Genghis Tron’s new sound is an indomitable force of nature.
When Genghis Tron decided to go on hiatus, they announced the break on their MySpace page. It’s been a while…
Genghis Tron announced their “intermission” in 2010 after touring their second album Board up the House. Their first two records sent ripples through the metal scene and the hip underground alike thanks to the simple gimmick of being an extreme metal band whose sound was primarily derived from keyboards and programmed synthesizers. This wasn’t industrial metal. It was metal….done with keyboards. The sound got labelled as cybergrind. This unmatched formula allowed them to share the stage with bombastic live acts like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Kylessa, Baroness, and Converge. The relationship forged with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou would lead to him producing all three of their full-length LPs. Aside from the synth aspect, the essence of their sound was concocted by the mix of programmed drum machine thrash metal blast beats and the punishing, almost black metal vocal delivery of singer Mookie Singerman.
The hiatus between albums lasted 13 years and one day. Now, in the third decade of this century, Genghis Tron is back with a killer new record that takes the band from being a curiosity to a fully realized force of monumental electronic hard rock. Since their previous release, the band has parted ways with two members: vocalist Mookie Singerman and the drum machine. Keyboardist and programmer Michael Sochynsky and guitarist Hamilton Jordan remain, joined by the more subtle and integrated Tony Wolski on vocals and Canadian drumming wunderkind Nick Yacyshyn. The incendiary tub-smacker is the rabid pulse behind hardcore darlings Baptists and the volcanic magnitude behind post-metal supergroup Sumac. Yacyshyn brings both ferocity and innovation to whatever project he touches giving him the well-deserved honor of being name-checked as Dave Grohl’s favorite young drummer. On Dream Weapon, he transforms the synth metal band into a fully organic 10-tentacled sea beast.
Immediately, the record shows a more evolved and cleverly layered sound. Genghis Tron are no longer just trying to recreate hardcore and grindcore with synths but has coalesced around a more elevated palate. Keyboardist Michael Sochynsky in discussing the new record promised there would be no “Nintendocore” or blast beats instead opting for a “more meditative, hypnotic, and maybe psychedelic” sound. However, the most affecting change has to be the switch to live drums. The songs are no longer constrained by the binary formula of searing rips intercut by halting halftime breakdowns. That method is effective but will only get you so far. Now they live and breathe, expanding and contracting around the steady pulse of programmed arpeggiators. Genghis Tron have embraced a nuanced, interwoven sound similar to Nine Inch Nails at their mid-career textural peak. The merging of bronchiole synthesizers, throaty mid-soaked guitars, propulsive emergent drums with roundness and depth, and lofty avian vocals floating on this complex network of undercurrents.
‘Exit Perfect Mind’ lays the groundwork for this meditative journey. Curious, modern metropolis keys cycle and recharge as the wash of a static wave overtakes the intro track. Yacyshyn makes his entrance on ‘Pyrocene’ the band’s third single put out in the lead up to the album’s release. His steadily syncopated drums cinched in lockstep with the persistent bass synth draws strong parallels to ’92-’94 NIN, particularly cult favourite ‘Burn’. Sochynsky’s vocal plays an equal role to the other instruments, no more and no less. His serenely-processed falsetto materializes from within the industrial rock groove, pushing into an understated chorus of blooming electronics. Yacyshyn is given plenty of room to open up but never outplays the beat. He pushes and pulls, explores the kit, but all fully in service to the almighty groove.
The title track (which was our first glimpse into their post-hiatus sound) has Yacyshyn at a fevered gallop juxtaposed by Sochynsky’s cool and collected croon. The guitars and drums eventually settle on a steady-rolling groove hitting a trance-inducing stupor. Once again the enormity and natural depth of field created by the supremely recorded live drums gives the band the weight of an avalanche rather than simply the focused punch of a battering ram. The band has incorporated a scintillating post-rock element in the realm of Isis or Russian Circles that has given their music a whole new dimension. The track climaxes into a force of nature rather than an emotional outburst.
‘Alone in the Heart of the Light’ blurs from queazy to easy and back again with just a touch of Nintendocore coming out as you float through some hybrid of Blade Runner 2049 and Tron. The record’s ten-minute opus ‘Ritual Circle’ is a layered slow-burn with the fluid synths acting as a living painting while Yacyshyn’s drums lead the journey through, bobbing and weaving, twisting and turning. The guitars permeate to create a pummelling five-minute mark peak that would be ample enough to close out the track on its own but the band yet has more in store. The synths swirl and crackle as Yacyshyn goes on the hunt again, this time getting lost in ethereal oblivion. ‘Single Black Point’ sits on sharp, oddly-timed drumming in the vein of Battles freight train John Stainer. Synth waves come and go like spirits materializing and vanishing. Once again, the character added by Yacyshyn is priceless. ‘Great Mother’ wraps the album in expectedly epic fashion. The group again harnesses their post-metal influences to build crushing walls of sound. Raising a tsunami, crashing it on the shore, and drawing back to crash again.
Genghis Tron’s Dream Weapon is an indomitable force of nature, expressing itself through electronics. The band’s return is triumphant, rejuvenating, and levels them up to an entirely new realm. The love of NIN-style electronic rock and instrumental post-metal collide with extremely impressive results. The new members clearly bolster the band’s talents, particularly Yacyshyn’s incredible visionary drum performance. However, it’s the intuitive and cohesive manner in which the band moves as one that makes this one of the best albums to come out in some time.