As one of the most maligned characters in the world of industrial music, Nero Bellum seemed to be all but done back in 2014 when he announced the dissolution of Psyclon Nine. Four years later, the band has risen from the grave to deliver their new full-length, aptly titled Icon of the Adversary. So how well will the zombie of this particular electronic malice fare?
Depends on what you’re looking for.
Let’s establish something: Icon of the Adversary is not a metal album by any stretch of the imagination. It does have some metal in it, and by metal I mean distorted guitar passages that sometimes pop up and deliver a riff or two. But even when they are present, the album does not gain a sense of fullness, or fusion, or progress. Otherwise it’s Nero Bellum’s heavily-distorted, thin-as-a-razor growls, industrial/ambient tendencies and distorted beats. It’s heaven for an industrial fan, even better for those looking for something nasty, dark, static-laced and foreboding.
For the metal fan, however, the album has nothing to offer. No, I don’t mean it has very little, I mean it has nothing whatsoever.
See, the entirety of this album can be summed up using three words: atmospheric, meandering and abstract. There is no denying that Psyclon Nine here takes cues from ambient and death industrial with the impeccable, dark, cavernous and overall creepy atmospheres they build. The problem isn’t that Icon of the Adversary doesn’t have atmosphere, the problem is that it has little else. Credit where credit is due, the album does excel in the moods and the imagery it conveys and would have succeeded in weaving a far richer tapestry had it been a bit more focused on music.
As for meandering and abstract, Icon of the Adversary is exactly those two things. It’s weird interlude after interlude after interlude of things playing to the middle: there is very little sense of progress throughout, and even when the more metal-like songs come along, the peripheral elements (in both cases, the drums) are so damn constant that they prevent anything from breaking free. In fact, a fourth word to describe the album would be choked: it is much ado about nothing as everything is tied down and anchored, tight as can be, to some sort of a core that Nero Bellum has constructed. That core can be gleaned, but it does not reveal itself and does not lend readily lend itself to being immersed in it.
The very abrasive and abrupt nature of the elements involved, the meandering nature of the “songs” and the tendency to lapse into abstraction makes Psyclon Nine an interesting album, yes. It is definitely deeper than it first appears and can be enjoyed when in the right mood. But if you’re a metal fan of any kind, this is not for you. In fact, if when I say industrial you think of dark electro, EBM or even IDM, this isn’t for you either.
My recommendation? Try it out. It’s something different, it’s something unique, and who knows, maybe it’ll float your boat in ways you hadn’t previously imagined.
Line-Up (current Psyclon Nine line-up):
Nero Bellum – vocals, guitar, synth
Rotny Ford – guitars, synth
Sevin – synth (2006–2008, 2017–present)
02. Crown of the Worm
03. The Light of Armageddon
04. Beware the Wolves
05. Warm What’s Hollow
06. Behold an Icon
07. When the Last Stars Die
08. And with Fire
09. Give Up the Ghost
10. The Last