Between teaching full time at a junior high school, filming art films, and finishing a science fiction feature film, Matthew J Van Howe managed to release his debut concept album, Transmogrify. Van Howe is a Chicago based artist involved in many different mediums. Classically trained as a musician, he never thought of releasing a solo album until his students convinced him that he should.
Let’s be frank, even in good albums you get two or three great songs. What are the odds that you get all excellent tracks in an debut album with utterly 80’s electronica undertones and an abundance of crunching rock guitars, all totally appealing to today’s teenagers…made by a junior high school teacher? Well, it’s pretty hard to get something like that. Yet, all I can say is, somehow Matthew J Van Howe has achieved just that!
Transmogrify was conceived as a concept album ready to take listeners through a journey of transformation. The album is good in every way. There really isn’t one bad track. It contains a plethora of moods and sounds throughout, yet it all has a subtle dark quality that few electronica artists manage to pull off as well.
You’ll be drawn in from the first song by the lush soundscapes filled with rhythmic beats, crashing guitars, the orchestral-type synth movements, and evocatively beautiful vocals. Upon listening to the song “Human Again”, I knew I was going to love the album. It’s kind of like a mashup between Depeche Mode, The Muse and Nine Inch Nails. The end result couldn’t possibly be anything else but fully emotive and explosive.
From track one, “Irrevocable” and “8 Milliseconds”, “Human Again” to “Escapism”, “Event Horizon” and “The Dark”, the standouts abound by the truckload, particularly for anybody who adores the dark electronic genre. If you typically listen to alternative or indie rock, you’ll still love the guitar-driven rhythms of “8 Milliseconds”, “Escapism” and “Falling Into Space”.
What I personally like about Transmogrify is that it brings back sounds and styles from the mid-80s synth-pop era, but also feels new and progressive. I enjoy the combination of the electronic-keyboard sounds with the crunchy guitars and obviously Matthew J Van Howe’s irreplaceable voice.
I realize technology has matured to a level that permits most of today’s artists to create beautiful electronic tapestries on which to ride the senses and imagination. But I sense a definite predominance of heart and soul over technology in Matthew J Van Howe’s work, on this album.
Transmogrify is edgy, energetic and makes you want to crank it up each time you push play. Each song has some hook, lyrically or musically, that grabs your attention and then draws you in.
The album notes describe this release as follows:
“The lyrics and concepts are heavily influenced by quantum physics, as our perceptions of the basic principles of nature challenge our everyday lives. From the introduction to mind changing concepts with the first track “Irrevocable”, to the time it takes for the human brain to process information in “8 Milliseconds”, and ultimately to the acceptance of the inevitable rejection of the rational mind in “The Dark”…”
I really don’t want to get too far in depth and spoil things for any fan that hasn’t listened to it yet, but I can say that the beats are an addictive pulsating cure and a hypnotic source of therapy for our own morbidity and dark emotions. I can assure you that Transmogrify is worth picking up!