Sacrilege - A Tribute To Front 242

[Sacrilege sleeve] (Compilation album, 1999)


Compiled by Paul Green (of the short-lived Cyber-Tec label) in the UK and released on US gothic/industrial label Cleopatra, this is an intriguing tribute to Belgium's EBM pioneers. Intriguing because although the concept is an obvious (but still welcome) one, most of the artists featured are from the UK - a place many would argue isn't exactly at the front line of industrial genre these days. Some of the artists included are new to me and the majority are small names on the scene. With the likes of newcomers k-nitrate and hard house exponents Eskimos & Egypt (whom many will have believed had long since disappeared for good) this has something of a cottage industry feel to it, as though it has been put together on a small budget but with big enthusiasm by those concerned.

It is then an uncomfortable task to criticise the exercise but, hey, that's my job. The over-riding problems with Sacrilege are the low quality and lack of imagination shown in many of the tracks included. I realise that this is a album of cover versions but show me someone who doesn't believe that there is little point in doing a cover unless the artist brings something new, a fresh take on the original concept. And that freshness is often lacking on Sacrilege. Maybe some were reluctant to radically dismantle the source material out of respect for Front 242 but there is too much restraint when approaching the songs for my liking. Eskimos & Egypt's unenviable (but nevertheless brave) task of tackling one of the industrial genre's seminal songs, Headhunter, opens the proceedings and instead of going in a radical direction merely invites direct comparison with the original and comes across as slightly cheesy and weak. Having said that, it does have many traditional E&E characteristics about it and big fans of theirs may be grateful for the 'new' material. Religion by v-sequence sounds like a barely-competent home studio project and really doesn't deserve to be included, whilst Crisis nti's version of No Shuffle has some suitably haunting sounds but seriously undermines them with routine drum programming and vocals.

But it isn't totally disappointing, not at all. VNV Nation contribute two tracks, Circling Overland which sometimes featured in their live set on their recent Empires tour, and DSMO - one of the most unusual choices of cover included. Whilst neither are earth-shattering, both figure prominently when compared to the competition. k-nitrate's choice of Special Forces is perfectly suited to their brand of guitar/dance crossover industrial and works well. Machine Manitou's rendition of Kampfbereit is helped tremendously by the introduction of new synth lines that take their cue from the original but take it on just that extra step. Temper's take on TV Station and Electro Assassin's version of U-Men are both reminiscent of the Front 242 originals but both add another atmospheric angle that is perfectly suited to the style of song. Finally, credit is due to TVOD for completely changing Commando. Its a barely recognisable dance interpretation that isn't afraid to take a radical idea and run with it.

The tracks singled out for this collection by the artists are largely unexpected. Good to see most of them not going for the obvious hit tracks, and interesting to note that most of the songs covered appear early in Front 242's long career. Sacrilege would have benefitted from some bigger name artists - there are countless names that one could nominate as likely to produce some fascinating interpretations. A wider pool to draw from would have been a good idea too, as although there are only 12 tracks, two artists get two tracks a piece (VNV Nation as detailed above, plus Electro Assassin's Quite Unusual in addition to U-Men). But one expects the finished result was primarily dictated by the budget available. This will undoubtedly be of interest to 242 enthusiasts but is definitely one to check out before you buy. Besides, I'd be surprised if this were the only Front 242 tribute album that ever saw the light of day. 5/10

Rob Dyer