April 17, 2020 Julien-K – Harmonic Disruptor (Album Review)
Those living within the confines of mainstream music likely remember the Industrial Rock band Orgy. With an image that was a mix between glam and the future, matched with a sound that was retro synth yet on the fringe of Alternative Metal, Orgy were one of the coolest bands around at the time. Unfortunately internal strife resulted in key songwriters – Ryan Shuck (rhythm guitar) and Amir Derakh (lead guitar,/synthesizers) – not returning to the fold shortly after the release of 2004’s Punk Statik Paranoia.
While Orgy has continued on with several different lineups, Shuck and Derakh opted to not let the breakup bring them down, thus forming Julien-K. Julien-K, first established in 2003, is a band of formidable creators, which also includes Anthony ‘Fu’ Valcic on bass/keyboards and Bidi Cobra on keyboards. As a unit, they have been pumping out solid music over the last decade, and on Friday, April 17th, 2020, returned with their new album, Harmonic Disruptor, through TLG/INgrooves.
Their first album since 2016’s California Noir: Chapter Two – Nightlife in Neon, those who have been following Julien-K since the beginning are probably wondering why dig up the story of Orgy after all this time? A valid question, there is a reason and it is because Harmonic Disruptor is perhaps the most reflective of Orgy’s original music out there right now. As mentioned, Shuck and Derakh were key components on Orgy’s first three albums, so they had a lot to do with the unique style and sound of the band as heard on singles such as “Stitches” and “Fiction (Dreams in Digital).”
All these pieces of history in mind leads us back to the argument that Harmonic Disruptor is a throwback to Orgy’s roots. Adding to it all, in the wake of the passing of their former Dead by Sunrise bandmate, Chester Bennington, Shuck and Derakh found new meaning with Harmonic Disruptor. Which leads us to the music itself – 8 new songs that flow so seamlessly you will be surprised when it’s all over. Those who have indulged in the band’s prior work are aware they have been dabbling in some cool Synthrock, as heard with California Noir – Chapter Two: Nightlife in Neon; a prime example being “Mannequin Eyes.” Authentic and fun, they may have not completely abandoned this direction, but Harmonic Disruptor sees them opt for rougher beats and harsher vocals akin to Industrial bands such as Nine Inch Nails, or what Stabbing Westward was doing in the mid ’90s.
It all launches with blistering single and title-track “Harmonic Disruptor,” which sounds like an Industrial Rock song from the scene’s heyday. This is while “Cross” is a soaring, heavy anthem, “Stronger Without You” possesses irresistible synth tones, and “Lies Like Fire” sounds like something that would fit perfectly on Orgy’s 1998 album Candyass. In fact, the intense “Shut Down Your Soul” could have easily been a highlight on 2000’s Vapor Transmission, while “As The Sirens Call” could have been a perfect flip-side to “Fiction (Dreams in Digital).” Which leads us right into the album’s finale, coming in the form of the catchy yet rebellious “Burn The System,” and heavy EDM beat of “Undo Everything.”
All in all, boldly it be said, this is the Orgy album that should have followed Punk Statik Paranoia. It is heavy, potent, and an homage to how effective Industrial Rock can be when done right. Shuck and Derakh sadly do not get all the credit they deserve for their musical contributions, but fortunately they are still writing inspiring stuff worth digging into. Furthermore, it is exciting to see they are not staying in one lane of creativity and have boldly taken a different avenue with Julien-K this time around. Where they will go next is up to them, but until then, Industrial Rock fans rejoice, because Cryptic Rock gives Harmonic Disruptor 4.5 out of 5 stars.