Music Reviews

Artist: Cynical Existence (@)
Title: A Familiar Kind of Pain
Format: CD EP
Label: Engraved Ritual (@)
Rated: *****
Cynical Existence is the solo dark-electro project of Fredrik Croona, ex-Menschdefekt and currently of the aggrotech/industrial Project Rotten. Not much of a fan of Menschdefekt...something just wasn't working for me there with their sound. Project Rotten seemed somewhat better to me, although there seems to be a harsher edge there. Although prior to receiving this CD to review, I never heard of either band before. (I live in a dark closet, don't you know.) On the first listen to 'A Familiar Kind of Pain' I didn't quite care for it. Old-school harsh EBM I thought, complete with raspy processed vocals...haven't I heard this a zillion times before? Leaether Strip, Hocico, Suicide Commando, et al, so many bands have been down this road sounded so...90's...

But on the NEXT listening, I noticed something. There is an elegant simplicity here. Sure, those analogue synths are sounding familiar; it's the staple of industrial music we all grew up on to a great degree. And the music is oh so simple, but that's the beauty of it. What really makes it work though is Croona's vocals. He growls, he yowls, and wrings every shred of emotion he can possibly muster out of his tortured pipes. In fact, I don't know if I've ever heard this much variety in the harsh EBM vocal style. If this album (well it's an EP really) had come out in say, 1995, it would have been an absolute classic! Still, even now it stands up because no one is doing quite the exact same thing as this nowadays. Besides, the songwriting is top and to the point. No meandering intros, no extended dialogue samples, just pure, delicious dark-electro.

Cynical Existence is well-suited for stomping around the dancefloor. It can't be helped, the beat is compelling. If your DJ ain't playin' it, you ought to tell him (or her) to get on the stick, or beat 'em with a stick, Punch & Judy style. I think Croona has hit on something special here, something so basic it's primal. The music is sinister and menacing even though the melodies can be a bit puerile. The controlled collapse remix of 'Dead Eyes (see no future)' really points that up with sing-song insanity. I preferred the original anyway, and really liked the use of vocoder as the followup vocal.

As I mentioned before, this is an EP (limited to 100 copies worldwide, 50 in Europe, 50 in the U.S.), but a generous one with 8 tracks and (thankfully) only one remix. If I were you, I'd pick one up before they're gone. I really hope Mr. Croona continues his Cynical Existence, and doesn't get fancy with it, because the world really needs a kick in the ass with a pair of stompy platform boots, and 'A Familiar Kind of Pain' goes a long way in reminding us just what our roots are in this scene.

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