Band: Artificial Brain
Album: Artificial Brain
Label: Profound Lore Records
Genre: Technical Death Metal
Release Date: June 3rd, 2022
For Fans Of: Gorguts, Ulcerate, Pyrrhon
Artificial Brain plays a nasty, closed, distorted version of death metal. They take the sound of the band’s New York ancestors like Immolation and Incantation and magnifies everything that anyone has ever criticized those bands for. Add on a Gorguts-like approach to songwriting, top-notch musicianship, and an apparent attempt to make vocalist Will Smith’s last hurrah with the band something special, and you get one of the best death metal albums of the year so far. But it still could have been more.
Artificial Brain’s performances are completely expected from a band of this caliber and create a solid first impression. Smith’s vocals have been a point of discussion for a while now, and nothing has changed there. His gurgle is one of the lowest in the business, and while it sometimes gets lost within the guitars, he works with a surprising range of sounds given his starting point. Drummer Keith Abrami uniformly impresses throughout this album. His ever-shifting beats, perfect fills, and aggressive approach give Artificial Brain a constant sense of excitement.
The bass, when it’s not being covered up by the low vocals and pounding drums, opens Artificial Brain’s sound up and allows the band to float through octaves without abandoning the lower end. See the beginning of “Cryogenic Dreamworld” for a moment where the bass shines. The guitars have a wide variety of tones, ranging from black metal-esque high notes to over-distorted driven riffs more typical of death metal, all of which are coated in mud. And while I appreciate the band’s use of a variety of tunes, this is what leads me to wishing for something more from Artificial Brain.
Death metal shackles the artist. The vocals have to growl within a certain range, the riffs come with expectations, and you can’t travel too far out of the ordinary with your drum beats. Of course, these rules are meant to be broken. You can find examples of bands doing exactly that with any rule of the genre that you can come up with. How bands play with and violate those restrictions makes their music interesting. Artificial Brain stretches the constraints of death metal, but they don’t react to their obstructions in a way that is meaningfully different from this style’s standard operating procedures that are decades old at this point.
Songs vary in tempo, slightly. Parts of the record, such as a repeated passage in “Celestial Cyst,” play around with time signatures, slightly. Articulation and note length is used as a tool, sometimes. These might all seem like unimportant gripes, and maybe individually they are. From a lesser band they would be. But the aspects of a band’s sound that are constant throughout their works are what will make their songs and albums sound same-y and blend together. Artificial Brain have made an excellent record, but their approach to songwriting hasn’t varied significantly since Labyrinth Constellation.
Different bands successfully approach this issue in different ways. Ad Nauseam embraces relatively modern composers such as Stravinsky and the chaos that their atypical songwriting style can bring. Archspire leans as far into the excesses of death metal as they possibly can and dare everyone else to follow. Immolation ignores the problem entirely and keeps writing whatever they want to, which works for them but not for everyone. Artificial Brain could sound so much more interesting if they were willing to violate death metal dogma just a little more.
But ending the review on that note would be a disservice to the band. Regardless of what they haven’t done, Artificial Brain’s songwriting here is solid. The band’s ability to create lasting and unique riffs within their dirty sound and within the confines of a metal subgenre that is unfavorable to memorability lets me enjoy this album on almost every level. Artificial Brain also knows exactly when to move on. I didn’t feel that any song lasted long enough to start tiring the listener or cause boredom.
Artificial Brain on their worst day are still an excellent technical death metal band, and this is far from their worst day. This record is a case study of how great death metal can be, even when the rules are mostly being followed. While I hope Artificial Brain continues to evolve and find interesting ways to break the rules, I can enjoy this for what it is. I recommend this to anyone at all interested in the more-distorted side of technical death metal.
- Artificial Brain
- Glitch Cannon
- Celestial Cyst
- A Lofty Grave
- Tome of the Exiled Engineer
- Embalmed with Magma
- Parasite Signal
- Cryogenic Dreamworld
- Insects and Android Eyes
- The Last Words of the Wobbling Sun
Total Playing Time: 45:23