Thirteen long years ago, New York cybergrind trailblazers Genghis Tron released their groundbreaking and critically acclaimed record Board Up The House. That record was and is still in a league all its own, and incredibly important; the band broadened their scope from their early days of seemingly ironic and jarring juxtaposition of styles (like swapping out cheesy electronic beats and chaotic, atonal grind in a vibe that can be best described as “lol s0 rand0m”) to more thoughtful take on experimental songwriting where the two styles came together seamlessly, elaborating on the great strides Dead Mountain Mouth made in 2006 in developing their voice. Board Up The House would be their magnum opus and genuinely one of the greatest albums of that decade, and its importance is self-evident on a playthrough of the record.
When Genghis Tron went on hiatus after the Board Up The House touring cycle ended in 2010, the world of extreme and experimental music lost a leading voice. Following up a record like Board Up The House would have certainly been daunting, but imagine the kind of developments happening now if Genghis Tron had been in a position to continue. Nothing exists in a vacuum of course, and context is everything, so I suppose we’ll just never know. Granted, there was a delayed effect in the broader influence that Board Up The House would have, but that could perhaps be chalked up to that record being ahead of its time.
Having left the scene on such a high note, the band’s announcement in 2020 that they would be making a long anticipated return was incredibly exciting. The news was bittersweet, with vocalist and keyboard player Mookie Singerman electing to not return. However, the lineup would be bolstered by new members Tony Wolski (The Armed) and drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists, Sumac) in his absence, which was incredibly promising. The drum machine sound was a part of the Genghis Tron charm, but Yacyshyn is a revered drummer in the scene, and with respect to Singerman, Wolski’s work in The Armed painted him as a more versatile vocalist. With the group once again returning to Kurt Ballou and God City Studio, this Board Up The House follow-up was shaping up to be everything we wanted.
But we wouldn’t be getting what we wanted. A lot can change in thirteen years, least of all one’s musical interests and life circumstances that inform what you write and how you write it. The band were quick to dash any hopes of a return to cybergrind, with keyboard player Michael Sochynsky telling Revolver, “there are no blastbeats or Nintendocore” on their new album Dream Weapon. The album’s lead single and title track was proof enough of this new direction, sounding more like propulsive space rock with major Torche vibes than anything we were used to released under the Genghis Tron name.
It was incredibly jarring on first listen, and some fans might be forgiven for being disappointed. In the album’s press release, Sochynsky calls Dream Weapon “cohesive, meditative and hypnotic,” which is the most apt description of the record available online to date. The band quickly followed up with another single in the ten-minute “Ritual Circle,” which fell in line with the atmosphere of its predecessor. The title suits the vibe of the track as a slow and methodical build of synth arps, drum loops, and guitar ambiance into what would be the album’s only use of screamed lead vocals in its climax.
Rip the bandage off now if you haven’t already and are in denial after the first two singles; to call Dream Weapon a metal record would be a stretch by any metric, and there’s nary a glimpse of grind in sight. Remember to breathe, it’s okay. Once Dream Weapon gets going and you forget that you’re supposed to be listening to a Genghis Tron record, it’s quite a wonderfully bright journey that serves as a calm and content reflection on extinction.
So if Dream Weapon isn’t cybergrind, then what is it? There are references to disparate genres across its breadth that come together in a way that only Genghis Tron are capable. The group locks into something approaching stoner rock for the title track, with keys and ambiance that propel those desert-rock riffs into the stratosphere. “Pyrocene” is an early standout that feels like The Slip-era Nine Inch Nails with a nasty drum loop and grooving synths before dropping into somber New Wave vibes that take cues from acts like Depeche Mode. Wolski’s otherwise understated vocal performance on the album shines on this track, playing up his first appearance on the record with robotic rhythms shrouded on vocodor before seemingly taking on David Bowie‘s vocal affectations for the song’s finale.
Album centerpiece “Alone In The Heart Of The The Heart Of The Light” is a showcase of the band’s collective talents as a microcosm of the album’s strengths. Lively and propulsive drums, often referencing Phil Collins‘ signature fills, are a driving force for swirling, darting synthesizers to build upon and collapse back into. Atmospheric interlude “Desert Stairs” feels very much like a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross piece scored for film, with a swarming synth drone dissolving into shimmering ambiance. These ethereal soundscapes come and go across the album and build up and fill out space, lending to major shoegaze and space rock vibes.
Guitar contributions from Hamilton Jordan are more often than not subtle, either reflecting power chords in parallel to the wall of synths or laying a bed of ambiance or reverberating leads, which may be an issue for longtime fans expecting something more substantial in terms of mathcore and grind. His signature spiraling guitar lines do pop up sporadically to help build upon the meditative intensity of the record, particularly in the title track. The band does opt to throw metalheads a bone with “Single Black Point,” which sees Jordan chugging along on a 7/8 groove while the band cycles around him. Yacyshyn also shines here, slowly adding variation to the groove and going off into massive fills by the track’s halfway point.
It may not be obvious at first, but there are clear melodic through-lines across Dream Weapon, with recurring themes set up by introductory track “Exit Perfect Mind” that pay off throughout the record. These motifs show up most prominently in the two leading singles, most evidenced by their shared vocal cadences. The explosive finale “Great Mother” elaborates on these themes a final time, ending with the same sparse synth loops that started the record. To this end, Dream Weapon is an incredibly well-crafted and expertly written record.
Dream Weapon is an incredibly vibey record that revels in the hypnotic and psychedelic, and just like Board Up The House before it, there’s really nothing out there that sounds like it. It’s apocalyptic, but content and comfortable with the impending doom. It’s hard to imagine that many long-time fans won’t be disappointed by the band’s stylistic choices here, but shedding any expectations that the band were even going to attempt the impossible task of recreating Board Up The House is the first step to an otherwise incredible album experience offered on Dream Weapon. It may not be the album we wanted, but it’s definitely the album we need.