By Wesley Mueller
I, Omega is the first full length album from Portland, Oregon artist [product]. It is being released through COP International and will be available worldwide on October 19,2012.
The album starts strong with the track “The Last Battle”, a song that begins with vaguely Blade Runner-esque swells before moving into the dance driven aggressive beat that [product] uses so heavily. As the synth line comes in you immediately know that you’re listening to a [product] song; the lead moves quickly but with purpose, and manages to be both upbeat and brooding at the same time. The song follows what will become an album long theme of both philosophical and post-apocalyptic imagery. The vocals are distorted and effected heavily, but with Michael Kurt’s unique voice it is not hard to make out the words he is assaulting you with.
After “The Last Battle” we get “Lungs Full of Water,” a track that was on the I Hope You Choke EP released digitally in November 2011. Lyrics about drowning surge over swelling synths and you get the distinct impression that these oceanic overtures may have inspired the theme of the song.
From here we move to “Brackish”, another track from I Hope You Choke. This is the first song on the album where you can really hear hardcore influences – cymbal heavy breakdowns and slow, mechanical snares. This song stands out as less overtly danceable than other tracks on the album, a refreshing break from the repetitive four-on-the-floor drumbeats that plague the genre.
“Brackish” gives way to “Greed (The Second Skin)”, a new song from the artist, and a song that continues the post-apocalyptic theme started in “The Last Battle”; lyrically it touches on the construct of economy and money, and the worthlessness of it in a post-capitalist hellscape. One thing that strikes me about “Greed” is that before the verse comes in, the swelling pad and fast moving synth line dotting away reminds me a lot of nolongerhuman’s first album. However, once the verse comes in, so do those tell-tale synth lines that [product] is so good at making his own.
Next up is “Imminent”, another I Hope You Choke track. This track is much slower than we’re used to getting from [product] - the kick line pulls us along at around 110 beats per minute - but it never feel like it drags; instead, we get an emotional track about innocence in the face of false accusations. About half way through the song, we lose the synths, the beats, and the bass, and are treated to a flowing peaceful pad that pulls us into the next chorus, “You’re Innocent/They Don’t Believe You”.
“The Decline” changes pace and brings us back up to that dancing four-on-the-floor beat that we all know so well. While the song is, overall, constructed and layered very well there is a synth line that runs when there is a break in the vocals that makes me feel like I should be watching an early ‘90s martial arts movie based on a video game. Lyrically this song may give us a view of how the rest of this album’s world went so wrong, the vocals yelling warnings about bombs dropping and a city being destroyed by war.
From “The Decline” we move into “Death (A New Beginning)”. The opening synth line makes me think of Suicide Commando, or maybe Dioxyde, neither of which is a bad thing. The lyrics of this song have a cadence that surprised me, and the theme seems to be the immediate aftermath of the bombings from “The Decline.” I don’t know if [product] intended for this to be a concept album but so far, with the exception of the I Hope You Choke songs, it certainly sounds like one.
“Everything Falls Apart”, the last I Hope You Choke track on this album, comes in immediately hammering away with kick drums, off-beat bass lines and moving arpeggios. Underneath high sweeping synth lines, [product] sings a song of club love, dark and destructive, but sung with less emotion than you would expect given the content of the song. Maybe it’s just harder to aggressively scream lyrics of a love song.
At this time in the album we have reached the title track, “I, Omega”, and it starts off strong with a clip about the uselessness of consumerism. A pounding beat dances away under a dark synth line while [product] implores you to take back your life from the materialism you have built up around you and make yourself happy. A poignant song, “I, Omega” is clearly tinged with [product]’s views on existentialism and may be reflecting his Straight Edge lifestyle.
“An Era of Agony” moves away from the four-on-the-floor beats again, and you can feel the anger in the synth lines before you hear a word of the lyrics. Anti-religious overtones mark the lyrics of this track as [product] demands that the faithful look into the abyss and realize that their God is missing.
The next song, “Provoke (9mm Intervention)”, is a song about school shootings, which is I guess something he wanted to write about? It’s fun musically, but lyrically I want something more. If I want mindless EBM about killing people I’ll go pick up a Dawn of Ashes album.
The final song on the album is “Blind Indifference.” The song is instrumental, mildly ambient, and brings the album to a surprisingly soft close. I think that this could have been a good intermission track, and that [product] could have closed on a stronger, more emotional note, but musically, it is a fun piece to just sit back and listen to.
I, Omega is a very good album, especially for a debut. [product] shows that he is an expert at building layers in his music, both musically and lyrically; his synth lines are distinct and original, and while you may hear the occasional homage, I think that in an electronic genre this is largely unavoidable. Most of his songs have lyrics that have to be listened to or read multiple times to decipher the full meaning; what on its surface may appear to be a song about dropping bombs or drowning may actually be a song about inner turmoil or a statement on the capitalistic society that, ironically, even the most anti-capitalist musician must try to thrive in.
Disclosure Statement: I’ve been a [product] fan for a number of years now, toured with [product], and am good friends with Michael Kurt, the man behind the music. While I have attempted to write this review as objectively as possible I think that any piece of non-fiction writing, including album reviews, will necessarily show at least some bias from the author and I hope you will forgive me if any of this bias has seeped in.