I grew up in Los Angeles, where I once frequented goth/industrial clubs like Kontrol Faktory and Helter Skelter. I was introduced to the post-industrial/EBM genre at places such as these, and as a result, I think I’ll always have a soft spot for synth-driven 4/4 beats with vocoded vocals.
I have little doubt that this nostalgia influenced my reaction to Reverse//Human, the newest release from the Opposer Divine on Slovakia’s under-the-radar label Aliens Production. In many ways, Reverse//Human is a perfect example of Aliens Production’s trademark sound: retro electronic structures with scattered modern details. The production is undeniably modern and razor-sharp, but the sound is purposefully and stubbornly ripped from decades past. It’s easy to draw comparisons to classic EBM bands like Mentallo & the Fixer and Decoded Feedback, but while the Opposer Divine’s sole member, Boris Mutina, is clearly a fan of bands such as these, he adds elements of twenty-first century ambient, IDM, and glitch to enhance and update the familiar sound.
“Human Animal” seems ripped from the heyday of labels like Metropolis Records and Zoth Ommog: a club anthem with a driving beat, twinkling-light sequences, moody synths, and distorted whispering vocals. It’s more contemplative and aesthetic than many of the club staples of the past, and despite the track’s energy, it sets the stage for the album’s feel. Mutina is also indebted to label-mates Disharmony—the underrated duo who also head Aliens Production—for the emphasis on slow pace and glittering electronic details that flutter about like a swarm of digital moths. The atmosphere of Reverse//Human is degrees brighter than the apocalyptic feel defining so many past genre entries. On tracks such as “Reverse,” the similarity between the sound of the two bands is quite striking, but Disharmony has been refining its IDM/electro template for years and is a fine act to follow. Mutina isn’t (yet) as experimentally minded as Disharmony, sticking to reliance on beats overlaid with programmed detail, but he’s certainly got the basics down.
The Opposer Divine works best when the tempo is increased, further separating itself from its influences. Even then, tracks like “War” are aimed for something in addition to the dancefloor, thanks to the lengthy breaks where Mutina lets the ambiance take over. The vocals are so heavily distorted that the lyrics are all but indistinguishable, but I’ve always considered this style of vocal to be an added rhythmic and aesthetic element more than a language-based message. From what I’m able to understand, Reverse//Human seems to contain lyrics focusing on emotional and human elements rather than the sci-fi and mass-murder poetry that’s been done to death in the genre. This is another common trend for Aliens Production releases, and it’s a welcome one.
As the album plays, the formula starts to feel a bit familiar. Mutina’s vocals feature the same style of distortion throughout, and the percussion and sequencing follow largely the same sound as well. Three instrumental tracks, “Ice Planet,” “Arrival,” and “Deceit of the Saints,” help break things up, but the second half of Reverse//Human isn’t quite as satisfying as the first, as our expectations aren’t nudged in quite the same way and the tracks start to sound a bit too similar.
Minor quibbles aside, I found Reverse//Human to be an enjoyable throwback with enough modern studio stylings to keep the listening experience from becoming stale. The Opposer Divine’s second release for Aliens Production is a formulaic one, but the formula is solid as bedrock. Mutina is clearly evolving as an artist, refining and streamlining his programming and songwriting into an impressive retro-future hybrid. Listen to how the classic keyboard chord shifts, slow sledgehammer beat, and mangled vocals of “Magnetic Shield” reach a thrilling crescendo of drama-soaked post-industrial glory, and whether or not you have any exposure to underground club-based industrial music, I bet you’ll dig it.
05) Ice Planet
06) Magnetic Shield
08) Last Messiah
09) This Is It
11) Deceit of the Saints