Industrial Off the Assembly Line
hERETICS iN tHE lAB are industrial music in the most classic sense. Solid state buzzsaw guitar riffage, dark, somewhat erotic lyrics, electronic glitches and mechanized triggered drums litter their newest offering Suture. The band makes no secret of the fact that they’re working from a somewhat derivative starting point. Their Facebook page openly acknowledges the frequent comparisons they garner to Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and Marilyn Manson—they’re apt, but none more so than that of Nine Inch Nails. For fans of industrial music, Suture will hit the right notes, but it fails to contribute anything new to the genre and certainly doesn’t approach the greatness of the band they’re clearly trying to sound like.
The Nine Inch Nails influence makes itself obvious throughout the album. “Vampire” meshes together the anguished lyrics and semi-melodic vocals, metallic (and metal-influenced) guitars and assembly line percussion of Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP with the reverb/delay-drenched piano and melancholic vocal whisper that occasionally peaks its head above the blood, drugs and bondage gear of The Downward Spiral. That formula dominates the record, for the most part. One can hear the steadfastness with which hERETICS iN tHE lAB have chased down the guitar tones and samples that Reznor used throughout his early/mid ’90s output.
The record is a somewhat dated one. Despite being new, it references a very specific point in the history of industrial music. This is not a group of industrial musicians trying to push the envelope left for them by groups like Throbbing Gristle or Foetus the way Reznor or Ministry did. Suture simply copies down the note inside the envelope and passes it on to another generation of intoxicated, morbid, dispossessed teenagers. Songs like “Wrong” sound so familiar that those of us old enough to remember the raw visceral power of Broken and The Downward Spiral might even chuckle to ourselves. The guitars, the vocal delivery and the processed and mildly distorted drums interspersed with piston-like percussion are familiar, and it’s even reasonably impressive how well hERETICS iN tHE lAB have absorbed and re-created some of the sounds of early/mid ’90s industrial.
Still, it’s an imitation, and much like the pallor of the post-adolescent Hot Topic devotees the record is aimed at, it’s a pale one. The vocals lack the authenticity of Reznor’s erotically charged self-destructive streak. It really sounds like someone trying to be Reznor at times. Their singer even faithfully re-creates Reznor’s formerly emaciated sneer and dyed black hair in the video on hERETICS iN tHE lAB’s website (it’s an almost laughably obvious imitation). But his voice lacks Reznor’s range and knack for phrasing and emotional delivery.
Suture will provide a nice nostalgia trip for those of us who grew up at a time when The Downward Spiral evoked all of the pathos and pain so often associated with teenaged isolation and unrequited lust. It won’t resonate for those of us who carried it into our 20s and 30s, where it resonated as a horrifying and perhaps too-close-to-home portrayal of the self-injury, chronic depression and drug addiction that very often followed. hERETICS iN tHE lAB are by no means embarrassing themselves here, they’re just not distinguishing themselves either.