I happened across KidneyThieves the same way I come across other bands I adore: by pleasant accident. In this case, it was whilst playing Deus Ex: Invisible War. Several of the industrial tracks performed by the in-game pop idol grabbed me almost immediately and so I searched for the band behind the sound – being a 90’s child, the industrial rock/metal sound in the cyberpunk setting struck a chord with me. Pure serendipity.
KidneyThieves started in 1997, the union of two talented musicians: Free Dominguez (vocalist and occasional guitar) and Bruce Somers (multi-instrumentalist, programmer and sound engineer). Somers with his background of programming/engineering and collaborating with several notable bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Orgy, The Misfits and Marilyn Manson; Dominiguez bringing a trip-hop/hip-hop affinity, along with a sensual, melodious voice – a marriage of Nine Inch Nails-inspired industrial rock and trip-hop along the lines of Massive Attack.
In Somer’s words, the band is a combination of heavy and light to form a sound that is not quite one genre altogether and yet it stands on its own. Confused? Most are when they first listen to any of their music; one moment you will be listening to a decent noisy guitar riff with industrial layers, the next you will be listening to a whispered trip-hop track concerning forlorn thoughts – the muscles of grinding rock formed around the soul of downtempo.
Their latest album, ‘The Mend’, is the conclusive result of their Kickstarter campaign launched in December 2015; by April 2016 they had reached their goal (it reached nearly double the initial goal) and the album was released in September of the same year. This approach is typical of KidneyThieves’ ethics of DIY and being progressively eco-friendly (the album was recorded in a “green studio” and independently released).
‘The Mend’ is a concept album revolving around the contemporary issues that were most prominent during 2015 and 2016 – the division and disconnection, the corrosion, the escalation of hate and general distrust – topics most directly reflected in track titles such as “Fist Up”, “In Love With A Machine” and “Let Freedom Ring”. The album also focuses on the notion of catharsis through healing and becoming whole again after a major upheaval, the systems we find ourselves locked into and finding a grand mending through each other via compassion and realising the worth of our struggles.
‘The Mend’ compared to previous albums is generally lighter but with a few upbeat electronic rock tracks; the rest of the album swings between trip-hop ballads and downtempo electro-industrial/electronica songs with brief passages of alternative rock interspersed. The album is a notable shift away from their initial heavier, industrial rock sound.
The first track, “Fist Up,” is the most upbeat track on the album and gives a wink back to previous albums but is the peak of intensity on ‘The Mend‘. Obviously the perfect song for energetic fist pumping.
‘Codependent Song’ is an alternative rock track that deals with a heavy topic and the lyrics don’t shy away from the subject. The track bears a resemblance to material produced by other female-fronted bands such as Garbage or Curve by taking a dark topic and transforming it into a near pop effort.
“Migration” is an eerily evocative trip-hop ballad that becomes incredibly haunting once the piano segments play. Perhaps the most poignant song on the album, when compared to the fourth track “In Love With A Machine”.
KidneyThieves are unique in that they prove that whilst industrial rock tends to be synonymous with nihilistic tendencies and self-destruction, KidneyThieves show more depth with a philosophical edge by focusing on abstract thoughts and psychological subjects, borrowing from Jung. They also demonstrate a range of skill by not getting too comfortable playing to one genre.
The whole of ‘The Mend‘ presents itself as the next step in the band’s continuing journey with a message of hope. The noticeable absence of certain elements (such as the heavier guitars and more polish given to tracks) might make long-time fans reluctant but this is an album that remains a worthwhile listen. In the end this is what music ultimately means for us all: a form of sublime, unconditional catharsis.
‘The Mend’ track listing:
Free Dominguez – Vocals, guitars
Bruce Somers – Guitars, programming, engineering