Formalin – Love And Nihilism

Next Gen of Industrial. Or Metal? Or both?

Formalin - Love And Nihilism

Album facts

Release Date: June 11th, 2021
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: , ,
Discogs: Not avail­able yet
Partially sounds like: Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Clawfinger , Scandroid, Marilyn Manson
Final score: 3.9 stars
Matching album cliches: 0 / 7

Formalin's 4th album 'Love and Nihilism' sur­prises with an uncom­prom­ising approach on Industrial and Metal that has long been over­due and closes a gap for all of us who have been in love with elec­tron­ic music as well as Metal and Alternative pretty much since the 90s.

But first thing's first: as a graph­ic design­er I really appre­ci­ate a con­gru­ent design approach and Formalin deliv­ers this pic­ture per­fect. Actually a lot of bands should have a look at this best prac­tice of brand build­ing. The cov­er art­wort of the first singles and the album cov­er lead a straight path with the most icon­ic of nihil­ist­ic imagery, a human skull. And what you see is what you get: the shiny metal­lic skull visu­al comes in for the close to obsess­ive­ness pro­duced elec­tron­ic parts, col­our and typo­graphy lead­ing the way to the realm of mod­ern Metal. So let's dive right in!

Dirty drums and the darkness within

Formalin Press Photo 2021
Formalin Press Photo 2021

What I always missed in Formalin's work was a cer­tain rough­ness, a bit of dirt that they now incor­por­ated with the help of their new drum­mer Cosmo. It really makes a dif­fer­ence if you play a heavy sound on accous­tic drum or on digit­al ones and this is not open­ing a dis­cus­sion wheth­er 'real' music is bet­ter than 'digit­al', it's just dif­fer­ent. Still, the elec­tron­ic parts are equally import­ant and cre­ate ele­ments of sus­pense that are much stronger than ever before in Formalin's music.

This com­bin­a­tion is what makes the album really spe­cial: clas­sic Metal ele­ments and song struc­tures are mar­ried to Electro and abstract Industrial noises which cre­ates a power­ful yet desastrous air that matches the lyr­ics well. Thematically the record is a mix­ture of intro­spect­ives and stor­ies about dys­func­tion­al rela­tion­ships – both ana­log and digital.

Space and sparkle

The record opens rather spher­ic­al and slow, with heart beat rythm in the back­ground and open­en­ing the stage for the right-in-your-face-dark­ness that lies ahead. The title track 'Love and Nihilism' almost has a hint of Progressive to it as fat gui­tars, per­fectly timed off-beat drum pauses and a dra­mat­ic chor­us really hight­en the expectations.

'Faded' is the second single and the com­pos­i­tion reminded me straight away of the title track to 'American Gods' crossed with the heavy crawl­ing sounds of early Pantera. But it wouldn't be Formalin if they didn't integ­rate a cer­tain out­er space feel­ing already indic­ated in the bridges. It is brought to a height in the last part of the song when you really get a notion of float­ing in the vast noth­ing­ness like star­dust in zero grav­ity – totally epic!

We’re faded – Like stardust
Faded  – But will­ing to shine
Lyrics from ‘Faded’ by ‘Formalin’

Lyrically this is as life-affirm­ing as it will get on the album.

Next, get ready for a punch in the face. 'Tear Down My Prison' was my instant favour­ite. It was the first single upon which I was already excited for the long­play­er. Imagine Nine Inch Nails squeezed into a blender with Clawfinger (espe­cially the base line) and a hint of Alice Cooper. The energy that expels out of every note makes you want to go out into the next mosh pit and have some fun. Of course this is also exactly the kind of energy so deeply craved for in the lyr­ics in order to escape the selfmade cell walls in which the nar­rat­or is caught with his feel­ings that – obvi­ous to him – will be des­troy­ing him long term.

More tech­nic­al inspired is 'Rush' which derives from the more tech­nic­al top­pic of social media vic­tim­ism and fast media pro­du­cing and con­sump­tion. Tom spits out the lyr­ics like Clawfinger in their best days and also the howl­ing gui­tars take me a bit back to the 90s. The chor­us almost sounds like a spir­al suck­ing you down into the dark vor­tex of self present­a­tion without ever filling the void of real com­pany and pur­pose. The dynam­ics vary here widely emo­tion­al­ising this crazy hunt for atten­tion. There's a soar­ing noise hov­er­ing from left to right (if you listen via head­phones it's quite absorb­ing) that mim­icks the moment of wide-eyed dis­or­i­ent­a­tion perfectly.

There's a heart in every Metalhead

'Iron Strings' is the 'bal­lad' of the album. The slow­est but non­ethe­less involving piece con­tra­dicts glit­tery sound cas­cades with one of the darkest lyr­ics on the record.

I must cut the iron strings
That play the melody of your name
Lyrics from ‘Iron Strings’ by ‘Formalin’

The beat is drag­ging slowly, heav­ily like the end of the failed rela­tion­ship depic­ted in this song. Despair, loneli­ness and futil­ity are the dom­in­at­ing imagery here but the afore men­tioned glit­tery key­board sounds also prom­ise a leap for the future, more than just a light at the end of the tun­nel. There's a very retro-elec­tro vibe – a highly inter­est­ing con­struc­tion that widens the mean­ing of the lyr­ics through the instrumentation.

