The contradictions of crafting an album using the very technologies and processes the band had previously railed against are but one small element of the complicated and interesting layers that make up Artificial Devices, the self-released second full-length composition of London duo Andrei Alan (guitars/bass/programming) and Chris Bevan Lee (keys/vocals/programming) collectively known as The Ever Living (I promised myself no Mumm-ra comments, but here I am in the intro… I can’t help it, every time I see the band name…).
Yet, for all the devices to create and communicate and inform the album’s themes, the pair manage to keep a human heart beating and the soul of the (new) machine intact and breathing amongst the electronic pulse. Lush synths swirl, deep guitars churn, arrangements are patient in their unveiling, and the combination of progressive, technical and alternative metal, with an underpinning sweet European gothic undertone (not dissimilar from the Century Media sound of the mid-to-late nineties that saw bands like Moonspell and Tiamat spread their expansive wings), is an intriguing and welcoming one. Added to this is a post-metal approach to arrangements that allows songs to breathe and develop naturally, telling a story through the music. Tracks like ‘Total Impasse’ build from lumbering Meshuggah-ish tendencies into luxurious mid-sections
Where there is room for development, or at least looking at whether there is maximum benefit from the current way of using the tool, is in the vocals. While the textures beneath may be fluid and intriguing, Lee’s vocals are often monotone harsh barks that suit perfectly when coming in halfway through ‘Ruminance’ and at select dynamic moments, perhaps don’t always fully enhance the soundscapes they are punctuating. Additionally, there are some interesting choices around the album dynamics and running order, with reflective instrumental ‘Circadian March’ at track three leading into its brooding cousin, the aforementioned ‘Ruminance’, where the vocals don’t appear until over half-way in as the song lingers over its exposition, meaning a lengthy passage of music.
A strong opening pair are matched by ‘Kronosync’, which sprawls and unveils the latter third of the album. By this point, you are fully immersed in the marriage of abrasion and allure, and the turns of the journey, and the scenery along the way, have all played their part. We close things out with an industrial edge, the electro motifs of ‘You’ve Come To The Right Place’ adding a Reznor touch to proceedings that works well as a lead into closing epic ‘Take Heed, Take Flight’ that fades into a Vangelis synth to end.
A dark and serious album though one with plenty of light, space and openness in the music, Artificial Devices is worthy of consideration, time and further establishes The Ever Living as a contender of note. There is space for progression next time around, and further exploration of the possibilities of the post-metal meets late eighties / early nineties industrial approach of the last two tracks is an interesting and, likely, fruitful proposition.
7 / 10