Journey to the dark underworld
Long known for being a groundbreaker in the alternative/metal scene, Mike Patton has brought us mind-bending music since the 1980s with many projects, most notably Mr. Bungle and Faith No More. The explorations of Patton’s latest project, tētēma, are no exception to the uncompromising force of his prior work’s incarnations. tētēma is Mike Patton on vocals, Anthony Pateras on electronic composition, Erkki Veltheim on violin and Will Guthrie on drums. A follow up to tētēma’s first boundary-obliterating album Geocidal (2014), Necroscape is another rich sonic exploration that packs a punch.
For anyone who likes dark, brooding, ambient music, tētēma’s Necroscape will please. Tētēma takes us on a journey through chaos, and into the underworld. This album is an experience that you’ll want to dig deep into. Like when watching scenes in a film of trouble brewing in dark rain-slicked back alleys, you’ll be transfixed, wondering what’s around each corner. This album is a non-stop thrill ride of Anthony Pateras’ electronic wizardry. Digital sounds and acoustic instruments are skillfully molded with electronic effects to create an intense experience.
The first track, “Necroscape,” starts in a deceptively mellow vein, setting a weird tone for the much more dynamic twelve remaining tracks. The sparse, widely spaced, piano notes fall into a familiar key signature but are not bound by time, having no percussion. It is at once like floating in space, and almost like a meditation. The expansive nature of this song inspires one to wonder what is coming next?
“Cutlass Eye” explodes with thrashing brutal heavy metal. Industrial, electronic, distorted keyboard notes cycle with the feeling of a downward-cascade. This song has all of the elements that metalheads love (blood-curdling screams, chaos, and an overall dark feel), artfully woven together. It is a power-packed adrenaline rush, drawing on characteristics of Patton’s signature works with previous projects.
“Wait Till Mornin'” bursts at once into a strongly infectious groove, reminiscent of the band’s 2014 debut album Geocidal. The tribal feel of the percussion conjures up images of dancers at a bonfire, moving hypnotically in the orange light, in the late hours of the night, when humans start to exist purely on the soul level instead of the physical realm.
“Haunted on the Uptake” is like a war anthem or a ritual of darkness. A fusion of jazz drumming with the starkly contrasting elements of screaming and digitally delivered sonic bursts percolate with all the fury of raw underground punk. This song is one of the best examples of the uncompromising force that is tētēma.
“All Signs Uncensored” has catchy, spontaneous percussion organized into a beat. Patton’s bold screaming echoes. The spontaneous spasticity of the song reminds one of the works of the great Frank Zappa. This song imparts a feeling of being in a dreamy, alternate universe again.
“Milked out Million” is an industrial, experimental song with a sinister vibe. It is low, mellow and suspenseful. Artful violin played by Veltheim sounds like a middle eastern folk instrument, which adds an otherworldly feel to this song. tētēma seems to paint with sounds in a wild fury onto the canvas.
“Soliloquy” is high speed, high energy, video game chase scene on meth. Patton’s spoken-word vocals reign terror over the hyper background.
“Flatliner’s Owl” is another industrial song, brutal and chaotic, with a dramatic feel and a healthy smattering of experimentation.
“Dead Still” is dissonant and doomy-sounding. Patton delivers a spirited vocal rant amidst the intense theatricality of the song. Primal screams and raindrop sounds usher in the song’s end.
“Invertebrate” hums in a mesmerizing rhythm. The voice is naked and vulnerable. This is an enchanting soundscape, much like a digital jungle.
“We’ll Talk Inside A Dream” has a polyrhythm, likening itself to the works of The Stickmen or Adrian Belew. Odd time and fun, boundary-pushing experimentation make this song a treat to listen to. The relentless beat eventually folds into a fluid form.
“Sun Undone” is like a weird, digital ocean. In parts, it sounds as if a dark lord or master is whispering. This song also sounds like alien or celestial communication. It is perhaps more aptly described as a sonic landscape.
In “Funerale Di Un Contadino” mysterious sounds flow in a free rhythm. A slow, moody, tango-feel develops, as Patton’s enticing voice sings in another language. It is sinister and dark, yet inviting at the same time.
tētēma’s second album Necroscape delivers a powerful blast of adrenaline and a relentless commitment to sound exploration. The high level of musical mastery that these four members have attained is evident throughout. Every moment of this album is crafted into a magical listening experience. The meticulous craftsmanship of these boundary-exploding compositions and the overall undeniable dark allure of Necroscape will have you wanting to listen to it again and again.