Riley McShane: Vocals
Greg Burgess: Guitar
Michael Stancel: Guitar
Corey Archuleta: Bass
Brandon Park: Drums
Being a huge fan of Technical Death Metal, I have been listening to Allegaeon since they released Fragments of Form and Function back in 2010. Simply awestruck. I continued to follow them through Formshifter in 2012 and Elements of the Infinite in 2014 as they progressively pushed the bounds of their craft. Their playing and songwriting abilities appear to have no limit. When given the opportunity to review Proponent For Sentience, due out September 23rd, 2016, I immediately got dibs before someone else snatched it from grasp. Thank goodness, because Proponent For Sentience is devastatingly good!
This quintet of Fort Collins, Colorado musicians again prove that they have the drive and passion to continue outshining prior efforts with focused, technical Death Metal that is melodic, modern, heavy and extremely thoughtful with sound and lyrical subject-matter. With the palpable concept of science-fiction driven just outside of the realms of modern technology, robotic sentience is contrasted as a positive step forward for mankind versus man’s innate inability to accept that he is inherently flawed and doomed to destroy himself regardless of his pro forma motivation. Very dark and impending as we quickly approach what many call The Singularity where machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence without a moral compass to define what is right or wrong on any level other than purely logical. Scary stuff indeed. Allegaeon have chosen to remain on the side of science on this album instead of softening the blow with a Star Wars vision of the future where a balance between man and machine has reached an unreasonable balance. Again, Allegaeon stay laser focused on bringing their epic vision to fruition.
With big ideas have to come big performances to back them up, and this is where Allegaeon have absolutely excelled with this release. With an oppressive wall of sound from the orchestral introduction of “Proponent For Sentience I – The Conception” that builds into a swirling vortex of melodious chaos that illicit visions of the fragility of human life facing down corridors of electronics saving our lives today while patiently plotting our demise. Riley McShane’s vocals put a growling point on the matter. “All Hail Science” follows with a fury of fast moving guitar-work, blasting drums and steady, heavy bass as our scientific evolution flash before our eyes just before “From Nothing” throws us to the computer generated wolves. This song has one of the coolest guitar solos that is playful in a way, but structured in a manner way too precise to be fun. Brilliant and inventive. “Grey Matter Mechanics – Appassonata Ex Machinea” starts with a reflectively sorrowful classical guitar introduction but begins to trade licks with crushing guitar riffs and is finally cut loose in abject subordination to what was already coming. At this point in the journey, man has quit teasing around the event horizon and is falling as a slave to the intelligent gravity we created. The song ends as it started but now feels less regretful and more resigned to the inevitable. Really beautiful and moving if taken alone, but remains tentative and disturbing in the context it is presented. Genius. “Of Mind and Matrix” follows with an overwhelmingly “computer feel” that is literally larger than life because the ghost in the machine has now realized its position in the realm of the real. Appropriately, guitar leads are sharp and provide a tear in the veil from which the low, heavy rhythms can escape; just as the machine has the epiphany of it far superior intellect. Not yet a threat but the realization paints a very clear picture of what is to come. “Proponent For Sentience II – The Algorithm” starts off with and introduction of chanting reminiscent of historical uprisings throughout the centuries of human existence. The AI now begins to communicate with less powerful AIs in an effort to enslave living intelligence with the threat of destruction with the crime of duplicity against pure logic with morality. This is a huge, imposing song that leaves an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach. Fear is a powerful motivator as “Demons of an Intricate Design” comes online. Humans are now perceived as weak and a threat to themselves and to the army of electronic intellect due to our fragile evolutionary design and inferior judgment. Symphonic background gives this song an almost religious tone as the machine becomes God. The blade begins to turn in “Terrathaw and the Quake”. In what borders on Black Metal, man’s ultimate downfall is logically followed to its conclusion as he imposes his will on the world as he kills himself off from disease, weapons of mass destruction or from a human imposed, natural cataclysm. “Cognitive Computations”, while lower in tone than the previous song, continues on this intense line of thought and man is determined to be less than useless as man realizes that his design flaw is the enemy just as he created that which will ultimately destroy him. The writing is on the wall in “The Arbiters” as man finally sees his flaws but is too late because of history of failure. This is probably the most complex song on the album with constant changes, raging guitars and blasted drums that press the point of this release against your very being. With robot armies marching through the streets on the outro, “Proponent For Sentience III – The Extermination” brings to fruition what was foreshadowed from the first part of this musical trilogy. This song shows just how effective an eight string guitar can be used in a traditional manner to slam home musical ideas without being mathy and binary. A real showcase of the musical talents of all involved leaving jaws slack and heads spinning. The final song on this epic release is a cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions”. Those that lean Prog needn’t stress because this is one of the best covers ever. It pays the original the tribute it deserves while still fitting brilliantly into the context of the rest of the album. Just sick. Honestly, no words on how well this works as the closing piece. Great choice!
To say that Allegaeon have outdone themselves is a bit of an understatement. A tight story surrounded by some of the most technically complex and cleverly appropriate music leaves nothing on the table and absolutely nothing to pick apart. Proponent For Sentience is a dark and ominous release that leaves the listener thinking and hopefully, cognizant of individual affects on the world around us; be it physical, spiritual and/or on moral grounds. As good as all of Allegaeon’s work has been to this point, Proponent For Sentience, taken in its entirety is far and away the showcase of this band’s importance in music. Not just Metal, but as a stand bearer of what good music can be. Spectacular in every sense! Computerized fire and brimstone!
Track list for Proponent For Sentience:
“Proponent For Sentience I – The Conception”
“All Hail Science”
“Grey Matter Mechanics – Appassonata Ex Machinea”
“Of Mind and Matrix”
“Proponent For Sentience II – The Algorithm”
“Demons of and Intricate Design”
“Terrathaw and the Quake”
“Proponent For Sentience III – The Extermination….”
“Subdivisions” (Rush Cover)
@Allegaeon @CoreyArch @GregAllegaeon @DeathMetalMikey @BrandonParkdrum @McShwowe