Artificial Brain’s Infrared Horizon: The Toilet ov Hell Review
Artificial Brain made a massive impact on the world of extreme music with 2014’s Labyrinth Constellation, topping countless year-end lists and winning the HIGHLY coveted Toilet ov Hell’s Community AOTY Award ov 2014 (or TovHCAOTYAov2k14 for short). The weirdo space death outfit is back with another strong contender for the crown with Infrared Horizon.
There are no shortage of space-themed metal bands in the year 2017, just as there is no shortage of wildly talented and technically minded groups. It takes a special something, a certain je ne sais quoi, to rise above the sweaty dweebs below. This is where Artificial Brain whips out an intriguing lyrical premise and delivers it with the most deft of touches. “Deft” is a somewhat clunky word to highlight and revisit in a death metal review (say “deft death metal” a few times), but it stuck in my head incessantly when listening through Infrared Horizon. “Oh shoot heck, that’s deft bro!” was only one of several extremely cool phrases I said aloud to absolutely no one that cared.
All kidding aside, the album is brimming with thoughtful, carefully-crafted nuance amid an electrical storm of twisted, unearthly death metal. I, along with virtually the entire extreme metal community, was hooked on the manic barrage of Gorgutsian fury that was Labyrinth Constellation, and that special brand of angular dissonance is on no short display here (check out “Synthesized Instinct above for further confirmation). However, there is a pervasive and appropriate feeling of nearly robotic composure throughout the new album. Where 2014’s offering may have contained a three minute string of good old blast n’ shred, the Artificial Brain of 2017 rips through part of that time before pulling back to masterfully manipulate space and texture. Where Labyrinth Constellation annihilated a race of hideous alien beings with sheer blunt force, Infrared Horizon painfully twists and warps them to do its bidding. Tracks such as “Static Shattering” and “Anchored to the Inlayed Arc,” and “Mist Like Mercury” are prime examples of this.
I cannot stress enough, though, that this is not a “lighter” album. Drummer Keith Abrami strikes a fantastic balance between speed and subtlety, allowing more spacious musical passages to still maintain a sense of strident urgency. Primary songwriter Dan Gargiulo gives himself and fellow guitarist Oleg Zalman plenty of moments of sheer brutal aggression (and absolutely insane tremolo picking), but those are balanced with touches of spacious yet snarling melodicism. “Graveyard of Lightless Planets” even vamps on a blues-like snippet in the back half of the song. Add to that Samuel Smith’s brilliant, Colin Marston-esque bass work and in the context of the album’s theme–cyborgs in a distant future believing themselves to be a more perfect evolution of long-dead humans–the compositional package is truly reminiscent of blasting through a caustic alien atmosphere where tired cyborgs awaken to grapple with abstract thought and existentialism. Will Smith’s hyper-guttural vocals provide the final, otherworldly touch, although his variety as a vocalist is on much greater display than Labyrinth Constellation. Although I needed a while to warm up to his primary vocal style on their debut, I couldn’t imagine this outfit without that sound.
Despite containing some heavyweight veterans of the metal scene, the lads of Artificial Brain must have felt a distinct pressure to adequately follow Labyrinth Constellation. I can predict some possible complaints of moments that perhaps meander too much, but those moments are minimal (and my alliteration is on point). By all accounts, it seems that Artificial Brain breezed through any sort of pressure and took the perfect next step they needed to take. They made themselves harder to describe yet easier to dive into. They held tight to their identity yet greatly expanded the elements that create it. They depicted a robotic existence yet sounded organic. That’s deft, bro.
4.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell