Industrial metal hasn’t had a great run as of late. The few I have reviewed in my three-year tenure at AMG did not fare well. In fact, the only good industrial metal I have heard in that time was the new Rammstein earlier this year, meaning the underground has delivered exactly zilch. Of course, I may have simply missed a whopper, but fact remains that most bands touting the term seem to use it as an excuse to blow out the speakers with horrendous production and/or use it as an ersatz term for metalcore or nu-metal. Maybe the debut from upstarts Northern Genocide can make a difference. The asinine title Genesis vol. 666 and a monochrome mess of a cover don’t immediately fill me with hope, however. Will the Finnish quintet beat the odds and come out on top?
And wouldn’t you know it, they absolutely do! For one, Northern Genocide doesn’t rely solely on its synthetic elements to convince. Genesis is chock full of solid hooks from the keys, the guitars and the vocals alike. The latter don’t pull their punches either: the main vocal style is a nasty black scream with plenty of bite, with supporting roles from a rumbling growl and occasional female cleans. It’s as much a melodic death metal album as it is an industrial metal one, and it turns out the young band is very good at playing with the sliders in that equation. The mid-paced title track opens the album with a mixture of EDM style electronics and orchestral keys, the resulting composition strangely reminiscent of Genus Ordinis Dei. Single “Ikiruoste,” the only song in Finnish, reminds more of Turmion Kätilöt with its powerbeat and snippets of synth-based hooks.
And this is the crux of what makes Genesis such a vibrant album to listen to. Without losing a shred of identity, Northern Genocide create a lot of variety with different ways to mix the electronic part of the equation into the melodic death metal side. “Eclipse” is both one of the best tracks on the album and among the best examples of their style, using a thick layer of atmospherics behind the chorus to boost it into bombastic melancholy, while equipping a wicked keyboard hook to dropkick you into a final breakdown. It feels balanced just right, and it’s sometimes hard to believe this is a debut album in the first place. The compositions are often a bit simplistic, though, which makes the music a tad predictable, and there are occasional awkward little issues like subsequent tracks “Soul Dystopia” and “The Avalanche” having virtually the same intro, prompting a “did I leave this on repeat” check. It doesn’t take away much from the enjoyability of the music, and it’s a great biggest complaint to have for a first album especially, but that lack of just a little more adventurousness is what keeps it from the upper echelons so far.
Of course, the production ruins the whole thing with a terrible brickwall that… No, wait, I was thinking of pretty much every other industrial metal album in the last five years or so. Against all odds, Genesis actually sports a rather excellent production. With sometimes multiple layers of synth and vocals to keep track of, the mix does a great job at keeping the music clear and putting the focus where it belongs. The master is a demonstration in natural clarity. The drums play a supporting part, but they sound fantastic, and though the guitar tone is rather stock, this seems to be a deliberate choice to contrast the keys. Makes you wonder why a debut sound better than the majority of veteran albums.
Mixing electronics with metal isn’t new by a long shot. From Rammstein’s “tanzmetal” to Nightwish’s trademark canned orchestra stabs, it’s been a tried and true combo for decades. Every now and then, there’s a band that manages to shake up the unity, like …And Oceans’ melding of black metal and EDM or Raintime’s spotlighted keytar. Northern Genocide doesn’t experiment with profound genre shifts, but what they do best is not limit themselves to a single mixture ratio or method. Their brand of melodic death metal is enhanced by the electronic components in a wide variety of ways, from subtle atmospherics to tone-setting digital hooks. This would be a good melodic death metal album without the electronics, but the quality of their implementation and the excellent production elevate the whole. Genesis vol. 666 is a incredibly solid debut, and I can’t wait to see where Northern Genocide goes from here. The rise of a new force in industrial metal is long overdue.