40 Octaves Below - MetaVersUs
Released off label 2023
This review was commissioned. However, it bears no weight on the score or decision. All reviews are written from an unbiased standpoint.
2022 saw me write and talk to death about 40 Octaves Below’s upcoming album “MetaVersUs” in the numerous reviews I did for his singles / EPs. That being said I won’t be wasting much time with introductions here; if you haven’t heard of him yet, just know that he produces some noisy electro-industrial. If you’re into that, stay, read on, and enjoy. And if you’re not, then it’s time to move onto something else. Huffing and puffing his way through 2022 with a series of singles, I find it surprising as to how much more content 40 Octaves Below squeezed out for this album. In additional to the four singles previously released, there are eleven more tracks involved and three collaborations.
What I would like to get out of the way first is that four of the songs that are on MetaVersUs have previously been reviewed on Brutal Resonance. I shan’t repeat my thoughts on those singles, but I will post links to the reviews in question below:
As far as the new stuff is concerned, there is an obligatory introductory track appropriately titled ‘Precursor’. Can’t say there’s anything special about this one; some heavy bits and distorted spoken word with a bit of humming in the background. It’s a skippable track to say the very least, if not cinematic in a sense.
Now, 40 Octaves Below operates with a good knowledge of music production, but not one where quality beats quantity. Listening between the likes of ‘Splintered’ versus ‘Dead To Rights’ and back to ‘Datura’, for example, I started to see a few cracks in 40 Octaves Below’s structure. While not crumbling beneath the weight, I started to hear some similarities across the tracks, as if 40 Octaves Below was pulling from a similar soundbank to bang out song after song. While none of the tracks on the album inherently sound bad, they do start to sound a bit similar, instrumental or not.
There are a few that manage to break from that chain, most notably ‘Find The Others’ and ‘Bit: 10’. ‘Find The Others’ is this very noisy, cinematic piece that sounds as if you’re waltzing through an underground laboratory that you just really should not be in. Noisy, tension filled ambiance and hard hitting percussion only add to this feeling of dread. ‘Bit: 10’ gives more of a lo-fi tension; as if you’re on the outside looking in. A subtle moment where a main character’s going through some deep shit in their mind and you can only watch on in excitement as their anger and rage grows and grows and grows.
‘The Rabid’ is an interesting experiment as well; a track lasting ten-minutes and forty-five seconds. Oppressive electro-industrial atmospheres not meant to light-up the dancefloor, but give off a tying theme of dystopian control. The length is artificial, in a sense, as 40 Octaves Below uses tape-loop like segments to break the track by a minute or more to slow it down. The very final minute and thirty seconds or so is useless as it just serves as a waning outro; I hate it when bands do this. It’s time consuming, uninteresting, and makes me wonder why my next song hasn’t played yet. It’s a trope or idea that needs to die.
As far as the collaborations go…Well, I’ll start off by saying that I prefer 40 Octaves Below’s solo work. ‘MthrFkr’ featuring DI Auger sounds rather demo like in comparison to a lot of what else is on “MetaVersUs’ and sounds more like two songs battling each other for volume control rather than a cohesive piece. ‘What If’ featuring Ekaterina (Passion For Hypnosis) is trying to be two things at once. On one hand, it wants to be a drone, ambient track. But 40 Octaves Below’s strained vocals just does not fit within and breaks up the otherwise serene nature of the song. The final minute of the track goes into electro-industrial / hard techno territory. This portion sounds better, but cannot make up for what was the first two minutes. The last of the collaborations is ‘Echoes’ and features Raven Rowanchilde. This one is just boring to me; it’s a spoken word piece but the dialogue is so digitally altered that not a word is able to be understood. It’s also a fairly repetitious bout and lasts for around four-and-a-half minutes.
While many of the elements that made me love 40 Octaves Below are present on MetaVersUs, there are also a lot that I was not prepared for. And those that I was not prepared were not an innocent surprise, but a detrimental one. 40 Octaves Below’s sound bank should have been expanded for a fifteen track album, that’s a start. While certain songs such as ‘Dead To Rights’ and ‘Find The Others’ still do it for me, the lack of variation and creativity on the album holds it back. The collaborations are practically throwaways as they are songs that I don’t wish to ever hear again.
A good chunk of this album could have been cut to make a better final product, and a final tracklisting for me would have been the previously mentioned four singles, ‘Bit:10’, ‘Find The Others’, and ‘The Rabid’. Even though I had a problem with the end of that song and the length, it’s interesting enough to deserve a spot on the playlist. Sure, it may have been more of an EP than a full length album at that point, but throw on a remix or two and it would have been rounded out well.
A mixed case of quantity over quality with odd collaborations to book.Jan 15 2023
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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