Artificial Brain - Labyrinth Constellation
Profound Lore Records
Death Metal
10 songs (45:07)
Release year: 2014
Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

There's many a cynical metalhead these days who will cast a wary gaze over Artificial Brain, and cast them aside for any combination of the following: being from New York, being on Profound Lore, featuring a member of Revocation, being produced by Colin Marston. Yet they would be making a big mistake, as Artificial Brain have here created some of the most original and unique death metal that I've heard in a while. Somewhere between Demilich and Ulcerate with a sure atmospheric grasp, Labyrinth Constellation is space-age death metal. No, it isn't space-age death metal of the last decade, full of bleepy electronica and disco beats, far from it. Although the occassional bit of electronic fuzz does appear in track outros, by far the majority of the album is bare-boned in execution, just two guitars, (clearly audible) bass, drums, and vocals. Yet that artwork of skull-faced robots scuttling over infested asteroids (like something Voivod might create if they were death metal in origin instead of thrash) is a perfect summary of the atmosphere contained herein; set in space yet strange and creepy, Labyrinth Constellation is a very dark album indeed.

What elevates it, for me at least, is that it's more than just a horrifying rumble. There are moments of real melody to be found amidst the blasts, moments that exhibit real songcraft and compositional skill – look at the almost black metal cascade of Absorbing Black Ignition, for example, scurrying along with ringing blastbeats and shimmering guitar lines that lift themselves out of the murk for melodic trills more familiar in post-metal than death. The frontal attack is like something from Mayhem (seriously, if anything on the new album has this sort of impact then it'll be excellent, as if I wasn't already working myself up into a fingernail-gnawing freak-out over it...) taken to the nth dimension, twisting and turning and fading out at the end into a psychedelic morass that's all the more effective for being so subtly and smoothly introduced. Yet this isn't an album that leaves death metal's riff-based awesomeness behind – on the contrary, it's built upon it. Worm Harvester's opening flurry of riffs is unmistakeable for anything but pure death metal, yet the way the track pushes on from that is not only imaginative, it's interesting.

And sure, I'll defend kickass, headbangable death metal til the cows come home, but this sort of technical soundscape that exercises both brain and neck will always get high praise, and you can't listen to the likes of Orbital Gait enough, which excels at whichever tempo it's going, from the initial blasting to a mid-paced rumble. Don't mistake the invoking of Demilich earlier to mean that Artificial Brain make an impenetrable black hole of weirdness; on the contrary, the accessibility and brief yet catchy snippets of riffs that jump out at you here show that you can be experimental and progressive without making music that only physicists can understand. By the time you've got towards the end of the album, where a strange, melancholic vibe appears from the title track onwards and the death metal begins to make way for something else, something more progressive and expansive. Vocalist Will Smith (no, not that one) has a dry, choking growl (very Wormed) that flows along with the music well, as if it's the voice of some terrifying presence speaking to you as you drift through space, pursued by the terrifying creatures on the artwork. Yet even here, in the midst of Hormone's Echo and its increasingly miserable vibe, the riffs are excellent, and the death metal excellent. Do check this out, it's remarkable stuff, and a wonderful début from a band worth investigating.

Killing Songs :
Absorbing Black Ignition, Worm Harvester, Orbital Gait, Hormone's Echo, Moon Funeral
Goat quoted 85 / 100
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