Perturbator - New Model album review

France’s synthwave sentinel stretches out into new, dark realms

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Thanks to the sterling efforts of acts like Perturbator, Survive, Carpenter Brut and GosT, the synthwave movement has become one of the most fascinating musical phenomena to cross over into the metal world. What needs to be proven now is that the genre has more to offer than excitable, turbocharged retreads of the 80s sci-fi and horror soundtracks that spawned it. Perturbator leads the charge admirably on New Model; a 35-minute trek through monochrome, dystopian landscapes and sinister urban underbellies, it’s darker, heavier and noticeably weirder than anything on 2016’s much-hailed The Uncanny Valley. There are a few more nods to contemporary EDM than some metalheads may be comfortable with, not least on the vocal-led Vantablack, but the majority of these songs are as heavy and menacing as anything the metal scene has conjured recently. The key to the power that drives disorientating mini-symphonies like Tactical Precision Disarray and Tainted Empire is the aggressive, sub-bass grind that underpins every last pounding digi-groove. As a result, while being a fan of electronic music will probably help, it is by no means a prerequisite to being sucked into Perturbator’s robotic nightmares. Jarring tempo shifts, blistering rushes of black ambience and wonky melodies that act as chinks of hazy light amid the oppressive squall are all integral here and ensure that this all makes more sense as an offshoot of extreme metal than of anything more chart-friendly. Peaking with the monstrous sprawl of God Complex, this is a fascinating and laudably subversive step forward.