Review: Dome Runner, Conflict State Design (Starving Light Collective, 2021)

Dome Runner is an utterly outstanding industrial metal unit from Tampere, Finland whose approach boasts one hell of an early-'90s influence—bringing to mind Pitchshifter, Godflesh, Dead World, etc. Think crushing heaviness, mechanically thudding percussion, and just the right amount of dissonant atmospheric texture or subtle melody that at its best—which is often—exhibits similarities to the masterful aesthetic force of scarce Napalm Death tracks such as "Contemptuous," which is a huge compliment as far as I'm concerned!

The group's 32-minute full-length debut, Conflict State Design, gets off to an interesting start in that the slow and simple churn of "Fuji Cracks" sets the tone in terms of the intensity of approach, highlighting nasty distorted bass and vocals that shift from viciously textured/layered emissions to droning notes; but then the fast-paced "Imprisoned Existence" is about as thrash-leaning hardcore/punk as industrial metal can get (though not without its own surging midpaced breaks).

From that point on, however, things get even more mind-blowing. "Unfollow" centers around mosh-inducing, Nailbomb-esque crunch and searing delayed vocals; and "Impure Utility of Authoritarian Power Structure"—by far the longest track at 7+ minutes—starts to take things into that aforementioned "Contemptuous" type of direction: a little slower and more discordant, the vibe immediately grabs me and really hooks me in. Damn near every track from that point on strikes a perfect stylistic balance between head-crushing fury and some degree of emotionality and feeling. "The Undemonizing Process," "In Pain," "Expire"—all great, touching on everything from the eerie pulse of Streetcleaner to the grinding death metal gnaw of prime 1992 Fear Factory—leading into "Exit Design," which is a lightly rhythmic dark ambient outro.

This might well be the most dead-on '90s industrial metal rerun that I've heard in the last 10 - 20 years. So fucking good. I'll definitely be looking forward to hearing more, whenever that time might arrive.

Conflict State Design is available on CD through Starving Light Collective, with vinyl planned for next year. I'm not sure if you can order it online direct from the source, but hit up the band or the label for details. I assure you that I'll be doing the same in a few weeks, once the holiday mail rush starts to ease up...

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