“Music is the weapon” – ‘Activate’ by Atari Teenage Riot
There’s comebacks and there’s comebacks that upstage whatever legacy you had. Is this hyperreal? is the first Atari Teenage Riot in ages (11 years! ¡Verga!) and all the experience (and anger) that Alec Empire, Nic Endo and CX Kidtronik have accumulated shows in ten politically charged songs with added social criticism.
The music is relentless, and the strongest track (a hard call, though), ‘is this hyperreal?’ is a slowly but punchy groove. The sometimes whispered voices, the message about the inhumanity of the digital era (a theme mentioned again in ‘Digital Decay’) is what makes this track the cyberpunk apocalypse (as seen in Phillip K. Dick’s acid writings). ‘Codebreaker’ is pretty much a heavy metal song (via samples, declarations and shouts). These two songs, a mellow and a stream-of-consciousness represent the two prong attack of Atari Teenage Riot. It’s a well known cycle: depression leads to frustration which leads to anger. This band decided to vent out their anger through music. A powerful combination, if you ask me.
Some people say you mellow with age. This band, in true ATR tradition, decided to forgo said pearl of wisdom. They are as angry as when I first heard them (when they were on paired with Slayer in the Spawn soundtrack). There’s a couple of changes in sound and it’s understandable, the line-up has changed due to various circumstances (not all of them good) but this version is as valid as any incarnations the band has had before, with a clear target on their site.
Heck, Is this hyperreal? feels more focused than any of their previous efforts and although they are long in the tooth now, they know how to keep it energetic. Whether it’s their antifascist statements (necessary in this day and age of Tea Parties, Drug Cartels and Fascist parties), the anticapitalistic lyrics (really, “capitalism” gets the stick so many times I actually felt bad for it, but then I remembered how I got fired without 3 month’s pay) or the de-humanisation of this digital era (a theme also touched by Fear Factory‘s Obsolete), Atari Teenage Riot‘s message is constantly pounded. You don’t need a preachy tract in your booklet when you let the music drive the message home. No ifs, no buts, it’s there and whether you want to recognise it or let it pass as a rant, it’s up to the listener.
Now, there’s a particular track that I won’t criticise at all, but I have to mention. ‘Blood in my eyes’ is pretty brutal and Nic Endo‘s turn to shine. The theme of women trafficking is the main theme for this one. It’s not a nice topic but it’s part of a harsh reality that’s happening in several countries of the world. I mention this song because, in a nutshell, the driving force of Atari Teenage Riot will always be that they won’t shy from calling a spade a spade and if something is wrong, they will use their musical soapbox to speak their minds. Hey, it’s better than doing yet another love song then asking people to buy you shit so it’ll go to a charity.
Not only the theme of dehumanization is part of this album. The loss privacy is a recurring theme, both by online presence and the government messing around. ‘Black Flags’ and ‘Shadow identity’ go into this, with the latter reminiscing of the incident when the Bavarian government mentioned installing trojans in people’s computers to monitor their activity (here’s the story, btw, it’s been covered).
So, yes, it’s a very angry record, it does cover some familiar themes for Atari Teenage Riot but they are issues of concern that they have been talking for about for ages. If it still a theme for their music, either it’s a stale lyrical declaration or it’s a worrying reminder that we are still up shit creek without a paddle (but with a very punchy album).
PS: Yeah, this is a sombre affair.