It's a curious quirk of fate that both Kreayshawn and Zola Jesus should find their careers breaking at roughly the same time: both Russian-American; both born in the borderline acceptable year of 1989; and both (although nothing from Conatus is likely to topple 'Gucci Gucci' with its 20,000,000 views) trading heavily on their sometimes-you-can-make-it-on-your-own image. In the case of the former this seems to have manifested itself mainly in well publicised spats with Rick Ross et al. For Nika Roza Danilova, of course, the struggle has always verged more on the primordial, and her third full-length draws on this more overtly than ever before.

The opening track, 'Swords', works well as a codec for the LP as a whole. Industrial rock is clearly a touchstone, but the machine-noise in Conatus sounds sharper, even futuristic. Zola Jesus's most distinctive feature – her voice – is well suited to the backdrop, and provides a deeply human driving force behind each composition. Often more wail than song, Danilova's vocals fall somewhere between Florence Welch and a lament. Just as well worked are the drums, which alternate between synthetic and analogue, and are at their best galloping through 'Hikkikomori'. It's arguably in the swirling reverb, most of all, that the wilderness of Danilova's youth comes back to haunt us – track titles like 'Shiver', 'Skin' and 'Ixode' all tie in to the premise of a starkly hostile environment.

Conatus is at its most arresting in the intersections between these three elements - the post-human, the human, and the inhuman – in a tableau that calls to mind the work of David Cronenberg. The boundaries between the organic and the artificial are broken down, and both are made to seem viscerally threatening. It's in this context that 'Seekir' feels out of place, with its preppy 80s beat recalling a badly remixed 'True Love Affair'.

All in all, whether you like this album is going to hinge on what you thought of the previous two. The more or less even keel of Conatus belies the stark progression in Danilova's production over the past two years. Some will choose to hear this new clarity as simply a foregrounding of themes already present; the Amnesiac to the first album's Kid A. Others are going to find the pared down approach minus something. The morbid crackle underlying tracks like 'Devil Take You' made them sound as if they had travelled across worlds to reach your ear; as good as 'Vessels' is, it barely has to cross the street. This same clarity also has a tendency to show up the timbre on tracks such as 'Avalanche', the synth-strings arriving apparently unfiltered from the Yamaha soundlab circa 1996.

Both The Spoils and Stridulum II had an experimental quality about them, and one felt strongly that Danilova was still testing out new directions for herself. Conatus, on the other hand, seems like a much more conscious effort to synthesise pop out of gothic industrial. For all its philosophical aspirations towards self-striving, it feels like the most imitative of Danilova's efforts to date. This is not necessarily a criticism, and plenty of great albums (especially in the past decade) have owed as much to interpretation as to creation. But the hope is that as the image of 'Zola Jesus' continues to harden and set, Danilova will still be able to call upon the raw energy present in her earlier work. Meanwhile, Conatus is a worthwhile purchase that, with luck, won't be remembered as her best.