London composer, Benjamin Blank, started Binary Order in 2008 as a bedroom project but gathered momentum in 2017 with his debut album, The Fall. Since then, he has produced an LP every year and is now ready to unleash album number six with the November 2022 release of Messages from the Deep. Clearly, Blank lives through the medium of music and defines his existence through his art, and there’s no doubt this man has talent. But he also suffers from a lack of outside advice as the sole composer, performer, and producer of Binary Order.
The anxious industrial metal of album opener, ‘Sick’, has a levitating quality to it and benefits from a transition to the type of aggressive hardcore vocal cleansing that can vaporise the winter moths trying to enter your house at this time of year. Blank’s syncopated riffing will remind you of 3Teeth, while the synth arpeggiator rhythms show how to insert high-register digital patterns into a wave of guitar distortion. Follow up, ‘The Weight’, is not short of ideas, either. Listen to the heavy crunch of the drop-tuned guitar shapes as you imagine Benjamin Blank framed in a classic MTV shot of the frontman-guitarist hacking away at his instrument in the rain on top of a skyscraper. Both songs would be solid industrial metalcore anthems in the mould of Northlane if Blank did not spoil them with a dry-throated whimper for the clean chorus parts. The problem here is not that Blank lacks the capabilities to sing in a conventional rock voice. If anything, his pipes need a rougher and more spontaneous approach rather than the monotone head voice he uses to counter the awesome might of his harsher vocals.
These reservations remain at the back of your mind as you sit through ‘Violence’ and ‘Towards the End’. You want to grab Benjamin Blank, shake him by the shoulders, and say to him, “Eliminate the flat chorus vocals and replace them with the screaming verse parts.” His growling throat abrasions on the latter are as good as anyone in the metal scene. Unfortunately, the good cop/bad cop technique makes you wonder if his aim is to attract the attention of the Architects or While She Sleeps fanbase. We don’t often say this, but Binary Order need a Chester Bennington on the microphone if Blank wants to realise the full potential of the anthems in his head.
The heavy foundations are already of a high standard in this music – that’s what makes it so frustrating. Blank should join a tough guy hardcore band or a deathcore group with such a menacing roar in his repertoire. You can’t fault the telepathic guitar and keyboard interplay in ‘Parasite’ or ‘My Own Mortality’, both of which reveal Blank’s talent for a cinematic ear. But Atmospheric rock is a lot more difficult to undertake as a solo performer cooped up in a home studio.
Why is this album fifty-three minutes in length? Nothing can justify how each song appears to stretch out even longer beyond the five-minute mark in the last third of the record. It’s understandable if you hover over the stop button at track eight, but that would deprive you of the two best cuts on the album. ‘Messages from the Deep’ thrives as a moody ambient synth piece like a slow cloud formation pondering the earth below. The song title is a perfect description of its intent. Oakland industrial collective, Lament Cityscape, would be proud of the ethereal post-metal paradox here, just as Andy Cairns of Therapy? would recognise his own voice in the stripped-back guitar loop of closing track, ‘A Good Death’. “Is a good death all we can ask for?/ Where we are just memories of all that came before,” asks Blank. His maudlin ruminations on the doomed future we face as human beings is scary enough to invite serious discussion.
Binary Order’s sixth album reveals the shortcomings of the hermit artist. The raw talent and enflamed imagination need an outside producer to challenge them. Weak choruses spoil songs that should not fail to hold your attention. Compositions that extend beyond their natural endurance levels saunter when they should strike you in the mouth and retreat. Let’s hope album number seven can find a way to utlilise Benjamin Blank’s true strengths and mothball his weaknesses.
Release Date: 29/11/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Sick, Messages from the Deep, A Good Death
Suggested Further Listening: Lament Cityscape – The Old Wet EP (2020), 3Teeth – <shutdown.exe> (2017), Parrilla – Femme Fatale I: Ensnared by Venus (2021)