Unpopular opinion time: technical death metal is becoming a very stale sub-genre. Much like the deathcore movement before it, a handful of bands pioneered this highly virtuosic and complex style of music which caught on rather quickly, but it’s come to the point where the crappy bands far outweigh the good ones. Lambast me all you want in the comment section, but mindless gravity blasts and sweep picking no longer constitute good tech death; there needs to be some substance and actual intellect behind it.
Still, there are still a handful of great bands that continue to work wonders for the genre. One such band is Colorado's Allegaeon. Though relatively young in their career, this quintet has always infused a healthy amount of “Gothenburg-isms” pioneered by At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity and the like into their brand of technical metal, whilst still retaining a decidedly modern edge exemplified by bands like Lamb of God. They’ve recently unleashed their anticipated fourth album Proponent for Sentience, and with a new lead vocalist renewed sense of vigor, Allegaeon have outdone themselves in every way. Proponent for Sentience truly is a culmination of all they’ve achieved so far as a band and sees Allegaeon single-handedly moving the entire sub-genre itself into bold new frontiers.
Allegaeon has always maintained a prominent sci-fi, man vs. machine theme in their music, but Proponent for Sentience marks the first time they’ve attempted a concept album. The record is tied together by the three movements of the title track found throughout — “The Conception,” “The Algorithm,” and “The Extermination” — but the other certainly add to the overall concept, which, in a nutshell, is essentially a commentary on the rapidly progressing scientific advancements of the modern age and the many flaws of humanity. Musically speaking, Proponent for Sentience is the most focused and vicious Allegaeon have ever been; it’s almost night and day from their past albums. They’ve really dialed in their sound, and the onslaught of killer riffs, head-nodding grooves and soaring melodies make for an album that’s both addictive and memorable.
Furthermore, the superb songwriting on Proponent for Sentience is an achievement in and of itself. Not one of the songs feels like a filler; they are each arranged masterfully and composed with clear forethought behind them. From opening track “Proponent for Sentience I – The Conception” to the faithful but original Rush cover that closes out the album, Proponent for Sentience is a metal album that’s as complex as it is confluent. As with their past efforts, Allegaeon has always excelled with a flair for classical melodies and furious guitar acrobatics, and on this album in particular, the un-freaking-stoppable stringed assault of Greg Burgess and Michael Stancel makes a strong case for these two being one of the best guitar duos in all of metal.
Tracks such as “Grey Matter Mechanics – Appassonata Ex Machinea” and “Proponent for Sentience III – The Extermination” allow these shredders to really shine and show off just how good they are; the former features an extended flamenco section that Burgess just kills it on, while the latter is an intense shred fest punctuated by a guest solo from former Bloodshot Dawn/ current Scar Symmetry axeman Benjamin Ellis and killer guest vocals courtesy of Soilwork frontman Bjorn "Speed" Strid. In fact, this track marks the first time Allegaeon has enlisted the aid of guest musicians for their music, and in this case, they suit the song perfectly.
Of course, we also mustn’t forget new vocalist Riley McShane, who makes his much-welcomed debut on Proponent for Sentience. McShane is perhaps best known as being the pipes for Son of Aurelius, but he’s also an exceptional death growler as exemplified in bands like Continuum and Inanimate Existence. He adds an entirely new element to Allegaeon’s already well-crafted sound, and though his cleans really only appear on the excellent “Cognitive Computations” and their cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions” that closes out the album, his abilities open up a new realm of possibilities for Allegaeon, one the band will hopefully utilize more in the future.
As far as the future of Allegaeon is concerned, it would seem they’re well on their way to the upper echelon of modern metal. Don’t be surprised if this album puts Allegaeon on the map more prevalently than ever before; in fact, many fans of the band would say it’s about damn time. Proponent for Sentience effectively primes these tech death machines for an autonomous takeover of the sub-genre. All hail Allegaeon.