Die Mannequin

Neon Zero

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Oct 28, 2014

On their first studio effort since 2009's Juno-nominated Fino + Bleed, Toronto's Die Mannequin are marking their return to recorded music with a noticeable sonic shift. With Neon Zero, the group aims to make music suitable for both the mosh pit and the dance floor. Led by feisty frontwoman Care Failure, the new album combines electric guitar with polished electronics, turning "EDM" into something they call "Evil Dance Metal." Failure calls the inspiration to combine six-strings and synthesizers "a natural progression," and while they certainly aren't the first act to attempt a fusion of rock and dance music, their opening attempt falls short of being a successful synthesis.

When talking about the record's guitar work, "Evil Dance Metal" seems to be a slight misnomer. The majority of the riffing is closer to hard rock than metal on the six-string spectrum, with pronounced, heavier dropped tunings only being noticeable on "Murder On The Dancefloor" and "Girls At The Mall." The latter becomes locked in a particularly groovy lick early on before being overshadowed by a pop-saturated chorus. This is only one instance where an issue of imbalance between the two influences hinders much of what the record is trying to offer. The overdriven guitars of lead single "Sucker Punch" soon become lost in the pounding electric drums, supporting synths and Failure's radio-ready vocals, while "Ka-Ching" could pass as a straight power-pop cut if not for a fleeting accompanying keyboard. Some tracks even defy this self-imposed "dance metal" label, namely the stomp of deeply personal "I'm Just A Girl" and the soaring "Blood In/Blood Out."

There seems to be more of a steady reliance and emphasis on pop than heavier guitar-driven sounds, resulting in more of a divide than what might have been intended. Neon Zero starts to lay a foundation for Die Mannequin's union of guitars and dance music in places, but if this is an artistic direction that Failure and her group choose to pursue further, there is still some refining to be done.

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