Review Summary: One of many reasons the music world will miss the genius of Neurotech.
As of this year, Neurotech, the one-man project of Slovenian musician Wulf, has called it quits after the release of its album The Catalyst. In the ten years since the beginning of Neurotech in 2007, Wulf's music has gone from bleak industrial metal reminiscient of Fear Factory to an ethereal blend of ambience with industrial sensebilities and a keen sense of pacing and rhythm that has allowed him to coexist with the recent wave of underground cyber metal bands such as Sybreed, Illidiance, and Mechina while remaining his own separate entity. The grueling guitars found on Neurotech's older material have slowly been phased out in favor of a more directly electronic approach, and the feral growls Wulf utilized on Transhuman and Antagonist have since morphed into heavily layered clean vocals that feel more like an additional instrument in the music rather than a focal point. All of this is to say that in a way, Neurotech's impressive catalog of 8 full length albums and 2 EPs in the span of only ten years feels like sort of like a bell curve, with the band's older, more brutal albums on one side, and newer, more atmospherically intense albums on the other. In the middle of this bell curve, we see the point in Neurotech's discography where the perfect balance between industrial metal and ambient electronic music allowed for a few amazing releases, Infra Versus Ultra being one of them.
As is typical of Neurotech, Infra Versus Ultra is divided into different parts, or phases, one might say. The first phase of this album focuses more on emphasizing the dynamics and ambient traces that give Neurotech's music power, beginning with the opening track, "Infra I," a decently entertaining piece that mostly aims to introduce the next few songs. The first of these, "Atlas," is a pretty solid track that is very reminiscient of "The Cyber Waltz" from The Decipher Volumes, with its slow, pulsating beat and bright synths shining boldly throughout. The follow up track "The Longest Time" (which is ironic, considering it is one of the shortest songs on the album) follows suit, and it helps to build upon the melodic and emotive atmospheres established by its predecessor while adding a slighly drearier feel to the mix. This track then smoothly bleeds into what is quite possibly the album's finest moment: the fast-paced, powerful, and intensely dynamic "Unleashing The Dead." Coming in at over five minutes, this song is memorable from every perspective, shifting between heavy double-bass pedal-driven sections, minimalist verses, and epic choruses, with Wulf's equally human and robotic vocals acting alongside the underlying synths as an adhesive that holds each section together. It's definitely one of the best tracks on this album, and one of my personal favorites from the Neurotech Catalog.
Following the masterfully simple yet emotionally intense "The Act of Forgiveness," we come to the album's latter half (or phase 2, if you will) with the minimalstic interlude "Versus You." Following this, we are treated to the driving EDM beats of "Sacrifice," a nearly-6 minute track revolving around a 4-beat with Wulf's semi-robotic vocals carrying most of the weight. "Transcendental" amps the heaviness back up quite a bit, with its pounding guitars and kicks blending with the soaring synths to create a work that it just as mechanical as it is beautiful. "When the Night Falls" comes in immediately afterward, and while it retains the heaviness of "Transcendental," with its kick patterns and palm muted riffs, it adds a bit more energy and atmosphere, shifting from a sludgy industrial intro to a driving, pulsing verse and chorus similar in some aspects to "The Longest Time." It's an epic six minute track that never seems to overstay its welcome, and it is second in length on this album only to its following track: album-closer "Ultra Us." Combining the heavy metal guitars and drumbeats of previous songs with the slowest tempo on the album and the mournful atmosphere of "The Act of Forgiveness," this track effectively serves as the best kind of outro an album can have: an epic, emotional culmination of everything the album has to offer.
Infra Versus Ultra overall is an excellent release that makes for a great listening experience. The production is fantastic (as it is on everything Wulf has made), each song is well written and can effectively stand on its own, and the performances throughout are very good. That said, it is not a flawless album. Wulf's vocals are good, but they can kind of start to wear down on most listeners after about 20 minutes, and while each song is good and there is some variation throughout, Neurotech are by nature a very formulaic act, so there are times near the end of the album where it can feel like there is a bit of a drag due to the fact that while it isn't necessarily so, this album can definitely feel a bit repetitive. Overall though, Infra Versus Ultra is an excellent cyber metal album by one of the most consistently great bands in the genre, and while Neurotech's career was fairly short lived, there is no question that it is one of the greatest acts to ever be a part of the cyber metal landscape. As for Wulf, I hope he brings the same consistent greatness present throughout Neurotech's career into whatever sound he chooses to pursue next. Neurotech is gone now, but thanks to albums such as Infra Versus Ultra, it will never be forgotten.
Farewell Neurotech. You will be missed.