We’ve discussed on these pages before the talent of Wes Borland and the underground metal community’s grudging respect for the sole interesting member of Limp Bizkit. The conversation was always much the same, complete with metal fanhood’s common hyperbole: “Limp Bizkit is the worst band in the history of creation, but [through gritted teeth] Wes Borland can play.” Borland, the unchained mind who first brought us his solo talents through the joke metal album “Duke Lion Fights the Terror!!” by Big Dumb Face, has now pumped out another effort under the moniker Black Light Burns entitled “The Moment You Realize You’re Going to Fall.”
For those keeping score at home, what’s interesting to note about this latest effort is that this is the second time Borland has rushed to release a solo record immediately following a Limp Bizkit release. BDF’s record hit the shelves following “Chocolate Starfish…” and now we see this new effort following the lackluster and forgettable “Gold Cobra.” Given his history with and commentary concerning the band, it’s not wholly unreasonable to suggest that following Bizkit work, Borland’s creativity feels so constrained that he regurgitates these frustrated bursts of imaginative energy all in one cathartic release.
Black Light Burns can only be defined as an album that wants to be taken both seriously and not seriously, which seems like an untenable situation, and is likely why the album only lives up to some of its awkward but abundant potential. On its face, it is an album that tests the waters of musical experimentation while also trying to balance an odd mix of quasi-satirical humor. Wes Borland's newest vanity album is similar in this regard to Brendon Small's recent "Galaktikon," as they are both composed of the untamed, unbridled whims of creative minds. The aspect that delineates one from the other is that Brendon Small's wild-eyed concept was focused through the lens of a man with a career as a creative storyteller, which Borland simply doesn't have in his back pocket.
Musically, Black Light Burns focuses on the mixing of electronic and heavy which can only be defined by the seemingly outmoded label of “industrial.” Coupled with Borland’s vocal performance, which sees him speak-sing his way through the tracks in territory somewhere between Nick Cave and Spider One, “The Moment You Realize You’re Going to Fall” is like a distant shadow of vintage Nine Inch Nails.
The shining moments on “The Moment You Realize You’re Going to Fall,” come in the sections where Borland successfully balances his varied instrumentation with a vocal cadence that is more lyrical. The album’s opener “How to Look Naked” has a casual sing-songiness that carries this song above the album’s more typical fare.
The industrial leanings of most of the album lend themselves well to songs like “The Girl in Black,” which stride confidently with an easy, even drone. That sounds like an insult, but in industrial music, is often a credit to the artist’s skill in arrangement. There is also a great two song juxtaposition in the middle of the album, where the insistent repetition of “Your Head Will be Rotting on a Spike” gives way to the crescendo-building emotional appeal of “Torch From the Sky.” Big Dumb Face this is not.
The issues with this vanity project begin with the fact that it may simply be too long. A collection of fifteen experimental songs from the hands of Wes Borland is a heady task to take on. While the album does blossom increasingly with multiple listens, it’s also true that several of the end tracks blend together, offering little if any differentiation from each other.
Additionally, Borland’s rather tongue-in-cheek approach to full-throat singing makes the impact of potential heavy hitters like “Tiger by the Tail” and “Scream Hallelujah” softer than they ought to be. Both tunes has some musically interesting pieces beneath the veneer or processor noise, but are made hollow by Borland’s stilted, shout-y vocals. These could have been more.
The end result is a curious twist on multiple ideas and genre blending that never consistently strikes that critical internal chord in the listener's heart. Borland's showcase piece for his own active imagination is a panoply of ideas hurled with reckless abandon at the wall, not once to see what sticks, but repeatedly until it all sticks. It's an ambitious project from an unquiet, inventive mind who is too often constrained by the boundaries of his day job. Give the man some credit for trying something new and being unique, even if it doesn’t always work. Is Black Light Burns worth your fanhood? Tough to say. Worth a couple of listens? Without question.