The November Commandment was one of the first Christian bands to emerge in the industrial scene, way back in the mid 1980s, setting the stage for groups like Mortal and Under Midnight, which actually provided the “breakthroughs” for Christian industrial and synth music. This release compile their complete catalog onto one disc: Complete Structure (1988), Dark Dawn (1991), and Exile Station (1993). Started by Jan Carleklev, who then went onto to start the neo-classical/industrial group Sanctum, The November Commandment fits squarely into the electro sound, while still retaining enough pop sense to actually make the music quite unlistenable.
Although many of the songs start sounding the same after awhile, it’s all of high enough quality that I really don’t mind. One reason for this is that The November Commandment brings a fairly good sound palette to the music. Although the majority of the music utilizes the same elements of crushing programmed beats and heavy metallic synths mixed with cyberpunk atmospheres and European sensibilities, The November Commandment isn’t scared to break from this mold on occasion. At some points, the songs approach a Depeche Mode level of pop… well, more along the lines of Mental Destruction covering Depeche Mode. In other words, there’s enough of an industrial feel to give even the poppiest songs bite.
And although samples do appear throughout the disc, they aren’t used as the actual basis of the song. I really admire that. The November Commandment realizes that samples are supposed to accentuate the song, not serve as it’s core. As such, the songs remain complete in and of themselves, and the listener spends more time enjoying the music rather than trying to place where the sample came from.
Another highlight are the vocals. As far as I can tell, there’s very little effects added to the vocals. Since they’re not run through scads of vocal effects, they retain a very natural, human element to them. Ranging from almost monastic-like militant chants to growling and whispering, they can either add an epic feel (“A Second or a Thousand Years”) or an urgent, disturbing sound (“Petroleum”). They fit very well with the dark, pounding rhythms and electronic textures.
Like I said, many of the songs do start to sound the same after awhile. But highlights include “Colorfield” with it’s subtle guitar work set amidst pulsing electronics; “Inside Pain,” with its use of atmospherics and militant drumming; and “In Early November,” with it’s Cold Meat-esque ambience. The best work, however, definitely consists of the handful of songs from Exile Station. “High” starts off with powerful, militant synths, and is definitely the song most likely to be incredible live. “This Is” has a much more urgent, driving feel than most of the material on here, and the use of guitars adds an almost Circle of Dust feel to the song. “A Second or a Thousand Years” starts off with the Mental Destruction style of power electronics and tortured mechanical rhythms, but adds an orchestral feel with dirge-like synths as the song progresses.
All in all, an intriguing release and a very good look at where the Christian industrial scene had its gestation. And definitely one of the more accessible entries in this genre that I’ve heard. Also amazing is the fact that, even though the music on this disc spans several years, it still retains a high level of consistency. Very good stuff that’s as heavy and dark as it is listenable.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.