Relentless Beats

Relentless Review: Varien’s Latest Masterpiece ‘The Second Industrial Revolution’

Nick Kaelar, also known as Varien, is easily one of the most talented modern electronic composers. The 29 year old producer and multi-instrumentalist has composed scores for films and television shows such as Purge: Anarchy, Furious 7, The Walking Dead, and Bones, in addition to videos games such as the critically acclaimed indie horror visual novel, Doki Doki Literature Club. His versatility is impressive, but what’s equally impressive is his story telling. In 2015, Varien released The Ancient and Arcane, an epic collection of angelic songs and stories that transports the listener into a beautiful, foreign world. Now, five years later, Varien has released his fourth album, yet this time, the world we are being transported to is far different than the world in The Ancient and Arcane

Earlier this month, Varien released The Second Industrial Revolution. This album is dark, haunting, and a complete musical masterpiece. He strongly recommends to listen to the album from start to finish and I couldn’t agree more. Similar to albums like The Wall by Pink Floyd or American Idiot by Green Day, each song on The Second Industrial Revolution can easily stand alone, but there is beauty in the world Varien has created. I will leave the interpretations of this album to yourself, but suggest that you listen to the album in its entirety before reading my review. The beauty in this album is in its crypticism. 

The journey begins with the album’s title track, “THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.” Slightly distorted pads slowly build up until eerie female vocals introduce the main themes of the album. As the chords settle, the intro effortlessly transitions into the second song on The Second Industrial Revolution, “ORPHAN.”  For the first minute there’s a slightly glitch-hop feel, but as the song progresses into the break we hear a perfect example of Varien’s talent. An epic decrescendo hits and captivating melodic elements make the listener feel as if they’re standing at the edge of the cyberpunk world Varien has so eloquently forged. The next song on The Second Industrial Revolution, “SOHEAVYSOHOLLOW”, is easily one of my personal favorites and features vocalist Tori Letzler. Organic percussion alongside distorted bass hits carry the song forward as Tori Letzler’s unique voice tell a obscure story of love and ghosts.

Everything Varien touches seems to turn into gold, no matter the genre. If you’re looking for a good example of his musical versatility, “YAKUZA WHOREHOUSE” personifies everything Varien does right. While I will leave you to make your own interpretations of the song, in my opinion, this song shows the dark underbelly of the post apocalyptic inside The Second Industrial Revolution. The dark energy of “YAKUZA WHOREHOUSE” evolves into the fifth song on the album,  “MATRICULATED,” is one of the more classic electronic sounding songs off The Second Industrial Revolution and the mood smoothly progresses between sinister and familiar. This familiar heaviness continues in the next song “FIGHT_CLUB” which will make you feel as if you’re in a dystopian warehouse, fighting against an android. The subtle glitches and distortion become the percussion and by the end of the song, pads and breathy vocals take over the harsh metallic sounds. “ARCHITECT OF DEMISE” continues where “FIGHT_CLUB” left off and I would highly recommend listening to this song a few times. Each time I listened to “ARCHITECT OF DEMISE”, I noticed more and more musical elements that parallel the story of The Second Industrial Revolution. Organic percussion that begins as if it were a tribal beat evolves into the beat of heart and for a few moments you’re alone with just the heartbeat and your own thoughts. 

“IDONTBELONGHERE” is a hidden gem on The Second Industrial Revolution and while it sounds best when paired with the rest of the album, this is an amazing stand alone track. “IDONTBELONGHERE” is very cyberpunk and reminds of another artist Varien has worked with, LSDREAM. The glitched bass next to a retro synth melody gives off a harrowing tone that compliments the main themes of the album. “EXO//SKELETON” continues the retro, synth sound, and like the name suggests, sounds like some sort of futuristic, robotic bug. The song begins with sudden breathing that transitions into another nightmarish melody. This time, the melody progresses until cinematic chords take over the track and become the main focus of the song. “BLESSINGS UNTO THE MACHINE” is the tenth song on The Second Industrial Revolution and brings you back to the beginning of the album. The song reminds the listener of the world Varien has painted, yet this time we see the beauty in the mechanic downfall. “PASCAL” continues to show the listener the life within the The Second Industrial Revolution, but the eeriness in the background warns us of the potential destruction. “PASCAL” is elegant and the synth melody has a slight poignant sound that feels as if it were a lullaby. Varien hits the finale out of the park with “CLAIRE’S SONG”. In the middle of the album, we heard rough, distorted basses that personified the destruction within this apocalyptic world and that’s exactly how “CLAIRE’S SONG” begins. As the distortion fades, a poignant piano melody leaves the listener with more questions than answers.

Overall, The Second Industrial Revolution truly blew me away. The transitions from grungy, distorted basses to soft, elegant melodies was effortless and the story lies in these musical parallels. On one hand, the world Varien created was dark and meaningless, yet on the other it was beautiful and full of life. Each time I listened to The Second Industrial Revolution, I noticed more and more elements that gave the story even more meaning. This album is without a doubt one of my favorite albums of 2019 I highly recommend sitting down, getting comfortable, and diving into the dark beauty of The Second Industrial Revolution

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