“In space no one can hear you scream” read the tagline for Ridley Scott’s Alien, as imposing as it was concise. Decades later, the tagline remains one of the most succinct expressions of how the infinite possibilities of space can meld with the primal simplicity of horror. We’ve since seen that formula referenced and iterated upon in all sorts of media, whether it’s been films like Event Horizon, the video game Dead Space, and in some ways metal itself, what with the cover of Meshuggah’s Alive parodying the Alien poster directly with “In space, no one can hear you unless you scream”. Despite this, when it comes to death metal more specifically, it’s arguable that releases themed around sci-fi horror have only seen a more recent uptick within the last decade and a half — consider Wormed, Origin, Gigan, and of course The Faceless’ iconic Planetary Duality — as compared to what the rest of the genre is mostly comprised of, thematically speaking.

Now, all these bands have seen their own fair share of success and acclaim, but none married the vast bleakness and existential terror of space with the specific subgenre that may be best suited to sonically describe it: namely, dissonant, experimental death metal, in the vein of bands like Gorguts and Ulcerate. Enter Artificial Brain, who did just that with their stunning 2014 debut Labyrinth Constellation and its arguably even stronger follow-up Infrared Horizon, offering an intricate but crushing approach to dissonant death metal merged with a complete commitment to sci-fi horror imagery. It’s probably not too surprising to see such strong thematic and musical coherence out the gate given some of the veteran personnel behind the project, what with Dan Gargiulo (formerly of the formidable Revocation) leading the pack, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s based a fundamentally brilliant formula that’s been executed flawlessly thus far.

While lyrics and artwork are one thing, Artificial Brain’s sound has been dictated first and foremost by a twin-guitar attack that cuts right to the heart of science fiction’s more visceral side. This brings us to Artificial Brain, where no time is wasted getting to that same familiar style as the blast beats kick in, and — as its self titled nature would have one hoping — the record continues to be Artificial Brain as we know and love them. Guitars wail and screech like gears churning on wartime spacecraft on “Glitch Cannon”, where vocalist Will Smith’s furious gurgle dictates the chaos like a galactic overlord spurned. Lead single “Celestial Cyst” is another early highlight, driven by a twisting lead motif that tunnels its way into the listener’s brain with each successive revisit. Earworm riffs abound, and it really is incredible how after releasing two full albums of material, the band are able to write something that feels fresh in virtually the exact same style.

Where the album really peaks, though, is “A Lofty Grave”, to an extent that almost does the rest of the record a disservice. Let’s be clear about this: “Grave” is simply the best song the band have ever done, virtually compressing half an album’s worth of ideas into four-and-a-half minutes. Where much of the band’s songwriting has evoked the grimmest aspects of space-themed horror — the nightmarish creaking of forgotten equipment afloat amidst the cosmos, or the brutality of cosmic gods gorging upon hapless victims — “A Lofty Grave” is downright ethereal in its approach. Here, the trademark counterpoint riffs are blended with otherworldly synths, eventually building into a majestic solo kicked off by a bloodcurdling alien shriek. The sense of tension and catharsis on hand is expertly crafted and brings a whole new horizon to the Artificial Brain sound; even on the umpteenth relisten, the track is completely spine-chilling to behold.

Now, the lofty peak of “A Lofty Grave” aside, the rest of the record is still fantastic on its own terms. “Cryogenic Dreamworld” briefly explores a bit of psychedelia, while the slow burn of “Embalmed with Magma” is as bleak and desolate as its title implies. The overall sound of the album bears mention here, with even the nastiest riffs still clearly discernible in the mix, all anchored by a delightfully raw-sounding drum performance from Keith Abrami. At the end of it all, “Last Words of the Wobbling Sun” is another “Moon Funeral” for the ages, its slow fadeout leaving the listener adrift in zero-gravity after the 45-minute pummeling they’ve just endured.

Artificial Brain has it all: the best the band’s brilliant blend of sci-fi horror and dissonant death metal has to offer, condensed into an expertly paced album. It remains to be seen whether a future release further explores the more ethereal side of things teased partway through the album’s runtime, but as it stands, Artificial Brain’s self-titled record is another phenomenal addition to one of the strongest and most consistent discographies in dissonant death metal yet. It may be true that in space, no one can hear you scream — but with their self-titled record, Artificial Brain once again ensure celestial horrors are heard loud and clear.


Artificial Brain’s self-titled album is out June 3rd on Profound Lore Records and can be purchased at this location.