Title: Dying and Falling
Release date: Out Now
Price: $13.76 / £17.99
Produced by: Wade Alin and I:Scintilla
Composed by: I:Scintilla
Music and Vocals by: Britanny Bindrum, Jim Cookas, Vincent Grech, and Brent Leitner.
Tags: Postindustrial, Industrial Rock, Industrial Dance, Electronic
Imagine if you will that you are in a band. Now imagine your band is composed of atheists. Picture your band opening for The Cruxshadows, a band whose songs focus on faith and belief. Consider that while on tour your band is preparing the next album. If your band was I:Scintilla, that album would be Dying and Falling.
On perhaps too rare an occasion bands release albums that stand as testaments to their philosophy. For I:Scintilla, that album is Dying and Falling. Knowing that this album was written while on tour with Floridian darkwave powerhouse, The Cruxshadows, it proves difficult to remove the influence of that band on this release. Songs by The Cruxshadows include Winterborn, Citadel and Birthday, tracks that promote fighting for what you believe and making your mark in this world.
So how does a band of atheists respond to questions of faith? Simply enough they make it clear that just because you do not believe in a god (or many gods) that does not mean you have no faith. Case in point, the title track of the album. Dying and Falling reflects the values of the existential atheist. Very much akin to the writings of Sartre and Camus, I:Scintilla promote a life of meaning in an otherwise absurd universe. “We are dying / We are falling / But there’s no reason why we can’t rise / While we’re here.”
The message is not one of nihilism, but one of hope. One has no need of a deity if one can create one’s own values. Morality comes not from old wives’ tales or religious parables, but the universal message dwelling within. “Analyze / Remove folklore / What’s left of the pretty story / Open mind / Extract morals.” Whether a parable is told by Jesus, the Buddha, or Mother Goose, what matters is how that story relates to your life.
A frequent argument against atheism points out that without an afterlife there seems to be no repercussions to one’s actions in this life. Good and evil have no meaning if there is no objective judge and no final sentence. Atheists choose from several responses to this claim. First, how moral are one's actions if they are performed only to gain rewards or escape punishment? Truly such actions are based not on goodness of character, but upon selfish expectations. As I:Scintilla puts it, “Heaven and hell are both right here.”
Second, the claim that presence of an afterlife gives our actions more weight. Quite the opposite seems to be the case. If death is final then every action we take is all there is that defines us. We exist not in an eternal kingdom, but in memory. We leave only that which we have achieved. Death is the final punctuation giving the sentence of our life meaning. Will yours end in a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point?
Finally, what value is there to our good actions if we can seek forgiveness for the bad we have done. Atonement at point of death comforts the weak of spirit. Consider the number of atheists in prison compared to Christians, Jews, or Muslims. The number of non-religious inmates is widely held to be significantly less than religious convicts. Even when the population gap is less wide, the non-religious portion typically serves shorter sentences. Could, in serving some higher power, the religious inmate feel justified in violating the law? One wonders, should there be no state of grace, if the criminal would commit an act where there would be no forgiveness of sin. “Where the gods could be our hearts and minds.”
Aside from the powerful message of this song is the performance of it. In what is decidedly a stand out album, Dying and Falling has a lasting presence. The beat is downtempo, the synth pads providing a sense of epic grandeur. Meanwhile a hip-hop flavored scratching compliments Britanny’s melodious vocals. The unfamiliar ear might assume that her vocals have been autotuned. While the vocal track has been manipulated it is not done to cover up the faults of the vocalist à la Kanye West, but rather to tweak the competent vocals for added affect. This affect is a sort of percolating rhythm that captures the tone of the song. To those who fault modulated vocals need I remind you of the songs of the 1920s that featured heavy use of megaphone? Postindustrial music incorporates several means of affecting the voice from the hi-tech modulators of Skinny Puppy to the simple electronic megaphone of KMFDM.
Yet that is but one song. Dying and Falling offers a wealth of strong tracks for the discerning listener. If you are looking for angry tracks to either match or alleviate your frustrations, Sharia Under a Beauty Curse supplies plenty of scathing guitar riffs. Meanwhile Brittany sings of the injustices endured by a young woman. This could be the feminist anthem for lady rivetheads everywhere. “Endure tortures daughter / They said this will teach you to disobey / Lamb to the slaughter / But you will teach them something far greater” Shattered lives up to its name by pounding you with a martial industrial beat. Layer the surgically precise guitars and symphonic synth stings and this anti-drug track is bound to get you stomping. Ammunition, too, hits you hard like a gale force wind. This track takes no time to breath. Britanny’s near-screaming delivery during the chorus just drives the point home. Best not listen while driving if you want to avoid a speeding ticket. It also serves as a great revenge track for those who have been betrayed. Face the Kill, Swimmers can Drown, and Mothership round out the harder portion of the album.
Worth the Wait could stake claim as the atheist’s love song. While at once acknowledging the absurdity of a belief in the supernatural it somehow gives a wink and a nod to kismet. How does a rational person react to falling in love? Does one deny the sensation as just a chemical reaction or does one accept and roll with it? Perhaps love is something greater, that science has yet to fully understand. Whatever the case, it seems best to give it time and not rush to conclusions. “Says ‘ain’t it funny, we don’t believe in fate.’ / Please be patient / It’s worth the wait.” The Shake is a very strong ballad giving Brittany the chance to really let her powerful voice soar to eye-watering heights. Accompanying her is what sounds like a full orchestra. The amount of pathos and musicianship puts recent Tony Award winning songs to shame.
There are a couple of tracks that, though good, do not match the tone of the album as a whole. Omen seems out of place. It could be that the upbeat track is a bit jarring when listening to the full album. Similarly, Prey on You is clearly the track meant to play in the industrial dance clubs. The two step beat and futurepop sensibility is great for the dance floor but again seems to be at odds with what otherwise could have been a concept album.
Any slight issues pale in comparison to what I:Scintilla provides in Dying and Falling. There is not one weak track on this monster of a release. Considering there is Resuscitation (a second disc of remixes, covers, and additional tracks available for purchase or download) this is truly an embarrassment of riches.