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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Celldweller

Celldweller

Review by Mike Korn

For those who like plenty of electronic beats and bleeps mixed up with their rock and roll, Celldweller is a new name to conjure with. Looking like a cross between one of the Misfits, the Cure's Robert Smith and pro wrestler, the enigmatic maestro named Klayton is the mind behind the madness of Celldweller. He's made an ambitious debut, a 70-minute soundscape full of many different textures and impressions.

His ambition is really his downfall because this record would be far more impressive with the fat trimmed off it. An average 70-minute release, this would have been truly amazing at 45 or 50 minutes. Several songs are completely superfluous and unnecessary, lessening some of the impact of the really killer ones. There are several occasions where Celldweller spends too much time locked into a groove or wasting time with insipid alt-rock balladry. And all of the best tracks are clumped together at the beginning. However, there is tremendous potential here and some incredible songs. For example, "The Last Firstborn" mixes drum and bass techno with crunching rock better than just about any other song I've ever heard, while surging opener "Switchback" is classic electro-metal right up there with the best of Manson or Nine Inch Nails. The sound quality is astounding throughout the whole LP...there's no doubt this was a labor of love for Klayton, who captured every note with crystalline clarity. The record sets a sonic standard that will be hard to beat.

Once Celldweller learns the lessons of brevity, they will be a world-level act. For now, the debut serves as a good starting point and an indicator of what's to come.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Switchback
Following an ambient intro, this gets things off to a superb start with an injection of catchy metal riffing and hard electronic beats that gets quite funky at times. Klayton's vocals are delicate but forceful, with none of the tedious nu-metal screaming common on these types of releases. This is a good tune for either the mosh pit or the dance floor.
Stay With Me (Unlikely)
This is crunching, dissonant techno-metal with a bit of a rap feel to the vocals but not in the typical cliché fashion. This song really covers a lot of ground, from extremely heavy guitar to a very poppy chorus and NIN-style beats and sampling- one of the better tracks on the CD.
The Last Firstborn
This is simply one of the best combinations of techno and rock that I've heard. It starts hard and mean with metal guitar and pounding bass but the track soon gives way to some excellent danceable electronic beats. This is top-notch drum and bass, complete with operatic female vocals and some very effective layering of sound. It is a wee bit on the long side.
Under My Feet
Complete acoustic guitar starts this, and then electronics gradually come in to augment the track. It's a peculiar mixture of styles, often coming across like typical alt-rock such as Nickleback or Creed but with a harder techno edge.
I Believe You
This has a grinding main riff with a lot of power, but I felt the vocals could have been more forceful on this cut. There are too many peaks and valleys on this one when it should have stuck to the excellent opening groove.
Frozen
Here you can check out one of the best bass lines ever written, a rubbery, crawling thing that sinks its hooks in deep. The song has kind of a queasy, off-kilter feeling to it like some of Marilyn Manson's material. The bass line is killer but the band still stretches this track past a reasonable length.
Symbiont
This gets off to a real crushing start with some heavy duty metal riffs and even record scratching but develops into an interesting mixture of styles. It's probably the closest to Nine Inch Nails on the record.
Afraid This Time
This is a pretty weak cut that starts once again in acoustic mode and never really builds up much steam. I don't care for those electronically distorted vocals much at all. Some hard guitar at the end comes in too late to save this one.
Fadeaway
A mixture of the melodic and low-key with the ominous and heavy, this is a song that works it's way from average to pretty decent.
So Sorry To Say
Full of pretentious Gothic overtones, this packs little punch in the rock department. The energy and inventiveness of the early tracks seems to have deserted Celldweller here. It's a dull ride.
One Little Word
This is snappy modern techno-rock that is pleasant listening but nothing terribly memorable. There's some angry nu-metal stylings to raise things into the red zone temporarily.
Unlikely (Stay With Me)
Electronically muted acoustic strumming and female vocals kick this off. It's another odd combination of acoustic alt-rock and electronic sampling that is strangely appealing. Watch out for the "skipping" samples, which will make you think the CD is broken!
One Good Reason
Now this one really jump starts the record again with angry techno and absolutely raging metal reminiscent of Fear Factory. Even Klayton's vocals are authentically ripping, instead of being electronically augmented. This is the most aggressive track on the record and one of the best.
The Stars of Orion
This is an instrumental that shows the more electronica side of Celldweller. Whispering female vocals fade in and out over a Skinny Puppy-sounding techno barrage.
Welcome to the End
The final track begins in a dreamy fashion with whalesong and a drifting keyboard tone. It's a mellow and mysterious cut that should please Goth fans but will disappoint the rockers.
 
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