by Preston Radke
World Eater, the latest album by British electronic outfit Blanck Mass, is an inter-galactic roller coaster ride. The brain child of Benjamin Power, Blanck Mass arrives slowly on their third studio album building to something seemingly dark, terrible, and beautiful in almost every song. World Eater is by far the most ambitious, mature release from Blanck Mass. The work incorporates the power and majesty of the self-titled debut with the accessibility and awareness of 2015’s Dumb Flesh.
Accessibility: Power Remains Nice, Yet Firm
Benjamin Power has often been labeled “the nice guy of the electronic movement.” Through his work with Blanck Mass, Fuck Buttons, and his various film scores, Power has written raw, dark music that checks every box of electronica while still being accessible to the novices. World Eater layers many traditional instrumental and melodic patterns beneath thunderous drums, cacophonous guitars, and cosmic synths. The opening track, “John Doe’s Carnival of Error”, takes the hand of the listener through the use of a continual keyboard-induced melodic trope atop an almost pastoral-sounding synth part. However, at approximately the 2-minute mark, that hand gets ripped off and shredded when the piece suddenly acquires a rare yet unrecognizable vocal part, paired with a vicious beat. The rest of the opener, while sounding very electronic, takes on a more industrial aesthetic; the synthesizers and electronic drums sound more like factory machines rhythmically churning out iron and steel for some intergalactic warship. The fifth track, “Silent Treatment”, also lulls the listener into an unsteady comfort through the use of traditional, familiar sounding beats and melodies only to slowly, methodically crush the listener under murderous drum parts and indiscernible vocals.
Meaning: A 7-part Concept Album
With most electronic and noise records there is a concept and message from the piece. In almost all cases the concept or message is more assumed and hinted at, allowing the listener much more freedom to imagine and fill in the blanks with their mind. World Eater differs in the sense that all of the tracks almost feel like concept works in-and-of themselves. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it feels like they are all linked, but there’s no obvious, unifying trope or story arc to guide the audience from piece to piece, showing the listener what they’re supposed to be getting out of the experience. Instead, World Eater makes the listener think and decipher what Power is trying to imply. Tracks 1, 2, and 7 all have whispers of industrial warfare and social uprising while tracks 3 and 4 paint the picture of a dystopian superwar between multiple parties on some ravaged, crippled planet. Power pushes these implications and assumptions through his very heavy and slightly left-of-center drum fusions as well as his sneaky synth work. In many cases, Power’s synthesizers put the listener in a mood, usually a comfortable, yet measured one, while slowly increasing dissonance and chaos until the listener is totally overwhelmed and conquered by the avalanche of noise.
Impact: This Could Be a Landmark
World Eater just might be one of those legendary noise/industrial/electronic albums that the next Aphex Twin cites as a tremendous influence. The record certainly doesn’t feature any new or overly innovative instrumental parts, and the themes are old as time, but the record blends the post rock of Mogwai with the industriality of early-2000’s Nine Inch Nails with the atmosphere and luster of ambient legends such as the Orb and Squarepusher. The experience of Blanck Mass implies that Power is very familiar with all genres of music, blending many of them together to form his terrible beast. “Rhesus Negative”, the second track on the album, features a dance-ready beat, ambient pacing, industrial synths, all beneath an outline of a chorus that we think we could know. That outline of a chorus manifests itself into rhythmic instrumentals congruent with a typical chorus section of an alternative, or even a pop song. However, there aren’t any actual lyrics, just instruments backing a front with no leader. Other pieces carefully layer genre-specific motifs beneath somewhat familiar marquees and structures.
In the World Eater Family:
Oneohtrix Point Never: Garden of Delete
The Field: The Follower
Caribou: Our Love
All Images From: BandCamp
Concerning accessibility, Power almost leaves nothing to be desired. Intruders to the electronic noise movement will feel somewhat comfortable with his supposed traditional song structures and instrumentals. Additionally, die-hard electronicans can admire just how far Power digs into his musical toolbox to produce this piece.
The meaning of this record is fluid. I listened to this record at least 8 times before I limped to my conclusions on concept. As stated above, Power makes you think; he makes you question yourself, society, and frankly, music as a whole. For that, the album will gain a few points where it lost some in not having an easily discerned message.
The impact of this record is ongoing. Many other artists have tried to do what Power does in World Eater. Sadly, many inadvertently strayed to one genre and hid while still masquerading other styles. World Eater raids countless musical genres, takes what he wants, and builds his own genre and crushes all that stand in his way.