Groovy trip through an array of fierce, if frequently insipid, raves from veteran of industrial noise.
As a founding member of KILLING JOKE, Paul Ferguson has a reputation to maintain, yet the “noblesse oblige” approach seems to be doing the drummer a disservice by limiting his creative reach and riveting him to familiar sonics. Nothing wrong with sticking to one’s guns, of course, except for missing on the liberating capacities that solo endeavors provide. “Virtual Control” is the Englishman’s first full-length record, a follow-up to 2018’s “Remote Viewing” EP which was credited to BPF and comprised pieces co-penned with Mark Gemini Thwaite, a former guitarist for THE MISSION and MOB RESEARCH – the latter, present here again, being the project of another KILLING JOKE alumnus, Paul Raven, so there’s a lot of common ground covered on this album. And a lot of uncharted territory left for future adventures.
Focusing on socially charged lyrics, Ferguson more often than not engages in homogenous noise, and when his vocals come wrapped in effects like on “Sea Of Judgement” or opener “Lapdogs” whose raging licks fail to pinch the listener’s nerve, it’s difficult to relate to these songs – especially if melodies are sacrificed in favor of robotic listing of woes as in “Shiny Toys” that, thankfully, gets high on prominent beat and aggressive riffs. Still, there’s little inner-piece development on display, so even though “The Unraveling” offers a mighty rhythmic uplift, the promising dynamics will soon be lost in this number’s mesmeric morass until single “Extrapolate” unfurls a genuinely thrilling techno dance, with Paul’s chops propelling the entire performance to delirium.
Once Tim Skold’s pipes chime in “Seeping Through The Cracks” for a bluesy angle, there’s also a heavy metal sheen to let one’s perception embrace the evils of American life, whereas Jürgen Engler’s appearance on the barely-there “Dystopian Vibe” fills this track with much more terror. However, the voice on “Data Lama” and “Glass Houses” is buried alive under thick layer of raving instruments with a minimal aural respite, while the mini-epic “Plausible Deniability” pushes, bass-loaded by Big Paul, its prog agenda in quite an arresting, blissfully spaced-out way. Which should go to show the virtual control has been on the album all along only to grip Ferguson’s fantasy flight too tight.