System VII is an album that is either trying to do too much or simply does certain things considerably better than others. Sometimes it wants to be an industrial album; sometimes it’s experimental; sometimes it heads in other directions entirely. It’s when artist IX decides that this is an industrial album that it fares best. That’s how it opens, with “Breaking Faith” building up slowly on deep pulses, a too-cliché voiceover, and a cool beat before busting out some big power chords. Having established its potential for gritty energy, it then unfortunately proceeds to let the air out of its own tires with the next track, “Recursive Functions.” It plods forth, repeating itself with a woodwind phrase and some artsy electronic treatments. The album recovers on the next track, IX, and returns to the potency of the opener, but by now we have established a sort of indecisive imbalance that carries through the rest of the album. For me, things don’t get all that interesting again until “The Machine (Parts I-III).” It come off like a lost Tangerine Dream number with a little more emphasis on powerful drumming. There are meaty low chords that would do Klaus proud, and its chugging meter turns catchy pretty quickly. Fans of older analog will dig into this right away, and will love the last couple minutes. “Master Race” offers one more blast of power. It gnashes its teeth at you the whole time with heavily distorted snippets that come in bursts. Drop outs reveal an underlay of tick-tock rhythms and a little chipset influence. The electronic drums here can feel a bit thin at times—although perhaps appropriately so, given the track’s overall late-80s feel. You’ll get it when you hear it.
As for the other tracks, they don’t raise much more than a shrug from me. The more experimental tracks, like “Division by Zero” and “Disparity Fields,” have me reaching for the skip button. “Immortal” and “Serena’s Lament” bring us to a quieter place fronted by piano. But the sonata-esque line in “Serena’s Lament” over-repeats itself and the pseudo-classical feel is a bit heavy handed. “Immortal” features a single, high, repeating note that, after a solid minute, feels like getting poked in the forehead. And it keeps going. System VII has spots where the repetitive elements just wear out their welcome. IX has also tucked a bit of a science-fiction narrative into the album via vocal drops, most notably in “IXIAN Archive Entry 119-27.” But it’s not enough to keep me from wishing more of the album was the meaty industrial-influence stuff that works best.
Available from Bandcamp.