I love finding bands in my own hometown. Akron, Ohio has plenty of great music, and I have added Artificial Astronaut to my personal list. The band released their sophomore album, called Deep Black Out, on March 4th, and it rocks.
Artificial Astronaut is comprised of: Ian Kolarovsky on vocals and keys; Michael Socrates on guitar, synths, and keys; Matthew Socrates on drums; Fred Winkler on bass; and Cody Heichel on guitar. The band formed during the lockdowns of 2020, and I can hear the sounds of the city where I was born, and where I have lived for over fifteen years as an adult. There’s something special about that.
The band plays an alternative rock that is tinged with metal, industrial, electronic, and maybe even a bit of progressive rock. One moment they may sound like radio-friendly rock, and another they are offering far more than that. They have created a great mix of genres resulting in an album that does not get dull or stale. I don’t like making band comparisons like this, but I definitely hear a bit of Stabbing Westward, and that’s a huge compliment coming from me.
They specifically seem to have a sense of melody that comes through in both their wonderful vocals and in their keys and synth. As much as I love the distortion of their guitar work and the heftiness of their riffs at times, I love even more how they use waves of keyboard melody to slice through that wall of sound. I would also add that they have an excellent rhythm section, as the bass and drums both have moments that are really impressive. The mix, too, brings all of this out clearly and beautifully, something I did not expect for a smaller band.
When I first heard Deep Black Out, I was impressed with “Imaginary Skies” and “Lungs of the Earth” immediately. The former is the opener and features some very interesting vocal exercises in the second half that really cement the song into my mind. “Lungs of the Earth” is a 2-minute instrumental track with some great riffs and even better keys; it has real groove and nostalgic melody running throughout. I really like those tracks still.
However, as I keep listening, the rest of the album opened up to me. “Spell” is a great song with an urgent sort of chorus that I really like. “Drag Me Down” is another good one with an electronic vibe and great guitars. I have to say, though, that the second half of the album is the better of the two. Starting with the aforementioned “Lungs of the Earth”, the album gets more complex and I daresay heavier.
Songs in this half are more layered and interesting to me. One example would be the outstanding “Entropy Nights” with its rip-roaring pace, hefty riffs, and shoegaze guitars. I really like that one. “Floating Away” cuts the pace in half, and so is a groovy, rhythmic piece with a super catchy chorus, not to mention great synth. I love the balance from track to track. Finally, we get “Life Has a Vein”; this track is possibly the most eccentric overall with its bulky bass, playful synth lines, and heavy last few minutes. The album, then, ends with three winning tracks that always make me consider starting the album over again, right then and there.
Look, Artificial Astronaut isn’t some highfalutin, overly complex sound. They offer alternative with a good mix of other ideas. However, there is heart here and skill, too. These musicians stand out from the vast majority of alternative out there, and this album really starts to grab you after a few listens. Give it a try.
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