The closest thing The Design Abstract’s sound can be compared to is probably if industrial tinged death metal bands such as Fear Factory, Sybreed and Scar Symmetry had more neoclassical symphonic elements. On top of this they occasionally include sections of cleanly sung female vocals, which are notably absent from their latest album (except on ‘Deus Ex Machina’). Incorporating such a wide array of electronic and orchestral elements, the scope of their music is rather ambitious and impressive for a 2 piece, and it can be seen in their music videos that there are lots of (presumably) session musicians required to perform all that these compositions require.
Technotheism is a concept album about people fighting tyranny in the future. As would be expected there are lots of futuristic/spacey sounding noises and at one point there is a voice clip which sounds like it’s a message being spoken over radio or loudspeaker. Also to be expected in a concept album is the prevalence of shorter interlude/intro tracks (e.g. ‘Apotheosis’ at 1.55 mins long), although in this case they often seem to break the flow and feel like they would better suit being developed into full songs. Conversely, some of the longer songs feel like they go on for too long or would be better purposed as short interlude tracks. ‘Data Shield Attack’ for example has an interlude-sounding section right in the middle of it, but it is all still part of the same track.
On the second track 'Deus Est machina’ there are robotic vocaloid sounding vocals, similar to Hatsune Miku. It's unclear as to whether actual vocaloid technology was used or whether it's an altered human voice, but either way it gives a cyberpunk feel. This nod to Japanese pop culture prompts visions of an imagined dystopian future such as those found in sci-fi anime like Akira and Ergo Proxy. The regular clean vocals throughout the album also seem to aim for a similar robotic sound but, contrastingly, on these there is no vocaloid effect, so unfortunately the vocals just sound somewhat lethargic and soulless instead.
The vocal melodies themselves also sound a little directionless and uncertain and could benefit from some stronger hooks, as after several listens, no particular song or hook stands out (conversely ‘Technophage ‘from their Corrupt EP was pretty catchy). However, perhaps the lack of stand-out moments in favour of consistency was intended to add to the sense of immersion, as it is a concept album after all.
Some of the instrumental choices are a little bizarre, for example, there is a recurring trend on this album of layering gentle glockenspiel over the top of the harsh vocals and heavy industrial rhythm section, the effect of which is quite a jarring and odd contrast. Similarly jarring is their use of breakdowns which often last too long and don’t seem to serve any purpose in the wider structure of each song.
Whilst Technotheism is far from terrible, there are a lot of elements from their older material which are missing herein, unfortunately to the detriment of the overall quality of the album. For all its positive elements (the ambitiousness, instrumental prowess and intriguing cyberpunk themes) there are detracting elements to match, most notably in the songwriting, due to the lack of congruence and memorable melodies.
Recommended for fans of: Fear Factory, Sybreed, Scar Symmetry, Mechina, The Kovenant