(DGR reviews the new release by Sybreed.)
Sybreed, the four-piece hailing from our favorite land of neutrality known as Switzerland who manage to combine elements of groove metal, industrial, electronica, and melodeath into one package are back again. Three years removed from the group’s album The Pulse Of Awakening (written about in an incredibly ridiculous manner here), we find ourselves ready to dive headlong into another four-word titled album God Is An Automaton.
If there is one thing that we can gather from Sybreed’s discography so far it is that although the band have some unifying themes, each disc has sounded different. Antares was pretty heavy the whole way through, and Pulse Of Awakening whiplashed back and forth between a catchy pop-oriented sound and some the more violent metal aspects that lay at the heart of Sybreed. God Is An Automaton is a different beast from these two because it is a heavier, more vicious album than what Sybreed have done before. If you’re one of those people who have been aching for the band to get back to beating the hell out of everyone, then God Is An Automaton may just be your cup of tea.
God Is An Automaton actually opens with a fairly familiar version of Sybreed, one that bounces between a hooked chorus and catchy riffs before quickly taking a turn toward the slower-paced songs that make up a large part of this disc. In the three years between albums, Sybreed have attained a sense for a really heavy groove and sound, more machine-like than they have ever been before. Maybe having Seth design your album artwork two times in a row has rubbed off on them, but God Is An Automaton is a much darker album than its predecessors.
While the band have been busy in the three years between Pulse and this disc (such as guitarist Drop devoting time to his many remixing projects, which I’ll save for another time), and dealing with having to recruit a new bassist, it seems like they still found the time to compose some of the most seething material that the band have put out in a while. They break out into militaristic marches, machine-gun drumming, and a cacophony of electronics and crushing down-tempo riffs at the drop of a hat.
Sybreed remain fairly accessible, because they’re not ones to completely forgo their electronica aspects or their willingness to go toward radio rock, but the band just sound downright mean here, and it makes for one heck of a listen. There was potential for stuff like this revealed on much of Antares and songs such as “I Am Ultraviolence” from Pulse, but it’s nice to see that potential realized.
Yes, there’s a litany of mid-tempo songs on the new album, which I usually harp on for being uncreative since most bands tend to stick to a simplistic format for those, but Sybreed manage to make it work by playing with weird tempos, grooving heavily on the guitar, letting the bass drive the song, or hell, aiming for the epic by adding some quick orchestration hits during a fast chorus.
You might accuse them of leaning a bit close to the Meshuggah side of things with a song like “Radiant Daybreak”, but the band have played with that sound on occasion on previous discs and it never lasts long enough to truly sound like an influence. They’ll play with that specific riff style for a few measures before quickly dropping back into something more familiar.
The only song that feels a bit too ambitious is album closer “Destruction And Bliss”, which comes in at a whopping eight and a half minutes. It’s a slow grinder of a tune that really only gains its length from some extended ambient key work throughout the song. It feels like a song that was a lot shorter originally and that the band decided to extend and then slam shut in order to close the album with a bang. It only halfway works because the slamming sound effect at the end of the disc is a great closer for the album, but the song doesn’t stand up that well on its own.
An MVP award needs to be given to vocalist Benjamin Nominet for this album because he is one of the deciding factors that makes God Is An Automaton stand out. Prior to this album, he’s always been a good enough singer for what Sybreed were trying to do, but this time he really owns these songs. There’s so much more bite to his screaming this time that he actually sounds truly passionate and legitimately angry. He spends much of God Is An Automaton in a higher shriek than normal, which is very evident on the redone version of “Challenger” (a song that was released as an EP in 2011). Simply by changing his vocal approach to that song, he makes this version of “Challenger” the best one out there.
Seriously, there’s so much bite to his vocal performance on that song that it doesn’t matter that I’ve already heard it a fucking ton of times thanks to the EP release. He’s also got some good lows that make a brief appearance during “Hightech Vs Lowlife” that punctuate the end of couple of lines. He also sounds really great on his singing this time, carrying songs like the title track with an excellent vocal melody. The title song is actually entirely clean-sung, which prior to this may have made some fans a little nervous simply because the production on his singing has never been fantastic. But he sounds really good here and makes the philosophical take on an automaton god something sing-along worthy. I still have the opening lines of the chorus stuck in my head, even a few days removed from my last listen of this disc.
God Is An Automaton is an excellent listen, for fans and newcomers alike. As I mentioned before, anyone who was turned off by Ben’s voice in the past can check those concerns at the door because he kills it here. The music is some of the best and heaviest that the band have put out to date. God Is An Automaton really pushes forwards its machine-like theme by being a grinder of an album that truly does sound like a device bashing away at its latest projects.
The drums in particular sound incredibly industrialized and precise. When the guitars decide to follow them beat for beat, and you get Ben’s screams over the top of the whole mix, it truly does sound like the anguished cries of something otherworldly. The riffs present here are headbang-worthy and easy to catch on to.
If you’ve never heard of Sybreed before, God Is An Automaton is an excellent starting point because they truly knocked it out of the park here. Other discs by this band have had to grow on me (and they have, I definitely have my favorites from each one) but this is the first one to really kick my ass from out of the gate. Sybreed have definitely stepped their game up in 2012.
EDITOR’S NOTE: God Is An Automaton will be released by Listenable Records on September 24 in Europe and October 2 in North America. Sybreed’s Facebook page is at this location. Here are two tracks from the album: