step and full on ambient electronica to the already well established electro/industrial metal melting pot.
So here we are…June 2012 and its just over a year from Chapter 4’s release and as they say “The proof is in the pudding”.
This album is fucking wickedly good. Never have I come across an album that makes me want to headband like a motherfucker then bust a move on the dance floor with glow sticks ahoy. Klayton my friend you are the new industrial messiah.
The opening instrumental track “The Arrival” is spacey and like a new age symphony building to the crescendo that is the first beat of the first single “Unshakeable”. This track is more electro than metal but has all the dub-step swagger of anything ‘Skrillex’ has put out to date!! It’s the classic Celldweller we all know and love but with a 2010’s reinvention.
“Blackstar” is up next and you know what?? I want to get down and dirty to this ditty!! Its electro metal with choral vocals, massive electro bass synths and has Klayton singing his catchiest melody to date. “Eon” follows up nicely and is the first track from the above mentioned Chapter releases. It’s a more older styled Celldweller sound but it doesn’t seem dated as he was pushing the boat out in terms of his sound back in 2003!! At just over 6 and a half mins long its a journey of musical proportions with all the catchy melody and heavy grooves the Celldweller fan craves.
“Louder Than Words” featured on the first chapter back in early 2009 but you wouldn’t know it at all, it fits, as Ace Venture would say, “LIKE A GLOOOOOOVVVEEEE”. It the perfect marriage of electronic beats and clever production meets heavy guitars and soaring melody. “Memories of a Girl I Haven’t Met” is a short very beautiful ambient electronic track clocking in at about a minute in length, it’s not to short and a perfect introduction to “I Can’t Wait”. This track appeared on the Chapter 4 and is probably the last track I heard by Celldweller before this new album. It has a heavier vibe with elements of dub bass in section and metal guitars. The chorus is wickedly electronic with break beats and heavenly vocoded vocals.
Up next is “Gift for You” which was also on chapter four. It makes me smile because it has a opening section with those all important guest female vocals we had on the original “Celldweller” album. This track brings the groove of the album to a slower methodical pace. Once again there is dub-step bass lines but the clever juxtaposition of ambient synths give it so much depth. “The Lucky One” original surfaced in May of 2010 and its a playful track with funny social commentary lyrics and almost computer game electronics mixed in with the heavy guitar work. “The Seven Sisters” is an original 2012 track and is less metal and more Dark Dance. Dub-step heavy bass and a mix of clean and vocoder vocals glide above the hard industrial drums. Once again the clever location of this song brings the album down dynamically giving the listener rest-bite.
And we needed the breather because “Birthright” hits hard and fast next. This track started as a fully instrumental number and appeared on the advanced trailer for “Spiderman 3″. Later it morphed into the track we now know and love. Its one of my favourite tracks Klayton has ever released generally due to the fact he throws about everything he has at it, with the exception of the Kitchen Sink that is. String sections and massive beats, epic melody, electronic grooves and a production that does justice to every note from every instrument setting the benchmark pretty high.
“It Makes No Difference Who We Are” is another newbie track that brings it back down with more ambient electronics leading to a ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ section of epic electronica. The lyrical motif of “Wish Upon a Blackstar” appears here a few times. What follows is one personal favourite of this reviewer. “The Best it’s Gonna Get” appeared in December 2009 and again is like old school Klayton at his best. Clever lyrics, catchy melodies and the classic Celldweller vibe…what more could you ask for huh?
Down to the last three tracks and up next is “So Long Sentiment” which featured on Chapter 1 back in 2009. It’s a full on pace of over the top electronics and clever production. The depth on the production is completely futuristic to say the least. “Tainted” was featured on 2010’s Chapter 3 and is striped back (as much as Klayton can strip it back that is haha) to start before the layers of cleverly used synth lines crash down like a tsunami of futuristic electronica.
The album closes with another new track. “Against The Tide” is very reminiscent of those huge Nine Inch Nail moments like “Hurt”, “The Great Below” or “In This Twilight”. Its such a satisfying closing track that is very emotion provoking and incredibly uplifting. What a way to finish and album. This album is pretty much completely flawless and again shows the flexing of a musical guru muscles who is a master of many styles but knows how to meld them with nothing sounding remotely forced or unnecessary.
My only gripe at all with this album is one that I knew would be a bug bearer for me since the original Chapter 1 was released. Essentially if you have already paid for the first 4 chapters then you have invested almost the cost of buying this album new, and yeah you already have 8 of the 15 tracks and whilst I’m listening to a free promo copy of the album I could see myself electronically downloading the 7 tracks I didn’t already have on iTunes and editing it together from there…in saying that…I don’t think FIXT are against you doing that at all and like I said…its my only gripe and its a marketing gripe and not a musical one.
To reinforce the HEAVY amount of word above and for the benefit of those folks only really interested in reading the conclusion of a review. “Wish Upon A Blackstar” is to modern industrial music that “The Downward Spiral” was to the mid 90’s. It’s pretty much the most versatile electronic metal album I’ve ever heard and it’s completely rewarding to listen to. In fact I can see me revisiting this album many many times over and it’s almost certainly going to be a contender for my end of year top 5 albums list. Klayton is a clear head and shoulders above the rest of the electronic metal world and I for one can only hope and pray that a new ‘Celldweller’ album appears in the foreseeable future as i don’t think I can wait another 10 years for more of this musical prodigy’s work.