Augustana Observer

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Augustana Observer

“Hell on Earth” is bizarre and captivating

A world-renowned photographer, a well-traveled music producer and composer, and legendary actor John Malkovich have joined forces to create an avant-garde, electronic, spoken word album that looks into what will happen when technology and apathy have destroyed the world.  It doesn’t make sense.  It’s bizarre, confusing, and unlike anything, I’ve heard or will likely ever hear again.  And, to my surprise, it works incredibly well.
Entitled “Hell on Earth”, this is the second album that Sandro, Eric Alexandrakis, and John Malkovich have joined forces on, and one of many artistic endeavors they have partaken in together.  In their own words, they like to “Create art for art’s sake”, and that is incredibly evident in “Hell on Earth”.  Creativity abounds and it is clear that this is a passion project for these artists, even if they did write the music and put it together in only a short few number of days.
The first four tracks are all about thirty seconds long and feature apocalyptic noises, ranging from the deranged beeps of technology that have overtaken the world, to the screams of people who are in the world that is being overtaken.  It is clear from the start what the concept of this album is, and even clearer upon reading part of the description of the album: “Humanity is gone. Wiped out while looking at smartphones, computer screens, and mirrors. Was it a conspiracy? Did technology trick us into control via distraction, or were we controlling technology? Was it the media using technology to prey on human weakness?”
Following these opening tracks, (all with names that invoke the end of the world, such as “Inferno”), a quartet of songs begin, in which we first hear the sounds of Malkovich’s voice.  These tracks are titled “Skepsis” with each of the four having a unique subtitle.  Skepsis is defined as a philosophical doubt towards objective reality.  The songs have the same backing as the beginning four tracks, but with Malkovich narrating how the world got to where it is.  This features poignant and philosophical lines, among them being “The aim of the wise is to not secure pleasure, but to avoid pain” in “Skepsis 2 [The Order of the Universe]”.  These tracks also serve as a sort of warning towards humanity in order to avoid the terrifying nature that Sandro, Alexandrakis, and Malkovich paint for us.
The closing track, “Electrorganic [The Beginning]”, is what truly shows the illuminating uniqueness, along with the bizarreness, of this entire project.  It features Malkovich’s voice edited to sound robotic, along with the faintest sounds of a backing track.  In the song, Malkovich recites Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”, a classic philosophical reading that perfectly describes the concept of Skepsis.  The cave, in the concept of “Hell on Earth”, is the technology and narcissism humanity is faced with today.  Can we discern what is real in our world and what is conceptual?  It’s a question that I don’t have an answer to, but that this trio very interestingly poses.
An iTunes only release, “Hell on Earth” is bizarre, different, and all around confusing.  It took me multiple listens to be able to write my review.  But, it also made me listen multiple times and raised questions that I’ve never thought of before.  If you’re looking for music, as well as art, that makes you think and that is unlike anything you’ll ever hear again, “Hell on Earth” by the trio of Sando, Alexandrakis, and Malkovich, has something to offer.

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“Hell on Earth” is bizarre and captivating