I've been unsure of how to review this newest Electronic Substance Abuse album without simply gushing about it. Since it's release last week, I must have listened to it a good two dozen times, that's before I've sat down to write this and listen to it a dozen more for the review. I feel I've come to know Jamie Blacker fairly well as he's asked me to not just throw my usual praise at an album but to be truthful and critical of it; Something I've so far struggled to do conscience wise as I usually become good friends with the artists I write about. Yet his words on a facebook update on release date resonated deeply with me.. "Anyone who receives praise for their work and 100% believes the genuinity of that praise, probably should hang up the headphones."
So I will give this review my best attention yet because although I love this album, I wan't to get across a whole lot more than simple praise. Let's start this one a little different by playing the Bandcamp plug in below. Have a listen whilst you read the interview but then play each track as you read about them in the review; Especially track 5,'I Remember.'
Q. From the moment I opened up the Burial 10 CD case with it’s symbolic artwork, to the opening lyrics..
“What do you see when you look at me?”
..Through to the lyrical themes of the tracks throughout, I realised very clearly that this is an album that is very personal and filled with an array of emotion from you. So I will lay this question out in three parts. What is the story of the ‘Burial 10’ album and how does it relate to..
1. The artwork of the album as well as the line ‘I believe that the truest parts of people can be buried and for so many different reasons.’ that is printed on the ‘Burial 10’ clothing merchandise? 2. The ‘Burial 10’ music video?
3. The lyrical content that seems to follow a concept?
A: Think I can answer this question in one response.
This is definitely a very personal album. As I’ve gone along releases, I’ve allowed myself to connect more personally with subject matter, rather than creating some sort of disconnected fantasy theme that feels right for the ‘music’.
The main focus of the album is based around self sabotage. Something that I’m aware of as a personal behaviour pattern. I’m sure that the majority of people have experienced this also.
The artwork imagery concentrates on nooses and burial. These are pretty primal visual metaphors for destroying yourself. That’s why I decided to be the one holding the spade in some of that imagery.
The tracks themselves do touch on other subjects connected to this such as depression and also the ‘burial’ of those demons. I wouldn’t say it’s an album with a ‘happy ending’ but it certainly isn’t all negative.
The opening lyric you quoted is from ‘Relapse’ which is about exactly what you’d expect. A relapse of behaviour. It directly links to others expectations of you and the pressure of that. The ‘Relapse’ is the giving up of trying to bury those behaviours and giving in.
‘Head is heaviest that wears the crown’ is also about that (or at least my section of the lyrics is). It’s about having to behave a certain way due to pressure and expectation. Something I have felt, not only from others but my own personal pressure to prove something and be the absolute best at what I do.
The quote that you mentioned is something that fits in line with the last 4 albums that have been released. I always connect a quote to the subject matter. The message in this one felt ‘right’ for this album.
Q. There is a lot of singing on this album from yourself which in previous albums has been a real rarity. What brought about this shift in musical style, and how did you come about having Jo Hysteria, Caitlin Corlyx, and Lecture feature on the album?
A: I think honestly it came through working with iVardensphere so much. ESA has developed from being a purely rythmical noise project to something with a lot more variation in styles and hopefully..a very unique sounding project. I think working with other producers such as Scott Fox has worked as a catalyst to that. The tracks I wrote for iVardensphere were all vocal heavy and that approach of writing probably cemented itself for whenever I went into the studio for ESA.
Vocals also provide an opportunity to add more character and uniqueness to the track, whether that be me providing the vocals or the guests that appear. All of which did a great job! A great vocal line or a well matched sample provides a ‘hook’ for a track. The magic ‘hook’ is what makes a good track into a great track.
I also love collaborating. That’s when writing becomes interesting. A merging of styles to create this weird hybrid. I’m fortunate to know talented vocalists that can help me achieve that.
Q. ‘Heavy is the head that wears the crown’ is very experimental in it’s element of rap, something which more industrial artists seem to be dipping their toes in to at the moment. Could you please explain the inspiration of this track and what it brings to ‘Burial 10’ as a whole?
A: I’m a huge fan of experimental rap projects such as ‘Clipping’ and ‘Death Grips’. I think rap itself is highly underrated by a lot of people in its intelligence and skill. I wanted to write a thick, bass heavy track that would lend itself to a rap style, then went on the hunt for a rapper that could set it off. ‘Lecture’ did that perfectly and in my opinion really fits the track. A lot of people are saying this is their favourite track on the album however I’m sure there are a lot of people that equally think it’s a sell-out and are bemused as to why it’s even on the record. That’s fine. I expect to lose a small portion of fans on this record due to probably what could be perceived as a slightly more commercial sound; I also expect to gain a bigger number.
