If there were one word to describe the look of Microchip Terror (although I will proceed to use much more) it would be “unique” as while most darksynth or darkwave artists fight over upside down crosses and other satanic imagery, Microchip Terror gets their hands dirty with body mutilating electronics like a mad scientist mix-up between H.P. Lovecraft’s Dr. Herbert West: Reanimator and Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
While not a category at this past year’s Echosynthetic Synthy Awards, although maybe it should be considering how much work some people put into such things, I would most certainly proclaim that Microchip Terror is a winner in my book for the “Best Marketing” award due to their use of physical props that they make themselves down in their lab; creepy, disembodied mannequin heads, double-barreled syringes, and blood inducing torture goggles that are all interconnected by a series of seemingly never-ending eldritch wires.
That all said, Microchip Terror certainly has the look but how do they sound? I previously reviewed their self-titled EP, which I found to be a rather impressive and hard-hitting debut, so with this being their first full-length release there was a lot of hype and anticipation (to which it did not disappoint) although in some ways it is different from what came before and therefore one might be caught off guard at first. To put it another way, if Microchip Terror’s self-titled EP was their Frankenstein then Illegal Experiments is certainly their Bride of Frankenstein in turn.
By this I mean their self-titled EP was a bit more heavy-handed, brutish, and rough around the edges (but in a good way) as I proudly proclaimed in my review that it “beats directly into your brain like a headphone infused drill press.” In contrast, Illegal Experiments is a tad more gentle and refined although this is not to suggest that Microchip Terror has gone soft between releases, not in the slightest, but rather like my previous comparison they are two very similar yet also quite subtly different monsters in both tone and execution; the Bride of Frankenstein, after all, was a showcase of Dr. Frankenstein’s progression as a scientist, albeit a mad one.
Such is the case with Illegal Experiments as the progression to this release from their self-titled EP really showcases just what Microchip Terror is capable of as an artist; they’ve grown, matured, and are just simply doing their own thing as a result. However, it’s not so much a case of “breaking the mold” but rather a sense of self-improvement and discovery while playing god with the genre itself and thus creating a whole new monster in the process; they’ve remade the genre in their own image. Therefore the album itself is truly like a Frankenstein monster, a sum of its parts, with influences ranging from darksynth and darkwave to industrial and EBM.
Due to this, one might suggest that Illegal Experiments has strayed too far from what a “real” darksynth or darkwave release should sound like, but I find such suggestions to be just that and near-sighted to boot. Much like how Microchip Terror has begun to redefine their own sound within the genre, so does the genre itself need to eventually progress and change, but old habits tend to die hard so therefore I find Illegal Experiments to be a very apt name for such a genre-breaking release; those who break from the norm are initially misunderstood.
In the end, regardless of how you wish to classify the album, the music speaks for itself and with a range of other acts joining in on some of the tracks such as Protector 101, Vulta, Neoslave, and Gridscape, Illegal Experiments is an experience that you need to experiment on yourself with headphones firmly planted.
Illegal Experiments was self-released by Microchip Terror on February 18th, 2018 and can be prescribed by the doctor on Bandcamp.