As much as the purists may balk that their beloved metal has anything to do with the noise the kids are calling electronic “music”, the two aren’t actually that far removed from each other. Bands like Crossfaith have been thrust into relevance thanks to such a heavy command of electronics alongside their metal; dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass draw on heavier, more abrasive sounds than traditional EDM; and it’s not as if the embrace of Pendulum and The Prodigy in the metal world is exactly a new phenomenon. Like it or not, but in terms of metal getting a wider exposure and certain acts gaining more relevance, electronic elements have been the boon that’s imperative to that success.
It also works the other way around though (albeit not really to same outcomes), with electronic acts finding favour within new scenes and communities by tailoring their sound to pivot towards darker, nastier tones. That’s why the relatively recent explosion of synthwave has been welcomed by metal with such open arms, a movement that attempts to bridge the gap between the two by taking the regular electronic template but finding influence from film scores and video game soundtracks, dialing the sythesisers up to crushingly heavy levels. And leading the charge is Perturbator, the project of French DJ James Kent, who can be seen as well and truly having one foot in both camps, beginning his musical career in black metal but transferring that intensity over to electronic music. And with new EP New Model, it’s easy to see how that’s worked, a six-track, thirty-five-minute gauntlet inspired by a dystopian civilisation imbed with cold, mechanical harshness to make for a truly jaw-dropping listen.
Almost all of that is down to Kent himself too; this is a primarily instrumental piece (save for Vantablack with wispy contributions from electro-indie band OddZoo that do temper its impact a bit), and for a series of crushing deathmarchs that this is, the technicality and how well that vibe is accessed is difficult to fault. The whirring drills that punctuate Tactical Precision Disarray and the grinding breakdown of Tainted Empire that bears such immense weight both give such a convincing feeling of darkness and mechanical dread, and the nine-and-a-half minute closer God Complex is the sort of winding, labyrinthine journey through tones and sounds that makes it a consistently compelling listen. Big room EDM this most certainly is not; New Model is the darker underbelly of electronic music, where everything is coated in black and the crispness of the synths is used to represent the bleakness of its built world more than anything else.
It’s hard to imagine that any of this will cross over because of that though. Even at its most conventional like in the deeper, more deliberate beat of Corrupted By Design, it’s still an abrasive, hugely experimental listen that might not sit well for even those versed with what synthwave has to offer. Dig into it though, and New Model represents what heavy music has been crying out for – an artist that embraces new, contemporary sounds that mightn’t be too familiar, but is able to cross over into that world by virtue of vibe and usage alone. No promises that this will appeal, but don’t be surprised to hear more of Perturbator in the future; for heavy music, this could be revolutionary.
For fans of: Carpenter Brut, The Algorithm, Magic Sword
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘New Model’ by Perturbator is out now digitally. It is released physically on 20th October on Blood Music.