19 February, 2014

In_zekT - Artifex

In_zekT - Artifex |self-released, 2013| 5/5

01. Strain Reactor, 02. ARTIFEX, 03. Sub-Humanist, 04. Overman, 05. Dialling the North Code, 06. Ionize, 07. Termination Sequence, 08. No Fate But What We Make, 09. This is Not an Exit, 10. [0]

Norwegian metal is best known for its straight-forward, merciless sound. It's no different here. This is one terrific album that takes what's best in industrial/cyber metal (raw anger, repetitions, sampling, SFX) and djent (atonal, down-tuned, stretched, syncopated guitar riffs) to a new level, creating a fresh, yet to be named genre.

In_zekT was founded in Norway in 2002. They started with a slightly different line-up, and their music initially sounded differently, too. A chance to meet Ministry's founder Al Jourgensen in 2003 had resulted in having Luc Van Acker (his mate from Revolting Cocks) produce In_zekT's debut release back then. Also Chris Vrenna (Tweaker) was involved in mixing one of the band's albums. Artifex however, begins a new, more extreme chapter in the band's career with two musicians in the line-up: Peter Vindel (lead vocals, guitars, synth, programming, sampling) and Kjetil Ottersen (vocals, guitars, synth, programming, sampling).

The first song leaves no space for guessing how the new chapter is being developed. "Strain Reactor" is a deeply guitar driven track, but the riffs are distorted by various effects and modifications making them sound industrial. Also vocals, delivered by guest vocalist Secthdamon, are slightly altered. The arrangements change and build up a solid, tight composition without overwhelming the listener.

"Artifex" starts with alarming, howling sirens. Then, electrifying guitar riffs along with drums and distorted vocals jump to the fore. The density of riffs, but also the combo of drumbeats and synths resemble motifs better known from newer Ministry and older Nine Inch Nails songs (the latter is specifically audible in the final part). The arrangements vary throughout the track, and the composition method makes it possible to avoid excessive repetitions. The bands operates with anger, tension, turmoil and silence very well.

"Sub-Humanist" erupts with no pause between the tracks. In fact, the rhythm keeps pumping so dynamically, that you'll probably begin headbanging right away. There are elements of thrash metal and a very little bit of electro, stimulated with modified, screamed vocals as well. The whole set is energizing and memorable, therefore I personally vote for "Sub-Humanist" as the best song on Artifex - at least when speaking of its 'metal' flavour.

After such a big dose of aggression, you may think that the musicians reached their limits and the next track can't be performed even more fiercely. Wrong. Each following song seems to sound angrier. "Overman" takes you on the first excursion into the world of dark tunes on this album - only at the beginning though, because wicked ferocity quickly breaks through the cinematic atmosphere. Buzzing, feedbacky, noisy industrial effects are sampled into the song, matching the other arrangements perfectly. Technically, some themes were gently borrowed from Fear Factory, but spiced up with In_zekT's own flavour.

Possibly to avoid a further escalation of mad energy, "Dialling the North Code" suddenly appears in a strangely fitting place on the tracklist. It's a dark ambient soundscape partly kept in vein of Mark Morgan's music (think of soundtracks to such classical video games as Fallout or Planescape: Torment). The cinematic, cold mood is enriched with deep thumping drones and undoubtedly reflects a story - one your mind may create when inspired by these dark sounds. Test your imagination. It's also an excellent track for a science-fiction movie or an artistic installation.

After the dour break, buzzing guitars make a return. "Ionize" begins with a shattered wave of mechanical drumbeats (there is no human drummer present in the band) followed by distorted vocals, guitars and minimally present synths. The beginning of the song sounds rather monotonous, regardless of its expressive fury. However, the track grows in time thanks to tempo changes, arrangement placements and guitars that occupy increasingly more space within the composition. There are powerful riffs in the middle of the song, while its ending is marked with significant fade out and silence.

Now, it's time for the apogee. A composition of "Termination Sequence" is long, for a reason. At first, it reflects what's labeled as cyber metal or futuristic metal thanks to specific sound effects mixed into the guitar driven arrangements (with a guest solo by Archaon) and a fiery performance. It then falls into an intriguing abyss of dark ambient soundscapes - drones, tiny buzzing, haunting passages, motifs of ocean and outer space, etc. - the mood changes drastically. The musicians deserve a standing ovation for the way they morph the end of the dark ambient part with the arrangement that follows, seamlessly leading through industrial tunes into metal again. The band accumulates all the features present in previous songs - diversified arrangements, a murky atmosphere and an explosive blast in the darkness. Not many metal artists can do it skillfully but In-zekT prove themselves. "Termination Sequence" is the other best track on the album, in terms of its overall value.

"No Fate But What We Make" begins with a healthy heartbeat, followed by sampling and altered, piercing guitar riffs as heard in some djent compositions. Vocals are slightly modified with distortions and SFX. The overall dynamics resembles a thunderstorm, yet changes throughout the track, including ambient passages. The middle of the song is melodic and memorable, with soft and gentle vocals. Yet another excellent conjunction between this and the return of guitars calls for respecting the musicians' skills.

The final two compositions, "This is Not an Exit" and "[0]" include a fair share of electronic and experimental sounds with additional samples provided by Vegard Dølerud. Guitars and metal arrangements appear throughout both compositions.

"[0]" is a noisy limbo, as experienced by someone attached to a rotary drill digging a corridor in a coal mine. The noise however slowly loses its dirty, confusing power to gain a dark ambient atmosphere in the end. It's a 22-minute long composition (that's how professional noise composers do it - check out i.e. the maestro known as Merzbow) - it may sound tiresome for most, but fans of experimental music should appreciate it.

In_zekT's artistic need for expression forged into Artifex resulted in a powerful, yelling blast and cold furious sounds penetrating deep enough to re-program your DNA - all that to make you remember their songs for a long time. Artifex keeps a perfect balance. The trick here is that both passionate and dark sounds build up a contrast which makes arrangements/songs emphasize one another. Moreover, this creates an acceptable tension, a method commonly used in classical music compositions.

This release is available in both digital and physical formats (digipack). Don't steal it, buy it. Support the band, because they turn their brainstorming into innovative music, successfully. The high quality of mastering and production (done by Peter and Kjetil with an additional engineering of Ronny Furuseth Kaasa) should help the album climb high in alternative music rankings.

(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Magazine, February 18th, 2014. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)



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Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine