Sound — 9
Pendulum are a band who divide floors into pits and raves, create massive wave of jumpers and devastating walls of deaths. By bringing together the best parts of In Silico and Hold Your Colour whilst adding a plethora of new and exciting themes, Rob Swire and co have proved that their brand of dance-floor mayhem is as at home in the dark of a nightclub blaring out alongside Pop and Dubstep tunes hidden behind a DJ booth as they are towards the top end of festival bills in Donnington, Reading and Knebworth. This album is a huge unapologetic expression of that versatility for (usually) better and (occasionally) worse. 01. Genesis - This intro track does an exceedingly good job of opening the album, a typically synth based take on the sort of stringed orchestral intro that gets many Rock and Metal albums off to a flyer. The dark melodic lines, strict rhythms and constantly building dynamics sets the listener up for a truly epic ride. 8/10 02. Salt in the Wounds - This track is an immense disappointment in many ways. In many ways it resembles Slam from 'Hold Your Colour. However the song succeeds only in being a pale imitation of Slam, with nowhere near the same impact at any stage from the intro through the various key changes. It just seems to be tired in comparison, which is something that the album opener should not be. An immense let down after Genesis. 5/10 03. Watercolour - When I first heard this song I dismissed it as a softer, more mainstream song that was deviating away from the harder edge presented in their first two records, but after only two or three lessons the song presented it's true face. This song is more mainstream than much of Pendulum's material but it is a true sing-along moment, a song with melodic sensitivity, limitless reserves of energy and a crowd uniting chorus. By no means a perfect song, but the song with the biggest heart on this album by a million miles. 8/10 04. Set Me on Fire - Pendulum's first trip into the seedy and somewhat bizarre world of dubstep. When I heard that a dubstep track was featuring on this record I started to get very worried about the record as a whole, but what was achieved here was turning the often angular and inaccessible dirty drops and beats into genuine song full of melody and genuine melodic shifts which lend even more impact to the massive drum beats keyboards that this song and dubstep pieces on the whole have in their armoury. Another symbol of Rob Swire's song-writing versatility. 8/10 05. Crush - A hugely upbeat song designed to present a good face to the band on the fields of Knebworth and Donnington, this song is the most basic Rock song on this record and is immensely enjoyable for it. However, like Salt in the Wounds, it bears far too many similarities to a previous track. In this case the track is Granite from 'in Silico', so much so that the combination of the two track when they went on late in the day at Sonisphere was barely noticed by the crowd. Overall I feel the track lacks musicality, but is more than effective when raving, moshing or getting pumped up and for that it must be commended. The acoustic guitar outro however is a nice touch which does lift the track. 7/10 06. Under the Waves - A slow burner of a track that is the album's second foray into the epic and meaningful, a wonderful, subtle mix of keyboard and lead guitar creates a more laid back and subtle track which is a nice change of pace, pleasantly reminiscent of 900 Miles on 'Silico'. There is not much to say about in on the whole but it certainly deserves it's place on the record. 6.5/10 07. Immunize - This track is a complete contrast from the tracks that immediately precede it, it is dark and dirty, heavy, dissonant and an immense amount of fun. The influence of the Prodigy's Liam Howett is very clear on this track, from the angular tri-tone melodies, to the keyboard tones and heavily effect-laden guitars, and it is certainly the heaviest and most dangerous track on the record. A true dance-floor destroyer 7.5/10 08. The Island pt.1 Dawn - This song departs from the ideas presented thus far on the record and presents a song with a very basic house style, and simple melodic passages. Some sectors of the bands fan base are put off by the track but it sucks you in with it's delightful change of pace, and simple, endearing honesty. For a song that is essential supposed to be somewhat downbeat lyrically (more on that later) it is remarkably uplifting and a very bouncy dance track, but all is not what it seems. 8/10 09. The Island Pt.2 Dusk - All utterly changed, the intro is the same as before that, but then everything is utterly changed, the sympathetically applied and melodically derived chord sequences are dispatched in favour of a bizarre and at points scarcely believable keyboard solo, featuring sounds that one is not used to hearing outside of the most underground of Euro Trance clubs and most progressive Dream Theater records, and some truly epic drops. A truly unexpected gem. 9/10 10. Comprachios - A Short snappy wild ride which goes from half time break-beats, industrial punk and true aggression. This song is a driven by it variations and dense NIN style guitar parts. The song is one of the more interesting tracks on the record in terms of general musicality and with the energy created by the preceding tracks this song becomes a truly frenzied affair of head-banging and raving, even if the name doesn't seem to mean anything. 