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cabaretvoltaire shadowoffear
Artist: Cabaret Voltaire
Title: Shadow Of Fear
Genre: Electronic / Experimental / Industrial
Release Date: 20th November 2020
Label: Mute Records

Album Review

Always good to see a band refusing to trade on past glories for eternity, and Sheffield’s Electronic/Industrial pioneers CABARET VOLTAIRE made it perfectly clear a line had been drawn under their legacy, with the re-issue of their back catalogue, followed by this - a new album, the first in 26 years. A mission statement was released - “Normal rules do not apply. Something for the 21st Century. No old material” - and with that, CABARET VOLTAIRE slapped down the gauntlet to any number of other seasoned musicians, while being entirely true to the experimental and slippery nature of their musical explorations that started way back in 1973.

Although largely completed before the real bite of 2020 madness took hold, it is nonetheless an eerily fitting testament to the dystopian times we find ourselves navigating, a hauntingly disturbing soundtrack to something that has no discernable ending or salvation. Initially, the frequent use of samples and disconnected voices smacks of a trick surely mined to death by the 90’s, but as you settle nervously into the album as a whole, they seem absolutely in the right place at the right time, like catching glimpses of life through a dense, swirling fog. ‘Be Free’ lets you know instantly what’s ahead, a bizarre shimmy through harsh electronics and repetition, and by ‘The Power’ the shift into pulsing nightmare is complete, a slow-motion sprint with something following, just out of sight. It’s horribly claustrophobic despite its sparseness.

‘Night Of The Jackal’ works less well, and there’s a particularly irritating piece of percussion that takes centre-stage throughout, but that seems a minor gripe when faced with the stop/start terror of ‘Microscopic Flesh Fragment’, a seriously creepy and itchy soundscape that belongs in a sci-fi movie dream-sequence just before something really horrible happens. ‘Papa Nine Zero Delta United’ is maniacally hyperactive and betrays sole original member Richard H Kirk’s love of techno, but the real centre-piece here is ‘Universal Energy’. All ten minutes of it. Digging its way under your skin, it spreads patiently and completely, filling all the senses gradually but efficiently. You’re left feeling strangely violated.

‘Vasto’ is more immediate, and it’s clear to see why this was chosen as a single. Which leaves the wonderfully bizarre ‘What’s Goin On’, which works with or without a question mark, as if trying to make some kind of conclusion to all that’s gone before. As a statement AND a question, its fragmented sounds and blasts of horns exudes a kind of craziness that’s both hysterically funny and dangerously deranged. In this sense it represents the album as a whole, the year that birthed it, and you could say, the whole musical journey of CABARET VOLTAIRE over the decades. Normal rules do not apply. A good thing indeed.


01. Be Free
02. The Power (Of Their Knowledge)
03. Night Of The Jackal
04. Microscopic Flesh Fragment
05. Papa Nine Zero Delta United
06. Universal Energy
07. Vasto
08. What’s Goin’ On


Richard H Kirk

Website /

Cover Picture

cabaretvoltaire shadowoffear


Music: 8
Sound: 8
Total: 8 / 10

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