Alien Skin

Beat2Pulse reviews 'Don't Open Till Doomsday'

Beat 2 Pulse webzine reviews 'Don't Open Till Doomsday'

by Jackson Presley
22 Feb 2009

Being that my background before becoming a web designer with PostIdol Media Ltd. was a decade in the music industry, it is obviously safe to say that I am deeply routed into music. I have a passion that I can confidently say is rivaled by very few! So, recently I was on one of my trips, scouring the internet for some new music. Looking for that hidden treasure of an album. That album that is more than just some good music but also is very intellectual and takes me somewhere else. Guess what? I found it in Alien Skin!

Alien Skin! is the new solo project from 'Real Life' keyboardist George Pappas. You would remember the Australian band 'Real Life' from their 80's uber-smash hit "Send Me An Angel". Well, if you're old enough you would remember it, lol. At any rate, in 2004, George decided that he wanted to try doing some solo work that was routed in electronic but with a different mood and perspective than the previous works he had done with 'Real Life'. Due to health and personal issues the venture was delayed. But, come 2008, and finally Alien Skin’s album 'Don't Open Till Doomsday' was born. 10 tracks of spiritual, intellectual and intelligent electronic music that really captures the listener.

At first, the album came across as a concept album, maybe routed in space and aliens. But after doing some digging on the Alien Skin website I found that each track actually has it's own story or meaning. Could it be a compilation of 10 concept tracks? Here's an excerpt from an interview posted on the Alien Skin website that outlines the meaning of each track on the album;

"Let's talk about the songs.


Your album press release states 'with subject matter that ranges from estranged Sci-Fi love, to Jacob's Ladder, to Hiroshima'. Can you tell us about the songs being referred to?

Estranged sci-fi love? The opening song The Outer Limits is an obvious one here. That vintage TV show again! I intentionally wanted an opening to the album with a sparse and ethereal sound scape. It establishes the mood for what is about to come. I place myself in the mental state of a creature, or anyone, separated from their other half by the insurmountable vastness of distance, time and space. It may seem an extraterrestrial theme but translates in any contemporary context I believe.

Jacob's Ladder was originally a biblical story of an imaginary ladder leading up to heaven, where angels ascended and descended. My inspiration in writing the song The Spirit is Willing is actually from a Tim Robbins movie entitled Jacob's Ladder.The story is a journey the mind takes in the last hours or moments, from a struggle against to finally acceptance of the inevitable, your own death. Briefly, Robbins' character is a returned - after being wounded in action - Vietnam War soldier whose mind has become confused and delusional as he struggles with his own mortal reality. My interpretation of the story is as a journey or trip the mind takes in the last hours or moments, from a struggle against to finally acceptance of the inevitable, your own death.

Dust to Ashes 1945 refers to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. It was the first detonation of a nuclear device over a populated city in history. The lyric tells of a survivor who still has nightmares of that early Monday morning, August 6. It was an act of mass destruction unknown up to that time, I believe it was a political consideration and decision rather than a military necessity. In today's global political climate, the threat of a Hiroshima being repeated is ominously returning so I thought it a relevant and timely subject to revisit.

Razor Arms, is this song's masochistic overtone deliberate?

Yes and no. Often lyrics were written in a stream of consciousness manner, I wasn't actually aware till it was completed that it tended to point in that direction. I feel most of us, if we're passionate enough about something, or someone, can pressure ourselves into a masochistic state of mind. The song for me has a certain European minor key flavor to it, one of the earliest written for the album and a personal favorite.

I have to mention the song, Gloomy Sunday; it's almost electronic acapella. What can you add to this?

Electro acapella? Well, nearly. I tried a variety of approaches for this song; none inspired me as much as this final version which is pointedly sparse with dominant and heavily treated vocals. It was the most appropriate means to express the sentiment in the song, and no it has nothing to do with the early last century piece with the same name, which is still a spine-chiller!"

Well, I think I have prepared you all for what's to be expected in this album. So, now let's get on to my track by track review:

1.Outer Limits - This song starts off very atmospheric, almost as if you are actually on the surface of the red planet and looking off into the distance listening to a transmission that you are faintly picking up on your shortwave radio. Then the track breaks into a large chorus that subtly explodes as if the sun just rose on this dark planet. Rays of light, happiness and then drops back into the desolate lyrics and atmosphere. The electronics and clarity in the production of this song really lend to it's effect. A great opener to a spectacular journey of an album.