Big hands for a model graphic design job: cover artworks up to now

Even the design is a melt­ing of the two worlds: clean and abstract as a sym­bol for Industrial, crass col­ors and haptics of the visu­al for the rough­er Metal side – both shar­ing the love for the ulti­mate nihil­ist­ic accessoire, the human skull.

A tribute to the genres we love

The vari­ety of music­al angles on this record is a sheer delight: 'Warzone' cata­pults you into an ego shoot­er with more-real-than-real­ity graph­ics. The song sets right off into high alert: snip­pets like laser guns zoom­ing in and out, stac­cato inton­a­tion com­bined with a female 'level voice' as if in a com­puter game rock­et your adren­aline up to the sky. Slashing drums powered up by driv­ing gui­tars build up a highly ener­get­ic set­ting that you can almost feel sizz­ling on your skin.

On the oth­er hand 'Devil' employs a very clas­sic­al rock scheme in rythm and song struc­ture. You can even find a cow­bell in the begin­ning which made me smile because it is so unex­pec­ted. I'm a bit reminded of 'Poison' by Alice Cooper, but on a much high­er ener­get­ic level although them­at­ic­ally quite comparable.

I feel you creep­ing within
You’re the dev­il, you’re the dev­il under my skin!
Lyrics from ‘Devil’ by ‘Formalin’

The beat has a cer­tain swing to it but gets con­tra­dicted in the bridge part by its elec­tron­ic trans­la­tion that is com­pletly straight for­ward. In the end a won­der­fully over-amphas­ized gui­tar solo closes the clas­sic jour­ney and leaves every Hard 'n' Heavy hap­pily grin­ning behind.

The end is nigh!

The next one comes in quite heavy-hearted. 'Down Low' is a low tempo piece cre­at­ing the feel­ing of walk­ing alone on Mars, heavy foot­steps leav­ing imprints forever. A man­tra-like chant and short pock­ets of silence in the com­pos­i­tion emphas­ize the vacu­um around you: there's noth­ing you can do to pre­vent the lifestory about to hap­pen right before your very eyes. Ghostily noises in the back­ground sup­port the hol­low, help­less feel­ing even more.

The clos­ing track 'Psychocandy' lets you glide over a short elec­tro-retro rain­bow into the dirty aggress­iv­ness push­ing you back into over­drive mode. The top­ic of social media atten­tion soci­ety is dis­cussed from a new angle with a view on the user and his/her power over the con­tent cre­at­or. Tom's dis­tor­ted voice under­lines the sick­ness of the whole machinery and its shin­ing facade is rep­res­en­ted by cas­cades of beau­ti­ful yet some­how awk­ward elec­tron­ic sounds. The song plays mid-tempo but the dis­tor­tion and some 80s big wave key­board tunes give it a huge presence.

Overall I'd like to add that although the lyr­ics are really really dark the record doesn't leave you with a neg­at­ive or dev­ast­ated feel­ing. It's the oth­er way around: for me, for example, this is my per­fect workout playl­ist. There's no bet­ter motiv­a­tion for a set of car­dio than 'Love and Nihilsm' for me! Sounds funny until you try it your­self. And I have to admit that ever since I star­ted to listened in I keep run­ning on ear­worm energy most of the time. About ¾ of the songs just stick inside your head and you silently sing along and enjoy yourself.

Conclusion

Be sure I could have writ­ten a whole doc­tor­al thes­is about this album because I LOVE IT! In every nook and cranny I see the music­al influ­ences of my own favour­ite bands and genres peek through. But Formalin is nev­er sat­is­fied by just hon­our­ing them – they make some­thing new out of it. And it is some­thing, that is always Formalin, always a thing only they could have created.

As I already stated in the begin­ning, this is a new spec­trum for both Industrial and Metal. I'm more on the Heavy side of things so I take this as a new gen­er­a­tion of Metal, a new open-minded­ness I can't but cel­eb­rate, a reju­ven­a­tion of Metal that is so over­due I have no words for it. Now, fel­low Metalheads, leave the lim­it­ing idea of 'true Metal' behind, it's time to hear the next Gen!

And now, fel­low Electro pals, get ready for a more ener­get­ic, deep­er kind of Industrial that will swipe our dance­floors and knit our com­munit­ies closer togeth­er! If you like to get more deep insights about this album and the cur­rent status of Formalin read now 'The deep-dive inter­view with Formalin'.

Track by track rating for: Formalin – Love And Nihilism

Formalin - Love And Nihilism
Formalin – Love And Nihilism
Love And Nihilism
Faded
Tear Down My Prison
Rush
Iron Strings
Never Fail
Warzone
Devil
Down Low
Psychocandy
Recommend
Tear Down My Prison
Iron Strings
Weak
(Nothing to report here)
3.9

Typical album cliché list for: Formalin – Love And Nihilism