~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Deviant offer an arsenal of searing electronics, industrial percussion loops, chainsaw guitar riffs and cold yet soulful vocals, providing incisive narrative to the darker side of life...deviant sex, chemicals, betrayal and revenge. Deviant - with their self-styled pornoGothic sound and obsession with deviance - are the perfect antidote to the poison of pop culture.
Wait a minute - this isn’t me talking. This is how Deviant describe themselves in the promotional blurb-sheet which comes with this three-track CD. The band is portrayed as mean ‘n’ moody industrial/darkwave operators, ripping open the seamy side of life and throwing the dirt they discover into the face of the nicely-nicely everyday world. All of which is splendidly dramatic, of course, but it isn’t a particularly new stance. Many bands over the years have billed themselves in broadly similar uncompromising terms, as if they’re the last gang in the underground, the only remaining bulwark against blandness. Trouble is, it’s all become a bit cliched now, to the point where any time I hear music described by such adjectives as ‘searing’, ‘chainsaw’ and ‘incisive’ I find myself gripped by an uncontrollable urge to rush out and buy Dido albums.
The other problem with this approach is that the music, when you finally get to it, frequently isn’t anything like as ‘searing’ as the blurb leads you to expect. To an extent, Deviant fall into this trap. They’re a perfectly competent bedroom-industrial outfit, blending suitably stomping dancefloor beats, spiralling synths, and obsessively metronomic ticka-ticka-ticka hi-hats with great blocks of guitar noise in a way that hangs together well enough. It must be said, however, that Deviant don’t score particularly highly on the originality-o-meter. There’s a lot of this sort of stuff about these days, and whether Deviant realise this or not, they’re working in a crowded genre. If they’re going to get ahead, they’re going to have to stand out - and I’m not at all sure if their music is distinctive enough to raise its head above the seething industrial-dance masses. There are a lot of elements here which are familiar - sometimes tiresomely so - from other bands I’ve heard who create this kind of music. For example, the practice of throwing in ‘apocalyptic’ samples of movie dialogue at intervals is a crashing cliche in this musical area, and, yep, you’ve guessed it, Deviant dutifully do it.
However, Deviant do have a unique selling point. The vocal, unusually for this gene, is not the distorted one-note chant I was half expecting to hear. Instead, vocalist Jay Smith delivers a full-on caterwaul which sounds so uncannily like Gary Numan’s angsty, estuary-English accented singing style that I have to assume the similarity is deliberate. Well, I suppose it beats trying to sound like Andrew Eldritch, and it’s certainly more palatable than simply going ‘Huuurrgh!’ through a distortion effect - but the ‘tribute band’ vocal style does mean, of course, that Deviant’s unique selling point isn’t all that unique after all. On the lead track here, ‘access DENIED!’, Jay Smith reproduces those Numan-style adenoidal vowels so accurately on lines such as ‘This is your judgement day/Time to choose your way to pay’ that he sounds like he’s repeating a lesson from his night-school class in How To Speak Numanoid.
The blurb-sheet goes on to assure me that Deviant have a ‘distinctive image/stage presentation’ and deliver an ‘outstanding live performance’, although I can’t tell if this is the unvarnished truth or just a bit of shameless hype. There are no photos of the band in the promo-pack; there is no Deviant website where the ‘distinctive image’ of the band can be seen. There is no list of upcoming gigs; no history of previous gigs. In fact, Deviant supply no evidence whatsoever that they’ve ever played a gig in their entire existence - which is why I characterised the band as ‘bedroom-industrial’ above. Reading between the lines of the promo-blurb, and listening to the music with the slightly jaundiced ear of one who’s heard a lot of this stuff before, I’m left with the distinct impression that Deviant are essentially a home-studio project with big ambitions, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think the band would do well to ease up on the hyperbole, ring the stylistic changes somewhat, and above all get out onto the gig circuit where they can really shake down their craft. They’d be bang in line for a gig with Flag Promotions, that’s for sure. Frank of Flag is the world’s biggest Numan fan, and I’m sure he’d go for Deviant’s neo-Numanoid sound. Well, maybe we’ll see Deviant out on the circuit before too long, and then we’ll see the reality behind the blurb. For now, we shall file Deviant under potentially interesting - but with a lot to prove.
The players: (No clear details given, but
as far as I can make out the line-up is as follows)
Stop press: a few days after this review was written, Deviant's website went online: http://www.deviantmusic.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to