SEATTLE — For nearly two decades, producer Daniel Graves’ attention-grabbing and infectious industrial pop project, Aesthetic Perfection, has defied the world’s demands for definitions by blending genres and reinventing what it means to be a dark electro artist.
Last year, Aesthetic Perfection announced the “Into The Black World Tour 2019” to support their fifth studio album, Into The Black. The European leg of the tour commenced in the month of April in the UK, and the North American leg began in the beginning of September in San Diego. For the second date of this leg, they performed in Mesa, AZ — home of Burning Hot Events. Aesthetic Perfection’s North American tour made one of its last stops at Highline Bar with supporting acts Empathy Test and LAZERPUNK.
LAZERPUNK, from Budapest, set an apropos dark and gritty tone, with electronic music so heavy that it feels like it resonates with your flesh and courses through your veins. The intensity of the music, especially as it was coming from just one man wearing an Adidas baseball cap, was nearly beyond comprehension.
Stepping into the environment of the club that night and being smacked with the power of these beats was like being dragged into an alternate universe. It was easily a reminder of why so many of us go out to industrial shows for the cathartic experience — communally flipping a switch that turns on a stifled side of our souls that is screaming and clawing to get out and rage during the mundane day-to-day, as we dismally watch our world socially and environmentally corrode around us. It is here we are uplifted, escape, and achieve balance in a combination of commiseration, unadulterated passion for music, and unjudged embracement of our dark, but not necessarily evil, sides.
With Isaac Howlett’s British vocals that feel longing and aching, and an ethereal touch, synthwave act Empathy Test has no doubt drawn some associations to Depeche Mode innumerable times. As a blend of 80s sci-fi soundtracks, 90s guitar bands, and modern underground dance as influences, they are a duo in the studio (Howlett and producer Adam Relf), and currently a trio performing live. The beautiful thing about electronic music, as demonstrated by LAZERPUNK and Empathy Test, is that something so big can come from so few people. With the aid of Angel Metro on keys and Christina “Chrisy” Lopez on drums, the trio pulled the entranced audience at Highline into a galaxy of emotion. In between songs, Howlett brought some levity back to the room with charming, good-humored banter. Teeming with talent, Empathy Test are also responsible for their breathtaking artwork.
When Aesthetic Perfection hit the stage, it wasn’t long before the integrity of the building structure was tested as the crowd unapologetically jumped with such force the floor could be felt bouncing under your feet — admittedly not the most comforting feeling when you’re on the second story of a building.
Consisting of the aforementioned vocalist and programmer Graves, Elliott Berlin on keys/guitar/bass, infamous drummer Joe Letz (formerly of Combichrist and a slew of other industrial bands), this trio contrasted Empathy Test with deliciously harsh aggrotech.
The band added a delightfully creative “speed dating” VIP upgrade experience for this tour in which fans got a guarantee to interact with every band number. Additionally, the package included a signed setlist, signed polaroid, signed poster, and VIP laminate — basically all of the essentials that any diehard fan is going to want to collect from a show, and a really smart offer on the band’s part to turn a profit on their tour.
The diversity of Graves’ vocal techniques shine in sexy transitions between a vicious growl and a timbre that might be described as an approximate blend of Jay Godon (Orgy) and the late Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) — this vocal flux is exemplified in the track “Ebb and Flow”; there is a broody and agonizing cover of ‘NSync’s “Bye Bye Bye” (featuring guitarist Nikki Misery of New Years Day) in which he hits an impressively powerful high note with chest voice at the bridge, a beautiful falsetto in the new Into the Black opening track “Gods & Gold”, and even an OTEP-like quality in the theatrical track “Dark Ages”.
Berlin jumped back and forth between instruments, with hair flying wildly to no end, and making himself an entertaining spectacle each time he climbed upon his keyboard and thrashed around amongst the rising smoke.
Meanwhile, Letz made apparent why his percussive skills are so acclaimed, as the vigorous force of the backing beats that he was responsible for nearly brought down the house.
“Holy shit,” was the sentiment that coursed through my head all night, and near the finale of their set, Graves showed that those in the crowd were not alone in sheer awe of the magnitude of the immense energy pervading the venue, as he let out a clearly sincere, “Holy shit Seattle!”
Aesthetic Perfection will go on to tour in Germany from October 25th through November 2nd, with alternating and combined support by Empathy Test and Iris on select dates. If you’ve lost touch, this lineup is a mind-blowing reminder of what there is to love about industrial shows, that they are alive and well, and it is still a scene worth supporting.
View Separately: Aesthetic Perfection | Empathy Test | LAZERPUNK
Aesthetic Perfection, Empathy Test, LAZERPUNK – Highline Bar 10-15-19
Photography © Kataklizmic Design
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