Friday, December 8, 2017

Cyborg Asylum - Never Finished, Only Abandoned (2017)

Written by William Elgin, posted by blog admin

Cyborg Asylum is a duo whose first full length album Never Finished, Only Abandoned is one of the most compelling post-industrial alt rock releases to come out in many years. The tandem of David Varga and John Tumminia have written and recorded twelve songs that embrace vivid atmospherics while presenting a master class in how to incorporate melody and introspective textures into a style not typically associated with such qualities. Never Finished, Only Abandoned certainly has some darker moments spanning across the album’s dozen songs, but the flexibility Varga and Tumminia demonstrate as songwriters far outstrips anything offered up by peers and contemporaries working in the same style. This is a musical and lyrical experience alike; Tumminia’s contributions in this area are intelligent and measured while still fitting the musical landscape in a near ideal way. Never Finished, Only Abandoned is a powerful studio release in every respect and the songs are poised to prove engaging in a live setting as well.

A significant portion of the album is instrumental. The opener “Blitz” serves ample notice that this is an intelligent, albeit aggressive, affair more than willing to couple its swirl of instrumentation with ambient sound effects. The first track featuring Tumminia’s vocals, “Synergy”, introduces listeners to a central element of the duo’s treatment of such elements – rarely are Varga and Tumminia content with producing a straight forward vocal track and, instead, adorn his singing with a variety of post-production effects dovetailing nicely into the musical mood. Phil Jones’ guitar work emerges here for the first time and offers a lot to the song as a whole. “My Metallic Dream” doesn’t come off as dream like at all – unless that dream is a nightmare. The pulsing, low hung thrust of its musical attack engages listeners immediately and doesn’t provide the audience with much in the way of breathing space. This hint of the claustrophobic is a recurrent quality on the album and one of its signature virtues. “War Machine” revisits the tandem’s talent for composing and performing evocative instrumental pieces. The focus present in the earlier songs is even tighter here and one of the chief strengths we find on Never Finished, Only Abandoned is Cyborg Asylum’s persistent avoidance of any wasted motion.

“Weightless” begins with Tumminia’s vocals juxtaposed against a dark sheet of synth sound. There’s fewer post production effects applied to his singing on this song and, as a result, it engages listeners much more readily than the obvious atmospherics investing the earlier performances. The dread at the heart of the song only expands as the track develops and, by the end, we have one of the album’s best songs. “Steampunk Highway” features another great Tumminia vocal, although the lyrical content experiences a drop off in quality from the aforementioned gem. “Ion” brings together the industrial crawl at the center of many Cyborg Asylum tracks with an ethereally tinged melody line and it makes for one of the best instrumentals on the album. The closer “Paradigm Shift” is obviously intent on ending Never Finished, Only Abandoned with an emphatic exclamation point driven deep into listener’s memory thanks to the intensely physical tempo and arrangement. There are a lot of different textures employed during the course of this album, yet it retains an overall unity that few debuts can ever hope to achieve.

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