ALBUM REVIEW: Figures – ‘Operating in Unsafe Mode’

Words by Carly Gibbs

Considering Melbourne’s Alt-Metal five piece, Figures, have played with monster bands Hed(pe), Pop Evil, Mammal, Voyager, Twelve Foot Ninja, have been regularly billed for Progfest and headlined Amped Festival it might be surprising to hear that the band are only just now releasing their debut album, ‘Operating in Unsafe Mode’.  Today, Friday July 17, this deliciously innovative and politically-charged morsel is dropped onto our plates and it will have you licking the plate clean and asking for more.  Lovers of Alt rock, prog or metal listen up, because this one’s for you. 

In keeping with the title of the album, the first track Failure to React opens with the sound of a computer being switched on and is a powerful opener full of melody and a hooky chorus that will reel you right in from the get go. 

Syntax is next and is a popper full of bounce, groove and is peppered with Nu-Metal flavour.  The verses that Mark Tronson spit out in rap like fashion would have felt right at home during the height of the Nu-Metal wave but Figures have taken it up a notch and made it modern, sophisticated and injected intelligence, social commentary and heart into this track.  It’s elevated from being a late 90’s throw-back to an entity all of its own. 

Moving onto Someone Uninvited and sonically this has a tougher, rockier and emotionally raw edge to it.  The song speaks of oppression and dehumanisation and couldn’t be more relevant in the current political and social climate of 2020.  It’s clear to see that Figures had a defined vision for the lyrical content that they wrote for this album and it flows cohesively. 

Underpaid Machinery was the first release from this album so you may have already had a chance to sink your teeth into this one.  It’s been played on BBC Radio 1 with Daniel P Carter, Triple J’s The Racket, Andrew Haug Radio and has been featured on The Faction’s playlist so it is gaining mass attention, and rightly so!  Tronson has said that he ‘wrote Underpaid Machinery in the middle of all the wage theft scandals that were dominating headlines in Australia’ and that ‘there’s a definite wartime battle ground aesthetic going on and I wanted the vocals in the verses to imitate lobbing grenades, explosions and machine gun fire’.  You certainly hear that aesthetic through the down-tuned guitars and military like clapping and his verses which fluctuate between rapid fire and punctuated rhythms.  “Let those Mother Fuckers know!” a call to action for us all in this classist war.  Take heed. 

Mario Bros-esque effects and an electronic introduction lead into the impassioned Another Injustice as Adam Zaffarese’s forceful, driving drum beat takes over before moving into an anthemic and soaring chorus.  The emotion continues in Inside You’re Alone.   To be honest, this isn’t my favourite track on the album but that’s probably just because it’s not generally  my vibe.  But it is a nice little moment of calm and it does showcase the strength and capability of Tronson’s voice. 

Just as you thought it was slowing down, hello!  The Nu-Metal flow on the verses is back in Force Feeding.  The chorus is super groovy, not in a 70’s free love kind of way but in a way where you want to close your eyes and roll your body from the head down in an undulating, fluid way that a snake would.  If it was vertical.  And had legs.  And enjoyed music. 

There is a heavy industrial spin to Matrix Love which gives an eerie take on social media.  “You come online and I know exactly when you do, what you’re doing at this time, that’s the only thing that’s on my mind”.  Super creepy and potentially making me rethink my online presence!  You can feel the influence that Nine Inch Nails has had on this band on this track.

The Circle Bends is a feisty amalgamation of the best parts of Deftones and Karnivool without it sounding any less of a Figures track which is no easy feat.  I absolutely adore Deftones and so this is a bit of a standout track for me. 

The final track Pedestals on ‘Operating in Unsafe Mode’ is one of the most prog infused, jarring and brutal on the whole album and along with Underpaid Machinery, it a clear front runner for favourite on this album. 

Even though Figures have released two acclaimed EP’s prior to this release, it seems like they have really locked down their distinct sound and fine-tuned it to a standard that is much higher quality than I have heard from them before.  Where Alpha from the ‘Recoil’ EP sounded like it was taken straight off an Incubus record, ‘Operating in Unsafe Mode’ uses the best parts of their influences and turns them into something visceral, unique and of their own and they are all the better for it.  This record is crushing, engaging, brutally heavy in parts and beautifully melodic in others and I am proud to have them representing Australian heavy on a global stage.  If you are angry about the state of the World and the people who run it then this is the perfect record to listen to whilst (figuratively) burning it to the ground.  And if you are not angry?  Then get fucking angry and start by listening to ‘Operating in Unsafe mode’.  Out today, July 17th.  Order via the links below. 

Purchase Figures ‘Operating in Unsafe Mode’ HERE

Listen on Spotify HERE

Figures is:
Mark Tronson – Vocals
Paul Callow – Guitar
Josh Gibson – Guitar
Jen Fletcher – Bass
Adam Zaffarese – Drums

Facebook // Instagram // Website // Youtube

Spotify Prog Australia playlist

With thanks to Collision Course

Leave a Reply