Pendulum‘s first two albums are legacies of a shifting dance scene, one which has seen once once-underground genres like drum and bass becoming increasingly more mainstream. Never content with a uniform sound, their debut Hold Your Colour melded energetic dnb with a aggressive rock; then band took their sound further – into almost rock stadium proportions – with the acclaimed follow-up In Silico, all the while honing their onstage skills and cementing their reputation as a formidable live act.
With their third release, Pendulum’s music is as potent as ever. In Immersion, the Aussie expats have upped the contrast even further. The broken beats and dance-floor rhythms are ever present, but they’ve delved deeper into rock and dance music’s many facets, fusing their core electronic sound with styles as diverse as ’90s industrial (“Comprachicos”), and pop-rock and melodic house (“The Island” parts 1 and 2).
With each release, Pendulum shift further from their origins, and it’s especially evident in tracks like “Self VS Self”. Here they have enlisted the help of Swedish metal band In Flames, resulting in a furious guitar and live drums-driven song, with melodic vocals by Rob Swire juxtaposed against Anders Friden’s more searing vocal set. It’s so raw, you could be forgiven for thinking the song was a mistaken inclusion, were it not for the familiar electronica breakdown and chord washes in its second half. This new hardcore fixation (albeit with a more pop-punk slant) continues with “Watercolour” and “Crush”, which both use melodic, vocoder-style vocals, juxtaposed against retro synthesizers and video game-style bleeps. It sounds cheesy – and in many ways it is – but these sounds have expanded the band’s scope, giving a (welcome) break from the overdone buzzing hooks and riffs, and allowed Swire to expand his vocals’ emotional range.
Luckily, the signature dissonant, twisted sounds remain ever present. “Salt in the Wounds”, with its melodramatic pads, acid bass lines, synth riffs and lively rhythms, could have featured easily on In Silico. The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett offers his sinister vocals to the venomous “Immunize”, a cohesive and brutal breakbeat track. These are among some of the stronger tracks on the album, and they’ve added a broader selection of anthems to their growing list of high-octane dance floor anthems like “Propane Nightmare” and “Fasten Your Seatbelts”.
The eclectic mix-bag of styles makes the album a little inconsistent at times, but it’s still a fine showcase of a band who is adept and comfortable at making seemingly opposing sonic dynamics work. Immersion may not be their best effort, but it’s certainly their most diverse, exploratory and accessible release.
Review Score: 6/10
The album is in stores now through Warner Music Australia!