The Unraveling – Master Drone

Industrial rock/metal has always been a genre mashup that looks great on paper. Both genres are generally high energy, dark and aggressive. Genre practitioners have consistently failed to deliver very many essential musical artifacts though. For me the mechanical nature of industrial beats tends to suck the spontaneous joy out of rock and shackle the technical flash of metal. A few artists have been able to turn these tensions into an engaging musical experience, but more often than not they fall into a chasm of structural dissonance.

The Unraveling is not new to this territory. They started back in 2010 with their full-length “13 Arcane Hymns”. They’re back in 2015, after lead singer Steve Moore’s battle with cancer, with the single “Master Drone” off of their second full-length album, “Tear A Hole In The Collective Vision”.

“Master Drone” is built from lots of good elements. They’ve come up with a tension filled, chugging riff and backed it with whining guitar atmospherics. The drums are an appropriately repetitive, mechanical shuffle. Steve Moore manages a steel-edged rasp that carries both the content and the spirit of the lyrics right down deep into your ear canal. The intensity is definitely there. The riff is strong, if not particularly hummable. The atmospheric whines in the background add a welcome layer of sound, but something is missing.

That tonally ambiguous, tension filled compositional focus is straight out of the industrial metal handbook. But eventually that tension has to lead somewhere, or be repeated enough to become a musical mantra or dirge. It feels like it’s going somewhere, but never gets there. There is a bridge that stretches things out a bit, slowing the riff to a kind of spastic rumble and letting the atmospherics rise to the forefront, but this just ends up breaking the tension without resolving it. It’s like walking away from a fight with your significant other. Most of the tension melts away, but nothing is actually resolved. There’s no catharsis.

What passes for an apex at the end of the track, after 5 minutes of grinding tension, is a generic patch of layered vocals. I hate fade outs, but in this case it would have at least given the track a feeling of eternal existence, as if it penetrates forever into the future, declaring all of us under control of someone or something for all eternity. Instead it culminates in what feels like a meaningless and perfunctory pop.

Repetition and tension are part of industrial music, and not every track has to have some kind of grand crescendo. In this case though the tension very much feels like the introduction to further development. It’s like the mellow intro track on a metal album that goes on way too long and then leads into another song, but the other song never comes. I’m sure some people will find the constant unresolved tension engaging, but I found that it was neither wielded as a weapon or used to lead into something more. It just sort of lies there, occasionally stretching then yelling for thirty seconds and leaving. They should have doubled down or nailed a peak and left some time for a denouement. In the context of an album this song might work, but as a single it just doesn’t.

You can purchase the full album here:

Check out the video for “Move Forward Until You Are Dead” from 13 Arcane Hymns:

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