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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mentallo and the Fixer - Where Angels Fear to Tread (Retroview)

Artist: Mentallo & the Fixer
Where Angels Fear to Tread
Label: Metropolis
Genre: Industrial/EBM
Website: http://www.mentallo.net/

Mentallo & the Fixer, named after the comic book characters of the same name, is for many considered a legend. The brothers Dassing got their start in the hill country of Texas as a part of Benestrophe and from there further explored their own musical stylings as a duo. Their music has since influenced thousands of people and become a regular fixture in the industrial music club scene. Dwayne Dassing eventually left Mentallo & The Fixer to pursue his own interests in the form of Reign of Roses and recently joined Another Liquid Ramble. After a long hiatus, Gary pulled together ‘Commandments for the Molecular Age’ which is arguably one of the more ambitious industrial masterpieces to venture forth in recent history. Recently, Metropolis Records, the label with which Mentallo originally signed, has stopped printing much of Mentallo and the Fixer’s back catalog, and so it has become exceedingly hard to find their classic releases. As a gesture of kindness to his fans, Gary Dassing has released a large portion of these albums, including material from before Mentallo came into existence, as downloadable zip files. A couple years ago, I got the opportunity to meet Gary Dassing and hang out with him on a few occasions. He has a quirky sense of humor, is very nonchalant in regards to his musical stature, and like so many Austin industrial musicians prefers conversing about gardening than about the state of the music scene. It is undeniable that his previous work has hold much sway over industrial musicians, but in this retroview, I’m going to be exploring how Where Angels Fear to Tread holds up against modern production methods and whether or not it has stood the test of time the way other industrial legends have.

Packaging: 8/10

The digital download version of this album doesn’t include artwork unfortunately, though the mp3’s are all very well labeled. The hard copy version on the other hand is very professionally done from artwork to credits. I highly recommend getting this on CD if you can find it!

Composition: 9/10

It’s fun to listen to this album nowadays! It’s not as aggressive as Revelations 23, but it’s still pretty agro in contrast to modern industrial. Where Angels Fear to Tread is still very dark and meticulously crafted after all these years. The combination of crazy sample mutilation and somewhat simplistic rhythms makes it hard to resist the urge to at the very least nod your head in time with the music. This album is riddled with many modern day dancefloor classics including Sacrilege which made a reemergence on the Return to Grimpen Ward Album. Gary’s voice dominates this mix of intense electronics and dark compositions that harkens back to not only classic EBM and industrial but at many times, rock and classical as well. My favorite part of this album is just picking through it and seeing what instruments I recognize. In this day of dime a dozen softsynths, a little recognizability here and there is a nice change of pace. From the start of the album, you can pick out some timeless Yamaha FM basslines, Moog synths, Roland TR machines, and other powerful synths of a classic era.

Production: 8/10

As far as production goes, it still holds its own against modern digital recordings. The tape recording shines and adds a nice compressed warmth to the low end without becoming overbearing with noise. At times, the treble can be a little harsh and the low end could use a boost here and there, but otherwise, it’s pleasant to listen to.

Artistic Merit: 10/10

Just to cut this section short and not rub the artist factor in, Mentallo created new ground for many an artist of the time and in my opinion, industrial acts these days need to go back and listen to this so that they can understand how far they’ve veered away from the original vision of dark electronic and EBM.

Flow: 10/10

It’s an awesome album. It flows as one cohesive unit and on the digital release even includes the remake of Sacrilege as included on Return to Grimpen Ward.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Just to reiterate, I seriously think that modern musicians need to go back and listen to this. So much is missing from modern music and Where Angels Fear to Tread is the embodiment of a far better era in electronic music. It does indeed stand the test of time and is just as new and innovative in contrast to newer music as it was back in the 90’s. This is a classic album and deserves to be listened to and absorbed again!

-Jim Wicked
date 09-15-08

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