Scandroid’s Monochrome Review: Surviving in the Datastream

Scandroid is the retro-synth-pop project from Klayton, whom you may know from Celldweller (he also had a recent album release). The debut of his first album was just last year, and the sophomore album comes just in time for Halloween. This is of course perfect, as the album sounds like it belongs on Stranger Things, which is set to release October 27th. It also has a cover and a remix of said cover that fits perfectly for the spooky holiday.

If you’re familiar with Klayton, you know that he likes to create worlds and backstory for his music. This is certainly the case with Scandroid, which follows a character named Red, who lives in a cyberpunk future where humans and sentient robots struggle to find a connection in their dystopian world. The album has a strong focus on the struggles of being a non-human and finding his way in the world, what love would be like, etc. Monochrome expands on that.

Every song title from the original is seemingly referenced at some point in the lyrics found on the second album, with heavy references to the datastream. This time around there is a bit more variance in the instrumentalization of the songs. Interestingly enough, the songs without vocals are the ones that I find to be the strongest. There are a few, but the ones that had me entranced from the first listen were “On the Face of the Deep” and “Searching for a Lost Horizon.”

There’s something to be said about a song that not only evokes a feeling of familiarity and emotion, but one that gives you a mental image through its entirety. Of course, the names help with that, but the creepy factor of them is what really hooked me. Much like Singularity from the first album, it instills something beyond just the 80s – listening to them while driving through foggy forests is absolutely magical.

They’re both cinematic, but it’s hard to pinpoint what makes them so special. I do know the overwhelming bass in Horizon makes my hair stand on edge, but you need to have it up loud to really get the proper sensation from it. The slow buildup is so satisfying; it almost feels as though the journey ends before you ever reach your conclusion. On the other hand, Deep has this ever present scale that brings tension and wonder, which ties all the other parts of the song together. These songs seem to mesh the synthwave of Scandroid with the large sounds of Celldweller’s Wish Upon a Blackstar and End of an Empire albums.

Other parts of the album include the previously released One Thousand Years, which still includes the wohohohos that many people seem to find very jarring. To liken it to something else that may be off-putting for some people, think of the very loud beginning from Depeche Mode’s “A Pain That I’m Used To.” After the initial 20 seconds, the song goes into something most people would enjoy, but that opening is used throughout the song, much like the wohohohos. While I won’t say it isn’t the low point of the album for me, after listening multiple times, it is less grating.

The cover of “The Force Theme” that was released last year made its way onto this album, which is a nice synth version of the popular Star Wars song. You can listen to it at the top of the page. There’s also a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which is just a joy to listen to. Granted, I’ve loved the original since I was a little kid, and the song originated in the 80s (so did Tears for Fears’ “Shout” from the last album though), but this is a great re-imagining of it. While Klayton does the song in his signature Scandroid sound, there is also a remix by PYLOT. While also an artist that is big into 80s sounds, this one takes a more electronic-pop sound with singled out vocals that are then accompanied by a punchy guitar and percussion. The first half of this song may be my favorite vocal song on the album, but the latter half almost sounds like it lost a bit of direction for a breakdown. It’s by no means bad, as the song is still fantastic, but it’s weaker than the first half which has so much personality.

Lyrically, you won’t find anything too different from the original Scandroid album. That’s hardly a bad thing, as these still contain much more variety than an assortment of radio singles you’ll hear if you listen today. The nice thing is the aforementioned variety in composition. While I loved the first album, I feel like some of the songs on this would fair better if given the chance to be on the radio. In particular, “Future Bloodline” is an earworm that will get stuck in your head real quick. But the likes of “Afterglow”, “Rendezvous”, and “The Veil” all have potential to be something you’ll be singing and listening to over and over.

“Oblivia” is the other instrumental song that I failed to talk about previously. It’s got a fair amount of 80s tropes in it, from Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” synths to a sexy saxophone straight out of a noir/heist film from the era. This one feels the most inspired by the 80s, and sort of a love letter to music that came from then. Anyone familiar with 80s music will likely pick up on the references and enjoy this little compilation of them, while also bringing something fresh.

The title track starts off with a choir of voices with an electronic narrative, which leads into the song proper. This song has the most variety out of the entire album, with variation in singing styles, the change of pace for the song itself, layered vocals, and is possibly the strongest for pushing the story of Red. For those curious, it would appear that this album takes place a year after the previous, as the opening song is “2518,” and the opener on the previous was “2517.”

My first time through Monochrome, I knew this was going to be something special. Each time I listen I find something new to love about the songs. It’s weird, because you think you heard it all, and then you pick up on a rhythm you never heard before. Of course, listening on different devices with focuses on treble/bass helps with this, but even in the car where I’ve listened the most I pick up new things to love. If you enjoyed the original album, you’re pretty much guaranteed to love this one. With a fantastic cover and remix, very strong instrumental songs, and varied vocal tracks, this is one of the best albums under the FiXT label.

9 out of 10

Pros

  • Covers
  • Instrumental Creepiness
  • Varied Song Structure

Cons

  • Wohohoho

Monochrome was created by Scandroid under the FiXT label. It went on presale September 22nd, 2017, and will be available on October 27th, 2017. The album was provided to us for review. If you’d like to see more of Klayton, check out the official site.

 

Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth your time, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great album that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate music, please let us know.

4 thoughts on “Scandroid’s Monochrome Review: Surviving in the Datastream

  1. I know this sounds crazy, but I didn’t actually notice the Wohohohos in A Thousand Years, which I’ve listened to many, many times. I didn’t even realize what you were talking about until I just re-played the track again. It had me rolling on the floor laughing, and I can see now how that might throw someone off. I almost wish you hadn’t mentioned it! (kidding)

    1. I’m so sorry for pointing it out! Haha, it’s gotten me since I first heard it. Such a fantastic album aside from that. And like I said, it doesn’t bug me as much having listened multiple times. Just think it’d be better without.

  2. Great Review, proper hyped for the full album now! I completely agree about the “Wohohoho”s. I thought I was the only one who felt they were somewhat out of place in what is otherwise a very good song.

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