AB has a chance at being one of the best in the genre. It’s not there yet.
Few bands get a second chance at a first impression. Long Island tech-death outfit Artificial Brain may well be one of them. While likely unintentional, its second LP for Profound Lore, Infrared Horizon, feels like the group’s true debut.
Its first full-length, 2014’s Labyrinth Constellation, was a respectable effort, mostly acting as a showcase for the band’s strengths–proficiency without flashiness and a smart use of negative space. Despite that, it was an uneven effort, marred by poor pacing, prosaic songwriting and lyrics that tended to devolve into pretentious word salad like “Antique satellite solitude/ Cyborg sentient molecules.” The lack of any real personality is Labyrinth’s biggest fault. Even its best tracks (“Absorbing Black Ignition” and the title track) are little more than faceless exercises in brutality. It wasn’t the sound of a band whose members were fully sure of themselves.
Horizon, thankfully, finds AB coming much closer to a fully realized sound. For starters, its brand of tech-death–imagine if Portal and Ulcerate had a child–is more confident this time around. Unlike Labyrinth, the music and lyrics are paired to great, often brilliant, effect. The title track, for example, begins as a concrete-splitting plod as vocalist Will Smith (no, not that one) paints the opening scene: “The outer frayed, frail system/ Outpost in distant void”. Suddenly, the songs accelerate to warp speed as the scene becomes a rapid search for old forms of life: “Beyond galactic seasons, glimpses of entities/ Auras unknown and forgotten– buried in pieces.” Meanwhile, “Anchored to the Inlayed Arc” sees guitarists Jon Locastro and Dan Gargiulo violently buzz around around Smith’s words in an attempt to mimic them: “Between my ears there’s a swarm of bees/ It only listens to its collective need.” It’s a stunning combination.
Smith’s lyrics make just as big an improvement. He has a real gift for striking descriptions as well as detail-specific imagery (“Eyes like piss-holes in the snow/ Only difference is they glow”). He’s also a talented short story teller –“Static Shattering” is about a robot becoming sentient. Initially, it’s a simple thinking machine (“Ignorant without input/ A shell of digital reflux/ Devoid, defenseless, damaged device”); later, it becomes self-aware, and by the song’s end, the A.I. reluctantly accepts its fate, having adopted the human trait of talking to oneself: “I am not a soul, I am not a mind/ I am just a consciousness.”
Unfortunately, not everything shows such growth. While the rhythm section–containing drummer Keith Abrami’s jazzy flair and bassist Samuel Smith’s liquid flow–makes an incredible effort to break up the record’s monotony, that effort is nonetheless Sisyphean by the end. After all, 48 minutes of (mostly) straight-forward tech-death, even with passages of mysterious calm, is a lot to ask from a listener. The record’s pacing is far better than its predecessor, making a slightly longer record feel shorter, but the songwriting isn’t varied enough to justify such a runtime. Ultimately, Infrared Horizon is an impressive tech-death monolith that shows great promise while falling short of Artificial Brain’s true potential. With smart editing and some songwriting experimentation, AB has a chance at being one of the best in the genre. It’s not there yet.