4 out of 5
Produced by: Eli Crews
Label: Skin Graft
I’ll admit, this was a pretty vastly different experience from Child Abuse’s previous Skin Graft release, Trouble in Paradise, and initially, I was kind of put off. I realize that to the not-noise-inclined, this can all sound like a mish-mash, but assuming this is your scene, whereas Paradise’s mash-up of grind and jazzy fills and hardcore gave space between its elements such that songs and ebbs and flows emerged, Imaginary Enemy ditches any such restraint for an always-on barrage of pummeling drumming, bleeding heartbeat bass lines, screaming synths, and full-on death metal growls, all played on the tuned down register such that it blends together as an assault. I went scrambling through the credits for some kind of lineup change, but it’s our same three dudes – Oran Canfield, Eric Lau, and Tim Dahl, with an assist from Doomsday Student / ex-Arab on Radar-er Eric Paul on vocals – and producer Eli Crews also worked on Paradise. There’s mention of ‘additional vocal tracking and productions,’ but that’s me reaching.
Meanwhile, this is a pretty damn short disc – 7 tracks, 30 minutes – so it’s playing again while I’m fussing over these details, and I realize… y’know, it’s not as noisy as I thought. There are actually several breakdowns going on, lots of amazing time changes, and changeups in the vocals. Some riffs emerge, though they’re swallowed up by chaos later. And the 6-minute Child Support, with Paul’s vocals, stands way out as a purposeful halt in proceedings – led in by some syncopated drum soloing – before leading into the madness of closer Wavy Gravy. Plus: despite how loud this thing seems, my ears aren’t tired. So we go again. And we go again.
Imaginary Enemy is a punishingly precise album. Once your ears get used to how everything sounds stuffed into the same levels, you do begin to hear the different instruments at play – the thudding basslines against crunchy waves of keys – and those aforementioned breakdowns and changeups reveal themselves to be more frequent and varied than supposed, with lots of production wizardry (‘additional vocal tracking and productions?’) gone in to making this a noisy but controlled affair.
I do question the mix, as I’m attesting to how it makes the thing hard to parse – and I still get lost when ALL of the bits and pieces are going at full pace and volume – but I’m such a sucker for discs like these, that become more and more interesting the more opportunity you give them.
Addendum: I’ve changed up the pace by listening to Trouble in Paradise again. Yeah, this is the same freaking band.