One short year ago, Meteor made an impact on the synthwave world with the debut full-length album, Parallel Lives. It was a fiery, ambitious release in which several musical styles and textures worked in harmony to construct a rewarding slab of synth music. Not every song was great, but the ones that stood out were remarkable enough to carry the weaker tracks with them.
Surprisingly, the anticipated follow-up album has already arrived, yet the vigor and magic of Meteor’s last release is absent on Inner Demon. Instead of the stirring tracks that flirted with dark synth and delivered memorable hooks, Meteor’s sophomore album is stuffed with lackluster tunes that fall short on the first listen and rapidly decline from there.
The first disappointment lies in the commonplace sound production. Where Parallel Lives had a spacious, three-dimensional sound that allowed its various elements to interplay in sometimes spectacular fashion, Inner Demon feels flat, with each layer stacked on top of one another and moving forward on a two-dimensional plane.
The troubles with the regrettable production are compounded by the songwriting. A short opener builds anticipation for the first full song, “Ignition,” yet the blastoff fizzles and the album never even leaves the launch platform. “Ignition” cannot find its spark, instead driving a monotonous beat into the ground and taking a handful of unremarkable melodies with it. There are several opportunities in which it feels like Meteor might break up the stiffness of the song and hit the listener with something unexpected and exciting, but that moment never comes.
Things do little to improve from there. “A New Case of Murder” mixes things up with a crunchy electric guitar while a bright melody occasionally glitters in the background. The optimistic tone of the song gives it a bit of unique character, and overall it is an improvement over “Ignition,” but the dispassionate pace and dearth of variety leave the song chugging along well past an appropriate stopping point. Even at just three and a half minutes, the song is twice as long as it needs to be.
By this point the album is showing symptoms of chronic apathy, but it’s not until the third song, “Contact,” that the recording’s true inner demon reveals itself. “Contact” is a midtempo piece that takes just over a minute to get going. A throbbing beat joins the quick, pulsing notes that open the track, and from there the two elements determinedly, if somehow indifferently, trudge along together without deviation until the end. The bland melodic elements and insipid songwriting of the first two tracks reach parasitic levels on “Contact,” finally and fully revealing the album’s fatal flaw: Inner Demon is bereft of inspiration.
Each rhythm and melody on the recording comes across feeling perfectly ordinary. Many of the songs, such as “Contact” could have come out five years ago and still been unremarkable by the relatively low standards of the time. At no point is the album necessarily bad; it can play contentedly in the background of a room without attracting notice, but never does it compel the listener to dance, to feel, or to reflect. It is soulless in that sense, and remarkably short on the ingenuity of Meteor’s past effort.
The most rewarding part of the album, if it could be called that, arrives in the middle, beginning with “Death Race (Round 2)” and running through “Sea of Blood.” These songs are not fundamentally different than the rest of the recording, but they do manage to offer a handful of catchy moments, so that by the third or fourth listen it is possible to remember hearing them before.
If a person experienced Meteor’s full-length albums for the first time out of order, it would be logical to conclude that Inner Demon was the earlier attempt. Meteor has somehow taken a step back to simpler, less energetic songwriting with fewer surprises and poorer production, leaving the listener to struggle through repetitive beats and prosaic melodies that never aspire to be anything more than ordinary. Meteor’s true inner demon appears to be lethargy, and it troubles every aspect of the recording.
Rating 49 / 100