Hollywood Burns – The Age of the Saucers [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

You can probably already tell that this is not a metal album. Maybe you can’t, I dunno. Either way, I can attest that this here album is awesome. Hollywood Burns is far from a household name, but French darksynth upstart Emeric “Hollywood Burns” Levardon deserves a big reputation boost coming off of his latest opus, The Age of the Saucers. Alien abductions abound and riffy electronic buzzery surround, handily securing my attention as he serves everything I want in music through his unique synthwave lens.

Hollywood Burns first honed my wandering eye back in 2018, with his super-fun Invaders. It was my introduction to synthwave, but it didn’t stick with me over time nor did it inspire me to explore the core genre. The Age of the Saucers, on the other hand, has me wrapped around Emeric’s digitized finger. This is synthwave at its most engaging, featuring many of the same attributes I look for in the best metal: riffs galore, addicting melodies, twists and turns around every corner, and an occasional solo or two. Hollywood Burns laid it all out this time around and made absolutely sure to encase everything into tight, smart compositions which flow with all of the smoothness of little gray men’s skin.

Synthwave strikes me as a difficult genre to compose well and stand out, but Hollywood Burns’ specific approach is beyond reproach. Early highlight “Abomination from Planet X” features hearty synth riffs that get my head a-bangin’ like it was death metal, but quickly transitions into an adorable chipped melody that conjures up an image of baby Galaga ships bopping happily in cyberspace. I can’t help but fall in love with it. “Saturday Night Screamer” deepens the sound palette with an unprecedented number of sample snippets peppering what is essentially synthwave’s answer to a freakout breakdown. It flings me through an unnerving acid-trip—not unlike the tunnel scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in the way it evokes unease—and I think it’s brilliant.

For all the intensity Hollywood Burns brings to the table for The Age of the Saucers, he also generates compelling moments of alien beauty that affords the album unexpected depth. “Fallen Heaven” and “Silent Fortress” are two such moments. Twinkling synths pair with a gently sashaying beat to sway and float through my aural canals. A surprise solo chimes in on “Silent Fortress” too, drawing out additional emotion to the piece. “Fear in the Eye of the Tyrant” chugs like the more aggressive cuts but intertwines wonderfully with high-register melodies that elevate the song into more ethereal planes. Even anomaly “Skylords” is big fun. Being the only song with vocals, it transports me back to the wonderful world of late-eighties/early-nineties pop with a funky, extraterrestrial twist.

Hollywood Burns just works for me. I knew I was going to like this when he unexpectedly dropped The Age of the Saucers only a few weeks ago, but I never expected to be utterly floored by how fun and fanciful it is. It’s the perfect combination of crunchy riffs, dance-worthy beats, and funky electronic doodads. Not only that, but it also functions beautifully as an album, each song contributing something meaningful and exciting to the whole. If that’s not worthy of my (and by definition, your) attention, then what is?

Tracks to Check Out: “Abomination from Planet X,” “Saturday Night Screamer,” “Silent Fortress,” “Fear in the Eye of the Tyrant”

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