I thought I might listening to one of those songs - from "Host", and I'll have to say - this album is better! (And who let the 80s encroach on the late 90s?), comparing "Permanent Solution" with the glory that is "Forever Failure" just makes me shudder at what they became. Now, however, they seem to have transformed again, this time into a more aggressive vocal style, with the doom influences returning.
Anyhow, I'm not sure if this is going to rate higher or lower than the astonishing "Draconian Times" ("Icon" I still haven't managed to listen through all of, let alone review/dissect). So, let us see how it goes.
Cover is an old, wrinkled man (?) in close up, showing the fine carvings of age upon his skin. Booklet features black and white photos, all slightly eerie in concept, with the lyrics featuring on coloured pages opposite. Vocalist Nick Holmes has cut off his golden tresses.
Keyboard harmonies lead us into the gothic title track, "One Second". Holmes' wonderfully deep voice is as powerful as previous, but here is allowed a bit more melody.
It's been a few years since I last heard "Say Just Words" - a track we managed to smuggle onto party playlists on more than a few occasions, yet I find I can still sing every word of it. The instrumentations are pure, echoing, late 90s gothica. It has power - na da good beat to dance to.
"Lydia" gets off to a sombre, there's an electronica feel here - and in the entire album - that makes you feel the poor keyboardists should be credited as actual band members, and not just lower in the acknowledgements. Holmes lifts up an octave (or pitch, or whatever you call it) to a more melancholic edge, before dropping down for the chorus. There's some samples too. I guess they were popular at the time.
Remembering their doom roots, we slip into "Mercy", which quickly shifts into a sort of downtrodden synthpop. The keyboards, synthesizers and sounds are there, but slowed down and heavy on the gloom, reminiscent of the goth sound, but cleaner and better polished.
"it's mercy you're asking for... take my life or give me more..."Faster, more energetic and more 80s, "Soul Courageous" gets off to a rocking start. Complete with catchy chorus.
"Another Day" draws us away even further from the metal and into a slow, languid summer day, starting with keyboard-esque piano and slow synthpop rhythms. The opening verse is decidedly pop-rock, dropping down into more aggressive and slightly urgent vocals, albeit not picking up the pace.
Organs and synthesizers add an eerie and ominous vibe, falling into a faster, almost dance-pop rhythm, before it is steamrolled by the heavy instrumentations of "The Sufferer". Dropping again, into ominous, whispered chorus.
"A time when I'm all alone and I'm breathing afraid, cause all my pride is gone..."I think there might be a bit of the Nu-metal sound here too, but I kinda missed that genre out (thankfully) so cannot say for sure.
Even slower, gentler, is "This Cold Life". Vocals stand all but alone, cold and isolated, supported only by low beats, with the occasional explosion of sound. An isolated, lonely piece. And more synthpop.
"Blood of Another" is repetitive and somewhat sterile, polished. It's got a decent rhythm, and good pace, but ultimately the lyrics consist of:
"You see the blood, the blood of another, you see the blood as we roll in it together..."There's a few verses, but ultimately this line is repeated numerous times. Sounds unhygenic.
"Disappear" is another maudlin, doom-orientated piece. The lyrics are along the lines of "forever failure" and would suit better with heavier, more aching musical backing rather than the somewhat tacky synth accompaniment and what could well be a drum machine. Nice low vocals, however.
At last, the guitarists get chosen over the keyboards, as we roll into "Sane", the initial instrumentation fades to vocals and drums and an eerie, echoey keyboards.
Another slower number, "Take Me Down" starts with some very gothic keyboards, rather reminiscent of the Sisters of Mercy. Vocals are ominous, low, like whispers in the darkness. Creating a spidery, shadowy atmosphere, filled with predatory menace. It's a strong way to conclude the album, despite the overload of unecessary samples. Somewhat haunting.
Overall, this isn't a bad album, just a tad sterile and dull. Synthpop has been described as anemic and soulless, and whilst this is not precisely synthpop, it does seem to rather lack in passion. The original songs are strong, but by the time you're halfway through the album, you are starting to wonder why you bothered. Also, given the high emphasis on vocals and keyboards, one rather wonders if the rest of the band are feeling a little left out. It feels a little like they're trying to go mainstream, and not quite suceeding. I do like the first two tracks and the last one, however.
Rating = 6/10