Tom Shear – All musical arrangements/programming/vocals
01 – Epiphany
02 – Factory
03 – Bloom
04 – Anxiety
05 – Confession
06 – Dissonance
07 – Welcome, Apocalypse
08 – Could’ve
09 – Tragedy
10 – This House is Empty
Assemblage 23, Tom Shear’s one man project, has returned with their 9th studio album in ‘Mourn’. There’s been a four year gap between this and 2016’s ‘Endure’ and it seems to have been a rather dark period for the album’s creator. A period that Tom Shear admits was one of the most difficult periods in his life and ‘Mourn’ certainly sounds like a reflection of this.
It’s not like the medium of transitioning their pain into music is new to Assemblage 23. Early album ‘Failure’ certainly came at a tumultuous time for Tom Shear with the loss of his father and that was a highly regarded piece of music. I can only hope that the music serves as a cathartic outlet for Tom Shear.
Looking at ‘Mourn’, there is a wide variety of styles present which, at points, doesn’t really match the sorrow and depth of the lyrics. The opening track ‘Epiphany’ and sixth track ‘Dissonance’ have a more uptempo and upbeat sound yet that belies the subject matter of the lyrics. There’s a dark and hopeless atmosphere at other points with ‘Factory’ being quite a poignant track which resonated with myself. “We build the factories with broken men” stuck with me as a line and keeps it a memorable track. I’m not going to say much else struck a chord with myself lyrically but there are quite a few hooks and strong choruses which flow fairly well with everything else.
The programmed music has a lot going on to be fair as Assemblage 23 uses a string arsenal of gear like the Access Virus B, a Roland SE-02, a Behringer Neutron, a Korg Arp Odyssey, a Roland SH-01A, a Roland JU-06, a Roland JP-08 as well as a Moog Sub 37. With these bits of hardware, the ability to create the vision of these multi-layered and elaborate soundscapes was there. Having the vision and the equipment to pull it off is rather important after all and I think that Tom Shear has captured the essence of their experience very well and I’m sure that it will resonate with others too.
To summarise then, we have an album from a very experienced and accomplished musician which springs the veil a bit in their experience at a dark stage in their life. Sometimes weighing upon the external pressure of life but also the internal damnation that we place upon ourselves. It tells of our rather isolated romance with the gloom of existence but also offers some form of hope. Kind of gothic in a way. Perhaps we could define this music as ‘Acid goth for over 40s’ or ‘Doom House that’s soon to be repossessed’…Whatever way you may look to define this, it may be rather different from what Assemblage 23 sees it but it’s definitely worth an attempt for those who fel the need to have a soundtrack to match their mood.