Album Review: Dream Weapon Ain’t Your Daddy’s Genghis Tron (and That’s a Good Thing)
Genghis Tron were always a forward-thinking band; it’s the whole reason any of us fell in love with them in the first place.
So it shouldn’t come as a shock that Dream Weapon, the band’s first album in thirteen years, sounds so little like their last album, 2008’s Board Up the House; in hindsight, it would have been weird, if not downright antithetical to everything that made Genghis Tron great, for them to release something that sounded exactly like the GT of yesteryear.
So, yes, Genghis Tron are back, and no, they’re not exactly the Genghis Tron you remember. For one thing, there have been line-up changes — vocalist Mookie Singerman amicably stepped away from the reunion and has been replaced by Tony Wolski (The Armed, Old Gods, and director of multiple Converge videos), and they’ve added a real live flesh and blood drummer, Nick Yacyshyn (Sumac, Baptists). They’ve also mostly abandoned the grindier aspects of their sound: those looking for tons of blast beats and screaming, look elsewhere.
Any initial disappointment fans may feel that Dream Weapon isn’t just Blockade Off the Driveway or Shawl of Sex or whatever ought to dissipate by the end of the record’s first proper track, “Pyrocene” (it’s preceded by a 72-second, mood-setting intro, “Exit Perfect Mind”). Anyone who can’t so much as tip their hat to the songwriting skill on display here must be stubborn to the point of insincerity. The songs on Dream Weapon are long — its eight tracks run 46 minutes — but they’re never boring or self-indulgent or wanting for hooks.
They’re also deeply immersive, hypnotic, hallucinogenic, and cinematic. Dream Weapon is, frankly, a lucid dream of a record, layers upon layers upon layers of sound (pro tip: listen to this with a great pair of headphones) to which you don’t listen so much as you sink in. There are moments on the album when it’s hard to tell if you’re hearing Michael Sochynsky’s keyboards or Hamilton Jordan’s guitar filtered through various effects, and others when the beats could easily be coming from Yacyshyn or Sochynsky’s programming. That’s fairly remarkable: Dream Weapon is a truly cohesive creation that finds a group of top-notch musicians organically intertwined in a way few bands ever are.
Wolski also deserves heaps of praise. Dream Weapon tells a (very, very) loose post-apocalyptic narrative that actually picks up where Board Up the House left off (and musically, a passage from Board‘s title track gets semi-recreated during this album’s title track), but the lyrics are sufficiently open-ended that they can be interpreted a number of ways. Wolski delivers these poetic, sparse lyrics in a melancholic, disaffected, shoegazey style, sometimes sounding like a depressed robot recording in an echo chamber; paradoxically, that somehow makes them feel incredibly emotional. Wolski may rarely scream, but he’s always intense (and the moments when he does scream, as on the magnum opus “Ritual Circle,” are all the more affecting for being used so sporadically).
Dream Weapon feels like a natural progression for Genghis Tron, but a natural progression after another two or three albums we never got to hear. That’s not a bad thing — that’s Genghis fucking Tron, dude, three steps ahead of the rest of us, just as they always were. Like many great bands, all that they’ve achieved comes from being true to themselves. Dream Weapon is as good as anything Genghis Tron have ever made. It’s more than an album; it’s an experience. It demands to be listened to start-to-finish, is impervious to track-skipping, and rewards multiple listens. It will not be on 2021’s heaviest albums. But it’s already one of 2021’s best albums.