REVIEW: Contagion - "Infectant"

By Rat Bastard

Chain Border

InfectantInfectant is the second full-length release from the industrial dance project of Keith Arem, otherwise known as Contagion. Based in California, Contagion definitely hails from the Ministry/NIN/Skinny Puppy school of influence, as would be stereotypically expected of any U.S. based band in the genre. This is not to say that Contagion's music is a blatant attempt at imitation of any of these aforementioned bands, but rather, to set it in stylistic juxtaposition to the music of the now increasingly growing horde of Front 242 and Leaether Strip derivatives.

The album opens with the relatively unremarkable One of the Chosen. However, the production is top-notch, especially for a 100% independently produced released. Infectant is about as independent as albums get, as it's only available via direct mail/online order from the artist. The album takes a huge turn for the better with the second track, Hate, which features a nice and angry industrial march pace and a catchy chorus accentuated with heavy distorted guitars. Of course, EBM purists will immediately despise Contagion for its use of guitars in various places throughout the album, and would probably be happier listening to their VNV Nation and Funker Vogt CDs (and they can also go to a Funker Vogt show, see that they use a live guitarist, and get really pissed off at this fact but hey, you can't expect to please everyone). However, I certainly would not call Contagion a coldwave band (that's "guitar industrial band" to the non-initiated), as the use of this much reviled instrument is balanced quite well with some rather slick programming and a vocal style which I like to refer to as "whispered screaming." Rigor Mortis is one of the more guitar-heavy tracks, and reminds me of mid era (Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste) Ministry.

Overall, I would say that Infectant doesn't break any new ground in the industrial dance genre, but it is a solid release, with several strong tracks (my favorite is the darkly groovy New Flesh). The title track sounds very much like early Kevorkian Death Cycle (another California based industrial band). In fact, in many ways, the entire album is very similar to early KDC. This is not an insult, as I am quite fond of the early KDC material (before they decided that they wanted to be a second KMFDM with a more techno slant, and released the utterly abysmal A+O(m) album).

So, any fans of that material should definitely check out Contagion (and any fans of the present KDC material should check it out as well, as it may well put them on the path to good taste), as well as anyone else who can't get their fill of hatred and pain with a beat. Besides, as an added bonus, the CD comes with a bonus data disk full of various multimedia goodies (such as the video for Hate).

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