Godhead – The Shadow Realigned
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Record Label: Warrior Records
Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Disturbed, Tool, Linkin Park, and Depeche Mode. Those are just a few of the names that get dropped in the RIYL section of the press materials for The Shadow Realigned, a new remix album from the Los Angeles hard rock act, Godhead. As someone who has always kept about as far away as possible from most of those acts (with the exception of Depeche Mode, who are the odd men out anyway), I wasn’t expecting much when I clicked play on this compilation album. The first track, a tune called “The Gift,” remixed here by someone calling themselves “Robotic Beehive,” didn’t do anything to heighten my anticipation either. The remix slices up the vocals of visionary Godhead frontman Jason Miller into an appropriately robotic mess of autotune and computerized effects. And while the genre tag for this band is “hard rock,” this remix of “The Gift” sounds more like a bizarre collision between T-Pain, Kid Rock, and Dirty Vegas. No thanks.
Luckily, The Shadow Realigned is a versatile and eclectic mix of sounds, so if you don’t like one song, you can pretty much wait five minutes to hear a completely different side of the band. Though I was unfamiliar with Godhead leading up to this album, legend has it that the band is one of the most dynamic and durable bands from their scene. With roots in hard or alternative rock, Godhead could easily sink into the same generic tendencies that so many bands have fallen victim to in the decade since that kind of music (and the bands that ruled the airwaves with it in the early 2000s, from the aforementioned Linkin Park guys to duller pretenders like Staind and Three Days Graace) disappeared from the mainstream. Instead, Godhead explore elements of various types of music, including dance, electronic, industrial, and stadium rock. This album, which contains 14 separate remixes, each contributed by a different producer that the band has worked with and gotten to know over the years, only splits their split-personality further, which means it’s not cohesive in the slightest, but which also means that the album remains interesting and exciting – even for someone who doesn’t care a lick for most of the genres the record samples.
Despite the false start with Robotic Beehive, there are actually a few producers here who get very interesting sonic levels out of Godhead that I didn’t expect from this album after reading the RIYL. Case in point is “Fall Down,” a track remixed here by Joe Bashara. The tune eerily flips the norm of rock and roll mixing, giving prime focus to a scuzzy guitar part and burying the vocals in layers of industrial grime, fractious reverb, and echoes of ambient sound. It’s the perfect microcosm of a band that is often at its best in the least conventional territory. Frontman Jason Miller doesn’t have a bad voice, coming somewhere between Chris Cornell and Jon Bon Jovi (see “Unrequited,” which is about as close to a radio rock song as this album gets), but his lyrics and vocal melodies actually pull Godhead further into the generic alt rock genre than I think they want to go. When Godhead focuses on instrumental sections and expansive soundscapes, as they are on “Fall Down,” during the slow-burn grooves of “Hey You,” or with the dancefloor synth swirls of “Trapped In Your Lies,” their music thrills in ways that it never does with vocals.
I’ve often wondered why any band would consider doing a remix album. Even for artists I like and even for hip-hop, pop, R&B, and dance music where remixes are all the rage, I’ve never really cared for the concept or understood how an album full of remixed versions could justify its existence. An example was when Bloc Party remixed their debut album, 2005’s Silent Alarm, for a stopgap release. The new versions were mostly less compelling than their original counterparts, and the entire album reeked of being a cash grab. Here, however, I’m pleasantly surprised by how these remixes show off different sides of the band while usually still sounding like they’re coming from the same artist. For a fan already familiar with all of these tunes, perhaps The Shadow Realigned could sound as inessential as I find that Silent Alarm remix album (though fans of Godhead will undoubtedly still want this record for the two expertly rendered Kiss and Depeche Mode covers that close it). However, for someone unfamiliar with the group and their legacy, The Shadow Realigned is a surprisingly interesting journey into a slew of different musical spaces.