Death Index- Civilized By A Lie (Album Review)

July 6, 2023


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It’s been nearly seven years since Death Index’s self-titled debut, but this year the duo of Carson Cox and Marco Rapisarda has emerged with Civilized By A Lie and a significantly different sound.  Where their debut pulled in hints of industrial and gothic elements while leaning upon a hardcore and post punk base, this effort pivots towards the electronic side.  Covering everything from synthpop to noisier industrial leaning hardcore created with non-musical instruments, this is a varied and spastic album that doesn’t stay in one place for too long.  Not every track quite sticks as much as some of the others, but there’s still something appealing about the mix of catchy and abrasive riffs and beats Death Index offers on their sophomore release.

Where “Fast Money Kill” launched into bursts of feedback and fast paced hardcore punk on the debut, “Deathworld” makes it clear that Civilized By A Lie is going to be a very different experience.  This track lets harsher electronic bursts that are closer to power electronics or noise expand in the background as spoken word captures your attention, and some of this abrasiveness is continued as “D.O.G. (Delusions of Grandeur)” begins.  Death Index strikes a fine balance between catchier synthpop and the more aggressive side of industrial throughout the album, with some bursts of hardcore, punk, and gothic/post punk influences coming into play as well.  It’s diverse enough that you’re never quite sure what each song will bring, as sometimes the electronics will sound like a cross between Depeche Mode and the quirkiness of Adult. while other ones feel more like Nine Inch Nails circa The Downward Spiral.  “D.O.G. II” even brings back some of the hardcore from the last album for a much rawer attack that showcases Death Index hasn’t completely abandoned their other instruments in favor of a purely electronic approach.  A few of the tracks use non-musical instruments like metal and iron sheets, which is sure to draw some Einstürzende Neubauten comparisons even if the songwriting heads for other sides of industrial.  Admittedly with how sudden the stylistic shifts are, not every moment sticks and a few of the poppier tracks don’t quite have as much of a hook as I hoped for.  “D.O.G. II” also stands out in a bad way, as it’s so raw and loud compared to the rest of the material that it comes across like a demo that got jammed into the final album.  But even with this being the case, Death Index does provide some stunning moments when everything clicks.  “Spirit” nails that classic Nine Inch Nails approach of going from moodier, brooding electronics to loud, abrasive walls of sound, while “Human/Machinery” offers danceable rhythms with some harsher edges over top of it.  “Shadows of Dawn” is easily my favorite track on Civilized By A Lie though, as it goes for a slower burn and builds up layers of electronics that give off more of a post punk/gothic rock vibe.  It’s a haunting and desolate track that gets under your skin and serves as a nice respite between some of the faster and more jarring pieces.

The vocals are able to maintain a similar amount of variety as the instrumentals, offering a similar balance between the melodic and abrasive.  The spoken word on “Deathworld” gives off a bit of a Marilyn Manson, and then screams are layered over top of it to create a very ominous and unsettling soundscape.  Sometimes Death Index goes for light and airier singing on songs like “No Cure for Madness” and “Human/Machinery” that have more of a post punk or synthpop vibe, but then you have tracks like “Blackwater” that use more abrasive and abrupt spoken word/singing that is much more industrial influenced.  During some of the more aggressive moments some screaming and harsher ranges are added in, and this gives Civilized By A Lie some extra intensity as just the right times.  It’s also worth bringing up “Shadows of Dawn” again, as the way the vocals soar over the layers of harsher industrial and brooding guitar riffs makes it genuinely powerful.

Civilized By A Lie is a significant shift for Death Index, but it pushes them into a unique position.  Individual elements are sure to bring a slew of different industrial, synthpop, and other electronic artists to mind, but the way punk and post punk elements are woven in gives the material a sound that never strays too far in one direction.  The almost jarring nature of the transitions does result in some songs that come and go without fully leaving an impact, but when Death Index nails that harsh meets catchy approach and wraps it up in a desolate and darker atmosphere they give listeners plenty worth returning to.  I’d be interested to see where they can take things next, as there’s still some untapped potential, but hopefully it won’t take another seven years to find out.  Civilized By A Lie is available from 2 Mondi Collective.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg