Sound — 9
Right off the bat, the top-notch production quality on this record stood out to me. The excellently produced tracks give Proponent For Sentience an immensely pleasant sonic profile- from the guitars to the vocals, the quality is near-immaculate.
Riley McShane delivered an impressive vocal experience, stepping right into the place of previous vocalist Ezra Haynes with relative ease. I'd only wished to hear a bit more dynamic range in Riley's unclean vocals, to add a touch more variety/'spice' to his contribution. In a mild counterpoint, I was absolutely blown away by his clean vocals on their cover of Subdivisions by prog-rock legends Rush. The delivery and feel of his voice resonated well with me as a big Rush fan, as I'm sure it did with many others.
On to the stellar guitar work of axemen Greg Burgess and Michael Stancel, these guys really gave it their all on "Proponent for Sentience." Their dual 8-string attack on the album is both immensely heavy and beautifully melodic at all the right times, and really does some heavy lifting on keeping the flow from one measure to the next. Greg's classical piece "Appasionata Ex Machinea" that served as an outro of sorts to "Gray Matter Mechanics" was beautifully written and fit in perfectly with the rather heavy song that preceded it.
Now-retired bass player Corey Archuleta showed off his next-level bass chops to the fullest on this record, bringing out the 6-string bass in all its extended range capacity. Bass players are meant to be the foundation of a band, and Corey is a perfectly crafted foundation. When needed, his aggressive yet smooth style of playing perfectly complements the stylings of Greg and Michael's guitars, while at other time you clearly hear his bass ring out into the mix and add some wondrous depth to the track.
Drummer Brandon Park brought his A-game to Allegaeon once again, setting a great pace for the whole band to please our ears with. Brandon made sure to mix it up on the album, keeping listeners interesting in hearing just what he might lay down on the kit next. His performance on the Rush cover was purely phenomenal, making his kit sound as huge and intricate as Neil Peart's own whilst still adding his own personal flavor to the cover.
Overall, this album is immensely well written and produced, and really gives a next-level listening experience.
Lyrics — 10
A combined effort of founding member/guitarist Greg Burgess and new vocalist Riley McShane, the lyrics on "Proponent For Sentience" are completely immaculate. Keeping right on beat with the futuristic and scientific themes they're well-known for, every single track (barring the Rush cover, naturally) delivers an original and tastefully written lyrics that keep the listener hungry to hear what's to come on the next song. The stand-out lyrics for me came from the three-part miniature story told in the Proponent For Sentience tracks "The Conception", "The Algorithm", and "The Extermination". The inner nerd in me was pleased by the prospect of there being three songs in the style of there also being the Three Laws of Robotics- which were of course covered in the lyrics of these tracks. These songs tell the epic story of robots gaining sentience and eventually exterminating their organic creators.
All the other original songs on the album deliver more intellectually pleasing lyrics while still not exercising any redundancy whatsoever. I can't bring myself to pick any standout lyrics since everything flows so seamlessly that it feels almost wrong to single out just one part of any song.
The way these lyrics flow with the whole of the instrumental section is flawless, keeping on a fantastic beat and having emphasis on all the right parts to convey emotion and energy to the listener. Riley's voice fit the lyrics without a single issue, making it seem like he was born for the role.
Overall Impression — 9
At the end of 2016, "Proponent For Sentience" was the immediate and only choice for my personal Album of the Year. This album was such a masterpiece in my opinion that no album could even come close to contending with this for my top spot - even albums from bands I've been listening to for over a decade now.
If I had to pick a favorite song from the album, I would pick "Gray Matter Mechanics - Appasionata Ex Machinea" 9 out of 10 times. It's the perfect song to introduce someone to Allegaeon with, since it shows the very dynamic range and abilities of the group as a whole. Also, I'm admittedly a sucker for classical guitar arrangements - and Greg Burgess delivered a beautiful piece.
With all the positive vibes I gave this album, it's only natural that I share my one and only qualm with it. As I stated before, I would have really liked to see some more unclean vocal variety. While I understand that Allegaeon has gone with this style of unclean vocals for a while, I do personally believe that some spots could sound immaculate with some more guttural deathcore-style vocals or Viking-esque lows (think Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth).
This album is absolutely worth buying, even for someone who's never heard any of the group's music before. I truly believe that this album is setting a new bar for melodic death metal as a genre in modern times - and they set that bar monumentally high. I eagerly anticipate the release of the next record, as I know it'll go right into my rotation without a question.