Imperative Reaction – Mirror

Mirror, mirror, who am I…and how many?

Imperative Reaction - MirrorAlbum facts

Release Date: January 15th, 2021
Label: Metropolis Records
Genre: , , ,
Discogs: Imperative Reaction – Mirror
Partially sounds like: Faderhead, Icon Of Coil, Assemblage 23
Final score: 3.86 stars
Matching album cliches: 1 / 7

After their last stu­dio album ‘Imperative Reaction’ in 2010, fans had to wait 10 long years for a new release, but a whole dec­ade of wait­ing has been more than worth it: Imperative Reaction’s 7th album ‘Mirror’ will inaug­ur­ate the new year with 11 tracks that stay true to the band’s roots and at the same time bring some­thing new into the mix.

'I’ve nev­er been as happy with an album as I am with this one, and I do think it is the most diverse album we’ve released,' says Imperative Reaction's Ted Phelps.

On ‘Mirror’, every single track is an emo­tion­al and music­al over­flow. The blend of simple and yet power­ful EBM beats, a vir­tu­ous mix of vari­ous synth ele­ments and Ted Phelps’ laments and screams give the songs a more com­plex and indi­vidu­al struc­ture than com­pared to the band’s songs from pre­vi­ous albums.

Like a red thread, the theme of the mir­ror leads the listen­er through­out the whole album: through intro­spect­ive mono­logues, reflec­tions about past and present and pure, raw emotions.

Through a broken glass

The hard, con­stant EBM beats of the first song ‘Split’ got me right from the start and I can per­fectly ima­gine this song as a con­cert open­er. The meta­phor­ic lyr­ics intro­duce the all-present top­ic on this album of los­ing the con­nec­tion to one-self and thus feel­ing com­pletely lost, like an imposter in a strange body or a mere reflec­tion of your real self. The dif­fer­ent synth ele­ments in the bridge over­whelm you and seem to under­line this inner struggle and feel­ing of disconnection.

Faster club beats intro­duce the next song ‘When Here Is Somewhere’, where the theme of the mir­ror appears once more. The situ­ation seems more des­per­ate though, as you lose all sense of ori­ent­a­tion and get caught in an end­less blur between real­ity and fic­tion, truth and lie. The synth ele­ments occur­ring in the chor­us sound like a down­ward spir­al, lead­ing through 'infin­ite reflec­tions' of one-self.

If none of this is real, who am I? Just an infin­ite reflec­tion from which I can’t hide
Lyrics from 'When Here Is Somewhere' by Imperative Reaction

The intro­duc­tion to the next song ‘Glass’ imme­di­ately made me think of ‘Functional’ from the album ‘Minus All’, except that ‘Glass’ is a down­tempo track that gives us a break after the first songs’ pace. The synth melod­ies in this song under­line the tragedy of being caught in the past and the inab­il­ity 'to reach through the glass'.

‘Alter Ego’ takes on a faster pace again and takes up the same theme from the pre­vi­ous songs, more con­cretely the inner struggle between one­self and an alter ego. When Ted Phelps sings 'now we stand eye to eye' I can’t help but pic­ture a per­son star­ring in a mir­ror, facing him­self or maybe a ver­sion of him­self he wants to get rid of. The dynam­ic of the bridge bril­liantly stresses this feel­ing of dis­rup­tion and loss.


Imperative Reaction (Live)
Imperative Reaction (Live)

The intro of ‘The Scales’ reminded me a wee bit of Faderhead’s ‘Acid Witch’. The com­plex­ity of the dif­fer­ent synth ele­ments com­bined with harsh elec­tro beats fit per­fectly with the lyr­ics of the song. You can feel the emo­tions grow­ing stronger and more viol­ent as the song reaches its peak of pure des­pair and hatred when Ted Phelps bru­tally screams out 'f***** cow­ard'. The inter­est­ing twist in the lyr­ics is that you don’t really know to whom he is talk­ing to – him­self, his Alter Ego or some­body else?

‘Stranger’ feels like a small break after the pre­vi­ous song’s viol­ence and its mid-tempo beats and softer synth ele­ments mark a trans­ition towards dif­fer­ent and yet strong emo­tions: Times are ever chan­ging and we have to adapt, even though we might become a per­son we nev­er wanted to be, risk­ing to get estranged of ourselves. Compared to the oth­er songs on the album, ‘Stranger’ is less aggress­ive and more melod­ic.

After the pre­vi­ous song, harsh­er and faster elec­tron­ic beats intro­duce the first single release of the album. ‘Like Swine’ depicts a dystop­ic world, where ignor­ance reigns and humans blindly wal­low in their self-suf­fi­ciency. In the very aggress­ive lyr­ics you can lit­er­ally hear the dis­tain in Ted Phelps’ voice.

Like pigs in a sludge we squirm with delight, crawl­ing all over ourselves
Lyrics from 'Like Swine' by Imperative Reaction

‘Ignite’ starts off rather abruptly without any intro­duc­tion and you’re imme­di­ately con­fron­ted again with the theme from the pre­vi­ous song: People blindly believ­ing in what they see in the mir­ror, ignor­ant of what is truth or lie, and it leaves you with a hol­low feel­ing. The chor­us takes on a sur­pris­ing indus­tri­al rock twist that you don’t find in any oth­er song on the album.

How to mend a broken soul

Slower, mid-tempo and yet hard EBM beats intro­duce the ninth song ‘Intertwined’. Just as the lyr­ics say, it feels as if this song is the after­math of the pre­vi­ously described con­flicts. The synth melody accom­pa­ny­ing the chor­us takes the harsh­ness of the beats away and reminds you to use the time that is giv­en to you.

‘Disavow’ is yet anoth­er mid-tempo song but just as inter­est­ing and diverse in synth ele­ments through­out the whole song. The lyr­ics hint at the dif­fer­ence between past and present and all the changes one’s per­son­al­ity under­takes over­time. The synth melody in the back­ground of the chor­us feels like a lib­er­at­ing open­ing and stresses the mes­sage to leave the past behind you, live in the present and see your­self the way you really are.

You chose long ago just to shot out all that is now
Lyrics from 'Disavow' by Imperative Reaction

The last song of the album ‘Half Of One’ rep­res­ents, in a cer­tain way, a clos­ure. The down-tempo beats and sol­emn synth melody of the song hint at the lyr­ics “there’s no fire left inside” after all these viol­ent emo­tions. Now that the glass of the mir­ror has broken and all (false) reflec­tions have dis­ap­peared, it is time to mend one-self and be at peace.

Simply mind-blowing

I must admit that I didn’t believe in anoth­er album any­more and was very excited when I learned that Imperative Reaction would release a new album in 2021 after all. Imperative Reaction excelled to com­bine many dif­fer­ent ele­ments in this intro­spect­ive music­al mas­ter­piece: harsh elec­tron­ic sounds, melod­ic synth ele­ments, pure and raw emo­tions make 'Mirror' an intense listen­ing exper­i­ence. This album is a lib­er­a­tion scream that needs to be heard!

Track By Track Rating

Imperative Reaction - Mirror
Imperative Reaction – Mirror
When Here Is Somewhere
Alter Ego
The Scales
Like Swine
Half Of One
Alter Ego
Like Swine
(Nothing to report here) 

Typical album cliché list for: Imperative Reaction – Mirror