Back and better than ever, KOREA’s second album evokes the sense of being over-medicated in the ashes of an apocalypse.
The Swedish Industrial/Rock band KOREA return after their 2008 debut, “For The Present Purpose”, with their highly anticipated sequel, “The Delirium Suite”, delivering a much more refined and, I daresay, ‘natural’ sound for an Industrial album. Retaining their original and identifiable qualities, KOREA have evolved in all the right places, taking their soundscape from the innards of a decadent factory to the eye of an ashen tornado.
Opening with “Cataclysm”, and Micke Ehrnstén’s haunting line, “All our hope is lost, it’s time to face our final fears”, the dystopian stage has been set in the listener’s mind. Among the multitude of instruments and samples KOREA used in this album, Mats Karpestam’s guitars are formidably powerful, pushing forward with an intense melodic strength that is really a pleasure to get an earful of.
Next up, “The Absentee” makes good use of the adage, “less is more”. Ensuring the audience isn’t blown to pieces by an aural cannonade, despondent breathing space is given between sections, slamming back into 5th gear like a narcoleptic F1 racer.
“From The Ashes” displays the band’s roots, with the sound of a digitally mutilated guitar string broken by a thunderous riff in good APC/Tool fashion. Another quality here is that all of the lyrics are perfectly understandable; an attribute that’s too often overlooked these days.
This album also includes a cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, and they’ve really managed to put their own mark on this song, avoiding the archetypal “cut-and-paste” approach, this version brings KOREA’s own blend of monstrous choruses and fragile verse, and we’re presented with a truly impressive rendition.
5th track, “Take The Blame”, revolves lamentably around a failing relationship, with the lyrics “You and me could have gone oh-so far, well, watch us now, living worlds apart”. Many of this album’s concepts derive from death, despair and the collapse of the world as we know it.
“Enemies” manages to be roaring and delicate, simultaneously. Actually, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Muse album (and I say that with the best of intentions!), if only purely on the basis of the strong falsetto vocal melodies intertwined with glistening piano arpeggios and Robert Bunke’s energetic distorted bass-lines.
“Logical Fallacies” is a brilliant example of how progressive qualities can be used in a song without losing the organic essence. The piece soars as only a majestic 400-winged behemoth could, remaining breathtaking and managing to keep the tips of your toes on the ground the whole time. In the same spirit follows “Cave Dweller”, my favourite song on the album. Kicking off with a single guitar riff, the whole procession explodes magnificently, falling away into the verse where the vocal melody really makes this song shine. While perpetually maintaining a sombre atmosphere, Dennis Ehrnstén’s drums keep the air electrified, always ready to erupt in a melodious ensemble of overwhelming harmony, even incorporating a kill-switch effect on the vocals which works surprisingly well.
A single-string raises the curtain for “Bloodline”, before launching into a riff reminiscent of Godzilla excreting an entire tank battalion. This is another song that actually displays the more delicate side of KOREA, with finger-picked arpeggios and flowing vocal harmonies that advance and dissipate with artistic effortlessness.
An electronic inspiration makes an appearance on “Prozac Gen” with a stuttered synth bass-line and off-beat drums, hailing back to KOREA’s earlier works, but admittedly sounding a little out of place on this album, which is a shame because it’s crafted with well-placed hooks and some truly catchy riffs.
“Carpet Slipper” is host to Micke belting through a megaphone accompanied by a strutting bass and charging drums, perpetuating an aura of disgruntled decadence, also comprising one of Mats’ only guitar solo’s on the album. Their apparent lack of narcissism is also evident due to none of the songs being much longer than three-and-a-half minutes, and since departing from American producer Blake Althen it seems this is purely down to the band’s own style, perhaps to keep things radio-friendly.
The album’s closing track, “Exit”, is a tribute to Dennis and Micke’s father, who passed away due to cancer shortly after the release of “FTPP”. The song features samples of Ted Kennedy’s eulogy to his brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, which is a fitting and heartfelt testimony to their father, prominent in the delivery of the vocals.
KOREA have really outdone themselves on this album, raising the bar for many other bands in the Industrial/Rock genre. It’s a beautiful composition with some real gems, evidently because most of it’s been stuck in my head for days!
If you love an album that has balls and some finely-crafted harmonies, do yourself a favour and buy “The Delirium Suite”.