Let’s play a word association game. (Remember those pesky ACT/SAT questions?) Reno’s Four Stroke Baron are to new wave what dark synthwave is to metal.
Artists like Perturbator and GosT play around with various styles and eras of electronic music like a metal artist would, wielding their distorted keyboards like buzzsaw guitars. Similarly, Planet Silver Screen is the unique concoction of new wave through the lens of progressive metal. It’s like Tool, Mastodon, and Meshuggah coming together to try and write a Depeche Mode cover album.
Hell, vocalist Kirk Witt, with his borderline robotic belting, sounds like a lost relic of the mid-80s. Like all wild ideas, it sounds terrible on paper; yet, based on the impressive quality on display, Planet Silver Screen is just crazy enough to work.
To be sure, despite some impressively complex rhythmic patterns and songs that occasionally turn on a dime, Four Stroke Baron’s style is centered around being shockingly melodic. Also, the actual songs are deceptively simple and–a hallmark of 80s synthpop–delightfully repetitive.
Plus, there’s a non-subtle Pink Floyd influence that rears its head fully on the spacey “Duplex,” but all these Floydian flourishes result in a record full of highlights that feels best when experienced as a whole rather than in individual episodes. That also helps buoy some of the lesser tunes (the aforementioned “Duplex” and “A Matter of Seconds”).
Ultimately, Planet Silver Screen succeeds not simply because of good yet weird ideas but because those quirks are performed with a commanding presence. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Four Stroke Baron’s particular oddities scratch multiple itches (prog, metal, synth, space rock) with exceptionally enjoyable songs to boot.