Proponent for Sentience
Allegaeon have been one of the most talented purveyors of Gothenburg melodeath in large part because they take a different approach. Their sound is definitely taken from Soilwork and Dark Tranquillity (great decisions), but Allegaeon add huge doses of tech-death, thrash, and neo-classically influenced prog. It’s allowed the band a certain level of consistency over their discography, though this had led to two problems. One, while they certainly have a relatively solidified sound, there are times where they lean too heavily on pure melodeath, and those tunes feel less impressive by comparison. Secondly, while the members are all incredibly individually talented, song and album composition issues have resulted in albums that feel incomplete or overlong. That’s not to say that any previous Allegaeon release has been anything short of great, but the band’s potential has been far greater than their execution.
Thankfully, Proponent for Sentience, their fourth record, helps correct a large number of those issues, though one problem appears to be endemic. At 72-plus minutes, this is just way too long. Sure, it’s a concept album around robotics (and it’s no surprise that the band’s machine-like technical prowess is impeccable), but it’s just too much to sit through and feels like some self-editing could have made a huge difference. The album starts off fine, but picks up some serious steam with “Grey Matter Mechanics”, a lovely flamenco-fueled thrash-y number. Unfortunately, that tune is let down by three minutes of unnecessary flamenco playing. The album really doesn’t have anything wrong with it until the end (though, “Demons of an Intricate Design” does feel a tad bit too much like standard melodeath, even if it rules).
Allegaeon really upped the progressive and symphonic elements throughout the record, which do two things. First, they help give the music some added weight and another layer of excellent melody that reveals itself upon further listens (seriously, this record is packed with top-flight melodies). Second, the added flourishes help further reveal the band members’ technical chops, as the songwriting throughout Proponent for Sentience is clearly the best of Allegaeon’s career. So with these added prog tendencies, it’s with sad regret to report that the album’s post-script is a really disappointing cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions”. The song’s original dynamics feel dampened, and it’s hard not to just be ready for the record to be over. “The Extermination” a real doozy featuring Soilwork’s Speed Strid feels like a natural conclusion, with its Grade A melodies and hair-raising moments.
Ultimately, Proponent for Sentience is a weird record. It’s easily Allegaeon’s best and most complete work to date, showing off some neat expansions of their trademark melodic technical death metal sound, but it’s overstuffed, and when part of your stuffing is subpar, your musical Thanksgiving dinner will feel unfortunately disappointing. There is easily some of the best, most interesting modern death metal you’re likely to hear all year throughout the record, and, Hell, there’s clearly a near-perfect 40-minute album in here. It’s a shame the excess fat ruins the fun of the rest of this excellent musical meal.