Album: Alec Empire

Intelligence and Sacrifice, Digital Hardcore
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The Independent Culture

For Alec Empire, grey eminence behind the sonic noise terrorists Atari Teenage Riot, the first CD of his double album Intelligence and Sacrifice represents an unusually focused assault on the mainstream. Providing, that is, that your idea of the mainstream involves Slipknot and Nine Inch Nails engaged in a death-or-death struggle for the nu-metal nihilists' crown. The result is an unyielding barrage of infantile apocalyptic melodrama, thrash-metal songs stuffed with references to death, viruses, hell, paranoia, treachery, washing one's hands in blood and tearing out one's heart. The distorted electronic rock of "The Ride" – a song that manages to cram suicide, heroin and war all into the one track – reveals Empire as perhaps the bastard spawn of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, though most of the album involves much less interesting variations on the standard punk thrash, from Stooges to Staind, with one great line – "Welcome to a lifestyle you can't buy into" – stranded among the tide of gore and misery. Better by far is the second CD – I'm guessing it's the Intelligence part of the package – of electronic instrumentals, which hint at an altogether more thoughtful, avant-garde temperament. The most interesting are those which rely least on techno breakbeats or ambient synthscapes, such as "Silence and Burning Ice" (a bricolage of tiny flecks of sound) and the improvised synth ruminations of "Parallel Universe", both of which recall Sun Ra. Quite why the two discs are packaged together is anybody's guess – but I suppose that Empire is to be applauded for imposing such alternatives on his audience.

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