Allegaeon – Proponent for Sentience (Metal Blade)

Thursday, 1st September 2016
Rating: 10/10

Of the North American bands that picked up the melodic death reigns from Sweden’s finest (when many shifted towards more commercial territory), one of the strongest has always been that of Allegaeon. Each release from the act has shown them as not willing to rest on their laurels – pushing further with their musicianship and their ability to craft songs with melodic hooks as well as extraordinary technical proficiency. The band’s fourth album, Proponent for Sentience, takes a massive leap forward that should turn plenty a head this fall.

Some notable changes have helped Allegaeon’s next step in evolution from the already excellent Elements of the Infinite. The Allegaeon unit is almost completely intact from Elements (except vocally, but we’ll get to that), and this makes for a much larger jump in terms of dynamics and songwriting. Guitarists Greg Burgess and Michael Stancel have dreamed up some absolutely gorgeous melodies, and the band shows a more progressive pathway than previously exhibited. Just check out the classical acoustic guitar that bookends “Gray Matter Mechanics” or the dreamy, soaring melodies of “Of Mind and Matrix” that add some chill-inducing ethereal moments to an otherwise frenetic track. Gentle acoustic moments are written in to other tracks, such as “The Arbiters” or “Terrathaw and the Quake,” while tracks like “All Hail Science” and “The Arbiters” show the band’s more abrasive side is still quite intact. The orchestration (again from Joe Ferris) takes the band to even greater heights, as evidenced quickly with the opening cut “Proponent for Sentience – The Conception,” but also bringing a more urgent tone to thrashier cuts like “Demons of an Intricate Design.”

At 72-minutes in length, it is a testament to Allegaeon’s songwriting skills that the time seemingly flies by. An extended runtime can be a daunting thing in our frequently ADD-ridden society, but there’s always a sense of wonder as you move through each song. Elements increased the “write to the song” mentality, but Proponent blows it out of the water. Just once, skip around on the disc and just listen to the three “Proponent for Sentience” tracks back to back. A rich mini-album in and of itself, listen to “The Algorithm” in particular, with its focus on heavy, mid-tempo riffage if you need proof that the band has advanced its songcraft.

Longtime vocalist Ezra Haynes bowed out between albums, which led to his replacement by Riley McShane (of Son of Aurelius’ Under a Western Sun, an album this scribe never tires of bringing up). McShane fills the role admirably, providing an even larger variety of vocals – including throat singing, growls, screams, and…clean vocals. A first for Allegaeon, but tastefully employed. Most of which occur in the fantastic cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions” that closes the album. But their use in “Cognitive Computations” works so well in the build-up that they are begging to be further employed in the future. Speaking of cleans, the highlight of the album might just be “Proponent for Sentience III – The Extermination,” which throws in a masterful solo from Ben Ellis (ex-Bloodshot Dawn) and some screaming/singing from Soilwork’s Bjorn Strid, who works exceptionally well off of McShane’s parts – not to mention the ping-ponging of catchy aggressive riffs and gorgeous and intricate melodies from start-to-finish.

Written in a way that is accessible to newer fans, yet contains the technical wonders that many deep in the scene yearn for, Proponent for Sentience is a rich listen that all extreme metal fans can appreciate and enjoy. Sweeping orchestrations, breath-taking hooks, adrenaline-fueled riffs, stunning leads, and diverse vocals…Allegaeon has done it all. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a stronger album this year.

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