When Detroit based artist/producer Klayton, known also for his electronic-rock project Celldweller, debuted his new synthwave project of Scandroid last year it was met with overwhelming critical acclaim and fanfare. The self-titled album was a wonderfully written and performed piece of cyberpunk oriented synthwave, weaving an interesting and compelling story within, which brought together a well rounded auditory experience that begged to be listened to all the way through from start to finish as a result. With such a highly successful and equally praised debut the main question to ask, now with the release of Monochrome, is “does the follow up rise to the same level as it’s predecessor, perhaps even going beyond, or does it suffer from a sophomore slump?”
While Monochrome doesn’t exactly rise to the same level of it’s predecessor it also doesn’t slump too hard although, for better or for worse, it is an aptly titled album. While there are some colorful gems to be gleaned from within, here and there, some of the songs don’t shine as brightly in comparison. This results in the tracks feeling a bit disjointed and overall uneven, a far cry from Scandroid’s previous effort where again all the songs ebbed and flowed quite nicely and weaved a coherent story as they went. It may seem unfair to judge Monochrome so harshly based solely on what came before, and not letting it exist within it’s own void, but that’s the underlying problem with this album: you’re constantly reminded of the shadow in which Monochrome stands.
This is not a slight against Klayton, who is an amazing vocalist as you can feel the raw emotion he exudes on each track which has vocals (and even those that don’t have vocals carry some weight due to his production talent), but there are still some odd choices to decipher in terms of the album’s track listing and overall story structure. For example, whereas the cover of Tears of Fears‘ “Shout” felt right at home on his self-titled debut due to the story, here on Monochrome the choices in covers (yes, plural, as there are two!) feel a little out of place. “The Force Theme,” a cover of John Williams‘ song from Star Wars, which was originally released as a single on May 4th of this year feels like it was shoehorned in and as a result awkwardly breaks up the flow of the album. Similarly, while Scandroid’s cover of Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” is adequate (although it’s hard to ever replace Vincent Price’s hauntingly iconic narration) it also feels a bit out of left field on this album. If an analogy could be made of the situation, it’s like having random celebrity cameos in the middle of a highly anticipated sequel just because the original did so well. They would have been better served as simply bonus tracks instead.
Speaking of bonus tracks there actually is one in the form of another synthwave producer known only as PYLOT who provides a remix of Scandroid’s cover of “Thriller,” which is weird in the sense of there being a remix to a cover but I digress; let’s talk a bit more about the original tracks on the album. While there have been a couple of singles already released in the form of the tracks “Rendezvous” and “A Thousand Years,” which are both exceptional with catchy hooks, wonderfully produced instrumentals, and that trademark vocal work which I mentioned before, it needs to be said that really any of the vocal tracks on this album could have been released as singles. This proclamation must be stressed not so much for the fact that they’re all pretty good songs but more so going off a prior point about how the album as a whole feels a bit off in terms of it’s story structure and track listing. The album, simply put, feels more akin to a collection of singles than it does a proper sequel and continuation of the story which was started in Scandroid’s debut; it’s 1.5 rather than being 2.0 in the end.
However, progress is still progress and while there may be a few bugs in the code this time around it is still functional enough to be enjoyable on a track by track basis. Already established fans of Scandroid will no doubt find the album to be a delight regardless while newcomers can certainly utilize it as a gateway into his sound.