Alien Sex Fiend - Possessed [Cherry Red - 2018]Possessed is the first album of new material from Alien Sex Fiend in eight years. It sees the two-piece craving out an often rough 'n' ready blend of snapping electro beats, retro synth grooves, chugging punked-blues guitar, and waveringly coarse-yet- ghoulish male vocals. It’s an album that certainly sees the band hanging onto its fairly unequal blend of Goth, psychobilly, punk, & electro-fired shock rock- but sadly for most of its runtime, it rather lacks the more tongue-in-cheek humour, and sense of quirky experimentation that makes their best work so rewarding.
I guess I’ve been aware of Alien Sex Fiend since the late 80’s- picking up the odd album here & there and enjoy the occasional single- it wasn’t until 2017 excellent Fiendology- a three-CD collection celebrating thirty-five years of the band- that they really clicked with me. That collection really highlighted the projects very distinctive sound at it’s most focused, fun, and varied. Fiendology also included a track or two from this new album, and from what I’d heard I was impressed by the slurred-yet-necro fired vibe of the Possessed tracks….so a year or so after Fiendology, we get the new album.
Possessed is a twelve album( on Cd) taking in just shy of an hours worth of music. It all kicks off with “Possessed Intro”- and as it’s title suggests this is a short & mood-setting opener bringing together slow ‘n’ brooding beat claps, darkly buzzing retro synth textures, and loops of the word possessed. The first proper track is “Shit Coming Down On Me”- and this just shy of six & a half minute track is one of the more focused, memorable & wholly rewarding tracks on the album- its sees the bringing together chugging guitar riff, buzzing ‘n’ swirling synth textures, gunshot samples, & Nik Fiends ghoulish yells 'n' rants, which mostly repeat the track's title.
Sadly after these two opening tracks the album slips into very mixed & uneven territory- going from way too long “It’s In My Blood” which is rather bland, muddled & jam bound blend of building blues fired punk guitar riff, spacey synth simmer, very cymbal-heavy percussion, spoken & muffled chanted male vocals, and a decidedly lose blend of vocal effects. Onto the wonky eastern-meets-western twang & buzz of “Ghost in the Machine” with its blend of punk blues rocking riff craft, broodingly backwards sitar-like simmer, and sudden ritual strikes. Through to decidedly stark & creepy “Neutron” with it’s twanging & spacey oscillating guitar picks, synth stretches, & haphazard percussive tollings. Onto the swampy guitar hover ‘n’ chug, slow slamming bare bone electro percussive hits, and electrified didgeridoo of "Carcass"- this track appeared on the Fiendology collection, though in a much more effective & different mix – which necro-fied the whole thing nicely
Most of Possessed feels very humourless, often lacking any really defined melodies, or distinctive grooves. Sonically really having a similar tone through-out with its blend of chugging punked blues guitar riffs, lo-fi electro-retro detail, slamming percussion & shout/ chant bound slightly ghoulish male vocals. You can hear the band were trying to create a darker, more coarse & rough take on their sound here - but sadly in the processes, they seemed to drained all of the fun edges, and most of the memorable grooves & tunes out of their craft.
I really tried to like Possessed, as I did enjoy Fiendology- sadly this new album is just often too dirge-bound, shapeless & similar in it unfold. I guess if you’re a long time fan of the project, and fancy a more bluntly lo-fi & darkly brooding take on the bands sound- then maybe Possessed will do you something for you, sadly it did little for me.Roger Batty