REVIEW: Stark – “The Surgical Suite”

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Chain Border

The Surgical SuiteAccording to Australia's Ben Lee Bulig, "Stark was conceived in the cold and harsh landscape of a deadly chemical testing ground." Bulig cites his evolution as a darkwave artist as: "Stark was forgotten and washed up on the Australian shoreline, evolving to obtain the warped and twisted mind of the true industrialist." Judging by the disturbing yet oddly titillating artwork of The Surgical Suite, Bulig's post modern vision is realized to its utter intent. The content of the disc itself, hinting at the menacing ramblings of a madman, ultimately exudes an accomplished body of work, expertly crafted cold electronica that sensibly plays its Goth tendencies with smart industrial-techno that pays homage to Skinny Puppy and Chris Connelly by expanding on their illustrious groundwork.

Touch Me (Part 1) jumps out with a badass punch groove amidst the frolicking digita and sliding basslines accented by madcap downbeats. Wield is a slick dance jam that almost serves to be anti-electronica by taking the familiar infrastructure and tweaking it just enough to disseminate Stark from its contemporaries. Bulig certainly knows the ins and outs of electronica, as evidenced on Exquisite Pain, a Front Line Assembly-esque processed tune that treads cautiously at first, then comes to life into its hammering finale. Ravishing Isis is articulate dance with a heavy Frankie Bones bass drive coupled with haunting Goth shrouds. Bulig enjoys toying with his beats and serves up a looney punchline to Isis that hints the darkness he has promised.

Drowning (Part 2) is gloomy and foreboding, as Bulig begins his spiral descent with Sensory Manipulation, which features a lush piano melody and Bulig's snarls. He continuously raises his tempo and tones expectantly, frolicking perversely within the sheerness of his craft. Medicine is a spit-in-your-face head bobber that has an energized warp about it, as well as sharp melody interchange.

The Probe (Part 3) permeates a frosty manipulation to The Surgical Suite with its muddled twitters and bizarre composition. Bulig's dementia becomes apparent with this bridge that leads into Infect, which rings like Skinny Puppy with more melody...Bulig's infectious mantra will leave the listener paranoid and cold, yet strangely transfixed into 9th World, a cryptic and apoplectic round of dirge, slipping obtusely into Static. Static teases in the opening then continuously changes its beats, threatening to go awry, but always fakes the listener out with its grand scale composition. Bulig makes full use of his drum machine here. Surgery (Part 4) completes this opus with a gorgeous piano line that is abruptly forced into a death march. Bulig skillfully crafts Surgery as a chilly dénouement to The Surgical Suite that doesn't seem as harsh and abrasive as is led to believe upon initial examination. In short, Bulig flirts with his darkness, yet he knows how to deliver accessible songwriting that pricks, never stymies.

The Surgical Suite is a masterfully written disc that plays to its classical strengths and dares to innovate the familiarities of industrial. It is Goth as it should be, dark yet invigorating, a full guilty pleasure.

Contact Information:
Post: Ground Under Productions, P.O. Box 246, Northcote VIC 3070, Australia

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