Review: Assemblage 23 – Bruise

For some time Tom Shear has been setting the gold standard for the darker hue of electronic music. Now he releases the latest treat from Assemblage 23 amidst a wave exceptional electronic releases from across the electronic spectrum that has made the genre fan start to feel rather spoiled. Where once we received many an email from angry fans or even bands themselves saying we were far too harsh in our reviews, one would think we had since been forcefully gentled, medieval-style, so happy and content have been our reviews lo these past weeks.

But we digress.

Suspense aside, this is another positive review, though every inch the well-deserved one. Shear has demonstrated he can produce this stuff in his sleep (and occasionally once senses a bit of an autopilot – in the hands of a lesser artist that would be a knock, not necessarily so in this case). 

This album has fewer peaks and valleys than on recent A23 work; while there is no obvious thrilling breakout like a “Raw” or “Truth” from Meta, or a “Collapse” or a “The Cruelest Year” from Compass, (though “The Last Mistake” is fast growing in that direction) there is also a near-absence of filler. It’s a solid collection from start to finish that shows a seemingly never-ending evolution for Shear. He’s a far better singer than ever before and a more confident songwriter with each successive album. In fact confidence seeps out of every pore of this collection. This is a man in full possession of his faculties as an industry leader. No one more consistently produces EBM of this quality, year in, year out.

There’s a nice variation on the styles on Bruise. Dark lyrics aside (and he remains the king of the cynical lyric), the sound on these songs ranges from the pure pop of “Over and Out” or the tremendous darker shade of almost-was-a-single-before-he-realized-he-wasn’t-really-doing-singles-anymore “The Noise Inside My Head”; from the sad but gorgeous bass-leaden ballad, “Otherness” to the harder-edged darkwave stylings of “Darkflow” (and was there a more perfect, quintessential A23 song title?), this is an album full of mature and thoughtful, but also catchy and dance-friendly songs.

(There’s also a bonus disk in the deluxe edition that houses some lovely extra songs like “Reckless” and the crazy-dark “Rain Falls Down” – while this listener isn’t a big fan of remixes, the deluxe version is worth it just for the extra original songs.)

While not a word often associated with this artist, Bruise is a pleasure. It’s a carefully planned and constructed piece that only adds to and heightens Shear’s body of work. It’s not often in this business to find someone this prolific who’s also this consistently talented and solid. Long may he continue to be so…

Watch:…nothing! No single=no video, sadly…

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One Response to “Review: Assemblage 23 – Bruise”

  1. Great album. Can’t say I’ve ever been disappointed by a Tom Shear release.

    Darkflow is my favorite track on Bruise. It has a bit of an old-school 242 vibe in the ”Don\’t turn away… Don’t turn away!” verses.

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