(In this post Austin Weber reviews the debut album by Artificial Brain.)
Most mentions of Artificial Brain focus principally on the fact that Revocation guitarist Dan Gargiulo is in in the band and that it’s his group. From what I’ve read in interviews it would seem he helped found it, and he no doubt writes a lot of the music. However, I feel that writing about Artificial Brain from this angle could be a disservice to the highly talented efforts of the other band members. As a group Artificial Brain offer an odd mix of old school and new school death metal shot through with alien black metal, and the way they make it all come together is frequently surprising and varied. They have enough different flavors to interest a wide range of fans as they touch on straight-up brutal, ambient and atmospherically focused, technical, and grimly dissonant jaunts — often within the same song.
If other black/death is a grim peering into hell, then Artificial Brain is the work of Lovecraftian monsters peering out from unearthly realms — ready and willing to inflict horror on the cosmos. Labyrinth Constellation is truly unsettling, and its monstrous, cold depths echo the band’s space themes eloquently.
Right off the bat the disgusting churning vocals of Will Smith stand out in all their sickening glory, which makes me happy, as I’ve been a fan of his vocal vomit ever since I first heard him in Biolich back in 2005. As mentioned before, Artificial Brain give the world a good opportunity to experience the compositional skills of Dan Gargiulo, since it appears that Revocation’s music is largely written by David Davidson — though to be fair, there is another guitarist named Jon Locastro in Artificial Brain who I’m sure contributes to the songwriting as well. And the quirky, always audible, jabbing bass playing of Samuel Smith adds a lot to this music as well. The drumming of Keith Abrami is completely nuts, and the way he is frequently used to blast the music forward while the guitarwork seemingly veers in a wholly opposite direction is simply incredible.
It’s remarkable how the songs, while slippery and skronky, overall barrel forward in a largely straightforward blasting manner. In a sense, it gives you a taste of death metal filtered through a Gorguts or Ulcerate lens, but never to the point where the song structures would be off-putting to less open-minded death metal fans. Artificial Brain’s innumerable transitions between black and death metal are seamless and impressive. Their mixed genre muddling of the two delivers in both deadly and depressing ways.
Sure, this is sci-fi influenced, but not in a cheesy way. Synths do not form the core of the empty void like the cosmos they conjure, as they only appear on the title track (as established in an interview I read). As the band have explained, the many other times when you think you might be hearing synth, it’s actually filters added to their voices/instruments. Now that’s pretty cool if you ask me!
To get an idea of what this sounds like, imagine the structuring and discordance of Gorguts, fuel that with black metal reminiscent of Deathspell Omega, and strain that output through a brutal Wormed-type assault. The resulting mixture is brutal, beautiful, bastardized, and altogether a bold effort that transcends the band’s influences to make an album that is both high octane and high art. Will Smith’s vocals are not the only thin that gives the album a disturbing Demilich feel from time to time as well.
Of the more squarely death metal tracks, “Worm Harvester” is certainly my favorite, and its a guttural hoedown of gory antics made catchy. “Worm Harvester” starts with a thick bludgeoning riff and skull-shattering drum beats, but soon the skronky skywards stomp starts again, and during its frenzied pace it travels to unearthly doomy pastures.
The lumbering giant of “Hormone’s Echo” is largely a slow affair, and yet it’s wisely interspersed with a black metal blaze every so often to keep things moving. The song captures a thick mournful atmosphere that also shows up on the next track, album closer “Moon Funeral”. A strong bass-driven rhythm begins “Moon Funeral” before the blasting assault into space begins anew. Dirge-like respites pepper the song until its eerie surrender and fade out.
Imbuing the final two tracks with an emotive feeling of sadness may seem a strange way to close out a largely aggressive death metal effort, but Artificial Brain make it work. The despondent atmosphere that these two tracks so eloquently exude keeps me coming back to them, and they are certainly among my favorites from the album. But then again every track is unique and killer
The organic production is another strength of the album. The drums sound natural and not triggered or quantized, and the guitars have a biting murky tone that hits just right. The bass is also used as a strong counterpoint, with a thick hammering tone that always remains audible.
This is one of those records that is such a mindfuck of dense rewarding material that it’s completely overwhelming for the first few listens. It’s truly a phenomenal debut, with mind-blowing musicianship married to equally phenomenal and varied songwriting. Labyrinth Constellation is everything its title suggests — massive, extraordinarily complex, and twisting like an endless maze that darts off in a multitude of directions with no escape.