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Built for the Future - 2084​:​ Heretic CD (album) cover

2084​:​ HERETIC

Built for the Future

Crossover Prog

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American outfit Built for the Future were founded in 2015 by multi-instrumentalists Patric Farrell and Kenny Bissett who is also the band's vocalist. Joining them on guitars is Chris Benjamin, their previous collaborator David Peņa not available for this album, and drummer Lalo Herrera.

2084: Heretic is the first part of a planned trilogy of albums inspired by George Orwell's seminal work, 1984. There are a couple of inherent dangers in this. Firstly, the source material is very well-known with ideas within it becoming everyday phrases and words - Big Brother, Room 101, Thought Police & etc. Secondly, in rock music, the album has been covered several times, including by Anthony Phillips and Rick Wakeman, titans of the progressive rock world. Therefore, any new interpretation must be different, I feel, bringing something new to the party, and 2084 thankfully succeeds.

The clue is in the year. 1984 is, of course, now in the past, but a lot of people misunderstand Orwell's intentions. He was not a futurist, a science fiction writer, he was an acute societal observer, and 1984 was intended as a warning to society of the dangers of not just totalitarianism, although his sorrow at the depths to which socialism had plunged with Stalin is well documented, but of the stark dangers of the infantilisation of the proletariat (and this welcomed by the populace), fed on their screens a diet of beer, football, lottery, fake news, and "entertainment" ? I defy anyone reading this review to make a genuine case for this observation not being where the bulk of citizens are in 2023, and it worries me greatly that what Built for the Future have now transposed to 2084 will be even worse. I might add that I am one of life's natural optimists, but we must be alive to this, and the fact that corporates and western governments have realised that they don't even need to turn to political dictatorship to achieve these ends ? the multitude of billions gawping constantly at screens churning out whatever rubbish which excites their neurones will do, and this, of course, is of itself a means to an end of achieving political power ? witness Trump & Johnson for starters.

BftF provide us with a concept album of where the thematic behind Orwell is heading and, itself, should serve as a timely warning for us to change direction.

Lofty aspirations artistically, then. This, though, is naught without some good music to accompany it, and I am glad to report that BftF deliver. They have produced an album which is not only sonically impressive, but it also speaks to us visually with the music, the protagonists taking inspiration from all three film versions of 1984.

There are ten tracks on this first instalment, and as you will see from my forthcoming interview with the band, there have been shifts in which tracks were felt to fit on which instalment. The band take their influences from a wide range of artists, from Rush to Tears for Fears alongside Floyd ending up at a Foo Fighters, RPWL, and Steven Wilson junction. Therefore, as eclectic as this website loves.

We open with Memory Machines. As is common throughout the album, we get recordings of the movie adaptations to assist with the theme. The party controls all records and human memories ? witness this still happening in China & Russia. Bissett has a good expressive voice, and the thundering rhythm section is a strong feature of this track, the bassline melody especially pleasing alongside some very good programming ? and there is a rich mellotron in there. Indeed, the band use this classic instrument to good effect. There is a very good guitar solo just over a minute out from the close, and the denouement is heavily later Rush influenced. This track, which you can hear below, showcases all that is good about this act.

The Thought Police, Oceania's secret police who punish thought crime, those musings not approved by the ruling party. I like the chugging guitar work on this which brings a sense of menace to a track which is post rock in its impact, including some more clever keyboard work over the main riffs but never over imposing. The "we see it all" vocal at the close is effectively demanding of the listener.

Argot is up next. The word itself is a secret vocabulary used by a group of people wanting to keep their discussions out of reach of the authorities. This has a nice and heavy opening with some more of that crunching bass guitar and a conspiratorial guitar throughout. The drums are wonderfully complex in their execution. The vocals flow with the tensions between the words the machine pumps out, eradicating choice, and the need to speak without giving doubts or anger away. This is a very strong rock song with a grunge underbelly, and we move to the close with a dystopian wall of vocal noise putting across the drama very well, with the sound effects at the very end distinctly Floydian.

Proletariat. Basically us. The workers. The drones. A concept as old as humanity, and the word always puts me in mind of the Roman masses crammed into the amphitheatres' screaming for the blood of animals, slaves, convicted criminals in what must have been a ghastly affair, but the point being that crowds can be especially cruel and stupid, the latter being Orwell's point. To begin, this is a more melodic piece of music with the keys and guitars combining well in a song which really gives off a 1980's pop/rock feel, especially with the programming effects, which are interestingly interspersed with more traditional progressive sounds. I really like it, and I have embedded it below. Close your eyes, and you can visualise the drones walking in a mass line to the factories or offices. More to the point, the knowing lyrics that the damage has been done, and we fade to grey, all of us staring blankly at the screens of propaganda whilst we move along. Really quite brilliant, and the intensity moves up several notches in the final segment.

Supernational has been my Video of the Week this past few days, and it is embedded again here. I love this track. It races along at a cracking pace, with a massive bass melody and drums pounding underneath the lead guitars in a piece which preaches the eternity of the party and its people, following the agenda of hate because this is your human right ? a damned clever inversion of what we would consider human rights in 2023. Heavy, classy, almost punk rock in its execution with progressive sensibilities.

Diaspora follows. The drums and riffs thunder with some clever distorted guitar and grandiose keyboards. The movement of the many just trying to live their lives, this track perfectly exemplifies the chaos and sadness of such movement and isolation, especially in the vocal harmonies, which are a prominent feature throughout the album. This track is quite knowing, in that it is likely that emigration will only become more pronounced as climate change impacts severely on the world's poorest people.

Zeit. The sounds of war fill the opening seconds. I really like the lyrics here talking about the perpetual war supposedly to bring us peace, and the fact that we all do what we are told, in a way reminding me a bit of the Gabriel track Milgram's 37 from So but with a harder edge here reflecting the ongoing conflict. There are some very nice keyboard textures in this track which chugs along.

The Collective was released as a teaser single a year ago now. Beneath the screaming newscast, there is some lovely orchestration in a track I highlighted on this website at the time and still gives me a huge amount of pleasure to listen to. The guitar solo performed by Bissett is haunting and my forthcoming interview with the band goes into some detail discussing this fine dreamy slab of psych rock which is ever so knowing an exposition of corporate culture.

Heretic, the title track, and a word which resonates down the ages for brave people who dare to question the accepted viewpoint, who dare to be different, who risk their lives to expose their views. Musically a fine slab of modern 80's inspired rock music, just listen to that bass thumping, the drums pushing the track along, the wall of sound created by the keyboards, and the intricate guitar work amongst all this, whilst Bissett sings a lovely set of words very effectively. Take a listen below to a track which deserves widespread airplay.

We close with the infamous 101, that chamber where whole personalities disappear. It is the longest piece on the album and a true epic at over ten minutes. The track is a slow burner, with the opening passage deeply thoughtful, some lovely chords and soundscapes created, especially by the keys with more pounding rhythm section, and Bissett's voice is special here narrating the story. The second segment turns a bit darker with some grungy guitar riffs before we get a very nice expansion led by the keyboards return, the band rocking out with our subject surrounded by walls and losing his mental life. The second half begins with the third distinct segment having more of a classic progressive feel, with some very nice sounds from the keys rising above a pretty guitar sequence. The subject is now falling apart, and his mind is concentrating on resisting the propaganda and torture, introducing a harder segment again featuring a smashing bass lead and some classic vocal harmonies leading into a frenetic segment before the closing passage begins with heraldic keyboards above the distorted noise below. Big Brother stands ready to welcome back those heretics who might have lost their way. The band slowly and deliberately bring the music to a thumping close as the victorious party speaker blasts out of the screen, and the wartime propaganda proclaims the enemy completely vanquished.

2084: Heretic is a fine album. It is the sound of a band who have meticulously prepared a work which finds them clearly pushing their art and vision forward. As I said before, it is not merely a retread of a familiar story. Of all the music inspired by the book, I particularly enjoyed The Eurythmics soundtrack and Bowie's work. Built for the Future have produced an album which I think stands alongside these and the progressive artists I mentioned before. It is a fine rock album, one for our time, and comes highly recommended.

---Steve Lazanby at LAZLAND

Report this review (#2946723)
Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2023 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Back in the heady early days of prog, it was common practice for any band to choose a great name as well as some mind-blowing artwork, in order to properly brand the style of music. Outside of the law firm, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, groups went out of their way to be inventive, with monikers like Yes, King Crimson, Vander Graf Generator, Premiata Forneria Marconi, to name only the tip of the iceberg. Hipgnosis, Roger Dean, Paul Whitehead, Hugh Syme, among many others, are legendary icons of the progressive rock genre. US band 'Built for the Future' certainly earned their keep with such a moniker, as it invites the mind to imagine a slogan for a sophisticated but well-made automobile that will actually last beyond the manufacturers warranty! Secondly, the metallic blue steel cover of their latest opus 2084: Heretic is sublimely appropriate as it injects a sense of imminence, with some overt travel wear that proves it was assembled very sturdy. I enjoyed the previous material, the 2015 debut Chasing Light as well as 2020's Brave New World (not exactly retro titles, eh?). This new recording is an explosive upgrade as it may easily vie for top spots on any 2023 list. This San Antonio, Texas (or as some people write it: text us) is led by the dynamic duo of Kenny Bissett on lead vocals, guitars, and keys as well as Patric Farrell, a wizard multi-instrumentalist, who plays pretty much every instrument except drums. David Pena on guitars, Lalo on drums and Pete Fithian completes the line-up on keyboards. The album title will suggest a retooling of the Orwellian mega work known as 1984, a proto-typical prog subject matter, that has been addressed by a few famous names already. Except that 2084: Heretic was ...Built for the Future!

The dystopian adventure kicks off with the obligatory sound effects on the thumping "Memory Machines", before abject control is assumed by an absolutely devastating bass line that will curdle your blood as it penetrates menacingly all your pores, a tectonic drum beat and Kenny grasping the microphone, with trepidation and perhaps even bulging eyes at the mere thought of the Thought Police watching and listening. Icy mellotron orchestrations adorn the menacing memory machine, hurtled along by ominous guitar strokes fizzing electric outrage. High voltage modern prog of the finest caliber. No respite for the sheeple, "Argot" is a cleverly sweeping piece that layers protective coatings in order to maintain the anonymity of beliefs that go counter to the impervious propaganda. Claiming to follow but really wishing only to rebel against the stifling grasp of Big Brother. The vocal work in particular is as athletic as track meet (pun?), Bissett hustling words as if they were going to be imminently deleted. The submissive theme continues on the sweeping "Proletariat", a clear message of servitude that continues to punish the unvanquished, wrapped up in an electronic haze oozing doom, gloom, and fear. The symphonic 1980s feel would make this a perfect companion to the Wall, the imagination can run rampant, the subjugation of the masses being illustrated as a dramatic reality. From this moment on in the set list, the mood gets darker and the rage more tragic, as apathy and desolation kick in, that nasty bass kneeling at the shrine without any recourse. "Supernational" thus pays homage to the 1984 musical timeline, as if the Eurythmics are secretly conspiring with Bauhaus to vent their global angst. In parallel, the relentlessly punkoid guitar behaves as if BFTF channel their Quark, Strangeness and Charm -era Hawkwind memories. Speaking of heavy steamroller action, "Diaspora" threateningly conveys the eternal nomadistic urge for people to flee their culture, their language, and their families, in order to find salvation from one form of danger or another. Sensational track that has immediate sonic appeal, a chorus that is instantly seared in the nodes, repeated ad infinitum, and shoved over the border beyond the no man's lands by that deliriously insistent bass guitar. As perfect a prog 'single' as one could hope for. The word "Zeit" in German means Time, and it has no relationship with the Floyd classic as this piece keeps the trembling foot on the metal pedal, and absolute whirlwind highway escape with the black-shirted police in on the chase, sirens blaring. Rough, metallic, blustery, and pervasive, this is another tour de force with a main melody that is immediately seductive, as 'we all do what we are told' flashes through the ominous mellotron gales. The response is not to follow! A semblance of peaceful harmony appears as a mirage among the dunes "The Collective", a stunning track that veers into a completely ethereal attitude, superb guitar lines and off the charts vocals from Bissett. The story line stands together in calm defiance, a lesson surely learned from Mandela, MLK and Gandhi, as a weapon of sanity and justice. Illuminate. The 80s feel is intelligently presented on the title track, the connection to 1984 clear as crystal. This could have been done by The Cure, Peter Murphy, early Modern English or the Danse Society (a fantastic band back in the day), what with that up-front and devastating bass line asking all the questions and the drum/keyboard/guitars answering. 'Everything is fine', yeah, right! An absolute cracker jack track that begs to be heard by a multitude of crossover fans, as it transcends time and place. The end comes with the dreaded "101", a room that assumes the doom at the mere sight of its barren, sweat drenched walls, stained floors, a solitary light bulb hanging like a noose and rusted metal bucket in the corner. The rat cage sits on the floor, ready to be administered to the rebellious fools who dare to maintain their silence. The track is a sweeping cinematographic depiction of the words above, as the torture of loosening a tongue weighs heavily on the hog-tied subject. Mellotrons convey the emotions of despair, the bass showing defiance and the drums, miserable surrender. Just keep on beating those skins, Lalo (excuse the play on words, but?). What victory is a life without freedom?

