By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
By looking at the album credits for Murder Happens' latest CD, one might think that band leader Paul Wood won a trip to Industrial Rock Fantasy Camp. Dead World and Dying Suns features guitar work by former Ministry member Mike Scaccia (whose chugging riffs are heard on the classic album Psalm 69, among others) and vocals by ex-KMFDM/current Slick Idiot member En Esch. To cap it all off, Pigface's Martin Atkins helped master the record. These names alone make World a must-hear for anyone who adores the Wax Trax! catalog or thinks that Broken was Nine Inch Nails' finest hour, but it's to Murder Happens' credit that these guest stars fit comfortably into the electro-industrial aesthetic. This is partly because the band takes big cues from these forefathers of the genre — World uses both heavy-metal guitars and synthesizer arpeggios to create songs that bear the strength, detail and repeating pattern of corrugated metal.
Wood writes much of Murder Happens' music but employs a revolving a cast of vocalists and lyricists to perform this music. Such a round-robin approach obviously lends the album a fair share of variety, but it likewise illustrates how versatile this type of music can be: It works with a whole host of voices, both male and female. Esch's throat-scraping vocals give a serrated edge to songs such as "The End" and a cover of the British goth band Attrition's "Which Hand?" Brenda Merry's contributions add a clear-eyed, entrancing layer atop the oft-brutal backing tracks, as on "Teardrop Garden." Jim Hodge opens and closes the disc, and the final cut, "White Walls," uses a vocoder-like effect to give a robotic counterpoint to Hodge's lead.
The largely instrumental "Intercede" is all Wood's handiwork, and while gloomy, thrashing riffs and metallic percussion certainly set the mood, it feels like a song in search of lyrics rather than an engaging, forward-moving piece in its own right. But Wood is smart enough to mix up the sonic palette across these eleven songs. He never lets the relentless, pneumatic metal pummel the listener, and he doesn't allow the more pensive, keyboard-based tracks to soften the overall effect of the album.
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