"God is an Automaton"

By Thrash Head

I have been doing reviews for fanzines and websites for well over a decade now. I don't think I have ever listened to an album more intently just trying to formulate a definitive opinion on it. Now here I am on the 12th listen through, and I'm still not sure how to feel about it. Part of me wants to push it aside and forget about it, and part of me wants to will myself to enjoy it.

If you've ever had the pleasure of listening to a Sybreed album before, then you at least know what's going on here already. For the uninitiated, Sybreed play a brand of metal that is extremely industrial-influenced, and the riffs are suitably mechanical to follow suit with the ambient textures that guitarist Drop is known for creating. Speaking of the ambience, it really is all over the place on this release too. Everything from harsh bleeps and blips to the most soothing of synth-string ambience. The riffs themselves that permeate the entire release are choppy, proto-djent riffage that works it's way around a 4/4 time signature is such a convoluted way that sometimes the only thing you can actually follow is the straight-forward drumming. If you think along the lines of Meshuggah and pre-"Sons of the System" Mnemic (only much darker), then you're definitely in the same ballpark. At times it seems as though Drop and the rhythm section of Ales and Kevin are doing everything they can to make it impossible for a casual listener to latch on, writing such jagged syncopated guitar and drum interplay you can't help but close your eyes in concentration even if you consider yourself a fan from what the band has released before. One thing that Sybreed does really well though, and that they need to do more often is when they break into something that is downright dance-ey, as they do on songs such as "The Line of Least Resistance." It is something that is usually done to the catchiest extent and that tends to break up any sort of monotony created by the guitar-drum jackhammer, and it is reminiscent of something that the band Raunchy does as well (only here again, much much darker), which is always a good thing in this reviewer's opinion. Vocalist Ben has this unique timbre to him and only him when he sings, very nasal, but still very unique and when the melody is suitably catchy it is totally enthralling. When the vocal hook isn't so much of a hook, tends to fall flatter. As for his screaming, it seems to have gained the strength it's always really needed, driving him now into '95 Tomas Lindberg territory...once again, a very good thing. His other tones fall somewhere in the middle of the greatness of his scream and the hit-and-miss of his singing, but at least it makes the release a bit more interesting.

How does this release really stack up though? That's a tough call. To my ears, it pales in comparison to it's predecessor, the immensely memorable "The Pulse of Awakening." But to say it doesn't have it's bright spots is to not give it enough credit. "A Radiant Daybreak," is a downright AMAZING cut, with a killer groove in the beginning and the chorus, and great vocal hooks that really pull you in. "No Wisdom Brings Solace" is also a killer track with it's downright irresistible chorus. The plodding "Hightech versus Lowlife" is also a high point thanks to some downright aggro performance that save it from it's otherwise sluggish pace. But tracks like "Red Nova Ignition" (with it's vibe of 'hey, let's throw every trick we know in and hope something sticks') and "Into the Blackest Light," (which sounds like they were forcing themselves to sound like fellow countrymen Samael) just tend to bring down the whole disc and make it less-than-thoroughly enjoyable.

It's obvious to me that it is the same band we know and love. The problem appears to be that this time around there may not have been as much fruitful inspiration to pull from. I don't know, but I hope this is just that slight misstep before an absolutely killer fifth album.