8/10 11. The Vulture - Ben 'The Verse' Mount in many ways quite an annoying man when you see him live or on YouTube, he talks over many interesting musical passages, is certainly not black enough to pull off the vocals in Tarantula properly and can make it difficult to enjoy this band in the way you want to with his constant orders to expend more of your precious, fleeting and precocious energy doing what he tells you to do. However his first actual Pendulum song is an absolute blast, as much a reserved mature Hadouken track as it is a solid rock song, it is certainly a crowd raiser, irrepressibly bouncy, rebellious and noisy in a controlled way. This song is a good way to end the middle part of the album and start the crescendo to the end of the record. 7.5/10 12. Witchcraft - The big single off the record, in many ways written and apparently designed to replace the barnstorming, game-changing Propane Nightmares, and while it is a more than passable track in it's own right, once again with this record, revisiting a previous theme musically seems to dilute the result a little. The song is once more a blast to lose control to, and like most Pendulum tracks is as conducive to a rave as it is to a filthy muddy wall of death in the open air. 7/10 13. Self vs Self - Now this track is something else. It essentially a Drum 'n Bass In Flames track in all but the added vocals of Swire, and as far as I am concerned (erecting flameshield now) the best In Flames song in almost 10 years and easily the best track on this album. There has always been a threat of something a bit more serious about Pendulum songs and this is it, a genuine Swedish Melo-death track with a ravers heart, a wonderful army of riffs and patterns, great dynamic and melodic shifts and just an obscene amount of impact on so many levels that it is difficult to understand why this absolutely stunning crossover has not been attempted sooner. This is the stand-out song of the album and as far as I am concerned of Pendulum's career as of the release of this album. 10/10 14. The Fountain - While not quite scaling the immense heights of the previous track this song is yet another song that has great depth, fantastic melodic and dynamic variations. This is the albums grower, it did not interest me for some time but when I understood it I pretty much instantly fell in love with it. The song goes to fantastic places as a song, and has energy without being the big raving track like Immunize, Crush or Witchcraft, and shows growth in the band, their use of real instruments and their musicality. Has an outro that would be truly outstanding live, the best ending to a song on the album besides perhaps Crush. 9/10 15. Encoder - There are two things to say about this song right off of the bat. Firstly, this song is absolutely epic. Secondly, it is not quite as epic as The Tempest or the version of Hold your Colour played on their last live record. This song does not necessarily suffer from that fact. This song is more of a story teller, it is slow and groovy like The Tempest, but somewhat more deliberate and melodically big with a much more variable and subtle texture with the guitars and keyboards. The song doesn't have the drum n bass nature of the rest of this album or any of it's comparable tracks, but is somewhat better for it. There are references to being 'immersed in water' throughout this album, and Encoder finally ties it all together with a person getting lost within the waters at the end of the story, a fittingly contemplative end to an album that went this way and that. 9/10
Lyrics — 7
This is very definitely the albums weak spot. Again I shall do a song by song break-down and discuss how I see each track in turn 01. Genesis - N/A 02. Salt in the Wound - N/A 03. Watercolour - The lyrics are not very good, that is the first thing to say. They are rather simplistic, but still somehow manage to make the voice seem very weak willed and very strong willed all during the same song without providing any emotional development. This is the first track on the album with vocals and it is immediately clear that Rob Swire is growing from strength as a singer, which does help when it comes to the intended power of 'feed the fire, break your vision, throw your fist up, come with me' 6.5/10 04. Set Me On Fire - Swire doesn't feature on this track, there is intelligent use of a Cocoa Tea sample and a digitally created female vocal, however the two vocal parts are completely independent of each other and together do not make a great deal of sense, even though they do both sound great melodically, especially the 'verse' 6/10 05. Crush - These are very much the lyrics of a Rock vocalist trying very hard to tell a very exciting story, Swire's vocal is even stronger on here than on Watercolour. The lyrics are very much (as with the song in general) a much 'Rock-ier' more upbeat variation on Granite, these lyrics are just better than above average but the strength of the vocal performance lifts the whole song 7/10 06. Under the Waves - These lyrics are somewhat deeper than what the album has offered so far, they tell a story of a person who is waiting to release themselves from the torrent overwhelming them to reach a goal, there is development within the vocal range and dynamics, sometimes he sings, sometimes he pushes and sometimes he almost whispers, probably Swire's best solo performance on the album. 