If there’s one thing all Celldweller fans can agree on, it’s this: Celldweller has a huge discography. There are releases upon releases upon remixes upon instrumentals upon deluxe editions. Where does a new Cellmate even begin to start?!
Well, FiXT Online has a post for that.
Enter this situation: you’re a dedicated Cellmate. You jam Celldweller on your way to school, work, the gym—everywhere. You tell your friends about Celldweller. You tell your parents about Celldweller. You tell your cat about Celldweller.
But where do you start? Well, we made a nice “starter guide” for you to use and recruit new members to the Celldweller Cult. Who’s so well-versed in Celldweller history that they could actually highlight four releases out of everything amazing Klayton has put out in his career? Well, James Rhodes, general manager and co-founder of FiXT, and Josh Danforth, FiXT’s social media guru and assistant to Klayton himself!
First up are the two must-listen Celldweller records—and a song from each record—as selected by James. For those who don’t know, James co-founded FiXT with Klayton and has pretty much been his parter-in-crime, errrr, partner-in-business since FiXT’s inception. He is FiXT’s fearless leader and probably knows Celldweller’s discography better than anyone on the planet. Here’s a photo of James looking innocent:
And here’s James’ picks for the Celldweller Starter Guide:
Album: Celldweller (Self-Titled) (2003)
As with many great stories, the origin of Celldweller starts as an underdog tale. The was a time when the odds were clearly stacked against Klayton, yet this story ends in a triumphant victory, paving the way for Celldweller’s legacy.
Left broke, sleeping on a friend’s extra couch and deeply indebted to an ill-fated major label who chose to close their doors, Klayton began the release of the debut Celldweller album with a multi-year legal battle simply to acquire the rights back to release the album independently. With no support but a few loyal fans, Klayton self-released an album so eclectic and diverse—so polarizing and disparate that even to this day—there’s not a system or genre classification than can adequately categorize it correctly in a music catalog. What was too electronic for some rock music fans, was simultaneously too rock for some electronic music fans, yet was perfectly cohesive in the mind of its creator…and what would soon become an army of dedicated followers.
The album, of course, went on to critical success. It skyrocketed on Billboard Charts, garnered impressive sales numbers and still boasts a rare feat of having every single track featured in Hollywood blockbusters, TV shows and video games. Furthermore, the success of the album paved the way for Klayton to fund the creation of a high-end recording studio and laid the groundwork to create his own record label, FiXT, which now supports a staff of over a dozen full time employees and a roster of active artists.
While hard to narrow to a single song, the track that I’ve always been drawn to the most is “Fadeaway” – which blends drum & bass and driving rock guitars, with vocals that range from lush harmonies to echoing screams, all folded inside convicting lyrics. Just when you thought you were nearing the end of the track, it drops out into a spine-tingling acoustic guitar over deep electronic beats and trancy synths, making your head spin in disbelief as the track journeys back into a climactic ending of frenzied drums, guitar chugs and powerful vocals.
Album: Wish Upon A Blackstar (2012)
Song: “Louder Than Words”
The sophomore Celldweller album may have come out [roughly] 9 years after the debut release, but there was no lull in activity behind the scenes. After defeating the odds and buying back the rights to the debut album in 2005, Klayton was finally able to reap the rewards of his hard work. With the former label paid off, he was able to put all his focus into building the infrastructure to never need an external label again, all while simultaneously constructing an entire multi-room studio facility with his dream list of gear. What spawned from this expansion is the second Celldweller LP: Wish Upon A Blackstar.
With Wish Upon A Blackstar, Klayton began utilizing a different release strategy and developed the concept of releasing albums in chapters. This allowed him to finish a few songs at a time and deliver them immediately to the fans while he continued working behind the scenes on building a company, a studio and finishing the record. In contrast to the debut album, when Klayton released the sophomore album, he did it all on his own terms and didn’t have to hand the sales of his hard work over to a defunct label partner—on the contrary— FiXT was fully operation and self-sufficient and Klayton’s studio was not only complete but facilitating the work of other artists on the label roster, as well.
