Over the years, Showbread has become one of the most loved and most controversial bands in the Christian music industry. They've also become known for sound changes, big or small, with each new record. In 2007, Josh Dies released a solo album, The Aesthetics of Violence, that was also different in sound from previous Showbread material. His follow-up EP, Talons, was in similar style, but with the coming of the next Dies full-length album, Scalene, comes another sound change that is good and, at times, surprising.
The Aesthetics of Violence took some style from Showbread's Anorexia Nervosa and dove deep into the industrial side of music, with heavy Nine Inch Nails influence and a little bit of Showbread flair for good measure. Scalene takes that sound and tosses out a good portion of industrial, replacing it mostly with an 80s new wave, synthpop sound. However, don't take that and think that Dies has gone a route like that of The Foxglove Hunt or Owl City. It's still a little bit darker than either of those bands have hinted at, though not as dark as the last Dies record or any of his novels. As far as the Showbread influence on Scalene, they've been toned down to better match Showbread's last album Who Can Know It. You can hear it a lot in Josh's melodies and vocal patterns, which remind me of tracks from both Who Can Know It? as well as The Fear of God. He mostly sings in his lower range and frequently has a vocal effect that tends to make the music louder than his voice (Fans of Showbread from the No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical era may be interested to find that former guitarist Mike Jensen is credited as doing all the mixing for Dies' vocals).
A lot of the music's tendencies can be attributed to the Nine Inch Nails album Year Zero. Josh collaborated with a Showbread fan named Dillon Redmond, whose input resulted in some more experimental sections of songs which were influenced by his love for Year Zero. Tracks like "Pilgrim's Regress" and the closer, "Marana Tha!," feature musical interludes that don't seem to spring from the rest of the track at all. If you weren't paying attention, you may think that these portions were part of a completely different track. Redmond's input even ended up bringing a little bit of dubstep into the mix, which you can hear glimpses of in "Soldiers and Cops" and "Marana Tha!" The one oddball track of the bunch (if you could even call it that) is "Son of the Fly." It puts the electronic sound on hold, and gets by with just softly-strummed electric guitar, some light synth and some layered vocals.
As with Showbread, you never really know what you're going to get from a Dies album. Fans who dug the industrial rock of The Aesthetics of Violence and wanted more of that will have to brace themselves for a dramatic change, as this isn't the follow-up album they were looking for. But fans of Showbread will find a lot to like about Scalene. The melodies, the rawness, and the experimentalism are perfect for the devoted fans who have stuck around this long. The production makes the vocals and lyrics a little hard to hear, but overall it's a fine piece of work that should hold you over until Showbread's next album, Cancer, sometime next year.
- Review date: 11/15/11, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com