When I reviewed Autodafeh’s 2011 effort Act of Faith I focused primarily on the Swedish trio’s debt to Front 242. It’d pretty much impossible not to really, the greatest strength of the group has been their ability to blatantly reference the work of the Belgian EBM gods without crossing over into outright theft. Still, it leaves me in a bit of a quandary with regards to their new album Blackout Scenario, inasmuch as I think it’s a pretty decent listen, it also leaves me wondering how far homage can be taken as an ends in and of itself.
The neo-old school body music genre is founded on reverence for the 80s masters, and it would be unfair of me to single out Autodafeh for their debts. With all the shameless Nitzer Ebb and DAF tribute acts (many of whom I actively enjoy) working in it, a little 242 worship isn’t the worst thing in the world. Songs like “Exercise Your Brain” and “Getaway” have undeniable juice; they’re mid-tempo bangers that keep the bassline bubbling and feature singer Mika Rossi’s spot on take on Jean-Luc De Meyer’s menacing delivery. There’s nothing to dislike about them really, and they set the tone for the album, rhythmically heavy with the melodic leads and ominous pad sounds placed appropriately in the mix.
Here’s the thing though: these songs are actually pretty close to being fairly straight ahead neo-oldschool body music songs, and would stand on their own without the references. The Richard 23 style back-up shouts that pop up aren’t cloying by any means, I just don’t see any need for them to be replicated quite so slavishly. These songs don’t need them for the most part: the speedy “Lessons in Life” does fine with its dry vocal delivery and added layers of synth at the bridge, as does “Anatomic Cocktail” with its stripped arrangement, swinging cadence and horn sample. They’re evidence that Autodafeh have developed a sound beyond their most famed (and borrowed) signifiers, and I’d way rather hear more of that than say a retread of “Circling Overland” (“The Shadow”).
Look, I don’t want to give the impression that Blackout Scenario is just 55 minutes of slavish worship to another band (although I did balk a little at the Douglas McCarthy grunts and howls on “Emerging Sadness”.) Like I said back in the intro, I think it’s a fun LP that shows a group who are coming into their own but who are still holding onto something that used to define them. Autodafeh don’t need to be “the guys who sound kinda like 242”, and it’s in the moments where they step out of the long shadow of their inspiration that I enjoy them most.