I don’t normally review “old” albums, but I happened upon one that is an exception. Artificial Silence released their debut “Negative Silence” in April 2018, and it really is something to behold. It would have definitely made my list of favorites last year.
Artificial Silence hails from Washington State in the USA. The band, according to them, are still trying to figure out how to credit which musicians played which instruments on the album. The band consists of Joe Crandall, Nabil Fadili, Rylie Nelson, and Austin Schend. I can say that Rylie and Austin provide vocals, at least. The members seem to jump around to various instruments, so we shall see how everything goes from here. This album is enormous, though, with at least a dozen guests playing everything from cello to flute to trumpet to synth. There is an entire orchestral section, too, as well as a choir. Many people put their mark on this album.
The music here has been labeled as prog metal in some places, and prog rock in others. The band really does ride the line between the two. Honestly, neither of those labels really matters to me here. What I care about is the fact that this band uses cello, flute, synth, orchestration, and horns to massively successfully effect. This band truly has the hovering classical grace of the Moody Blues, while also laying down some great riffs, bluesy musings, and winding instrumental passages. The vocals, too, are gentle and melodious. It just seems like they have everything you could possibly want in one album.
One thing I have mentally noted about this band is their ability to create light with their melodies and harmonies. There are several points on this album where I just have to sit back and fade away into the purity and brightness of the melody. It feels so amazing, and they transition into these segments with veteran elegance and thoughtfulness.
One other thing I have noticed is that Artificial Silence does not overuse elements. The album features several non-standard (for prog) instruments, but they are not used to the point of annoyance. For instance, I like trumpets, but I am not really a fan of the way that some bands, like Thank You Scientist, use them constantly and chaotically. Artificial Silence uses them almost like touchstones to help make each track feel unique and separate.
I wanted to take a second to recognize the excellence of the performances on this album. Overall, everything sounds amazing and very sharp and natural, and I love the way the guitars are used to great effect without becoming a constant presence. The keys are probably my favorite of all, though. The piano can be heard on pretty much every track here, and the fomenting melodies tend to lead the music into colorful and climactic passages. Truly stunning work.
Every song here is worthy of mention, but I’ll try to cut that down a bit. “Skin Deep” opens the album remarkably. It transitions from an organic cello lead into off kilter musings into a grand, harmonious, uplifting ending. Simply stunning. “Innocent” is another favorite, and displays a bit more edge, but plays it up against delicate flute passages and inventive orchestration that feels like way more than just background filler. It really works.
“In the Midst of a Dream” feels immense with its heart-stopping central melody, and the trumpeting near the end is welcome. “The Advocate” is the “epic”, so to speak, and it does not disappoint. It has a bit more in the way of riffs to enjoy, but the piano work is astounding, and the ending is amazing.
The title track takes an unexpected turn towards feeling almost urgent and even scary. The orchestration is sharp and pressing, and the guitar work is probably the heaviest on the album. This is the main song on the album that probably garnered the progressive metal label. “The Empath” ends the album and it features a return to the grand finale of “Skin Deep”, and so it feels like the album comes full circle.
Now, if I had to give one criticism, it would be that I hope the band will focus on vocals a little more next time. The vocals on this album are not the focus, though they are performed with polish and beauty. However, they are not all that dynamic, though you can tell that the vocalists have the chops to stretch more than they do here. For some reason, I hear 00’s new wave alt rock in some of the vocal melodies, and so that feels a bit out of place, though not unwelcome. So, while the vocal passages are catchy and the choirs are particularly amazing, I still hope that the second album will have a bit more intensity and emotion in the lead vox.
Overall, Artificial Silence sounds like the work of a seasoned band, not a debut (even though they were active under a different name at one time). The whole album feels organic, mixed meticulously, and composed to every tiny detail. “Negative Space” is a rich and illustrious experience that you shouldn’t miss.