Album Review: Artificial Brain — “Artificial Brain”

Artificial Brain - Artificial Brain

New York City is home to some of the wildest, most experimental forms of art in general, from every medium, but we’re already pretty aware of how the metal music scene is in the heart of the Big Apple.  Many notable bands have done so much work to shape the landscape of extreme music, not least of which is Artificial Brain, whose progressive take on both death metal and science fiction have been integral in moving the genre forward.  On their third eponymous release, the band closes several chapters at once, but we already know they never stop progressing.

Artificial Brain marks the final installment in the trilogy of sci-fi inspired progressive death metal albums that began with 2014’s Labyrinth Constellation and continued on 2017’s impeccable Infrared Horizon.  On these releases, vocalist Will Smith created a whole mythology and universe that is looked at retrospectively on Artificial Brain, exploring themes of isolation, madness and the unstoppable force of nature in the face of technological advancements (Adam Burke’s cover artwork does an excellent job of spelling out the themes of the album).  In addition to the closing of the trilogy began by Smith, Artificial Brain also marks Smith’s last performance with the band.  While they have already picked up a new singer and have been playing the new songs live, Smith’s presence is felt all over the recording.  His trademark guttural, borderline vocal fry technique propels his inventive lyrics forward over the shifting, swirling textures laid down by the rest of the band.  This time around, the music focuses more on emotion and harmony, with more influences from black metal than on previous releases.  The contrast between harmony and dissonance is explored in depth on the ten cuts, all wrapped up and engineered by the inimitable Colin Marston (and you know how we feel about that here). In reality, Artificial Brain bears a lot of resemblance to old Krallice meeting progressive death metal sensibilities, which should surprise no one and excite everyone.

Artificial Brain is an album deeply rooted in melody, much more so than its predecessors.  It’s true that the band’s sound keeps pushing forward and changing between releases, but compared to Infrared Horizon, the band have made significant strides in their sound.  The melodies are much stronger and more prominent, and the way they weave through the lush chords, notes ever so gently clashing against each other in little bursts of dissonance, give them a lot of character and memorability.  The textures on this album are incredible, and it’s all thanks to how the band uses all of the sonic space available to them.  Smith’s vocals sit so deep in the register, the guitars are forced to use much more of their upper register in order to avoid competing, so much more of the music is based around high melodies and spacious chord work than riffs and riffs and more riffs.  Not that there aren’t riffs here, of course.  This is a death metal album at its core and when the band needs to deliver a hit of Dumb Guy Juice they do it well.  The difference is that they realize they don’t always have to do it.  If they did, it wouldn’t be their music, and good for them for knowing what they’re about.  The progressive elements shine through beautifully in the way they explore more than just the bottom end, especially in the little hits of synth and saxophone that get peppered in.  Honestly, I wish they used those instruments more (yes, saxophones are just fine in metal). 

Artificial Brain is the beginning of a new era for the band.  Without Smith behind the microphone, who knows what is next for them?  Hopefully more like this, musically speaking.  Artificial Brain have carved out a particular niche for themselves in recent years, but this album sees them inhabiting it completely.  They are unique, and it looks like there is a lot more that they have left to do before the Technocolypse.

– Ian

Artificial Brain will be available June 3 on Profound Lore Records.  For more information on Artificial Brain, visit their Facebook page.

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