The Phantom Tollbooth

Lethal Injection
Artist: various
Label:  Flaming Fish Music
Time: 64.35 / 13 tracks
 
Christian industrial music has startled adherents and critics, offering some of the most intelligent and authentic projects in the industrial genre. Many Christian industrial bands are forced to excel for survival's sake against the prejudice that dismisses them: "Christians can't be industrial! The two are contradictory!" Flaming Fish has led the Christian industrial revolution, using sampler discs as the hammers and chisels with which to carve a niche into a cold, often caustic musical counterculture. Sometimes the results are stunning, and sometimes not. Lethal Injection offers both.
 
In general, the compilation is wonderfully loud, although the power behind the music too often comes from the endless repetition of typical drum machine beats behind throwaway keyboard phrases. LEVEL'S carries a good rhythm reminiscent of Acumen Nation, but is guilty of excessive repetition and one-note verses. At the other end of the spectrum is Audio Paradox, the industrial project of the musically-diverse Josh Pyle. While some bands on Lethal Injection lack ambition, Audio Paradox's music bursts at the seams with competing intricacies, bound together by his commanding gothic voice, in a song that works well in spite of its refusal to spotlight a single, powerful musical spine.
 
Lethal Injection's problem is that although most of these songs threaten to erupt, they never explode beyond mere wisps of warm musical smoke, weak in passion or intensity. The bands seem timid, afraid to push either the sonic volume or lyrical urgency into the red. Pivot Clowj almost breaks this mold by trying to avoid intensity completely; "So Gullible" resembles a tender Tear Garden creation with its mix of odd poetry, sorrow, magic, vocal inflections and accents, and fairyland music that builds into a work of awakening beauty and delicacy. Rather than escaping industrial stereotypes, however, it sadly allows the usual techno beats to interrupt the tone poem. Still, the song is a good one, despite being lyrical obscure. On the other hand, Cybershadow continue to mature in their textured and layered electronic sound, with even better lyrics than on their first full-length album—although the vocals are still badly out of key. The song shows ambition, but falls short of the aggro attack hinted at but not delivered.
 
Lethal Injection never reaches a climax, partly because too few bands are courageous enough to set aside the "I have a computer and drum machine" approach to industrial music. The industrial genre itself is in constant risk of self-suffocation through total adherence to formula and stereotype; quality bands like Circle of Dust and Cult of Jester have proven that Christians aren't necessarily bound by those parameters. Unfortunately, most of LI is an inclusive demonstration of the stereotypes and generic formulas of industrial music. There isn't a bad band on here, but LI is a compilation of astoundingly good bands that, for whatever reason, opted to relax into the mold of generic industrial instead of really pounding the limits of exploration and sound.
 
By Matthew Atkinson (11/4/98)