Artist: Enemy Ammunition
Album: The Skin I’ve Shed
I’m going to say first of all that I am a fan of Nine Inch Nails, but at the same time, I do resent the damage that Trent Reznor’s done to the industrial genre. Even he himself will admit that it was his fault that Skinny Puppy fell apart in the record labels’ rush to sign established industrial artists. Not only that though, but Reznor instilled a new aesthetic in the ranks of ‘The Blanks’ as I like to call them. What I mean by the Blanks is that there is a number of impressionable youth who aspire to be part of the rock n roll elite. They see favorite superstar X on MTV and decide that’s the superstar they want to be like. For my generation, we looked up to Metallica and later on, Nirvana. If anybody remembers during this time, we did unfortunately spawn a lot of clones and even now, the same thing is happening with the Emo fad. Trent Reznor brought something new to the table though in that in spite of what was going on around him, he made it cool to be dark, narcissistic, and shallow (go ahead and act like Closer’s lyrics are really as deep as you like to believe!) These people refuse to be superfluous and poetic but instead come out and say that they want to fuck you like an animal. The Blanks don’t respond in one mass with NIN the way that they do with Korn or Coal Chamber. It’s been a continuous thing. Naturally, Reznor inspired Marilyn Manson which stereotypes aside, I do respect him as a musician and an artist. But outside of that, Reznor has sporadically inspired Blanks to be like him since his first album in 1989 and still causes new ones today. Unfortunately, as is usually the problem with music by the Blanks, they tend to fall way short of their mark and end up not being nearly as innovative or interesting as the original and instead occasionally turn into quick cash for record labels still trying to find that industrial niche. Through all of this, Reznor has also caused many to not understand the industrial aesthetic anymore so that bands like Tool and Assemblage 23 are mistaken as industrial by club kids. So, imagine how defeated I feel to open up my browser to this ‘Enemy Ammunition’ band. Right there on his site, Nick Niesen proclaims in big bold letters that he is the sole person behind Enemy Ammunition and everything else on the site reads as pretty much a narcissistic rant and even includes the stereotyped ‘I’m moody’ promo pictures. And yes, his studio ethic is very shallow. (Side note: I’ve worked with people like this, and in honesty, they’re often fun and interesting people once you get past the ‘I am my own hero’ façade on the surface.) So why bring up the elaborate Nine Inch Nails reference. To quote his site: “Major Influences: Nine Inch Nails.” Like the world needed another clone. And sure enough, that is the only name mentioned in that section. And why call him a blank you ask? “Other Influences: Money.” In my experience, anybody who is in this for money just doesn’t get it and most likely never will. Still, listening to this supposed ‘masterpiece’ is going to be the only way of judging where he stands as an artist.
This album is a digital-only release. I was extremely disappointed on his web site where there was a section to download the entire album in a zip file. So I download it, and it’s just the same mp3’s as are on the front page. No artwork. No credits. Nothing. Boring dull and drab. To add insult to injury, the mp3’s are encoded at that horrendous old lofi standard: 128kbits. Simply unacceptable.
“The Skin I’ve Shed” sounds like what it is: generic industrial rock. The opening track is trashy atmosphere mixed with piano and incessant whining (with vocals that low, who could understand what he’s saying?) It’s a NIN knockoff with bad vocals. There’s nothing wrong with not being able to sing, but you either hire somebody you can, or you find clever ways of hiding your inability to sing. Then from there it jumps into a more rock-oriented track, but it gets extremely repetitive. The next song isn’t much better. Crap-tastic drum machine sounds filtered with an annoying distorted piano sound that’s unfortunately quite reminiscent of a Nord Lead. It tries to break into some new territory with the outro, but it just ends up being too random because of the use of effects, yet still too repetitive due to the lack of any compositional change. The rest of the album pretty much alternates between generic moody pieces and rock songs that become too redundant too quickly. As a note of just how repetitive it can get, if you take a track like Down, skip around by a couple minutes, it sounds like a continuation of the part you just left. Unfortunately, a lot of it also sounds like he’s still learning these new instruments. I have to add at this point though that the last song is just horrendous. It’s a repeated drum beat with him speaking over top of it. He’s trying to come off as seething, but I can’t get this image of an Emo kid slashing at his own wrists complaining about how his mom makes him ride around in the minivan because the other kids will just beat him up if he takes the bus. The only credit I can give him is that Amore does end up sounding like something Reznor would have done in his early days. …minus the shitty vocals, of course.
It’s nice that he used hardware synths on this recording. The overabundance of software in the so called ‘industrial’ scene these days grates on my nerves. Unfortunately, this boy could use some lessons in proper mixing. Guitars are way too trebly to be comfortable, and his obnoxiously monotone vocals are buried in the mix so that they’re barely audible. On tracks like Magnified, bass is virtually nonexistent Then on the very opposite end of the spectrum, songs like Undoing and Trust In Me are way too boomy. This recording could have benefited from some better monitors and some room treatment as I’m more hearing how bad his tracking room is than I’m hearing the music. The noise floor is awful high on this album as well. During the quiet parts of the songs, my spectrum analyzer is all over the place below -50db. Mastering? There’s none there that I can hear unless he’s using some two-dimensional plugin like Ozone. The bottom line here is that I know this kid is proud of having been able to accomplish all of this himself, but it’s very much evident that he got in over his head with this one and really needed the help of somebody else whether it be a fresh set of ears or somebody with some better gear.
Artistic Merit: 0/10
When the guy comes out and says he’s in it for the money and then goes out of his way to sound like Nine Inch Nails, you can’t call him an artist. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. In the end, this album sounds like a cliché. The last lyric on the album sums it up: “What the hell am I doing with my life?” Enemy Ammunition really needs to spend some time thinking on this.
This is about the only thing that this album really has going for it. Though imperfectly mastered, the use of the same instrument sounds and bad mixing does make the songs fit nicely together.
Overall Rating: 3/10
If you’re in the mood for another industrial-rock clone then this is your chance to get in on that, but for the average listener I wouldn’t recommend suffering through this monstrosity. It has chances to break out and engage the listener, but throws away new things in favor of repetition and over-used tricks and presets. It plays it safe, but too safe for even the non-experimental audience