I still remember, plain as day, when my buddy first lent me his copy of Board Up the House, and I definitely remember the jaw-dropping, what-the-fuckery that followed from the first time I hit play. A lot of music pushes boundaries, but this was truly unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was vicious, unconventional, and most importantly, it was incredible. But then, as soon as they appeared on my radar, Genghis Tron were gone. Until now. Truly the heroes we need, the boys are back and, on Dream Weapon, they break a thirteen-year silence, but maybe not as you’d expect.
It’s been thirteen years since Genghis Tron have released any music, not since 2008’s aforementioned critically acclaimed masterpiece, and ten years since the band officially went on hiatus. After all that time away, founding members Michael Sochynsky (keyboards) and Hamilton Jordan (guitar) pick right back up where Board Up the House left off, at least conceptually. Dream Weapon marks many significant changes for the sound of the band. The first, and most immediately noticeable, is the absence of original vocalist Mookie Singerman, who amicably declined to partake in the reunion. Stepping in is Tony Wolski, who could not be more different in his approach than Singerman, but who shows he is no less capable. Secondly, the band employs live drums for the first time in their history, recruiting Baptists/Sumac skinbasher Nick Yacyshyn. The use of live drums in particular give the songs on Dream Weapon a much more organic feel than their predecessors, which brings up the next biggest change in the sound of the band: the complete absence of any of the grind elements that marked their previous sound. No blast beats, no harsh vocals, no “Nintendocore” elements, and few of the blistering guitar riffs that Jordan seemed to have an endless supply of. Instead, what you get is something that is much more meditative and hypnotic, something that focuses way more intensely on atmosphere and mood than fury and aggression. The electronics form the bulk of the sonic landscape, and the guitars supplement that by adding more melodic elements as opposed to driving the songs. Even Yacyshyn, who is known for loud, furious playing in his other bands, seems to focus more on finesse, and to his credit, he shows a side of himself that is much more restrained and dynamic than what I am used to hearing from him. Couple that with Wolski’s droning, almost robotic vocals building in layers of croons and chants, and you get something that sounds wholly unlike the Genghis Tron you were probably expecting, but that is smooth and progressive and surprisingly full of subtlety and depth where there was once in-your-face energy.
It is extremely hard to reconcile that this is even the same band, upon first listen to Dream Weapon. However, once you give it a couple of spins and some unbroken attention, there is a lot here that has not changed, and the end result is, plainly, still just as excellent as it’s always been. The electronic elements are just as I remember them, and their ambience and the layers that they build in the songs is still a signature part of what makes Genghis Tron stand out from their peers. The title track of the album does the best job of reconciling the two diverse styles exemplified by the band. It’s one of the most aggressive tracks on the album, and one of the spots where Jordan’s guitar work takes center stage, but the addition of the live drums and clean vocals help keep things even and spacious. The song moves through a pretty conventional structure, which is also unusual for the band, but there are definitely enough places where you remember exactly who you’re listening to. The fact that the compositions are longer helps draw out all the space in the lush instrumentation. “Pyrocene” and “Alone in the Heart of the Light” both showcase the progression of the band’s sound, by letting the electronics lead the way and lay down a backdrop for Wolski to really show what he’s made of, going from a very Tommy Rogers electronic drone to a soothing croon and back again, each time adding more layers to sink into and mesmerize. Closer “Great Mother” brings back the heaviness and encapsulates, both musically and lyrically, what the band sets out to accomplish on Dream Weapon. Regardless of how you feel about the change in sound, you really can’t argue with the results. Dream Weapon takes everything that made Genghis Tron powerhouses and flips it in a way the both subverts and strengthens their legacy as genre-blending masters of their craft.
If you are anticipating Dream Weapon to be Board Up the House 2: Electric Boogaloo, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed by this album. I’m reluctant to say that the band has found a more “mature” sound, because that implies that Board Up the House and before is somehow immature or unfocused, when in fact it is quite the opposite, despite its spastic and aggressive nature. Lots of things change in ten years’ time, and this just happens to be one of them. Call it “evolution” as opposed to maturity, whatever it is, Dream Weapon is still an immensely captivating release. Just the fact that it actually exists and there really is a new Genghis Tron album would be fine enough, but to have it be exactly what I need right now is all the better.