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Black Market Serotonin – DeadByFiveOClock EP

| On 10, Apr 2011

Ever heard a classical piece and thought: “this needs added glitch”? Well, Black Market Serotonin have beat you to it, and not only created some beastly yet emphatically melodic riffs drenched in computerised buzz, but hybridised it with punk rock bile and a sense of the adventurous on their EP, ‘DeadByFiveOClock’, the quality of which excuses the fact that some appears to have lost the space bar.

Seething opener ‘DeadByFiveOClock’ is a five-minute thrill ride that takes Mozart and Slash in equal measures as melodic inspiration, with classical keyboards and insane heavy metal guitar solos all wrapped around a pounding cymbal-driven rhythm that relentlessly pummels the listener through the layers of squalling electronics. The vocals are not merely powerful, but truly expressive: pouring out bile like the singer’s life depends on it. However, the lyricism is not merely good, but eloquent, matching a surprisingly cerebral approach to songwriting that pushes the boundaries of the track from industrial screech to flowing electro-clash-classical (classi-clash?) waltz with real aplomb.

Sombre follower ‘The End Of History’ is slightly less immediate, the piano separated from the glitched-out buzz effect that haunts the piece like a futuristic ghost, but what we’re left with is a sprawling, melodic and indeed beautiful electro heavy metal epic. The vocals are allowed room to fully explore their range, revealing a velvet tone that contrasts the concrete riffing wonderfully before erupting into a pained howl. Not only this, but the lyrics blossom from thoughtful to downright philosophical, but somehow avoid pretentiousness in the band’s ability to never lose sight of how to rock. Even the subtle piano solo adds nuance and is backed by dancefloor percussion and followed by an avalanche of distorted guitar before the final chorus flourishes into shimmering strings and sludgy metal stomp.

Things wind down in cerebral electro-rock ‘Revelation One’, which sounds like the long-lost child of Depeche Mode, raised by Soundgarden. A dance groove bassline and sleek keyboards and Gahan-esque singing are backed by tumultuous grunge-metal drums and even grungier guitars, wailing riffs and solos left, right and centre. Once again, a tender piano solo appears, perhaps a bit crowbarred in here, but the band’s musical ability and creative drive manage to save it from jarring, echoing it with a full rock-out version without cheapening either.

Closer track ‘Hours’ creeps in with a bluesy, muted march. Naked drums and strummed acoustic guitar create the structural support of the track, pushed by distant, reverb-fringed yet raw lead vocals. This blossoms organically into something that sounds like a less pretentious Radiohead in its artistic aspirations. The results are an eerie art-rock slowdance that shifts like tectonic plates from hushed to grand with grace and majesty, challenging in its intricate layers and features, yet appealing in a clear ability to write a hook and a riff, and rewarding when you realise just how much substance there really is below the surface.

Perhaps the only gripe I have is that the three-minute angst track ‘Clarity’ is conspicuously simple in comparison. The muted bass throb/percussive clatter rhythm are addictive and the melodies crafted well, but it does feel a little too… pop? There a few too many ghosts of Muse for me to really fall for it given the inspirational context.

Black Market Serotonin have created an incredible series of tracks for this EP. Most clock in at approximately six minutes, yet none of these can really be mentioned as having flaccid moments or filler material. Each shows the band pushing their sound while exploring all the little nooks and crannies already within its bounds. With hints of Depeche Mode, Alice In Chains, Radiohead, Thrice, Nine Inch Nails, and Muse, this is a talented outfit that could go nearly anywhere with their sound. All I can say for definite is that whatever they choose to do, a devoted cult following is inevitable.

Author: Katie H-Halinski