If you’ve listened to Perturbator’s music so far, then you know his “schtick” pretty well: overdriven, ominous synthesizers constantly doing their darndest to evoke cyberpunk and horror movie soundtracks from the ’80s — and succeeding for the most part. But even by that standard, Dangerous Days is a significant upgrade. Of course, since Dangerous Days is a concept album about a lone cybernetic warrior waging a one-person war in the year 2088 against a supercomputer named “Satan” that has been programmed to destroy humanity (natch), you really shouldn’t expect anything less.
On tracks like “Perturbator’s Theme,” the aptly titled “Raw Power,” and “She Is Young, She Is Beautiful, She Is Next,” James Kent’s synthesizers throb, pulse, and argeggiate with wild abandon while the drum programming blasts away, evoking high speed pursuits through the “urban nightmare” described in the album’s liner notes. Meanwhile, “Future Club” has the high energy rhythms you might hear in a Nocturne City discothèque, but the song’s ominous undertone suggests a club where the patrons are being assimilated by the machines while on the dancefloor.
It’s all pretty engaging stuff, and there’s no denying that Kent loves his artistic conceit and is fully devoted to his cyberpunk musical vision. At the same time, though, you do find yourself wondering how much farther he can take this sound. Dangerous Days feels like Pertubator’s apotheosis, the culmination of everything he’s been doing for the last couple of years.
Which is why, as entertaining as Perturbator’s “hardcore” material might be, I actually prefer those moments on Dangerous Days when Kent lets down his guard, so to speak, and lets a bit of the ol’ human element filter into his dystopic music.
“Hard Wired” is the closest the album comes to a power ballad, with the weary, ghostly vocals of Memory Ghost’s Isabella Goloversic — who also sang on Perturbator’s previous album, 2012’s I Am the Night — flowing beautifully with Kent’s programming and soaring, Vangelis-like synth pads. A similar moment occurs on “Minuit,” which features Dead Astronauts’ Jared Nickerson and Hayley Stewart singing a cyberpunk warrior’s lament:
Now that I’m a weathered machine
I’d give it all, I’d give everything
To have you here to believe
To believe in me
These songs are small respites from the machine onslaught but they reveal that Kent’s music is capable of being a bit less clichéd and a bit more human and emotionally resonant than it may seem at first. That’s especially true if your first impression is based solely on the album’s cover artwork with its “evil,” pentagram-centric imagery, which makes Dangerous Days look like the work of a Megadeth fanboy. But as the aforementioned songs reveal, it’s quite a bit more than that.