Genre: Industrial Metal
(Masterpiece - among the best in the genre)
Few industrial metal bands really broke through into the ears of other music scenes, hence why you will rarely hear mentions of bands in the genre apart from the big-name acts like Ministry, Godflesh, Rammstein, and Fear Factory. This is always unfortunate, as one of the best releases in the genre came out in the year of 1997 from one of the more obscure acts when the golden age of industrial metal was nearing its end.
That band was the French group Treponem Pal, with their 1997 album Higher. Higher is probably one of the most varied industrial metal albums out there, with a blend of all sorts of stylistic elements that work side by side one another. There's jagged thrash and groove riffing that hits you like a slab of concrete, delivered with the rhythmic groove of funk and tribal music. Some of the electronics have a strong almost Orbital-esque beat to them, which fit perfectly alongside the guitar riffs, making sure that these songs never leave your head. Add in some middle eastern instrumentation and killer soloing, and you got all the elements of this record.
Michel Bassin is an unsung hero of industrial metal guitarists, as few bands have the pure forcefulness that he has here. His guitar hooks are catchy as all hell, but pummel you to the ground at the same time. It's like getting beaten over the head with a sledgehammer, and when his power riffing combines with Marco Neves' commanding vocal attack it packs a real mean punch. This pure groove/thrash crunch is contrasted well with the rhythm section. The bass is often funky, while the drums usually have a tribal sound to them. Most industrial solos are screechy and distorted, but Bassin's solos are surprisingly clean and traditional sounding. As good as a screeching solo can be with some gritty guitar, it's refreshing to hear more traditional sounding metal solos incorporated into industrial metal.
It's almost impossible to pick highlights with albums like these, because the whole album is equally catchy and crushingly heavy. I would say The first five songs as well as "Funk Me", "Sick Train", and "Psycho Rising" are the main highlights if forced to choose. "Unchained" shows some excellent syncopation with the main riff, while the same riff switches to more of a straight thrashing during the chorus. "Lose Control" has the perfect punchy hook that swings you into the song's groove, and may very well be the best on the album.
Despite being released near the end of industrial metal's golden age, Higher is one of the best albums in the genre. It has both the crushing heaviness and the catchy hooks to make it very memorable. It was produced by KMFDM frontman Sascha Konietzko, and I certainly see why one of the industrial metal spearheads would want to produce this album. If you're looking for a heavy, catchy, and unique underrated classic, nothing fits that better than this.
Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)
See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/higher/341588