For me, a key song from Wish Upon A Blackstar that really signifies the ethos of Celldweller is “Louder Than Words.” Musically, it showcases pristine production, immaculate editing, brilliant songwriting and catchy-as-hell hooks, while fusing dancy beats with aggressive guitars. Lyrically, it explains a basic tenet of Klayton’s world-view, “Actions speak louder than words do.” Instead of making empty promises, Klayton firmly believes in showing up and delivering time after time. Certainly, the album as a whole is an undeniable collection of songs that were worth waiting for. Because of the metamorphosis that took place during those years, Klayton is now more productive than ever and his consistent releases and creative output speak loud and clear — he’s not going anywhere any time soon.
And what about that Josh guy’s picks? Josh is best known around FiXT HQ as the green-haired villain causing a stir-up on FiXT social media. He’s been a pivotal part of the FiXT team for many years—here’s a picture of him looking not quite as innocent as James:
Check out Josh’s picks here:
Album: Live Upon A Blackstar
Song: “So Long Sentiment vs. Eon (Live)”
When I thought about where to start with my first pick, my mind instantly went to the self-titled album; after all, that was the first time I had ever heard Celldweller. But the album that sticks out most in my head above all else is Live Upon A Blackstar. Perhaps I’m biased, since I joined the FiXT crew in a trial by fire on tour with Celldweller when this album came out, but there was something about the energy, intensity, and versatility of this album that will always be with me.
It’s nearly impossible for me to choose one track that stands out, because as one would expect from Klayton, every track is perfectly mixed together to deliver an entire experience rather than just serve fans a collection of hits. From the cinematic opening to the exclusive klash-ups, the tribal war-drums with retro scientific samples to the metal guitar riffs, and even the up-tempo electronic dance tracks — there is nothing else like the sonic journey this album takes you on and it’s even got the decency to give you a crowd of people to sing along with you as you turn up the volume and chant “I AM THE LUCKY ONE!” But if you’re going to twist my arm into choosing just one, it’s gotta be “So Long Sentiment vs. Eon.” Not only did this track absolutely floor me by smashing together two of my favorite Wish Upon A Blackstar songs, but it perfectly showcases the diversity of Celldweller. A soft and etherial melody opens as Klayton serenades the crowd suddenly gains momentum and before you even know what happened, you’re in the middle of a freaking mosh pit.
What other artist could pull off something like that?
Album: Soundtrack For The Voices In My Head Vol. 02
You know, you’re really killing me here with this one song limit.
My favorite thing about Celldweller is that no matter how many tracks you’ve heard before, you never know what you’re going to hear before you listen to a new one. No other Celldweller album showcases this better than the second volume of Soundtrack For The Voices In My Head, the (mostly) instrumental album created by Klayton for use in film, television, video games and trailers.
This album is a roller-coaster of atmospheres with each twist and turn of a track held together by the common link of Celldweller’s unparalleled production abilities. This album is like your favorite movie — with each repeat experience, you’ll notice something new and exciting that you had never heard before.
For my pick, I’m going with “ShutEmDown,” the track I listen to when I need some adrenaline coursing through my veins. Nothing gets me more pumped up than the hearing the mixture of heavy metal guitar riffs, glitched-out electronic melodies, growling bass, and cinematic strings. I know you don’t believe me, but that is a real track. Seriously though — how do you have an album where you go from a track that is flamenco mixed with aggressive electronic music, to a 20-minute ambient track that sounds like you’re floating through space, and then to a track that sounds like giant robots in the Middle East gearing up, and subsequently battling it out in the desert!? How is this a thing? It’s indescribable. Maybe that’s why I’m rambling here…
So what are you waiting for? Go recruit a new Cellmate today! Connect to Celldweller on Facebook and Twitter—and be sure to support independent music by pre-ordering End of an Empire (Chapter 04: Death) today!