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Cyberpunk Album Review: "Alternate Realms" by Chris Keya

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

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Overall Album Impressions

Chris Keya’s Alternate Realms is drenched in shadow, full of monumental power and radiates a palpable sense of danger as it unfolds. This is a brutal, aggressive slice of cyberpunk that assaults the senses and conveys an apocalyptic vision of a bleak future in heavy sound. There’s a threatening and unsettling atmosphere here that lends weight to the music.

The first aspect of Alternate Realms that attracted me was the sheer weight and ferocity of the music. The bass has real mass to it, an almost physical shape to it as it surges underneath the battering ram of the drums. Many of Chris Keya’s lead synth instruments also have a muscled, angry power to them that only deepens the auditory assault of the album. There’s a real dark power filling each track here.

Another strong element of Alternate Realms is the atmosphere that Chris Keya creates as it unfolds. There’s a sense of gigantic, unrelenting forces that threaten to tear apart the world as they collide. I feel a powerful feeling of impersonal, robotic danger radiating from the music as images of mechanistic legions overwhelming humanity fill my mind. All of the sonic elements in the album reinforce those darkly dystopian pictures for me.

I also enjoy the layers of sound that are built up in the music. Each track has multiple, intricately interacting elements that combine to create cohesion and richness. Chris Keya stitches together aurally interesting interactions that create a well-integrated whole that tells a tale of decay, danger and destruction.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“F.L.I.P.” starts off as a massive, muscled bass wall pulsates and equally hard-hitting drums oscillate in an active line. High, broad synth forms a twisting pattern that wriggles over the heavy power underneath it. Repeating, angular medium-high synth creates a trance-like feeling while the bass punches and the drums push the music onward.

The feeling of huge forces barely held in check is well conveyed in the music. Mysterious sounding, elevated synth creates mesmerizing sensations while the contours of the tremendous bass define and drive the track forward. There’s a surging energy in the higher synths, the whole track full of momentum and energy.

Colossal drums reverberate out into space along with huge bass waves to open “Far From Humanity.” Phasing, raised sounds expand as the tidal slamming of the drums and bass shoves the track forwards. Pulsating, medium-high synth forms its own rhythmic pattern as the drums and bass thunder underneath it.

A tighter, elevated synth flow drifts before a medium-low, rough edged synth carries an urgent melodic pattern, creating an effective evocation of threat and tension. Nearly overwhelming drums and bass add direction to the music and phasing synths flow through the track. The music drops into a segment with reverberating drums and siren-like sounds. Wide, medium-low synth returns and the drums slam as ominous synth pulses before silence falls.

“Crime Coefficient” commences as medium-high, gruff synths flare into life in a leaping pattern over the steady heartbeat of dense drums and bass that shifts underneath them. The background creates a warmer feeling that rises around the other musical elements.

Slowly spinning arpeggios dance through in oscillating patterns as the drums and bass jump and throb. Rough-edged, shining synths carry a melodic pattern that combines triumphant feeling with dangerous sensations in an ear-pleasing way. Delicate piano notes play an aching melodic pattern that falls down over the thick power around them.

There’s a break into urgent synth repeating the victorious melodic pattern interspersed with the thump and drive of the drums and bass. Wide, medium-high synth shimmers as it sings a melancholy, majestic melody over the dark energy pushing the music on. Fragile, round synth notes repeat a cascading pattern before the lead synth carries the tragic melody and the drums and bass throb heavily.

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A distant, undulating bass pattern drifts in and begins to gain power as a sweep of sound moves to kick off “HEADSHOT.” Hard-edged, throbbing synth forms an aggressive, urgent pattern that judders over the ramming energy of the deep bass and drums as they relentlessly move.

A hollow, repeating percussive pulse floats over the angled drive underneath and the creaking synths repeat their slashing, pattern before a more ethereal sound flows behind them. I enjoy how the tidal power of the gritty synths continues to jump in sharp-edged patterns that bounce around my head.

The music flows into open space as void-deep bass and a sense of danger lurks in the background. A vocal sample drifts in and the drums, bass and higher synth batter into a ferocious attack. This is music with real weight and rage surging through it.

“Dark Sword” comes to life with portentous, heavily hitting bass pounding below medium-high, glowing synth. The gleaming synth sings out a surprisingly gentle and caressing melody over the massive, percussive weight that supports it.

The music has a propulsive feeling as a robotic voice carries a repeating, tense line and flashing synth bursts out. The lead synth aches more as the robotic voice is cut by leaping notes over the vast power that heaves below it. The music moves into a segment with broken percussion and an undulating note pattern carried on the broad, bright synth.

After a drum fill, the music drops back into that triumphal but pained melody, moving to a segment that has a more uplifting feeling. There’s a drift to the continually throbbing, heavy bass and drums again. The melody creates a well-crafted balance between hurt and yearning as it charges on.

Abyssal bass flows and swirls before erupting into broken, pounding pulses that batter in to start “HYBRID” as descending synth sweeps. Now a martial drumbeat smashes into the track and the whole track seethes like a great, raging storm. There’s a powerful sense of seething danger that effectively adds strength to the music.

The intense drum and bass weight is slashed by broad, violent synth that creaks and buzzes. The whole track is incredibly hard-edged as a gigantic, low synth snarls and lacerates. Delicate, elevated notes briefly drift above subtly shifting bass, but quickly returns to the fierce drums and bass. As the track ends, it does so on violent drums and bass along with a growling synth that tears into the music with bloody fangs.

“Prometheus” opens as distant, ominous synth shudders to form a steadily trembling pattern while high, lost sounds float into the track’s open sonic space. Shadowy bass moves below guttural, gritty synth roaring in broken lines as the drums shatter and pulse.

Low synth with jagged edges shudders below a nervous, delicate synth repeating chiming patterns. The track fades into the trembling, misty shadows while threatening high synth winds out in tentative lines. A string section echoes into the open space to play vibrating, worried notes.

There’s an undeniable, enjoyable power thrumming through the music in this track. Oscillating synth carries an angular, dangerous sounding line and the drums and bass throw the music forward with raging power. Darkly floating, high synth with haunted feeling drifts and the beat breaks back into a slower tempo before silence falls.

Conclusion

Alternate Realms is an uncompromising, powerful and threatening album that snarls and batters the listener, but in a pleasing way. The sensations, emotions and sonic imagery that Chris Keya creates in the music imbue the album with a compelling sensibility.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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