Wake the Dead: this rage against the machine ends up looping over and over in its own dubstep rut

Third Eye Foundation, Wake the Dead, Ici d’Ailleurs, IDA 119CD (2018)

A very sinister and unsettling soundtrack to contemporary life today, in which (despite the lip service paid to “diversity” and “multiculturalism”) everything has been levelled to the lowest, most soulless common denominator, this album of rhythmic, swirling dark atmospheric dubstep is not without its hypnotic charms. Opening track “Wake the Dead” sets the template for what is to follow: an apparently self-contained looping percussion-heavy rhythm without beginning or end going on and on and on while melodies, sound effects, guitar feedback and emotionless vocal murmurings pass back and forth like flotsam and jetsam with no direction or moorings. The main changes involve the track spiralling ever deeper and deeper into a hell within its depths. Drum machine and clattery cymbal effects continue on relentlessly until too late the listener is mired deep into a quicksand of murky ambience.

Subsequent tracks can be even more terrifying in sound, mood and the contrasts between the mechanical rhythms and the tones and voices that run and swirl around them: the mournful “Procession for Eric” features ghost keenings, a melancholy cello melody and moaning synth brass drones over a brisk drum machine pattern that bristles with indifference and machine efficiency; likewise, “The Blasted Tower” busies itself with a marching toy-band rhythm loop while distant phantom voices howl and swoop. “Controlled Demolition” is a fussy synth-drumming exercise that is not always clear and which seems on the verge of collapse, and only the crackly crumbly guitar bits and cello groans seem able to prop it up.

Listening to this album right through, I find that earlier tracks seem elegiac in mood, as if lamenting events that occurred before the album’s recording, while later tracks may adopt a defiant and determined tone. “That’s Why”, the only track to feature vocals, bristles with aggression; the irony though is that the repeating vocals turn out to be just another rhythm loop that half the song hangs from. Even raging and rebelling against The Machine eventually becomes co-opted by the enemy and is turned against those who rise up. The rebels are seduced by their own slogans and battle-cries into new forms of enslavement. The album dejectedly slouches into yet another machine loop of moaning voices, droning synth brass, tricked-up little wiggle tone effects and a lazy snare rhythm.

The rhythms are certainly very enticing and seductive, and the moods are dark without being heavy and oppressive. There is a definite sense of isolation and a bleak feeling of being up against impersonal and hostile forces dedicated to crushing the life-force of humanity and all that it generates: passion, creativity and yearning for adventure and exploration. As a result, at times the music can seem a bit listless, resigned, even bland sometimes. I sense that the album quickly hits an invisible wall and can go no farther except to repeat itself. Of course, this is disappointing but it’s all the more reason for us as individuals to wage our own fight, individually and together, against The Man, and not to expect others to do what we should do ourselves.

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