Sound — 4
Powerman 5000 has always had a high bar to reach. With frontman Spider One being the younger brother to influential rocker and horror movie producer Rob Zombie, there's already a tough discrepancy for Spider One's band to face - but at least it's not as bad as if he and Rob Zombie shared a band, like the perpetually bickering Gallagher brothers of Oasis. With their most commercially successful album, "Tonight the Stars Revolt!," coming out in 1999, and getting several of their songs (most notably, "Bombshell" and "When Worlds Collide") included in several movie and video game soundtracks, PM5K would survive but not thrive in the alt-metal scene for the next 15 years, with more notable alt-metal bands like Disturbed, Korn, and Slipknot taking the limelight at the turn of the millennium. Nonetheless, PM5K would continue to put out new albums at a steady pace throughout the 21st century, and have now released their seventh original studio album, "Builders of the Future."
By and large, "Builders of the Future" is rife with the formula Powerman 5000 has been utilizing for the majority of their musical life, so don't be surprised when the first few tracks sound strikingly similar to compositions on their previous albums - from the elementary guitar riffs to the synth-laced hooks, as well as a penchant - nay, obsession - for stuttering effects. Of the number of songs that uninspiringly echo the "been-there-done-that" method of PM5K, the single off of the album, "How to Be a Human," stands out above the rest, touting a nice amount of synth presence throughout the song as well as the best guitar solo on the album (as they say, put your best foot first). "I Want to Kill You" also manages to be a considerable diamond in the rough, starting out fundamentally as an acoustic slow jam, but then properly progressing into a full ensemble of instruments and sounds that are layered impressively.
While the trait of recycled composition ends up being enough of a curse for the album, things end up getting worse. Though PM5K have been utilizing a metal/electronic music fusion in their songs for quite some time (though more metal than electronic, of course), in "Builders of the Future," they attempt a fusion of metal and dance music that tries following in a similar vein as recent electronic rock success stories, such as The Glitch Mob, The Bloody Beetroots, and even Celldweller's recent releases - but with filler synthesizer presets in "Builders of the Future," "I Can't F--king Hear You" and "Evil World," as well as a couple of outdated dubstep-inspired breakdowns, PM5K's attempt at a fresh, trendy sound doesn't give them a sonic Renaissance, and ends up being in vain. "I Can't F--king Hear You" and "Evil World" also manage to jump the shark with PM5K's incline for stuttering effects, utilizing it to the point of universal overkill.
Lyrics — 4
Not much has changed in the way Powerman 5000 handles their lyrics, either, and though many of those that were PM5K fans during their prime are well into adulthood now, PM5K is still writing lyrics that would appeal to teenagers who have yet to acquire a more discerning taste and enjoy hokey anthems about destruction and uprising. From the album title and the song titles alone, PM5K tries to bring forth a general concept of critical social commentary, but with hackneyed angst in songs like "Builders of the Future," brazen, sophomoric hooks in songs like "I Want to Kill You" and "I Can't F--king Hear You," and elementary rhymes throughout the album, it's hard to take any of their lyrics with an ounce of seriousness.
Overall Impression — 4
Though Powerman 5000 can boast of a good amount of their music living forever in multiple video games and movies, it seems that PM5K is either aiming to continue generating music that's destined for movie and video game soundtracks, or is stuck in a self-fulfilling cycle of only being able to compose such music. That's what "Builders of the Future" brings to the table: hollow aural adrenaline that's accessible enough to be included in video games that involve street racing or shooting zombies. With that being said, there is indeed a place for this music, but outside of the realm of superficial entertainment, the compositions in "Builders of the Future" hold little integrity.