The easiest genre to classify the band The Browning under is “electronicore,” though their use of synthetic sounds layered upon metalcore tropes is a little more in the field of a heavier version of Nintendocore than anything else. Stepping into their third full-length record, Isolation, The Browning seem dedicated to one thing and one thing only: narrating the score of your favorite old school video game…poorly.
On their own, the 12 tracks that comprise Isolation aren’t bad, per se, they just shouldn’t be grouped together. As the record drags on, the listener is forced to relive the same sound 12 times with slight variation as if simply moving up in levels of an arcade game. The major issue with Isolation is that it seems more like an offshoot of an idea that founding (and only remaining original) member Jonny McBee came up with while playing with Garage Band and an N-64 in his basement.
“Hex” is one of the more toned back tracks on the album utilizing a slightly stylized clean whispered vocal, and yet it still could easily fit into the soundtrack for a Castlevania reboot or any B-movie from ‘80s sci-fi. Unfortunately, “Hex” is directly followed by “Phantom Dancer,” which appears to be a half-hearted attempt to reprise the music from Mortal Combat, though the same attempt was made on “Pure Evil,” too. In both instances The Browning fail to dubstep-ify metal in a way Skrillex did over five years ago.
Sure, several of the tracks are semi-catchy (“Vortex”), even oddly danceable (“Cryosleep),” but for the majority of the time the songs all blend together feeling like one horrible trip at a rave you didn’t actually want to go to in the first place. It’s incredible how underwhelming an album filled with so many sounds can actually be when there is little to no diversity spread throughout it.
Vocally the tracks are muddy and the lyrics are lackluster. “This is your nightmare/This is reality,” McBee croaks on “Phantom Dancer” only to later contradict his sentiment with “Live for the fabricated world!” on the track “Disconnect.” Perhaps McBee got too caught up in attempting to blend metal with electronica and reality with the virtual, but it just misses the mark overall.
Again, most of these tracks are fine on their own. Had a strictly metalcore band branched into a bonus track that sounded like “Cynica” or “Fallout,” then the attempts would probably be well-received, but instead the listener is trapped in a strange techno vortex of similar yet scattered djent sounds for the better part of an hour that does not help bring anything challenging or sonically intriguing to light. Had any sense of variation, tone, or other production opinions been added into the making of this record, maybe it would have been more memorable. (Natasha Van Duser)