The 5ifth Column
Underground Inc. / Cracknation
I know what you’re thinking, bizarrely enough, I was thinking the exact same thing. Industrial metal, right? Man, that’s so 1992! The formula’s been done to death and a bunch of snot-nosed punks have taken all of the worst bits and welded them to their worst rockist tendencies in that abomination known simply as nu-metal. Besides, it’ll be so dated right? What can a bunch of techno-apocalypse warnings tell ME in the year 2002? Well, take a look around bucko, I think the history curve has finally caught up with Acumen Nation. All of this existential dread, virus warfare, end-time paranoia and man vs. machinery thematics make a lot more sense. It ain’t nearly as funny when religious freakjobs, both east and west, suddenly want to set the controls for the heart of their fictional heaven, and they’ve got the gadgets and germs to do it. I want to crawl under my bed and hide. This is surely Acumen Nation’s time.
I didn’t want to like Acumen Nation, coming into this I wanted to curtly dismiss them and maybe drop in an arch little chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter joke, just to let my industrial/rivethead friends know that I’m actually listening to them when they talk to me. Not that easy. Turns out they’re devilishly catchy and they know their way around both a guitar and a sequencer. They rock! Damn. In fact, what with Ministry seemingly disappeared into studio breakdown hell, I’d say there’s a crown just lying there, and maybe, y’know, it would be a shame if no one picked it up and ran with it.
I’ll admit, it’s not my favorite record of the year but it’s got some crackerjack songs. Those guitars are so frightfully catchy, and the vocals are a neato hybrid of Leatherstrip, Exorcist, and Strapping Young Lad — I’m a mark for twisted ambisexual vocal tones and Acumen Nation delivers that in spades. Plus their mechanical precision is just dead on, everything links together perfectly, and they avoid all the tired obvious drum programming that often freezes electro bands dead in their tracks. No need to panic folks, the boring little “jungle drop” seen in car commercials everywhere doesn’t make it anywhere near this album. Sometimes this album kills me, in fact — I’m thinking of the zip disc stomps of “Parasite Mine,” “Just A Bastard,” “Recaster,” and “Rally And Sustain” (a particularly venomous gem) are all so complete and self-contained. And then there’s the massive void sprawl of a song like “Wrath Of Calixto” — vocoder prophesies and suffocating ambience. It’s ace driving music on a par with Miss Kittin and Kraftwerk, and it sure as fuck is relevant.