It’s been five irradiated years since Sweden’s ‘Mr. J.‘ dropped his last full-length, 2011’s choking Devilmentertainment, itself made up of recordings from as early as 2008. While fans may have had their impatience soothed by an interim retrospective EP, it’s no replacement for the real deal.
Mr. J. Carlsson, the brains behind Plutonium, has clearly been busy as Born Again Misanthrope is a well-considered work of industrial black metal, which doesn’t lean too hard on its mechanised core for effect. It’s a balance not oft achieved when using drum machines to create rigor, discipline, and a sense of solid structure without sacrificing the blood ‘n’ guts that metal necessarily thrives on. Happily, Carlsson keeps the veins full with lively vocals—a stentorian rasp discernible enough to be lyrically enjoyable (he’s capable of some wonderfully dramatic phrases like ‘Evolution rewinded [sic], prosperity aflame!’) and capable of some entertainingly hoarse acrobatics when words aren’t necessary.
As for the aforementioned industrial elements, electronics are deployed subtly throughout as overt adornment0—some digital stammering, effected vocals, etc.—but rather more effectively in the overall chunky, production-line sound of the record which imbues tracks such as ‘The Inverted Panopticon Experience’ with a relentless, terrifying inevitability. Carlsson’s clean and expressive guitar, paired perfectly against the robotic stomp of the percussion, is the real star here as it rings out clearly over the uncomplicated arrangements and drives each track where necessary, providing the melodic fireworks elsewhere.
While Plutonium’s last LP used distortion and sampling in a more obviously ‘industrial’ way—that is, as rhythmic drama and pea-soup atmosphere—here, the swarf-storm is more reserved and deployed with a wiser, lighter hand which foregrounds the riffs and allows space for the vocals to exist beyond mere texture. This maturity extends to the song structures and variety of approaches, which keeps the loose and expressive glam-noir stomper ‘The Masque of the Green Demon’ enjoyable yet sensible, despite being something of a departure from the rest of the album. Carlsson knows how far to go and when, never letting a good idea dissolve by allowing it to outstay its welcome. ‘The Masque of the Green Demon‘ is perhaps the most interesting track here but hardly representative of the whole.
‘The Masque of the Green Demon’ does kick off a fantastically inventive second half of the record—one which might surprise those who assumed the rigid black metal of the first few tracks were par for the course. Some almost Darkthrone-esque romping on ‘Electric Barbwire Crown of Thorns’, a mercifully brief ambient-synth breather, a surprisingly successful neofolk tune (‘Renumtiationem’), and some satisfying (if melodramatic) guitar solos throughout keep the red stuff pumping and really gives the record its character.
Born Again Misanthrope is bursting with ideas—ideas pulled off with care and expertise rather than merely for the sake of it. Carlsson doesn’t permit anything of poor quality to creep in, and with missteps hard to spot and pleasant surprises frequent, this album ends up being one of the most enjoyable (if idiosyncratic) black metal LPs of the year, if only for sheer charm and diversity. Let’s hope Mr. J. doesn’t wait another five years before the next Plutonium album.
01) Born Again Misanthrope
02) Cortex Vortex
03) The Inverted Panopticon Experience
04) Casque Strength
05) The Mask of the Green Demon
07) Electric Barbwire Crown of Thorns
08) Alice in Plutoniumland (Two Minute Hate Part III)
09) Confessions of a Suicidal Cryptologist