This album will certainly be the talk of the community. If not, there will be a knock at your door at 3.00am and you will vanish.

5 apostates

Report this review (#2949013)
Posted Saturday, September 2, 2023 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The third studio album release from this San Antonia band notes a slight shift in song delivery style: this sounds like 1980s Aussie New Wave Synth-Pop!

1. "Memory Machines" (5:47) two-chord ABABCB Aussie Techno-pop with some tinges of CURE-ishness. (8.4/10)

2. "The Thought Police" (5:28) rather flat 2-chord pop sounding very much like ICEHOUSE or some other Aussie New Wave band from the 1980s. (8.25/10)

3. "Argot" (7:42) heavier four-chord pseudo-prog that ends up sounding like darker FLOCK OF SEAGULLS. Far too long and drawn out with nothing dynamic or exciting to add to the main palette or mood. (13/15)

4. "Proletariat" (6:05) plodding but effective in the way PINK FLOYD can be and FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM is. There is much in this drawn out song that begs comparison to both The Talking Head's "The Overload" and The Cure's Disintegration vibe. A top three song. (9/10)

5. "Supernational" (6:12) more techno-popped prog in the vein of 1980s artists ICEHOUSE, MIDNIGHT OIL, and THE CHURCH (who are, coincidentally, all Australian). Once again the sound reproduction alone is almost enough--plus, it's one of the more tightly formed songs on the album. (8.66667/10)

6. "Diaspora" (6:11) more melody-oriented heavy prog lite. I commend the band for being able to work the word "diaspora" into a song lyric in a clever way. (8.66667/10)

7. "Zeit" (6:04) three-chord rock with great sound engineering and 1980s Australian vocals. (8.66667/10)

8. "The Collective" (5:18) ALAN PARSONS PROJECT-like mood, sound, vocals, lyrical theme, and music. (8.4/10)

9. "Heretic" (5:21) THE CURE c. 1987!? Though the vocalist is more in line with DEPECHE MODE, LOVE AND ROCKETS, or NEW ORDER or ICEHOUSE, that's what I hear. Another top three song. (8.75/10)

10. "101" (10:03) a little Brian Eno in this vocal, the music is more akin to that of the Australian New Wave/Techno Pop (as well as Talking Heads' "The Overload"). The heavy section in the fifth minute is different but still so rudimentary! It just has no soul! (17.3333/20)

Total Time 64:11

Incredible sound reproduction of incredibly simplistic, rudimentary techno-pop rock songs. I like the concept--and the lyrics are actually pretty decent (not hokey), but the music lacks any kind of sophistication that might connote prog-worthy musicianship. The use of voice/radio/television/film samples throughout are a plus in that they offer a thread to cohesively unite the songs into one continuous story. None of this is unpleasant to listen to, on the contrary: it's very pretty, easy to get into music, it's just not proggy enough--has far more in common with 1980s techno-pop.

C+/3.5 stars; rated up for engineering and clever, well-thought-out, and lyrically commendable concept. A clean, excellently-engineered and cleverly contrived concept album of 1980s-sounding techno/synth-pop that every prog lover should judge for themselves. Most of you--especially nostalgia-buffs--will probably love this.

Report this review (#2954467)
Posted Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | Review Permalink

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