Powerman 5000 - Builders of the Future Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 05.27.2014
Industrial metalheads Powerman 5000 return with another sci-fi inspired LP in Builders of the Future! But is this another "When Worlds Collide"-style hit or just a weak attempt to recapture faded glory? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
1. "Invade, Destroy, Repeat" (2:56)
2. "We Want It All" (2:40)
3. "How To Be A Human" (3:28)
4. "You're Gonna Love It, If You Like It Or Not" (3:23)
5. "Builders Of The Future" (3:38)
6. "I Want To Kill You" (4:41)
7. "Modern World" (2:53)
8. "Live It Up Before You're Dead" (3:01)
9. "I Can't Fucking Hear You" (4:44)
10. "Evil World" (2:55)
Powerman 5000 is an example of the industrial metal acts that seemed to come on strong and then blaze out in the late 1990s. The Boston-based rock band came out of nowhere with the megahit "When Worlds Collide" in 1999 off of their third album Tonight the Stars Revolt!, an LP that led them to a platinum record. With the relative fall of the genre soon after though, the band's fortunes slipped away and they became something that, for many acts, can be worse than has-beens or never-weres...they became One-Hit Wonders, also known as "that band that had that one hit." It might seem to some that "When Worlds Collide" would be carved into the band's tombstone amongst the many fallen soldiers of rock and roll, but the truth is that the band has continued on and in the years since Stars Revolt they have released four albums, a greatest hits CD and an ill-advised covers album.
And now, they're back again. It's been five years since we've seen a proper studio album from the group, 2009's Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere which saw them go back to their industrial metal roots to fairly positive effort. With their latest LP, Builders of the Future, they're making the wise chose to continue down that road and stick to what they know best. They've always had a bit of a geek-oriented tilt to their act; they draw upon a science fiction, comic book, horror-like aesthetic for their music and as those elements become more and more popular it almost seems as if they are becoming more relevant.
At the very least they seem more vital; on Builders of the Future Powerman 5000 are more energized than they've seemed in quite a long time. Frontman and founder Spider One hasn't seemed this enthusiastic for years and on tracks like opening number "Invade, Destroy, Repeat" and "Live It Up Before You're Dead" he's channeling the likes of Rob Zombie vocally, which is not a bad place to draw inspiration from. Nor is it a surprising inspiration; he's Zombie's younger brother. But while little brother is following in older brother's footsteps, it isn't just mindless aping. There's no doubt that they tread similar paths with their filmic influences and musical styles, but Spider varies up his sound a bit and this time around at least, it results in an LP that sounds like more than just a Rob Zombie tribute band.
Let's be clear here though; not every song is a great one by any stretch. While the act has a new level of vitality to it, there are times that Spider and company veer a little too close to their inspirations. A good example is "Evil World," the closing track that sounds too much like something left by Marilyn Manson on the Mechanical Animals cutting room floor. Similarly, "Live It Up Before You’re Dead" is the kind of thing that sounds just too Zombie-esque to really stand on its own. It's inevitable that the group would occasionally stay too firmly within the lines and while it's unfortunate, it isn't unexpected.
The good news is that those are relative rarities and the band lets their sound go in a couple directions. The electro-metal of "Modern World," with video game glitches kicking off the song, is a nice change of pace and they slow it down to an ominous crawl for the stripped-back "I Want to Kill You." Lead single "How to Be a Human" sounds like classic PM5K, a "When Worlds Collide"-like number to draw listeners in and while it is certainly derivative of their most well-known hit it stands strong on its own as well. And on "Builders of the Future" they throw in some relentless dance beats that may not fly with the hardcore metal crowd but is firmly within the industrial metal feel. It fits perfectly within the feel of the album and likely has the most breakout potential to boot.
Standout Tracks: "We Want It All," "How to Be a Human," "Builders of the Future," "I Want to Kill You"
Skippable: "Live It Up Before You're Dead," "Evil World"
The 411: If you're familiar with Powerman 5000, you should know what you're getting musically with Builders of the Future. What may surprise you is how vital and energized it feels. Spider-One and company, emboldened by the rise in popularity of their filmic influences, come out as newly inspired and deliver what may just be their best effort since Tonight the Stars Revolt!. While the album is too metal to place them on the top of the singles charts any time soon, it's nice to see that fifteen years after they hit it big Powerman 5000 still has some life left in them.