How can it possibly have taken this long? After 12 eventful years as a band and five albums of peerless EDMetalcore, Crossfaith have finally done the blindingly obvious and delivered a concept album about a dystopian future. Visually, spiritually and sonically, one could argue that the Osaka electro-punks have been doing this for years already, but at long last it’s been rubber-stamped by the Thought Police and delivered in shiny Tyrell Corporation-branded packaging.
Set in an alternative future in which the ruling class maintain their superiority through Artificial Intelligence, with the 12 songs on offer representing the voice of the resistance, Ex Machina may conceptually be on shaky ground, but musically we’re firmly anchored in the core foundations of classic Crossfaith, with swathes of electronica and ferocious metalcore riffs pumping the gas at dangerous levels, spilling over into the type of choruses that arenas were made for. Aside from a somewhat one-dimensional facsimile cover of Linkin Park’s Faint, gone are the nu-metal trappings of predecessor Xeno, making way for a full-scale return to the primal electro-metal lunacy of breakthrough album Apocalyze that pounds on the doors of Bloodstock, Creamfields and Slamdunk in equal measure. Tracks like The Perfect Nightmare and Daybreak up the death metal drum ante to grossly abusive levels, making for an air-drumming wonderland, while the increasingly prevalent electronic elements on the likes of Destroy, Make A Move and Wipeout sound more Prodigy-esque than ever before. With no disrespect to the originals, all three are absolutely screaming for a Liam Howlett remix, album highlight Wipeout in particular chomping at the bit for a full digital refit with its whining sirens, breakbeat interlude and glory chorus. When maintaining this furious pace, the band are unstoppable, but it’s the slower moments that stop Ex Machina from becoming a complete success, with Milestone making a decent but unmemorable stab at the kind of epic bombast beloved by Devin Townsend, and emo-synth ballad Lost In You coming in at the right time, but bearing all the wrong gifts, proving that major key euphoria is best left on the beaches of Ibiza. Elsewhere, a handful of guests crop up once again, this time in the form of punk-rappers Ho99o9 and Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari, with the former proving themselves far better collaborators than they are creators, and the latter making the most natural bedfellow since pork scratchings were introduced to pubs.
In the week after forefathers The Prodigy released a lumpen comeback single that could at best be described as uninspired and derivative, it’s warming to see the fire still burns bright in the hearts of their children, whatever terrifying future awaits, us.
Ex Machina will be available via UNFD from 3 August 2018