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Pendulum's Immersion

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Changing Directions or Selling Out?

Immersion
Pendulum
[Warner Music Group]

Other than AC/DC and Pennywise, every musician must always make their newest album a little different from their previous ones to show progress and evolution as an artist. Some make their latest album more "experimental" with new instruments and influences, some focus on improving production polish and sound layers, and others simply go pop (which goes against the artistic progress aspect but let's not digress about how money ruins everything).

Pendulum seems to be attempting to do all three with schizophrenic grace on their newest album, Immersion, by creating an extremely complex, well-produced, and identity-crisis ridden experimental album with more samples and genres than you can handle. After the 67-minute long journey that takes you from the wobbly break-beat reggae depths of "Set Me On Fire" through the pop anthem peaks of "The Island" to the death metallic fires of "Self vs Self", my ears feel as satisfied as they would if they could do P90X.

I say the album has an identity crisis because it starts off with classic, Pendulum-style, groovy, hard-hitting tracks, but they are followed by sappy pop songs, which I suspect make the band feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, so they try to compensate with a metal song after, which is then followed by songs that have both classic pendulum and sappy pop in them (or just more pop songs). So, Pendulum seems to be having a hard time deciding if they want to stay bad and hard, or if they want to reform and become the Green Day of Drum'n'Bass Rock bands.

I wonder if Immersion is a lot more poppy and vocally focused because Deadmau5 chose Rob Swire (Pendulum's producer and now lead singer) to sing on "Ghosts N Stuff" (which won the "Best Electro Track" award at the International Dance Music Awards in 2010), convincing Rob that he has an award-winning voice that deserves more exposure, or if it was because Rob was working with Rihanna on her song "Rude Boy," or if singing this way simply makes him feel sensual in a way that he never had felt before.

The first track, "Genesis," is a composition of orchestral strings, horns, drums and video game noises that sounds like the introduction to an epic futuristic movie. You are brought up to high expectations and will not be disappointed when "Salt in The Wounds" begins in the same, 'up to no good' attitude as "Slam" from Pendulum's debut album, Hold Your Colour. The track is a classic Pendulum style instrumental, with very danceable Drum'n'Bass beats, an experimental dubstep influenced bridge, and an outro that leaves you feeling the same way you did at the end of Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up."

Just when your worries of Pendulum selling out have subsided, "Watercolour" comes on, and Rob Swire begins his vocal grandiosity. Rob likes to sing a lot in the song but the music is still very groovy in the good ole' Pendulum way (especially the bass line). However, it becomes obvious during the sensitively-sung bridge that Rob has truly discovered a side of himself that he needs to share with the world.

"Set Me On Fire" is a quick break for Rob, and is very experimental before he sings away on the rest of the album .The song has heavy dubstep, breakbeat and reggae influences and even takes some inspiration from Dr. Dre's What's The Difference, except this was a lot more technologically manipulated. "Crush" is essentially a simple upbeat pop-rock song with a Drum'n'Bass beat. The schizophrenia couldn't be any more apparent by now, and it will continue throughout the rest of the album.

Rob probably suspected that his newly found vocal powers would work well in the trance genre, so he made "Under the Waves," an uplifting vocal-driven trance song with some Pendulum-esque beats in the back.

Pendulum was probably suspecting that they were in danger of losing all of their old fans by now, so they reverted to their roots in the next track, "Immunize," featuring Liam Howlett from The Prodigy. The song is exactly what you would expect, a bare-bone upbeat breakbeat Drum'n'Bass song with a catchy melody and Liam shouting sentences about taking over and multiplying.

If you were a bit confused whether Pendulum was really going pop, "The Island" should put that to rest, because I don't think it could be any more blatant. Part 1 of "The Island" can be the Pop House anthem of 2011 (which Steve Angello is ardently promoting with his remix when he performs live), with Rob's sensual lyrics telling you to "surrender here tonight…as we go towards the light." Of course, I'm pretty sure Pendulum won't worry about a journalist's opinion of them and their selling out when they are rocking a sold-out massive rave packed to the brim with sweaty youth jumping up and down and singing their hearts out. Part 2 of "The Island" is essentially Pendulum trying to do a deadmau5 remix of Part 1, with the barrage of noises style heard in- you guessed it! Ghosts N Stuff.

Feeling a bit sappy and vulnerable, Pendulum seems to be trying to regain their musical street-cred with "Comprachicos," which sounds like a Nine Inch Nails song with Pendulum beats.

"The Vulture" is a classic Pendulum upbeat breakbeat song, one of those that sound similar to work done by The Prodigy. As for the next track, "Witchcraft," tell me it doesn't sound like Linkin Park trying to make a Drum'n'Bass song.

I think Rob has always wanted to hear his voice on an In Flames track, which is why they collaborated with them to make "Self Vs Self." I wonder if the sole reason the track was made was to reach out to In Flames fans who will like any band who works with In Flames.

I was surprised that Rob let Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) take the vocal limelight in "The Fountain." This track is one of my favorites on the album because it texturally sounds like a Pendulum song, but the musical composition was clearly influenced by Steve Wilson (listen to some Porcupine Tree and you will know what I mean), so it was a good balance of both artists (unlike "Self Vs Self").

"Encoder" sounds like the music you would hear during the happy ending of a movie, where everything is solved and the world is wonderful; very uplifting but not very musically stimulating. Don't forget that the perfectly polished production of the record makes the pop parts sound as good as your favorite flavor of ice cream, so I'm wondering if it was the polishing that made Rob and the boys feel the need to add in his award winning vocals to top it off.

Anyways, there are a few different perspectives floating around about this album; some will say that the album has tracks for fans in many different genres but organization could have been better, some will say Pendulum needs to work on smoothly fusing the pop with the old Pendulum, others will say Pendulum has sold their souls for massive crowds of fans. But one thing is for sure--this album sounds like it will be a lot of fun to see live and not sober, so I'll see you at the show!

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