Artist: Artificial Brain
Album Title: Artificial Brain
Label: Profound Lore Records
Date of Release: 3 June 2022
I think that it is safe to say that this record has surprised me. I’d heard very little about Artificial Brain prior to being sent this promo opportunity, so I was expecting an album full of brutal and technical death metal, the kind that bulldozes whilst expanding your mind – that sort of thing. What I actually heard, was something quite different to that, and it has been a very pleasant surprise if I’m honest.
Mind you, when I say ‘pleasant’, I can see the band recoiling in horror and revulsion, because I suspect that ‘pleasant’ was not an adjective that the band were seeking to be attached to a review of their self-titled third album. Comprised of guitarists Dan Gargiulo and Oleg Zalman, guitarist/saxophonist Jon Locastro, bass/synth player Samuel Smith, drummer Keith Abrami, and vocalist Will Smith, the sextet play music that is designed to sit far and away from words like ‘pleasant’, and ‘nice’. Their offering is dark, harsh, dissonant, and aggressive, plundering the realms of death and black metal, with strong progressive elements. It has atmosphere oozing from every pore, as well as lashings of sinister, evil-sounding intent.
But, and here’s the thing, Artificial Brain also bring along with them their unwilling friend called ‘melody’. This friend may come kicking and screaming, but once in place, is an integral element of the band’s overall sound. It might be lurking in the copious shadows or interwoven into some downright nasty soundscapes, but it is there within many of the songs. And it is this melodic edge that has meant that this record has gone up massively in my estimations. Additionally, I recoiled when I saw that Jon Locastro is credited as a saxophonist on the press release. I had images of the compositions drowned in awful indulgent sax solos, but this is not the case at all, far from it in fact. As far as I am concerned, this is a major win for ‘Artificial Brain’, and I’ve enjoyed the experience of listening to it, uncovering everything it has to offer throughout.
On that note, this is not an easy album to listen to at the outset. I find the production a little muddy and distant at times to say the least. This may well be deliberate – almost certainly so – but it does detract a little from my experience, because I would have dearly loved a touch more clarity. Added to this, with such convoluted ideas, competing elements, and lots more besides, I didn’t quite know where to listen first. However, with familiarity has come understanding, and it is a less daunting experience now than it was at first.
Not only is the album a self-titled affair, meaning that the band would appear to be extremely proud of their efforts here, but right off the bat, the opening track is also the title track of ‘Artificial Brain’. It might only last for two-and-a-half minutes, but it packs one hell of a punch. A twisted gnarly riff, accented by minimalist bass and drum accompaniment, is joined by the deepest grunt that I’ve heard in some time. It signals the onslaught in the form of blastbeats, sickening bass, and vocals that are so low that they are barely audible above the swirling cacophony. Just when I’m thinking that this isn’t at all for me, in comes an impossibly catchy melody deep in the bowels of the song. I’m caught off guard, not expecting this chink of light in an otherwise thoroughly uncompromising track. I love it, and with more time, I have grown to love the punishing brutality that surrounds it.
It’s a similar story for many of the other nine songs that feature on this record, starting with ‘Glitch Cannon’. It starts off in impenetrable death metal fashion, but when it picks up speed and injects more of a black metal edge, in comes a fleeting but noticeable melody line that acts as the entry point for what is otherwise a dense,
The collision of black and death metal can be heard in gloriously muddy technicolour within ‘Celestial Cyst’, a track that has grown on me enormously over time. Initially, the piercing guitars were uncomfortable but, alongside the bass playing, deep growls, excellent riffs, and changes in pace and intensity, it has become an incredibly addictive composition that intrigues and excites me in equal measure.
Other tracks that are worthy of mention include ‘Tomb Of The Exiled Engineer’ which carries with it the air of the chaotic whilst at the same time being oddly accessible. If anything, this serves as a good description of the album as a whole. On the one hand, it feels impenetrable and hugely challenging thanks to the sheer heaviness and complexity on offer. But after a couple of spins through, the music becomes far less daunting and inaccessible thanks to the incisive songwriting that allows enough melody into the songs to help counteract the impossibly chaotic maelstrom of instrumentation elsewhere.
In the case of ‘Cryogenic Dreamworld’, the extreme metal onslaught is tempered by passages within the song that are melodic, bordering on the whimsical and gentle, entirely in keeping with the ‘Dreamworld’ portion of its title. It still hammers home the riffs and overall sonic destruction, but Artificial Brain allow listeners to hear another side to their music, a softer side. The same could also be said of the closing track, the wonderfully titled ‘Last Words Of The Wobbling Sun’ thanks to the elegant melodies that join forces with the occasionally discordant, frequently frenetic, and mostly thunderous core of the song. Even when the melodies are a little off kilter, there’s a charm to them that is undeniable, carrying me willingly to the finale of the track indeed, the album.
I must admit that I have been left very impressed by this album, for all manner of reasons. It isn’t perfect, but in a way, this only adds to the charm of the record. I like the deep guttural vocals, I like the chaotic nature of a lot of the material, and I like the technicalities, and the experimentation. But I love the use of melody most of all because it features cleverly, in a way that doesn’t negatively affect the music’s overall aggression or extremity. For all of these things, ‘Artificial Brain’ deserves the plaudits it will receive and demands to be heard by as many fans of extreme music as humanly possible.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: