Bells into Machines, an “industrial/electronic/rock alliance, is a collaboration between singer Chris Connelly and bassist/programmer Paul Barker (Ministry, Pigface, and several other Wax Trax! Records from the late 80s- early 90s), and they have been writing and recording new music together as Bells Into Machines, a project billed as an “industrial/electronic/rock alliance.”
Together with Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer, Toby Wright (Alice in Chains, Primus, Slayer, KISS, and more…), Lee Popa (Slammin’ Watusis), Brian Diemar (Writer/Producer/Performer), plus special guests Chris Rose, Hoss Wright, Janne Jarvis and others, what started out as a planned EP has grown into a full album, complete “with plenty of killer remixes,” according to the group.
They have posted a few songs on their website and Facebook page, to give a taste of what they’re doing to their audience. Given what I know about the musicians and production team involved with this project, my expectations were high coming into listening to the tracks that were made available for this review.
“Wretched Little Deity” is a typical “light-industrial” ditty, in that it has a simple groove and beat with an overlaying of electronica for the dance crowd to latch onto. The problem with this track is that the chorus lacks the sort of primal aggression that this song is yearning for to drive it along – the sort of thing that a song like “More Human Than Human” by White Zombie easily achieves through sheer force of will. This song lacks the naked aggression that this kind of song needs to grab the audience and bend them to the musician’s will.
“Missions” has a good melody that brings to mind some of David Bowie’s early pop efforts of the late 70s-early 80s, especially where the lyrics and harmonies are concerned. This comparison shouldn’t be a shock to anyone familiar with Chris Connelly’s music, as his music has been described thusly before. In my opinion, this is truly listenable, and the vocals exude a sense of emotion that the rest of the vocals and lyrics on this album decidedly do not. The production quality is again something that stands out on this song, especially the mix — it’s tightly done, but it also has a very open quality about it that lets each instrument be heard, and that really helps to give the song a very organic feel while also focusing the listener onto the parts that require your attention. An effective mix acts as a guide to the listener, and this is achieved to effect here.
Another song that is excruciatingly reminiscent of early Bowie songs — especially of the Ziggy Stardust era — is “Sweet Life in Soaring Light.” This song exhibits an odd combination of styles — the glam-pop sweetness of the lyrics, along with Bowie-esque vocals, throw in some cool, dark but clean guitar overlays, and give it some industrial keys and synth, and you come up with “Sweet Life…” It’s odd because unless this is an industrial band’s way of paying tribute to David Bowie, I don’t know what you call it. This track could show a little more musical direction.
The last track I received is “Your Crime Scene – My Career.” It has a good drumbeat, and I like the bass line on this track. The synthesizer accents between verses work well to help create a menacing sort of sound that the song is going for. The lyrics try to be threatening and dark, but somehow manage to come off as a little “tongue in cheek,” and are not taken as seriously as they want you to. The song needs to build up to something, but it never really gets there, and ends without fulfillment.
I can’t get my head away from the Bowie and Nine Inch Nails comparisons. With the talent on board for this project, my expectations were high. I must articulate this point, so there is no mistaking my meaning. It’s not that any of this is bad music. It’s simply my opinion. The overall impression could have been that there were only five songs to review, admittedly, I could be missing some key elements of the project that have yet to be released which might bring more direction and cohesion to the project in its entirety. Because of this possibility, I will reserve final judgment until I have been afforded the opportunity to hear all of the songs that will be included on the final release.
There are many individual bright spots in several of the songs, so there are things that stand out in a good way, particularly with the songs, Missions, and Your Crime Scene – My Career. However, what I’ve heard so far doesn’t impress me the way I believe the collective talent on this project should impress the listener, and falls well short of its goal.
Using my Skulls Scale of 1 — 10 Skulls, I give Bells to Machines 5.5 Skulls.
To find out more about Bells Into Machines:
Bells Into Machines website: www.bellsintomachines.com
Bells Into Machines Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bellsintomachines