2.Razor Arms - This is personally my favorite track. Not sure if it's because of the obvious familiar structure of the song or if it's the cool 80's feel to it or if it's George's soothing voice. But this track, for me, is easily the catchiest piece on the album. And as the song builds it almost hits an 'Enigma' sound just before the powerful, emotional chorus kicks in. The production on this track as well is very good. Clear sounds of all the instrumentation makes this almost a meditative rock piece. (Is that even possible?).

3.Saviour - This song begins with some atmosphere and then a very low key synth starts while a higher, catchier melody plays over top. George begins to sing the song. The lyrics seems to be addressing someone special to him. Awesome synth vocals are layered into the song as well. When the second verse hits, George turns the vocals around to now be talking about himself as the savior to the person he was originally addressing. A very pretty ballad.

4.The Spirit Is Willing - This upbeat is one of the more 4 on the floor tracks. Yes, the vocals seem to take a more minimalistic approach. Vocoder stylings with a subject matter I guess that is clearly stated in the above interview excerpt. There's a great break in the middle of the song that just reaffirms the atmosphere of the album, I think, reminding everyone that this album really is a journey through the space of one's mind. My interpretation anyways.

5.It Doesn't Matter (I Want You) - This song starts off with some repetative lyrics about "How Do I Feel About You?" and then when he says that "It Doesn't Matter, I can't have you" you feel the almost obsessive vibe of the song. The subject of the story has obviously been longing for the person they sing of for a long time. The track isn't overall my favorite on the track. But not for any bad reasons, it just simply is one of the more simple tracks on the album both lyrically and musically. Still catchy, still produced wonderfully.....just lacks a little of the minimalism and experimentation of the previous tracks.

6.Gloomy Sunday - I just love this track. Like some of the other tracks, it starts off with some nice, melancholic electronics and then a synthesized voice comes in. The whole first verse gets sung without a beat even being hit. And the way the track comes in and builds is very effective. There is an obvious spacey feeling when the eerie retro keyboard comes in. Something straight form The Twilight Zone. This song always feels like it is going to just explode into an emotion filled eruption. But it never does. It keeps you hanging on and waiting, teasing almost. But leaves you just wanting more. Hit repeat and listen again!

7.For Always - This track starts off quite mellow. The keyboard sound, note and effect almost reminds me of the beginning of 50% of the ballads in the 70's. But then the electronic, bubbling beat comes in subtly in the background. And George's voice begins to serenade. One of the more atmospheric tracks on the album, For Always is quite catchy, yet mellow and relaxing and dreamy.

8.Burning In My Hands - A hugely synthesized track. Spacey, atmospheric with a very cool, beat. Almost could be considered an instrumental track as there are no obvious verses. But it is a great atmospheric piece that lends to the overall appeal of the album.

9.Dust To Ashes 1945 - As stated in the above interview excerpt has to deal with thew bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. It has a surprising up beat to it. But as you listen carefully you can hear the darkness of the lyrics. An emotional piece about a very sensitive piece of Japanese/US history. Very experimental in the vocal stylings though.

10.Alien Skin - This is the closing track of the album and it is very fitting as such. It almost fits as the music as the closing credits of the movie are rolling up on the screen. Repeating periodically throughout the track is "Stranger Within / Alien Skin". Reminding the listener of what they have been listing and almost tempting the listener to listen again. Saying that there is more to find in this treasure. Good beat, great electronics and as always, awesome production.

It's true that this album does take a few listens, and even then you are not quite sure you have found all the treasures to be found within it's 10 tracks. There are sound scapes, lyrics and moods that will take your mind and body to another world where George is the co-pilot. Showing you the furthest reaches of his mind and imagination. And along thew way teaching us things about ourselves as people, races and humanity. Showing us what else is out there and what we have done so far. Alien Skin - Don't Open Till Doomsday is an absolute gem of an album. Any album that you need to listen over and over again, not just cause it's a great listen, but also to find the hidden treasures that you maybe didn't hear the first time, is easily worth the measly $10 George is asking for for this piece of art. So, head on over to the Alien Skin website. You can listen to all the tracks on the Alien Skin website. And then click the "buy" button and get yourself a true treasure that is sure to go down in musical history!

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