We last came across JP Anderson in these pages covering his last album REFrame, in which he made the jump from an unsigned, underground artist to a signed artist with an apparently ever-growing fanbase.
This album was seemingly announced an age ago, something that keeps happening in these internet days – nowadays, you can find out the name or release date of an awaited album in an instant, and indeed you can find out said information from the horse’s mouth – no longer do you need to wait for the music press to catch on before you find out. Part of the democratization of the music industry, perhaps? Once we find artists now, it is a damned sight harder for them to lose us – and indeed, us to lose them.
So, trade-off being that we have to wait longer for the new material. But hey, it’s got here eventually. The album is split into three distinct sections, each comprising one (very) short intro/segue and three tracks – so making for an album just thirty-seven minutes long, which does feel a little short, particularly as it simply flies past.
Yep, JP seems pissed. At everything. Life, other people, oh, and bike thieves (of which more in a moment). Part One (The Struggle) all kicks off with Hero In Mr Sholensk , which sonically isn’t a million miles from REFrame opener Demons – particularly in that it’s tempo is somewhere attempting warp speed for much of it, it’s stuffed full of melodies too (somehow), and seems to be all about making a point of taking life with both hands and getting on with it.
Guns takes these ideas and runs with them, even adding verging-on-the-edge-of-cheesy classic rock guitar histrionics – a new influence for even him! The Struggle itself slows things down a little, but only in a relative sense, keeping an impressively clear thematic link with the previous tracks but almost tweaking ideas as they go along – and this is the first RJ track I can recall to include guitar solos along with the blastbeats.
Talking of blastbeats, actually – Part Two (Ghetto Blasphemer) is perhaps the most keenly awaited section of the entire album. JP had been musing over linking the worlds of Hip-Hop and Black Metal on songs in the run-up to the release, but I’m not sure any fans really took the musings that seriously. Well, until they heard the album. True to his word, Black comes rumbling over the horizon on some squelching beats, before the wall of blastbeats and black metal riffs destroy everything in their path, and the two manage to be successfully entwined for the entire song. As one refrain puts it, “this is the sound that should not be“. No shit!
Not a single heartbeat seperates this and following track Ghetto Blasphemer, which again begins with hip-hop beats, but keeps them going, underneath an astonishing torrent of symphonic black metal. Really, this is the fusion of Dimmu Borgir and the likes of Dr Dre, two things I never thought I’d hear in the same song, and in all honesty I really don’t think I will again! While it’s difficult to pick out the lyrics in the chaos, I don’t think there is an agenda here – like so much of this artist’s output, it all seems to be done because he can, and because he loves the music that inspired him. So obviously, chucking it all in the pot is the way forward, and unlike many artists, just about anything he does seems to work…
The Collection initially seems to be straying a long way from the plan, being sparse beats and spooky synths, with SumGrrrl singing over the top. But the metal isn’t far away, but only really in spirit – this track is far more melodic but helps to act as a breather for the near-non-stop sprint through so far.
Of course, change isn’t far away. Part Three (This Death Is Where You Get Life) begins with the punk-as-fuck carnage of Holgate, which appears to be, at least to start with, about getting about town on your bike, and raging at those drivers who seem not to pay any attention to cyclists. Or is it all a metaphor? Either way, is this perhaps a sign of a not-hitherto-seen environmental sensibility to RJ? Ah fuck it, who cares? This crazy industrial-meets-punk-sneer-meets-damned-fucking-good-fun is just the kind of thing we should be hearing from the likes of MSI but it appears to have deserted them. The good natured fun doesn’t get much further, though: JP wants blood. Some fuckers have stolen his bike, as Death of a Bike Thief details in delicious detail. And here it all comes together. Industrial, blastbeats, breakbeats, singalong choruses, punk sneering, and out-and-out-rage: and needless to say, it’s fucking fantastic.
There is one last word, though, in Roadside Art, where SumGrrrl takes the lead vocals (JP does the chorus) for once for what is probably the most melodic track on the album, despite still shooting past at breakneck speed – and all ending with the ring of a bicycle bell, suggesting perhaps that there was a happy ending after all.
And that’s it. While it all feels a teeny bit shorter than it perhaps should be, it’s only a minor complaint. This is a concept album that works, which is an achievement in itself, but in addition each track works perfectly fine on it’s own, shorn of the concept – a testament to how great the songs themselves are. This is, bizarrely, where pop meets metal and industrial, perhaps, and should/could be the next thing to get “the kids” into. Actually, on second thoughts, he’s too good for them. And maybe he’s too good for an ever-fickle press, too – his cavalier mashing up of umpteen different genres and moulding them into shapes and sounds others have barely ever considered might well annoy the purists. But if they don’t like it, and are unwilling to look further, they are missing an absolute joy.