It’s been three years since D&B, bass music and scoring producer Billain’s breakthrough massive album Nomad’s Revenge dropped and really changed the way we think of cinematic sound in bass music. As the 2019 epic was basically a sonic storyboard that could have easily attached to a video game or film, the story ended on a bit of a cliffhanger with its last track “Revenge” and Billain did promise the journey would continue. That’s what nomads do, after all.
Three years may seem like a long time to wait for the next installment, but if you know Nomad’s Revenge or even just the quality Billain normally produces, it’s obvious this promised sequel wasn’t going to pop its head around the corner a few months after its predecessor. Even if Billain didn’t put the tremendous amount of work in he did, many of us sound nerds are still digesting Nomad’s Revenge.
As promised, Lands Unbreached, which dropped today on Minnesota-based label Renraku, picks up where Nomad’s Revenge left off with a lead track called “Breach” featuring Tasha Baxter now playing one of the protagonists in melody form. This track is jumping right into the deep end with incredibly fast drumlines and even faster synths and with Billain’s characteristic pitch-perfect cinematic composition. Fans can expect this throughout, of course, but “Breach” also puts the audience on notice that there are some differences between Lands Unbreached and Nomad’s Revenge, the biggest one being that there’s almost no dialogue.
Rather than being set up as a score to a game or film that never happened, the story of Lands Unbreached is told a hundred percent musically. Fans have only titles and tones to follow this journey with our nomad friends, but make no mistake: it is still a journey. From “Breach” where our protagonists makes their first steps into this new Odyssey to the peace and excitement (and funky halftime) that comes from a new chapter in “iNFINITE Blue” to arriving at the “Cosmic Gate” with Kemal to the jazz interlude “Memory Block” being, well, intercepted by “Interceptor,” it’s obvious each track is a new chapter to a rich story. The music is composed in such away that one can almost see the scenes moving before the eyes. It’s a visceral, emotional and even visual journey as much as it is musical.
Our premiere today comes after a series of relatively chill chapters, with “Battery Boy” and the like seeming to wind up to what might be our main character’s last conflict or decision. Those preceding tracks seem somewhat chill with its bouncy, groovy hip hop vibes. It’s almost as if the travelers have wandered into some sort of robot breakdancing cypher; it’s cool but tense. Then, “Mekanize You” breaks into 174 techno-based chaos and winds up to an even more intense breakbeat. It seems the robots want to do exactly what the title of this track promises and mechanize us all. There’s even a synth sequence in the intro where it sounds like the androids are actually being built.
When the raw, rough and dancefloor-ready “Mekanize You” ends, we’re dropped into another cinematic abyss entitled “Gigant.” The newly mechanized travelers are told to “awake” and join the dance, a slow, plodding halftime and gear-filled waking up to their new parts and abilities. New, “gigantic” bodies, perhaps? If this is the case, it may not be a bad thing. The last two tracks on the album are called “Reincarnation” and “Overcome” and while both solid, melodic and danceable D&B tracks which indeed give listeners a sense of hope and renewal. Perhaps our heroes have done this whole journey broken and impaired, and being “mechanized” was a rebirth to feel whole again. It’s just a theory, but given what we’ve all been through in the last two to three years, the emotional journey feels this real. Certainly many artists can relate.
“Overcome” is the only track on Lands Unbreached with dialogue and it’s an interesting choice as up until this point, just over eight minutes into the nine minute 30 second track, the listener was left to create their own story from the music, the actual story comes in and reveals itself. It’s the same two speakers as were featured in Nomad’s Revenge, and in fact the outro of “Overcome” sounds very similar to the closer of Nomad’s Revenge. It seems the heavy, frantic D&B of “Reincarnation” and “Overcome” were a set of battles. Said battles are over for not for our protagonists, but not the journey, as the female voice says the same thing she did after the first reckoning, “let’s go.” But it seems this time the nomads leave a part of them as well, as an “old friend” has been lost in the battle. Relatable.
Whether there’s supposed to be a followable canon to Lands Unbreached that follows Nomad’s Revenge or not, each track is its own journey and indeed the whole album is a sonic epic Odyssey. On that emotional level, there certainly has been an odyssey and a number of battles for the world these past two years which makes Lands Unbreached even more poignant. Now with the new conflicts between Russia Eastern Europe, where Billain lives, is facing, the message of this album is all the more apparent. Being from Sarajevo, Billain has seen this sort of thing more than once, and it’s likely no coincidence that Lands Unbreached ends the way it does. The heroes may have won this time and got what they wanted, but no win comes without something lost, and the journey still will never end. We can only hope our hearts heal from such things, whether actual wars or emotional conflicts. Keep this idea and those caught in the conflict in your thoughts as you listen to this album, and the story will be crystal clear, even without words. And most of all, never forget to dance.
Lands Unbreached is out now on Renraku. Stream or buy here.