High Functioning Flesh: A Unity Of Miseries, A Misery Of Unities
High Functioning Flesh: A Unity Of Miseries, A Misery Of Unities – From the very beginning of the album, High Functioning Flesh are attempting to keep the audience off balance. The first vocals you hear are speed-altered and unintelligible, and then a fast-paced beat joined with scream-and-response vocals kicks in. This is something different.
This band knows that there are those that will dismiss them as retro. Their Facebook bio even addresses the situation by dismissing “the swarm of revival, retro and vintage bands” and proclaiming that they wish to “pump your bodies and refresh your mind from the tired beat.” That’s an intentionally bold proclamation to make. While I’m not sure if I want to fully commit to admitting to being pumped and refreshed, I will say that they do feel different, and more than feeling different, they feel cinematic.
Feeling cinematic is perhaps not a novel concept coming from an L.A. based band, but it’s certainly the first place that my mind went. This album feels like a Blade Runner chase scene. I picture rain, lightning flashes, and Rutger Hauer in pursuit with every track. It has the feel of something futuristic while simultaneously sounding as if it could’ve been made in the ’80s and featuring vocals from the late ’90s.
I’ve used the term haunting and ominous before in reviews, but I do believe that ‘Flash Memory’ may be the best embodiment of those terms. Stanley Kubrick himself would be chilled to the bone after hearing the intro to this song. The keyboards appear to be straight from The Shining. An unintelligible voice struggles to be understood, and then without warning a guttural yell kicks the horror into motion and the building tension gives way to the manic horror of a chase scene. The drums are fast and the vocals angrily scream “birth, sex, and death” as the imagery of flashing lights and shaky shots bursts into your brain. Then the horror abruptly returns to horror as manic capitulates to unintelligible as the vocals stop on a dime and return to speed-altered noises.
Following the fast-paced and punishing duo of ‘Flash Memory’ and ‘Rigid Embrace’, ‘Touch Oblivion Icon’ feels like a dance track. There are still super aggro vocals, but the slowing of the pace and the laser gun-style keyboards to give some emotional release and allow the listener to enjoy the onslaught.
When you first hear ‘Self Management’ you’re convinced that a breakdown is coming, but much like the title of the song would suggest, the song is a exercise in delayed gratification. It is nearly two minutes into the song before the beat mixes up and we’re given a chance to get into the meat of it, complete with different lyrics and harmonious keyboards. When it comes to High Functioning Flesh, you have to enjoy the ride as much as the destination.
‘The Deal’ is the harmonious end to the album. The aggressive screaming becomes the backup to the more relaxed singing and they’re telling us, “It’s OK”. Like many good stories or pieces of art the catharsis at the end is much more reassuring. After the horror and pacing of much of the album, the conclusion tells us, “It’s OK to remember”, but still adds the ominous question, “Do you believe it?” “Just because it’s a memory doesn’t mean that it means that much to me.” That can’t pull us in without pushing us away…8.4/10