Black Line – Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities (2017)
Black Line is an industrial supergroup featuring Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy and Bon Harris, Skinny Puppy collaborators Mark Walk, Cyrusrex and Ken ‘Hiwatt’ Marshall, ex-Ministry man Paul Barker, Depeche Mode drummer Christian Eigner, sound designer Anthony Baldino who worked on recent films Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ex Machina and Jurassic World, producer Zack Meyers, sound designer Brad Apodaca, musician Michael “Prophei” Dietel, Big Black Delta mainman Jon Bates and musician Derrick Baseck (who had a collaborative album with Sonic Death Rabbit released via Cevin Key’s Subconscious Communications label)
If that’s not enough to pique your interest, then there’s a possibility you’re on the wrong website.
The proposition of a lineup like that is earth shatteringly enticing. At its core is the old DJMREX lineup of Douglas McCarthy and Cyrusrex, thereafter, the two musicians seemed to find themselves continuously working with friends on developing their and songs music further. It was a natural progression to leave DJMREX behind and continue under the name Black Line. While the old incarnation of the band produced two excellent EP’s of intelligent electronic music, Black Line takes that sound beyond the ether. The result is an album of effectively bigger sounding songs; more fleshed out material with increased variety.
There’s a blended dichotomy to this album; at one end of the scale you have superbly creative sound design where carefully crafted noises and bleeps cohesively work in sync with the live instrumentation and at the other end of the scale you find a skillful and intelligent songwriting finesse, where strong melodies and tense choruses create memorable tunes. Tracks like “Sedition” and “Losing You” ripple with a downtempo groove and dazzle with McCarthy’s infamously smoldering vocals. Progression through the album reveals post-industrial dance floor gems like “No Crime”, “Snap” and “Shut It Down”. Elsewhere, a song like “Layers” shows a band unafraid to take risks and diversify their song structure.
Quite often, artists and musicians can fall into the potentially perilous black hole that is modular synthesis; the focus becomes the sound, not the song and artists lose themselves. Black Line have managed to not only avoid that pitfall, but harness their sound design artistry into magnificent songcraft. The result is breathtaking and entirely essential.
Available directly from the band on Bandcamp here.