Friday, May 29, 2009

Egoist - Ultra-Selfish Revolution (Selfmadegod, 2009)

What were you doing when you were 22? I had just graduated U. Penn, professionally aimless and without a girlfriend, working part-time at an avant-garde jazz label and spending long hours in coffee shops to avoid the sad regression of living with my parents post-college. Polish whiz kid Stanislaw "Stan" Wolonciej was competing against Sean Reinert (Cynic) for the drum throne in ex-Pestilence guitarist Patrick Mameli's C-187 project, and writing, playing and recording every single instrument on a super-professional metal album. Stan wins. 

Normally, the work of a metal musician this young warrants condescension if it's good (e.g. "Warbringer bring nothing new to the table, but they'll get over Vio-Lence when they're older"), or excuses if it's terrible ("Those Black Tide kids suck, but who didn't suck when they were teenagers?"). Ultra-Selfish Revolution requires neither. For every malfunctioning robot rhythm or bizarro vocal delivery that suggests Stan is still internalizing Thordendal and Patton, there's another passage of sheer invention. Electronic frippery flits around a surprisingly rich baritone voice. Placid dream pop soundscapes float in suspension (check "Near Warm Fireplace"), then get raped by giant pitch-bending Meshu-grooves out of nowhere ("(Not) The End," with a guitar solo by Mameli). There's a freaky slap-bass solo on "Bright Shift." Stan covers a lot of ground here, and if his combinations of stacked vocal harmonies and ominous riffing make for strange bedfellows, they also stick to a consistent vibe. 

Ultra-Selfish Revolution thrives on its heady vibe, often at the expense of memorable songs. Melodies drift in and out without sticking. The album's polished heaviness is steely and frictionless. We get woozy, not punched in the gut. It feels ultra-smooth, almost repellent in its perfection. Maybe that's what Stan was going for with the suit and tie on the cover. Stan's here to do his business and leave. He doesn't care if you follow or not. He's in this alone. It's so hard to find good help these days. 


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