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Album Review

Welding together dance beats, slick melodies, and moody vocals, Assemblage 23's Tom Shear crosses the catchy synth pop of Depeche Mode with the dark grooves of industrial on Defiance. Always danceable, always a little disturbing, tracks like "Opened" never lose their pulsating momentum, while grittier numbers like "Drive" skillfully echo New Order by pairing bittersweet synthesizer swells with relentless electro groans. "Cocoon," one of the slowest tracks on the album at 81 beats per minute, is spare, scary, and dreamy. "Maps of Reality" is just the opposite — fast, on the edge, virtually out of control. Defiance might seem a little repetitive to average rock & roll fans, but for listeners looking to return to the gray emotions of '80s, late-Cold War synth pop, Assemblage 23 is unbeatable.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

Assemblage 23 is the brainchild of Seattle-based Tom Shear, who spent a decade on various electronic projects before finding success as a respected EBM act. For live performances he is accompanied by Paul Seegers on keyboards and Kevin Choby on electronic drums. Although he had previously written music, it wasn't until 1988, when, at a concert by Depeche Mode, Shear was inspired by the industrial sounds spun by the opening DJ. He soon shifted from instrumental synth-pop (under the name Man on a...
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Defiance, Assemblage 23
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