PreEmptive Strike 0.1
Despite my general disaffection with most things harsh EBM, I found myself predisposed to like this record from the moment I encountered it. The cover art had me instantly flashing back to being gob-smacked by Ray Harryhausen’s incredible stop-motion creations in Jason and the Argonauts as a kid (to those who say you can’t judge an aggrotech record by its cover, I direct you to the last bit of dreck from Alien Vampires), and no scene from that movie thrilled and scared me as much as the awakening of the bronze giant Talos…with the possible exception of the badass army of skeletons. The theme of Greek mythology extends well beyond the cover art and title, though, as the Cretan duo of Cryon and Jim “The Blaster” incorporate plenty of classical elements to T.A.L.O.S.‘ thematics, both lyrically and musically, which helps them craft a fun and varied record that generally escapes the gloomy sameness that dogs so many harsh EBM releases.
The big talking point about T.A.L.O.S., as with PreEmptive Strike 0.1’s previous LPs, is its blending of Greek folk instruments (namely bouzouki and lyra) into the expected dark electro leads and beats on several tracks, and on the whole it’s a peanut butter and chocolate “two great tastes that taste great together” type situation. The closest point of comparison that comes to mind when thinking about folk elements generally unfamiliar to Western audiences being added to dark, aggressive modern music would be Nile, famed for integrating Egyptian instruments into American technical death metal. But, while there’s a binary, off/on nature to the way Nile combine those (here’s a quiet oud passage, now here’s three minutes of precision blast beats and riffage, now repeat), there’s a smoother blending of those elements here, as on the title track and “Hubris”.
Not all of the record’s more concept-heavy tracks are Hellenic in their thematics. “The Scorcher” is centered around Master Of The World – a celluloid adaptation of an HG Wells novel of the same name in which Vincent Price tools about in an airship raining death from above – and features operatic narration of the destruction by Argentian darkwave outfit Raven Wings. It’s an extremely odd confluence of elements, but I can’t help but admire its audacity. “Pierce Their Husk” does a good job of slowly adding and removing melodic and rhythmic layers, building and releasing tension and creating a nicely nuanced composition while still having loads of punchy breaks and squelched leads. It also features some (undistorted) guest vocals from Niklas Kvarforth of the legitimately infamous Swedish black metal band Shining, which is as surprising an appearance as it is a hair-raising one. After that track I was psyched to hear what they’d do with “Seasons In The Abyss”, easily one of my five favourite Slayer songs of all time, but unfortunately I found it a bit rote and watered-down (same with “Titans Awake”, which sounds like a C-Drone-Defect track left on the cutting room floor).
As will come as no surprise to anyone who’s heard my kvetching about this sort of music before, the weak spot on T.A.L.O.S. is the cookie-cutter harsh EBM vocal treatment, typically shrouded in acid-wash distortion and obfuscating any nuance that could have been added to them. While I was generally able to tune them out, it seems a shame that PreEmptive Strike 0.1 played it safe in this one regard when they were willing to think outside of the box in so many others. A fair number of the tracks are sung in Greek, so that’s at least a change of pace.
There’s a tortured metaphor to be wrought about the mythical Talos’ fatal weakness being a nail in his ankle which kept his vitae from flowing out and the current crisis in Greece, but I’ll leave that to port-sotted writers at The Economist and keep it out of harsh EBM record reviews. T.A.L.O.S. isn’t a perfect release by any stretch, but it should satisfy harsh EBM fans, and, more importantly, throws enough conceptual curveballs to intrigue others who don’t normally dig this style.