Artificial Brain’s Labyrinth Constellation: Sci-Fi Death Metal fit for Star Wars

I discovered the band Artificial Brain last year when their debut record, “Labyrinth Constellation”, hit the world in February. The band’s lead guitar player, Dan Gargiulo, also plays in one of my favorite modern metal acts, Revocation, so I had fairly high expectations for his side project. It turned out that my expectations were not high enough as this record completely blew me away. This is the most original death metal record that I’ve heard in years, the riffs are unique, the drumming pummeling yet musical, the lyrics compelling and the production is outstanding: it’s really the cherry on top of this LP. “Labyrinth Constellation” also uses a science fiction motif to convey it’s signature brand of death metal. All the songs play out as sort of horrible vignettes from outer space, almost sci-fi horror stories. But before I dive in to the nuts and bolts of this record let’s take a second to appreciate this cover art by Paolo “Madman” Girardi. Just look at it

artificialbrain

First up, the guitars. The music on this album is out of this world. Guitar players Dan Gargiulo and Jon Locastro make great use of the entire range of their guitars to craft these parts. Rarely just staying on the bottom 5 frets like a lot of heavy bands today, these songs twist and turn up the neck of the guitar and use the higher notes to add an eerie tone to the tracks. Gargiulo and Locastro use 7-string guitars tuned to standard which breaks another modern day convention of tuning as low as possible. Many people including myself think this race to the bottom of the range of human hearing doesn’t necessarily make songs heavier, but it definitely adds a lot of mud to the music. Here’s my favorite example of the stand out playing on this album, “Absorbing Black Ignition”:

As a drummer, listening to Keith Abrami’s playing on this record is a treat. He undoubtedly has the chops to be in a technical death metal group, but at the same time he knows when to hang back and complement the arrangements. A perfect example of this nibble paying style is the song “Moon Funeral” (particularly the song’s intro). Abrami really sits back in the pocket on this one, making use of metal norms like double bass to create a groove structure that ebbs and flows with the guitar and bass parts before launching into an all out blast beat assault for the verses.

Admittedly, the vocals on this record can be totally unintelligible at times. They still fit the songs and I enjoy them, but when you read along with the lyrics while listening they add a new dimension to the songs. Each song plays out as a sort of vignette, each track a different scene of a cosmic horror story. The topics of these songs range from hordes of space aliens killing space marines, plantes committing suicide, satellites becomes sentient and freeing themselves from their human overlords, etc. I love turning out the lights and reading along to my copy of this LP at night; makes for a fun little scare. “Wired Opposites” is one of my favorite stories (its the one about the satellite freeing itself).

Finally I wanted to talk a little bit about this album’s production value. Artificial Brain recorded and had this album mixed and mastered with Colin Marston at his studio Menegroth: The Thousand Caves (what a name!) in New York City. I’ve been obsessed with Colin’s work for a few years now: I’m a big fan of his spacey black metal band Krallice and I can’t get enough of the most recent Gorguts record which Colin not only produced but played bass on. And Marston’s work on this record does not disappoint. This record isn’t under produced but it is raw: it sounds as abrasive as the music itself and that really supports the music and helps to convey even further the band’s message. It’s kind on the ears and rips your head off at the same time. The drums are punchy, the guitars gritty, the bass just simply massive, and the vocals sound like they’re spewing forth from the bowls of Cthulhu himself.

As you can tell from reading this review, I absolutely love this record. It gave me a good deal of hope with modern death metal and I hope more bands follow Artificial Brain’s example and begin to create their own unique sounds.

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