With their first full length “Burn out at the Hydrogen Bar”, Chemlab made one of the most enduring industrial rock albums of the 90’s. Nothing groundbreaking, but a great collection of songs with inspired lyrics, and songwriting that seemed to suck its inspiration from the still vital corpses of The Stooges and glam rock; a nice contrast to their many blood- and historyless contemporaries.
Now some ten years later, and over seven years since their second album “East Side Militia”, Chemlab have lost programmer Dylan More and, I am sad to say, sound quite a bit like those other, less inspired 90’s bands. Singer Jared Louche is still a glowing presence, and his brilliantly rock’n’roll-mannered vocals and inventive lyrics are what keep “Oxidizer” from havoc. Where “East Side Militia” stretched the definition of industrial to the point of bursting, most of this album, recorded with members of Acumen Nation, is disappointingly generic, relying way too much on a kind of repetitive metal riffs that have been used to death already. Those very riffs render “Monkey God”, which has the bones of a good songs hidden underneath way too much distorted flesh, almost unlistenable, but thankfully not all the songs fare that badly.
“Oxidizer” is at its best when the guitars take a step back and Chemlab dare let the songs breathe. “Black Snake Voodoo Hiss” is a perfect example, with its more gentle verses contrasting an explosive chorus and a great, damaged guitar sound. “Binary Nation” is another fine song that’s kept from falling into the pitfalls of generic industrial rock. But generally, this is just not as adventurous as I would have hoped for and, if Louche’s excellent solo album “Covergirl” is anything to go by, know it could have been.
As it is now, this is what could have been a really good album buried in too much dull industrial debris, which makes it all the more frustrating than had it just been average.