Severe Illusion -
Totalitarianism For A New Generation

Severe Illusion
Totalitarianism For A New Generation

When we first discovered Sweden’s Severe Illusion (via the sadly departed Complete Control Productions, pour one out), the duo’s approach to post-industrial music was a cold splash of water to the face for so many reasons. There was their ability to draw upon familiar sources but never have their own vision or style be occluded by them. There was the unblinking, pitch-black sardonic worldview which their themes and lyrics spoke to. And there was the fact that their entire style seemed utterly unconcerned with overarching trends in contemporaneous industrial (a notion we discussed with frontmain Fredrik Djurfeldt years later). Three years since their last release and a full ten years since their last LP, Totalitarianism For A New Generation underscores that last point, with the band evolving along their own lines, free of trends or mico-genre.

While the cold and precisely measured programming which the band has always used is still very much in place, long-term listeners will note that it’s grinding at its most elegiac pace for much of Totalitarianism For A New Generation. Sure, the loping, descending arpeggios of opener “Acid Reign” could have appeared earlier in their catalog, but coupled with the haze of phasing pads which hold over “Nothing To Be Afraid Of” or the first-wave industrial squiggling feedback of closer “The Choice Of A New Generation” its cold-blooded pulse is all the more apparent. That sense of much of the record feeling like a hypnotic dirge isn’t just a question of literal speed – “Died Suddenly” and a few others don’t drop below the 90 BPM mark, but the minimalism of their arrangement keep things lurching in the mind of the listener.

At times this steady keel, in combination with Severe Illusion’s penchant for crisp distortion, brings them in line with Dive and early :wumpscut:, points of reference which have never particularly come to mind in relation to the band. “The Wrong Way Home” and “Dead World” both ping rubbery programming over tightly blasting percussion, with Djurfeldt’s vocals taking on a classic endzeit rasp. Rather than consciously drawing upon those acts, though, this feels more like the possible result of Djurfeldt’s direction with solo project Analfabetism; with its chaotic noise having been brought into a more contemplative, ethereal register, it’s feasible that some of that perspective has been lent to the windswept “The Wrong Monster” and others.

This more solemn, mournful expression of Severe Illusion’s core sounds and moods is unlikely to win over any hitherto unconverted listeners who haven’t been able to align with their earlier releases. Then again, that sort of dedication to a certain aesthetic impulse, regardless of the broader milieu, often goes unappreciated in its own time. But for the sort of person who might be discovering the band as the same sort of overlooked gem we took them for more than a decade ago, that approach will be a part of the allure that their style of cold EBM holds Uncut, uncompromising.

Buy it.