For me, I have to push myself and try new styles. Otherwise writing becomes stale and after 10 albums, putting out 4/4 distorted beats is going to become completely irrelevant. I might develop this style further, I might move into something else. I’m not sure yet.
Q. Which song are you most proud of on this album and why?
A: Difficult! I’m really proud of all the tracks and for different reasons. If you asked me which track I personally connect to the most….it would be ‘Blessed with Bruises’, mainly due to the outro. I love synth layer work and I always allow myself to play with that at least once on each album’. It’s such a relief to kill the beats and just concentrate on creating a huge swarm of synths sometimes.
With regard to ‘structure’. I’d say that ‘Wither’ is the most complete ESA track I’ve written. It goes through a number of sections and goes through a bit of a journey without losing intensity at any point.
So….you get two ‘proud boasts’ 😉
Thanks for the interview Canis
Here's an interview we did with Jamie back in July 2019
This album finally strikes at a place that until now I feel had been missing with ESA, at least for me personally. You see I have always raved super hard at live ESA shows and I am always ecstatic to see Jamie's music on a line-up that I plan on attending. That's because his music is exactly as it says, Power noise. This creates an undeniable torrent of energy and dance inducing mania that pulls at the most primal essence of your being. So needless to say, live shows = Fantastic. Listening to ESA at home or elsewhere however has never had the same feel for me, sure I have had tracks like 'Cutslut', 'Cursing', 'I want it now', 'That Beast', and 'Like meat' on my driving playlist and they always get cranked up; However I have never been able to listen to an ESA album all the way through more than once because I didn't feel like my attention span was ever in the right mindset outside of a nightclub. This album changes all of that and has made me eat those very sentiments. Each song creates a sense of connection to the listener and leaves them wanting more..
As I mentioned at the start, I have listened to this album time and time again since it's release as it is now a much more approachable set of music and relatable in it's lyrical stylings and delivery. Indeed as Jamie mentioned in the interview, his work with iVardensphere has influenced this new direction considerably and the overlapping of the two is prevalent throughout.
In our best of 2019 article HERE, The Jamie Blacker fronted iVardensphere performance at Beat:Cancer was my choice for second best live show of the year, beating the likes of Rammstein. That's just how good the rave energy and the primal cacophony of these two separate styles have evolved to create a perfect mix of charismatic showmanship and entertainment.
The show that won second place ^
(WARNING: extreme flashes)
Jamie in our hilarious toilet interview with his fellow iVardensphere band mates.
Opening up like WW2 anti aircraft with it's skull-crushing drum loop this track straight away tells you what this album is and what it is not. It is not just another album of noise with a bit of singing, this is an album almost entirely full of singing that compliments the signature ESA noise perfectly. The additional spoken samples gives it a real sense of mystery and an edge of depth. It's a steady warm up that tricks you in to thinking you have the pace figured out in it's familiar ESA stylings. With Jamie repeating..
"I'll do it again." in his harsh and almost sadistic gravel voice I get the sense of importance, especially with the next line
"Come with me, Come with me!" and you realise you don't have it figured out as it pulls you head first into the next track's faster current.
"I'll do it again!"
2. One cut too many
The first half of this tracks has some very odd distorted voice samples which I don't think quite work other than a bit of 'filler' and after an explosive opening, it feels odd to slow the track down again for most of it's duration. However the pace is solid throughout and when played loud it's sets the track up perfectly to explode with energy again around the 5:40 mark. It even has a slight feeling of Iszoloscope to it who is also part of iVardensphere. Hearing multiple influences and evolutions in each of this tracks really lends itself to the array of talent that Jamie is trying to blanket across this album and it really does work well.
3. Cloak and dagger (Featuring Jo Hysteria)
The transition in to this track is almost seeming-less and once again Jo Hysteria lends an impressive contribution to another ESA song.
With the blending of styles, this track has a hint of dub step and 90's punk rave to it creating a quite dark and even dance macabre like feel to it which I suppose works very well with the title of the song.
It's always great to hear German lyrics sung on an industrial track, makes it feel that bit more authentic.
Lyrically this is where the album opens up in it's message and inspirations. The almost star trek like red alert sample lends well to the synthetic urgency of track alongside the fantastic choice of drum loops that chop and change the intensity steadily throughout. This is an ideal mix of technical kill, lyrical relatability, and pure rave energy ESA is well known for.
5. I remember
When I first heard this, It was on the CD driving my car.. This was the instant face I pulled..
It's almost like Jamie has taken everything I love about heavy techno artists like 'I hate models' and rave industrial bands like 'Memmaker' and mixed them in to that power noise soup of his with croutons of his dark metal vocal filth origins to create the most appetising ESA track ever created.
