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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Allegaeon live up to high expectations on Proponents for Sentience

LET’S call it straight off the bat. For Allegaeon, to say that ‘Proponents For Sentience’ is an album with a tonne-weight of expectation riding on it would be a drastic understatement.

Not only was ‘Elements Of The Infinite’ one of the musical highlights of 2014, it also saw the departure of their much revered frontman Ezra Haynes. Personally, I was fearful that it would be something that they wouldn’t recover from.

It’s clear from the opening symphonic glory of ‘Proponents For Sentience I – The Conception’ that this album is going to be far from subtle about its intentions. The introduction builds into almost Sabaton territory before seamlessly unleashing their own brand of utterly fearless technical death metal.

I’m going to be completely honest and say that I was worried that whoever they would get to step in on vocal duties would be a disappointment. I’m happy to report that these fears were immediately put to rest.

They’re certainly different and no doubt the vocals were a key component that set the Colorado 5-piece aside from their peers, but not only has new guy Riley McShane stepped up to the mark, he’s made it his own. From guttural lows to piercing highs and everything in between, it’s safe to say that any concerns as to the aptitude of Ezra’s replacement are firmly a thing of the past.

If I were to call this album ambitious I fear that I may be doing the band a great disservice. This is a highly realised, intensely proficient, razor sharp example of how to take a genre that can often be accused of being self-indulgent and make it a highly rewarding and most of all interesting listen.
I found myself grinning from ear to ear on more than one occasion during the course of this review, not least of which during the classical and flamenco moments of ‘Gray Matter Mechanics – Apassionata Ex Machinea’.

For an album that clocks in at over an hour it manages to be constantly full of surprises. Whether it’s from the punishing and almost constant double kick assault of drummer Brandon Park, the frankly inspired guitar work from Greg Burgess and Michael Stancel, or the high profile cameos from Bjorn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) and Benjamin Ellis (ex-Bloodshot Dawn) on the penultimate track, this album is sure to keep you entertained.

As if they were keeping the biggest surprise for last they close with an absolutely mesmerising rendition of ‘Subdivisions’ by prog legends Rush. If anything, the fact that it sits perfectly alongside an otherwise mostly pummelling 60 or so minutes of absolute fury just further highlights how truly gifted these guys really are.

‘Proponents For Sentience’ isn’t just a great metal album. It’s a finely crafted reminder that even though Allegaeon may be having a laugh in their videos, when it comes down to it they’re no joke.

Review by Steve Martin

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