Review Summary: Hair-raising, composed, and ever-shifting, Autocatalytica keeps you on the edge of your seat for fifty minutes straight.
To put it lightly, Autocatalytica is an intense experience. Dizzying and dense mazes of progressive metal construct this album's framework, and layered on top are colorful and maddening layers of auditory jungle.
Eric Thorfinnson head's this wild ship and is all at once the songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, and producer. Who knows what cave of utter insanity he needed to inhabit to come up with songs like schizophrenic opener "Oxygonical" but it sounds like a blast. Maniacal verses and interludes are contrasted by somehow catchy choruses to make a near perfect taster for what's in store on Autocatalytica.
Vocally, Thorfinnson sports brutal growls, hateful screams, soaring cleans, whisper-soft croons, and bursts of fx laden craziness all with equal ease. He needs to though to keep up with constantly evolving instrumentation behind him. However, there are moments when the vocals lose their effectiveness by getting lost under the chaotic frenzy, but thankfully it’s more of an exception than the rule because his sound is quite unique and pushes what he can do to his limits.
Thorfinnson is joined on guitar duties by Erik Sorensen, and together they are a match made in heaven and hell alike. The guitar chops on this album are wide-reaching and staggering. Together they form a dense and imaginative unit that often mutates or avoids traditional metal guitar work, deftly conjuring up both winding and angular riffs as well as delicate and thoughtful atmospheres each clearly showing their tapestry of influences. Reference the end of “Russian Pharmaceuticals” for both the record’s most brutal sludgy breakdown and a bluesy solo that would make Dime Bag Darrell proud. “Toxic Rodent Waterfall,” stands as possibly their most comprehensive work though: a head-spinning main riff, an acoustic verse, trading expansive solos, tasteful use of pedal fx, and a psychotic finale to grind you to dust.
Handling bass duties is Jon Ellis whose tone is mighty and thick throughout. The songs don’t really give him much of a chance to strut his stuff in a direct way, but with all of the frenzied insanity flying around him, just “locking it down” is probably the best thing for him to do. The music already has plenty going on, so why add one extra incongruous thing to the mix" It could only make a muddy mess. He can best be heard thundering away through the closer “Toxic Rodent Waterfall.”
Last but not least is Emmett Ceglia on the drum kit. A total madman in his own right with parts that sound like pure kinetic energy unleashed. Either "Oxygonical" or the second verse of "Russian Pharmaceuticals" serve as vivid examples. Despite this though, he can sit back in the pocket to set a groove when called for with the same conviction as can be heard in “Dweller on the Threshold” or the haunting bridge of “Heavier and More Melodic." He lends the elastic breakdowns of both "Oxygonical" and "Thunder Squirrel" an organic feel that makes them all the more disorienting. Autocatalytica has a curriculum’s worth of rhythmic territory and stylistic diversity to cover, and Ceglia both bombards and glides through it all with equal ease.
On this album, there is mayhem galore, but there is also serious groove, emotion, and dynamics all woven together with unflinching cohesion. The Brooklyn quartet show that they are far more than just metal with this release and that they are hell-bent on putting everyone else on their heels.