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Genghis Tron - Dead Mountain Mouth

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Artist: Genghis Tron

Album: Dead Mountain Mouth

Label: Crucial Blast

Review date: Aug. 6, 2006

It might have gone beneath the radar initially, but the presence of keyboards in heavy music is now too common to ignore. I’m not talking necessarily about the swooping synthetic “majesty” that you sometimes hear with the more, um, theatrical black metal bands out there. I’m talking about post-hardcore heavy freaks who like the ping and sizzle of old school electronics, both for sonic contrast and for retro kitsch. Enter the marvelously named Genghis Tron. A kinetic trio from Poughkeepsie, they combine a love of good old grind with the spazzcore energy of The Locust and the occasional pan-idiomatic cross-referencing of Naked City (“Chapels,” for example, has passages that might actually be from the studio album on Ummagumma). They do it all with programmed drums too, believe it or not. And despite referencing a video game in their name, they are thankfully miles from the tiresome arcade wink-winks of Horse the Band.

There are enough heavy as fuck guitars and wicked breakdowns to please any doubting Hessian (“From the Aisles” opens with a plodding seriousness that vaguely recalls Neurosis). They make good use of dense electronic atmospheres, building segues and shifts that actually mean something – their tunes go a lot of different places, always with riff in sight. And the wailing, Converge'd vocals on tunes like “Greek Beds” (which could be off Caring and Killing) will please too. “White Walls” is the most heavily electronic track, with furious squalling noise trying to break the momentum of death-metal riffing while constantly being sidetracked by somber, multi-tracked vocals. Weird, and weirdly compelling. A similarly disorienting effect occurs on the mashing “Asleep on the Forest Floor,” where the keyboards create billowy beds of what sound like brass sections. There’s a lot of this kind of careening, as on “Badlands,” where house music block-rocking is set against a backdrop of Pelican distorted lines before breaking into a prog-frenzy.

It all sounds like good fun, and it provides plenty of immediate pleasures. But, despite the fact that a number of the right elements are in place, this one doesn’t exactly flip my switch. It’s not that it’s a bad record by any stretch. It’s just that Genghis Tron’s obsession with combining improbable elements and making them work can be exhausting. Things don’t, in fact, always hang together very well and aren’t overly memorable. Not bad, and certainly worth a listen for heavy freaks, but no high score.

By Jason Bivins

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