Symmetry is the third album from Russian electro-industrialists Synthetische Lebensform, following 2017’s intriguing Extravagant. Like the latter record, the new LP shows a band who are drinking deeply from the well of 90s classics by the likes of Front Line Assembly, Aghast View and Leaether Strip without excessive attempts to modernize the sound. It’s absolutely a genre exercise, with the duo of Vladislav Coffee and Yaroslav Artamonov taking the time to explore what a proper electro-industrial LP can sound like in 2020.
To that end, Synthetische Lebensform play things pretty straight through most of Symmetry. Numbers like “ReCreator” and “Two Thounsand Sols” are very much from the classic electro-industrial mold, with hard, syncopated drums, tightly programmed synth bass and mechanical samples factoring heavily into the sound design. Vocals come in one of two flavours; either fully vocoded, or a more lightly processed delivery that borrows heavily from Bill Leeb’s distinctive lilt. Both work well with the material, with the robot singing especially welcome on the LP’s melodic moments like opener “Self-Loathing Misery” and the truly excellent chorus of “Rustle Of Metal Springs” where webs of synthlines converge with big dreamy pads.
The band take a crack at some variations from the basic template with moderate degrees of success. “Enemy Territory” goes all in on big guitar sounds to its detriment, with much of the textural programming lost behind big chugging power chords. More successful is its immediate follow-up “Visions” where the instrument acts as a rhythmic device and an accent to the song’s gnarly synth bass and cracking snares. “Wasteland” has them digging into a lengthy, sample-led bit of sound design that gradually coalesces into a speedy, syncopated EBM groove. Even while exploring the duo stick close to established aspects of their style’s history, although given the record’s overall shape that helps it maintain an overall cohesion.
Synthetische Lebensforma aren’t the only band going who want to explore these specific throwback sounds, although they certainly feel like one of the most energized acts to do so. There’s no question that Coffee and Artamonov are putting their back into things on Symmetry, doing a solid job of invoking the feel of the past. It’s not innovative, but it is accomplished and those with a yen for classic electro-industrial should find plenty to enjoy here.