Sound — 8
Sybreed are one of those bands that skipped being lumped in the 'djent' movement by releasing albums before the phenomenon was ever popular. Combining a dense sound of harsh guitar sounds and Meshuggah-inspired grooves, surprisingly complex electronic backdrops and what's described as "highly original melody" by other sources, they've never had that much attention from outside the underground metal scene. Recently, they've been trying to change that up a bit. Last year's EP "Challenger" was an interesting change from their previous work. Sybreed write metal songs in a metal structure with heavy electronics added later, but "Challenger" was more like, they had the electronic part first, then wrote a metal song around a drum'n'bass structure. It worked (even had 3 remixes of the same song and kept it on the album), but its sound only rubbed off a tiny bit on this album. Now, "God Is An Automaton" is more like their previous LP, "Pulse Of Awakening", with the technical elements from the album just before, "Antares". But there's also added djent. Their dynamic and structure has still remained the same, more or less: Heavy, groove-tastic verses with euphoric chorus's and nearly always peaking at the bridge. They had a bit of experimentation with this structure in "Antares", with epic songs such as "Orbital" and "Ethernity". Not quite as much in "GIAA". But their melody and harmony bank has had a renewal of sorts. There's a much more black metal inspired melody running through the album, prevalent on songs such as "Into The Blackest Light", which is also only the second song in their entire discography to have death growls in it. There are inclusions of inharmonic tremolo riffs, synthetic symphonies and a tendency to go into a triplet mode every so often, to get that epic orchestral swing. They also manage to make it work with the polymetric riffs, something that's quite difficult to do outside of 4/4. Somehow I'm not quite feeling this album as much as their previous work. I'm mostly going with the somewhat questionable production. The electronics sound good, better than they've ever been in fact, but the 'real' instruments are subjected to a beating much in the same way as Misha Mansoor subjects his signal chain to all the compressors and noise gates in the world. This is apparent in the drum sound and guitar sound. The bass is just kind of 'there', as with every album they've recorded, making most of the album sound trebly, not the way that most electronic music sounds. It's still very listenable, but it just feels 'odd'. Makes the riffs very stabby though, it makes sure that you get all that syncopation in your face.
Lyrics — 8
"God Is An Automaton" contains what is 'usual fare' for Sybreed: Loads of dystopian themes, metaphorical human augmentation, some kind of 'upbeat depression' if that makes sense. Hard to understand through the vocalists Swiss accent but fit well the overall tone of the music, which fluctuates between hope and crushing release. The vocalist known only as Ben has changed his game for this album. Previous releases had him utilizing a mid-high scream, often lowering or raising the pitch of that technique. But this LP sees him keeping a consistently raised pitch, relating to the black metal influence. As mentioned, there's also the inclusion of death growls, not frequently, but much more than previous releases. It adds more than it subtracts, but their late inclusion is perhaps a little annoying. The other side of the vocals are the squeeky cleans. Not literally squeeky, mind, that'd make for a poor album. Having changed his vocal tone very noticeably from "Antares" to "POA", Ben has managed to keep it consistent from there, but also has started singing in higher ranges, much like "Antares". As always, imaginative vocal lines, great rhythmical timing, phrasing's a bit off, sometimes a few more effects added than needed (vocoders and flanges are nice and all, but sound a bit too robotic at times).
Overall Impression — 7
Sybreed filled out their niche way back in 2004, there's few bands I can think of that have a similar sound, aside from the obvious Fear Factory, but they're still very different if listened to side by side. This is a slightly different album. Previous fans will still like it, there's all the bits that make Sybreed good, there's just some niggles for me that make it a little odd, like the production. Still good overall, a good release for 2012, which seems to have lacked the richness of releases from 2011. Songs to look out for: "Red Nova Ignition", "Into The Blackest Light", "A Radiant Daybreak", "Challenger", "Line Of Least Resistance", "Destruction And Bliss", the only song in their discography with a guitar solo (I think), and it's some serious Scar Symmetry style stuff.