If you listened to the prior MTF8 album, 2019’s “Rebirth,” then you know from the opening notes of “Salvation,” the first track of 2020’s “Regress,” that this is definitely another MTF8 record – the tonal quality, the choice of synths and patches, the deliberateness of the arrangements and how the pieces fit together. You might not quite expect that a composer would put the drum beats together in this way, or that the melodies would change the way they do, but it works. It’s deliberate and intentional, and though unorthodox, it works.
There’s a higher vibrational frequency here than the prior album, a sense of greater confidence in self-knowledge, an acceptance of who the underlying person is. The anguished reflection on the past of the prior album is replaced with an anthemic epic sense of basking in the energy, majestic and sure. Unconcerned with external opinions.
MTF8’s vocals are developing in confidence, with a deeper Peter Murphy element emerging, evident here and elsewhere on the record such as in “Into the Garden.”
The albums second track, “Confessions,” has something of Nick Cave’s “Girl in Amber” in the mournful build-up of the first half of the song. Suddenly the gears shift with a woman screaming, a laugh, what could be a gunshot or a body slamming – repeated as if to communicate desensitization, dehumanizing, to capture how it felt to see it, to communicate how the perpetrator was perceived by the observer, to communicate how the observer or victim’s loved one felt the person was treated. There’s an implication of being unable to shake the memory, like it’s replaying, stuck on cycle. The victim or the observer can’t forget, can’t get the horror and trauma of the moment out of their head.
The chorus of voices around the 50” mark has that Mortiis element that was prominent on the first album, along with dark Depeche Mode feels in the synths, like the tortured soul of Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room.”
The track features a beautiful nylon guitar lead, which, if I remember, was recorded using my own nylon strong, so I feel proud of my contribution to this record.
“Dreams In Piano,” dare I say it, almost has a little industrial dream pop to it. It’s certainly a rockier track, but with shades of hard Aphex Twin beats.
“Into the Garden” is a kind of just-past midway point of the album, holding the tension of the record in balance before the final plunge into the conclusion.
“Goddess” reveals more of the recurring industrial vibe that permeates much of the MTF8 oeuvre, with shades of Nine Inch Nails, the organs reminding me of the French synth goth act Dernière Volonté in the organs or again of Mortiis. There are also tones like The Cure’s “Disintegration,” and the synth pipes at the end of the song are very like the sounds on some of the Cure b-sides from Wish/Disintegration, like “Breathe.”
“A story untold” unfolds a surrealistic early Pink Floyd Dali-esque soundscape, cold and sad, with a looping piano line that sounds like something from the soundtrack of “The Piano”.
Sounding a bit like latter day Nine Inch Nails, but with pace, “Beyond The Gates” really picks up the momentum of the album, just when you think it’s reached an intense and insane crescendo, barreling along like a rockier more stylish Fear Factory, ratcheting up several more levels, one by one, pummeling you with a bassline that sounds like it’s played by a crossbreed of Metallica’s Trujillo and The Cure’s Simon Gallup.
The intensity continues through “Drowning in Flames” until, right at the end of the record, a beautiful piano melody emerges from the intense synths and the Aphex Twin “Drukqs”, like the melody in Honegger’s third symphony rising above the anguish.