Overall Score: 8/10 Songwriting: 9/10 Production: 8/10 Immersion: 7/10 Pros: Some really stand-out tracks with a clear and broad range of influences... Cons: Not entirely captivating, but a damn good listen all the same...
Every once in a while, one takes a punt on something different. I’d say I was exceptionally broad minded when it came to the music I listen to, but even then, we all have our preferences and individual tastes…
As such, it should be noted that EBM (‘electronic body music’ to those too metal to know otherwise) is, to me at least, a curious little thing. On one hand, I love the memories of sweaty London clubs, complete with the smoke-haze and epilepsy-inducing strobes. As has been highlighted, I make no secret of my love for electronic music; Eno, Skinny Puppy, FLA et al, but I’ve always found that the branch of EBM itself never had quite the same appeal…
That said, I have nothing against it. If anything, ‘Leaving Babylon’ has opened my eyes that little further; there is an immersive atmosphere to the music, sans ‘guitar’ or drums, but rather a glorious combustion of electronic sounds which invokes synaesthesia, again taking oneself back to the sweaty, neon gatherings of old.
With ‘Leaving Babylon’, Sweden’s electronic-stalwarts Covenant return following 2011’s ‘Modern Ruin’ and a small line-up change (with Andreas Catjar and Daniel Jonasson joining Eskil and Joakim following the departure of Clas and Daniel). There are many influences evident in their sound; Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, The Human League and even VNV Nation and to an extent KMFDM (though without the intensity). By all intents and purposes to those less familiar with the ‘synthpop’ circles (including myself), this album could have been released at any point in the last 20 years… it’s sound is evolved, but yet somewhat original.
‘Thy Kingdom Come’ builds up like a mid-80s MIDI; the soundtrack to a medieval-esque game before Eskil’s emotive vocals (and indeed lyrics) smother the synths and the sound is very much VNV; I feel this song is to be an assured staple of their live performances here on. ‘Ignorance & Bliss’ is absolutely fantastic; emotional, captivating and melodic. I imagine this would sound as beautiful as it does in a small club as it would commanding the main stage at a festival.
‘Last Dance’ is probably one of the strongest tracks on the album; this is an anthem to not only the fans of the band, but to lovers of the genre. It’s a beautiful, resonate summary of what both EBM is, and how it should be done. Heartfelt vocals layer a haunting synthetic crescendo and the gripping bass will long keep the arms and heads moving. In many ways, this song has done the entire album further justice as, again to me, it demonstrates how influential music is to other musicians. For me, I hear the influence from bands such as Covenant and their more pop-ular predecessors in bands like Godhead, Marilyn Manson and Mortiis.
‘Auto (Circulation)’ has become a regular visit on my MP3 player on the way to work. Looking out over the beautiful landscapes on the journey into London, this sound accompanies with a memory-inducing tranquillity. The influences here are broadly evident; it almost sounds as if Eno, Bowie and even Bono have joined forces with Kraftwerk, Craig Armstrong and The Cure… and it’s nothing short of a masterpiece.
Yet, this is by no means the best electronic album I’ve ever heard, but is most definitely one of the best I’ve heard in a very long time. So much so in fact that I have already amassed a plethora of related material on the back of how much I enjoyed ‘Leaving Babylon’.
Those bloody Swedes; one of the finest musical nations on Earth.
1 – ‘Leaving Babylon’ (03:19)
2 – ‘Prime Movers’ (04:55)
3 – ‘For Our Time’ (04:22)
4 – ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ (04:44)
5 – ‘I Walk Slow’ (03:04)
6 – ‘Ignorance & Bliss’ (06:36)
7 – ‘Last Dance’ (06:16)
8 – ‘Auto (Circulation)’ (06:42)
9 – ‘Not to Be Here’ (06:30)
10 – ‘Untitled’ (09:44)
[ Length : 56:11 ]