Review Summary: Let me ask you, "does a machine like yourself ever experience fear?"
After about a dozen or so listens, I finally understood why I was baffled in my attempts to describe Artificial Brain’s latest musical conundrum: there is little if anything on it that feels human. Here we have a rare example of a metal band whose work seems wholly disconnected from the very people who brought it into being. Told from the point-of-view of a machine that blurs the line between the sentient and the inanimate, Infrared Horizon
is an enigma wrapped within a puzzle – one that seems to reset just as you think you’re on the verge of cracking it.
I guess that’s because it deals with themes unfit for the fleshy mind; trying to identify with our robotic protagonist causes an existential clash of sorts. Look at the cover. Is it really feeling anything? Or am I just subconsciously humanising its deceptively canny “expression”? Of course, sci-fi themes are dime-a-dozen in tech-death, thus to get so carried away in my off-the-cuff pondering demands instrumentation and compositions that are suitably alien. Infrared Horizon
more than does justice to its subject matter by weaving a thick, ostensibly tangled web of dissonant melodies and scattershot rhythms. “Floating in Delirium” takes minutes to make sense of itself, only doing so when its opening riff is reprised during the twilight of its runtime. Onward, the album seems to get less and less direct.
“Static Shattering” is the first in a group of songs that hinge on their melodicism as opposed to their riff-craft; however, the melodies are distant, unfriendly and often unresolved. The gloomy mood they evoke is also heightened by Colin Marston’s superlative production work, allowing the melodies to permeate every nook and crevice of the intentionally spaced-out, dynamic soundscape. The bass is not only audible but commanding in its presence, the organic-sounding snare punches through the mix while having room to breathe, and the cymbals almost seem to glisten with clarity. The tones themselves are untouched by studio trickery, which combined with the impeccable musicianship is invaluable in aiding the album’s creepy, extra-terrestrial atmosphere.
Optimism isn’t totally absent throughout the album, but it’s fleeting at best, as even the more direct sections have this underlying sense of trepidation to them. The dominant motif in “Estranged from Orbit” is vaguely memorable, but it lingers about to the listener’s discomfort as the song itself becomes increasingly calamitous. Eventually, what seemed docile and somewhat alluring appears to become an image of terror, despite changing very little in reality. This sort of nebulous song-writing – in which there is nothing too immediate to latch onto yet nothing too mystifying to come across as nonsensical – continues until “Graveyard of the Lightless Planets", which ups the ante and returns to the more riff-centric approach of the first two songs. It’s as if, with an end in sight, the band is gearing up for one final assault.
It’s an endeavour that yields some rather grim results, however. “Ash Eclipse” is a sonic re-enactment of our little blue planet and lifeforms as we know them coming to an end, ditching prior melodic sensibilities for a churning tumult in the process. With that, the little robot is left to rust, rendered obsolete by the hand of nature that spawned yet would later decimate its very creators. The final line on the album is eerily fitting: “for some, an ending unclear”. Not only is it impossible to tell what awaits our cyber-protagonist, it asks the question of whether or not this whole ordeal has even occurred to it. That’s the brilliance of Infrared Horizon
– it depicts a catastrophe of a planetary scale and channels it through a perspective we’ll never really understand.