Perturbator ‎: The Uncanny Valley

PUV2016 : Blood Music
Format : LP/CD

I don’t think there’s any other artist I know of right now that’s got so much hype surrounding them. Perturbator’s The Uncanny Valley was without a doubt one of the most agonizing waits I’ve endured in some time. Call me insane (my editor and some of our associates at other zines sure as shit did confirmed – Ed.) but its announcement was so far apart from the actual release date that overtime it inevitably created a hype driven juggernaut. Bits and pieces were slowly and meticulously unveiled over time by Finnish label, Blood Music. With each one it felt like the plug was pulled too soon, leaving me wanting to hear more of what was slated to be over an hour’s worth of new material from the Parisian retro-synth legend himself. Perturbator’s appeal has crossed genre lines that traditionally have been impossible to cross. His appeal to metal-heads in particular has flummoxed just about everybody and since 2012 he’s consistently incorporated seemingly everything under the sun into his music. All of the classical synth influences are there; Goblin, Vangelis (his opus magnum being the Blade Runner score), and of course the mythical synthetic beast himself, John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York etc). Perturbator is on the forefront of reanimating everything fantastic about the 80s while washing out the undesirable aspects of modern electro pop culture in a deluge of neon lights and punishing levels of distortion. I don’t think I need to waste much more time on introductions. Those of you reading this are more than likely listening to the album now anyways. There’s no one left on the fence at this point. You’re either a complete worshiper of this kind of stuff or you’re not. I’m not even remotely familiar with the various different synthesizers and effects that are out there. As a metal fanatic all I can describe to you in regards to Perturbator is what I hear. This review will only cover the album itself, not the added Bonus EP included in the special editions.

Photo by David Fitt
Photo by David Fitt

Just like its predecessors, The Uncanny Valley is a concept album focused on a helmeted, motorcycle riding protagonist dubbed simply, “The Night Driving Avenger,” as he wages a one man war against a powerful cult that seems bent on the abuse of robotic/android technology (note that this is only my interpretation, results may vary). The album title itself comes from a hypothesis in the field of robotic aesthetics which states that when robotic features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers (for further reference see CB2 Child Robot).

The dystopic visionary Ariel Zucker Brull himself has returned to provide the visual backdrop to Perturbator’s instrumentals. This time around he’s done not just one but two album covers and as part of the special edition of the album, a fully illustrated graphic novel chronicling the album’s concept. Set amidst the backdrop of a neon soaked city blanketed by grim skies, the front cover depicts a female android with almost nothing left to the imagination with what can only be described as an unholy amalgam of a mega church and a tower reminiscent to that of something owned by a crooked business tycoon or a rogue tech mogul looming in the background. In any case, its purpose is clearly nothing short of sinister. There is a reverse cover that’s served to satiate digital outlets and retailers alike that don’t wish to advertise anything with nudity. It features the Night Driving Avenger standing next to his motorcycle on the opposite side of the tower, making for a perfect image once laid flat.

The opening song, “Neo Tokyo” also made its debut as the first single released to promote the album. In what can easily be seen as an immediate reference to the 1988 animated film, Akira, the song’s ominous strings and thick distortion set the tone for the impending savagery. “Weapons for Children” follows, and while it’s executed in a much slower and more controlled manner I think it’s a strong track. The title itself is likely to irk listeners, but it’s the song’s horror-esque vibes that continue to stoke the already grim atmosphere even further. “Death Squad” continues along the same pace with a similar atmosphere. Its title is perhaps meant to be combined with the previous track’s to form a larger picture. The third track on the album, “Femme Fatale” features additional contributions by Highway Superstar and is the only Perturbator song I’ve heard since I Am the Night that features a primarily jazzy atmosphere with liberal use of the saxophone that’s reminiscent of the Ms .45 soundtrack. It’s a good track and conceptually it seems to serve as the introduction of our mysterious cover girl whose role seems to be more clearly defined in the song, “Venger.” This track features another guest contribution, that being vocals provided by Greta Link. Her last appearance was also on I Am the Night. This song is definitely a highlight of the album for me.

Photo by David Fitt
Photo by David Fitt

By this point about a quarter of the album’s concept seems to have taken shape by way of deliberately titled songs and masterfully crafted instrumentals driven by two powerful guest contributors. “Disco Inferno” shakes things up a bit. As the title suggests it’s a nod to disco with a tinge of that brooding atmosphere Perturbator is known for.

For the sake of your own time (and my sanity), I’m going to push forward past the next few songs and let you fill in the gaps on your own. Both “She Moves Like a Knife” and “Sentient” were heavily promoted singles anyways. Tracks 10-12 are the heaviest on the album. And by heavy I mean that they rage just as hard as any 80s thrash record does. “Diabolus Ex Machina,” “Assault,” and “The Cult of 2112” are hands down the highlights. These three constitute the unholy trinity of The Uncanny Valley. “Assault” actually transitions right into “The Cult of 2112” so seamlessly that on multiple occasions I didn’t realize “The Cult of 2112” was playing until about halfway through the song. This is fantastic, and it’s something I’ve never really experienced on an album before. At least not to the degree that I did here. “Souls at Zero” is a much more spacey track and if placed anywhere else on the album would simply feel strange. It also marks the final guest appearance on the album, this time by Astronoid.

The 13th and final track, is the title track itself. It’s a somber close to the album and at a near 7 minute run time it rounds the entire album out to over an hour’s worth of music. The arrangement from top to bottom on this album is impeccable. The track titles and song placement itself required a clear degree of artistic skill that is unmatched by a lot of people out there nowadays. Perturbator has far exceeded his previous works, and has once again managed to project the listener into a dystopian sci-fi tale of terror and desperation using primarily instrumentals. I don’t have any complaints about this album. I don’t use a scoring system, I never have, but if I did this would be getting a perfect score.

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