Genre is a subjective term used to describe music, and contrary to what most think, it is fluid, ever-evolving and can only be an accurate descriptor when identified by the musicians themselves. Artists need the freedom to experiment and evolve. Without those opportunities, subgenres slowly disappear and music becomes less inspired. Listeners see less of a musician’s truth in their new music, and blandness and mediocrity begin to color the emerging discography.
Maybe in some attempt to circumvent this artistic death, contemporary metal tends to borrow from synth-heavy music as it ages. Multiple metal musicians have traded in break-neck drums and guitar solos for more techno-sounding instrumentals. Bands like Motionless in White, Bring Me the Horizon and 3TEETH have all experimented with heavier dance music in their more recent work. Now joining them in their techno-experimentation is In This Moment’s newest album, GODMODE.
The title track, “GODMODE,” is a self-promotional piece that explores how an individual can feel confident in their identity in an ever-devolving society. This first track opens with a slow, grand intro that abruptly transitions into a hostile riff complimenting Maria Brink’s vocals. Realistically, even a revving chainsaw would have a difficult time making Brink sound anything less than flawless. In This Moment begins the album flaunting their electronic experimentation with futuristic sound design and a mechanical ghostly voice echoing throughout the verses. The chorus acts as a momentary reprieve from the insistent electronics. Even with the strange text-to-speech-like backup vocals, “GODMODE” acts as an abnormal but sharp first track that sets an aggressive standard for the remainder of the album.
Unfortunately, the title song is followed by mostly a barrage of equally mediocre songs. Within this body of repetition and otherwise ordinary metal tracks, “SACRIFICE” presents a memorable combination of a persistent tech influence and begrudging vocals. The track takes the original futuristic sound design present in the title song and morphs it into a rushed underlying beat that contrasts Brink’s much slower vocals. “SACRIFICE” shows itself to be an effective experiment in merging electronic and metal sounds together. The result is an energetic, vengeful song that still prioritizes metal fundamentals like grungy breakdowns and aggressive vocals.
Countering the success of “SACRIFICE,” the weakest song on the album, “DAMAGED,” demonstrates how easily pushing these genres together can fail. Featuring Spencer Charnas, the frontman of Ice Nine Kills, alongside remnants of the band, “DAMAGED” has a cringe-worthy rap intro that is visited repeatedly throughout the remainder of the song. The track is only partly redeemed by the underwhelming chorus, only because it interrupts an awful attempt at rap. The song’s bridge is an overly dramatic opportunity for Charnas to duet with Brink, interrupted by uncomfortable, raw audio of heavy breathing. What’s most upsetting about “DAMAGED” is that the lyrics are actually decent, but the medium chosen to tell the story distracts too much from their actual content. Brink’s exaggerated vocal fry is jarring but not necessarily unwelcome and the melody is equally acceptable. But the track’s rap portions are so damaging that the entire song suffers.
Ending the album, “I WOULD DIE FOR YOU” presents itself as a more mature return to form for In This Moment. Returning to metal fundamentals like a slow, dirty melody, drum fills and a dramatic breakdown leave this last track feeling more like their older discography. Still, this song remains unique when compared to the band’s earlier work revisiting techno influence and moving away from the sexual and political content of their older music. With a dramatic, mournful tone apparent throughout its entirety, “I WOULD DIE FOR YOU” tells the love story of a couple that’s willing to sacrifice anything for each other. In an effort to connect this final song with the remainder of the album, “I WOULD DIE FOR YOU” references the futuristic musical components that opened the album with a similar refrain that builds to a climax that compliments the breakdown. The resulting blend of genres perfectly captures the best intentions of what In This Moment was attempting with this album. The track explores a new method of communicating a familiar message and succeeds in exciting the audience, all while referencing the originality that popularized In This Moment in the first place. Unfortunately, its success is not shared by the rest of the album.
Alternative music fans are protective of the songs they feel represent them and are resistant to outside influences interfering with those perceptions. In This Moment attempted something unfamiliar and risky by shifting their sound so suddenly. With only a handful of the songs reflecting In This Moment’s true creativity, it’s clear GODMODE will, at the very least, divide fan opinion. With all new things, there will always be some degree of failure — and In This Moment certainly experienced their share of that. Generally, GODMODE feels unrepresentative of In This Moment’s other creations, and while its mediocrity seems disheartening for fans, experimentation ensures an artist is still authentically creating and will continue to do so well into the future.
Daily Arts Writer Mivick Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.