Here we have it, Cyberaktif's sole feature-length album, “Tenebrae Vision.” This is a fantastic EBM/industrial album, and it makes me a bit sad to know that this album and the “Temper” and “Nothing Stays” EPs would be all that Cyberaktif would create. The chances of any other music created under this project monicker are practically zero, as Dwayne Goettel died of a drug overdose in 1995. Anyway, on to the review.
Since Cyberaktif was a collaboration between members of Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy (Bill Leeb from FLA and cEvin Key and Dwayne Goettel from SP), the overall style of this album is similar to a lot of EBM/industrial bands of the late 80's/early 90's, though thankfully for Cyberaktif, this also has solid songwriting sensibilities that give this album a distinctive sound. It also helps that Cyberaktif maintains a consistently dark tone throughout the album, even in some of the songs that have a higher tempo prone to induce dancing.
Like in the EPs that I reviewed before this, Bill Leeb flexes quite a bit of versatility with his vocals, and they all help to enhance the atmosphere of the instrumental compositions. In songs like “Paradiessiets” and “Nothing Stays,” Leeb exercises clean vocals that unlike most cases, actually enhance the dark music contained. In “Ruptured Freaks,” he uses some electronic vocal distortion to bolster the bubbling electronic darkness dominating that song. In songs like “Brain Dead Decision” and “Dis Coarse Illusion,” Leeb uses more traditional “harsh” vocals typical of the EBM genre, but still have a convincingly menacing vibe to them. Dwayne Goettel and cEvin Key hardly skip a beat in terms of quality with their instrumental contributions.
Key and Goettel tackle a variety of tempos and styles for the songs, and they do a superb job with most of them. Songs like “Brain Dead Decision” and “Acid Cripple” show Key's and Goettel's abilities to create songs that are more energetic dance tunes, where songs like “Nothing Stays” have a slower, more laid-back tempo. Though the biggest surprise to me was their ability to create the album closer, “House of Pain,” which has a bold hip-hop beat for its rhythmic backbone. All in all, these guys did a great job with their keyboard/synthesizer/sound sample compositions.
There's plenty of great songs on here, though I should point out a few minor quibbles, though they don't really amount to anything bad.
The versions of “Nothing Stays” and “Temper” on this album are decent, but I actually like the remixed and extended versions of these songs on the “Temper” and “Nothing Stays” EPs more. Their longer running times and remixed instrumentation made them more sinister and grimy compared to the original album versions, but they're still decent tracks.
Now the rest of the album is near perfect. Some of my favorite tracks are “Brain Dead Decision,” “Acid Cripple,” “Paradiessiets,” “Ruptured Freaks,” and “House of Pain.” “Paradiessiets” would be later remixed as “Meltdown” on the “Temper” EP, though in this case, I actually like the original better, since it has a more consistently creepy atmosphere to it. This is a bit more on the slower side of things, but has a steady electronic beat with Leeb's creepy clean vocals and horror sound samples perfect for the soundtrack of a surrealist nightmare. “Brain Dead Decision” is a steady dance tune, with a peppier beat, ominous sound samples, eery vocals, and some creative use of electronic percussion, in which at the 1:10 mark, there's electronic beats played to sound like a machine gun being fired, but also sounds like it went though a sound distorter to give it a creepily synthetic quality to it. “Acid Cripple” is one of the most aggressive dance tracks on here, though it likes to throw its listeners a curve ball by starting off more on the ambient side then blasting into business at 1:09, and the main beat would be really fitting for a painful scene to watch in a cyberpunk film, like Alex Murphy's grizzly death in Robocop. “Ruptured Freaks” is quite an odd song on here because despite being one of the more up-tempo songs on here, it has an eery, nightmarish feel to it that would be more fitting for one of the slower songs, though I think Leeb's more subdued vocals in this song have something to do with that. “House of Pain” is a superb way to finish the album, as its main beat has a gritty hip-hop feel to it and its bass-laden electronics give it a bit of a sleazy atmosphere, possibly making it fitting for a piece of BDSM media (think of the “Seek” OVAs in the Cool Devices series).
Like the EPs Cyberaktif released, “Tenebrae Vision” has excellent production quality in the sense that you can hear everything clearly, but has an air of grittiness to its sound quality enhancing the dark atmosphere of the music contained.
Cyberaktif's “Tenebrae Vision” and the “Temper” and “Nothing Stays” EPs are mandatory listening for serious fans of EBM/industrial music and even fans of cyberpunk media. If you want to know why I'm so fond of late 80's/early 90's industrial music, get all of Cyberaktif's material and you'll hear why.