Anyone who actually looked over my “top 101 industrial songs” list might have noticed the fact that it was fairly Hate Dept.-heavy. In fact, there were four tracks from Omnipresent, Hate Dept.’s 1996 album, on the list, three of which were in the top 20. And the fact that there were only four tracks on the list is more a testament to my personal restraint than what I actually think about the album.
I still remember the first time I listened to Omnipresent; I’m sad to say it’s not a thrilling moment of “getting it”. I was in my friend’s car, riding out from the Atlanta suburb of Fayetteville, heading into the city, undoubtedly for some aspect of our weekly ritual of going to Tower Records, seeing movies, and god only knows what else. My friend drove, so he brought along CD’s and we mainly listened to what he chose. On the rare occassion I drove, the role was reversed. In this case, he put on Omnipresent, which must have been very new. I was young, 19, and stupid in that way that every teenager is; I was in that phase that some people never grow out of, where you’re so excited about the new, wonderful albums you’ve just found that you want to play them for everyone, so any moment you’re listening to someone else’s music instead of what you’ve chosen is a waste. I’d had no previous exposure to Hate Dept. and I was probably thinking about how awesome 16 Volt’s Letdowncrush was or some such bullshit, so I kept thinking “Who gives a fuck about ‘This Doggy Bites’? I want to listen to my music.”
Embarassing to realize now, but I obviously warmed on it, though I’m not sure how quickly I picked up a copy. I remember more about finally finding a copy of Meat.Your.Maker, quite the feat in Atlanta, where I had to search for months or order CD’s from record stores to be sure to get my hands on them; it was much more in tune with my juvenile, aggressive sensibilities, which makes perfect sense, as Seibold was basically my then-age when he wrote it. In all the ways it was punky, in-your-face, and vulgar for the purpose of giving offense, Omnipresent was not.
Obviously at some point (maybe after I started getting laid), I did recognize something, some kernal within Omnipresent that spoke to me and still does to this day.
Meat.Your.Maker, while good, wasn’t a complex or layered album, more interested in youthful bravado and aggression, and lacking the technology and expertise to push it forward. Technical Difficulties, the long-awaited third album of 1999, polished off too many edges and tried too hard to balance the punk, rock, and electronic aspects into something palatable to everyone. It was a great album, but not one that I continue going back to, despite the inclusion of “Hit Back” on my list (and the belief that it’s a perfect gateway track for non-industrial listeners to start getting an understanding of industrial music’s range, styles, and appeal). And it was a long, long wait for Ditch, the last Hate Dept. album to be released, back in the floundering days of 2004, when a few bands attempted a last stand against the stampede of boring EBM blandness, clutching futilely at straws of the greatness that once was 90’s industrial-rock. Easily the most stylistically varied of the albums, Ditch did what it did masterfully, though it’s hard to imagine that the patchwork of different styles and tones pleased everyone that wasn’t a Hate Dept. fan already.
Omnipresent, for its part, still seems different than the rest of the Hate Dept. catalogue; it speaks much more to the electronic side of industrial music and Seibold’s love of synthpop, leaving the aggression to boil beneath the surface of the music. What could easily be mistaken for synthpop tracks often burn with a bubbling rage just beneath the veneer of pop songwriting.”Won’t Stay Lit” is the pefect example of this, his vocals brimming with disgust over the top of an incredibly simple piece of instrumentation.
The songs, though written very differently, feel much more tied-together through the tone of the production and the instruments used. If there’s any meaning hidden in the title “Omnipresent”, perhaps it’s reflected in the way everything ties together so well.
The only regret I have about the album is the fact that the instrumental “Dreams Of Conspiracy” was included on the album instead of the song “Omnipresent” that its music and the album’s title were taken from. (It also began a trend continued with Technical Difficulties, where the title track of the album wasn’t actually on the album, instead ending up on a releated EP.)
Though I ranked “Won’t Stay Lit” as my top track of all-time, largely due to the maudlin synthpop tone mixed with those bitter vocals and the message they convey, the songs “Rejoice” (which shares many similarities with “Won’t Stay Lit”) and “Flesh Feeds Soul” are probably better tracks, in my personal opinion. I suppose I just thought that “Won’t Stay Lit” better represented my views on industrial music, or it was all just a matter of whim.
“Flesh Feeds Soul” will probably always be my favorite track by Hate Dept., combining excellent songwriting, interesting samples, good vocals, lyrics that speak to me personally (for whatever reason), and a varied structure that was more than the typical verse-chorus that most industrial-rock bands can write for.
There are certain albums you love from the moment you listen to them and consume voraciously, until the moment you become bored with it and can’t stomach the constant rotation anymore; Technical Difficulties may have skirted the edges of this phenomenon, but the Hate Dept. discography is hard-pressed to not stay in constant rotation for me. And Omnipresent, out of all those albums, still feels the most fresh and prescient, even 16 years later.