Blue Steel

Expat Blues

A cacophonous battering ram of relentless industrial influences come to mind. Picking over the roadkill of what is left after 80’s goth met The Swans, whilst simultaneously being introduced to those who made a career out of sprechstimme, please may I present Metalycée. This Viennese troupe arrived out of Thilges 3 before joining up with vocalist Melita Jurisic – resident of Vienna and Melbourne, actress, who I am advised, appeared in Mad Max, amongst other films.

Opening track ‘Northwest to Southeast’ starts off being driven by a rigid beat and throbbing synth, complemented by Margaret Thatcher-like spoken vocals provided by the Australian black swan Jurisic. It could be that this is the opening salvo in a new bid to smash the capitalist system, although such action can be neither confirmed nor denied. This plummy Marianne Faithful diction approach is a mainstay of the album, and with the slightly Germanic (or crossed German/Australian) accent, provides the slightly surreal experience of Lotte Lenya doing the vocals for a psych album. This use of historical materialist models of prehistoric cultural change comes with computer-generated drones and glitch-infested tone, restrained ugliness and everything in between. The vocals transition into a Jarboe style zoned out singing which mirrors the lumbering psych doom provided by the stabbing synths and shuffling beat. As the camera flips from girl to band and back, the message “sort of feels like something that could have been on a mid-80s Italian horror movie”, flashes on the screen.

Now that we’ve wiped the blood off the knife, let’s proceed. Each track seems to throw-up these configured car crashes as you mentally rush off to identify where you might of heard that before. A number of the tracks have that 80s frequency modulated synth shuffle, beloved of the children’s programmes of that era. You almost expect the children’s screams to be looped against the droning synth tones and electronic pulses. Overall, the approach is a concept that has provided the backbone for countless minimal industrial punk electro combos, and is one which fits the vocal delivery perfectly. Electronic music from the early ‘80s through to the 1990s has lately had renewed interest and this album had me ticking off at various moments, Visage, The Blue Nile, The Wolfgang Press. The latter are really not that far away from Metalycée, just missing the exposure to Industrial that time has allowed the band under review to gain. Both sound like they have spent many hours in the presence of the strange, the disadvantaged, for want of a better phrase, the lowlife. The other two bands mentioned, are here because there were times where, through scene setting, atmosphere, sound, their presence does not seem too far away. Of course what we have now is of a much darker hue, the ugliness has been let loose, the antimacassars have been put away, and Dali and Andy Warhol can be seen shucking for Alka-Seltzer.

Track two finds Metalycée in more of a noisy mood. Industrial surges driven by punk electro ethics weave together bass and guitar, with a ritualised pulse provided by the drums. These elements meet and work towards generating a stream of scenes that build through repetition and which are gradually joined by layers of feedback that swell in and out. Words such as ‘punishing’ come to mind when we listen to this music. Like a collision between 80’s Eastern bloc martial deployments and the would be Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss’ of Washington. That ripping sound you hear is reminiscent of a hit and run accident, except the car comes from hyperspace.

The title track would not be out of place on any of the aforementioned Wolfgang Press’ albums produced up until the point they lost the plot. Ghostly woos and a lumbering gait with a pronounced gothic element, albeit this is goth as interpreted by industrial kids. Locked in time with the bass synth and loud drums that populate the tracks, those warbling background drones start to transform into the over-modulated wet-chrome dreams and asthmatic industrial landscape dominated by the post-war baby.

‘Lest We Forget’ is the nearest to a standard rock song that we get. Breaking down music into its simplest structural elements, Metalyce?e take the traditional guitar band formula and wrench, twist, smash and tear. The track is driven forward by a perpetually shifting chugging rhythm and constructed through repetition and primitivist/futurist riffing. The lack of sprechstimme allows the song, in its widest sense, to regain all its purpose. Gradually joined by layers of piercing high-frequency guitar lines bathed in reverb that swell into the droning synth tones and electronic pulses. The background is composed of the building blocks of industrial. Motors or machines or transmissions of some kind that shift between maker and listener; maker and machine; sound and tundra.

The album ends with ‘The Right Track’, which penetrates the calm, surface-deep beauty of ambient electronica, tapping directly into computer-generated drones and a glitch-infested pulse. There’s a definite sense of power which ties the track together with a delicate, crafted feel and which is guided by vocals that push the envelope of restraint, it teases, but its menace tells us this is not so clean a getaway.

This is a rock record in the sense that there are guitars and drums in there, but one which taps directly into noisy dark soundscapes and industrial terror. These are lensed through the smoky atmospheres of the Weimar Republic and goth aesthetics, not necessarily mutually exclusive, as we can hear here. Metalycée’s industrial leaning’s certainly fit into this lineage. They are not trapping you inside their world, but trapping themselves inside yours, with you. The aficionados can be heard purring from here.