The concerted ganglion, in order to provoke its own separate sentience, incessantly wanders in avoidance of the task at hand. — Expressing self-mastery, true definition of an still amorphous mode is yet the major achievement any aesthetically ‘avant-garde’ death metal construct can manage, yet to do so and later present said work while simultaneously bracing beneath a seismic point of reconfiguration is most often a formula for disastrous ideological collapse going forward. In the case of the well-anticipated third full-length from New York progressive and technical death metal quintet Artificial Brain limits are pushed, expressivity is on high and a glowing work of miserably machined and flesh-toned bleakness rears itself as an imposing peak of their conceptual heft. In this sense ‘Artificial Brain‘ is rightfully self-titled, a representative third work which exhausts the thread and defines their loftily ambitious actions thus far. Is it a mere piece of a greater triptych? A vital cognitive element? An organelle of adaptation discovered? Or is it a standalone feature… a slopped-out spawning event to be remembered by? Well, we can start with “an adventurous death metal album from beyond”, and you can go where you will from there as I drool and haw over the details.
Amalgamated in 2011 between a number of Long Island native musicians known for their avant-garde tech death adventures Artificial Brain was initially pitched as an sci-fi themed ‘cosmic dissonant’ project formed between guitarist Dan Gargiulo (ex-Revocation) and now former vocalist Will Smith (ex-Biolich, Afterbirth) though the band’s lineup is additionally notable for its feature of bassist Sam Smith (Aeviterne, Luminous Vault) and drummer Keith Abrami this is the project that’d more-or-less gotten their names out there. The original conception of the band’s sound was well-formed in its connection between the non-angular lucidity of post-‘Everything is Fire‘ Ulcerate, the over-the-top brutal tech-belching of Wormed, and hints of the liquid chaos of Mitochondrion and Krallice of the era and certainly their own thrashing and warped riffcraft, though this was presented in simpler and somewhat primitive form on their first demo 7″ (‘Demo‘, 2011) the weirding inhale-heavy bellows of Smith and the increasingly fluid motion of their guitar/drum interplay began to spring into form on Artificial Brain‘s first official EP (‘Butchering Cosmic Giants‘, 2013), multi-vocalist tirades and increasingly notched signature movement hadn’t yet suggested too clearly an album-ready project yet ‘Labyrinth Constellation‘ (2014) ultimately served an intense leap beyond expectations as their full-length debut.
At this point of gestation it was clear that Artificial Brain weren’t the sort of band who were out to give you a quirky single, or, a catchy moment wormed in brain the moment it plays, but rather a deep bender into the realm of technically sound progressive/avant-garde death metal. Their still-resonant chasm of horror intensified when their second album (‘Infrared Horizon‘, 2017) released, featuring a bit more of the multi-timbre vocal techniques promised by their earlier demos and a somewhat better-linked run of riffs overall. I recall my major notes on that sophomore record being something along the lines of “it all means -something- in the moment and manages to hold the ear in captivity yet the actual statement of each song frees from the mind quite easily“, feats which never fully sink their bite into the will of the listener. Some of that’d been residue from their more dissonant aspects, such as frequent use of down-turned tremolo riffed flair, withering for the sake of more painterly rhythmic mapping a small step-up beyond their initial starting point rather than the leap felt in advance of their first EP. ‘Artificial Brain‘ is the third and final iterative juncture of the Mark I Artificial Brain line-up, a cumulative statement which attempts to deliver an expanded and defining vision of what their whole gig promised from the start. There are plenty of brilliant successes to muse over herein, though I’ve not yet shaken the thought that this project hasn’t escaped the dominance of their spectacle as I continue to dowse for undeniably substantive captivation.
Frequently adaptive rhythmic meter, increasingly expressive myriad guitar techniques, unstable and often exciting chord positioning, and a variety of vocal techniques continue to deepen Artificial Brain‘s signature discombobulation of forms, a writhing post-Demilichian gorging on rapturous presence and heady, psychedelic resound which is still ultimately rooted in a quasi-dissonant progressive metal motif the majority of the time. A band of extended techniques at the edge-point of oeuvre, the dazing Penderecki effect of a full listen to ‘Artificial Brain‘ isn’t at all reserved for Side B per previous efforts, it being more bold in striking at the gloomiest bellowing accost of their sound. Stepping back into this realm will feel natural to anyone who’d connected to the performatively abstruse storm of mutant death they’d brought on the previous two albums but it’ll feel floatier, even more mid-paced (perhaps just in spirit) and musing over isolation and torpor to some greater degree. Side A generally finds the band exaggerating the flourishes of those records into points of pause and strengthened atmospheric distinction per piece. The first apex is arguably “Glitch Cannon” for its subtle melodic rise and rhythmic division of halves yet most listeners will find their greatest pause when “Celestial Cyst” hits, an example of Artificial Brain at thier best in providing a direction within their greater abstraction by way of a simple ringing guitar hook which allows a pronounced verve to form in the cyclic wiles of the piece; The song likewise features a guest spot from legendary death metal daimon Mike Browning (Nocturnus) inserted into certain verses.
From that point we begin to hear some interest in the more lucid and melodic side of modern underground black metal begin a slight ‘surgence within otherwise progressive metal guitar treatments, settling in an oddly post-music blurred voicing on “A Lofty Grave”, a major tonal turning point for the full listen from my perspective. As we reach the halfway point with “Tome of the Exiled Engineer” the (again) dissonant aspect of Artificial Brain is implemented in an exciting way yet the experience is not as satisfyingly brutal as expected, all of the elements are more-or-less there for an abrasive and roaring moment (Smith‘s vocals kick off here in some wild ways, even) yet the piece itself reads tonally maudlin and distraught. I’d found this was where my mind began to wander away from the action of ‘Artificial Brain‘ a bit, still engaging it as atmospheric motion but losing the plot in terms of pleasurable or attentive listening. “Parasite Signal” finally takes us to a place of rotten brutality and the greater impression does eventually work its knotting dystonia out to some degree yet I’d found myself a bit lost in the greater purpose, or picture, of such detailed wrenching. The full listen stalls out there for my own taste, if only in terms of new ideas being introduced since “Insects and Android Eyes” does feature one of the better vocal performances on the album alongside a quick vocal spot from Luc Lemay (Gorguts).
In revisiting the entirety of Artificial Brain‘s discography and exhausting this latest self-titled record within the space of about a month I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I like everything about this band except spending extended periods of time listening to any of their recordings on loop, as each greatly benefits from its ‘in the moment’ struggle and panache but doesn’t create the desired pleasuredome of resounding sense that comes with a lot of off-centre progressive or avant-garde death metal. That might sound like a roundabout way of suggesting I don’t like ’em but I’d say ‘Artificial Brain‘ has been an argument for moderation and reflection rather than immersion on my part. An impressed yet nonplussed result on my part is admittedly for the sake of overexposure, pressuring this record to assail me more than it ultimately would and if anything I appreciate the war with reality that it represents in this regard. A moderately high recommendation.
|LABEL(S):||Profound Lore Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||June 3rd, 2022|
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