The enigmatic Swedish synthpop band Priest returns today with their third album, Body Machine. It arrives at a time when Priest’s popularity seems poised to explode—a song from the album plays over the end credits of a new Hollywood movie called Hot Seat, they recently announced that they’ll be supporting Combichrist on a European tour, and music blogs can’t seem to stop bleating about their connection to the rock band Ghost (come on, at three albums in, Priest doesn’t need Ghost).
Body Machine is a solid return to form and a tremendous showcase of Priest’s evolution. First album New Flesh launched Priest with a sinister, sensual vibe that dabbled in bondage themes. Unfortunately, singer Tom Åsberg departed the band, forcing music producer and Priest mastermind Linton Rubino onto vocals. In hindsight, second album Cyberhead was a transitional one as Linton struggled to find a consistent sound.
He’s nailed it on Body Machine. Their third album mines influence from classic industrial and EBM—slinkier, minimal beats and cyberpunk themes abound. Priest gave us a taste of this darker new direction on last year’s blippy single “Signal in the Noise,” one of the album’s highlights, and this year’s “Techno Girl,” a less compelling single though it tracks far better in the long-player.
EBM gods Front 242 clearly make an impression on Priest. “Hell Awaits” opens with samples from a Southern Baptist preacher who sounds remarkably similar to the one from their legendary song “Welcome to Paradise.” Meanwhile, recent single “Blacklisted” is a genuine industrial thumper that will probably do well with the Combichrist crowd.
Priest is smart enough to maximize variety. The sorta title track “Perfect Body Machine” taps into ’80s pop glitz, while “Nightcrawler” tugs the strings of modern-day EDM, yet both songs retain the album’s spirit, never pandering for popularity. Linton mixes up his vocal delivery across Body Machine, and unlike on Cyberhead, he sounds remarkably consistent and less processed here—he’s clearly found his voice.