Having been a little lukewarm to Blanck Mass’ other records I was interested to see what he would do next. Would it be more of the same, more extreme, maybe even trying something a bit different. Blanck Mass is the solo project of Benjamin John Power who is a founding member (alongside Andrew Hung) of one of my favourite bands, F**k Buttons. While Hung’s solo album surprised with verse and chorus structures and a loving nod to Talking Heads, Power’s Blanck Mass is pure sonic terrorism. It’s clear it’s him in F**k Buttons who loves to smash you over the head with sound!
Following a relatively calm and extremely short opening track Death Drop thunders in. Describing it audibly is tough but let’s just say it sounds like that moment in Back to the Future where Doc has set all his clocks to go off at once. The repetition is hypnotic. Over the strings, digital drums and modern synths it demands your attention. There is no escape. Suddenly there are screaming vocals, which are almost a throwback to late 90s electronic industrial music. Specifically it made me think of the completely forgotten about band Chainsaws & Children.
Fundamentally, Animated Violence Mild is a Black Metal album – except with decent production and all the guitars replaced with synths. In places I found myself reminiscing Cradle of Filth’s Midian: the combo of rapid fire drums and operatic lead keyboards will have many reaching for the off switch. As an opening track it’s perfect, as immediately you know where you stand. For me, the repetition that works so well in F**k Buttons is a little tiresome here. Not always, just on the more deafening ones. Death Drop feels like a nod to his last album, which was just too over the top and adolescent sounding. In many ways, there’s an irony to it in that for all its extremity there are moments, which Sky Sports would use as their bombastic trailer for Sunday Night’s football.
Thankfully they change it up significantly on the next, far superior track, House vs House. The first five minutes could in fact have come off F button’s Tarot Sport – gone are the death growls replaced with a lighter The Becoming by Nine Inch Nails electronic work. It’s absolutely captivating and won me back after nearly losing me early on. The huge synths return on Hush Money and Love is a Parasite but there’s dynamics that make them much less relentless. It’s only the end of Love Is A Parasite where the black metal vocals return but it’s at the crescendo and becomes the standout moment of the track.
After a four minute interlude to allow the listener to collect their thoughts comes No Dice and then Wings of Hate, which, aside from having a very silly name, sounds like the boss fight music to a Japanese RPG. Melodramatic and marvellously over the top. It’s a good closer.
For those who enjoy colossal sounding electronic music this will delight them in droves, which is how it should be. For me, I like it but just couldn’t love it. I found it so in-your-face that it captures and holds your attention but then doesn’t completely make it worth your while. Yes, Blanck Mass you have my attention – but is this all you’ve got?
Animated Violence Mild is available from 16th August, via Sacred Bones.