Album Title: Propensity For Sentience
Record Label: Metal Blade
Review by Mitch Alexander
I’ve been very lucky to write reviews, since it’s given me access to new albums before a lot of other people get to hear them. It’s also exposed me to bands and genres I wouldn’t have otherwise looked at. Hence, given the diversity of music out there, an album being ‘good enough’ just doesn’t cut it.
Propensity for Sentience is one of those good albums, but that doesn’t necessarily make it interesting or exciting. Despite the multitude of genres they explore and sounds they effortlessly incorporate, I can’t help but feel this album is like the one impressive colour-by-number Christmas picture out of all the ones Coles plaster their walls with. It’s a very good, almost satisfying demonstration on how to stick between the lines, but there’s no real creativity.
Take the production, which sounds world class. Every instrument is balanced as it should be and the mix stays consistent, whether it’s during an orchestral death blast fest or an extended flamenco guitar jam. But, so what? So is nearly every other album that gets released. In this day and age, where every spoilt teen has a choice between PlayStation VR or a home studio, good production is par for the course and only get’s a mention if it plain sucks or does that in service of being interesting.
There’s also the songwriting. Early on, Allegaeon make some genuinely surprising and interesting choices but it quickly becomes predictable. Maybe it’s down to a need for newer and shinier stimulants, but my metric for what is ‘good’ is the unexpected and unheard of. For instance, a flamenco infused jam will give way to fast technical death; but this is merely a rehash of an idea Behemoth had.
If there’s one major criticism to level at this album, Allegaeon are too obvious with their stylistic referencing. Because of that, there is nothing new on show, despite the album being consistently adequate. Each song is fairly long and the album as a whole at least progresses through changes that form a greater picture.
We start with the balls-out heaviness of bands like The Faceless, Behemoth and Cryptopsy and transition into the anthemic sing-alongs of Arch Enemy, before finally ending with a death metal version of Dream Theater. It’s very deliberate and well executed, but the fact that each song rehashes specific bands was frustrating by the time I was finished with the album.
All things said, while the band is on fire, I can’t warm to it, despite repeated listens. None of the riffs are memorable and the album serves its purpose in the moment only. aren’t any parts that have stuck with me, but while I have it on I love every second of it. Propensity for Sentience is worth a listen, but it adds nothing to the genre, pushes no real boundaries, and doesn’t excite.