After the release of their largely unknown first album, "No Sleep Demon", Seabound return with another groundbreaking release, helping to resurrect the dying EBM genre in the process. Many people tend to compare Seabound with the more recognized EBM giants, Covenant. But this is wholly unfair to Seabound, who have managed to find their own niche in a dying genre. Frank Spinath's vocals soar over carefully constructed electronic sequences, creating diverse soundscapes that draw the listener inexorably deeper into this digital masterpiece.
Transformer - Ambient synths create a lazy opening to this track, before the sequencers and the beat kick in. Kick drum, hi-hat, and snare drive the basic beat forward, with minimal synths and keys supporting the verse. The chorus is catchy, and I found myself singing "You are no scientist" to myself after the first listen. I'm surprised that this song isn't one of the singles from the album, as it is simple but extremely effective. A great introductory track for new Seabound listeners.
Contact - The first single lifted from the album. The same 4 on the floor beat as Transformer, with a little more snare and hi-hat percussion. The vocals are almost drowned out by the distorted keyboards, and Frank's voice is somewhat distorted as well. Listening to this track, one can see why Seabound is compared to Covenant. I can almost imagine this track on Covenant's "United States Of Mind". A good song, but for me it doesn't reach the catchiness of Transformer.
Soul Diver - Classic Seabound. Very reminiscent of Avalost, from "No Sleep Demon". If you liked that track, you will feel right at home here. Lazy, moody synths, and minimal percussion give this song a more laid back feel. Again, mildly distorted vocals bring the lyrics to our ears, until the chorus comes up, and then Frank is back to his true form, with clean vocals and a sad, solemn delivery. I like the simple approach to this track. I think that Seabound is one of the few EBM bands out there that can do a truly enjoyable downtempo song.
Digital - A largely sequenced track, Digital is one of my least favorite songs on this album. Fortunately, it is one of the shortest tracks as well. Very beat driven, with whispered and distorted vocals on the chorus. If there ever was a Seabound filler track, this would be it. Sad that this song had to be on the album, as Without You from the "Poisonous Friend" single would have been a much better choice, and would have made the overall experience more enjoyable.
Poisonous Friend - The second single taken from the album. Overall a great song, with catchy synths and vocals. The sequencing moves this track right along, with the synths floating from channel to channel. I head this song before I heard the first single, Contact, and consequently enjoy this one more than the first single. The song takes ambient pauses in the buildup to the chorus, but overall a very dancey and driving track.
Separation - The shortest track on the album, and a very slow song. Is this the EBM version of a ballad? Part of me really doesn't enjoy this track too much, as the heavily vocoded vocals just don't connect with my idea of what Seabound is. But there are some excellent synth lines that roll along midway through the song that somehow catch my fancy.
Torch - Begins with ambient synths rolling along with whispered vocals. The mood shifts a bit as the verse kicks in, and suddenly this track starts to sound a lot like one of their earlier catchy songs, Day Of The Century, which is not a bad thing. When the sequencers start up, you know that this is going to be a standout song. This is the longest song on the album, but it moves along nicely, carrying the listener with it. I like the lyrics, and the vocal delivery is spot on. Not really single material, but I wouldn't mind hearing some remixes of it.
Go International - Another reviewer here said that the music was pretty enjoyable, but the lyrics were pretty weak. I second that motion. This song would probably have been better served as an instrumental. I don't hate it, but it certainly doesn't stand out. Pretty uptempo, I guess this could end up in rotation at a club, but it doesn't fit well between Torch and the following excellent track, Watching Over You.
Watching Over You - My favorite song on the album, this to me is what Seabound is all about. Conjuring images of an endless expanse of sea, rolling waves, gray skies, and cold breezes, this track is definitely the unsung hero of Beyond Flatline. Pretty downtempo, it relies more on Frank's vocals and the excellent lyrics to propel it along. This song is awesome on headphones, and could have been a great album closer. The remix by Haujobb on the Poisonous Friend single is a bit more upbeat, and really complements the vibe of the original. So if you like this version, check out the remix as well.
Icarus - Like many of the previous tracks, this one opens with ambient synths and minimal beats. The sequencers really drive this song, and the lyrics are pretty basic, mildly distorted and treated with a slow reverb effect. Would have fit better between Go International and Watching Over You, but overall isn't a bad choice to close the album with.
The voyage that is Beyond Flatline is somewhat short, but ultimately sweet, despite a few less than stellar tracks that mar the experience. The general feel of this album has been something akin to the waves on the ocean. We have gentle areas that build up to a faster climax, and then drop back down before building up again. Up and down, like the motion of the ocean. Whether this is intentional or not, the effect is very noticeable and definitely appreciated. This would definitely be a 5 star album, if not for Digital. I would go with 4 ½ stars, but since we can only do either 4 or 5, it has to be 4. But don't let the few filler tracks keep you from picking this great album up.