I remember that I was extremely confused when I heard this project for the very first time. It was the mini-album First Spit (1) that crossed my way almost four years ago. First Spit was the first effort that showed a musician that was both creative and experimental. But that EP was heard to digest too, at least for me and my sensitive stomach. One year later, this Bordeaux-based solo-outfit of Jeff Maurer returned with a first full length, called The Other Shore (2), which simply continued that eccentric approach. The well-balanced yet uncomfortable mixture of different music(k)al styles asks for perseverance and endurance to get through, but I succeeded once more. Yet still I was not totally convinced, for I had the feeling that Broken Down were still searching for an own face.
Enter 2018. After a hiatus of almost three years, monsieur Maurer finished his third effort, which will be released once more via his own label Altsphere Records (initially from the North-East of France). Jeff did release material before via this experimental (Indie / Doom / Industrial) label for several of his other projects he’s involved with. The new album, Drop Dead Entertainer, is a lengthy one, for it consists of eighteen tracks that clock about sixty-five minutes. It is available via the contemporary digital sources (streaming and download), as well physically, being a limited edition of hand-numbered digipack compact discs. It was mastered in September in Cannes at the QFG Studio by Rémy Pelleschi. And just like before, I deeply adore the simple yet effective cover artwork. But what about the sonic side of the story?
Well, it took several listens, once again, to have an idea about the total concept – and still I am not sure whether I did deeply penetrate the essence. The label did describe this new recording as a ‘fusion of NIN, Ministry, Rob Zombie, Fear Factory, Rammstein, Killing Joke’, and that sort of might give a hint (though I do not totally agree – see further). The terminology ‘Industrial Doom Metal’ from the past isn’t used anymore, and the fact that the references to Doom Metal in general have gone, explains that decision. Now it is called ‘Industrial Music’ by both label and project, and it is more appropriate, I think.
Drop Dead Entertainer starts with a shorter piece, the introduction The Entertainer’s Sermon, based on a melancholic (yet not of the suicidal or depressive kind) piano melody, spoken word samples and additional sounds. Yet the core of this album starts as from Sunburn Factory, which is the lengthiest track (4:20) on this album. And it is an omen for, once again, an entertaining sonic adventure with a joyful mood and a psychedelic attitude. In a narrow-minded way, you can cover this album as ‘Industrial Metal’ indeed. It is Industrial Metal for sure. But this actually goes further, much further. Broken Down uses elements from so many other styles, such as Electronic and Industrial Music, Progressive Metal, Hardcore / Punk, (Thrash) Metal, Alternative, Ambient, Dub Step, Dark Wave, Pop Rock, Groove, Stoner / Doom and so on, and so on. The better part is based on industrialised guitar riffs, melodic voices, synths and an electronic rhythm section. I’ll explain the four of them. The first, those guitars, sound quite cool, adding a certain touch of grooving and even sludgy heaviness. These guitar riffs are the most stable constant throughout the album. Much more varying are the vocals. Okay, for the better part, it is a clean / unclean melodic voice you’ll experience. And like before, it is quite false. It might be bothering, even irritating, and I de understand this opinion. Yet then again, it does fit to Broken Down’s Music, for it was the same thing in the past. It is part of Broken Down’s raison d’être. And hey, many Doom and Punk singers are just alike, isn’t it, and then it does not bother?... But there is more within the vocal range: grunts and shouts, Hip-Hop narration, crusty yells, harmony chants / choirs you name it. The synths are, like mentioned, another important ingredient within this mish-mash. They too vary: sometimes electronic or cosmic, spacy, psychedelic, then again atmospheric, floating, even dreamlike – and everything in between, with hints of Industrial Music in a general sense, elegant piano-alike excerpts, and more. The drums are not live performed, I think (or not all of them), but programmed. It gives the whole a mechanical touch for sure.
I guess you can dwell within comparable (alt)spheres where the likes of Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Static-X or Kiss Is Kill (3), and even Skinny Puppy or Ministry, dwell, but Broken Down are not some cheap clone. Compared to the former recordings, the band seems to have found an own face, despite the amalgam of sound sources and influences, and that, of course, is a nice evolution.
(3) Kiss Is Kill did, by the way, a remix for the track The Other Shore, released on the digital EP Another Shore.