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LABEL: EMI Electrola RELEASE DATE: February 19, 2001 GENRE: Hard Trance
// review by SoyBomb

Rhythm & Humdrums.

Cosmic Gate has come a long way since their debut album, "Rhythm & Drums", dropped in 2001, both in terms of their overall sound and their popularity. Now rubbing elbows with the likes of trance DJs such as Armin Van Buuren and Tiësto, their music hardly resembles the hard dance roots of their early escapades.

The album begins with Open The Gate, a three-minute opus that eerily forces us into the world of Cosmic Gate. It's your standard overly dramatic introduction with strings and other dark sounds before a dance album. Oh, but it wouldn't be complete without a mystical spoken word piece! But we're really here for the meat and potatoes of the album, and that's where Exploration of Space takes us. Considered one of Cosmic Gate's classic tracks, this one has a fairly catchy honker of a hook (shame that it takes almost half the track's length to get there) after being barked at by some acid sounds along the way. This is some pure hard dance, worthy of the title; Exploration of Space was a good entryway for Cosmic Gate into the scene with its easily recognizable chorus and fairly simple sound. Nothing groundbreaking, mind you.

Fire Wire (Club Mix) is also considered one of Cosmic Gate's finest tunes from their earlier days (or at least the DJ Scot Project remix of it). It doesn't start out impressively, unless you like beeping and pretty standard bass. Even after the words "Fire... Wire..." are shouted out, somehow the song manages to switch to even less impressive beats. The rolling clinks of the synth are supposed to lure me in, but they really don't, leaving the first half of this club mix very dull overall. Cosmic Gate bring in a new, more slicing synth later on, but even this fails to make a dent. I don't know why some hard trance enthusiasts love this track; it has no standout features whatsoever.

Next is The Drums (Video Mix), starting out with some fartly bass before a weird voice says "Come with me... follow me... to the cosmic gate..." OMG SHE TOTALLY SAID THE NAME OF THE GROUP OMG!!1! The voice continues to banter with an excruciating whiny voice before an impressively sharp synth literally slices your cochlea in half with a dead simple yet dark melody. Yet once again, there's nothing in this song that stands out or impresses; this is another bare basic track, and it doesn't give me hope for the rest of the album. But let's see if Melt to the Ocean revives that spark.

Well, they sure have a love for hard fart bass, and they prove it here. Their crusty rolling bass makes a bold statement about what to expect, and other weird rolling sounds support that. The main melody eventually seeps in: an arpeggiated set of jabs that actually leads more into trance territory with calming pads and ocean waves. Easily their best offering thus far, though we're barely halfway in. Let's get Lost In Music, shall we? This one's a bit more slowed down with a far funkier beat, and it honestly shows another, more introspective side to their music. With the crowd screams in the background alongside phasing acid, Lost In Music is a decent track to wedge among the straightforward, mindless bangers.

Too bad it's followed up by Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which is indeed a mindless banger. And yes, it DOES incorporate the song from the Wizard of Oz; it's basically a hard dance version of that. The melody is great, as it's been since 1939, but once the "classic" part ends, it's just a run-of-the-mill dance tune. The chorus pulls from good source material; beyond that, there's little substance left.

The Rhythm starts out with, indeed, a different rhythm featuring some strange revving sound as deep vocals about riding something slide in. Soon enough, it's back to a standard and uninteresting sound. Eventually, fuzzy synths slide in for a rougher sound, and Cosmic Gate try to sneak in some extra melody, but ultimately this is a dry and uninspired track. Wicked doesn't fare much better with its dangerously simple and amateurish-sounding driving synth. There's really not much to this song at all, which is awe-inspiring considering it's over seven minutes long. Not even adding rolling coconut sounds helps... and they tried it. Mental Atmosphere (Video Mix) keeps the unfortunate trend going, delivering a generic sound that will easily be forgotten by the end of this sentence.

Ah, there it goes. Also, the voice in that song isn't saying "mental atmosphere"; it sounds more like "manful atmosphere". Would that be a good thing?

We're Running Out Of Time on this review, so we'd better get to the last pair of tunes. This one starts out with hardcore bass drumming and some weird bee toots... yep. After a long while, a new and slightly creepy melody sneaks in. Actually, it doesn't sneak in as much as get shoved in our ears. It's very direct, no subtlety. This is the final track actually performed by Cosmic Gate on the album, and after hearing all this, I'm absolutely amazed at the transformation they've made since then. Nothing they do now sounds even remotely as hard as this.

Now all that's left is to bring in DJ Scot Project, one of the more prominent hard dance producers of the time, for Fire Wire (DJ Scot Project Remix), and although he takes a while to get there, he's ready to tear this one apart. This is the mix people remember. His mix ends up being far more trance-laden at times and far more rough'n'tough and tension-filled at others. Though this still doesn't quality as a heavily interesting track, it's definitely far superior to the original by a long shot.

This album is what might be expected from someone just starting out making music, but I had hoped for more from the finished product, considering the positive reviews I had seen prior. But there's very little meat to Rhythm & Drums; instead, it's filled with tedium and a lack of real inspiration. By some stroke of luck, they have improved over time and evolved to become a completely different beast, but this is not the best first impression.

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