By Matt Hinch
A few things are required for assembling an Artificial Brain: extremely talented musicians, super-technical riffs, complicated song arrangements, Colin Marston production, terrifying extra-terrestrial battle artwork by Paulo Girardi, and a release on Profound Lore.
Fitting all those pieces together results in this New York tech-death band and their debut full-length, Labyrinth Constellation. Revocation’s Dan Gargiulo joins fellow guitarist Jon Locastro, bassist Samuel Smith, drummer Keith Abrami and vocalist Will Smith in creating a startling miasma of sci-fi based death metal.
The listener is kept constantly off balance. Mind-bending technicality and flawless execution are on full display. Artificial Brain warp time signatures to their will, twisting the constraints of conventional music theory. Much of the album blazes by at hyperspeed, Abrami’s sizzling percussion propelling the band through continual motion. It’s not all after-burning speed though. Artificial Brain do rein in the assault at times, displaying some versatility.
Dictating with almost super-human force, W. Smith employs that low, deep, pseudo-alien porcine-garbage-disposal growl in a way that suits the music very well. There’s variation as well with rasps and roars thrown in for good measure.
There isn’t very much that’s straightforward on this album. For the most part the music careens and skitters, rising and falling in an almost unpredictable manner as if navigating an asteroid field in the midst of a magnetic storm. There are times when the craft is able to level out, however. “Absorbing Black Ignition” works organs into the mix, enhancing the track’s dark aura with a creeping, haunted vibe. The title track’s cascading guitars are broken up by what could pass for deathcore breakdowns as well as some alien-synth noise transmissions. Blackened tremolos highlight “Brain Transplant” giving the listener a little something to hold on to.
By and large Labyrinth Constellation is fuelled by hypersonic dexterity and soaring descents to planetary surfaces. Its eviscerating qualities hold the listener in a stranglehold while simultaneously slamming them about in seemingly random patterns. But without much in the way of clear and present hooks, your ultimate enjoyment hinges on how much abuse you’re willing to subject yourself to. And that’s where the album falters. Much of Labyrinth Constellation sounds all too similar to the rest of it. So much so that at one point near the end of the tracklist this writer had to double check that the album hadn’t started over again. As well, the intense sci-fi concepts on the album are largely lost without a lyric sheet. Non-discernible lyrics are inconsequential but without the cover art and song titles this could be about anything.
If you enjoy swirling, atonal tech-death with a touch of a blackening, mutated under intense waves of radiation, then Artificial Brain deliver just as well as contemporaries such as Gorguts or Wormed. But this level of brutalizing technicality and complication is a very niche market. Unfortunately skill and execution alone aren’t enough to propel Labyrinth Constellation out of Earth’s gravity well to reach a wider audience.