Controversial is one of the most intriguing projects that I’ve come across recently. All helmed by one man, this is all the brain-child of Bart Coninckx, his goal to rise above the “box thinking” mentality within creating music. This means breaking genre boundaries and combining them in a multitude of crazy ways, like some sort of mad scientist. This not only defines the project’s namesake, but the ‘controversial’ aspect is also carried over into dark themes.
Listening to Controversial’s debut album sure is an experience. There is an absolute ton of stuff going on, and an assault of genres being thrown at the listener from all angles. This isn’t overwhelming, yet this does lead to plenty of unpredictable and often bizarre directions. It’s as if the curveball is being constantly thrown, there’s no telling what turn the ride is going to take next. That said, there is a definite foundation here, with plenty of metal and industrial themes to mould the plethora of other influences around it. There’s also a huge emphasis on sampling dialogue and effects from various pieces of other media, that bleeds into each track, becoming part of the overall composition.
It’s as if the curveball is being constantly thrown, there’s no telling what turn the ride is going to take next
A creepy horror movie style atmosphere gets everything rolling in “Trauma of Birth”. Whilst this does set a mood, it’s inclusion does feel like slight overkill. The track isn’t bad by all means, it’s just a tad misleading, considering how much the album has to offer. Plus it feels like more of an intro piece, and I don’t feel the record required this. “With a Vision of Death” is where the real party starts, as the eerie chiming of bells blends into distorted electro, the warped sound effects making it feel like the listener is being transported to alien planet from retro films. The synths continue to chug in, becoming more menacing, before the melody seamlessly flows into bulky metal riffs. Throughout the song, there are cries of terror from victims, taken from horror and slasher flicks, juxtaposing directly within the track’s theme, alongside some aggressive, distorted vocals. After an unsettling sample, “Violence” bursts into a catchy refrain that sounds like it could have been ripped straight from the 90’s. We’re then counted down into a descent of some powerful industrial metal guitar-work. This is accompanied by some perfectly timed samples of weapons being cocked and gunshots being fired off. It’s like a stand-off at a Rammstein concert, although the message of gun control is pretty clear here. Then, a twisted aura quickly builds up, explodes into metal breakdowns, signalling the start of “Commercial Breakdown” This is probably the most metal track on the album, complete with chugging riffs, thunderous drumbeats and distorted guitar tones, that are slightly grungy in presentation. Gritty vocals also make a welcome return. “Take Command”, on the other hand, begins with imposing, rumbling bassy tones, as we hear radio chatter from a military operation taking place. 80’s style synths then kick in, whilst different elements are progressively introduced, the pace picking up along the way, until it bursts into a chaotic pace. The placement of a tribal chant does feel a bit odd, mind. However, some slick riffage that sneaks in later on more than makes up for this, aligning perfectly with the electronic assault. “Crying” is a complete change of pace if I’ve ever heard one! It’s the softest song of the record, depending on a slow build and pulsing beat. It’s opts for a more dramatic tone, packed with ethereal synths, orchestral elements and even the sounds of a choir. It’s basically an electro-hymn! There are guitar solos to enhance the mood, packing in the emotional depth, sounding more akin to old-school rock numbers.
The metal elements once again creep back in on “Let the Monster Out”. Speedy riffs, progressive bass, thundering drumbeats – it’s all here. I guess it’s literally letting the monster back out, then! “Suffering Unseen”, meanwhile, utilises an electro-industrial melody, sounding like a machine awakening from a long slumber. Frenetic guitar work soon flows in, and the two different elements are combined in an extremely dynamic way, with a pounding electro kick drum beating in unison. It’s very much a metal rave, and conjures imagery of dwellers partying to it on a night out – one half of the room moshing to the track, whilst the other half dances to it. After a quick answer machine message, “Liar” begins, the ambience that sounding like Morse code. There’s a heavy emphasis on electronic elements here, that project a funky feel. The transition into guitar is flawless, picking up on the electronic parts, making this feel like a battle between synthetic and organic elements. Where in other songs this could be jarring, it’s realised brilliantly here. “Forge Ahead and Kill” proceeds to the sound of war sirens, as well as gunfire that has been masterfully mixed to transform it into a glitchy melody. This progresses to a hammering electro refrain, being almost EBM in style, before a cavalcade of guitars sweep in. There’s a very old-school feel to this one, enhanced by the low-fi qualities present. All that can be heard is the sound of the wind whistling in a barren landscape, packs of wolves howling in the background on the intro to “Wolf or Sheep”. This becomes a track laden with retro synths, and some powerful riffs. The sound of power tools are timed into the sea of layers, before a catchy beat drops into the mix. At times this feels like it could be a Rob Zombie track, especially considering the style and choices of sampling. The start of “Ego Army” is downright sinister, the electronic aura feeling like a mix of the Jaws theme, and a twisted 8-bit era videogame. The samples here are expertly crafted once again, moulding around aggressive metal guitars that are introduced later on. It’s like an apocalyptic military rave. “Is This the Best” starts with what seems to be Mongolian throat chanting, as a hip-hop inspired beat blares in the backgroud. It then becomes an ethereal acoustic style track, and some sombre choir elements complete the climatic tone. It feels like a moody way to complete the main arc of the record.
Second Genesis is topped off with a couple of great remixes. The first is a remix of “Violence” by industrial titans Die Krupps. Needless to say, this ups the ante of the track, increasing the heaviness dramatically. There’s more of an aggression to it, and has their signature sound all over it. The second remix is an alternate rendition of “Take Command” by Leaether Strip. For some reason, this makes the track feel more high-octane than before, condensing it into a much shorter running time. The emphasis on electro elements is greater here than in the original, and it has a much darker tone. Once again, this is a track that they have made their own.
It’s all a bizarre experiment, which has the qualities of a soundtrack to… something… at times. However, look past that, and it’s actually more complex that it first leads on to be
Long story short, Second Genesis is a bit nuts! There’s so much going on within this record, that it becomes a lot to unpack, and the mashup of genres is pretty wild. If I’m honest, I was ready to write this one off, but after bearing with it, everything started to make sense. Scanning over the tracks again gave a much better understanding of what Coninckx was trying to achieve here. It’s all a bizarre experiment, which has the qualities of a soundtrack to… something… at times. However, look past that, and it’s actually more complex that it first leads on to be, each song having a surprising amount of depth in terms of themes and content. That said, things can get repetitive at times, as each track is comprised of a refrain that is repeated, but this definitely is far from being bad, they are still catchy beasts! It would just be nice if there were a few more dynamics within the music.
The heavy emphasis on sampling, which may seem overbearing at first, is actually quite genius, not only becoming a composition in it’s own right, but also enhancing the nature of every song. I do have to admit, that I would’ve loved to have heard more of a vocal performance from Coninckx, as I think his growling, fierce distorted vocals compliments the overall sound extremely well. When he’s present, it makes the proceedings feel much grittier, very fitting to the content within. A more robust presence would’ve gone down well here, and it’s a shame his voice takes somewhat of a backseat.
it’s all so damn creative, breaking boundaries in terms of genres, and presenting music in what feels like a fresh manner
As I sated earlier, Controversial is one of the most intriguing music projects that I’ve come across recently. That’s because it’s all so damn creative, breaking boundaries in terms of genres, and presenting music in what feels like a fresh manner. Second Gensis is a pretty good album, but it doesn’t quite feel like a complete package. However, there are extremely solid foundations here, and the potential is massive! With a bit more tweaking, a few more paradigm shifts in each track and a balance of sampling alongside more vocals, this could become magnificent.
Final Verdict: Whilst not quite the complete package, Second Genesis is still a great album and an experience in it’s own right. With a genius use of sampling and an insane mashup of genres, some strong foundations have been set here, making Controversial a music project to keep a very close eye on!