Increasingly masterful industrial titans Lament Cityscape have teamed with longstanding German greats Lifeforce Records for the release of new album, A Darker Discharge. Out April 29—with vinyl slated to ship late-May—the seven-song, 25-minute outing is a surprisingly concise though no less powerful excursion that has the potential to appeal equally to fans of legends such as Nine Inch Nails as to those of fellow contemporaries such as Realize or Black Magnet. In fact, I'd argue that it contains some of the band's finest work to date, as hammering rhythms, plodding mid-paced churns, and crawling dissonance set the foundation for vocals that range from distorted snarls to subdued singing, alongside sinister drones and textural synth melodies aplenty.
I recently chatted with Lament Cityscape frontman Mike McClatchey to gain a bit more insight as to how the new material took shape...
The first thing I noticed when I loaded up A Darker Discharge was that—contrary to what I'd think of as being more typical from the industrial genre—this is a very compact album. Seven songs, under 30 minutes, the first three tracks are all two minutes or less... Is this just the way things landed when everything felt right and complete to you, or was there some degree of intentionality behind it?
Before I started writing for this album, I knew I wanted it very tight and to-the-point. It was going to have everything trimmed away from it. The space that I usually linger in, regarding time, was going to be more claustrophobic. I still allowed myself some indulgence in the second half, but it felt like it should have an urgency that felt new for this project. I also really wanted it to fit on a 45rpm [LP]. I didn't think I would be writing 90-second songs, and I might not ever again, but it did turn out to be that way on this one.
It kind of blew my mind when you recently mentioned on Instagram that the album "has no guitars or bass or anything live on it." During my first few listens on the surface as a fan to see what moments jumped out at me, I hadn't really noticed. In retrospect, there are actually certain passages where drum programming almost fools my ears into hearing "chugging guitars" and such. Talk about the compositional/recording process for this material, and how it differed from some of your past efforts.
Yeah, there are no live instruments on this album. This album needed to be cold and harsher than what I've done in the past. Angrier. I didn't want to leave any room for humanity in the sounds or performance of it. I did, however, use some guitar samples that I programmed in midi that are layered in there, along with bass guitar samples. I still wanted the tone without the vibe of live guitars. I also ran a bunch of synth layers through guitar sims/cabs to give synth layers a bit of that in-between digital/organic feel. Then just having a ton of drum layers, so there is a lot to focus on. I always try to approach each album with different rules or ways of writing to create a cohesive album. With Wet Pneumatic, I was in a place where I had 1,000 things to say and wanted them all to fit together. With A Darker Discharge, I was more focused on doing everything that was new to me and making myself really uncomfortable. With short songs, blast beats, melodic singing, synth-heavy, and just working on my laptop, everything about this album was second-guessing myself and hating the process, but trusting it and being really proud of the outcome.
It's interesting that you hated the process of constructing this album, since—at least for the outside listener—the end results are quite forceful. Can you speak a little more specifically as to what you hated about the process, or how it challenged you differently than what would have been your more standard approach?
Part of creating, at least for me, is pulling myself into places that I don't really want to be. Doing what is 100% natural doesn't usually yield interesting results. I like the outcome. I don't like the feeling of thinking I'm fucking everything up, or making trash music, or wasting my own time or the time of people who are kind enough to listen in hopes of connecting with something. Fuck the process. Always. Not just for this album, but everything I do. I just hope the end result is worth a shit.
Also, you mentioned melodic singing, and I can emphatically state that there's no need to second-guess yourself there. "Innocence of Shared Experiences" was the standout track for me during my first spin. The singing in that one really caught me, right away.
There's always a need to second-guess myself. Might just be my stupid brain being stupid. But, thank you. I'm glad it caught your attention.
How has it been going to re-learn and convert the songs to a band-based format for live performances, and how are Lament Cityscape's plans for actual shows shaping up at the moment?
I'm at the very first stages of setting up a live set right now. Even though I was programming these songs to have guitar-like sounds, I never thought or cared about making sure they were possible to be played with real guitars. I never really consider the live versions of the songs when writing/recording. The live versions of all of our songs are more inclusive and open for interpretation with whoever is playing them. We are all itching to play live, but we are also really cautious at the moment. During the last two years, we've been tightening up our gear situation and trying to plan out a much bigger live set than we've had in the past. We definitely want to tour for this album if we can do it safely.
What's the story with how you got hooked up with Lifeforce Records out of Germany? Being most familiar with the label's output from 1995 - 2005, their name is still so synonymous with straight-up searing metalcore to me, so even though I'm sure they've branched out over time, it was still kind of a "Whoa!" moment when I first saw that announcement.
I've personally worked a lot with Mountaineer. I was kind of an auxiliary helper for them. When they needed a bassist, guitarist, or drummer, I'd play with them until they could get someone better. They had been really happy with working with Lifeforce, and when I was looking for someone to help us release A Darker Discharge, [guitarist] Clayton [Bartholomew] from Mountaineer recommended I reach out to Lifeforce. I did and they seemed to be into it. They've been wonderful to work with so far.
Since so much of this album was affected by circumstances relating to your move to Wyoming, I have a two-parter on that topic. First, if you can do this much with just a laptop, and the results are so effective and so powerful, does that in any way change your thinking as to how you might approach future songwriting/production efforts?
I guess the nature of doing things differently with each album just kind of adds new tools in finding ways of creating. I don't think it means I'll do things this way from now on. There is definitely a song on here that currently feels like a jumping off point for what I want to do on our next album, though. But that might change in a week.
And then given what you've stated elsewhere regarding the unwelcoming nature of the political climate in Wyoming, do you think you'll stay there?
We are moving out of this state this weekend. I'm not kidding. Your timing is great.
It's always a pleasure, Andrew. Thank you for this. I still want to trade you paintings. Your shit is great. Leave that in, people should know.
Pre-order A Darker Discharge on black/white marbled (limited to 100) or standard black vinyl—or CD/digital—via Bandcamp. Keep up with Lament Cityscape through Facebook or Instagram, and hear more at Bandcamp, Spotify, etc. Lifeforce Records can be found on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.