8/10 07. Immunize - Very simple, basically one line. In the grand scheme of things it is not very important, more designed to be an electronically doctored, somewhat shouty rhythm designed to add to the energy of the track, and it does that well, delivered convincingly by Swire, but one cannot help but think that you would wish the vocalist to be Keith Flint. 6/10 08. The Island pt.1 Dawn - The delivery for this song is very considered by Swire, only on certain notes does he push himself, instead he appears to sit back and try use melodic and dynamic sensitivity to try and convey a meaning beyond the very nice but in many ways simplistically narrative lyrics that the song possess, very nice on all counts though. 7/10 09. The Island pt.2 Dusk - Just uses the one line, but the nature of the music around it does change the sound and apparent intended meaning of 'I will take you in' immensely. The phrase is used as a melodic tool as much as a lyrical feature, and it does add another level to the track as it enters it's second half. 6.5/10 10. Comprachios - This is one of the albums angry tracks, focused on another person negatively, it is probably the most articulate of the albums track. Much of that nature is hidden beneath the strange use of melody and effects within the verses, but within themselves they add an interesting new dimension to Rob Swire's voice. 7.5/10 11. The Vulture - The album's other angry track, this one much more rebellious. The Verse is clear, he delivers all of the lyrics as if he genuinely means them. Only Two verse and a chorus with another line and no real variation, from Ben or otherwise, but equally a more than commendable first record appearance with the band with whom he is now permanently associated. 7/10 12. Witchcraft - I do not like the lyrics at all, there are some good lines hidden in the song but they don't make any sense together, and that intro requires more improvement from Swire before it sounds right. The rest of the song is OK in terms of it strength of delivery but again the lyrics, simply put, are not that good in the slightest, a real let dwon for the song and the album on the whole. 5/10 13. Self vs Self - Rob Swire's mostly introverted, sometimes self effacing lyrical style appears to mesh perfectly with the writing style of the In Flames of today, that is not something that could be said if this compilation had happened before the time of Come Clarity. However what is particularly surprising about this song is how much Anders performs with a subtle throwback to his old style of big screams, and how well that blends with the chorus-addled tones of Swire, the song is built on their vocal interplay as much as it is built on the integration of styles evident in the guitars and drums. Once again the lyrics aren't anything special which does hurt the mark somewhat, but a definite improvement on Witchcraft in my opinion 7.5/10 14. The Fountain - Steve Wilson is the best vocalist and lyricist on this record, as any Porcupine Tree fan will already know. There is more depth on this track than any other, the performance is not backed by the army of effects that Swire still requires to keep himself on the straight and narrow vocally and is stronger in every department. His spoken sections have an emotional impact and the lyrics are truly introspective and contemplative, appropriately as if the voice of the album begins to get immersed within itself. 8/10 15. Encoder - That theme of becoming increasingly inward and insular comes to a climax in this epic track. Swire delivers his definitive vocal performance on this track, it has the key changes, some surprisingly effective lyrics and a much thicker stronger timbre to his voice. The ending of 'for everything we could have bee, well at least we took the ride, there's no relief in bitterness, we might as well let it die' is a line that on the last record would have sounded whiney and a bit pathetic, but now has the potential to sounds truly tragic, the sound of a man and an idea winding down with the record. It is those lyrics that help separate this track from Hold Your Colour and The Tempest, which both bow out on a breakbeat with defiant statements asking us to hold your colours with them as they set themselves on fire. 8/10
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, I would say this album is greater than the sum of it's parts. In parts it shouts a lot, is loud and raving and has crazy parties every night of the week, but on the other hand there is a real heart, maturity and thought process in this record that is missing from other records of this type. There are let downs, poor self-imitations and things that quite simply do not make sense with each other, but there is also an immense bravery. The bravery that means the stand-out tracks from the album are rooted in Melodic Death Metal and Progresive Acid House. To invite such massive names as In Flames, The Prodigy and Porcupine Tree to be part of your album, is a sign of a strengthening identity, of a desire to break out of the nightclubs and bring their own brand of Dance and electronic music, Heavy Metal and Alternative Rock to the world stage, and to be accepted as not just a jack of all trades trend follower, but as one of the leading lights in all modern music.