Looking through a window to see oncoming clouds, lightning and howling winds can be an ominous experience. Unlike the slew of hurricanes that battered the east and west coasts of Florida over the past few weeks, Assemblage 23’s latest offering, Storm, is greeted with open arms. Like a breath of fresh air, the album opens with “Human,” an uplifting piece that showcases Tom Shear’s songwriting forte. Without notice, you become entranced, singing along to the catchy chorus “Forgive me my mistakes/I’m only human/I bleed just like you.” “Skin” comes on next with pulsing beats that cruise alongside a steady dance mix. The bar is raised on “Ground,” with its expert melodic structure and delivery. Its otherworldly chorus captivates the listener and never lets go. A more aggressive EBM approach is noticeable on “Let The Wind Erase Me.” Here thick analog bass lines dominate as dance floors are set ablaze. Watch out for this one taking over the dance charts. At the album’s midpoint, “Infinite” kicks in with rapid-fire electronics. Trance elements abound here with stunning vocals to match. Storm‘s apex is reached with “Complacent,” easily Shear’s musical masterpiece. It’s a mid-tempo track with incredible sound design and lyrical content. Here AS23 venture into uncharted territory with superb songwriting and execution. The song builds slowly into a moving and thought provoking gem. This one alone carries the full weight of the album. The mercury levels reach the boiling point with “You Haven’t Earned It.” Using a more synth-pop approach, Shear incorporates massive electro wizardry with optimal results. And just when you are trying to catch your breath, “Regret” attacks the senses with Olympic gold quality. High energy aesthetics perform beautifully alongside AS23’s evolving themes. Strap yourself in for this one.
Creative juices ooze on “Apar,” a pounding menace that brings Storm full circle. Pounding beats and a relentless groove are sure to please even the greatest skeptics. At this point, a standing ovation is well deserved. Storm stands tall among the best releases of 2004, and makes a worthy addition to any music collection.
Metropolis Records: www.metropolis-records.com