A quick tour through the back catalog of Atari Teenage Riot will leave you fuming mad. Topics like government, capitalism, internet fairness, neo-facism etc have been targeted by the Digital Hardcore pioneers over the years, and while their brand of hyper intense noise riots may not be for everyone, they have proven to be impossible to ignore. After nearly a decade off, Atari Teenage Riot stormed back with 2011’s Is This Hyperreal?, picking up right where they left off, ready to unleash their polished brand of sonic terror at the drop of a dime. Tracks such as “Activate” and “Codebreaker” proved that the band were still just as pissed off ever. Yet, that album also presented a new dynamic in the ATR sound. A focus on melody and songwriting took shape where before there was only chaos. Was a kinder, gentler riot was at hand?
Reset, the newest offering from Atari Teenage Riot continues further down the path of Hyperreal? in terms of melodic experimentation. Album opener “J1M1” is a nice mixture of old vs. new, with enough guitar and energy present to win over old fans, but it also features a distinct club flourish that gives the ATR sound new legs. This combination of rage-fueled techno-blasts with more dance friendly elements is repeated throughout Reset, most notably on album closer “We Are From the Internet” and the sultry, downtempo fuzz of “Street Grime.” But perhaps the most bombastic representation of the “new” Atari Teenage Riot is found on the appropriately titled “Reset” which builds, swells and rips the listener from one sonic territory to the next, creating a euphoric sense of whiplash in the process.
As intriguing as the bands new (and arguably milder) sound is, keep in mind we are talking about Atari Teenage Riot. This is the same band that performed on a flatbed truck in the middle of a protest that turned into a full-scale riot. When Atari Teenage Riot went on hiatus for the better part of the aughts, Alec Empire often took his sound to an even heavier level. Honestly, the heaviness and threat of mutually assured destruction is part of the allure of an Atari Teenage Riot album and Reset is no exception. “Transducer” reintroduces the bands love for breakneck tempos and audible violence. “New Blood” largely follows suit, but also features massive synth-fueled breakdowns that cut the tempo but increase the power, showing that force isn’t always coupled with speed. That point is driven home on the bass-heavy distorted drone of “Erase Your Face” which threateningly plods along and is a truly foreboding piece of music, even by Atari Teenage Riot’s standards.
For longtime fans of the Digital Hardcore crew, Reset may come across as a bit of shock at first. It’s not a massive departure from the bands roots, but there are enough new sounds and elements to keep you on your toes. Take a song like “Death Machine” for example, which builds and builds with guitar and threats to the breaking point before quietly slinking back to the underground. Fifteen years ago, the band wouldn’t have thought twice about wasting such an energetic crescendo. Hell, fifteen years ago there would be no crescendo, just violence. But with age comes wisdom and in the case of Atari Teenage Riot, lurking underground waiting for the perfect time to strike has proven to be just as powerful as the “in your face” approach they’ve built their name on.