Industrial and EBM have enjoyed a resurgence of late as vibrant (relative) newcomers like 3teeth and Author & Punisher have breathed new life into the scene. Founding fathers like Al Jourgensen and Godflesh are continuing their creative output with new and old projects alike. Even Skinny Puppy is still touring. Of course, the reality is that electro-industrial never went away, but it has not enjoyed the same success, nor topped the primal sounds and energy of its youth in the early to mid nineties. However, there are new acts that will change this, and Youth Code’s, Commitment to Complications does just that. It is a thrashing, caged animal of an album that sublimely channels the trademark and celebrated sounds of early industrial music at its prime.
Youth Code has emerged only recently from the L.A. music scene, but the duo of Ryan George (machines and instruments) and Sara Taylor (vocals) quickly made a name for themselves in their local underground with a raw combination of industrial synths, dance rhythms, and an abrasive old-school punk influence from George’s days in the hardcore act Carry On. Many singles, constant touring, and the A Place to Stand EP followed, but it is this sophomore effort that will be looked back upon as their breakthrough moment—greatly aided by producer Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly, Fear Factory, etc.), whose touch is very apparent.
Commitment to Complications is industrial in its simplest form, all roaring synths and pounding drum machines. The melody of instrumental opener “(Armed)” seems like a lullaby—calming but intentionally deceiving. The repetition dissolves into a colder beat that grows more threatening until “Transitions” kicks in to pummel with the force of a sledgehammer. Noisy synths are raw and ablating. Drums pound away like an assembly line spiraling out of control. Taylor’s vocals push things beyond mere rage; here, and throughout the album, she puts many so-called “extreme metal” vocalists to shame. In less than five minutes, Youth Code have set the tone of the album, demonstrating their mastery of naked aggression, catchy rhythms, and vocal cadences, all layered over crucial melodies to keep things intact. This opener leaves its mark and is one of the best in recent memory.
The album does well at maintaining this momentum as the title track continues the assault with Ben Falgoust (of Goatwhore and Soylent Green fame) lending his rasps. The followup, “The Dust of Fallen Rome,” emphasizes an excellent refrain—all focused melody and emotion while still retaining all the rawness of an exposed nerve. “Doghead” is by far the standout track of the record, playing on all of the album’s core strengths and rightfully demonstrating the couple’s versatility: an incredibly catchy chorus made all the more memorable with Taylor’s excellent vocal work over intricate dance beats and synths. Oddly enough, the best track also demonstrates one of the record’s few weaknesses: the odd placement of samples. It is a nitpick, but the sample of spoken dialogue in “Doghead,” “Glass Spitter,” and “Avengement” feel out-of-place in the music, even forced and campy. They are unnecessarily angsty and incongruent, belonging more to the radio-friendly industrial of the mid nineties than with industrial this sophisticated and well-executed. However, the choice of poor samples are not consistent, as the aforementioned “Transitions” and “Anagnorisis” use samples properly: emphasizing the mood and feel of the music rather than distracting the listener.
In fact, most complaints feel like nitpicks. Several tracks on the latter half of the album are not as memorable, only because they leave smoldering craters rather than leveling everything in sight. In relative comparison, “Glass Spitter,” “Lacerate Wildly,” or “Shift of Dismay” are “only” great, not astounding. In fact, many of them showcase some of the strongest displays of aggression on the record; it’s just simply not as catchy or fully demonstrative of Youth Code’s abilities. Really, there is not a single bad track on this record. In fact, the album simply seems too short, A forty-minute run time does not feel like enough time to fully contain Youth Code’s spirit. Many songs breezed by in less than three minutes, and while I felt satisfied, I certainly wanted more and found myself immediately replaying the album as soon as the magnificent closer, “Lost at Sea,” ended.
Youth Code have tapped into something special with Commitment to Complications—a harsh dose of first-wave industrial and EBM worship that never feels like pandering or imitation for the sake of tapping into nostalgia. When you are this authentic and this good at your craft, you do not need to rely on either. Commitment to Complications is a welcome addition to the newest generation of electro-industrial music—a very welcome revitalization of the sub-genre. Youth Code are the traditional sound of the early days captured and lovingly represented in the year 2016, and Commitment to Complications is and will be one of the best records to be released this year.
03) Commitment to Complications
04) The Dust of Fallen Rome
07) Glass Spitter
08) Lacerate Wildly
10) Shift of Dismay
11) Lost at Sea