Album: V O I D H E A D
Release Date: October 15th, 2014
JUSTIN SYMBOL is:
Justin Symbol – vocals, bass, programming
Baba Yaga – synths, keytar, programming
Matt Minion – guitar
Joe Livingston – drums
Daisy Berkowitz — guitar (ex-Marilyn Manson, on 3 songs)
At first, based on the vague-yet-nicely laid out electro-purple cover and Press Release admonishments alone ( you PR guys really gotta be a tad less melodramatic in your salesmanship, fellas, as your amateur brainwashing made me really not want to like this, as with most PR’s — nothing personal), I got the “uh oh” feeling of another late-dated Marilyn Manson clone. Hell, Daisy Berkowitz (former Marilyn Manson guitarist) even appears on three tracks. With a sigh and rub-of-annoyance between the eyes I popped it on. Hell, I’ve never even particularly cared for M.M. And its a concept record too, apparently. Hmmmm I could but wonder as I hit (almost reluctantly) play.
To my surprise, this was pretty damn good. An interesting mix of industrial, goth, EDM (a term and form of music I am not overly partial to — one mentioned repeatedly in that dreadful PR, that I really didn’t pick up on too much of in the music itself, thankfully), and a mechanically harsh metallic rock. It fluctuates dancey and occasionally beautiful sonic swirls with both fluidity and unexpected crashes of justifiable rage at the state of apathy and the world around us. You know, the concept.
Honestly, I am not the least bit familiar with this character. I say character as that is how he describes (himself?) in/on this unique album: “a concept record which takes the listener on a disturbing and beautiful journey through the psyche of a character named the “Voidhead”.
Fair enough. The album is a lot of fun, really, especially if listened to a wee bit, shall we say, altered, heh. It definitely needs to be played loud to get the full effect of the sonic attack that is deceptively taking place within the very framework of the concept itself. In good headphones the subtleties in production really stand out.
At times I find certain similarities (conceptually, lyrically, and sound-wise) to Brutal Planet-era Alice Cooper. There’s a great deal of religious iconography (eh, that just goes with the gothic territory), but used here as grotesquely beautiful metaphor to make a particular statement on the the moribund state of the world as a whole, and the individual psyche as a hole.
Justin Symbol refers to his music as “Digital Rock,” but I think “Digital Punk” may be a slightly better alteration to that. This is really something unto itself, avoiding a large amount of the particular genre cliches, though still occasionally getting hung -up on one or two. But I am forgiving. I can let that slide in this instance, especially considering the odd bits of psychedelia that unexpectedly crop up here and there, far out-weighing the aforementioned cliches.
My personal favorite songs were the slightly Bauhaus-like “Digital Penetration,” “Black Friday 1 (which is an oddly mechanical and quirky machinesque-sounding piece), and “Purgatory” (which features one of the most brutal bites of lyricism I’ve encountered in a bit: “There’s a Rapist in Me / And He’s Lonely” — potent . . . go get laid, my friend).
Of the song “Digital Penetration” itself, Symbol has said: “Digital Penetration’ is a statement, a commentary on Western society. One moment we are shocked and horrified, jolted awake out of our dream state by events such as school shootings and foreign crises. The next we are back in the dream state, lulled back to complacency by a digital reality comprised of social media and entertainment that is always one click away.”
Of the general concept of the V O I D H E A D itself, Symbol summarises: “The ‘Voidhead’ represents a sort of modern day Prometheus or every-man. He is all of us. He is a person who as a result of this society we live in has no self-esteem, no values, no religion or spirituality, and who is so dominated by external and internal fear that he is unable to love anyone let alone himself.”
Make of all that what you will. I’m an ardent Alice Cooper fan, I see what Symbol’s doing here. I get it, and it is a little different; think a kind of “Welcome To My Nightmare” as performed by Philip K. Dick. Plus, Symbol’s live performances (according to that damned PR sheet again) promise a sort of futuresque updating of classic Shock Rock involving grande theatrics, blood-n-sex performances, and all the rest.
Best recommended for fans of ChemLab, Left Spine Down, Velvet Acid Christ, and the like, this is pretty decent for it’s genre, original in many different ways yet not alienating toward its intended audience. Short and sweet, virile and violent, dancey and deathly, Justin Symbol’s V O I D H E A D is meant for when you need that particular electro-fix to raise your boots and just stomp some mutants head in.
Check out the killer promo-vid for Digital Penetration here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAEluFpQz84
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Vincent Daemon, writer and rabblerouser, can be followed on FB @ https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 , and join his blog The Writings Of A Depraved Mind @http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/?zx=e40931ba40511a11