In a genre of music that is anything but shy in making a concerted effort to clearly subdivide its variations, "experimental" isn't a term that you see thrown around too liberally. Sure there's "avant-garde," but to my knowledge genre-tagging something as "experimental metal" isn't really a thing. Whenever that or related topics come up, however, Genghis Tron is always a band that immediately sticks out in my mind. Between the programmed drums, the not so subtle synthesizer melodies and backdrops, the intense screams, and the spiraling guitar riffs, the output of the band from 2005-2008 encapsulated the frenetic and unpredictable energy one would associate with the likes of the Dillinger Escape Plan and turned it completely into its own brand; a brand so unique I still feel like I haven't heard anything completely like it before or since. Coming off of that hype some 13 odd years later, Dream Weapon marks the band's return with a bit of a personnel change and refinement of their sound. It may not be the kind of refinement old-school Genghis Tron purists may want to give credence to, but it does see the band tapping deeper into certain areas of their repertoire which end up producing lush soundscapes that in many ways are just as gratifying to hear as the older material.
While founding members Hamilton Jordan and Michael Sochynsky are still at the helm, Dream Weapon does not see the return of vocalist Mookie Singerman. Newcomers to the band include Tony Wolski taking up the vocal duties along with Sumac/Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn filling the role of a non-machine drummer. "Pyrocene" and the title track immediately bring to light what the direction of this new lineup offers throughout Dream Weapon. The variety of accents within the drumming bring a new, dynamic element to the mix. Particularly in "Pyrocene," the force placed on certain downbeats in combination with the distortion of the synthesizers bring an industrial vibe that, while not completely unsurprising, is a pleasant expansion of the band's stylistic palette. The vocals also play an interesting role in their subdued nature in terms of volume. Instead of being this abrasive force that was a staple of their earlier years, they feel more like an extension of the keyboards and synthesizers by drawing out these extremely easy-on-the-ears, echoing melodies that compliment the electronic backdrops being built.
The title track follows up by acting as the clearest bridge from the Genghis Tron of old to the Genghis Tron of new. Still no screaming (nor will there be, spoiler alert), but the rawness of the guitar distortion makes more of its presence known. The repeated, finger-tapped notes bring to mind an eerie resemblance to to the title track from Board Up the House by building this hypnotic loop where the subtlest of deviations is obvious but carries a lot of weight behind them. "Alone in the Heart of Light" plays back into the new formula of the band, allowing different vocal layers to build harmony by playing off of each other in slightly longer form.
But at this point, I'll be honest. On my first listen through of
Dream Weapon up through the end of the tracks I've mentioned so far, I
had a lukewarm feeling about it all, not necessarily because of anything being
"bad" but rather because I was expecting a little extra oomph that I wasn't
quite getting. Hearing the last three tracks, however, made it all click and
brought everything together. Clocking in a bit over ten minutes, "Ritual
Circle" is the longest track on the album and is the best single-track
representation of the pros concerning Genghis Tron's newer direction. The
keyboards and vocals help push each other along, trading melody and rhythm but
in the process also creating smooth transitions to where the guitar and drums
can pick up tempo and distortion. "Single Black Point" is an instrumental that
stands alone compared to the other tracks. Before the electronics take over,
the first half is completely dominated by the guitar and drums playing an
arrangement of staccato notes that feel almost jazzy, but regardless are
exactly the sort of pick-me-up I was hoping for. It leads beautifully into the
Dream Weapon's closing track, "Great Mother." Bringing back the through
line introduced in the album's short, opening instrumental, "Great Mother" is
a powerful anthem where all the band's elements shine brightly. From the
vocals boasting their widest range to the crashing of the drums to the
synthesizers and guitar building these huge walls of distortion, the track
builds the most anticipation of anywhere else on the album and rewards that
anticipation with these moments of the whole band jamming loudly in grandiose unison.
While Dream Weapon doesn't embody the "what the hell was that" type
shock factor you were probably expecting from Genghis Tron, it makes up for
that and more by crafting a more holistically sedative experience. Regardless
of which instrument is the focus of any given moment, what impressed me the
most about Dream Weapon is that each part of the band is constantly
layering on top of one another. Slowly, but surely, you find yourself being
wrapped up in a trance-like state following along with the sonic tapestry
that's being woven. In that regard, it's not entirely unlike what the band was
able to achieve with their music from many moons ago, but it's now just
approached from a different angle. Although a slow burn, the build up over the
course of the album does lead you to some cathartic moments that are
unquestionably worth it. Like many others, I had certain expectations coming
into hearing Dream Weapon, but this is one of those rare occasions
where not meeting those expectations turned out to be for the better. I can
imagine that 13 years is a long time to come back as a band only to rehash the
same formula. Sign me up for this version of Genghis Tron.