Genre: Industrial Metal
02 21st Century Slave
03 It's Today
04 When I See You Smile
05 Digital Warriors
07 Criminal Intents
09 Outlaw Thrones
10 The World Machine
11 It's For You
Italian cyber-lads Dope Stars Inc. should be a pretty familiar name to anyone who has kept track of the European Schwarze Szene in the last few years or so. They’ve played some rather big goth/industrial festivals, such as Wave Gotik Treffen and M’era Luna, and have been one of the top artists for both Trisol in Europe and Deathwatch Asia here in Japan.
It’s not really hard to see why: their rebel rock n’ roll attitude and visual appeal turning the heads of many young fans. Their rise to prominence happened around the same time as similarly-named and themed Deathstars from Sweden. However, while the Deathstars are a bunch of ex-members of famous Swedish black and death metal bands crossing over into the goth/industrial genre, Dope Stars only have themselves and their music to prove.
So here we have it, their newest offering entitled 21st Century Slave.
Now, let’s put on the breaks full stop for just a second. Anyone who has a strong dislike for anything commercial-oriented may want to sit this one out. This record is about as bright and sparkly as they come. There are no dark ambient passages, no obscure production, no guitar noise experimentation nor deep throbbing bass. There are no profound occult/fascist/poetic references, no medieval folk interludes, and not even swooping majestic orchestrations.
Their music is bright, youthful, glamorous, up-tempo, and full of energy.
They play loud, in your face rock n’ roll, with strong roots in glam rock, distinctly American industrial rock, distinctly European electro beats and futurepop melodies, and more than a few influences from Japanese visual rock and cyberpunk anime, wrapped up in their own brand of dystopian cyber-shock.
Now while it may not be my cup of tea exactly, nor the most mind-blowingly original stuff out there, DSI are a great deal better than the sum of their parts, and I would much rather the average teenager’s first encounter with the goth scene be this rather than the newest Marilyn Manson CD.
Their first offering was a catchy brand of upbeat electro rock, kinda similar to Peter Tagtgren’s project Pain, with lots of chunky guitars, but largely driven by electronic dance rhythms and synth melodies. They began to be progressively heavier and rockier, and on this record, we can see their brand of defiant industrial metal finally coming to gel, though without losing their sense of melody or catchy songwriting.
The production, while being a fair bit grittier than before, is still relatively glistening in a broader perspective, with every instrument coming through clean as a bell. Now a trio with a brand new bass player, their songs are almost all guitar-driven this time around, though there are some good melodic synth exceptions, including the third track “It’s Today”.
When I first listened to this CD, the overly downtuned chug of the guitars made me rather nervous. However, there’s enough of a melodic backing and EBM-esque rhythm section to keep this safely away from mallcore/nu-metal territory and still within the tolerable area of industrial metal.
Thematically, they deal with rather straightforward cyberpunk themes about the fight against technology, something we’ve heard from Fear Factory and Frontline Assembly before, but still sounds refreshing considering a lot of Electro bands nowadays won’t go any deeper than “Fuck you! I hate you! I wanna kill you!”
What I find slightly jarring are these oddly placed love ballads that pop up here and there. They just don’t really fit in with the rest of the album. Victor Love has always demonstrated his skill at mid-range singing, with a slight punkish snarl, but on these ballads, especially the last song, he’s rather noticeably off-key. Next time, banish the ballads, please!
Anyhow, when it is all said and done, we have here a rather good glam-tinged industrial metal release full of power and spunk that should act as a convincing gateway drug for many youngsters into the darker side of the scene.