eMOLECULE – The Architect (Album Review)

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Simon Collins and Kelly Nordstrom have worked together for nearly two decades but it wasn’t until 2020 that they decided to form a new band with just the two of them. Having released his 4th solo album “Becoming Human” that same year, Collins felt he had expressed all that he needed to as a solo artist and that it was time to get back into a band situation. They both realized that their bond was so strong that no other musicians were needed, thus they cover all of the vocals, drums, keys, guitars, bass and effects between the two of them. The result is a dense, layered collection of unique songwriting containing a measured heaviness in its lyrical content and sonic performance. 

Fans of previous band Sound of Contact will find little in common with eMolecule aside from a few references to the “Dimensionaut”’s story. Rather, this new band is more of a logical extension of what Collins began with “Becoming Human”, taking that stylistic essence and running with it into even deeper and darker territory. Indeed, the opening verse of “Thoughts Become Matter” from “Becoming Human” seems to have evolved into the mantric verse of the title track “eMolecule”. But where his solo album(s) have plenty of melodic hooks which harken back to the strengths of his dad’s songwriting, eMolecule seems determined to screw with traditional songwriting structure and only offer a couple of songs which have the Collins characteristic pop sound on them. The rest are from a much darker  dimension, ultimately making for compelling listening when given repeated exposure. 

The lengthy band title track opens the album with grating electronics and a lead guitar fanfare of sorts until we get to the drone of the main body of the piece. Mysterious, shadowy and sufficiently creepy, the layered repetition of themes can’t help but become addictive as we succumb to the walls of distortion and intriguing effects that Nordstrom produces from his guitar. When an extended ambient guitar section – bordering on Floyd’s “Echoes” – finally climaxes into an explosive return of the main theme, it’s a highlight moment. Next up is the title track of the album name, “The Architect”, a searing blast of dystopian angst. Even an atmospheric tender musical interlude in the middle is filled with disturbing narration until the riffs return. 

Only two tracks in and the album has already established a very dark but captivating atmosphere. There’s no escape in subsequent songs “Prison Planet” where Collins’ big bang drum hits bring deliverance, or “Mastermind” which starts off eerily and descends into a trapped claustrophobic setting as the narrator takes total control. “I’m here to save you and then betray you, eternal cycle you’re my disciple.” As the inevitable “Dosed” follows, our subjugation is complete: “There’s no use in trying, it’s clear I’m dying. I am a ghost, now I’ve been dosed.” Yet it’s one of the best on the album. The mostly-instrumental “The Turn” promises to offer a bit of reprieve with its simple piano motif and slow build of spacious guitar layering. But at the four minute mark we’re assaulted again with distorted chords and heavily processed vocals of angst and infected loathing. 

“The Architect” Album Artwork

After this onslaught run of six songs it’s hard not to feel somewhat suffocated by the futuristic tyranny of the material. eMolecule doesn’t claim this to be a concept album but it sure feels that way given its nightmarish dystopian visions. Thus, the song “Awaken” almost feels too much like a 180, ushered in by Collins’ soothing and melodic voice over gentle synths and guitar strums. This has all the makings of a pop hit, even the electronic beats conjure memories of 80s hits by Collins Sr, along with some wonderful guitar from Nordstrom. It’s a welcome if unexpected lightening up of mood, as if we are awakening from a very bad dream of the subject matter in the album’s first half.  

The vibe doesn’t last long, however, making “Awaken” more of an outlier on the album than the start of a new direction. “Beyond Belief” and especially “The Universal” finds the dark tech returning in a wall of sound. The album attempts a ballad of sorts with “My You”, one of the few calls back to the “Becoming Human” vibe, and an actual traditional guitar solo from Nordstrom rewards the listener towards the end. Finally, “Moment of Truth” almost offers a duet between Nordstrom and Collins on lead vocals, alternating between a cautionary narrative and an uplifting chorus. Yet they can’t resist letting it all go to hell in the final minute with a proper chaotic thrashing of guitar stabs and drum hits to close the album. 

Whew. If it sounds overwhelming, that’s because it is. Yet there’s enough unique creativity and sheer force to make this an album worthy of attention. At 80 minutes long, the onslaught might be too much to take in one sitting but the quality is maintained throughout. Astonishing sound design and programming relentlessly adds to the chaos and unique production of the album. Collins and Nordstrom appear to be creating music of the future, an ethos which is the essence of progressive rock. 

Released By: Inside Out Records
Release Date: February 10th, 2023
Genre:  Progressive Rock

Musicians:

  • Simon Collins / Vocals, drums, keys, sound design/programming
  • Kelly Nordstrom / Guitars, bass, vocals, keys, sound design/programming

“The Architect” Track-listing​:

1. eMolecule 10:43
2. The Architect 6:05
3. Prison Planet 4:58
4. Mastermind 8:39 5. Dosed 5:07
6. The Turn 5:56
7. Awaken 5:09
8. Beyond Belief 4:47
9. The Universal 6:03
10. My You 5:27
11. Moment of Truth 6:56

Pre-order “The Architect” HERE.

8.5 Excellent

eMolecule leaps out from a dystopian future for those who dare to explore its dark and compelling terrain. The creation of Simon Collins and Kelly Nordstrom, this is no melodic Sound of Contact continuation. No, this duo has turned to the dark side, creating a unique and addictive listening experience

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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