There is a mechanical motor like sound sampled alongside some chanting of 'I remember' that at first I felt was a little annoying and out of place but the more I listen, the more I realise that the tracks on this album are trying to get inside your head to create an aural representation of what these internal issues and mental health struggles actually feel like. Sometimes they are annoying, inescapable, and tormenting, creating itches inside your skull; only to be released through catharsis of explosive manic force as in real life, at least in my interpretation. (I suppose this makes it of utmost relatability to myself.) So when the track exploded in to life again around the 5.14 mark, my jaw went from the above pic, to the one below for the remainder of the track.. (Still does sometimes!)
6. Burial 10
The album title and first music video from the album. It's a track that is entirely unique and unexpected. It has caused me to do something I've never done before.. Get ESA lyrics stuck in my head as I sing them to myself at work!
This is by far the catchiest and most dance happy track on the album with its thrumming bass line and resonating synthetic waves. Everything works in harmony on this track to a level that is rarely possible in the world of industrial and the ritualistic cult chanting adds a huge chill factor to an already adrenaline educing tribal trance.
7. Heavy is the head that wears the crown
This is indeed an odd choice for an ESA album but all artists experiment and try to evolve beyond theirs limits at some point. This album is already very different and new for ESA so this track sticks out like a sore thumb.
Industrial bass lines do lend themself well to the tempo of rap lyricals and I can appreciate the complexity and change of pace it brings. Rap is often an emotional and deep hitting style and yet Lecture falls a little short in his delivery, sounding a tad monotonic but the tempo and styling are hard to pull off and he has indeed pulled them off well which is a real credit to an artist who can fit the two styles together.
There is a child like set of insults played throughout which I feel detract from the song as they distract you from track overall.
Jamie's message of where he is in the world of industrial and what a difficult place that is does come through clearly however and is an interesting take on musical styling that I am nonetheless glad he has dabbled in, possibly bringing new listeners to the scene in the near future.
I know several other industrial artists attempting rap but they are doing that under different 'band' names. It was very bold of Jamie to add this to the album and whether I like the style or not, I respect that.
8. Her body prints secrets
You ever heard that song 'They're coming to take me away'? Well the beat and tempo of this track would lend itself well to a mash up remix!
This track though is a perfect gym inspiration song. With it's constant beat, the breathing sample, and its rising levels, this song lends itself perfectly to exercise. I found myself scrapping wallpaper very efficiently whilst this was playing in my living room! It's is a much simpler song than the album has presented so far but it is no less powerful. It's a real heart beat kick-starter.
9. You are safe here (Featuring Caitlin Corlyx of Corlyx)
Ah man, this track blows me away almost as hard as 'I remember' does. When Jamie invited Caitlin to on stage with him at Static Darkness festival, we knew we were in for something special but were of course swept up in the live magic. Now that there is this finalised track with her vocals on, you realise how special this is.
The music alone throws you on a roller-coaster of involuntary movement as it commands you to dance like a puppet master pulling at your strings; Throw Caitlins lyrical passion in to the mix and you have a recipe for pure Greek fire of the dance floor variety. It is pulse pounding, it is primal, it is everything an industrial track should be. The lyrics themselves lend to not only a story, but to the audience some of who may be nervous to be out. Nothing quite like the idea of dancing along with friends to this powerful piece and yelling "You are safe here" + "When you panic!" at each other!
10. Hold your tongue
This is a return to the more familiar power noise side of ESA that we have seen in his previous album. It is almost like an 'active rest' for the album. In regards to the rest of the album it doesn't have anywhere as near as much energy as heard so far but is a welcome break to process the rest of what's been heard already.
11. Blessed with Bruises
The final track on what has been a sensational trip of an album.
It plays out and feels like a heavy comedown.
The tempo and energy is slow and deep. The samples are sinister and thought provoking.
It does however pick up again in intensity half way thorough and rounds of nicely with prophetic organs the likes of which would go well in a show like 'Altered Carbon or 'Blade runner,'
The ending samples in correlation with the entire concept of 'Burial 10' finally sinks in and the darkness creeps in with it.. Leaving you feeling unsettled, twisted, but wanting more..
ESA has produced one of the finest albums of modern times. Jamie Blacker has found a truly genre evolving definition to his sound and breathes much needed life in to the world of industrial power noise. It falls short in some aspects of it's experimental nature but more than makes up for it overall. A true must have for your collection
Top 3 tracks:
'You are safe here'
Least favourite track: 'Heavy is the head that wears the crown'
Technicality: 9 Dance factor: 9 Energy: 7 singing: 8 Re-playability: 9 Overall score: 8.5
Bancamp album link: HERE
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