In the rush to cover the constant waves of new music, we all too often neglect discussing the releases that leave the most substantial impressions in our lives. As such, we recently invited some bands and artists to wax poetic about an album that was deeply impactful or influential to them, either musically or personally. The next guest in line to graciously offer a retrospective in this series is SW, the sole bleep and blooper of black metal inspired chiptune act Lunar Cult, whose work can be found lurking over at bandcamp. I don't listen to much chiptune, but when I do, it's invariably the nuanced and intriguing work of Lunar Cult. Needless to say: when yer done here, check it out!
Written by: SW
It’s a cliché that our teenage years are a period of rapid development, and something we can take for granted; and sometimes, it’s only in hindsight that we can appreciate how much we changed in a short space of time. This is certainly the case for my own journey as a music fan. At 15, my favourite bands were the likes of Ash and Green Day--radio-friendly rock with a hint of transgression. Yet by the time I was 16, I’d gone through a period of massive growth aided by Napster, jumping from Green Day to Korn to Slipknot to Marilyn Manson to Nine Inch Nails to Atari Teenage Riot in a matter of months. Whilst Nine Inch Nails are undoubtedly one of my favourite bands, and changed my relationship with music profoundly, it’s Atari Teenage Riot’s first album, Delete Yourself!, that I think may have had the biggest overall impact on me.
Whilst NIN’s The Fragile helped cement the ideas I was grasping towards about music-as-art, which helped explain my dissatisfaction with so much of what was popular and my peers were listening to, hearing Delete Yourself! for the first time was like being introduced to a whole new world. It helped me to conceptualise the politically leftist thoughts I was starting to have as I grew more aware of the world around me, which was hugely important. But musically, it felt like exactly what I had been searching for as I downloaded whatever I could from Napster and AudioGalaxy on dial-up internet, trying desperately to search music forums for something more; more extreme, more challenging, more intense. The trio--Alec Empire, Hanin Elias, and Carl Crack--might have had their background in Berlin’s techno scene, but they went way beyond that as Atari Teenage Riot.
Delete Yourself! is one long rush of adrenalin. It starts off in almost subdued form on "Start The Riot!," with an hilariously vapid line--“I would die for peanut butter”--followed by a mid-tempo drum break and distorted bass riff, before Empire shouts “GO!” and the song does just that. Thrash metal guitars, hyper-speed jungle rhythms, and lyrics simultaneously minimalist and maximalist--“Fight! War! Fire! Violence! Death! Police! TV! Fuck you!!!”--make up the song, yet rather than being vapid, it came across to my teenage self as a manifesto for change. Unhappy with the state of the world? Unhappy with the state of your life? Fucking do something about it! It’s so incredibly naive, but as a teenager who was feeling exactly those things in a pre-9/11 world, it was what I needed to hear, and stood in stark contrast to the performative misery and immaturity of the nu-metal and pop-punk that was popular at the time.
It helps massively too that Delete Yourself! sound like a whole lot of fun, with its tempos in excess of 200BPM, 80’s anime samples, and plethora of stolen riffs – I still find it hilarious that I heard classic riffs by Slayer, the Sex Pistols, and Dinosaur Jr for the first time on this album, rather than on the original songs. It always struck me as strange that Atari Teenage Riot have been dismissed by some for being overly serious, given that even if songs like "Hetzjagd auf Nazis!" (Hunter of Nazis) or "Kids Are United!" come across as too enthusiastic and naive, there’s always a sense of a knowing smile, that the trio knew that what they were making would work in part because it was simply so fun to listen to due to the inherent absurdity and life-affirming joy in music this fast and extreme.
But what makes Delete Yourself! so important and inspirational even now, 20 years after I first heard it, is the fact that it was the first record I heard that truly felt like mine; Carl Crack’s death, a few days before 9/11, is still the “celebrity” death that affected me the most. Almost all my friends hated Atari Teenage Riot’s music--too dance-influenced for my punk friends, too punk for my friends into dance music. That Atari Teenage Riot forged their own path, setting up their own record label after the major they were signed to balked at the music they made and effectively paid they off when they refused to compromise, is hugely inspirational; as if the way they largely created, and defined, the digital hardcore genre. Musical boundaries? Who cares! Do your own thing. You’ll find your audience. Take inspiration from what you will – or better yet, just lift entire riffs and twist them into something else. That Atari Teenage Riot were rooted in political radicalism is just as important, as is the way they made it all sound so fun. Even if my own music doesn’t sound a thing like Delete Yourself!, the fusion of electronic and extreme guitar-based music is an undeniable inspiration; but perhaps even more important is the way that Delete Yourself! provides a source of political and personal motivation at times when I feel disheartened. If my own music can come anywhere close to providing someone else with what I get from Delete Yourself!, then I’d be more than delighted.
Atari Teenage Riot can be found at their official site.
Thanks to SW for the fantastic writeup! Lunar Cult can be found at bandcamp and twitter. Lunar Cult's latest album, Ageless Defiance, was released on 31 July 2020. Check it out!
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!