Album Review: Zak Bagans - "Necrofusion"

Just in time for Halloween, erstwhile supernatural speculator and host of “Ghost Adventures” Zak Bagans is dipping his toe into the musical pool. He’s teamed up with Lords of Acid progenitor and creative force Praga Khan to produce an album intended to spook, scare and…dance?

“Necrofusion” is ostensibly an album build around heavy industrial foundations and framed by cut-up bites of Bagans speaking with spirits from The Beyond. Each selection on the album centers around a single theme, such as the determination of good or harmful spirits, departed loved ones or contact with ghosts of deceased sitcom stars.

Wait, what was that last one again?

Yes, “Room 20,” the album’s single, features selections of Zak’s confrontation with the ‘ghost’ of David Strickland, the “Suddenly Susan” actor who committed suicide in 1999. This encounter with a person possessing a discernable Q rating helps ground “Necrofusion,” making it something more than a farcical abstraction. What seems on face to be the most gimmicky selection on the album is actually one of its most important points.

Which is all well and good, but like any other musical endeavor, if the music itself doesn’t hold up, then the aforementioned foundation won’t keep the basement dry. So how does “Necrofusion” stack?

With the advent of mainstream of techno-based pop, industrial is a genre suffering from an identity crisis. It’s most unique attribute has been co-opted by dubstep, magnified a hundred times over. Praga Khan recognizes this and rather than try to re-invent the wheel, gives in to the trend. This is the kind of beat-driven, super-digital music that powers underground parties and glow stick raves alike.

Unlike Lords of Acid’s super-sexualized, borderline whimsical fancies, Khan buckles down for “Necrofusion,” charged with the task of producing a haunting effect. He recognized that techno’s (and by extension industrial’s) greatest asset, particularly in this regard, is to sound totally detached and utterly inhuman. It is in the album’s closing track “Eleven Heaven” that this comes best to bear, utilizing airy digital melodies to create a sense of cold detachment.

Most of “Necrofusion’s” cuts work on the grounds of beat-centric, industrially rooted affairs that appeal to the darker side of danceable techno. Start thinking about the nebulous term ‘cybergoth’ and you’re getting closer, though "Necrofusion" isn't quite that heavy or insistent.

The complication with Khan and Bagan’s effort is the same one that plagues nearly all techno and solely industrial albums. Featuring little or no instrumentation played by human hand, it’s nearly impossible to connect with “Necrofusion” on anything deeper than a superficial level. Additionally, the inclusion of only sparse, sampled vocals lends the album no narrative, offering no context or deep ideas ripe for further dissection.

The cut that shows a flash of what could be is “Poor Pearl,” which combines strummed down-home country folk with harsh, loud industrial and ghostly (pardon the pun) lyrical samples. The juxtaposition of these elements makes for a genuinely unsettling atmosphere throughout the piece, as the switch flicks back and forth. It’s the musical equivalent of surprising someone by turning the lights on and off a bunch of times. More experimentation or blending of this nature could have really made “Necrofusion” pop.

The album is a quality exhibition for what it is, a record taken seriously by Khan and Bagans to present a holiday-specific album of an unusual sort. The elements come together in solid fashion to make an effort that spooks and chills, but once the first listen is gone and the scare wears off, there’s not a ton to keep you coming back. Unless you’re looking for dance music to set the mood at your upcoming party, in which case you could do way, way worse.

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