Melted Cassettes is a duo from Arizona. It was founded in 2007, and has since released some limited tapes, a download-EP, a three-way-split with A Beautiful Lotus and Wet Dreams, and a CD-split with Cheezface. Despite the number of releases, this full-length album is my first exposure to the duo's aural terror. The album is thematically based on a hoax news article, according to which some Finnish geologists managed to record the sound of tectonic plates - the sound of Hell. This album, as its name states, aims to produce those tapes' sound.
When an album promises to sound like Hell and its publishing label describes it as "electronic noise rock," it's hard to form up any specific assumptions before giving it a spin. The album sure is difficult to categorize, and I'd like to throw this description to accompany the one that Mind Flare Media provided: nihilistic IDM/EBM. The band's expression is loud, noisy, electronic and glitchy, and I'm fairly certain that many people will label it as intolerable and plain worthless - and I can't blame them, even though my opinion differs.
The release is built of manipulated, abused and distorted synths creating simple drone and noisy ambience, which is topped by loud synth-rhythms and -percussions and heavily edited shouts. Some (very distorted and otherwise manipulated, unsurprisingly) guitar is used as well, which makes some parts resemble metal and rock - hence the term "electric noise rock." The songs vary from glitchy fast-paced violence and lunacy to way calmer and more minimalistic spheres, and even to (more or less) epic build-ups.
There is little of pure noise to be heard as the songs tend to have some kind of a rhythm or even melody, but their overall sound, the vocals, and the additional noise/drone/electro-glitch give them a good dose of anti-musical qualities. The mixture of experimental noise and composed elements is interesting and the band's dry sound makes it all sound fresh and original, but the mixture starts to lose its appeal after a few spins. The songs rely on invasive loudness and simplisticity, and the dry sound makes the lack of details even more evident by eating away some of the distortions' power. The barer moments sound just that: bare and minimalistic in a less flattering way.
This album sounds and behaves as if it hated its listener; it allows glimpses of its good characteristics, but makes them less functional and enjoyable by the overt loudness and compositional simplisticity. I would've wanted the album to have more abstract moments of chaos; for example, different kinds of masses and structures of noise and drone could've given more contrast and meaning to the interweaved layers of beats and other rhythms. The overall soundscape would need more detail to work as something bigger and fancier than mere industrial noise.
The album's minimalistic but disturbing design goes hand in hand with the music; it feels unique, but in the end lets you expect more than it finally delivers. I enjoyed listening to the album, but the imbalanced soundscape can't hide the compositional weaknesses and lack of detail. I'm sure the group can take their concept and sound further, and I'm already waiting to hear their next release.