Can you say ‘90s throwback’? Big Time Kill certainly can. Absolutely everything on Shock and Awe drips with influence from the early 1990s industrial gods: Filter, Killing Joke, Orgy, New Order and (of course) the mighty Nine Inch Nails. Copies of this album better come with free black lipstick and leather rave gear, or I will feel my money has been wasted.
On the spectrum of industrial rock, Big Time Kill stand strongly on the ‘industrial’ side. The drumming is handled entirely by machines, and multiple layers of synth dominate the melodies. This is definitely for the best, because it gives Shock and Awe a dance vibe that would have been almost impossible to replicate with a more guitar-based sound. Just listen to the way the music pops during goth-funk numbers like “I Don’t Care Anymore,” “Don’t Need You,” and “Answer.”
Big Time Kill will feel awfully familiar to anyone who listened to rock music between 1984 and 1998, but at least they aren’t a totally derivative prospect. They don’t wear makeup or outdated fashion choices (a wise move). They also make a concentrated effort to push themselves creatively and not wallow in a pre-dug hole, even if all of their envelop-pushing moments usually lead to other 90s trends like post-punk (“Echo Heart”) or industrial drum n’ bass (“Evil”). These are some of their best moments though, and we would love to see more of them.
Unlike many other modern industrial acts like 3Teeth or virtually everything Marilyn Manson has done post-Golden Age of Grotesque, Big Time Kill aren’t just looking backwards. They are doing what they are obviously comfortable with while still looking for new ways to reinterpret their heroes’ sound. Shock and Awe might not shock or awe many listeners who have already been fans of this sort of thing for decades, but it will give them something fresh to sink their teeth into.
Everything comes and goes in waves. Last decade we saw a massive recall of the glory days of the sunset strip, complete with all the bright colours and over-the-top excess that followed. As the 2010s draws to a close, we see a return to the grimy, grungy post-Cold War, all grim opioids and freakish, harsh rave metal. It’s still music to party all night long to but it would be a very different kind of party – the kind of party that Big Time Kill would totally own.
Written by Max Morin
*edited by Kate Erickson