Album Review: Black Light Burns, "Cruel Melody" (I Am: Wolfpack)
Wes Borland never quite fit in with Limp Bizkit, and Black Light Burns demonstrates exactly why. Where Bizkit would often pretend to be punk rock, flirt with heavy metal, wade in the waters of indie-rock sensibility, and rev their engines with an industrial overtone here or there (mostly due to Borland's influence), the guitarist's latest outfit dives headlong into each. Not in an effort to break stuff, but to make stuff--stuff that spits in the face of the hip that hopped throughout his prior outfit, and stuff that shares the sinister slant of his Big Dumb Face, but distorted around a diabolical core of infectious songs.
There are moments, like the opening chords of title track "Cruel Melody," that might make a passing glance at a handful of Borland's dense guitar intros from "Significant Other," but never for long, as the 13 tracks writhe, roll and scamper about like a bastard mutation of Trent Reznor and Robert Smith set adrift in the ambient Goth of a Dead Can Dance soundtrack. "Mesopotamia" opens the album like a running of the bulls, electro-tinged guitars volleying around Borland's midrange vocals, "Animal" glides by with Nine Inch Nails-flavored electro-fuzz, and "Lie" powers through with rage so intense, it's contagious.
Few ever questioned Borland's abilities as a guitarist, and his skills are further documented here, from the subtle strings that accent "Coward," to the more riveting tremors and plunges of "The Mark" and the heady atmosphere of "I Have a Need." The surprise comes in Borland as a frontman, where his vocals often prove as compelling as his play, rough around the edges and textured enough to give the songs depth and heart. The visceral release of "4 Walls," which sounds like it could have been written with one of Fred Durst's more manic outbursts in mind, comes across believable, the rhythmic pacing of "Stop a Bullet" echoes with pained pangs, and "New Hunger" basks in more ambient electro-industrial depths.
Sure, "Cruel Melody" will garner more Nine Inch Nails comparisons than Borland will likely want to entertain, but it's been too long since Reznor's captured the all-out angst and reckless abandon of "Pretty Hate Machine" and "Downward Spiral," so don't be too quick to condemn Black Light Burns for delivering the goods.