“Dreams are messages from the deep” – Dune, 2021
London based Benjamin Blank started Binary Order in 2008.
He makes no secret of deriving inspiration from Sci-fi and cyberpunk. In the press release, “Dune, Akira, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Deus Ex, Judge Dredd, etc”, are all cited as influences. I’m sensing a penchant for dystopian canvasses.
The PR also describes the music of Binary Order as “brutal industrial metal”. It also claims that it is cinematic and laced with ambience. That’s a wide palette. Sometimes such claims are tags to generate interest. But are they accurate in this case?
The songs clearly derive their themes from the state of the World. I get this. It’s hard to argue that we’re not already in Dystopia. Putting potentially hyperbolic statements aside, would that we were all so passionate and active in any way that we could try and turn this downward spiral on its head. Anyone who takes time to look beyond their everyday lives can’t fail to see that there’s something deeply wrong with “civilisation”. If you’re wondering whether this album is of relevance, then consider what we see when we have the courage to break out of our protective bubbles and look around: escalating political and social disturbance, crowds storming the seats of democracy, protestors gluing themselves to roads, desperate to make a point, while the 1% swan around in their quarter million quid, 12-cylinder, “climate controlled” (the irony) Bentleys. Yet reports of millions of people being displaced, scorched, or drowned by the increasingly hostile new World climate are now so commonplace, that we are all but desensitised to these phenomena.
(I’m reminded of that scene in Constantine, where he visits Hell and rather than caves and pools of lava, it’s here, only smashed up and savaged by firestorms). I’d say Messages From the Deep taps into this zeitgeist, but these are not just ideas and beliefs about the general intellectual, cultural, and moral climate – this is happening.
When musicians get emotional about things, they use every tool in their musical shed to convey the message. In Metal, one such tool that conveys the intensity of emotional investment is the adoption and use of a mix of vocal techniques and conventional singing, made popular by the early to mid-nineties Nu-Metal bands.
Commonplace though this is, in a wide variety of bands associated with the metal and symphonic rock genres, these techniques have their own spectrum, from the melodic growling of Pantera’s Phil Anselmo and Gojira’s Joe Duplantier’s more recent vocalisations to the more monotone squeaky growls of Cradle of Filth’s Danny Filth. The terminology is varied and I’m no expert. Is it scream, fry, growl… dunno. It’s not to everyone’s taste. These techniques are something that I used to shy away from as I didn’t like the sound of it, though I’m able to take it in small doses – now that I think I can hear a difference. Consequently, if you can’t get past this, then this collection of songs may not be for you. But it isn’t all… er… Screamy. I urge you to read on.
Almost right from the start the brutal element is front and centre. Sick starts by lulling you into a false sense of security with a few bars of synth pads, sto styl tou Vangelis, but this merely sets the tone for the heavy guitar-based, djenty riffage, and the no-compromise vocals quickly follow. There is more traditional melodic vocalisation to take the edge off. Yes, we’re only one track in and, as promised, we’ve already had brutal, ambient, cinematic elements, and by the time we get to Parasite there have been numerous, if somewhat fleeting, examples of cinematic music. In fact, I hear echoes of John Murphy’s In a Heartbeat (the 28 Days Later soundtrack) on more than one song, but blink and you might miss it.
It is clear that the songs are linked together with ambient passages, which add respite from the relentless hard-edge and add further still to the dynamics of the overall sound, and, in many ways, I find them some of the most inventive aspects of the entire album. I’m sure these segues should lead you into seeing the entire album as a single narrative. A bit like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (heh heh!).
The mix is, for the most part, dense and full-on. While the instrumentation is often condensed into a concentrated bombardment of distorted sound, there are times where the dynamics are broader. There’s no denying, though, Violence starts with a blisteringly awesome riff and the (let’s call this bit “screaming”) screaming vocals are the hand to the riff’s glove. And if you’re wondering what this song is about, the lyrics are on the YouTube page. We’re given some contrast and more respite from the intensity of the growling with more conventional singing during the bars where the aggressive guitar riffing is dialled back, and in the lower-energy, almost ballad-like songs The Hands of Time and Still Water (which is where it all sort of calms down a bit and is one of my favourite tracks). A Good Death brings the album to a close with a true Lie-Back-In-A-Beanbag song with epic properties, despite some potentially microtonal guitar picking. Yes, beyond any initial impressions, there is resigned sensitivity of approach to conveying the thematic message of the album.
The guitars and bass follow a similar route on the majority of the songs, the former breaking out periodically into melodic solos. These solos serve the songs and, again, provide respite from the (sometimes) relentless growling vocal lines. Much easier to listen to than the increasingly prevalent and soulless math-rock guitar featuring “look at how clever I am” overcomplex arpeggio-crunching. Too many so-called progressive metal bands inflict this on us. I blame YouTube. Where was I? Oh yeah… sometimes, as I listened while gathering my thoughts for the review, I would pause the music and, not going to lie, it was a welcome breather!
But then, if you cycle up a hill and get out of breath, that doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy cycling, does it?
So, is this a new genre? Brutal Industrial Cinematic Ambience-laced Metal? Well, I believe it does fulfil its own brief and shrugs off any accusations of PR hyperbole. Is it Industrial? Meh – to be honest, I neither know nor… Is it prog? Ha-ha – Don’t be silly! You know me, I have a pretty loose interpretation of The Progressive Aspect’s mission statement, “to find new and innovative music in all its guises”. Does this fit both the new and innovative categories? As always, this is debatable. But is it worth going over to Bandcamp and giving it a go? Absolutely.
01. Sick (5:05)
02. The Weight (4:36)
03. Violence (4:21)
04. The Hands of Time (4:16)
05. Towards the End (4:53)
06. Parasite (4:43)
07. My Own Mortality (6:25)
08. Still Water (5:35)
09. Messages From the Deep (7:39)
10. A Good Death (5:41)
Total Time – 51:14
Benjamin Blank – Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drums Programming, Synths
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 29th November 2022