Journey OFFWORLD with Celldweller

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“A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies! A chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!”

Take time away from all the ways that we inch closer to a cyberpunk dystopia with a soothing vacation Offworld. Celldweller’s fourth studio album is a vocal-based atmospheric exploration into harmonies and melodies.

Klayton, the artist behind Celldweller, is a prolific musical artist with projects spanning multiple genres. He is self-referential and has some common themes that run throughout, uniting and defining his work, even when he is struck by creativity and tries something new. Offworld is a departure from the hard hitting beats and fast pace of some of his previous work that still sounds recognizably like Celldweller. If you liked previous melodic and lyric driven tracks from Celldweller such has The Seven Sisters, Memories of a Girl I Haven’t Met, and Against the Tide, or atmospheric tracks like Echoes of Time, On the Surface of Scardiona, and A Dystopian Utopia, then you will not want to skip Offworld.

Unlike some of his previous work, this album doesn’t seem be quite as story driven, but instead is a collection of lyrically driven, highly melodic, atmospheric tracks that express Celldweller’s ability to write captivating lyrics and melodies in a different way than his previous work. There is story through some of the tracks, starting with an original song sharing the same name as the album: Offworld. The lyrics relay a hopeful sounding message of escape contrasted against a haunting atmospheric instrumental with sounds reminiscent of ships taking off into the night.

How Little I Must Know follows as a ruminating song that relays a deeply relatable struggle.  Like the rest of the album, the melodies are wonderful and the sound fills the space, each note seems to taper off in a way that makes it sound soothing and haunting at the same time.

The Great Divide includes more guitar, which takes the lead throughout the melodies. This track sounds most like Klayton’s previous work while still fitting well within Offworlds cohesive sound. The song doesn’t sound overly sad until you listen closely to the lyrics.

Celldweller’s cover of The Call’s Too Many Tears, like most good covers, sounds faithful, but not too faithful to the original with an updated sound and style that is all Klayton. He brings his expertise at crafting melody and conveying emotion fully to bear on this track and it is one of my favorites on this album.

In addition to a handful of great new tracks, the album includes self-covers where old and beloved songs are reimagined as atmospheric specters of themselves. Awakening With You is one of my favorites from Scandroid and is perhaps the most cyberpunk song on this album. It follows shortly after the awakening of Atom7k as he decides to create the second of his kind, someone to share his strange existence with. Where the original has a higher energy, electronic sound, the Offworld version is slower and conveys much more of the loneliness that Atom7k felt before awakening his partner.

This album also includes a fully a cappella version of what was originally released as a Christmas gift to Cellmates in 2010. For devoted fans who were captivated by the raw emotion of the original Mother’s Arm’s, this track will be an extra special treat. To me though, it’s the one track that I think doesn’t fit as well with the rest of the sound, but it’s a cool concept to make a fully a cappella song as a largely electronic artist. He doesn’t use any instrument sounding vocalizations, he just totally fills the space with his voice by autotuning and layering it to the extreme.

album art by Ninja Jo

Into the Fall is a combination of Embracing Entropys lyrics and Malacambra‘s instrumentals, both from Circle of Dust. Circle of Dust as a metal band is so far removed, sound-wise, from Offworld that it’s impressive how good some of these songs are when reimagined as atmospheric tracks.

Other songs include Echoes which has a interesting, highly electronic sound while still being slow, each note sung being drawn out and savored to make a flowing but haunting sound and a remix of the signature Own Little World. Last Night on Earth is the last original track on this album and continues the story of leaving earth, crossing the great divide, with rebirth on the other side. This track features more drums and less guitar, which ends the album on a firmer note.

album art by Ninja Jo

Overall, Offworld sounds different than Celldweller’s previous work but is still definitely a Klayton project. I’m not of the opinion that artists should never change or experiment throughout their career simply to keep giving fans what they’re expecting, but it’s nice when they mix something relatively new with homages to the originals that we fell in love with in the first place. Celldweller does a good job balancing that in this album. If anything, I think he could have added even more original work to this lyrically, but I admit that as a long-time fan, I loved hearing well known tracks executed in a different way. My final complaint, if these can really count as complaints, is that all the seven sisters references in the album teasers raised my hopes that he would do a longer, Offworld-style version of Memories of a Girl I Haven’t Met, which I think would have fit well here and I’ve always thought it was an enthralling clip that warranted a full song.

So for our hardcore cyberpunk readers, what makes Offworld cyberpunk enough for us to review it here? I would argue that Klayton has produced a significant amount of music in the past with heavy cyberpunk themes, enough so that almost any new music project from him warrants at least the glancing listen from Neon Dystopia. This album, in particular, does have some cyberpunk themes: for example, leaving a dystopian earth and, of course, the cover of Scandroid’s Awakening with You. Overall, it’s not heavily cyber, nor punk, but it does have some elements. For fans of Klayton’s vast music projects, or cyberpunks looking for something chill to listen to, you can pre-order the album now. It comes out July 28th.

You can also order the album and stunningly high-quality fan merch here.

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