Made up of members of American industrial metal act Hardwire, Phoenix’s Kreign are approaching their debut release with a couple of decades already logged in the game, not to mention the fact that the project’s apparently been lying dormant for ten years before the unveiling of their self-titled LP. The duo of Xiån Austin and Ryan Hutman pitch Kreign as “a tribute to old-school EBM”, but that’s not the whole story. While it’s a record rife with homage to pure EBM both new and old, it also shuffles in some broader sounds, and more importantly communicates a sense of personality and swagger that’s difficult for new bands to achieve out of the gate.
To be sure, there’s a good amount of roots EBM DNA in Kreign’s delivery: the speedy basslines and programming of a good half the record owe a debt to anhalt stalwarts Spetsnaz. But it’s just as easy to find parallels with the tongue-in-cheek sloganeering of Straftanz or the over-caffeinated mania of Wulfband. And Kreign aren’t afraid to break away from EBM minimalism when it suits them; the gurgling stutters of “Live Fast” and the rhythmic rise and fall of “5 Layers Of Chaos” bring the dense programming of Encephelon and Cardinal Noire to mind.
But maybe more important than their influences, though, it’s the combination of restless aggression and self-aware winks that makes Kreign a fully formed entity with attitude to spare (the French electro pisstake of “Disco King” makes more sense when one recalls that Austin’s a former member of Alter Der Ruine). There’s something distinctly American about the blunt nihilism of solid opener “Shit Storm”, and having that sort of menace welded to hard-hitting EBM foundations leaves an impression.
Given the lengthy period between the group’s inception and this LP, it’s perhaps not surprising that Kreign sound so polished and honed. It’s difficult to strike a balance between the raw energy of the sort of EBM Kreign want to refer to and more modern and idiosyncratic club sounds, but the pair have taken the time to get it right. Recommended.