Album Review – Chemlab “Oxidizer” 2003

Industrial Metal must a small, uncomfortable niche, because so many bands keep trying to break out of it. When NIN hit the bigs, it’s became accepted wisdom in the late 90’s that even though your band had produced a great thrash-beat album, you had to channel your inner crooner see what else was out there. The trouble is, not everyone is Trent Reznor.

It was this kind of thinking that led to many of the great second-tier industrial bands getting led down some very interesting paths like  sludge (Skrew), R&B (Sister Machine Gun), jazz (Spahn Ranch) and what-the-hell (Monster Voodoo Machine). Interesting, but not good.

Riding high in 1996 after their best work Burnout at the Hydrogen Bar, Chemlab released East Side Militia, a short and confusing collection of what should have been B-sides tacked to a great single, “Exiled”. Reaction was not encouraging, so the band took some time to reflect. Everyone else moved to other projects, but Jared Louche decided to take one more kick at the Chemlab can.

Oxidizer keeps all the unique parts of what made Chemlab an interesting project. The clever wordplay and equation of computer culture wth the language of drug addiction, the charismatic delivery. Those elements are present, but they are weighed down by a variety of conflicting meta-styles painted over things. Producer DJ Acucrack drops some slick beats into the proceedings, but that’s part of the problem – it’s too slick, too inoffensive. Chemlab seems hungry for one of these tracks to be a hit single, but they don’t know which one will work. Me neither. 

If they’d released this right after Burnout, it would have been a timely and acceptable popping-up of their sound which trounced anything Econoline Crush was doing. In 2003, who were Chemlab’s competition, and who were their audience? 4 out of 10.

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